zaterdag 9 december 2017

The Blind Reading the Blind


We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind

Photo by Daniel Lobo | CC BY 2.0
Shortly after the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, made a candid confession to the Army Times, “I’m running out of demons, I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung.” Amid the general bonhomie of the military interview, Powell nicely encapsulated a central truth of empire: it doesn’t want peace. Never did. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, is based on conquest. Peace is little more than an aftermath in the imperialist vision. It is the dusty rubble-strewn silence that descends on Aleppo when the jihadists have been bussed out. It is the silent pollution of the Danube when the NATO jets have flown. It is the quiet that settles on the Libyan square once the slave auction has concluded. Peace is an interlude between the birth of avarice and the advent of aggression. Little else.
If Powell confessed empire’s disinterest in peace, he also expressed the need of the imperials state for a steady supply of new enemies. Conflict is the lifeblood of imperial capitalism. It is how the ruling class further enriches itself. It is how the global elite expand their dominion over the planet. Those who will not pay tribute under threat of menace, must ultimately face the menace. But this truth, that the imperial state is the carmine tip of elite expropriation, must not be aired among the hoi polloi. It is the unseemly underbelly of power and if it were widely understood it would hack away the legitimacy of the state, which is only justified by its nominal commitment to the welfare of the nation. That claim only appears legitimate in the face of some grim and ghastly threat. Powell understood that with the nasty specter of the evil empire crumbling to ash on an Asian plain, a spine-chilling new antagonist would have to be invented to replace it.
Enter the specter of Islamic terror. Islamic terrorism is largely the product of American terror. It is wittingly conjured into being throughour wanton destruction of Muslim societies. We did not attack Muslim nations in order to produce a new enemy. We attacked them to extend our control of natural resources, shape the trade routes of the future, and expand the reach of global capital. But the epiphenomenon of terrorism was both predictable and embraced as a casus belli. It is the hobgoblin used by ruling class media to frighten western populations into acquiescence with the west’s warlike vision for global hegemony.
But western populations have of late grown weary of the terrorist scourge and the endless storylines of restive migrants doing the dirty work of mysterious jihadists on the Disneyfied streets of western capitals. Jets into skyscrapers. Cars into crowds. Backpacks in corners of concert halls. High-rise shotgunners spraying bullets into public squares. Terror fatigue is spreading across a western world that could only sustain permanent stress levels for so long. Thankfully, for the managers of empire and its media flacks, a reborn Russian state, rising from the ashes of a capitalist looting spree, has provided a second narrative front in the war for the mind of the west. A different visage emerges. Not the bearded votary narrating a death wish to a shaky cam. But a Muscovite in a bespoke suit with a supercilious grin on his sly poker face. The optics are different, but in a media environment of constant overexposure, that is a good thing.
Both terrorism and a revanchist Russia represent figments of horror in the minds of western citizens. They are the bête noire with which we can shape our worldview and pepper our cocktail conversations. We do not realize that Islamic terror is largely a product of American terror. We do not see that American aggression provokes Russian self-defense. As such, these orientalist caricatures represent the hypocrisy of imperial neoliberalism, which is forever flying the false flag of economic justice and democratic freedom over its just-conquered capitals. Inhabitants of those broken cities know better, as their standard of living plummets and their dictators are replaced by juntas. They know the west is like Joseph Conrad’s sepulchral city, where an alabaster exterior hides a crypt of rotting flesh. That is the real vision that western media works so feverishly to disguise, one no sane person could stomach. That’s why the media must craft fresh Frankensteins at such a feverish pace. Fairy tales of secular missionaries bringing the gift of free-market democracy to the benighted tribes of the east.
Globalization and Its Discontents 
The terminology of that fairy tale is telling. The term ‘globalization’ has been used as a portmanteau containing all of the sly nuance of neoliberalism. Globalization is the rush of capital into every conceivable crevice of the planet in search of profitable new ventures. Unfortunately, markets must be pried open with war when rhetorical picklocks don’t suffice. The term ‘humanitarian’ is the masque we now affix to the gruesome face of war whenever we must attack some recalcitrant socialist backwater. What we used to call a ‘civilising mission’ in Africa, we now call a ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the Middle East. Historians call that ‘progress.’
