Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Politeness of our Populist Rage

All a lemming has to do is go over the edge of the cliff. Momentum takes care of the rest. Even if he’s wearing a parachute, he won’t pull the rip cord because habit won’t allow him to do so.

It’s no different with empires. The dynamic that made them powerful fossilizes into the habit that contributes to their downfall. The very dynamic that made success possible becomes an instrument of self destruction when it can no long adapt to changing circumstances.

John Michael Greer explains this fossilized dynamic as follows:

When failure is no longer penalized, and losing strategies are the only options admitted to discussion, changing course becomes the least likely possibility; the tighter the blinkers, the more likely that the horse will keep on galloping straight ahead, even if the road leads straight off a cliff.

You see this at work with Obama’s “change your can believe in” that really isn’t change but looks like change because he says its change. The reason Obama can get away with this is that when you are following Jack the Ripper, even rape seems like a virtue. As Joel S. Hirschhorn puts it, we have a president “with a glib tongue, a terrific smile and a deep commitment to the two-party plutocracy and corporate state.”

Progressives now find themselves in a state of paralysis as they wait to see what the “pragmatist” Obama has up his sleeve as he moves to the right. To them, criticism is heresy so they bite their collective tongues, totally oblivious to the fact that the only thing Obama has up his sleeve is more of the same. To paraphrase a Buddhist maxim, change is change when it’s not change.

We are also seeing the emergence of another of the media’s multiple roles. They do more than propagandize for the state. They also inoculates the state against change that would be both revolutionary and systemic.

For example, the media is full of stories about the “populist rage” that is sweeping the country. By putting the focus on this rage, it is neutralized and reduced to a buzz word that can be easily dismissed by our oligarchy. Meanwhile, the masses are pacified because the media has recognized their rage, and so they go home to their favorite television programs convinced that change will take place because their leaders know they’re really pissed off.

Hirschhorn sums it up nicely: “The saddest thing about Obama winning the presidency was that his change message drained what might have been sufficient national energy for true revolutionary reforms.”

This is why they’re rioting in Paris but not in Peoria.

We’re such a polite people.

--Belacqua Jones

Monday, March 30, 2009

Save our Toys!

This is getting old. The economy takes a little downturn, and all of a sudden Whiteguys become punching bags.

It all started with Brazil’s president, Lula da Silva, blaming “blue-eyed Whitemen” for what is little more than an economic belch. Someone should take him out to the woodshed and explain to him that blue-eyed Whiteguys of northern European descent (Frenchmen excluded, thank you) sit atop the Great Chain of Being, tucked neatly into God’s belly button. It is we who have carried out His cleansing grace through our wars and genocides.

As if that wasn’t enough, we then have Jayati Ghosh, a neoliberal critic, suggesting that we Whiteguys have too much stuff. She claims that:

[T]here is no question that the current “Northern” standards of life cannot be sustained if they were made accessible to everyone on this planet. This means that future economic growth in the developing world has to involve more equitable and sensible patterns of consumption and production.

This is dangerous talk. The implication, here, is that we Whiteguys have to give up some of our toys. She has the gall to suggest that Northern consumption could be reduced with the consequences being, not hardship, but inconvenience.

For example, I know a family of five that owns seven cars: one car for each and a couple for tooling around in. They could get by on one. Sure, it would be a pain in the ass, but it wouldn’t cause them to go hungry or to lose the roof over their heads.

Losing our central air conditioning would be uncomfortable, but we’d still get our three meals a day.

The list goes on and on, and if too many people start asking questions like this, we could lose our $11,300 blue jeans , our $1.8 million Bugatti Veyrons (a car with a thousand-plus horsepower), our Bling H2O, (bottled water at $40 a pop) or our $750 facials.

Where would our economic growth be without overconsumption?

Questions like these encourage real patriotism, by which I mean the willingness to criticize the hell out of your country and to demand the very best of it. This is why the well-ordered state redirects patriotism into a flag fetishism grounded in fairy tales about divine providence and greatness.

The solution to Western over consumption is simple: if the lifeboat is overcrowded, you start jettisoning, and you sure as hell don’t throw the captain overboard, even if he is a drunken sociopath. Which brings us back to God’s cleansing grace…

The Great Chain of Being has served mankind well since medieval times, and it will survive our current cultural collapse only if people like Lula de Silva and Jayati Ghosh keep their mouths shut.

