Talk Nation Radio: Thom Hartmann on Guns and the Second Amendment

Thom Hartmann is a progressive national and internationally syndicated talk show host and the author of The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment. Talkers magazine named him America’s most important progressive host and has named his show one of the top ten talk radio shows in the country every year for over a decade. A four-time recipient of the Project Censored Award, Hartmann is also a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five books, translated into multiple languages.

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Protecting Children from Police

Donald E. McInnis’s book, She’s So Cold, is painful to read. McInnis was the defense attorney for one of three boys falsely accused of killing one of the boys’ sister. Much of the book is recreation of police interrogations that were videotaped, and of a court hearing.

This was one of those cases the mass media love and for which they effectively convict the accused in the minds of the public. This was in 1998 in San Diego, and the original victim’s name was Stephanie Crowe. But there were more victims, including Stephanie’s brother, two of his friends, and the three boys’ families. The trauma willfully and knowingly inflicted on them by the police and prosecutors was limited by the fact that so-called “confessions” by two of the three boys were videotaped. I haven’t watched the videos, but reading them is like watching violence in slow motion.

Some — O.K. basically everyone — would dispute my characterization of police behavior as “willful and knowing.” But I think the facts speak for themselves, and that it reduces human beings to unthinking objects to suppose them completely unaware of the most extreme pretenses and manipulations they engage in. Two of the boys have been awarded multi-million dollar settlements by the government for, I assume, something other than a well-intentioned accident.

For anyone who has managed to avoid the many accounts of how false confessions are created, and protected from reality a belief in the impossibility or unlikelihood of false confessions, this book is an excellent introduction. On the day that 14-year-old Michael Crowe’s beloved sister was brutally murdered, police began subjecting Michael to days of lengthy interrogation, denying him contact with his parents, falsely claiming that his sister’s blood was found in his room, suggesting to him that he might have a split personality and have murdered his sister without being aware of it, and threatening him with horrible punishment unless he admitted to what he had unknowingly done despite having no memory of having done it.

To understand why any reasonably intelligent 14-year-old might be won over by days of this interminable badgering, and good-cop/bad-copping, one must consider fear, exhaustion, and above-all an extreme and irrational faith in the absolute honesty of police. That last factor, the faith in police, is ubiquitous, and most people reading this hold it themselves, so we’re not supposed to call it irrational. But this “confession” and many others like it would not have been possible without that faith.

The irrational beliefs at the root of the tragedy recounted in She’s So Cold are not held by the three innocent boys, but by the police, prosecutors, corporate media, and public at large. They begin with the irrational belief that an unsolved crime is a failure. If a crime is committed and there is no persuasive evidence of anyone’s guilt, then how is the lack of a solution a failure? Who could possibly be blamed for it? If a reasonable, even fanatically extensive effort is put into gathering evidence, as happened here, and no guilty party is identified, where’s the blame? But in our culture, there is blame for such a thing, and it is directed at police and prosecutors. This madness contributed not only to the extensive efforts to make three kids “confess,” but to the defense of them presented by their lawyers. Central to their lawyers’ case was evidence that someone else, a man named Richard Tuite, actually committed the crime. Had the lawyers been unable to both point out the lack of evidence against their clients and also do the job of the police by demonstrating the likely guilt of someone else, their clients might have gone to prison.

Another irrational belief system that police may or may not fully believe in, but which they certainly act on, is that whoever they have targeted is lying. So, in reading these horrendous interrogation transcripts, we recognize that the kids, and even some of their parents, will believe the most absurd assertions from the police, because the police are believed to always tell the truth (even when they tell you, for example, that you are possessed by a demon who murdered your sister without you knowing it), but the police will not believe the most credible statements by those they have targeted for guilt, because such people always lie, and even tell gratuitous and superfluous and self-damaging lies. In this case, Michael told the police that he had gotten up in the night and gone to the kitchen for a drink, and not noticed his sister’s dead body in the doorway to her room. Great resources were devoted in this case to the question of exactly where her body had been and whether Michael would have seen it. But, had he been her murderer, he might have simply not volunteered that he got up in the night for a drink.