The effect of this noble-minded fustian is to pacify a population and to marginalize anyone who attempts to reveal the true character of imperial action. Who would oppose a globalizing force of open markets that promise to bring ‘developing’ and ‘emerging’ nations online and on par with our post-industrial west? Those who do can hardly explain the extractive nature of neoliberal globalization or its deindustrializing effect on developing economies before they are skewered by the flagbearers of humanitarianism. Who would deny the righteous cause of intervening to halt imminent genocide? One has barely called into question whether genocide is actually imminent before being fleeced by the rhetorical guardians of the west’s civilizing mission. The righteous R2P. One has hardly breathed a word of how the ‘war on terror’ is largely generated by the state terror we inflict on other nations before being rubber-stamped a traitor and told to leave the country (if you don’t like it).
The fable must be accepted. We are spreading freedom and equality. Simple as that. End of story. Say that the United States is the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the world, and be branded a traitor–by the counter-revolutionaries. Wherever democratic freedom rears its ugly head, you can be sure that U.S. media flacks, as well as special forces, drones, proxy terrorists, and battalions are on hand to crush what they claim to defend.
Softening the Blow
The fairy tales are told by the mainstream media, shamelessly so. The Wolf Blitzers of the world devote themselves to the slavish production of fresh threats. The liberal MSM is represented today by outlets such as the New York TimesWashington PostLos Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. These ciphers take the crude evasions of the White House, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies, and camouflage them. They dress them in muted tones that dampen the drama of blast craters. They massage the story to elide the facts that might produce introspection or taint the purity of our self-image. Self-criticism is inappropriate, but the righteous condemnation of other nations is a moral mandate. Print everything in classic fonts, with well-designed column widths, and add in world-class photography that turns ruination into artistic representation. This is the manna consumed by the acolytes of exceptionalism.
Nothing better embodies the empty ruse of liberalism than the bulky deadwood of the Times. There is of course the elitist coverage of mini-breaks in distant villas, where war-torn peasant societies repair their communities round a communal table. There are the heady profiles of the latest restaurant trends, where the bearded Brooklyn chef with neck tats touts his vegan currywurst to the gentrified hood. There is the fastidious theater review and the effusive real estate forecast. Filler aside, readers will be reminded that war is necessary when America wages it; globalization is inevitable when it means free markets, and free markets mean individual freedom; multiculturalism and mass immigration are desirable to all, irreversible, and a moral imperative; and inscrutable new alien threats are profiled with an Orientalist’s hopeful but ultimately worrisome and mystified gaze. Little mention is made of the fact that our conflicts are provably imperial resource wars; that in nearly every port of call our country wages counter-revolutionary battles that stifle liberation and independence; that globalization has wrecked the American standard of living through labor arbitrage and offshoring; that immigration ought not to be coupled with austerity unless the objective is race wars; that the lives of women, LGBTQ, and people of color are collateral damage in the crosshairs of empire; or that American capitalism has no interest in delivering jobs, living wages, or upward mobility to its extant population, let alone its newest members.
When these mostly taboo subjects are noted, they are presented as a perplexing side effects of a noble project of laissez faire globalization. They are unfortunate but must not be rashly addressed. Better to endlessly maintain the status quo as one wrestles with the philosophic implications of global capitalism. This was Obama’s favorite tactic. Open a dialogue, but don’t change anything important. This dissembling attitude was beautifully expressed in a recent Twitter thread which detailed seventy years of Times articles proclaiming a dizzying succession of reform-minded princes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the patriarchy’s misogynist grip on power is as firm as ever, as is Washington’s backing. The last post in that thread noted Thomas Friedman’s sycophantic paean to the new idol of Saudi imperialism, Mohammed Bin Salman, or ‘MBS’ to his fawning admirers. Friedman’s article was printed last week.
When not absorbing the high culture of the Times literary supplement, one finds the corporate liberal Democrat happily digesting bite-sized reports from the National Public Radio (NPR). Here the adherence to the state view is no less vigilant than in print. Thus when NPR interviews a CIA psychologist who tells us that whistleblowers are either psychopaths, narcissists, or lingering in some irresponsible adolescence, the “national security correspondent” fails to challenge these claims. And when Australian broadcasting interviews Hillary Clinton, it allows the venal egotist to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin tool and call Julian Assange a narcissistic opportunist without the slightest resistance. Questions about the shady dealings of the Clinton Foundation are feebly set aside at the merest sign of discomfort by Madame Secretary. And Times op-ed writers like Friedman can happily call for support of al Qaeda, destroying target societies, and cheerlead more global wage leveling by chastising workers for not falling in lockstep with the elitist program.
