When We’re All Musteites

We won’t necessarily know what a Musteite is, but I’m inclined to think it would help if we did. I’m using the word to mean “having a certain affinity for the politics of A.J. Muste.”

I had people tell me I was a Musteite when I had at best the vaguest notion of who A.J. Muste had been. I could tell it was a compliment, and from the context I took it to mean that I was someone who wanted to end war. I guess I sort of brushed that off as not much of a compliment. Why should it be considered either particularly praiseworthy or outlandishly radical to want to end war? When someone wants to utterly and completely end rape or child abuse or slavery or some other evil, we don’t call them extremist radicals or praise them as saints. Why is war different?

The possibility that war might not be different, that it might be wholly abolished, could very well be a thought that I picked up third-hand from A.J. Muste, as so many of us have picked up so much from him, whether we know it or not. His influence is all over our notions of labor and organizing and civil rights and peace activism. His new biography, American Gandhi: A.J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century by Leilah Danielson is well worth reading, and has given me a new affection for Muste despite the book’s own rather affection-free approach.

Martin Luther King Jr. told an earlier Muste biographer, Nat Hentoff, “The current emphasis on nonviolent direct action in the race relations field is due more to A.J. than to anyone else in the country.” It is also widely acknowledged that without Muste there would not have been formed such a broad coalition against the war on Vietnam. Activists in India have called him “the American Gandhi.”

The American Gandhi was born in 1885 and immigrated with his family at age 6 from Holland to Michigan. He studied in Holland, Michigan, the same town that we read about in the first few pages of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and at a college later heavily funded by the Prince Family, from which Blackwater sprang. The stories of both Muste and Prince begin with Dutch Calvinism and end up as wildly apart as imaginable. At the risk of offending Christian admirers of either man, I think neither story — and neither life — would have suffered had the religion been left out.

Muste would have disagreed with me, of course, as some form of religion was central to his thinking during much of his life. By the time of World War I he was a preacher and a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). He opposed war in 1916 when opposing war was acceptable.  And when most of the rest of the country fell in line behind Woodrow Wilson and obediently loved war in 1917, Muste didn’t change. He opposed war and conscription. He supported the struggle for civil liberties, always under attack during wars. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was formed by Muste’s FOR colleagues in 1917 to treat symptoms of war, just as it does today. Muste refused to preach in support of war and was obliged to resigned from his church, stating in his resignation letter that the church should be focused on creating “the spiritual conditions that should stop the war and render all wars unthinkable.” Muste became a volunteer with the ACLU advocating for conscientious objectors and others persecuted for war opposition in New England. He also became a Quaker.

In 1919 Muste found himself the leader of a strike of 30,000 textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, learning on the job — and on the picket line, where he was arrested and assaulted by police, but returned immediately to the line. By the time the struggle was won, Muste was general secretary of the newly formed Amalgamated Textile Workers of America. Two years later, he was directing Brookwood Labor College outside of Katonah, New York. By the mid-1920s, as Brookwood succeeded, Muste had become a leader of the progressive labor movement nationwide. At the same time, he served on the executive committee of the national FOR from 1926-1929 as well as on the national committee of the ACLU. Brookwood struggled to bridge many divides until the American Federation of Labor destroyed it with attacks from the right, aided a bit with attacks from the left by the Communists. Muste labored on for labor, forming the Conference for Progressive Labor Action, and organizing in the South, but “if we are to have morale in the labor movement,” he said, “we must have a degree of unity, and, if we are to have that, it follows, for one thing, that we cannot spend all our time in controversy and fighting with each other — maybe 99 per cent of the time, but not quite 100 per cent.”

Muste’s biographer follows that same 99 percent formula for a number of chapters, covering the infighting of the activists, the organizing of the unemployed, the forming of the American Workers Party in 1933, and in 1934 the Auto-Lite strike in Toledo, Ohio, that led to the formation of the United Auto Workers. The unemployed, joining in the strike on behalf of the workers, were critical to success, and their commitment to do so may have helped the workers decide to strike in the first place.  Muste was central to all of this and to progressive opposition to fascism during these years. The sit-down strike at Goodyear in Akron was led by former students of Muste.

Muste sought to prioritize the struggle for racial justice and to apply Gandhian techniques, insisting on changes in culture, not just government. “If we are to have a new world,” he said, “we must have new men; if you want a revolution, you must be revolutionized.” In 1940, Muste became national secretary of FOR and launched a Gandhian campaign against segregation, bringing on new staff including James Farmer and Bayard Rustin, and helping to found the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The nonviolent actions that many associate with the 1950s and 1960s began in the 1940s. A Journey of Reconciliation predated the Freedom Rides by 14 years.

Muste predicted the rise of the Military Industrial Complex and the militarized adventurism of the post-World War II United States in 1941. Somewhere beyond the comprehension of most Americans, and even his biographer, Muste found the wisdom to continue opposing war during a second world war, advocating instead for nonviolent defense and a peaceful, cooperative, and generous foreign policy, defending the rights of Japanese Americans, and once again opposing a widespread assault on civil liberties.  “If I can’t love Hitler, I can’t love at all,” said Muste, articulating the widespread commonsense that one should love one’s enemies, but doing so in the primary case in which virtually everyone else, to this day, advocates for the goodness of all-out vicious violence and hatred.

Of course, those who had opposed World War I and the horrible settlement that concluded it, and the fueling of fascism for years — and who could see what the end of World War II would bring, and who saw the potential in Gandhian techniques — must have had a harder time than most in accepting that war was inevitable and World War II justified.

Muste, I am sure, took no satisfaction in watching the U.S. government create a cold war and a global empire in line with his own prediction. Muste continued to push back against the entire institution of war, remarking that, “the very means nations use to provide themselves with apparent or temporary ‘defense’ and ‘security’ constitute the greatest obstacle to the attainment of genuine or permanent collective security. They want international machinery so that the atomic armaments race may cease; but the atomic armaments race has to stop or the goal of the world order recedes beyond human reach.”

It was in this period, 1948-1951 that MLK Jr. was attending Crozer Theological Seminary, attending speeches by, and reading books by, Muste, who would later advise him in his own work, and who would play a key role in urging civil rights leaders to oppose the war on Vietnam. Muste worked with the American Friends Service Committee, and many other organizations, including the Committee to Stop the H-Bomb Tests, which would become the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE); and the World Peace Brigade.

Muste warned against a U.S. war on Vietnam in 1954. He led opposition to it in 1964. He struggled with great success to broaden the anti-war coalition in 1965. At the same time, he struggled against the strategy of watering down war opposition in an attempt to find broader appeal. He believed that “polarization” brought “contradictions and differences” to the surface and allowed for the possibility of greater success. Muste chaired the November 8 Mobilization Committee (MOBE) in 1966, planning a massive action in April 1967. But upon returning from a trip to Vietnam in February, giving talks about the trip, and staying up all night drafting the announcement of the April demonstration, he began to complain of back pain and did not live much longer.

He did not see King’s speech at Riverside Church on April 4. He did not see the mass mobilization or the numerous funerals and memorials to himself. He did not see the war ended. He did not see the war machine and war planning continue as if little had been learned. He did not see the retreat from economic fairness and progressive activism during the decades to come. But A.J. Muste had been there before. He’d seen the upsurges of the 1920s and 1930s and lived to help bring about the peace movement of the 1960s. When, in 2013, public pressure helped stop a missile attack on Syria, but nothing positive took its place, and a missile attack was launched a year later against the opposite side in the Syrian war, Muste would not have been shocked. His cause was not the prevention of a particular war but the elimination of the institution of war, the cause also of the new campaign in 2014 World Beyond War.

What can we learn from someone like Muste who persevered long enough to see some, but not all, of his radical ideas go mainstream? He didn’t bother with elections or even voting. He prioritized nonviolent direct action. He sought to form the broadest possible coalition, including with people who disagreed with him and with each other on fundamental questions but who agreed on the important matter at hand. Yet he sought to keep those coalitions uncompromising on matters of the greatest importance. He sought to advance their goals as a moral cause and to win over opponents by intellect and emotion, not force. He worked to change world views. He worked to build global movements, not just local or national. And, of course, he sought to end war, not just to replace one war with a different one. That meant struggling against a particular war, but doing so in the manner best aimed at reducing or abolishing the machinery behind it.

I’m not, after all, a very good Musteite. I agree with much, but not all. I reject his religious motivations. And of course I’m not much like A.J. Muste, lacking his skills, interests, abilities, and accomplishments. But I do feel close to him and appreciate more than ever being called a Musteite.  And I appreciate that A.J. Muste and millions of people who appreciated his work in one way or another passed it on to me. Muste’s influence on people everyone knows, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and people who influenced people everyone knows, like Bayard Rustin, was significant. He worked with people still active in the peace movement like David McReynolds and Tom Hayden. He worked with James Rorty, father of one of my college professors, Richard Rorty. He spent time at Union Theological Seminary, where my parents studied. He lived on the same block, if not building, where I lived for a while at 103rd Street and West End Avenue in New York, and Muste was apparently married to a wonderful woman named Anne who went by Anna, as am I. So, I like the guy. But what gives me hope is the extent to which Musteism exists in our culture as a whole, and the possibility that someday we will all be Musteites.

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VIDEO: Demographics – The West’s age distribution is too lopsided to support entitlements

When Americas social security and health care and entitlement systems were first conceived, the country has much different age distribution. There were roughly 7 active workers per retiree, and the ability to transfer some of that employee wealth to support older citizens was supportable.

But with the arrival on the scene of the Baby Boom as well as advances in longetivity, the math changed dramatically. By 2005, there were only 5 workers per retiree. And by 2030, just 15 short years away, there will be less than 3.

Our national demographic architecture no longer can afford the entitlement system we have. And that’s even assuming entitlements were currently sufficiently funded. But as the last chapter showed, the existing programs are underfunded to the tune of $100-200 Trillion.

America’s demographic situation is a ticking time bomb. The older generation is already competing more fiercely than ever with younger ones in the job market, as many seniors can’t afford to retire. Youth also has to contend with trends like automation, outsourcing, and high unemployment/underemployment, which further handicap their ability to build capital and, importantly, to afford all the assets (stocks, houses, etc) that the Boomers are counting on selling to them.

For the best viewing experience, watch the above video in hi-definition (HD) and in expanded screen mode

Coming next Friday: Chapter 16: A National Failure To Save & Invest

For those who simply don’t want to wait until the end of the year to view the entire new series, you can indulge your binge-watching craving by enrolling to PeakProsperity.com. The entire full new series, all 27 chapters of it, is available — now– to our enrolled users.