--Belacqua Jones

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Greek Drama and the Halls of Congress

If nothing else, the Beltway is a real turn-on. Where else can you see American enterprise etched out in such dramatic detail? It is here that egos and ideologies clash in the epic struggles that are hallmarks of a democratic society hard at work.

Tucked inside the cracked cocoon of my neocon ideology run amok, I am given a unique perspective on the epic clashes, confrontations and crusades that rattle the marbled halls of power. And I can tell you this…

It’s all an act; it’s fucking theater played out for the benefit of the masses to give the impression that policies that have already been decided on are still being vigorously debated. (The reason Hamlet didn’t kill his stepfather in Act III had nothing to do with his neurosis or lack of resolve; it had everything to do with the fact that Shakespeare had two more acts to fill.)

I stumbled across a prime example of this in yesterday’s Times. It seems good ol’ Tim is going to shake up financial capitalism with a set of draconian reforms. He wants to regulate derivatives and bring the shadow banking system under SEC control. He wants Treasury to have the power to takeover any institution that threatens our fragile economy.

And the finance industry is rending its garments and rubbing ashes in their hair as they beg Tim to regulate the hell out of them, for they have sinned and must be made whole again.


…and this is one of those big buts that keeps the Beltway from overreacting to a real crisis, the Times reassures us that, “…industry groups are already mobilizing to block restrictions they oppose and win new protections they have wanted for years.”

Yes, it’s another carefully choreographed Greek drama complete with a congressional chorus that will chant its scripted strophes, antistrophes and epodes as it moves across the stage. Even now you can hear the sound of industry lobbyists sharpening their gelding knives as Congress prepares to do the “peoples’” business.

To give you one example of this democracy at work, the Times tells us that one of the “reforms” the American Banking Association is pushing for is to allow banks to mark their toxic assets to book instead of being forced to mark them to market.

Say a bank is holding a piece of toxic paper with a book value of $100. In today’s market it could be worth anything from $10 to $30, and this is how the banks must carry it on their books. The banks complaint is that it weakens their financial position by being forced to value assets for what they are actually worth rather than valuing them as they might be worth someday in Never-Never Land.

I am four-square behind this reform. As a matter of fact, I’d like to see this reform expanded to cover us all, so that when I am forced back into the job market, exercising my unique skill set of collecting shopping carts from a supermarket parking lot, my salary won’t be marked to market (the minimum wage) but will be marked to my potential earnings (book) once I have my MBA from Harvard and am running my own hedge fund. (What the hell, with the dollar as a fiat currency, prosperity is but an illusion.)

What tickles me is that all of this drama is taking place over a 250-year-old industrial and financial bubble that, on a geological timeline, will barely amount to a cosmic fart.

I suppose its redeeming quality is that it keeps all the nuts holed up in the Beltway. God knows what would happen if they were allowed to run wild.

--Belacqua Jones

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's time to rebrand

As you see, I've changed the format. The letter format was becoming a little stale, especially as our memory of Shrub fades, even though the consequences of his rule remain.

Don't worry. Belacqua is as snarky as ever. The only difference is that he no longer has to kiss up to Shrub.


The soothing touch of Newspeak.

Those who prattle on about Orwellian Newspeak fail to understand its sophistication. Its overriding purpose is to simplify our vocabulary until it is reduced to a handful of buzz words.

It does this by eliminating antonyms from the language. Antonyms are dangerous because they encourage contrast, and contrast too often leads to social destabilizers like thought, discussion and debate. By incorporating a word’s antonym into its meaning, contrast is neutralized and social stability reigns.

Here’s how it works. A word grows and expands, like the Blob in the 1950 movie classic of the same name, until it absorbs its antonym, which becomes it synonym though it is still its antonym even though it now acts like its synonym.

In order for Newspeak to maximize its effectiveness, a semi-literate population is necessary. Understand that semi-literate has nothing to do with reading skills. Rather, it describes a population that is too lazy to read and prefers to be fed images on a screen. Our 24/7 cable news channels have worked wonders in promoting this semi-literacy. This could explain why newspapers across the country are folding. Why waste time reading when the tube explains it all.