These are the signs of a dead discipline. The mainstream media is no longer adversarial. It takes the official story at face value. It has abdicated its proper role in a democratic society, which is partly why we are no longer a democratic society. As Princeton University has explained, we are effectively a plutocracy. Thanks to the MSM, though, most of us continue to believe the rhetorical platitudes of our corrupt leaders. Media is one of our numberless emasculated institutions, which are now authoritarian and warlike. (See liberal faith in the Mueller investigation, led by a neoliberal imperialist who fought to crush Vietnamese socialism and led the FBI, one of the most regressive and criminal organizations in the world.) Like readers who still place a naive faith in the government, MSM writers continue to believe they are doing independent journalism in the service of truth (“Democracy dies in darkness,” the Post implores us). But real journalism accepts nothing at face value. It is the Socratic voice that unsettles the consensus.
Bot Bylines 
Instead of incisive journalism that digs, defies, and holds power to account, we get self-censoring media automatons pampering oligarchs and pretending that all good-thinking people care deeply about the state of the state. Listen to the soothing language of the New York Times on the supposedly earth-shaking Russian influence campaign on social media. It hits all the right notes without seriously challenging the narrative. Note how it bleeds concern. This kind of journalism is a palliative for the conscience of a liberal. Ah, the “thorny debates” inside Facebook, no doubt had “in good faith,” and subject to “fateful misunderstandings,” if Ken Burns were documenting it. “Executives worry” and there is considerable “hand-wringing” afoot in good faith efforts to wipe out “fake news.”
Even the protagonists of the story are usefully quoted. Facebook lawyers, commenting on the miniscule purchase of ads over a two-year period from accounts with even the most tenuous Russian connection, much of it after the election, much of it not even mentioning presidential candidates, and the creation of bots to grow click farms, recoiled in horror and called the knowledge “deeply disturbing” and “an insidious attempt to drive people apart.” This is theater for the masses. Cue the organ grinder.
The goal of this domestic conditioning is to remove the democracy from democracy. The objective is to create a hollow shell of a democratic society, representative on the outside, plutocratic on the inside. The marble tomb inhabited by necrosis. This is deliberate. Read Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy for a nice overview of how America’s collective conscience has been shaped by corporate forces. Why? Because we are the enemy. The enemy is our freedom of thought and speech, because that is what inevitably leads to democratic, socialist, or communist change that benefit the people as a whole, not just the vanishingly small margin of corporate elites who promote and profit from war, conquest, and rule. The problem with democracy is that it isn’t very profitable for capital. Socialist countries tend to emphasize social services. It is extremely hard to make money delivering quality social services to the poor. Really, the only way to make money off of social services is to deliver inadequate social services to the middle class for extravagant fees. See Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act for a master class in this technique. Monopoly capitalism is incompatible with actual democracy. To the degree that a truly democratic society can have free markets, they must be strictly regulated, prevented from reaching monopoly status, and completely walled off from public institutions. Otherwise, they will cannibalize those institutions, reshaping them as rubberstamp organs of elite profit.
As it is, democracy is merely the mask that disguises the engines of imperialism. It is useful in this regard because, unlike socialism, democracy makes no serious claims on the means of production. It depoliticizes the most political issue of all: economics. Thus the manufacture of enemies, job one for the ruling class media, always targets socialist-leaning nations that sense the need for economic justice alongside social justice. Even if they are mixed economies that provide space for open markets, like Venezuela. It makes no difference. We mustn’t tolerate the slightest majoritarian impulse in the economic arena. All such beliefs must be terminated. We must be refashioned as foot soldiers of exploitation. To this end, western propaganda outlets have made psychologist Erich Fromm’s warning sound less like prophecy than predestination, “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”
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Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

The wests demise to the sidelines of history

The wests demise to the sidelines of history as it’s outpaced by the east and technology

Great Wall of China
“The Great Wall’s importance to the protection and evolution of the Silk Road helped to maintain Chinese presence throughout the region. It also helped to serve the transmigration of ideas, religion and art. Buddhism came to China from Gandhara along the Silk Road.” -http://www.great-wallofchina.com/the-silk-road.html
The world is changing, but the west is clinging on to a unipolar vision of the world that has passed. It’s attempts to discard this changing reality in exchange for a western worldview expressed in their politics and media are so ungrounded, it’s comical as it is dangerous. This western bubble of reality laid down before the wests general public seems to hold up for now, although fragile and less and less by the day. Really, Russia again? Outside this western bubble however, credibility is lost daily as the west places itself on the sidelines of history.