The full suite of chapters in this new Crash Course series can be found at www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse

And for those who have yet to view it, be sure to watch the ‘Accelerated’ Crash Course — the under-1-hour condensation of the new 4.5-hour series. It’s a great vehicle for introducing new eyes to this material.

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Results of Obama’s Ukraine Policy

Eric Zuesse

U.S. President Barack Obama replaced the Ukrainian Government in late February 2014, and he has achieved a lot there, most especially by means of the civil war that resulted when he tried to exterminate the people who had voted for the previous Ukrainian leader – the man whom Obama overthrew. Obama installed in that coup an anti-Russian Ukrainian Government, and so he now needed to get rid of Ukraine’s pro-Russian voters, who were the residents in Ukraine’s southeast, especially in Ukraine’s Donbass region. If the voters there weren’t killed &/or expelled, then the Ukrainian leaders whom Obama imposed would be voted out of office in any nationwide Ukrainian election; so, this ethnic-cleansing campaign was necessary to Obama in order to make his new anti-Russian Ukraine last, not break up into a pro-U.S. northwest and a pro-Russia southeast. Obama lost that war.

Here is what Obama achieved in the process, as shown by a video documentary posted to youtube on September 23rd, which interviews survivors in the region that Obama’s regime was bombing, these being the main people who were affected by Obama’s policy. The documentary is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCvWIDU0JNc#t=766, and these are stills from it, summarizing it:

The following was left by one of the fleeing enemy troops:

This is from a similar documentary, showing an earlier stage in the war.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Peace In The Middle East Is A Real Possibility – See For Yourself

Preface:   Scientists are just starting to understand the power of “fields”. For example, scientists have been stunned in recent years to discover:

  • Flares from the sun change the rate of radioactive decay of elements on Earth
  • Sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. They have found that Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along
  • “Space weather” causes “spacequakes” in Earth’s geomagnetic field … and may even cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions  on Earth
  • Changes in Earth’s magnetic field greatly effect climate up in the upper atmosphere
  • Electrically charged particles coming from space and hitting the atmosphere at high speed contribute to  cloud formation
  • Events in space effect the severity of droughts here on Earth, as well as El Niño and La Niña weather conditions

Quite a few scientists believe that people can generate powerful fields, as well.  See this and this.

For example, physicists have proven that – just by observing something – people can change the outcome (at least at the very small scale).

Larry Dossey, M.D. -  former co-chair of the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, Office of Alternative Medicine, Panel on Mind/Body Interventions – says:

“Consciousness — the most mysterious entity in the universe — has long been considered a bit player in the drama of existence. The playbill is changing, however, because recent scientific evidence has assigned consciousness a leading role. Our thoughts and intentions help shape the world out there; choice [is] back.”

Christianity teaches the power of intention.  After all, Jesus taught that having as much faith as a mustard seed could move mountains, and that if 3 were gathered in his name, he would be there.  (We frequently quote the Bible to illustrate basic principles.  See this, this and this.)

We have never tried the meditation technique to which Dr. Leffler refers.  So we have no opinion on it one way or the other.

But – because scientists have shown that other types of meditation (Leffler and Georgetown University psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal, M.D. say that different forms of meditation often produce very different results) can increase intelligence, productivity, physical and mental health, and even testosterone levels (and because some of the most successful business leaders meditate) – we’re open to at least hearing about it.

And because Dr. Leffler’s editorial cites peer-reviewed scientific studies (see Journal of Conflict Resolution and summaries of follow-up studies that appeared in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality and the Journal of Scientific Exploration), we believe that his claims are at least worth further inquiry.

After the editorial, we ask Dr. Leffler some pointed questions, and get his response.

Guest Post by Dr. David Leffler.

Sheldon Rabinowitz concludes his insightful and well written Des Moines Register Op-Ed “Is lasting peace attainable” by saying that “There is no possibility of an acceptable or lasting peace agreement” in the Mideast. Based on the considerations he has dealt with, Mr. Rabinowitz is correct. However, despite the gloomy Mideast outlook we have become accustomed to, lasting peace is attainable through programs that have achieved remarkable peace and prosperity for the countries that have applied them.

If US Commander-in-Chief President Barack Obama has the courage to deploy a proven, advanced military technology on US Mideast carrier battlegroups and/or in nearby military bases; then, peace and prosperity will become the characteristic of a region of the world known for its constant warfare and huge pockets of impoverished citizenry. Invincible Defense Technology (IDT) is a scientifically validated approach. Extensive in-field military experience, coupled with peer-reviewed research shows that IDT can effectively, efficiently, and quickly end the current turmoil, and eliminate the rising spiral of violence.

If the US military quickly deploys this statistically-verified approach it will not be necessary to base US defense operations on guesswork or to risk the lives of US and Mideast citizens. This IDT approach to reducing stress and violence is already part of the training of America’s future commanders at Norwich University, and has been field-tested by foreign militaries. It is validated by 23 peer-reviewed studies carried out in both developed and developing nations. They include the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Independent scientists and scholars endorse it, based on 25 years of research.

IDT Reduces Societal Stress

IDT uniquely neutralizes the underlying power base of contending groups, which is the stress, frustration and civil dissatisfaction prevailing in the general population. By eliminating the root cause of insurgency, violent outbreaks are pre-empted and prevented. IDT is effective because it gets to the heart of the matter. Insurgency often thrives in nations in which decades or even centuries of under-employment, poverty, and hunger have created a huge societal weight of pressure of stress, frustration and endemic unhappiness. This inevitably finds expression in acts of civil unrest, social violence, and a downward spiral of economic degradation.

Specially trained military units, “IDT Prevention Wing of the Military” use IDT to reduce stress in the national collective consciousness. As the stress and frustration ease, the population is more capable of finding orderly and constructive solutions to their problems. Experience with IDT in other war-torn nations demonstrated increased economy incentive and growth. Entrepreneurship and individual creativity increase. With increased civic calm, people’s aspirations are raised and a more productive and balanced society emerges.

Such a society abhors violence as a means for change or as an expression of discontent. With this the ground for terrorism is eliminated. What is more fascinating is that this change takes place within a few days or weeks after IDT is introduced. The changes are measurable from such statistics as crime rates, accidents, hospital admissions, infant mortality, etc.

Military personnel in Latin America, Africa and Asia practice group Transcendental Meditation to help protect their nations

The IDT  daily routine for military personnel includes the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program and its advanced TM-Sidhi program. As a societal coherence-creating military unit, they practice these programs twice a day, seven days a week, preferably in a secure location near the targeted population. Their presence and deep-field influence operation need not be disclosed to achieve the effect of violence reduction and conflict resolution.

Such coherence-creating groups have achieved positive benefits to society, shown statistically, in even just 48 hours. Modern statistical methods used in this research preclude chance or coincidence and demonstrate a consistent causal influence. The IDT approach has been used during wartime, resulting in reduction of fighting and in number of deaths and casualties, and in progress toward resolving the conflict peacefully. Societies applying IDT perform extremely well in a very short time. This is what decreased the intensity of war in Lebanon in 1984 in a dramatic way in 48 hours, to name only one of the successful experiments.

Documented Transformation in Mozambique

In 1992, the Mozambique military carefully analyzed the IDT research and decided to try it. As predicted, violence disappeared by 1993 and Mozambique became more self-sufficient. The economic growth reached 19%. Once the poorest world country in 1992, by 2000, it had moved up to be the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Former Mozambique President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who learned Transcendental Meditation himself, introduced it to his cabinet and then the armed forces. 19 years of civil war ended and President Chissano is the first to give credit to IDT for this effect. Mozambique continues to be a shining star for Africa and a model for development. President Chissano was awarded the inaugural Ibrahim Prize in recognition of the unprecedented positivity that welled up throughout all Mozambique under his unique guidance.


Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Using violence to quell violence ultimately just ratchets up the spiral of violence. And Mr. Rabinowitz concludes that peace is not possible because “Iran will become a nuclear power very soon.”

However, this evaluation certainly adds to the rationale to stop repeating the same old cycle of violence and create genuine peace through genuinely peaceful and equitable means. IDT defense technology supersedes all other known defense technologies (which are based on electronic, chemical, and/or nuclear forces). It creates genuine and lasting reconciliation and friendship in the place of hatred and conflict. The military that deploys this powerful human-resource-based technology disallows negative trends and prevents enemies from arising, and as a result, it has no enemies. No enemies means no terrorism and no insurgency. A lasting peace in the Mideast is obtainable if President Barack Obama establishes Prevention Wings of the Military. They will ease high tensions, reverse centuries of mistrust and hatred and permanently prevent future unrest. Extensive scientific research objectively says, “Yes, the approach works.” Why not use it in the Mideast? Time is running out. The best time to act is now before the situation worsens.

About the author:
Dr. David Leffler is the author of “A New Role for the Military: Preventing Enemies from Arising – Reviving an Ancient Approach to Peace.” He was a member of the US Air Force for nearly nine years. Dr. Leffler served as an Associate of the Proteus Management Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College where he was published in “55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism” — a US government-sponsored report aimed at governmental and military leaders. This groundbreaking report includes sections by Dr. David Leffler on Invincible Defense Technology, including an appendix entitled: “An Overlooked, Proven Solution to Terrorism.” Currently he serves as the Executive Director at the Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS) in Fairfield, Iowa and teaches IDT. He is on Twitter and Faceboo

Postscript: We asked Dr. Leffler whether having military personnel meditate would lessen their fitness to be warriors.

He responded that the opposite was true.  He cited the example of an American police officer (see this article published in Police Writers) who had trained in this meditation technique, who was surrounded by 5 bad guys, and had only 6 bullets in his gun. The officer later said that the calmness and clarity which came from meditating allowed him to quickly take down the attackers and save his partner.

Indeed, various branches of the U.S. military are starting to promote meditation to increase war-fighting abilities.

One of the greatest martial artists of all time – Bruce Lee – certainly swore by meditation.

We asked Dr. Leffler whether military personnel would be less willing to fight and kill if they meditated. He said this is not likely, and further responded that he is not suggesting that warriors no longer prepare to fight or eliminate their weapons. They might never be able to do so, nor would that be wise.

What he suggests is that warriors participate in coherence-creating programs to quickly reduce tensions in the collective consciousness of their nations which is ultimately responsible for creating war and terrorism.  The military is traditionally the most organized aspect of society and by itself could quickly create and maintain such a group.   Dr. Laffler claims that the advanced TM-Sidhi program is the most effective for this purpose.

