Friday, January 16, 2015

Capitalism on Crack

The Market God is feeling a bit wrathful these days. Not only are the hypercapitalists beginning to O.D. on their greed drug, their stash itself is so full to bursting that the hidden hoards in Switzerland actually took on a life of their own, so to speak. It turns out that just holding on to all that excess finance got to be too much, and the Swiss National Bank decided to both un-peg the franc from the Euro and also to charge depositors a fee -- an interest rate of minus 0.75% -- to guard the hidden stashes, mostly ill-gotten gained since the meltdown of 2008. It is getting too expensive to be the bag man for the oligarchs. Serving the oligarchs was beginning to hurt Swiss manufacturing, making its own products too costly for the rest of the world to afford. This is despite previous efforts of Swiss financiers to reduce the value of the franc in an effort to normalize the greed-spawned abnormal, winner-take-all state of affairs.

Some VIPs, along with the subsidized banking cartels, are losing money in the currency betting game as a result. That's the thing about pathological greed. When the game is rigged to such a criminal extent, the whole House can come crashing down -- as in a house of cards. But guess who gets handed the IOU?

Not even smart economists like Paul Krugman know exactly what's going on with Switzerland, and how it will affect you and me, but he thinks we should probably be very afraid, given the current reactionary and misanthropic makeup of our own government. He didn't actually use the word "corrupt," but he should have. The greed drug not only makes you stupid, it makes you even greedier. And the capitalist crackheads are not operating in a vacuum. It's no coincidence that increasing income disparity accompanies the rising tide of fascism and xenophobia both in Europe and America, which in turn accompanies this recent market "volatility."

As I've written about before, the ongoing police brutality we're seeing has to be viewed within a larger context. The media are relying on Police Shooting of the Week narratives instead of looking at the bigger picture. One of the latest incidents took place in Billings, Montana, where just one 20-something cop has already taken out two people in his very short career.

 To New York Times columnist Charles Blow's credit, when recounting the incident in a recent column he allowed that the issue of deadly police force is a complex one. However, he mentioned only in passing that both shooting victims were high on crystal meth at the time they were killed by Officer Grant Morrison. As I wrote in my response,
Being high on meth is being armed and dangerous. Quadruple the paranoia and the aggression and the typical jerky movements of a meth-head -- within a confined space -- and you can empathize with this officer. It's really not fair to say that he "punished" the victim without also being able to see the behavior that was going on inside that vehicle.
There's a huge meth problem in Billings, which no doubt exacerbated the cop's hair trigger mentality. That his other victim was also high on meth is probably no coincidence. The whole area is a boom town, flush with cash from the Bakken oil fields. The drug is a popular, powerful stimulant in high demand by the truckers and field workers to help them stay awake. Police say that the crystal meth hitting Billings is 95% pure.
So while it's right to protest against police violence, this violence is only part of our larger sick and violent society. The meth comes from Mexican drug cartels, whose funds are laundered by American banks. As we know, not one bankster has gone to jail for crimes against humanity. And then there are the guns, trafficked here there and everywhere with the full collusion of our elected officials.
That the USA, wealth disparity capital and largest arms dealer on the planet, either cannot or will not control the lucrative weapons and drug industries should come as no surprise.
 Cops, therefore, are both reflection and collateral damage of the corrupt political and economic system that employs them.
Meth, though it's been around a long time, is very much a growing part of the New Abnormal Economy. The popular dystopian TV show "Breaking Bad" is very much based on reality. The anti-hero originally got into the drug trade and a life of crime because he needed cash to treat his cancer. His insurance didn't "cover" his treatment. Like a corrupt financial institution unto himself, his big headache became not only the manufacturing, but where and how the hell to launder, stash and hide all those piles of money.

Capitalism on Crack, Money on Meth: it's both literal and figurative.

Here's my comment on today's Paul Krugman column:
Hoarding isn't just unhealthy for the hoarders, it's making the whole global neighborhood sick unto death.
We should follow Piketty's advice and institute a global wealth tax to help the Swiss. Barring that unlikelihood, we might follow Elizabeth Warren's advice and just break up the banks.
Unfortunately, the possessors of wisdom and the owners of obscene wealth live in different universes.
The capitalist malefactors are, of course, hysterical over the market volatility and even the feeblest belated efforts to rein them in. Their response to economic turmoil has been put their legalized bribery into overdrive as they drill the already toothless Dodd-Frank law into a gaping maw of uselessness.
As if that were not enough, leaked clauses in the top secret corporate coups known as "trade" deals reveal that the multinationals aim to destroy regulations in European (TTIP) and Pacific (TPP) countries as well.
It's capitalism on crack. And as the crash from the latest orgy of unbridled excess looms, all we can do is brace ourselves, and wish that instead of listening to Jamie Dimon whine, we could be watching him and his pals do a perp walk.
"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." - FDR.

