Thursday, May 9, 2019

Historical Context


Charles Hugh Smith gives current-history update:
There are two basic pathways to systemic collapse: external shocks or internal decay. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course; it can be argued that the most common path is internal decay weakens the empire/state and an external shock pushes the rotted structure off the cliff... 
In other words, the elites know the public would resist their leadership if the truth were widely known, so the ruling elites devote tremendous resources to massaging the news to distract the public from reality and reflect positively on their self-serving leadership.
Since the weaknesses of the empire are being hidden, they cannot be addressed, and so rot that could have been fixed early becomes widespread and fatal...
Whether the elites or the public are aware of it or not, America is well down the path to terminal internal decay: Distraction, Lies, Infighting, Betrayal.
The good news is renewal becomes possible when the entire rotten status quo collapses in a putrid heap of broken promises, dysfunctional institutions, blatant lies, unpayable debts and cascading defaults.

Jim Kunstler looks from another angle, and closer to street level.
 The outcome of that was two Americas: the hipsterocracy of the coastal elites and the suicidal deplorables of Flyoverland. The hipsterocracy sustains itself on the manufactured hallucinations of the holographic economy — that is, on the production of images, TV psychodramas, news media narratives, status competitions, public relations campaigns, law firm machinations, awards ceremonies, and other signaling systems to maintain the illusion that the financialized economy has everything under control as we transform into a nirvana of ultra high tech pleasure-seeking and endless leisure.
 Meanwhile, out in Flyoverland, the holograms aren’t selling so well anymore. Nobody has the scratch to pay for them, not even those indentured to the neo-feudal empires of WalMart and Amazon. The children keep coming, though it’s nearly impossible for a man to support them, and increasingly the fathers just take themselves out of the picture. The women ferment in single-parent hopelessness. The children turn more feral by each generation. All remaining economic opportunity is diverted back into the leveraged buy-out mills of the Coastal Elsewhere. Even growing food out of the land was long ago converted into an Agri-Biz hustle based on practices with no future. And now the spring weather is drowning out that hustle and driving the corporatized farms into bankruptcy.
 The two Americas have turned a formerly workable political system into a divorce court and for the past three years nothing of value has come out of that negotiation except more mutual grievance and animus. The hipsterocracy, drunk on craft beer, has concentrated its hologram production on an operatic extravaganza of racial and sexual melodrama and the stupendously dishonest campaign to vilify the deplorables’ champion, Mr. Trump. If it was originally designed to just divert the deplorables from their economic injuries, it actually succeeded in focusing their dwindling energy into wrathful, righteous rage against those who foreclosed their future.

Why is paying for the empire, again?
Final tally: $1.2542 trillion
So, our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion -- more than double the Pentagon’s base budget. If the average taxpayer were aware that this amount was being spent in the name of national defense -- with much of it wasted, misguided, or simply counterproductive -- it might be far harder for the national security state to consume ever-growing sums with minimal public pushback. For now, however, the gravy train is running full speed ahead and its main beneficiaries -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and their cohorts -- are laughing all the way to the bank.

Charles looks at those people growing the "amber waves of grain".
The increase in farm debt while farm income declines is putting unbearable financial pressure on American farmers, who must be differentiated from giant agri-business corporations. This is placing immense pressure on farmers, pressure which manifests in rising suicide rates.
If this isn't the nadir of rural America, it's certainly close.
This decline of financial viability and sharp rise in stress isn't limited to rural America. The decline of rural regions and small towns is a global phenomenon, and the causes are many but boil down to two primary dynamics:
1. Cities and megalopolises (aggregations of cities, suburbs and exurbs) attract capital, infrastructure, markets, talent and government spending, and these are the engines of job creation. People move to cities to find jobs and opportunities...
2. Globalization has lowered the cost of agricultural commodities by exposing every locality to globally set prices (supply and demand) which are also distorted by currency fluctuations.
The relatively low cost of fuels has enabled produce from thousands of miles away to be shipped to supermarkets virtually everywhere.
These mega-trends have slashed farming incomes while costs have risen across the board. This squeeze as revenues decline and costs increase has driven even the most diligent and devoted farmers out of business or reduced them to hanging on by a thread.
What would it take reverse these trends?
1. The price of agricultural commodities and products would have to triple or quadruple, so that farming would become lucrative and attract capital and talent...
2. Wealthy owners of capital tire of unliveable cities and move to small towns, bringing their capital and entrepreneurial drive with them.
There are many historical models in which the spending/investing of wealthy families drives the expansion of local economies. Colonial America and the Roman countryside are two examples of this dynamic.
When capital flows to small towns, jobs are created as the wealthy hire people to serve their needs. These new jobs create new markets for small businesses, and these new opportunities attract new capital...
The only other development that would restore urban-rural balance is the collapse of the entire neo-feudal (neoliberal) regime, including fiat currencies, central banking, financialization and financialized globalization.
In the near term, scarcities that drive agricultural prices higher and people fleeing unliveable, unaffordable cities are likelier possibilities.