The internationally-recognized classic, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, advises that it is better to win without fighting. If this is not possible, then, Dr. Leffler also cites one of the central scriptures from the ancient Vedic tradition of India – the Bhagavad Gita – in which the main character doesn’t want to fight in a war, but through meditation realizes that since the war could not be prevented that it is his duty as a warrior to fight. If a war has to be fought – it should be fought justly and then ended as quickly and efficiently as possible. In other words, Dr. Leffler says that a warrior should strive to fight so skillfully that the battle ends soon, thereby reducing civilian casualties. And, thus he claims, Transcendental Meditation makes warriors more effective so if necessary they can more easily accomplish this goal.

Posted in Politics / World News | 11 Comments

Ready Or Not… The Unsustainable Status Quo Is Ending

I have to confess, it’s getting more and more difficult to find ways of writing about everything going on in the world.

Not because there’s a shortage of things to write about — wars, propaganda, fraud, Ebola — but because most of the negative news and major world events we see around us are symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself.

There are only so many times you can describe the disease, before it all becomes repetitive for both the writer and the reader. It’s far more interesting to get to the root cause, because then real solutions offering real progress can be explored.

Equally troubling, in a world where the central banks have distorted, if not utterly flattened, the all important relationship between prices, risk, and reality, what good does it do to seek some sort of meaning in the new temporary arrangement of things?

When the price of money itself is distorted, then all prices are merely derivative works of that primary distortion. Some prices will be too high, some far too low, but none accurately determined by the intersection of true demand and supply.

If risk has been taken from where it belongs and instead shuffled onto central bank balance sheets, or allowed to be hidden by new and accommodating accounting tricks, has it really disappeared? In my world, risk is like energy: it can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed or transferred.

If reality no longer has a place at the table — such as when policy makers act as if the all-too-temporary shale oil bonanza is now a new permanent constant — then the discussions happening around that table are only accidentally useful, if ever, and always delusional.

Through all of this, the big picture as described in the Crash Course grows ever more obviously clear: we are on an unsustainable course; economically, ecologically, and — most immediately worryingly  — in our use of energy.

So let’s start there, with a simple grounding in the facts.

By The Numbers

Humans now number 7.1 billion on the planet and that number is on track to rise to 8 or 9 billion by 2050. Already ‘energy per capita’ is stagnant across the world and has been for a few decades. If the human population indeed grows by 15-25% over the next three and a half decades, then net energy production will have to grow by the same amount simply to remain constant on a per capita basis.

But can it? Specifically, can the net energy we derive from oil grow by another 15% to 25% from here?

Consider that, according to the EIA, the US shale oil miracle will be thirty years in the rear-view mirror by 2050 (currently projected to peak in 2020). And beyond just shale, all of the currently-operating conventional oil reservoirs will be far past peak and well into their decline. That means that the energy-rich oil from the giant fields of yesteryear will have to be replaced by an even larger volume of new oil from the energetically weaker unconventional plays just to hold things steady.

To advance oil net energy on a per capita basis between now and 2050, we’ll have to fight all of the forces of depletion with one hand, and somehow generate even more energy output from energetically parsimonious unconventional sources such as shale and tar sands with the other hand.

These new finds…they just aren’t the same as the old ones. They are deeper, require more effort per well to get oil out, and return far less per well than those of yesteryear. Those are just the facts as we now know them to be.

In 2013, total worldwide oil discoveries were just 20 billion barrels. That’s against a backdrop of 32 billion barrels of oil production and consumption. Since 1984, consuming more oil than we’re discovering has been a yearly ritual. To use an analogy: it’s as if we’re spending from a trust fund at a faster rate than the interest and dividends are accruing. Eventually, you eat through the principal balance and then it’s game over.

Meanwhile, even as the total net energy we receive from oil slips and our consumption wildly surpasses discoveries, the collective debt of the developed economies has surpassed the $100 trillion mark — which is a colossal bet that the future economy will not only be larger than it is currently, but exponentially larger.

These debts are showing no signs of slowing down. Indeed, the world’s central banks are doing everything in their considerable monetary power to goose them higher, even if this means printing money out of thin air and buying the debt themselves.

Along with this, the demographics of most developed economies will be drawing upon badly-underfunded pension and entitlement accounts — most of which are literally nothing more substantial than empty political promises made many years ago.

These trends in oil, debt and demographics are stark facts all on their own. But when we tie these to the obvious ecological strains of meeting the needs of just the world’s current 7.1 billion, any adherence to the status quo seems worse than merely delusional.

Here’s just one example from the ecological sphere. All over the globe we see regions in which ancient groundwater, in the form of underground aquifers, is being tapped to meet the local demand.

Many of these reservoirs have natural recharge rates that are measured in thousands, or even tens of thousands, of years.

Virtually all of them are being over-pumped. The ground water is being removed at a far faster rate than it naturally replenishes.

This math is simple. Each time an aquifer is over-pumped, the length of time left for that aquifer to serve human needs diminishes. Easy, simple math. Very direct.

And yet, we see cultures all over the globe continuing to build populations and living centers – very expensive investments, both economically and energetically – that are dependent for their food and water on these same over-pumped aquifers.

In most cases, you can calculate with excellent precision when those aquifers will be entirely gone and how many millions of people will be drastically impacted.

And yet, in virtually every case, the local ‘plan’ (if that’s the correct word to use here) is to use the underground water to foster additional economic/population growth today without any clear idea of what to do later on.

The ‘plan’ such as it is, seems to be to let the people of the future deal with the consequences of today’s decisions.

So if human organizations all over the globe seem unable to grasp the urgent significance of drawing down their water supplies to the point that they someday run out, what are the odds we’ll successfully address the more complex and less direct impacts like slowly falling net energy from oil, or steadily rising levels of debt? Pretty low, in my estimation.


Look, it’s really this simple: Anything that can’t go on forever, won’t.  We know, financially speaking, that a great number of nations are utterly insolvent no matter how much the accounting is distorted. Said another way: there’s really no point in worrying about the combined $100 trillion shortfall in Social Security and Medicare, because it simply won’t be paid.

Why? It can’t, so it won’t. The promised entitlements dwarf our ability to fund them many times over. There’s really not much more to say there.

But the biggest predicament we face is that steadily-eroding net energy from oil, which will someday be married to steadily-falling output as well, can’t support billions more people and our steadily growing pile of debt.

Just as there’s no plan at all for what to do when the groundwater runs out besides ‘Let the folks in the future figure that one out,’ there’s no plan at all for reconciling the forced continuation of borrowing at a faster rate than the economy can (or likely will be able to) grow.

The phrase that comes to mind is ‘winging it.’

The wonder of it all is that people still turn to the same trusted sources for guidance and as a place to put their trust. For myself, I have absolutely no faith that the mix of DC career politicians and academic wonks in the Fed have any clue at all about such things as energy or ecological realities.  Their lens only concerns itself with money, and the only tradeoff concessions they make are between various forms of economic vs. political power.

If the captains supposed to be guiding this ship are using charts that ignore what lies beneath the waterline, then you can be sure that sooner or later the ship is going to strike something hard and founder.

I’m pretty sure the Fed’s (and ECB’s and BoJ’s and BoE’s) charts resemble those of medieval times, with “Here be dragons” scrawled in the margins next to a series of charts of falling stock prices and unwinding consumer debt.

So there we are. The globe is heading from 7.1 billion to 8 or 9 billion souls, during a period of time when literally every known oil find will be well past its peak. Perhaps additional shale finds will come along on other continents to smooth things out for a bit (which is not looking likely), but it’s well past time to square up to the notion that cheap oil is gone. And with it, our prospects for the robust and widespread prosperity of times past.

Because all of this inevitably leads to some sort of time of reckoning, natural questions emerge: What might happen and when? What would that feel like?  How would I know it’s started? Given the knowns and unknowns, are there any dominant strategies for mitigating the risks that I should undertake?  What are the challenges and what are the opportunities?

In Part 2: The 3 Likeliest Ways Things Will Play Out From Here we’re going to explore three scenarios as a means of teasing out what’s most likely to happen over the coming years as the above forces increasingly impact our way of living. Simple math tells us the status quo is unsustainable and therefore will change. What will those changes be? And what can you do today to mitigate their impact on your life and well-being?

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

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What the Global Status Quo Optimizes: Protecting Elites and the Clerisy Class That Serves Them

The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched, socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle, doomed regimes throughout history.

Every system is optimized to serve a specific purpose. As noted in my recent essay What Metric Are We Optimizing For?, what the system optimizes is rarely explicitly stated.

Sometimes this results from not understanding the metric that the system is designed to optimize; but in other cases, explicitly describing what the system optimizes would trigger social instability.

The Status Quo around the world–from France to China to the U.S.–is optimized to protect its Elites and the sprawling Upper-Caste of academics, managers, think-tank toadies, technocrats, apparatchiks, functionaries, factotums, lackeys and apologists who serve the Elites, and are well-paid for enforcing the Status Quo on the disenfranchised castes below.

Demographer Joel Kotkin, author of the new book The New Class Conflict, has coined the word Clerisy to describe what I have been calling the Upper Caste:America’s new class system.

Oligarchs are assisted in their control by what Kotkin calls the “clerisy” class — an amalgam of academics, media and government employees who play the role that medieval clergy once played in legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies while quelling resistance from the masses. The clerisy isn’t as rich as the oligarchs, but it does pretty well for itself and is compensated in part by status, its positions allowing even its lower-paid members to feel superior to the hoi polloi.

Because it doesn’t have to work in competitive industries, the clerisy favors regulations, land-use rules and environmental restrictions that make things worse for businesses — especially the small “yeoman” businesses that traditionally sustained much of the middle class — thus further hollowing out the middle of the income distribution. But the lower classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running, at least for a while.

This describes the Savior State perfectly: a centrally planned and controlled government that enforces its absolute control via force, legal regulations and the blandishments of complicity: there’s billions of dollars in free money social welfare to buy the loyalty (or at least the passivity) of the disenfranchized and marginalized.

I have often written about the stagnation of social mobility and the rise of a neofeudal arrangement of social-economic strata:

America’s Nine Classes: The New Class Hierarchy (April 29, 2014)

The Three-and-a-Half Class Society (October 22, 2012)

The New American Divide (January 25, 2012)

Why Reform Won’t Work (February 7, 2013)

When Belief in the System Fades (March 12, 2008)

The political, corporate/financial and National Security State Elites represent a vanishingly thin layer of the American economy and society. America today is the nightmare scenario feared by James Madison and other Federalists: a covertly created monarchical (what I term neofeudal) empire much like the Roman Empire–a republic in name but in reality a highly centralized Empire operated for the benefit of tiny Elites who buy complicity of the masses with free bread and circuses.

The “Monarchical Federalists” Madison and Jefferson feared have indeed established a neofeudal, neocolonialist Empire.