When the police began subjecting two of Michael’s young friends to the same treatment, they similarly isolated the kids from their parents, except when they were able to manipulate parents into helping them. By suggesting to a father that the best course was for his son to implicate the other two boys, they gained a powerful ally, thanks to the father’s irrational belief that baseless statements from police officers were gospel. The police tried to play each of the three families against the other two, falsely claiming to possess secret evidence, and that the other sides were squealing, and so forth, while in fact never possessing any evidence against any of their three victims. The police used pseudo-scientific tests to pretend to know that terrified children who were telling them the truth were lying. The children went on telling the truth while explicitly agreeing that they would lie if that’s what they had to do. And that was called a “confession.”

Are we to suppose that the capacity for self-doubt and correction has been eliminated from the police and their hired experts? They claim otherwise. They claim to have been objectively and without desired outcome pursuing the truth. They claim not to have been seeking admissions of a guilt they already believed in. Either they are lying about having taken that open-minded approach, or they were fully in control of their faculties when they manipulated frightened young people into “confessions.” They can’t have it both ways.

And what about the prosecutor who looked at the same police work that the defense attorneys and a judge found unacceptable, and chose to attempt to put three kids in prison? She, Summer Stephan, is now the District Attorney in San Diego. McInnis claims that she must have meant well, while simultaneously expressing a lack of understanding as to how she could have possibly meant well. I believe that in our observations of human behavior we are often far too reluctant to see extreme altruism and kindness and also far too reluctant to see cruelty and heartlessness and even sadism. If you cannot explain cruel behavior as well-intended, why assert that it must have been so?

At the end of his book, McInnis recommends a couple of steps that would certainly help prevent repetitions of this horror story. One is a Children’s Miranda Warning that is lengthier than that now used (or not used) for adults and children alike. It explains what the current Miranda Warning means, and adds to it the right to have your parents present. Another is a children’s bill of rights. It is specifically a bill of rights of the accused, and it limits the time of questioning a child to 4 hours in a 24-hour period, and establishes numerous other rights. I would add to this the fact that the United States is the one nation on earth that is not party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that a child has the right “not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt.” Why not join the world? Why not back the full range of rights, including some that might protect kids separated from their parents and locked in cages by fascist border patrols?

Beyond the creation of such rights and their defense, I think children (and adults) should be taught why they need them and how to employ them. The belief in inevitable and universal police honesty should go the way of beliefs in the inevitable honesty of war propaganda or campaign promises or religious scriptures. People should be taught to think, to be skeptical, to believe what’s proven, to trust where merited, and to be comfortable not knowing answers to questions that have not yet been answered.

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Wall Street Wants Dems to Nominate Anyone But Sanders, Warren, or Gabbard

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

A June 16th article in the New York Times headlined “Wall Street Donors Are Swooning for Mayor Pete. (They Like Biden and Harris, Too.)”. It noted that “Two candidates in the top tier of polls, Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have railed against the financial industry and opted against the kind of fancy fund-raisers with catering and $2,800 admission prices that lubricate the donor industry.” By contrast, against those two: “Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Harris have aimed to blend aggressive large- and small-money operations, much as Mr. Obama’s campaigns successfully did.” Democratic voters who are satisfied with the Democratic Party of Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton will be satisfied with either Buttigieg or Biden or Harris to become the U.S. President. “Mr. Buttigieg has hired a full-time professional New York fund-raiser.” And, “Even a donor who recently put together an event for one of Mr. Buttigieg’s rivals said that, these days, ‘the easiest event to sell out is a Buttigieg event.’”

Harris is also attractive to Wall Street, but her particular strengths are in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, because she’s a U.S. Senator from California, and because even if she doesn’t win the nomination, they will still need to stay within her good graces, because she’s one of their two U.S. Senators and will be pitching for them there — or else not.