The fundamental building blocs in western hard power and soft power are not under attack as the mediapolitical landscape could make us feel they are, it is more that they are revealed for what they are without the sugarcoating. As the multipolar world creates the political and economic power to pursuit alternatives and show new perspectives and interpretations, they now have the power to reflect the actions of the west mirrored back upon themselves as apposed to ‘just the way things are’ in the world.
Suddenly we are presented with another version of reality that also begs for a different version of history for the past decades. Our economic system seems to benefit the few as those few have a well managed grip on politics. Local business and craftsmanship, the real economy, have given way to the privileged multinationals and the financial world, the world of tax breaks and tax havens.
Whilst the real economy is breaking down, the central banks were printing money like never before to keep the banks and the familiar names afloat -so long as the Apple’s and Facebook’s and other household names keep the indices up, all is good. At the root of this infinite printing of money lies of course the petrodollar. The 1973 deal with Saudi-Arabia where the US would support the house of Saud so long as OPEC would sell all oil in US dollars only and buy US bonds, creating an immense need for dollars in the world and preventing inflation as the Federal Reserves printing presses make way for the economic, political and military US might since. Since, the whole international trade system has been dollar based. If Bolivia wants to sell logs to Venezuela, it will still use dollars. And by US law, every dollar has to be cleared by the bank of New York, thus making this transaction subject to US law. And don’t you dare circumvent it. Blocking Iran from the dollar-trade for not selling oil in dollars, and thus blocking it from the swift-system, and thus from world trade, was therefore the nuclear bomb in economics. Their currency devalued 50%. The earlier threats to the petrodollar –Libia selling oil for gold, Iraq for euro’s- have been met with heavy resistance. Now, in Syria, it seems the world has changed. The predominantly Saudi-US creation of ISIS to destabilize the nations of Iraq and Syria into chaos has now failed. Could we again see Syria, Iraq and Iran work together to create the Friendship Pipeline (a.k.a. the Islamic Pipeline in the west), exporting oil from Iran to Europe? Or will it be more of the same political-economic-monetary-military export of the west, with freedom, democracy and human rights as it’s sugarcoating?
The guardians of a new geopolitics: Iran-Russia-China
iranrussiachina
The demise of military hegemonyThe success-story of the liberation of Syria from ISIS is a result of the Astana peace talks between Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran, not the Geneva talks where the US made promises it broke within days on the ground. It is the cooperation of Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq and Russia (as tides changed, Turkey) that in spite of US-Saudi aid to ISIS managed to liberate the countries of Syria and Iraq. The military power of Russia, with for example it’s S-400 anti-missile all over the middle east is a game-changer. It’s a defensive system that leaves air-intervention in a padlock. Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia buying these demonstrates once more the break down of this unipolar world. Where NATO’s version is unable to attack ‘friendly’ aircraft -friendly as defined by NATO-, the S-400 is neutral in this aspect and respects the autonomy of a country.
As for within Syria, where Iran and Russia are invited by Syria and are legal in respect of international law, the United States is seen as an invader by Syria. Also, but most importantly, Assad is popular in Syria itself and self-determination is being undermined. It must sound as alienating to a west man’s ears as Assad stressing education and health services in the rebuilding of Syria or the gas attack being from ‘moderate rebels’, not Assad’s government. At the moment 95% of Syria has been freed from ISIS (sometimes known as moderate rebels in the west), yet the United States is still making a last-minute effort to control the border of Iraq and Syria to prevent regional integration -or a pipeline. They will fail.
