Westminster Abbey to Give Thanks for Nuclear Weapons

Last week I tweeted this: “The U.S. military wants to fly small nuclear power plants into wars in order to power the wars’ weaponry. Because there was some chance we might not all die fast enough if nothing this stupid was tried.” I linked to a report on this insane idea. Someone replied: “The Navy already does this.”

True enough. Submarines and aircraft carriers engage in this lunacy, and we take it for granted. Submarines also haul nuclear weapons around the world’s seas, ready to intentionally or accidentally destroy the world as needed.

But some people don’t take anything for granted. Westminster Abbey, next door to Parliament, in London, is hosting a ceremony of thanksgiving to properly thank God for 50 years of nuclear weapons in the water. Oh, well, you might think, that makes sense to give thanks for having survived such behavior this long.

No, no, no. You misunderstand. They’re thanking God for having created the nukes and subjected the world to the risk of apocalypse, not for the incredible luck of having thus far survived it.

Wouldn’t Notre Dame in Paris be a more appropriate site for such a celebration, you might ask. Well, you’d have a point there.

Sane people in London are planning a protest, thank ______, well, thank whatever it is that sane people thank, Vasilli Arkhipov I guess. Thank you, Vasilli. (Look him up if you’re suffering from AUSE [a U.S. education].) And this is England, not the United States, so the sane people may make an impressive showing — something I often envy.

But is sanity really called for here? Is it appropriate? WWYD? (What would Yippies do?) Why not go all in on the thank yous? Couldn’t we thank God for cancer and starvation and Theresa May? What about cholera, Brexit, and Donald Trump? Napalm? White Phosphorus? Drones? Corporate news? Is there really a limit to what we can be properly thankful for?

It’s the small things that count, here, I believe. When you find someone in the street in London stabbing somebody, run up and grab that person by the shirt, look them in the eye, and say, very sincerely: Thank you for your service. It’s that sort of application of what we do on a large scale to the immediate human scale that can truly develop one’s thankfulness, I believe.

Just thinking this way, I’m ready to thank God for the Royal Family (every royal family, but especially the Saudi one, I think — it’s a close call) and for colds, headaches, the flu, Alzheimer’s, and of course Joe Biden. And thank you most of all to Westminster Abbey for inspiring the world to be thankful!

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The Feedback Loop of Doom: When Mobile Creatives and Capital Abandon Unaffordable, Dysfunctional Cities

At the end of any trend, everyone’s a true believer: this trend is so enduring, so broad-based, so based on unchanging fundamentals that it will never ever reverse.

One such trend is the white-hot growth of housing, employment, tax revenues, etc. in major urban magnets for global capital and talent: you know the usual suspects: Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland OR, Denver, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and so on.

What these urban regions offer are strong job markets, a very desirable dynamic.

For example, over 400,000 jobs have been added to the San Francisco Bay Area in the past few years, basically an entire new city of workers. Very few states have added 400,000 jobs in the past few years, and fewer still have added so many high-wage jobs.

The synergies created by global capital, research universities, a flood of fresh talent and the entrepreneurial drive to conjure up the next IPO Unicorn have been beaten to a pulp. What hasn’t been glorified is the net result of these synergies:

1. Infrastructure that wasn’t designed to handle an extra million residents, and that can only be expanded at tremendous cost and in timelines of a decade or two.

2. Soaring wealth and income inequality as these urban economies become increasingly “winner take most” and housing has skyrocketed out of reach for all but the top 10%.

3. A zeitgeist of self-congratulatory hubris in which locals are confident “we’re so special” that talent and capital will continue to pour in regardless of how fast the quality of life is dropping.

What few seem to realize is much of the talent and capital are mobile and don’t actually have to put up with the declining quality of life in unaffordable, dysfunctional cities: the people and the capital can go elsewhere.

I call this class Mobile Creatives, and they are not just another set of workers.I described this class back in 2014, and it has expanded under the mainstream radar over the past five years.

the New Class: Mobile Creatives (May 1, 2014) The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state.