On the other hand, Politico headlined on June 13th, “California poll: Warren surges to second, Harris falls to fourth”; and, so, Harris won’t likely be able to score even nearly as big in the California money-competion as she has been expecting, and the trend seems therefore to be for Warren to emerge as the female contender, and also as the progressive (even if only on financial issues) contender, for the votes from Democrats. But Sanders still could win California: whereas Warren scored 18%, he scored 17% in the poll.

The likeliest four to win the nomination, therefore, currently seem to be Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren. Those are the four contenders from whom the winner will likely be chosen by the time the South Carolina primary becomes decided, on (as tentatively scheduled) 29 February 2020.

Given that neither Sanders nor Warren would likely have sufficient attraction to the big-money people who fund the campaigns, it will probably come down to either Biden or Buttigieg, and I would expect that by the time of late February, Buttigieg will have drawn, to himself, enough of Biden’s supporters, so as to be able to be the leading “moderate” in the contest. He’ll have done this on the basis of little more than promises to the voters, which he won’t keep any more than Obama or Clinton did (or than Biden or Harris would). That’s the ‘middle of the road’ type of politician, the type who keeps his promises only to his biggest donors. That would mean a failed United States, the end of the American dream. Like Obama had told Wall Street’s tycoons right after coming into the White House, when he met secretly with them inside the White House: progressives are just “pitchforks” who want them to be punished, just as Southern White racists during the days of Jim Crow had wanted Blacks to be surrounded and lynched. Obama told them that to pursue them legally would be nothing more than bigotry against the rich, and that he would “protect” them from it — and he did. Here is how I wrote about that, at Strategic Culture, back on 17 June 2018:

The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just lies. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.” …

On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House, and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised them “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. It was never on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers (such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange). What the DOJ’s IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.

Here is the context in which he had said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind’s 2011 book, Confidence Men, with boldfacings by me):

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.

But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.” According to one of the participants, he then said, “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. But if I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation.”

No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn’t seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.

After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.

Obama said “Everyone has to make sacrifices,” but he was talking to people who simply refused to be included in that “everyone.” As the mega-crooks who had been profiting from the crimes that had brought about the global economic collapse, those “sacrifices” should have been life-imprisonments. Only by means of such accountability, would their successors not try anything of the sort that these banksters had done. But such was not to be the case. So, the crimes continued.

Obama kept his word to them. The banksters got off scot-free, and kept their personal hundreds of millions of dollars ‘earned’.

He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if the only problem was the “pitchforks,” who were “an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem.” The banksters weren’t a problem, but the public were, and he would protect them from the public. And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. The “pitchforks” were to blame, and he would protect the banksters from those. According to the DOJ, Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was “established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.” But, according to the Department’s IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud (against the public, for the banksters) that, according to the DOJ, itself had been going on since at least November 2009.

The 13 March 2014 IG’s report continued by pointing out the Obama-appointed Attorney General’s lies, noting that on 9 October 2012, “the FFETF held a press conference to publicize the results of the initiative,” and:

“The Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.

“Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. … Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. … Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. …

“Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases. … According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative – Operation Stolen Dreams – also may have contained similar errors.”

Basically, the IG’s report said that the Obama Administration had failed to enforce the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. This bill had been passed overwhelmingly, 92-4 in the Senate, and 338-52 in the House. All Republicans had voted against it. (Perhaps Obama was secretly a Republican.) The law sent $165 million to the DOJ to catch the executive fraudsters who had brought down the U.S. economy, and it set up the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and had been introduced and written by the liberal Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. President Obama signed it on 20 May 2009. At that early stage in his Presidency, he couldn’t afford to display publicly that he was far to the right of every congressional Democrat, so he signed it.

Already on 15 November 2011, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports had headlined “Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Institution Fraud Continue to Fall,” and provided a chart showing that whereas such prosecutions had been running at a fairly steady rate until George W. Bush came into office in 2001, they immediately plunged during his Presidency and were continuing that decline under Obama, even after the biggest boom in alleged financial fraud cases since right before the Great Depression. And, then, on 24 September 2013, TRAC Reports bannered “Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions,” and said that “prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013.” This was especially so in the Wall Street area: “In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions — 27.8 percent — was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).” On 29 July 2015, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports headlined “Federal White Collar Prosecutions At 20-Year Low,” and linked to their full study, which showed that, whereas in fiscal year 2004-2005, under George W. Bush, “Bank Fraud” had been the #1 most-prosecuted of all ”white collar crime matters,” it was, in the latest fiscal year, 2014-2015, only #3.