(This analysis misses the fact that the cheap energy and natural resources, needed to rebuild, are in terminal decline, already.)
Once leaders realize the currency wars are not working, they pivot to trade wars. The dynamic is the same. One country imposes tariffs on imports from another country. The idea is to reduce imports and the trade deficit, which improves growth. But the end result is the same as a currency war. Trade partners retaliate and everyone is worse off as global trade shrinks.
The currency wars and trade wars can exist side by side as they do today. Eventually, both financial tactics fail and the original problem of debt and growth persists. At that point, shooting wars emerge. Shooting wars do solve the problem because the winning side increases production and the losing side has infrastructure destroyed that needs to be rebuilt after the war.

Ron Paul has endorsed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for President 2020:
Is President Trump about to invade Venezuela? His advisors keep telling us in ever-stronger terms that “all options are on the table” and that US military intervention to restore Venezuela’s constitution “may be necessary.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the Sunday news programs to claim that President Trump could launch a military attack against Venezuela without Congress’s approval. Pompeo said that, “[t]he president has his full range of Article II authorities and I’m very confident that any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.” The man who bragged recently about his lying, cheating, and stealing, is giving plenty of evidence to back his claim.
 The president has no Constitutional authority to start a war with Venezuela or any other country that has not attacked or credibly threatened the United States without Congressional approval. It is that simple. How ironic that Pompeo and the rest of the neocons in the Trump Administration are ready to attack Venezuela to “restore their constitution” but they could not care less about our own Constitution! ...
The latest outrage in the mainstream media is over the most sensible thing President Trump has done in some time: last week he spent an hour on the telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss, among other things, the dangerous situation in Venezuela.
While President Trump’s neocon advisors are purposely trying to position him so that war is the only option, we can only hope that President Putin was able to explain that the Venezuela problem must be solved by the Venezuelans themselves.  

More discord in the palace (finally) Bolton is actually pushing hard for at least 3 wars at the same time; considering 4...:
According to WaPo, Trump has privately described Maduro as a "tough cookie", and blamed aides for misleading him when they said the socialist strongman could be ousted during last week's demonstrations. In recent days, Trump has expressed concern that Bolton is trying to get him "into a war." We imagine a leaked plan for a US-backed coup prepared by SOUTHCOM hasn't helped to assuage these concerns.
And remember, Bolton has also been a key figure in escalating tensions with Iran to what is starting to look like the brink of an armed conflict.
Though two WaPo sources insisted that Bolton's job is 'safe' - for now at least - the fact that Trump has finally caught on to the drawbacks of Bolton's neoconnishness, and now appears to understand that Bolton's views are at odds with Trump's "America First" platform, certainly doesn't bode well for his prospects.

("Watch out for false-flag attack by Israeli submarine on US ship to justify attack on Iran", sez I.)
 But in what appears to be an attempt to show Tehran who's boss, and that it's not bluffing, Washington committed to another threatening display of force. Reuters reports that the USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been dispatched to the Mediterranean last week amid worsening tensions with Iran, has passed through the Suez Canal, the first stop in what appears to be a journey into Iranian waters...
Last night, Trump issued a statement affirming that the relationship with Iran is "broken beyond repair" and placed new sanctions on Iran's industrial metals sector.

 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – US secretary of state Mike Pompeo made a surprise four-hour visit to Baghdad on Tuesday in connection to the panic he is trying to trump up, along with US national security adviser and Sheldon Adelson plant John Bolton about Iran supposedly planning to attack US troops in the Middle East.
For his part, Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in remarks to the press that Iraq will undertake to ensure the safety of the some 5,000 US troops in Iraq, who are helping the Iraqi army mop up ISIL remnants.
At the same time, Abdul Mahdi insisted that Iraq would not participate in any economic boycott of any country, which is to say that he declined to cooperate with the Trump administration’s attempts to squeeze Iran.
Iraqi sources said after the visit was over that Bolton offered to give Iraq a temporary waiver with regard to its trade ties with Iran. He may as well, since he is unlikely to get much cooperation from Shiite-ruled Iraq in the blockade on Iran.