America’s Nine Classes: The New Class Hierarchy (April 29, 2014) 
Though the Mobile Creative class wields little conventional financial or political power, it has a potentially large leadership role in social and technical innovations. This is the 4% Pareto Distribution that can exert outsized influence on the 64%.

The other eight classes are hidebound by conventions, neofeudal and neocolonial arrangements and a variety of false choices and illusions of choice, including democracy itself.

If capital is treated poorly, it famously goes elsewhere. The same is true of Mobile Creatives. Here’s an example that will be familiar to most urban dwellers in these high-growth urban regions: the hot new chef and his/her investors who want to open the hot new bistro in town.

Unbeknownst to the mass of employee-residents, they quickly run into a buzzsaw of regulatory delays and costs. Permits take months, then more months. No apologies are extended: we are doing you a favor to even accept your pathetic little permit application in our fantastic city.

Meanwhile, lease payments must be made monthly because landlords reckon they can charge an arm and a leg due to the demand for space in “good” locations.

Due to all the regulations and sky-high labor costs, renovation expenses quickly soar into the hundreds of thousands. The new homeless encampment on the sidewalk right outside isn’t helping, either.

Pencil in the new minimum wages, the mandatory labor overhead and minimum staffing, new surcharges, and woah, the charge per plate is pushing $40 just to keep the doors open–and this was supposed to be an affordable, casual dining place.

Then there’s the hundreds of competing eateries already fighting to survive. A few give up the ghost every month but fools rush in and new entrants continue to gamble they can somehow succeed where more experienced restaurateurs have failed.

When capital and Creatives who can go elsewhere decide the odds of success are simply too low, they bail out and move on. These are the people who generate the jobs, the tax revenues and the “buzz” that draws customers and PR.

The average employee in unaffordable, dysfunctional cities is an immobilized tax donkey: they can’t move because they have their job, their mortgage, their kid is in school, and so on. The cities and counties can jack up fees, taxes and surcharges and count on the vast majority of employee-residents staying put and paying the higher taxes.

Even as billions of dollars in new bonds and taxes are poured into problems such as public education, traffic congestion, crumbling infrastructure and homelessness, nothing actually get better. Local politicos can count on the Tax Donkeys to resign themselves to a fast-declining quality of life and pony up the ever higher taxes and fees.

But the average employee-residents aren’t starting enterprises, creating jobs or putting capital to work. They are consumers of services, public and private, but they are not in a position to move elsewhere or influence the flow of capital and tax revenues.

So what happens when capital and Creatives start abandoning unaffordable, dysfunctional cities? They start a feedback loop of doom. When the latest trendy cafe closes, the space stays empty. The place next door closes and lays off its employees, who discover jobs are now scarce. Big construction projects are put on hold and then cancelled. Tech incubators that were crowded are now empty.

When the 4% who generate the jobs and tax revenues have had enough and leave, the effects quickly impact the 64%. Political leaders who felt invincible suddenly awaken to declining tax revenues, and as they quickly raise taxes to cover the shortfall, they trigger a larger exodus of Creatives and capital who were hovering on the edge of whether to stick it out or leave.

The increasing taxes and dysfunction make the decision easy: they sell out and leave, and other Creatives take note: better to exit now while there’s still a bid for the house, office lease, etc. The trickle becomes a flood, and as the demands for government spending only click higher, tax revenues are in freefall. Welcome to the feedback loop of doom.

 

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 Resistance Takes a Stand for Keeping Trump in Office

I’m old enough to remember when Nancy Pelosi was telling us that Trump would impeach himself.

Now, Trump’s “not worth it,” as if impeachment is a favor you bestow on those most worthy.

Jerrold Nadler is proposing to fine Trump for refusing to comply with subpoenas.

Do you grasp the full meaning of that last one? Trump has, in an unprecedented manner, blatantly violated the U.S. Constitution’s two — count em — emoluments clauses since Day One, using the U.S. presidency to enrich himself enormously. And now, on top of all of his other impeachable offenses having nothing to do with Russophobia — read them before screaming that they don’t exist — Trump is openly refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas — or what CNN bizarrely calls “Democratic subpoenas.” That was Article Three of the three articles of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon, leading him to resign. The big question on everyone’s lips soon, I’m sure: will the fines be more or less than $15?