The demise of economic hegemonyFor the past decades the west has been producing less and less, as cheap labour was found in the east. It seemed to make the average western person rich as purchasing power (pp) rose. These riches are however the fruits of the rise of technology, oil and the currency devaluation of e.g. China. This cheap produce from the east could be branded to sell for many times it’s cost as this gave way to multinationals and the service and retail industry. Likewise, cheap money from the printing presses allowed for financial industry to blossom. And on the other side of the petrodollarcoin, the OPEC-countries maintained whatever powers that were via the high oil prices the world paid them and US protection.
As the west and OPEC-countries profited of cheap labour, China saw a boom in exports that developed their country. China then used these profits to buy US obligations to keep their currency low as it blew up the dollars value even more. You could say a whole generation of Chinese has had to sacrifice/work their way out of a dollar-dominated trade.
Over the past decade Chinese growth has allowed for the rise of wages, “China is no longer the cheap labor haven it once was. Monthly manufacturing wages reached 4,126 yuan at the end of 2015, equal to those in Brazil but much higher than Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and India.” –Bloomberg. Chinese per capita income rose from $200 in 1990 to $5000 in 2010. The Chinese middle class has grown significantly and according to the World Bank, more than 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty as China’s poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 6.5 percent in 2012. “Between 1990 and 2005, China’s progress accounted for more than three-quarters of global poverty reduction and a big factor in why the world reached the UN millennium development goal of halving extreme poverty.” –Wikipedia. Extreme poverty has now almost completely disappeared from China and by 2020 it aims to have eradicated poverty at all. These great stories don’t form part of the wests reality. It clings on to past views of the world to explain its place in this world. The east looks forward, the west still only sees $1/hour sweatshops and environmental pollution.
Besides the rise of purchasing power (PP) in the east soon meeting the demise of PP in the west and besides the oil price having plummeted with fewer petrodollars to recycle into the US economy, there is also the factor of technology that undermines the unipolar world, the western favoured world.
Multinationals of the west used to be able to buy up cheap products, market them and sell them off highly priced, supporting whole industries in advertising and the service and retail sector. The internet however has now made it possible to bypass these western cooperations and to buy directly from small and medium enterprises (SME’s) in China.
Alibaba's Singles' Day
Alibaba processed 812 million orders within 24 hours and its payment service Alipay handled 1.5 billion transactions during the day, peaking at an incredible 256,000 transactions per second.
Chinese export subsidies make it very affordable to ship these products all over the world, where for example a European import tax on goods over €30 from China seeks to limit this. As Alibabaallows western SME’s to buy directly from Chinese SME’s, bypassing import and export companies and western branding, so does AliExpress make these products available for the consumer. As this will temporarily save western purchasing power, it will in the long run also favour the real economy over the one pushed upon us by the wests hegemonic structuring of political-economic power. Less and less money will flow through this hierarchical organizing of society. And, “By 2020, China will account for about 60% of global e-commerce.” – Forbes
China seeks to be at the forefront of the third industrial revolution by heavily investing in automation and renewable energy. “Somewhere around 80GW of solar manufacturing capacity exists in China, of 130GW global – using 50 of those 80 gigawatts is clear evidence that China is no longer focusing on exports.” –Electrec. China knows it will have to invest in automation and renewables, as the rise of wages is already putting pressure on economic growth. The Chinese are pricing themselves out of the market. This concept of economic interconnectivity of the real economy by connecting SME’s and customers is part of China’s ‘win-win‘-strategy of diplomacy abroad. This is where the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), fits in too. Both seek to facilitate and steer, rather than dominate. Like a parent would a child, a very Chinese view of government. The BRI is the largest infrastructural realization the world has seen to day and seeks to connect China via large infrastructure projects, or so called ‘new silk roads‘, with the rest of the Eurasian continent, guarenteeing export for the foreseeable future as the Chinese economy is changing away from a production-oriented economy.

One Belt and Road Initiative (OBR)
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
BRI connects the economies by annihilating time and space and creates interdependence, ideally preventing regional instabilities or wars. The ‘win-win’ presents a clear business alternative against the hegemonic ways the west organizes the world to the advantage of those that have the advantage already.