Sometimes, rather than shrinking vocabulary, Newspeak effects a semantic reversal. We are all acquainted with the couplet, “Socialism is slavery; capitalism is freedom.” Here, both words remain in the vocabulary, yet each has absorbed its antonym so that Socialism’s slavery is freedom and capitalism’s freedom is slavery. Since nobody wants to be a slave, they abjure socialism’s freedom and embrace capitalism’s slavery.

Shrub made a major contribution to Newspeak when he was in office by expanding the meaning of normal to include sociopathic behavior. He did the same for patriotism and God.

Thanks to Tim Geithner, the phrase “private money” has expanded to incorporate its antonym, “public money”, thus rendering the phrase “public money” redundant.

The same is true of “bureaucrat”. The word use to refer only to a government employee. Thanks to the revolving door that exists between government and industry, the meaning of bureaucrat has grown until is includes corporate bureaucrats as well.

Life is sweet when Newspeak thrives. It is a healing balm that allows the mind to mellow out without being disturbed by doubt and skepticism. With remote in hand, John Q. Public drifts along in a trance, soothed by words that cause nary a ripple in his soul.

--Belacqua Jones

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boomers are at the helm, and all is well.

Dear George,

Fear not! Everything is going to be hunky-dory with the economy, not because it is going to recover, but because it is being overseen by a gaggle of baby boomers, and when boomers say everything is going to be just fine, it will be. Optimism is part of their DNA, no matter how grim the picture.

Just looking at their birthdates is enough to give us all the reassurance we need: Bernanke born in 1952, Summers in 1954 and Geithner in 1961.

They are all men who came to age in America’s golden age of self-indulgence when there was nowhere to go except up and our prosperity appeared to be unending.

Only a child raised on television, like Ben, could declare that we had entered the “Great Moderation” in which the evil business cycle of boom and bust had been tamed,

Who needs regulation and nationalization when you treat finance capitalism like a sitcom in which all problems are resolved by the time the credits roll?

All you gotta do is believe.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Key to Prosperity

Dear George,

The key to prosperity is simple—cook the books.

Wealth no longer bears any relationship to how much gold you have in the vault. Instead, wealth has been reduced to the figures on a spreadsheet. If the figures look good, and if they fool everyone, you are prospering.

Book cooking has a long and honorable tradition. The mining industry pioneered the practice when the owners’ built company towns that featured company stores where miners could buy food and clothing on credit.

Creative bookkeeping insured that the miners were perpetually in debt. This indebtedness was an efficient management tool. If a miner became fed up with working sixteen hours a day, six days a week and decided to leave, the owners simply got the sheriff after him for skipping out on his debt.

In the years following the Civil War, the practice found its way into the sharecropping that replaced, but didn’t change, slavery. In the “forward”, the landowner would advance the sharecropper seed and other supplies. When the crops were in, there was the “settle” in which, in theory, the sharecropper kept the profits from his endeavors. Again, the landowner employed some creative figure juggling, and the poor sharecropper never produced enough to pay off the “forward”.

The practice is still with us, but now instead of a forward and a settle, we have the usurious interest charged on credit cards. Debt remains an effective form of enslavement.

Of course, the irony of book cooking is that our capitalists have built a similar trap for themselves through their credit-default swaps. By entering into counterparty agreements, the banks preserved the illusion that they were solvent. Because these swaps were unregulated, those issuing them didn’t have to have the assets to cover their butts in case the economy went bust.

The economy went bust, the issuers of CDSs didn’t have the assets to cover their butts, and wholesale credit froze.

It’s the stupid trapper who becomes trapped in his own trap.

But, that’s expertise for you. Fortunately, all we have to do to get out of this crisis is to cook some more books.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On the qualities of leadership.

.Dear George,

There are two requirements for leadership: moral nihilism and the ability to keep from collapsing in laughter when announcing a new policy.

Writer Chris Hedges points out that, “Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice.”

The moral nihilism that fires corporatism is born of a bored prosperity that has never known hardship or suffering. A bored man whose every need is meant and who has never learned how cast a critical eye on anything craves the amusement that can only come from the creation of a suffering that is totally foreign to him. It is boredom, not bile that creates the greatest evils.