In this context, it is interesting to note that fully 20% of all entitlements (tax credits, Medicare, Social Security, etc.) flows to the top 10%, 58% goes to middle-income households and 32% goes to the bottom 20%. The swag of bread and circuses is remarkably well-distributed, buying off every sector of the populace.

Behind the PR facade of democracy and free-market capitalism, a parasitic Aristocracy extracts income and wealth from a financially indentured class of serfs. This Aristocracy is composed of several Elites which are served by the Upper Caste of technocrats. These Elites and the Upper Caste serve each others interests, a social heirarchy that Hilton Root characterized as a “society divided into closed, self-regarding groups.” The slow trickle of the “best and brightest” into the Upper Caste via Ivy League university admission is also a propaganda facade, as Ron Unz ably and exhaustively proves in The Myth of American Meritocracy How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?

The trick is enable just enough meritocracy to support the PR facade. The Ivy League has mastered that balancing act.

These Elites have few if any links to the social layers below. Charles Murray spoke to some aspects of this trend of financial/social Elitist isolation from the debt-serfs and worker-bee class below in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, but the key dynamic that is outside Murray’s sociological purview is the stark reality that the Elite class is devoid of any real feeling for or interest in the common good or public weal.

That is, not only have the key institutions of American governance and power lost the memory and mechanics of good governance, the Elites running the institutions have become an inbred neofeudal Aristocracy characterized by an unexamined (and thus deeply adolescent) sense of entitlement to the reins of power and control of the national income.

It’s not just the institutions that have lost any conception of good governance– the Aristocracy ruling the nation has lost all interest or recognition of the common good. This is of course not unique to America; the same disregard for the common good is at the root of all developed-world and developing-world failed states.

The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched, socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle, doomed regimes throughout history.This is what the Status Quo everywhere is optimized for: protecting those who have secured the wealth, perquisites and power by strangling competition, democracy and social mobility.

If you want to pinpoint the one dynamic pushing the global economy into not just a prolonged recession but a parallel period of massive social instability, look no farther than the social and financial stagnation that results from optimizing the system to benefit the Elites and the entrenched incumbents who protect them from competition and the dispossessed debt-serf classes below. 

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Art Has the Power to Change the World

The Solution To Decades of Failed Wars? More War, Of Course …

When Your Only Tool Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

Liberty Died for Somebody’s Sins

The images above are from the brilliant artist Anthony Freda.

A new documentary by filmmaker John Masseria focuses on why Freda makes so much brilliant political art. It also looks at what motivates political comedian Lee Camp, NSA Whistleblower Bill Binney, trend forecaster Gerald Celente, Alex Jones, Lee Ann Mcadoo and others:

The film is 90% done and just needs some finishing touches. Please consider contributing through IndieGoGo so the movie can be completed. You can get your name in the credits, and lunch with the director …

Posted in Politics / World News | 4 Comments

Parliament and Congress Have No Power to Legalize War

Congress has fled town to avoid voting for or against a new war. Many of the big donors to Congressional campaigns would want Yes votes. Many voters would want No votes, if not immediately, then as soon as the panic induced by the beheading videos wears off, which could be within the next month. Better to just avoid displeasing anyone — other than people who notice you running away.

The standard for legal-ish cosmopolitan respectability in the U.S. now has become getting five kings and dictators to say their on your side as you start bombing a new country.

But the British Parliament is still at the level of believing an actual vote by a legislature is appropriate.  Do Americans remember that their beloved founding fathers put war powers in the hands of the legislature because of the ugly history of royal wars in Britain? Times have changed.

But if we want to actually comply with the law, we have to admit that neither Parliament nor Congress has the power to legalize attacking Syria. This is because both the U.S. and the U.K. are parties to the United Nations Charter, which bans war with very narrow exceptions — exceptions that have not been in any way met.

And if you want to get really serious about laws, the Kellogg-Briand Pact has never been repealed, the U.S. and U.K. are parties to it, and it bans all war without exception.

Now, you can interpret the Kellogg-Briand Pact to allow self-defense because the right to military self-defense, even when it’s unlikely to actually work, is just so obvious to your way of thinking. And the U.N. Charter explicitly allows military self-defense. But here’s the problem: There’s nothing defensive about attacking Syria, and President Obama himself described it as “offense” in an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC.

Another word for “offense” is aggression, which the Nuremberg tribunal called “essentially an evil thing . . .  the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Asked about Congress’s responsibilities on Tuesday, Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) claimed that presidents could fight defensive wars without Congress but needed Congressional authorizations for offensive ones.  In fact, offensive wars are not legal by any common understanding. Asked, then, about international law, at an event at the Center for American Progress, Kaine reportedly said that bombing Syria, as distinct from Iraq, was “complicated” and that he was not sure “how they would do that, perhaps using principles of self-defense or defending Iraq against other threats. I think we’ll find out more about what the administration says about that after the UN General Assembly,” he said.

Only in America. Only the White House gets to invent legal rationale for blatant crimes, with the law makers and enforcers prepared to accept the rationale before they hear it.

Prior to the U.N. meeting, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote to the U.N. arguing that it is legal for the United States to attack Syria because it is legal for Iraq to defend itself. By this logic, if Canada experienced a violent rebellion, it would be legal for China to attack the United States.

It’s fun to pretend that the rule of law doesn’t matter to you because you have all the weapons. It’s fun to take two-month vacations from Washington. Just don’t count on everyone voting you back next year.

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Ukraine Government Officially Introduces Slavery, with Vague Terms

Eric Zuesse

On 23 September 2014, the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy announced official civilian slavery, via an obscure press release, headlined “The Government has extended the list of community service under martial law”; and they announced it there, in bureaucratic phrases that seemed crafted so as to be ignored:                

In connection with the situation in the east of the country, the Cabinet meeting today amended the procedures for the involvement of able-bodied people in community service under martial law. This was disclosed by Minister for Social Policy Lyudmila Denisova.

The Minister said that the existing arrangement was approved in 2011. However, today the document needs to be improved, to meet the current socio-political challenges and necessity of liquidating consequences of possible military aggression.

Lyudmila Denisova said that, in particular, the Procedure now defines the term “labor service” to mean that the people [will be] involved without mandatory consent, subject to enforcement operations, [in work that is of a] defensive nature, as well as man-made [i.e., war-related] disaster management, natural and military nature, during mobilization and wartime. [The tortured phrasing here might be due to these drafters' desire to avoid amplifying upon that phrase 'without mandatory consent,' which refers to the key new legal feature, the legal application of slavery to regular Ukrainian civilians, to be selected according to vague criteria, which might apply to most of the civilian population.]

The Minister said that the category of persons who may be involved to perform such work, covers all individuals who are self-employed.

In addition, the list of community service performed in wartime, will include types of work that are aimed at ensuring the defense of the state (including repair work conducted at state borders, airfields, and fortifications). Also covered will be other work related to emergencies of an industrial, natural or military nature, as the need arises during the period of martial law (analysis of debris, roads, etc., and work performed in connection with the provisioning of supplies to the Armed Forces and other military formations).


Community service involves working age population, including persons who are not subject to conscription, who have no age and health restrictions preventing them from work under martial law (in addition to able-bodied persons involved in work in the defense sector and for the sustenance of the population, and enterprises booked for the period of mobilization and wartime to carry out work of a defensive nature), namely:

- Unemployed and other unemployed persons [that's what it says: 'unemployed and other unemployed'];

- Workers operating under martial law in firms that are not involved in the implementation of mobilization assignments (orders) and not enrolled in abnormal (non-military) civil protection units - in order to transfer such workers in an amount that will not lead to a complete stop [of private industrial] production;

- Persons engaged in subsistence agriculture [i.e., small farmers];

- Students in higher education, and students of vocational schools;

- Everyone who is self-employed.

Each of these categories of persons [will be] entered into fixed-term employment agreement.

The official announcement says nothing about pay, nor about labor negotiations of any sort, but only that these people will be “entered into fixed-term employment agreement … without mandatory consent,” and “subject to enforcement operations.” The mystery as to how there can be ‘agreement’ without ‘mandatory consent’ (a beautiful oxymoron, for morons) is not answered, especially since it is “subject to enforcement.” So, the underlying presumption here seems to be that ‘consent’ is not ‘mandatory’ in order for there to be ‘agreement,’ and that the Government has the right to “enforce” that ‘agreement’. This seems Orwellian, but that’s the way it is. America calls itself a ‘democracy’, and yet now imposes this type of government, and condemns Russia as being not ‘democratic’. So, perhaps the Obama team has been teaching its Ukrainian stooges how to be Orwellian.

Stalin might get a belly-laugh. Today’s Russia, however, has improved considerably since Stalin, and even more after it ended communism and became just Russia without the Soviet Union and their economically crippling Marxist ideology. By contrast, the U.S. has recently been heading into fascism, and outdid itself by having installed in Ukraine a regime that’s outright nazi. The U.S. now calls that ’democratic’, as it spreads ‘democracy’ elsewhere too, such as in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria.

Then, on September 25th, the world’s great newspaper, the German Economic News, (or Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachtrichten) headlined “On the way into the authoritarian State: Ukraine introduces forced labor,” and reported:

“The new rules announced by the Minister for social policy of labor service would mean the introduction of forced labor, which violates the European Convention on human rights” as[serted] Andrej Hunko, Member of the Bundestag and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. … “Yatsenyuk’s attempt to set forced labour now legally, is a further step towards an authoritarian society and must be stopped. This is the exact opposite of the supposed democratic development of Ukraine, as it is written by the Maidan movement.”

The German newspaper said that this is being done “to absorb the consequences of the civil war.” (Here’s that war.)

Another news bulletin, this one undated, came from the Latvian site http://newstwenty4seven.com/en/news/ukraintsev-zastavjat-ryt-okopy. It’s headlined “Ukrainians Forced to Dig Trenches”; and it opens, actually, with a photo of workers digging a ditch, perhaps for more war, or else for mass-burial (or maybe some other use). This report says:

The Ukrainian government has introduced the citizens’ obligation to work, obliging them to perform tasks of a defensive nature in wartime conditions. This is reported by the press service of the Ministry of social policy of Ukraine, with reference to the head of Department Lyudmyla Denysova.

The government, according to Denisova, made changes in the recruitment of able-bodied persons to “socially useful work in conditions of martial law”. In particular, they defined the term “labor service”, which involves citizens in forced execution of jobs of a defensive nature, and emergencies in time of war, without their required consent.

“Socially useful work” refers to work at the state border, airfields and military fortifications, as well as [clearing] rubble, ”the performance of work-related needs of the armed forces and other military formations”.