These were extremely serious crimes: they crashed the world’s economy in 2008. But there was no White House interest in pursuing them. Instead, the Obama Administration blocked any such prosecutions, or even investigations into specific cases.

So: if these sorts of lies weren’t outright frauds against the American public, then what could possibly be?

But that’s not all of what belongs in the “whopper” or “Big Lie” category from Obama: he lied constantly about Ukraine, and about Syria, and about Russia and about his intentions toward Russia, and about his proposed international-trade treaties: TPP. TTIP, and TISA.

None of these whoppers was included in the listing that the NYT presented in their 14 December 2017 article “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”.

How horrifically bad a U.S. President Barack Obama was, wasn’t reported by America’s press. Perhaps this is why the three leading candidates among America’s Democratic Party voters today are Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. Supporters of any of those three are supporting, to become the Party’s nominee, someone who would respond to an economic crash very similarly to the way that Obama did (for the elite crooks, against the public). All three despise the “pitchforks” who want accountability, and each respects only his own mega-donors.

Being satisfied with a U.S. President such as Obama was, is to be satisfied with a Democratic Presidential candidate such as Biden or Buttigieg or Harris is.

The Times article on 16 June 2019 mentioned also that there are other candidates, who currently are scoring lower in the polls, but who would be reaping big money from Wall Street, if only the given candidate had a realistic chance of winning the nomination: such as Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Betto O’Rourke, and Michael Bennet. Sanders and Warren could never be supported by the big donors. Such candidates are too progressive to suit any of America’s billionaires, and therefore even if one of them were to win the nomination, that person’s campaign would end up being starved for funds from the few people who control the country. The big donors want only politicians who will keep only the promises that are made privately to the big donors, and not the promises that the candidate makes to the public. The big donors don’t care about the public promises, but only about the private ones, because, in today’s America, those are the only promises that a politician keeps — such as Obama exemplified. He had the slickness that Democratic Party billionaires demand. He’s able to retain his popularity among Democrats even after he had screwed them for eight successive years. They’re looking for another Obama. Pete Buttigieg will likeliest be that person.

The most progressive of all of the candidates, Tulsi Gabbard, hasn’t caught on even amongst progressive voters — she’s currently at less than 1% in the primaries polls — and, consequently, whereas there are plenty of Biden clones among the well-heeled candidates, the only two candidates with any chance of actually winning the nomination and who are even moderately progressive, Sanders and Warren, are being shunned by the people who finance political campaigns. Unless one of those two gets tens of millions of small-dollar donors, the best that we’ll have during 2021-2025 will be either an Obama-Clinton clone, or else the current President, Trump.

There’s no realistic way that the U.S. will have any improvement over Bush and Obama and Clinton and Trump, unless Democratic Party voters refuse to settle for the people who are being backed by the Democratic Party’s billionaires. And it also won’t happen from the Republican Party’s billionaires. The only way it even possibly could  happen is if Democrats choose only a progressive, and won’t any longer settle for merely a liberal (a “moderate” in the Democratic Party) (such as Democratic Party primary voters have done in the recent past, and seem inclined to do now). It would need to be a substantially different electorate.

Just as Republican voters are ignorant of how bad the Bushes and Trump are, Democratic voters are ignorant of how bad the Clintons and Obama are. Each Party’s voters are the fools of that Party’s billionaires, and don’t even know it.

The situation is the same in any ‘democracy’. But no actual democracy is like this.

However, The rottenness of the billionaires’ picks could still end up defeating the billionaires. And here are examples of how:

On June 19th, the Washington Post bannered “Back home in South Bend, Buttigieg faces ‘his nightmare’”, and reported that:

A white police officer had shot and killed a black man early Sunday. Buttigieg canceled several days of campaign events — including an LGBTQ gala in New York — and rushed back to Indiana to “be with the South Bend community,” in the words of a campaign spokesman.