A monster, such as Hitler or Stalin, may have been born in hardship, but it the functionaries, who give evil its breadth and scope that are the children of boredom.

When a functionary initiates a policy, he usually knows just enough to know that it’s bullshit, but not enough to understand why. That’s why the second quality of leadership is so important. Breaking into giggles while introducing a policy that is going to screw the public to the wall just doesn’t cut it.

This is why Tim Geithner is such a great leader. He never once giggled while filling out the details of his latest bank bailout plan. As Paul Krugman points out, “The idea, says Mr. Obama’s top economic advisor, is to use ‘the expertise of the market to set the value of toxic assets.’” (Said without cracking a smile.)

By “toxic assets” he means that garbage, which is worth ten to twenty-five cents on the dollar, for which the banks want to get fifty to sixty cents on the dollar.

The “expertise of the market” describes the felonious behavior of a market so encrusted by corruption that it can barely move.

Tim continued to maintain his poker face as he explained that the government would encourage a public-private partnership (partnership, hell! They’re one in the same) by giving private investors “nonrecourse” loans to purchase the toxic assets.

What “nonrecourse” means is that should, by some chance, the value of this shit paper goes up, private investors keep the profits. If the value falls, the taxpayer picks up the bill.

All of this makes sense if you understand exactly what our leaders mean when they say “economy.” It has nothing to do with GDP or unemployment or balance of trade or any of the other phrases they love to bandy about. All “economy” refers to is the well –being of their Wall Street cronies. If they’re happy, the economy is in good shape.

Of course, nobody understands that Wall Street is just an undisciplined mob that scurries hither and yon according to the ever shifting direction of the wind. The Dow takes off; the Dow plummets. The mob scurries here; the mob scurries there.

That is the “expertise of the market” that is going to price the toxic assets that are slowly sinking out economy.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Resurrection of the Zombies

Dear George,

Those who criticize Tim Geithner’s Financially Underwritten Collateralized Knowledgeability plan are heathens and deconstructionists.

Tim is pioneering a new approach to economics known as theological finance. He is firmly convinced that if Jesus rose from the dead, the banks can do the same. The only difference is that Jesus didn’t need a printing press while the banks do.

First, here’s a little background.

The key to our recovery is to plunge the American consumer deeper into debt. Consumption accounts for 70 percent of our GDP. Recovery will only be possible when that is increased to 85 percent. America is a consumptive society, and only by encouraging more of the same that ruined us will we be healed.

Everyone talks about all the toxic paper the banks are holding. They can’t sell it, we are told. And this is true, sort of. The banks can’t sell the stuff, at least not at the price they want. There are hedge funds out there that are willing to take the toxic paper off their hands for 10 to 25 cents on the dollar. The banks want 60 cents on the dollar, which only a madman would pay.

This is why we need Tim. He is willing to use taxpayers’ money to encourage private investors to purchase the sludge. I assume this means that if an investor pays 60 cents on the dollar for a piece of shit, taxpayers will reimburse said investor to the tune of 35 to 50 cents on the dollar. What private investors won't buy, the Fed and the FDIC will.

This will free up the banks to hand out even more credit cards so consumers can go deeper into debt while the banks that issued them the credit cards are foreclosing on their homes. It’s what known as trashing the base of the pyramid so the pointy top will remain safe and secure.

Those who call this voodoo economics forget that the voodoo religion not only creates zombies, it can bring them back from the dead. Since the nation is saddled with zombie banks, it follows the only solution is the application of voodoo economics.

Tim understands that economics is basically a superstition, and that what the country needs is not a financial whiz but a shaman. That’s what Tim is good at—pounding his drum and shaking his rattles while snorting the dust of dead toads up his nostrils.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Serene Barbarity

Dear George,

One of the strengths of our corporate state is that those who criticize it praise even as they think they are criticizing it. Because the corporate state represents the end-point of history, even its weaknesses and destructiveness are strengths.

For example, one writer opens his screed by stating;

The markets are rational. From that inviolate truth, a pillar of economic thought for223 years, flows all else economics understands about markets, men, and money—an unalterable belief that markets can be measured, quantified, cut and pasted in mute acceptance that under it all lies the consistent and undeniable force of rational behavior, a religion gone unquestioned.