Is Congress trying to mock itself? Adding insult to ignominy, the fines would be justified by reference to Congress’s power of inherent contempt, which is actually the power to literally hold people behind bars until they answer to Congress. But because today’s Congress is simply universally understood to be the largest invertebrate on earth, instead of using inherent contempt the way it was used in the past, the Champions of the Resistance would refer to it to impose fines. Perhaps they’ll also charge all destroyers of the earth’s environment, whom they’re no longer able to even identify or track, a “flat fine” of $0.50 each in lieu of paying taxes?

Of course, the primary reason that the Resistance is reluctant to resist is supposed to be Russiagate’s collapse, but that’s secondary. The primary reason that the Resistance never resisted, and created Russiagate despite endless warnings that it would eventually collapse and/or get us all killed, is that the Resistance does not want to ever cease “resisting.” It wants to keep Trump in office in order to “resist” him by not being him. What need is there for any decent democratic action if you can win both corporate funding and at least some minor elections by just not being Trump?

Resistance supporters have lots of other ludicrous reasons to take the stand they are taking to keep Trump in office. Each person seems to have his or her own, and many are too incoherent to try to reply to, but the most common one that seems to have a sort of meaning in the English language is Pencedread. This is the irrational fear that if you DON’T allow presidents to get away with everything they want, thereby guaranteeing that each successive president will assume even more power, THEN the next president will be worse. Conversely, Pencedreaders hold that if you allow a popular movement to compel impeachment and removal from office — and, by the way, endless hours of televised coverage of Trump’s actual offenses — then the next president will, in contrast to Gerald Ford who constitutes a severe rupture in the space-time continuum of laws of historical forces, be an unrivaled emperor able to outstrip the damage of his predecessors in a week, unchallenged by a nation that will forget how to impeach people in less than a week.

Not only are the reasons of the Resistance not to resist ludicrous, but you cannot combine any two of them. For example, the top reason (Pence will eat us!) conflicts with the second most popular reason (the Senate will never ever ever in a million years no matter what remove Trump from office, even if we shut up about Russiagate long enough to tell people about his actual outrages).

Trump would be a pretty impressive fascist buffoon if we were to credit him with setting the course of the Resistance, still a fascist buffoon but a pretty impressive one — almost as clever as the Vladimir Putin of Resistancelore. But Trump didn’t equate impeachment with Russiagate, the Russiagaters and the corporate media did.

However, Trump has been a part of the process of establishing his immunity in other ways. For example, he has taken away the one charge that the Resistance could be imagined giving enough of a damn about to act on, namely a sex scandal. The man has so many outrageous but accepted sex scandals hiding in the shade of make-believe pee tapes that any new one could hardly be objected to.

Trump has ordered Border Patrol to violate laws, but he ordered his campaign crowds to violate laws too. Why object now? He (and Pence!) has supported a coup in Venezuela, but who doesn’t do that? He’s colluded with a foreign government against the interests of the United States, but the foreign government was Israel, so who really cares? The open and indisputable Trump outrages are numerous, but one can always pretend that an “investigation” is needed. Trump will collaborate or even “collude” in that by refusing to comply with subpoenas. The Resistance can mail him a parking ticket, pat itself on the back, and lose another election that would be winnable by “Candidate to Be Selected After the Fact with a Dart Thrown at a Phonebook.”

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Savagery and Its Promoters and Profiteers

Max Blumenthal’s new book, “The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump,” is over 300 pages and wastes not a word. It also does far more than it claims.

“This book,” Blumenthal writes, “makes the case that Trump’s election would not have been possible without 9/11 and the subsequent military interventions conceived by the national security state. Further, I argue that if the CIA had not spent over a billion dollars arming Islamist militants in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, empowering jihadist godfathers like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in the process, the 9/11 attacks would have almost certainly not taken place. And if the Twin Towers were still standing today, it is not hard to imagine an alternate political universe in which a demagogue like Trump was still relegated to real estate and reality TV.”