One of these new silk roads will connect China via high speed rail and road to Europe via Russia, drastically reducing traveling time of goods and people. China and Russia have also found each other in bypassing the US dollar in bilateral trade. “In 2016, the share of national currencies in payments for exports of Russian goods and services was 13 percent, imports 16 percent. In the first quarter of 2017, these figures rose to 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively,” said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko. Jack Ma’s Alibabi/Aliexpress has also been invited to stimulate, diversify and localize Russia’s economy by creating a Russian arm of the company. Russia already diversified the economy over the past years dropping oil and gas state revenues from over 50% in 2014 to 39% now and less than 1/3rd expected in 2020. When sanctions from the west came for (people in) the oil, banking and military industry, Russia chose to reply with sanctions that affected the real economy, promoting the growth and diversifacation of local industry, creating an immense growth and maturation of their agricultural sector. The russian economy is remarkably self-relient in agriculture. “Russia is one of the world’s leaders in exports of grain, vegetable oils, fish, and a number of other foods. We expect to become the leading supplier of ecologically clean food to our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.”published by Russia ahead of the APEC meeting of last november.
It would be interesting for people in the west to listen to a Valdai speech of Vladimir Putin, the speech of Xi Jinping at the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China or to the balanced words of Hasán Rouhaní when confronted with polarizing western rhetoric. For most in the west however, the mind has constructed views of these countries that are hard to break, based on allegations circulating within the western bubble of reality that seek to polarize and justify the unipolar hegemony. Russia’s RT has successfully been able to show different understandings of the world and has become the object of discussion itself. It’s usually a disturbing allegation brought forward by a politician, backed up by institutions and amplified by media. It either consequently lacks any proof of the allegation and usually ends in self-reference to the wests mediapolitical show and might even be corrected when the attention of the media has shifted to a new hype or is either so blown out of proportion that it fails to make the argument. This includes the election-hacking I’ve written(Dutch) about before, as well as the whole Crimea-unification, as I’ve written about before as well. There is a world of views to discover for which I hope we may find ourselves mature enough to decide over ourselves. Geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar put it wonderfully when visiting Iran, “So once again, in Tehran, provoked by the meeting of minds around the conference – the absolute opposite of “clash of civilizations” – it was possible to discuss how Iran (resistance against injustice), China (remixed Confucianism) and Russia (Eurasianism) are offering post-Enlightenment alternatives that transcend Western liberal democracy – a concept that has been completely co-opted and shattered by the hegemony of neoliberalism.
The longer the mediapolitical west keeps up the false narratives around Russia, Iran and China for maintaining their unipolar worldview, the more it will distance itself from the socioeconomic integration in the world around them. It will happen slowly -China favours stability-, as our growth slows down and tourists will visit our historic scenery. The new Silk Road doesn’t have to stop in Istanbul or Moscow, it can connect through to the harbour of Rotterdam and go via Berlin. The concept of the enemy is the produce of a society that lacks the leap of trust to participate in a lateral way in the challenges of tomorrow.
The west will have to start to understand that the ideas of the enlightenment, the concepts of freedom, democracy and human rights are shattered not by the development of the rest of the world -the exception of ISIS noted-, but by the stratification of a society undermined by monetary and neoliberal concepts that have hollowed out their ideals. As for spreading those ideals of human rights, freedom and democracy abroad, we might do well listening once again to the east. The Chinese do not argue these principles, yet are in no way convinced of the path dictated by the west, nor the moral high ground to preach from. They see these principles arising out of economic development. Out of a rising middle-class and basic needs for citizens -thus free of poverty and free from harsh economic inequality- will arise democracy. These values have to be developed and can not be enforced without economic democracy and basic needs. How can you expect someones human rights to come first, does not your survival do? In the export of Chinese ‘win-win’ diplomacy, it does not seek to impose a way of living, a certain developmental path. It provides stability, a way for both economies to become interdependent, of which cultural exchange and respect may follow.
The west is in debt, immensely. The real wealth has moved east. Sure, China has debt, but it also has growth and actual production and it’s debt is small in comparison. Russia and Iran hardly have any debt. Gold is moving from west to east and is in high demand. We can’t see it reflected in the price yet, for the wests money printing presses and their leveraged ‘paper gold’ still manage to hold down the prices, but the direction is clear.