Instead of showcasing But­tigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. …

“How’s he handling it?” said Oliver Davis, the longest-serving black member of the South Bend Common Council. “Well, he talked to the media before the family. He skipped the family vigil, full of black residents. And then he then gave a speech to the police. So, how do you think that went over?”

That speech was to the swearing-in of South Bend’s new police class. It had six members. All of them are white. They are to be the new people policing black neighorhoods in Mayor Buttigieg’s South Bend. How well is Buttigieg likely to perform in the largely Black South Carolina Democratic primary, on or around 29 February 2020?

Also on June 19th, the New York Times headlined “Joe Biden and Democratic Rivals Exchange Attacks Over His Remarks on Segregationists: Mr. Biden’s fond remarks about dealing with segregationist senators are raising questions about both his political past and his political acumen now in dealing with it.” On that same day, Politico bannered “Biden comments trigger renewed scrutiny of his record on race” and reported that Biden was one of the leading U.S. Senators for criminalizing the types of narcotics that especially Blacks were addicted to, and that he was largely responsible for filling our prisons with Blacks. So: How well is Biden likely to perform in the largely Black South Carolina Democratic primary?

If those two candidates get eliminated on account of their too obviously not turning out to be like Obama but instead more like Hillary Clinton, then, perhaps, Sanders, or Warren, or the female Black, Harris, will come to dominate and possibly to win the nomination. But, if Sanders wins it, then none of the billionaires will be funding the Democratic Presidential campaign. But, if Trump’s campaign gets virtually all of the billionaires’ money, then could that fact alone sink his campaign, by exposing, even to some of Trump’s customary voters, that he doesn’t really represent their interests, after all?

—————

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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The Lessons of Rome: Our Neofeudal Oligarchy

The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 is not an easy, breezy read; its length and detail are daunting.

The effort is well worth it, as the book helps us understand how the power structures of societies change over time in ways that may be largely invisible to those living through the changes.

The Inheritance of Rome focuses on the lasting influence of Rome’s centralized social and political structures even as centralized economic power and trade routes dissolved.

This legacy of centralized power and loyalty to a central authority manifested 324 years after the end of the Western Roman Empire circa 476 A.D. in Charlemagne, who united much of western Europe as the head of the Holy Roman Empire. (Recall that the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire endured another 1,000 years until 1453 A.D.)

But thereafter, the social and political strands tying far-flung villages and fiefdoms to a central authority frayed and were replaced by a decentralized feudalism in which peasants were largely stripped of the right to own land and became the chattel of independent nobles.

In this disintegrative phase, the central authority invested in the monarchy of kings and queens was weak to non-existent.

In the long sweep of history, it took several hundred years beyond 1000 A.D. for central authority to re-assert itself in the form of monarchy, and several hundred additional years for the rights of commoners to be established.

Indeed, it can be argued that it was not until the 1600s and 1700s–and only in the northern European strongholds of commoners’ rights, The Netherlands and England–that the rights of ownership and political influence enjoyed by commoners in the Roman Empire were matched.

It can even be argued that the rights of Roman citizenship granted to every resident of the late Empire were only matched in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The rights of commoners were slowly chipped away by civil authorities and transferred to the feudal nobility. As the book explains, these rights included limited self-rule within village councils and ownership of land. These rights were extinguished by feudalism.

The connections between these civil society/legal freedoms (of self-rule and ownership of land/capital), the Protestant Reformation and the birth of modern Capitalism are explained by historian Fernand Braudel’s masterful 3-volume history Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, a series I have long recommended:

The Structures of Everyday Life (Volume 1) The Wheels of Commerce (Volume 2) The Perspective of the World (Volume 3)

The self-reinforcing dynamics of religious, civil and economic freedoms are key to understanding the transition from feudalism/monarchy to the world systems of today, in which some form of self-rule or political influence and economic freedom are expected of every civil authority.