(Credit: Radical Art Initiative)


annenigma said...

Regarding the Billings case and the topic of greed, I wonder why the car was pulled over to begin with. Was it a 'policing for profit' stop under the federal Equitable Sharing asset forfeiture program? In addition to the cops and the local, state, and feds getting in on the action, guess who else is profiting? Private training firms.

From the Washington Post (link below):

"The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security paid private firms millions to train local and state officers in the techniques of an aggressive brand of policing known as “highway interdiction.” That training, developed by the firms, included methods for ferreting out suspicious drivers and coaxing them into granting warrantless searches of vehicles, according to internal company training documents obtained by The Post. The documents emphasized the importance of targeting cash."

They used to settle for cars, boats, houses, and jewelry, but now they want CASH. Oh, but they don't necessarily target vehicles randomly for interdiction. They get professional help. The police receive training and encouragement to "collect and share intelligence about drivers, even those who had done nothing wrong. The training firm Desert Snow started a private intelligence system called Black Asphalt that enabled police to share tips about drivers across state lines and funnel raw reports about drivers to federal authorities, including those at the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

The cop in Billings asked them what they were up to. In other words, they hadn't done anything wrong yet. It was a highway interdiction and he was assessing their assets. Who better to target than the young, male, dark skinned, especially those who have already been guilt-listed by Black Asphalt program?

I watched the video and I thought the cop played to the camera, leaning his head on the hood right in front of the camera so we could see how badly he supposedly felt when he killed an unarmed man for the second time. When I watched it I just couldn't believe his act.

Good news today though! Eric Holder announced he is limiting the federal Equitable Sharing program, although states can still carry on their own programs of legalized highway robbery.

Karen Garcia said...


The victim of the cop killing had just been id'd as the shooter in an armed robbery the night before. It is not clear whether the cop pulled over the car he was riding in because he recognized the guy, or for some other reason, like run of the mill racial profiling.

stranger in a strange land said...

I'm not sure the capitalism isn't working banner pictured at the bottom of this post gets it quite right. This conjures the image of a cart with square wheels or an engine with a blown cylinder.

Capital "C" Capitalism isn't dysfunctional or failing at all. In fact, it's finally rounding into form - it's "working" all too well - and that fully-functioning behemoth is something to fear and loathe.

[A] society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. (M/E)

Bill Sprague said...

This is brilliant and the photo at the end "capitalism isn't working" is completely true. And FDR's comments on what constitutes fascism are true also. Smart woman and smart man.

Patricia M. said...

Re Billings: The car was pulled over in a "traffic stop." From the Billings Gazette article that Karen cited:

"Morrison shot Ramirez — who was a passenger, and later was found to be unarmed, in the back seat of a car — three times during an April 14, 2014, traffic stop in an alley off of Fifth Avenue South and State Avenue."

This same officer - Grant Morrison - has killed two people, both reportedly on meth, in the "line of duty" (as Karen also noted). The previous killing was in 2013:

That killing, too was ruled "justifiable." The actions and language of Officer Morrison are similar in both. One of the videos of the most recent killing reveals the large number of Billings police present. Terrible, tragic costs and loss: the "collateral damage of the corrupt political and economic system . . . ."

Recently, within a period of three weeks (December/January), four others in the State of Montana have been killed by members of law enforcement:

Re eloquent FDR quote: I note ever greater movement to deeper involvement in U.S. fascism. Today: A White House proposal to promote private investment in infrastructure and broadband networks:

annenigma said...

Thanks for the link Karen. After reading the article and another one linked to opening day testimony, I learned a lot more that makes me feel this was an act by a rogue cop.