To forced labor, it is planned to bring, in particular, the unemployed, students, farmers and individual entrepreneurs. 

That news-source linked to the official Ukrainian announcement.

The background of this Ukrainian Government decision is that Ukraine is now bankrupt. It was so, even before the civil war, but the additional $17 billion that was recently lent to that Government by the IMF, in order to enable them to pay their soldiers and buy weapons and bullets to slaughter the people in the regions that didn’t accept the legitimacy of the coup-imposed government, has only placed the Government even deeper into hock. The cost to Ukraine in order to achieve ‘democratic’ electoral stability by mass-murdering the population in the regions of the country that oppose the Obama-installed group and that had voted overwhelmingly for the man Obama overthrew, has turned out to be too high for it to be continued. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why slavery is now being resorted to — to cut costs, so that the Ukrainian Government can repay at least a portion of the money they were loaned by the IMF, U.S. and EU.

So, that’s why the civil war that was started by Obama’s February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s President, toppling a man who was democratically elected in Ukraine’s final nationwide vote, produced a new Government that is now collapsing. Since the West won’t continue lending it money, the Government there will, it seems, now be enslaving some of its own citizens, in order to get done what the appointed rulers want to be done, such as to continue killing people who won’t vote for them. If the enslavement of their own civilian population becomes too big and widespread to ignore, then perhaps The New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, etc., will report about it, because they’ll then be forced to. What’s particularly interesting at the present early stage is that the people whom the Obama team placed in charge of Ukraine, want to do this, and that they think that by using such tortured vague language, very few people in the U.S. and EU will get to know that they’re doing this. But already it’s news on a German site, and also on a Latvian site. Perhaps the American public will be the last to find out, except for the few individuals that read about it here. At this news site, it’s part of the “News That’s Fit To Print,” regardless of whether Big Brother feels that way about it, or maybe even because Big Brother doesn’t feel that way about it.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Why You Oppose US Attacks on ISIS (Even if You Think You Don’t)

In the following 25 second clip, logician Noam Chomsky (the most cited living scholar) uses logic to trap a hostile interviewer for state-controlled media of the former British Empire into admitting that he does not support US attacks on Islamic extremists in Afghanistan for their involvement in the murder of 3,000 US citizens on 9/11/01.

The interviewer momentarily stutters, trapped and confused, then is forced to make the logical concession, after which he immediately switches to another topic:

Whereas the above fallacious pretext for US aggression involves the murder of 3,000 US citizens, Obama’s fallacious ISIS pretext is mathematically one thousand five hundred times weaker on the same grounds, since ISIS has killed 2, as opposed to 3,000, US citizens.

Incidentally, in the cases of of both ISIS and the Taliban of Afghanistan, terrorist acts by the USA led to the creation of the groups.   The rise and installment of the Islamic extremist Taliban was an intentional, carefully planned and openly executed US operation sustained over many years, until the Taliban was uncooperative about demands for US state/corporate control over dirty energy projects involving Afghanistan.   In the case of ISIS, it is quite clear how the USA has knowingly given rise to and aided the movement through:

  1. the brutal, criminal destabilization of the entire region by the US
  2. Bush, followed by Obama’s continued insistence on arming groups in Syria that he knows are Islamic extremists and/or terrorists that are allied with ISIS (and here) and share their weapons and US training knowledge with ISIS.  (In this video, the commander of the FSA’s northern front says he would like to see Sharia law implemented.)

Also not addressed in the logic of Western aggression is that the West is the aggressor, in fact a relentlessly genocidal aggressor.  The USA has already killed countless millions of Middle Easterners, including by illegally assisting in the killings of hundreds of thousands of them in Syria.  However, this is easily ignored since those are not “Americans”.

In the following 2 minute clip, which is from earlier in the same interview, the state-controlled media interviewer says he supports the USA’s bombing of Afghanistan.  Chomsky then (correctly) tells him that he does not support the US argument for the bombing, and gives another uncontroversial example as illustration: that of the USA’s terrorist attacks against Nicaragua.  For those terrorist attacks, the USA was convicted by the World Court and condemned by the Security Council and General Assembly, all of which the USA ignored, and instead increased its atrocities against the Nicaraguans.

Instead of paying approximately 17 billion in reparations to Nicaragua as the USA was legally required to do, the USA instead illegally forced Nicaragua to pay reparations to the USA, as the USA is also forcing Vietnam to do, to the present moment.   (The interviewer at this point strenuously avoids answering Chomsky’s challenge, though moments later, in the first clip, above, he is forced to answer, and he concedes that Chomsky is correct that the interviewer does not support the US’s bombings.)

You decide: In this clear-cut case, did Nicaragua or any other country have the right to bomb the extremist group, the USA, or the US terrorist forces attacking Nicaragua, or their training camps in the USA, to stop the US atrocities against civilians and help the people of Nicaragua?

Keep in mind that the USA’s terrorist attacks against Nicaragua killed more Nicaraguans, per-capita, than US citizens killed in the US Civil War.

Here’s one more case to consider:

When the USA was teamed up with Saddam Hussein (along with other allies in this axis of evil) and they were waging a genocidal war of aggression against Iran and the Kurds, killing 1,000,000 Iranians and hundreds of thousands of Kurds, one of Hussein’s fighter jets bombed a United States ship, the USS Stark, and killed 37 US citizens.

Yes, Saddam Hussein bombed a US ship.  This was 1987.  The USA not only did not attack Hussein, but continued to support him as a “moderate” for three more years, to 1990, and then again after the “Gulf War” to help him smash an internal rebellion that likely would have overthrown him.

Some claimed, as in the case of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty, that Hussein’s attack was mistaken and unauthorized,  but no one really knows.

But what does the USA do when an attack is carried out that may have been accidental and, unlike in the USS Stark attack, which was known to have been perpetrated by Iraq, may or may not have been carried out by an enemy?

The US simply lies, says it knows for sure who carried out the attack, and seizes on the opportunity to justify attacking the enemy on whom the attack is dishonestly blamed.  Hence, the USA immediately blamed Putin for the MH17 shoot-down, screaming it to the heavens in the shrillest terms, and started sanctioning Russia and increasing US foreign military presence overseas, as well as increasing illegal US nuclear weapons spending to 1 to 1.5 trillion dollars, the most of any US regime ever, while water is shut off to unfortunate residents of Detroit.  (Not to mention that the USA itself shoots down civilian planes.)

But when Hussein killed 37 US citizens under equally questionable circumstances, nothing.  No shrill condemnations or attack on Hussein for that.

Why?  Hussein was committing far worse acts than Putin ever has or will, committing massive genocide against Iran and the Kurds.  So why did the USA not use the incident as a pretext for attacking Hussein?  Well, as noted before, because the USA was one of the accomplices in those genocides, thus the killings of US citizens was not used as a reason to attack US-ally Hussein and “protect” the people of Iran and Kurdistan from their attacker, the axis of evil of which the USA was a part.

The USA only attacks when the attack stands to expand the US empire.  Any incredible atrocity that happens within the empire (usually committed by or with the US) is justified, downplayed, or outright silenced by US/Western government and corporate media, since corporations seek to expand, not contract.

Support for US terrorist attacks means support for expansion of the stranglehold of completely amoral (at best), absolute US power over the globe, which really means the planet would be run by US corporations, since the US is not a democracy, but a plutocracy.

The size of the US empire allows the US to get away with every crime it commits.  The only way to put an end to this dynamic is to peacefully work towards a more balanced world, in which states/groups are equal enough such that they can’t attack other, smaller states/groups, because none are small and vulnerable enough that they can be easily slaughtered and bullied into submission by countries like the USA.

Remember: when chimpanzee groups of relatively equal size encounter each other, they either back off or have a minor, indecisive skirmish.

It is only when a group of chimps encounters a smaller group that it attacks.  Well, every group is smaller than the US, militarily speaking.  That’s why the US attacks other countries all the time, killing and torturing millions of people and profiting from them and their stuff.  Because they’re smaller so it can.

If we dislike that ugly dynamic and enjoy peace more, we should work towards equalizing the balance of power in the world, not furthering the anti-democratic US stranglehold over it.  (An example of the US anti-democratic, dictatorial stranglehold over the world is the 60+ year US campaign against Cuba, started by Kennedy, which is a campaign of terrorism and genocide intended to starve and kill Cuban civilians: every year, the entire world, literally every country in the United Nations [except of course Israel], tells the USA to stop, but the USA simply continues, preferring to shit on the notions of democracy, freedom, and human rights in its usual fashion.)

Do we want the US, a terrorist force that is essentially run by corporations and thus, alone in the world, rejects the universal right to food and universal rights of children, to further control the globe so it can keep starving people?  Do we want the country that imprisons more of its own people than any other country (as a way to essentially re-institute African slavery) to further dominate the planet?

Because we don’t want the United States to dominate the world doesn’t mean we want Russia or China (which, incidentally, support universal rights to food, etc.) to dominate the world, either.  That is not only a straw-man argument, but is so far from happening that it is absurd: Russia has 12 foreign bases.  China has zero.  The USA has around 1,000, which is more than any country in history, by far, which is why the USA is the most aggressive and ruinous state.

Let’s make it our long term goal to peacefully work towards balancing the distribution of power so some groups can’t go around the world terrorizing other groups and thereby expanding their illegitimate dominanation over us all.

As for ways to oppose atrocities in the Middle East, David Swanson has proposed the best solution: a global arms embargo on the United States.  79% of the weapons that are in the Middle East, not counting the US military’s weapons, come from the United States, which is the world’s biggest weapons dealer.  Cut off the flow of US weapons to the region, and that alone takes about 80% of the weapons out of the equation.  Boom.  (Across the board, the number one biggest way for the US to stop horrible atrocities is to stop committing and participating in them.  The one problem with the solution is the state doesn’t want to do it.)

Violence is supposed to be the last possible option after every single non-violent option has been exhausted.  The US, of course, has not tried or suggested David Swanson’s idea.  I wonder why…

The US state goal is not peace, but domination through violence.  Non-violent solutions (that, as in this case, don’t somehow support US empire-expansion) will not be implemented unless we implement them ourselves.

Robert Barsocchini is an investigative journalist and writer for the film industry.  Here is his blog.  Also see his free e-book, Whatever it Takes – Hillary Clinton’s Record of Support for War and other Depravities.  Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.

Posted in General | 5 Comments

Global Bellwether: Japan’s Social Depression

Beneath the surface wealth of bullet trains, cute robots and exuberant fashions, this is the Japan few outsiders understand: the one gripped by a deepening social depression.

This week I’ve highlighted the structural flaws of using GDP as a measure of “growth” and prosperity: GDP = Waste and What Metric Are We Optimizing For?