"Deal of the Century" gets leaked to Israeli newspaper. It is total capitulation by Palestinians, nothing else. Palestinians have nothing to gain through agreeing to this.
 “New Palestine” would not be allowed to form an army but could maintain a police force.  Instead, a defence agreement will be signed between Israel and the “New Palestine” in which Israel would defend the new state from any foreign attacks.
 Upon signing the agreement, Hamas will hand over all its weapons to Egypt. The movement’s leaders would be compensated and paid salaries by Arab states while a government is established.
Elections are expected to be held within one year of the establishment of the “New Palestine” state.

Helen has this historical comparison:
​ ​It’s worth looking at what triggered the Pearl Harbor attack, because it is happening again. When Japan refused to pull its forces out of China, the US imposed an oil embargo on Japan, cutting the nation off from 80 percent of its oil supply and leaving it no choice but to seek fuel elsewhere. The closest oil was in then-Dutch Indonesia, but US-controlled Philippines physically barred the way. The US had thus almost guaranteed Japan would have to attack the US, allowing Washington to enter the war with the American people’s approval in order to fight Germany, whom Roosevelt perceived as the “real” enemy.
 T​he US has imposed the strictest sanctions on Iran yet, repealing the last waivers last week in the hope of forcing the country into a similarly suicidal actIran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it is blocked from using the waterway, which sees 20 percent of the world’s oil traffic. US officials have deemed such a move “unacceptable,” suggesting massive retaliation would follow, and a US carrier strike group is on its way to the region, supposedly acting on a "credible threat" that Iran plans to target US interests. Regardless of who fires the first shot - and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has warned Trump a false flag attack is extremely likely - war with Iran would be the result, and Americans would be cheering it on. The question is not if, but when.
​ ​War with Iran wouldn’t benefit the US at all – a 2002 Pentagon wargame simulation has even indicated the US would lose. But Iran is the strongest enemy of Israel left standing, and Trump's inner circle – like the neocons at PNAC (whose members included John Bolton) – has made it clear where his priorities lie. Just as laying waste to Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen only created an endless supply of enemies for the US while crossing Israel’s regional rivals off the list, attempting to destroy Iran will have devastating repercussions for the US while ensuring no one is left to challenge Israel’s regional dominance. It is no coincidence that the intel suggesting Iran was plotting an attack on American targets in the Middle East - the tip that triggered the deployment of the carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln to the region last month - came from the Mossad, the Israeli intel agency whose motto is "by deception, thou shalt do war." Israel has been lying about Iran's ambitions for decades.

Prospects for a big Mideast Summer War are up and down on a daily basis, it seems...
Hoping that a war on Lebanon would solve any of Israel's problems is unrealistic and can only be believed in Washington DC. Israel's Bibi Netanyahoo knows of the danger and he is not a risk taker. Moreover Hizbullah's retaliation capability is only one of many reasons why a war seems unlikely.
Then again - the Islamic Jihad, a group that fights next to Hamas in the Gaza Strip but is financed by Iran, also speaks of a summer war.
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 5:05 utc - 8 May 2019
#Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary general Ziyad al-Nakhla to @AlMayadeenNews : "I expect a large war this summer with #Israel".
 The partners of the 'Axis of Resistance', Hizbullah in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Shia militia in Iraq, announced several times that they would support each other in a war against Israel. It is thus likely that any attack on Lebanon (or Syria, or Iran) would see a response from another country. Hassan Nasrallah, for example, is on the record that he would "do his duty" should Iran be attacked. Any war could thus escalate in unpredictable ways.
 While some hawks in the U.S. would probably welcome such an escalation, neither Israel nor its silent allies in Saudi Arabia and UAE would escape from receiving significant damage. They know this and will act accordingly.
 The most important reason why a summer war is unlikely is Donald Trump. He wants to win a reelection. A months long, unpredictable war that might cause serious damage to Israel and other U.S. allies in the region could be catastrophic for him.
Some of his advisors, most obviously John 'Stache' Bolton, but others too, may well try to instigate a war. But the ultimate 'decider' is Donald Trump and I, for now, see no reason for him to wage one.

Humanity must save insects to save ourselves, leading scientist warns
"Insects are ‘the glue in nature’, says Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, underpinning the food and water we rely on

​Fundamentally Joined

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