If not for production, resources or gold, what still backs a euro or a dollar? With bitcoin gaining credibility with each passing day, be it for storage or as currency, the euro/dollar demise doesn’t even stop there. Blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, allows for the whole replacement of most of the financial world that forms one of the last strongholds of western power. Ethereum’s ether does not only allow for new coins (the famous initial coin offerings where lots of money is bound to be lost) on top of their base system, but this also allows for smart contracts. These have the potential to replace any mortgage, loan or other smart contract you could think to need a financial institution for. In time, settings in a program or on a site will make these interpersonally, with the community to verify for the conditions made. Russia, the first state to announce so, has it’s CryptoRuble ready, undoubtedly balancing the perseverance of the state (taxes) with the newfound freedoms and stability of digital money.
China's Panda Power Plant
China’s Panda Power Plant
With the west to be behind in automation and renewables, without production and resources and no multinationals and financial world to profit of others, what are we but left in dependency? It’s time to find ground in ideas of the enlightenment, find strength in local economies connecting laterally to local economies, find autonomy in renewables and find security in cryptocurrencies and gold as we connect ourselves to a future we can pull forward ourselves, away of dependance of institutions and corporations we can not rely on and in spite of their hinderance. As we pull out of globalization as put forward by the west, we will see the world connect globally from a local angle. And, as automation and technology can decentralize, they can provide locally. Think crypto instead of central bank or mortgage, solar instead of OPEC, 3d-printing directly from local resources instead of shipping from afar, the arts and craftsmanship (a design at the local 3D-shop?) instead of the wage-slave, vertical farming instead of poverty and local abundance instead of global scarcity. It’s a way of thinking that puts autonomy and free time back up front. Wasn’t that what freedom once meant? And from that place, we will see each other in shared pursuits of dreams.
Surely, all societies have flaws and have challenges to work on, as I understand this is the case in China, Russia and Iran, however, a western attitude of false moral superiority prevents understanding. The more the west will put in the full weight of it’s apparatus, the harder the fall will be. The more the west clings on to this western bubble of reality brought to us by giving ear to the mediapolitical, the sooner it’s demise will be. The multipolar world now holds up a mirror, it’s about time we dare look into it. It’s time for the west to grow up and join a new world in the making.

Garry Wills: Big Rocket Man

Big Rocket Man

Donald Trump
Donald Trump; drawing by Gerald Scarfe
Donald Trump has threatened “Little Rocket Man” with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”—not even seen, presumably, at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We possess, after all, many more and much better (that is, much worse) explosives than were used by President Truman in 1945, when he incinerated those cities without Congress or the American people knowing we even had them.
The fact that President Trump (“old lunatic”) has a legally absolute power to destroy Kim Jong-un (“short and fat”) over dueling insults is so scary that Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu are trying to restrict that absolute power, so that only Congress would have the authority to declare nuclear war. This seems not only reasonable but constitutionally necessary. The Constitution in fact denies the president the power to declare war and reserves it solely to Congress.
More than that, the framers clearly opposed the massing of power in the executive—lest it become the monarchy they had opposed with a revolution. They so feared one-man rule that they entertained the idea of a double executive (based on the ancient Roman consulship) or a legislative council. The single executive was adopted largely because James Wilson of Pennsylvania argued that it would make the president more impeachable (it would be hard to fix responsibility on members of a team or a council). They thought one man would be more accountable—not anticipating post-Constitution developments like “executive privilege,” the “classification” of secrets, and “the unitary executive” that would make him less accountable.
But now that we have traveled so far from constitutional government, what can we do? The atom bomb was born as a secret project of President Franklin Roosevelt, and then deployed by Truman without any but his own authority. Truman did not even know, as vice-president, that Roosevelt was developing this new weapon until he became the chief executive himself and was let in on the secret. Then, after the bombings of Japan were sprung as a surprise on the whole world, presidential authority to keep and use the “Bomb” (soon to be a vast arsenal of hydrogen explosives) was extended undiminished in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.
Ever since, every president carries with him wherever he goes the “football” containing the codes for the immediate arming and launching of obliterative missiles. As Vice President Dick Cheney said of President George W. Bush’s war power in 2008, “He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen [that phrase again]. He doesn’t have to check with anybody, he doesn’t have to call the Congress, he doesn’t have to check with the courts.”