The conventional metrics of “growth” and prosperity have another fatal flaw: they do not recognize, much less measure, social depression, the social costs of economic stagnation and wealth inequality driven by financialization.

The term social recession has two distinct meanings: around 2000, the term was used to describe the erosion of social cohesion via the decline of institutions such as marriage and the rise of social problems such as teen pregnancy.

Many commentators pinned this erosion of social constraints and bonds on rampant individualism and overstimulated consumerism, while others pointed to urbanization, the commodification of child care, and women entering the workforce en masse to prop up household incomes. Poverty was explicitly rejected as a causal factor, hence the term “social recession.”

This concept of social recession was aptly described by Robert E. Lane, author of the 2001 book The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies:

There is a kind of famine of warm interpersonal relations, of easy-to-reach neighbors, of encircling, inclusive memberships, and of solidary family life… . For people lacking in social support of this kind, unemployment has more serious effects, illnesses are more deadly, disappointment with one’s children is harder to bear, bouts of depression last longer, and frustration and failed expectations of all kinds are more traumatic.

I use the term social recession to describe a very different phenomenon: the social and cultural consequences of structurally stagnant economies such as Japan, Europe and the U.S. I have defined and used social recession in this way since 2010: The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations” (August 9, 2010)

Here are the conditions that characterize social recession:

1. High expectations of endless rising prosperity have been instilled in generations of citizens as a birthright.

2. Part-time and unemployed people are marginalized, not just financially but socially.

3. Widening income/wealth disparity as those in the top 10% pull away from the shrinking middle class.

4. A systemic decline in social/economic mobility as it becomes increasingly difficult to move from dependence on the state (welfare) or one’s parents to financial independence.

5. A widening disconnect between higher education and employment: a college/university degree no longer guarantees a stable, good-paying job.

6. A failure in the Status Quo institutions and mainstream media to recognize social recession as a reality.

7. A systemic failure of imagination within state and private-sector institutions on how to address social recession issues.

8. The abandonment of middle class aspirations by the generations ensnared by the social recession: young people no longer aspire to (or cannot afford) consumerist status symbols such as luxury autos or homeownership.

9. A generational abandonment of marriage, families and independent households as these are no longer affordable to those with part-time or unstable employment, i.e. what I have termed (following Jeremy Rifkin) the end of work.

10. A loss of hope in the young generations as a result of the above conditions.

At some threshold of structural denial, social recession becomes social depression: a black hole of deteriorating social mobility and opportunity for the younger generations.

I have covered these topics in depth for many years:

America’s Social Recession: Five Years and Counting (August 28, 2013)

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations”(August 9, 2010)

Generational Wealth and Upward Mobility (October 24, 2012)

Narcissism, Consumerism and the End of Growth

Japan and the Exhaustion of Consumerism

The Hidden Cost of the “New Economy”: New-Type Depression

The Future of America Is Japan: Stagnation

The Future of America Is Japan: Runaway Deficits, Runaway Debts

What I want to focus on is the willful blindness of official metrics such as GDP, household wealth and unemployment to the realities of social depression, and how these metrics can continue to register gains while the younger generations of workers sink deeper and deeper into full-blown social depression.

Japan has been running a 25-year long experiment in precisely this dynamic:obliterating official recognition with metrics designed to ignore the inconvenient realities of social depression. Beneath the surface wealth of Japan, homeless encampments are expanding even as opportunities for young workers decline.

If the protected class that currently reaps most of the benefits of the Status Quo and owns most of the household wealth becomes even wealthier, this is logged by official metrics as “expansion,” i.e. prosperity, even when this “prosperity” is limited to the financial/political Elites and the Upper Caste of the Japanese economy–what another author calls the Clerisy classAmerica’s new class system (the Clerisy class).

The Clerisy Class is not unique to America; every structurally stagnant economy is being strangled by its protected Upper Caste.

The Status Quo also masks these realities with tsunamis of upbeat consumerist propaganda. In Japan, this propaganda manifests as ceaseless media coverage of young people with enough time and disposable income to indulge in absurdly exaggerated fashions and fads.

If all this is new to you, I strongly recommend you read my essay The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations” (August 9, 2010).

Here are a few highlights:

– Once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

– More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system.

– The slang word “freeter” (for part-time worker) combines the English “free” and the German “arbeiter” or worker.

– A typical “freeter” wage is 1,000 yen ($9.20) an hour.

– As long ago as 2001, The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimated that 50 percent of high school graduates and 30 percent of college graduates now quit their jobs within three years of leaving school.

– Japan’s slump has lasted so long, a “New Lost Generation” is coming of age, joining Japan’s first “Lost Generation” which graduated into the bleak job market of the 1990s.

– These trends have led to an ironic moniker for the Freeter lifestyle: Dame-Ren (No Good People). The Dame-Ren (pronounced dah-may-ren) get by on odd jobs, low-cost living and drastically diminished expectations.

– Many young men now reject the macho work ethic and related values of their fathers. These “herbivores” reject the traditonal Samurai ideal of masculinity. Derisively called “herbivores” or “Grass-eaters,” these young men are uncompetitive and uncommitted to work, evidence of their deep disillusionment with Japan’s troubled economy.

– These shifts have spawned a disconnect between genders so pervasive that Japan is experiencing a “social recession” in marriage, births, and even sex, all of which are declining.

– The trend of never leaving home has sparked an almost tragicomical countertrend ofJapanese parents who actively seek mates to marry off their “parasite single” offspring as the only way to get them out of the house.

– An even more extreme social disorder is Hikikomori, or “acute social withdrawal,” a condition in which the young live-at-home person will virtually wall themselves off from the world by never leaving their room.

Is it any wonder that in the face of such a bleak and maladaptive future, young people seek identity, community and solace in a fantasy world of fashion? When an economy is dominated by a Savior State that issues unsustainable promises, and a society is dependent on a consumerist frenzy of fads, status signifiers and shopping for identity and what passes for community, then narcissism, restless emptiness and the aloneness described in The Hidden Cost of the “New Economy”: New-Type Depression are the inevitable results.

Beneath the surface wealth of bullet trains, cute robots and exuberant fashions, this is the Japan few outsiders understand: the one gripped by a deepening social depression.

Japan is the global bellwether in social depression, and we can already see the same symptoms and official panic to mask these symptoms in Europe, China and the U.S. 

How to
Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy
a mere $9.95 for the Kindle ebook edition and $15.47 for the print edition.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A National Call: Save Civilian Education


Signers listed at bottom

The militarization of our schoolsOver the last several decades, the Pentagon,conservative forces, and corporations have been systematically working to expand their presence in the K-12 learning environment and in public universities. The combined impact of the military, conservative think tanks and foundations,  and of corporatization of our public educational systems has eroded the basic democratic concept of civilian public education.   It is a trend that, if allowed to continue, will weaken the primacy of civilian rule and, ultimately, our country’s commitment to democratic ideals.

The signers of this statement believe it is urgent for all advocates of social justice, peace and the environment to recognize the dangerous nature of this problem and confront it with deliberate action.


The most aggressive outside effort to use the school system to teach an ideology with ominous long-term implications for society comes from the military establishment. Over the last two decades, with relatively little media coverage or public outcry, the Pentagon’s involvement in schools and students’ lives has grown exponentially. Now, for example:

  • Every school day, at least half a million high school students attend Junior ROTC classes to receive instruction from retired officers who are handpicked by the Pentagon to teach its own version of history and civics. These students are assigned “ranks” and conditioned to believe that military and civilian values are similar, with the implication that unquestioning obedience to authority is therefore a feature of good citizenship.
  • Armed forces academies are being established in some public schools (Chicago now has eight), where all students are given a heavy dose of military culture and values.
  • A network of military-related programs is spreading in hundreds of elementary and middle schools. Examples are the Young Marines and Starbase programs, and military programs that sneak into schools under the cloak of Science / Technology / Engineering / Math (STEM) education.
  • Military recruiters are trained to pursue “school ownership” as their goal (see: “Army School Recruiting Program Handbook”). Their frequent presence in classrooms, lunch areas and at assemblies has the effect of popularizing military values, soldiering and, ultimately, war.
  • Since 2001, federal law has overridden civilian school autonomy and family privacy when it comes to releasing student contact information to the military. Additionally, each year thousands of schools allow the military to administer its entrance exam — the ASVAB — to 10th-12th graders, allowing recruiters to bypass laws protecting parental rights and the privacy of minors and gain access to personal information on hundreds of thousands of students.


Efforts by groups outside the school system to inject conservatism and corporate values into the learning process have been going on for a number of years. In a recent example of right-wing educational intervention, The New York Times reported that tea party groups, using lesson plans and coloring books, have been pushing schools to “teach a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, where the federal government is a creeping and unwelcome presence in the lives of freedom-loving Americans.” (See:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/17/us/constitution-has-its-day-amid-a-struggle-for-its-spirit.html )

Corporations have been projecting their influence in schools with devices like Channel One, a closed-circuit TV program that broadcasts commercial content daily to captive student audiences in 8,000 schools. Some companies have succeeded in convincing schools to sign exclusive contracts for pizza, soft drinks and other products, with the goal of teaching early brand loyalty to children. A National Education Policy Center report issued in November 2011 documents the various ways in which business/school partnerships are harming children educationally by channeling student thinking “into a corporate-friendly track” and stunting their ability to think critically. (See: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/schoolhouse-commercialism-2011 )

The development of this corporate-friendly track dovetails with a radical corporate agenda to dismantle America’s public education system. States across the country are slashing educational spending, outsourcing public teacher jobs, curbing collective-bargaining rights, and marginalizing teachers’ unions. There is a proliferation of charter and “cyber” schools that promote private sector involvement and a push toward for-profit schools where the compensation paid to private management companies is tied directly to student performance on standardized assessments.  The cumulative effect is the creation of institutions that cultivate a simplistic ideology that merges consumerism with subservience. (See: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/michigan-privatize-public-education )

The corporatization of education via charter schools and the administration sector growth at universities is another troubling trend for public education.  Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Errorhttp://www.npr.org/2013/09/27/225748846/diane-ravitch-rebukes-education-activists-reign-of-error ) and Henry A. Giroux’s newest book, Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education,  ( http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22548-henry-giroux-beyond-neoliberal-miseducation ) give pointers to the doubtful role of corporate values in public education.

Why is this happening?  Giroux notes that “Chris Hedges, the former New York Times correspondent, appeared on Democracy Now! in 2012 and told host Amy Goodman the federal government spends some $600 billion a year on education—“and the corporations want it.”