But, of course they are rational. It is this rationality that has raised greed, venality and exploitation to the highest level of sophisticated efficiency. Rational abstraction sanitizes and dehumanizes cruelty.

And do you know what made all this possible? It was Rene’s cogito. That’s our little Prince of Peace. Its frozen rocks of verifiable data squeeze the warmth out of the soul, leaving only the linear thrust of the crazed if-then, with no quarter given to compassion, wisdom, or understanding, none of which are quantifiable.

It freezes our tears and wraps its fingers in a death grip ‘round the heart, allowing men to see with the hard clarity that illuminates all. Its strength makes possible intolerable cruelties by reducing life’s fecundity to categories and labels.

It’s the words, George! Multitudes of words pissed into a tin cup, whose death rattle resonates around the world, making the fires of Hell feel like a soothing Spring breeze.

And the numbers! The more the better, black columns in rank and file order on reams of spreadsheets draped over the festering corpses of the innocent, printed on paper so thick the blood can't soak through.

Words and numbers congeal into a toxic cloud, suffocating and choking until all life is frozen into the death mask of the broken and the bored.

A subtle shift takes place in the rational mind that allows us to witness cruelty without thinking it cruel. That’s the key to power, to be able to abstract and depersonalize suffering, while remaining civilized and intelligent. It is the serene barbarity of the civilized that makes empire possible. This allows our Pentagon policymakers to sanitize the shattered bodies of women and children with the soothing phrase, “collateral damage.”

However, the cogito peaked when it gave rise to social engineering, which is based on the cogito's corollary, "I think therefore I am, therefore what I think is and shall become." This gave us Communism, Nazism and Neoliberalism, along with other manifestations of our rational madness.

In the end, it’s all an exercise in black humor, because every line of linear thought ends as rust and dust.

Yes, George, markets are rational and men are rational. It is this that makes us deaf to the cries of the suffering and to the sound of our world collapsing around us.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Doctrine of Destructive Praise

Dear George,

A leader is like a greased pig at a county fair; nobody’s quite able to get a grip on him. All a leader needs for a long rule is nimble feet and a thick layer of grease. These qualities are necessary because the most important quality a leader must have is the ability to destroy the very thing he is praising. The rhetoric praises while the hand destroys.

A good example of the application of this adroit tap dance between tongue and hand is the doctrine of the “free market”. The tongue celebrates the free market as the surest road to a consumptive Valhalla while the hand puts into place the very policies that destroy it.

This is as it must be. The truth is that a truly free market is a liability. It is unstable and unpredictable. Times change, customs change and tastes change. In a free market today’s goose that lays the golden egg is tomorrow’s road kill.

The real downside of a free market is that if an enterprise screws up, it suffers the consequences and goes under. This can put a real damper on economic growth. Only by plowing the market place under and destroying it can businesses grow and bloat until only a handful of multinational corporations remain standing. Only then are they free to make all the stupid decisions they please because they are “too big to fail.”

This is why Wall Street is littered with corpses stretched out on gurneys as Drs. Ben and Tim frantically fill their dead veins with embalming fluid to keep them from rotting before injecting beet juice into their cheeks to maintain the illusion that they are alive and healthy.

Not many people realize this, but under the gentle hand of the market-state we are evolving an economy so centralized that it makes the old Soviet Union look like a Mideast bazaar.

Competition is a threat to society. At its core it is nothing more than commercial anarchy. We need the heft of the multinationals if the market is to remain stable and predictable, even though it never happens that way, but as long as we think some day it will find equilibrium it really doesn’t matter what it does. Illusion trumps reality any day.

Order and predictability are the rewards of a controlled market-state economy, one we nurture even as we stand firmly by the doctrine of the free market as the purest expression of democracy and freedom.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Ode to Habit

Dear George,

Fools are fools because they never learn. That is why they make great leaders. Momentum and habit are everything because once an empire begins the downward slide into oblivion and ruin; it is the duty of the leader to stay the course. Habit is the ultimate empire killer.

Our economy has been on life support for decades, kept alive by feeding it bubble after bubble. When the housing bubble finally popped, all the naysayers predicted that we were bubbled out.