My reaction to this was: “Yeah, no kidding. I’d like others to know all the obvious things they don’t, including these, so hopefully they’ll read and get something new out of this book.” But I myself got a mountain of new things out of this book, especially from its early chapters. It not only does what it sets out to do in a way that has not been done before, but goes beyond that to establish through numerous surprising details a portrait of cynical political- / financial- / career-profiteering from mass killing that deserves to be examined carefully.

To consider the thousands of details in this book, you’ll have to read it. But here are a few.

The U.S. government in the 1980s gave the University of Nebraska $1 million to produce millions of third-grade text books to prepare children in Afghanistan to gouge out the eyes and amputate the legs of Soviet soldiers — books still used by the Taliban today.

While the U.S. government armed and trained jihadists in Afghanistan, refugees fled to Europe, stimulating fascist groups unheard from in decades. Norway saw its first right-wing terror attack (on a mosque) in 1985.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan’s Immigration and Naturalization Service drafted plans to imprison Arab Americans at a concentration camp in Oakdale, Louisiana.

The top U.S. recruitment center for fighters to send to Afghanistan in the 1980s was in a storefront on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. It was a branch of the Services Bureau funded by Osama bin Laden.

Al Qaeda member and U.S. terrorist-watch-listee Ali Abdel Saoud Mohamed joined the U.S. Army and gave lessons to its officers. “We have to establish an Islamic state because Islam without political domination cannot survive,” he told them. He also made use of documents he gained access to, translating them into Arabic, highlighting the U.S. embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Yemen, and smuggling them to jihadists.

U.S. secret agencies and the Saudi kingdom developed a closer relationship through their warmaking in Afghanistan that kicked off U.S. weapons dealing to Saudi Arabia in a major way. The Afghan operation had results around the world for years to come.

A Filipino who fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan took his CIA and ISI training back to the Philippines to “harass, attack, and murder Christian priests, wealthy non-Muslim plantation owners, and merchants and local government in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.”

Afghanistan was the beginning of a continuing policy of supporting Islamic extremist fighters in various parts of the world, a policy with direct blowback, with vicious cycles kicked off by the movement of refugees, and with the rapid transfer of people and groups from lists of partners to lists of enemies and vice versa, the only constant being weapons sales.

Osama bin Laden’s approach to the United States after the Gulf War was essentially the same as had been his earlier U.S.-funded-and-trained approach to the USSR. Bin Laden aimed to bring down the U.S. empire by provoking it into lashing out in self-destructive ways that would destroy itself. He had many successes, including attacks on U.S. embassies making use of CIA training. One of bin Laden’s chief partners has been Saudi Arabia.

Over and over again, a tangled web has been further tangled, in apparent attempt to avoid embarrassment. Terrorists have been freed and left free and unaccountable rather than risk public awareness of their ties to the U.S. government. This has meant decades of avoiding indictments and testimony that would have embarrassed the CIA, FBI, and others. And that has meant new crimes by the same people.

As one reads “The Management of Savagery,” it is not the “why do they hate us?” idiocy that looms largest, but rather the question “How did they manage to express their opposition to U.S. policies with such deadly force?” The answer, in large measure, is U.S. arming and U.S. training.

Blumenthal addresses and properly dismisses 911-Trutherism, Russiagate, and other misdirections. The 911-Truthers, he believes, “inadvertently ran interference for the imperialist power elite they claimed to disdain.” By this, the author means that the Truther focus on the absurd and minute details of the September 11th crimes and ludicrous theories as to how they were committed, took attention away from what the U.S. government had done to provoke those crimes and to allow them to occur.

Afghanistan is a small part of the book, which winds its way right up to the present moment, through the war on Iraq, the spread of Islamophobia in the United States; the (beginning of the ongoing) war on Libya — where, again, the U.S. government and its allies armed the same sort of fanatics as in Afghanistan (still going on this week), as well as the creation of ISIS, the arming of “moderate” murderers in Syria, the new crowds of refugees, the new rise of fascism in Europe, the blowback through mass-shootings in the United States, the blowback in the form of Israeli training of U.S. police and excess weapons given to police by the Pentagon, and much else.