There are also some organizations supporting efforts to introduce history and civics lessons from a progressive perspective, such as the Howard Zinn Education Project (https://zinnedproject.org ) and Rethinking Schools ( http://www.rethinkingschools.org ). And a small movement is working against Channel One and the commercialization of the school environment (e.g., http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/education and ( http://www.obligation.org ).


There is reason to be hopeful about reversing this trend if we look, for example, at some of the successes in grassroots efforts to curb militarism in schools. In 2009, a coalition of high school students, parents and teachers in the very conservative, military-dominated city of San Diego succeeded in getting their elected school board to shut down JROTC firing ranges at eleven high schools. Two years later, the same coalition got the school board to pass a policy significantly limiting military recruiting in all of its schools. Though such initiatives are relatively few in number, similar victories have been won in other school districts and on the state level in Hawaii and Maryland.

There are also some organizations supporting efforts to introduce history and civics lessons from a progressive perspective, such as the Zinn Education Project (www.zinnedproject.org) and Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org). And a small movement is working against Channel One and the commercialization of the school environment (e.g., http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/education/ and http://www.obligation.org/ ).

As promising and effective as these efforts are, they pale in comparison to the massive scale of what groups on the other side of the political spectrum are proactively doing in the educational environment to preserve the influence of conservatism, militarism and corporate power.

It is time for progressive organizations, foundations and media to confront this and become equally involved in the educational system. It is especially important that more organizations unite to oppose the growing intrusion of the Pentagon in K-12 schools and universities. Restoring the primacy of critical thinking and democratic values in our culture cannot be done without stopping the militarization and corporate takeover of public education.

Michael Albert
Z Magazine

Pat Alviso
Southern California
Military Families Speak Out (MFSO)

Marc Becker
Historians Against the War

Bill Bigelow
Curriculum Editor,
Rethinking Schools

Peter Bohmer
Faculty in political economy,
Evergreen State College

Bill Branson
VVAW National Office

Noam Chomsky
Professor, Retired, MIT

Michelle Cohen
Project Great Futures,
Los Angeles, CA

Tom Cordaro
Pax Christi USA Ambassador
of Peace, Naperville, IL

Pat Elder
National Coalition to
Protect Student Privacy

Margaret Flowers
It’s Our Economy 

Libby Frank
Northwest Suburban Peace
& Education Project,
Arlington Hts., IL

Hannah Frisch
Civilian Soldier

Kathy Gilberd
National Lawyers Guild
Military Law Task Force

Henry Armand Giroux
Professor, McMaster

Frank Goetz
Director, West Surburban
Faith Based Peace Coalition,
Wheaton, Il

Tom Hayden
Activist, Author,

Arlene Inouye
Treasurer, United Teachers
of Los Angeles

Iraq Veterans Against
the War (IVAW)
National Office,
New York City

Rick Jahnkow
Project on Youth and
Non-Military Opportunities,
Encinitas, CA

Jerry Lembcke
Emeritus Professor,
Holy Cross College

Jorge Mariscal
Professor, Univ. of
California San Diego

Patrick McCann
National VFP President,
Montgomery County (MD)
Education Association
Board Member

Stephen McNeil
American Friends
Service Committee
San Francisco

Carlos Muñoz
Professor Emeritus
UC Berkeley Ethnic
Studies Dept.

Michael Nagler
President, Metta Center
for Nonviolence

Jim O’Brien
Co-chair, Historians
Against the War

Isidro Ortiz
Professor, San Diego
State University

Jesus Palafox
American Friends Service
Committee, Chicago

Pablo Paredes
AFSC 67 Sueños

Michael Parenti, Ph.D.
Author & lecturer

Bill Scheurer
Executive Director
of On Earth Peace,
Stop Recruiting Kids

Cindy Sheehan
Peace and Social
Justice Activist

Joanne Sheehan
New England Regional
War Resisters League

Mary Shesgreen
Chair, Fox Valley Citizens
for Peace & Justice,
Elgin, IL

Sam Smith
Fellowship of

Kristin Stoneking
Executive Director
Fellowship of
Reconciliation USA

David Swanson
World Beyond War

Chris Venn
San Pedro Neighbors for
Peace & Justice,
San Pedro, CA

Veterans for Peace
National Office,
St. Louis, MO

Veterans for Peace
Chicago Chapter

Vietnam Veterans
Against the War
National Office,
Champaign, IL

Amy Wagner
YA-YA Network
(Youth Activists-Youth
Allies), New York City

Harvey Wasserman

West Suburban
PEACE Coalition
Wheaton, IL

Colonel Ann Wright,
Retired U.S. Army/
Army Reserves

Mickey Z.
Author of Occupy
this Book: Mickey Z.
on Activism

Kevin Zeese
It’s Our Economy

Open invitation to

Posted in General | 3 Comments

The Khorasans: As Fake As the Kardashians

New Boogeyman Has Already Been Debunked

Obama is now – after the fact – scrambling to justify bombing the sovereign nation of Syria without the permission of either the Syrian government or even the United States Congress by saying that we were going after the super-evil Khorasans, who were about to attack us.

My God!  That sounds terrifying … like a cross between Genghis Khan, Klingons and the Kardashians!

The U.S. is saying that they’re even more dangerous than ISIS.

There’s just one wee little problem … the Khorasan threat is as as fake as the Kardashians’ physiques. (Admittedly, it’s confusing, given that the Kardashians have also inserted themselves right in the middle of the Syrian conflict.)

Agence France-Presse reports:

The US says it has hit a little-known group called “Khorasan” in Syria, but experts and activists argue it actually struck Al-Qaeda’s affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which fights alongside Syrian rebels.

In announcing its raids in the northern province of Aleppo on Tuesday, Washington described the group it targeted as Khorasan, a cell of Al-Qaeda veterans planning attacks against the West.

But experts and activists cast doubt on the distinction between Khorasan and Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

In Syria, no one had ever heard talk of Khorasan until the US media brought it up,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Rebels, activists and the whole world knows that these positions (hit Tuesday) were Al-Nusra positions, and the fighters killed were Al-Nusra fighters,” added Abdel Rahman, who has tracked the Syrian conflict since it erupted in 2011.

Experts were similarly dubious about the distinction.

“The name refers to Al-Qaeda fighters previously based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran who have travelled to Syria to fight with… Al-Nusra,” said Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

They… should not be considered a new or distinct group as such.”

Aron Lund, editor of the Syria in Crisis website run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, raised similar doubts.

The fact that news about this Al-Qaeda-run, anti-Western cell linked to Al-Nusra emerged just over a week ago, through US intelligence leaks — well, it’s certainly an interesting coincidence,” he told AFP.


Claims of a distinction are lost of many of Syria’s rebels, who have also often rejected the world community’s designation of Al-Nusra as a “terrorist” group.

When Washington added Al-Nusra to its list of “terrorist” organisations, even the internationally-backed Syrian opposition National Coalition criticised the decision.


On the ground, almost all rebel groups have been willing to cooperate with Al-Nusra, seeing them as distinct from the Islamic State group (IS), which espouses transnational goals and includes many non-Syrians among its ranks.


[The] history of cooperation [between the various crazies in Syria] has left some rebels and activists on the ground suspicious and even angry about the strikes on Al-Qaeda.


Some key members are believed to maintain channels of communication with Al-Nusra, including Qatar, which has helped negotiate the release of prisoners held by the group.

McClatchy adds:

Raad Alawi, the commander of a smaller group of fighters, the Squadrons of Al Haq, told McClatchy he was very angry.

“Starting the war with the bombing of Nusra is an indication that this is a war against the revolution and not [ISIS] … “Maybe next they will bomb the bases of the Free Syrian Army.”

Well, okay … experts and Syrian Islamic jihadis think there’s no distinction between the Khorasans and plain vanilla Al Nusra/Al Qaeda/Free Syrian Army fighters.

But surely America and our allies treat the moderate Syrian rebels … I mean Al Nusra …  er, I mean the Khorasans … with a consistent iron fist?

Well, no … we’ve been – directly or indirectly – backing them.  And – as we’ve been warning for some time – the boys we’re arming are threatening to attack us.

So – while I’d like to believe that I’m being shown the real deal as a justification for long-term, direct involvement – I’m just not buying it

Posted in Politics / World News | 14 Comments

Gallup: 58% of Americans Want a Third Party. Maybe Senator Sanders?

Eric Zuesse

On September 24th, Gallup reported that, “A majority of U.S. adults, 58%, say a third U.S. political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic parties ‘do such a poor job’ representing the American people.’” Furthermore, “The first time the question was asked, in 2003, a majority of Americans believed the two major parties were adequately representing the U.S. public, which is the only time this has been the case. Since 2007, a majority has said a third party is needed, with two exceptions occurring in the fall of the 2008 and 2012 presidential election years.”

In other words: Ever since the American public started to learn in 2003 that George W. Bush had been lying about his being in possession of conclusive evidence that Saddam Hussein was building a new stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), American public sentiment switched drastically from belief that the two major “Parties do an adequate job,” to belief that “A third party is needed.” (Both Parties supported the invasion of Iraq, which was Bush’s policy; it became bipartisan, though it was based on frauds and turned out to be predictably disastrous.) Whereas back in 2003, Americans held, by 56% to 40%, that the existing “Parties do an adequate job,” that sentiment plunged till 2007, when Americans held, by 58% to 33%, that “A third party is needed”; and, today, that sentiment is virtually the same as it was then: 58% to 35% now saying that “A third party is needed.”

The closest American public sentiment has come to 2003′s 56% satisfaction-level with the two existing parties was in late 2008, when 47% were satisfied and 47% were dissatisfied, tied; but, the support at all other times, for creation of a new third party to compete seriously for the U.S. Presidency, has constituted a majority of the U.S. electorate. The only other time when the level of satisfaction reached near to the level of dissatisfaction was in late 2012, when 45% were satisfied, and 46% were dissatisfied, regarding the present two-party system.

Both of those times when majority satisfaction was nearly reached, both in 2008 and in 2012, reflected the public’s rising faith in the two-party system, which resulted from the billions of dollars that were then being spent during the Presidential election-year campaigns, emphasizing the (seemingly) stark ideological differences between the two Presidential candidates. However, both of those times, this near-restoration of faith turned out to have been only fleeting; and, so, between 2012 and today, the level of dissatisfaction has risen from 46% up to its present 58%, and the level of satisfaction has sunk from 45% then, to the present level of only 35%.