Let’s fast-forward to today and ask what relevance these histories have in the present era.

There are two points worth discussing. One is the acceleration of change; what took 300 years now takes 30, or perhaps less.

The second is the slow erosion of commoners’ self-rule and ownership of meaningful, productive capital.

This gradual, almost imperceptible erosion is what I call neofeudalism, a process of transferring political and economic power from commoners to a new Financial Aristocracy/Nobility.

If we examine the “wealth” of the middle class/working class (however you define them, the defining characteristic of both is the reliance on labor for income, as opposed to living off the income earned by capital), we find the primary capital asset is the family home, which as I have explained many times, is unproductive–in essence, a form of consumption rather than a source of income.

Ultimately, all pensions, public and private, are controlled by central authorities, even though “ownership” is nominally held by commoners. (Ask middle class Venezuelans what their pensions are worth once central authorities debauch the nation’s currency.)

In a globalized, financialized economy, the only capital worth owning is mobile capital, capital that can be shifted by a keystroke to avoid devaluation or earn a a higher return.

Housing and pensions are “stranded capital,” forms of capital that are not mobile unless they are liquidated before crises or expropriations occur.

I am also struck by the ever-rising barriers to starting or even operating small businesses, a core form of capital, as enterprises generate income and (potentially) capital gains.

The capital and managerial expertise required to launch and grow a legal enterprise is extraordinarily high, which is at least partly why a nation of self-employed farmers, shopkeepers, artisans and traders is now a nation of employees of government and large corporations.

What sort of capital can be acquired by the average commoner now? Enough to match the wealth and political power of financial Nobility? This is the source of our fascination with tech millionaires and billionaires: a few commoners have leveraged technology to join the Nobility.

As for political influence: a recent study found that voters had very little power in the U.S., which is effectively an oligarchy: Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.

Summary: “The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.”

Neofeudalism is not a re-run of feudalism. It’s a new and improved, state-corporate version of indentured servitude. The process of devolving from central political power to feudalism required the erosion of peasants’ rights to own productive assets, which in an agrarian economy meant ownership of land.

Ownership of land was replaced with various obligations to the local feudal lord or monastery– free labor for time periods ranging from a few days to months; a share of one’s grain harvest, and so on.

The other key dynamic of feudalism was the removal of the peasantry from the public sphere. In the pre-feudal era (for example, the reign of Charlemagne), peasants could still attend public councils and make their voices heard, and there was a rough system of justice in which peasants could petition authorities for redress.

From the capitalist perspective, feudalism restricted serfs’ access to cash markets where they could sell their labor or harvests. The key feature of capitalism isn’t just markets– it’s unrestricted ownership of productive assets–land, tools, workshops, and the social capital of skills, networks, trading associations, guilds, etc.

Our system is Neofeudal because the non-elites have no real voice in the public sphere, and ownership of productive capital is indirectly suppressed by the state-corporate duopoly.

Our society has a legal structure of self-rule and ownership of capital, but in reality it is a Neofeudal Oligarchy.

I discuss these dynamics in greater depth in my three compact books:

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic

Inequality andthe Collapse of Privilege

Why our Status Qup Failed and Is Beyond Reform

 

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.

My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

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The Terrorists Among US- Traitors and Terror 3

The second part in this series showed clearly that the US Intel community has been overrun by untrainable and undependable people.

The more facts that come out, the worse the situation looks. We trust these people to dissect and analyze critical pieces of information and based on their experience advise the President of the United States whether or not diplomacy, spying, and covert action, sanctions, or even military engagement is warranted.

So, the big question in part 2 became, how do you induct over 3 million new employees with no previous experience into what is supposed to be one of the most complicated professions on the planet? Can this be done in less than 5 years? The answer is you can’t.

Most of the Intel the US is using right now comes from private sector sources. Over 80% of the current NSA budget goes to subcontractors that can hire and layoff on a per-project basis. There is no loyalty to employees or government service. Loyalties are bought and sold by the highest bidders as part of the daily grind to just make a living.

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