The symbolism of that tremendous power has put the nation on a permanent war footing—so much so that we think and talk about the president as “our commander in chief,” though the Constitution does not give him that power over citizens but only command “of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States” (Article 2, Section 2). That is: he is not even the commander in chief of the National Guard in its normal service in the separate states, only when it is nationalized for use in the country’s wars.
The war footing of the presidency in 1946 was the setting of the Atomic Energy Act. President Truman did not know what conditions would prevail after World War II. He did not want to give up any of the vast powers the executive had accumulated in that conflict. He tried to impose universal military training on all young males. He tried to prevent strikes by drafting coal miners and steel companies into military service, since all sources of strength were to be at his disposal as our commander in chief. He did not ask Congress for approval of American intervention in the Korean War, since his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, said that might weaken his power to respond instantly to nuclear threats. There was a wartime edginess then not only over the Soviet threat from abroad but from inner subversion that had to be guarded against by “classification” of our many secret programs, loyalty oaths, and extensive monitoring and blacklisting of suspected leftists. (In the 1950s, Donald Trump’s dogged defenses of the Russian leader and government would have made him unemployable on TV as a loyalty risk.)
War conditions, instead of fading after the defeat of the Axis, found new homes as fresh threats came. World War II melded into the cold war, which has melded into the “war on terror.” There was no reduction in arms expenditures between the “end” of one peril and preparation for the next. When Truman was given his authority over the Bomb, there was at first not a full deployment of nuclear production and delivery systems. The president thought he could preserve a nuclear monopoly.
As other nations have acquired the Bomb, we have had to develop strategies for containment with them. The “nuclear club” now numbers nine, while other countries are working to develop their own nuclear weapons. As each one acquired the Bomb and different degrees of deliverability, there was a temptation to think the scourge of further spread could be eliminated by a preemptive strike; but the danger of again using any nuclear weapon was too terrible to be entertained, and the notion that a first blow would not be followed by a renewed nuclear program was seen to be chimerical. So attempts at treaties and other agreements restricting production or proliferation were explored. (Even when George W. Bush launched a false-alarm attack on Iraq’s nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction,” it was at least not a nuclear attack.)
When the Constitution granted one person the executive power, there was an expectation that he would consult experts—scientific, military, and diplomatic—before making his decisions. He was given a power that he was expected to use:
He may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subjects relating to the duties of their respective offices. (Article 2, Section 2)
This power of inquiry is in fact a duty, one that President Trump has neglected. Rather than consult the officers trained and reporting to the president, he has mocked the most experienced intelligence veterans (calling them political hacks), dismantled the government’s scientific bodies (as promoting hoaxes), drained the diplomatic agencies (as useless bureaucrats), and reduced or eliminated national commitments to other countries. He says he does not need expertise; he knows more than experts; he has a very good brain, which is his greatest and often his only resource. This neglect of necessary requirements for governing offers in itself grounds for impeachment, but he is hasty enough that in the long impeachment process he might be goaded to use the very nuclear power whose duties he has not prepared himself for using responsibly.
The assumptions that Congress made about the conduct of President Eisenhower or President Reagan—that they could be counted on to act with humble precaution—no longer seem to apply. What can be done? There comes a time when, as Cicero put it, “The highest law should be preservation of the people,” Salus populi suprema lex esto. A crisis sufficient to justify use of this maxim cannot be predicted. It could be any first nuclear strike the president may order. Only extreme peril can justify an extreme remedy. It is said (I don’t know with what truth) that in 1974, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger told the implementers that in the event of a nuclear order from President Nixon, who was in a massive drunken funk, they should clear it with him.
We can only hope that there are high-ranking patriots who might act like that if Big Rocket Man went after Little Rocket Man. Even a soldier in the field must disobey a truly disastrous order from a manifestly disabled officer. The commander in chief has to be held to the same standard as his subordinate commanders, for the preservation of the people. It is reassuring to know that the current commander of the US Strategic Command, Air Force General John Hyten, as well as a former one, General Robert Kehler, recognizes this as a rule of international law.*
November 22, 2017
  1. *
    Kathryn Watson, “Top General Says He Would Resist ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order from Trump,” CBS News, November 18, 2017. 

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