Another Gallup result was published later the same day, and it reported that the public’s answer to the question about whether they’re “satisfied or dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed” plunged from the question’s all-time (since 1972) high of 59% in 2002, to its all-time low of 19% in 2011, and then 27% today, so that it seems clear that post-9/11 disenchantment with George Bush’s policies started the plunge, and that disappointment with Obama’s continuing Bush’s policies extended it. When Obama came into office in 2009, the satisfaction figure soared from the pre-Obama, 2008, figure of 26%, up to 43% in 2009, only to plunge again back down, to its all-time low of 19% in 2011, and arrive now at 27%, which is virtually the same level that it was right before Obama became President.

So, yet again: Americans are deeply disturbed at the disappointing performance of our Government, and they don’t trust either Party to restore our democracy.


This raises the question of whether the only possible third party candidate who might actually stand a chance to establish a long-term-viable competitive third political party in the United States, who is Vermont’s independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, might actually be able to compete seriously in 2015 and 2016 for the U.S. Presidency, if he runs as an independent (as he has said he might do).

There are only two historical precedents that can provide strong historical guidance toward a fair estimation of the likelihoods that he might succeed on this:

The positive side for such a possible viable new third party is Abraham Lincoln’s successful campaign for the Presidency in 1860 under the banner of the new Republican Party, which had been founded only 6 years earlier, in 1854, so as to overcome the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had ended the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing new western states to permit slavery. The issue that this new political party, the Republicans, posed, was clear and fundamentally moral, and it concerned both the economy and the body-politic: Should this nation continue half-slave and half-free? So, Abraham Lincoln won: More Americans said no to that question than said yes to it.

However, on the negative side regarding the possibility of a successful political party being able to be formed today, is the example of Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign for the Presidency under the banner of his own then newly formed Progressive Party. This might be a closer analogy to the present situation. Roosevelt formed that new Party by himself, after he became disillusioned with his own Republican Party’s conservatism, its support for Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. But he confused the public about what precisely was the problem: Teddy Roosevelt formed his Progressive Party specifically because the current Republican President William Howard Taft tried to break up U.S. Steel Corporation as violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act: Taft was trying to enforce a progressive law, applying it to a case in which Roosevelt believed it shouldn’t be applied. This disagreement culminated an ideologically confusing sequence of policy-differences with Taft. All that Roosevelt achieved then, from such confusion, was to draw off enough Republican voters to his own candidacy, so as to enable the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, to become elected as President.

Precisely what “progressivism” was, and what “conservatism” was, weren’t sufficiently clear to voters, and especially were not nearly so clear to them as, in 1860, had been at issue during that time, which was the moral unacceptability of slavery. Abraham Lincoln’s speeches about that issue were profound, and clear. Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches about what his new party stood for were shallow and superficial. The basic issue was not clear at all. And, without any clear separation of his new party from both  of the then-existing ones, Roosevelt’s new party failed to do what it needed to do and what Lincoln’s Republican Party had done, which was to produce for the voters a clear choice between his party and both  of the then-dominant ones. (Lincoln’s Republicans defeated both the Democrats and the reconstituted Whig Party — the latter running under the name of the Constitutional Union Party, and winning only Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.)

Do we have an issue today that is moral, and comprehensive, and clear, such as existed in 1860? Yes, we actually do, and it has been building in the public’s mind for decades, just as the issue of slavery had been building for decades prior to 1860 (and Lincoln’s speeches brought it forth with volcanic force, and no ambiguity).

Google-search the following sequence of characters, and you will immediately see plenty of discussions of this current analogue to the slavery issue: “climate change” slavery

One of those commentaries is this, which argues that the climate-change issue just cannot be politically resolved. Josh Barro says there, “I have trouble imagining a less popular policy proposal than the United States borrowing a huge amount of money to pay Saudi Arabia not to extract oil — even if that policy actually would make Americans better off. Even when the beneficiary of buyout payments isn’t a foreign government of questionable repute, the barriers would be huge. It would call for international cooperation.”

Only if Senator Sanders can clearly overcome arguments like that, would he possess even a chance to win the U.S. Presidency as a new form of Progressive Party candidate, because, otherwise, the moral and the practical issues will be just as unclear from him as they had been from Theodore Roosevelt in 2012. Furthermore, if Sanders runs as an independent without having first at least tried  to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, then he will antagonize Democratic voters as an enemy and a “spoiler,” much as Ralph Nader did; and, so, antagonizing both Democrats and Republicans, he probably won’t get much more than the 2.74% of the Presidential vote that Nader did in 2000.

Thus, if Senator Sanders doesn’t first at least contest for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination, then it’s unlikely that he would be a serious candidate at all for the Presidency; but, if he does try, and if Democratic voters reject him, then what would be the impact if he at that time starts a new Progressive Party, and contests against both the Democratic and the Republican candidates? It would probably be a repeat of what Teddy Roosevelt did in 2012: throwing the election to the opposite established Party, which in this case would be to the Republican nominee, whomever that would be. Sanders says he doesn’t want to do that. So: if he is serious at all about running for the Presidency, and if he’s honest, he will need to run for the Democratic nomination. Only if he fails to receive that nomination will a subsequent new-party run by him for the Presidency make any sense at all — and, even then, it won’t make any sense unless he clearly and convincingly articulates why his new party should become the new and better version of what today’s Democratic Party is. That case can be made. Bill Clinton ended Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Glass-Steagall Act and other regulations of Wall Street;  and Barack Obama has been working since even before he first entered the White House to weaken Social Security, and even to expand the use of fossil fuels. FDR would be appalled at both recent ‘Democratic’ Presidents.

So, today’s ‘Democratic’ Party isn’t FDR’s, and certainly isn’t progressive on some core issues. It’s conceivable that Sanders could end up replacing the Democratic Party with FDR’s progressive Democratic Party, but only if Sanders makes the case for doing that, just as Lincoln made the case for replacing the reconstituted Whig Party (Constitutional Union Party) by the Republican Party, as he did in 1860.

However, in order for Sanders to do this, he first needs to run within the existing Democratic Party, to reform it via taking it over as its Presidential nominee. Because, otherwise, he’ll be seen only as an enemy by Democratic voters; and this would surely defeat (doom) his candidacy.

He won’t be able to win the White House unless he gets strong support from Democratic voters all the way. He won’t win the White House unless he either reforms the Democratic Party, or else replaces the Democratic Party. And that’s a clear fact.

The Gallup Poll findings suggest that the 2016 Presidential contest could be very interesting, even more so than is normally the case. Bernie Sanders might restore FDR’s Democratic Party. But if he doesn’t do that, then 2016 will almost certainly be just more of America’s continuing decline into plutocracy — into the very thing that FDR warred against, both here at home, and abroad, when plutocracy was then commonly called “fascism.” Sanders would need to make the case against it, and would need to bring the global-warming issue integrally into that anti-plutocratic case.

Such a case would be entirely true, and it might win. But who would finance the presentation of it? Only a new political movement could do that. First, he would have to build its core within the Democratic Party. Then, he would need to take that core with him into the general-election campaign. It might happen.  Practically any other 2016 outcome would be no better than what currently exists.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

What Metric Are We Optimizing For?

If we choose metrics unwisely, we create self-destructive choices, policies and goals.

Yesterday, I explained why GDP = Waste. This raises a larger issue: we shape our choices and goals to optimize what we choose to measure.

If cholesterol is established as a critical metric of health, for example, then we naturally focus on our cholesterol levels and adjust our diet or take medications to optimize our cholesterol level to the ideal levels.

Do cholesterol levels really reflect health? Are they really critical metrics of well-being, longevity, etc.? If I take a handful of pills to optimize my cholesterol levels, have I become healthy, or does the optimization of that metric create the illusion that we’ve reached our goal of health?

If 3% GDP growth is established as the optimum, we shape our choices, policies and systems to reach that goal–even if the process of optimizing that metric is destructive to the economy and society. In other words, if we choose metrics unwisely, we create self-destructive choices, policies and goals.

Correspondent Lew G. recently submitted a fascinating article that describes our propensity for optimizing whatever metric is presented as critical: Economists Don’t Understand The Information Age, So Their Claims About Today’s Economy Are A Joke.

When we have a bad metric, even if we know it’s a bad metric, we still tend to optimize for that metric, because that’s what we have to measure progress, success, etc.

There are plenty of examples of questionable metrics: GDP (gross domestic product) as opposed to Gross Domestic Happiness, unemployment (rather than full-time jobs that can support families), and even test scores in education.

It’s Time to Retire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a Measure of Prosperity(April 18, 2014)

When the metrics–and the way they are measured–are both perverse, we get perverse incentives and perverse outputs.

By measuring GDP in the current way, it makes sense to burn the last of our cheap oil paying people to dig holes and then fill them, because the wages paid (even if they’re paid with borrowed money) are counted as “growth.”

For a variety of reasons, the agendas, priorities and incentives established by metrics such as GDP are rarely made explicit. For example, by focusing on test results rather than life-skills and professionalism, our schools incentivize optimizing test scores and cheating, as part of an implicit assumption that scoring well on tests prepares students for jobs in the real economy.

Yet the evidence strongly suggests that scoring well academically is poorly correlated to on-the-job performance, innovation, leadership, etc.

What if our education system stated this set of choices explicitly rather than implicitly? Then we’d have a clearer idea of the consequences of the metrics we’ve chosen to optimize. The explicit statement would be something like this: Instead of teaching you life-skills that are essential for successful adulthood and the eight essential skills of professionalism, we’re teaching you how to take tests that advance your career in academia.

The same kind of perverse priorities and incentives are easily found in healthcare, defense, and of course economics.

Consider GDP: if I decide to ride a $100 used bicycle to work instead of buying a $30,000 auto with mostly borrowed money, the impact on GDP is horrendously negative: I didn’t spend $30,000 on the car, thousands of additional dollars on insurance and fuel, didn’t pay a bank thousands of dollars in interest and fees, and didn’t pay bridge and highway tolls, or excise taxes on the vehicle, fuel, maintenance, etc.

The benefits to me and society at large of riding my used bicycle to work are not even counted: by riding a used bike insteadof driving a new auto, I can save capital to invest in productive enterprises, I’ve taken one vehicle off the road, lessening traffic, I’ve conserved precious fuel for following generations, and my health will improve from the daily exercise, very likely reducing the costs of my healthcare and the burden on wage-earners of caring for me.

But these unalloyed health benefits are a disaster for GDP as currently measured: GDP would rise only if I become ill and need medications, procedures, tests, etc. on a regular basis.

In other words, in the current way we measure “prosperity” (i.e. “growth”), healthy living, low-cost lifestyles and capital accumulation are catastrophes for the economy rather than tremendous benefits.

Clearly, we need an entirely new set of metrics and ways of measuring them. This will instantly create an entirely new set of agendas, priorities and incentives that change day-to-day choices without any central-state coercion, bureaucracies or top-down Central Planning. 

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