“The Management of Savagery” not only shows us what it sets out to, but shows us some of why and how people have been led to believe false narratives. “The American people did not choose this fight,” lied President Barack Obama. “It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.” If you believe that one, I’ve got a couple of dozen presidential candidates to sell you.

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If “Getting Ahead” Depends on Asset Bubbles, It’s Not “Getting Ahead,” It’s Gambling

Beneath the endlessly hyped expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) of the past two decades, the economy has changed dramatically. The American Dream boils down to social and economic mobility, a.k.a. getting ahead through hard work, merit and wise investments in oneself and one’s family.

The opportunities for this mobility in the post World War 2 era broadened as civil rights and equal rights expanded. The 1970s saw a disruption of working-class mobility as high-paying factory jobs disappeared, leaving services jobs that paid less or required more training, i.e. a college degree.

The U.S. economy took off in the 1980s for a number of reasons, including computer technologies, federal stimulus (deficit spending) and financialization (a topic I’ve covered many times). With millions more college graduates entering the workforce and the Internet creating entire new industries, the opportunities to “get ahead” increased across the social and economic spectrum.

But something changed in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble bursting. The fruits of financialization–highly leveraged debt gambled for short-term gains in markets–were extended to everyone with a job (or a willingness to lie) via liar loans, no-document loans and subprime mortgages.

Just like bigshot financiers on Wall Street, J.Q. Citizen could leverage a couple thousand dollars in cash (or even better, borrow the closing costs via a 105% of value mortgage and put nothing down) and buy a McMansion worth $250,000 or even $500,000.

The only difference between bigshot financiers and J.Q. Citizen was the scale of the leverage and gamble: J.Q. Citizen could leverage a few grand into hundreds of thousands, while the financier could leverage a bit of collateral into mega-millions.

The goal wasn’t homeownership, the purported “official” goal of subprime mortgages: it was short-term speculative gains via “flipping” the house in a few months. Just like the bigshot financiers, the subprime mortgage market enabled marginal borrowers to take control of assets far in excess of their actual capital and sell them to a greater fool for a quick profit far in excess of their earnings.

Wall Street loved this distribution of financialization to the masses because Wall Street made a fortune packaging (securitizing) this toxic debt and selling it to unwary, credulous investors as “low risk” (heh) assets.

After the mortgage-securitization-fraud-housing bubble popped, a secular trend– wages for the bottom 95% of wage earners stagnating–accelerated. “Getting ahead” via earning a college diploma, working hard and counting on merit no longer worked; families with privileges and capital got wealthier, and everyone else found the purchasing power of their earnings declined even as stocks and housing soared.

The only way to “get ahead” in a globalized, financialized economy is either 1) earn at least $200,000 a year from one’s labor or 2) gamble in the inflating bubbles of stocks and housing. In high-cost regions, even $200,000 isn’t enough to get ahead (i.e. buy a crumbling bungalow on a tiny lot for $800,000) if the wage-earner has student loans and/or children; the household needs two earners making top-5% salaries.

The more money the central banks throw at stock-housing asset bubbles, the higher they loft, a process that has pushed housing in high-cost regions out of reach of all those with average jobs and incomes. So much for “getting ahead.”

The economy has changed dramatically for the worse: getting a graduate degree no longer guarantees getting ahead (millions of other workers globally have the same credentials); working hard is equally iffy, and traditional investments in one’s family either no longer yields gains (higher education) or they are gambles in the guise of “investments” (housing).

Given that the economy is now totally and completely dependent on inflating asset bubbles, it makes no sense to invest for the long-term: a short-term gambling mentality is required to avoid getting destroyed when the bubble-du-jour pops.

Everyone who believes bubbles never pop, they only expand forever and ever, has never looked at a chart of the S&P 500 (SPX), which illustrates that bubbles always pop, destroying the capital of all who neglected to sell at the top.

If “getting ahead” depends on playing asset bubbles, it’s not getting ahead, it’s gambling. 

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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