1. Morrison (the cop) was patrolling alone
2. It was near midnight, obviously dark out.
3. Morrison testified that he followed the vehicle specifically because he suspected one of the passengers was Richard Ramirez. (How could he know that? Wait until the end of this list). It was not a random stop or for any violation.
4. Morrison approached the passenger side rather than the drivers side of the vehicle
5. Police considered Ramirez to be a (presumably dangerous?) suspect in a robbery/shooting
6. Police knew Ramirez who was a (presumably dangerous?) meth head
7. Morrison, by himself, confronted the 4 in a driveway off a dark alley
8. Morrison did NOT call for or wait for backup
9. Morrison didn't start his audio recording until after he got out of the patrol vehicle. We don't know if he called anyone on his cell phone before that.
10. An officer named Jensen testified that he showed up right after the shooting only because he was on call, was in the immediate vicinity, and heard Morrison report his stop to dispatch. He thought he sounded anxious. 'His voice was abnormal'.
11. After the shooting, 'video from officer Ross' vehicle shows Morrison walking with Ross back to his patrol car, wobble and then fall over *off-screen*. Ross said Morrison collapsed, passed out and hyperventilated and that "he becomes human" in the video.' (meaning he sobbed directly in front of Ross' vehicle video cam)

Here's an interesting item. Both Halverson and his girlfriend, Crystal Jones (friends of Ramirez) testified that "they left the house that evening with Ramirez and another man named Tom Black because Ramirez received a call that his girlfriend had been arrested for shoplifting, although Ramirez suspected the call was fake.

When they left the house, Morrison spotted them and began to follow, eventually pulling in behind them a few blocks later when they stopped in a driveway along an alley." Hmmm, could that be how Morrison seemed so sure that Ramirez was a passenger in the car and also why he was so sure that Ramirez was sitting in the back passenger seat that he approached there first?

Did he actually watch them leave? Was he behind the fake call and whatever was said? The FBI used to get word to crooks to come claim some lottery winnings in order to smoke them out of hiding. I guess that trick has been blown though.

annenigma said...

Here's my recent rant about Capitalism from a previous post:

Karen Armstrong has written about all the world's major religions except one, Capitalism. I capitalize it because the deity is always capitalized.

There's nothing new about Capitalism. Jesus probably saw it coming when he tossed the tables of the money changers. It's been slipping under the radar for a long time, hiding itself inside other religions like a Trojan Horse or virus that seeks to appropriate the host DNA to escape detection of the immune system. But now it's so powerful and pervasive a force that it can't hide anymore.

It still isn't called a religion, but it should be. It not only has a foundational belief system and a God (Capital), but has also developed into a coherent global structure and hierarchy - the international banking system.

The Capitalist religion is gaining so much power that it has gained control over our very lifeblood - our basic needs of food and water. It is increasingly commodifying, privatizing, and controlling their prices and access to the rest of us. They've already willfully poisoned our earth, air, and seas, and the products thereof, for the almighty $. The God$ of Capitalism are even now on the verge of even more control. The passage of global trade agreements will usurp the laws and rights of nations as well as individuals. They are of course doing God'$ work since God is Money and Vice versa.

Unbelievers are heretics to be labeled marxists, communists, socialists, and terrorists, and condemned, persecuted, prosecuted, ostracized, spied upon, or assassinated.

Wars are fought for Capital but under the banner of heaven. Increasingly, our justice system, prison system, political system, military, and educational systems are getting in tune. Nations around the world are being buying in, thanks to the God$ of Capitalism and the economic sanctions used to force others into the cult.

Capitalism is far more than an economic system. It's a dangerous and destructive religious cult, an organized system of materialist, consumerist, and selfish beliefs revolving around money, selfish interests, and private profit at any cost. It's killing us and our mother Earth.

Wait... am I describing the anti-Christ?

Denis Neville said...

The reflections of our corrupt political and economic system … the transfer of wealth by our financial system and the resulting gross inequality …. Violence and the rising tide of fascism and xenophobia … are about the hard manipulation of power, pure and simple.

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words." - Philip K. Dick, How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

"This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men." - John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

People are sheep and go along with this folly. Our lame stream media is the shepherd. “The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience,” wrote Schopenhauer.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

The world is a dark cave, where imprisoned humans have lived chained to the wall all of their lives, facing a blank wall. They watch shadows projected by puppeteers on the wall by passing things in front of a fire behind them. According to Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality and they think it's the most awesome reality ever. That's how life goes down in the cave.

However, one day one of the prisoners escapes the cave and discovers what is going on. The shadows on the wall are not reality at all. He returns to the cave and explains to everyone that they're all imprisoned and everything they think is real is an illusion. They think he's crazy and does not know what reality is. He keeps trying to convince them. But they choose to remain where they are.

Human ignorance, people who are unable or unwilling to seek truth and wisdom. This is how so many come to know things, seeing their own reality through a filtered and distorted political lens manipulated by political and economic hit men hired by the capitalist malefactors.