However, they didn’t count on the innate ability of fools to come up with a new bubble. And bubble they did. Now they are inflating a bubble based on US treasury debt. One writer points out that we are going to have to finance some $5 trillion in debt over the next four years. (Substituting seconds for dollars, that is the equivalent of 160,000 years.)

All is well they tell us because the world is buying up T-bills like crazy. Obama sees this as an endorsement of American capitalism.


As the same writer points out:

The driving force of this influx of capital is fear rather than confidence, however. Investors are pulling out of weaker regions like eastern Europe and southeast Asia, as well as Africa and Latin America. They are also shifting from the purchase of stocks and bonds issued by American banks and corporations, now regarded with great distrust, in favor of government-issued debt instruments.

In effect, our T-bills are sucking capital out of the system making it harder and more expensive for our corporate enterprises to get the capital they need to operate.

Another writer points out:

Unfortunately, we cannot be confident that world leaders know what they are doing in seeking to resolve the crisis. Are their measures attacking the heart of the problem, or only its periphery? Are they exacerbating the crisis, either by enacting certain misdirected measures, or by failing to enact certain required measures? Are they setting up conditions that make a dollar crisis and radically increased financial upheaval virtually inevitable, by blindly pushing ahead with a simplistic agenda of trying to spend their way out of the present crisis?

(Sorry about the lengthy quotes, Big Guy. I know they’re taxing.)

Why should we worry that our 2009 dept is 89% or our GDP? We have history on our side. Hell, in 1557, Phillip II of Spain defaulted when his debts were a paltry 50% of Spain’s GDP. The guy went on to default in 1560, 1575, and 1596. (Actually, Spain raised default to an art form, doing so a total of thirteen times between 1500 and 1900.)

And what was the reason for Phillip’s defaults? It was too many expensive wars. That’s how it is with great powers: if you’re going to play, you’ve got to pay. And pay and pay and pay.

So, we can keep on issuing those T-Bills with nary a qualm. Before long they’ll be worthless, and they won’t cost us a penny because we won’t have a penny to spend.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Valueless Family Values

Dear George,

Last night, I was leaning against my boulder, mellowing on a bottle of Thunderbird ’04, and trying to come up with corporate state’s greatest contribution to civilization as we know it today. There have been so many, and it’s hard to remember them all when the brain is fogged.

Then it hit me right in the gonads—the state’s greatest contribution is its trashing of the family. It ranks right up there with the introduction of child labor.

Families are dangerous creations that could undermine the entire capitalist structure if left unchecked. The healthy family is a breeding ground for values that are detrimental to the public good, values like freedom, morality, caring for others, honesty and a sense of personal responsibility.

The corporate state has wisely checked this cancerous growth by equating family health with material well-being. Happiness is prosperity, even if it’s built on mountains of debt. Of course, everybody misses the irony that the efforts required to secure prosperity destroy the family because no family can prosper on a single income.

So we are blessed with a generation of latchkey children whose upbringing is contracted out to the family’s television set as both parents are out trying to scrape together enough to keep ahead of the credit card bills. And if this makes the kids hyper or out of control, there’s always Ritalin.

Trust me, George, there’s no chance of these kids developing anything that resembles values.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why experts are never wrong when they are wrong.

Dear George,

I was just reading another article that wonders why our military and economic experts are still listened to even though they have been wrong about everything.

The answer is obvious: They are still listened to because they are experts, and the American public has been conditioned to let experts do their thinking for them. If a person is not certified, licensed, accredited or acknowledged as an “expert” by the media, then his thoughts and ideas have no merit, and he is cowed into keeping his mouth shut.

An expert is never wrong because he is wrong. He is wrong because he didn’t have enough information, or his policy wasn’t carried out correctly or he was stabbed in the back or a liberal media undercut him. The reasons go on and on, but they all boil down to the same thing—if something doesn’t work, try more of the same.

The important thing is that an expert be incompetent because nothing undercuts policy like success. The longer a policy is implemented, the more public money flows into private pockets. Therefore, error is a crucial component of any policy.

The incompetent bind us to them with gossamer threads of error. The expert really shines when he has no idea of what he’s talking about.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Monday, March 16, 2009

Serving Justice

Dear George,

I hate to do this, but I’ve got to run a little history by you. On Dec. 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India released 42 tonnes of the highly toxic gas methyl isocynate gas into the atmosphere (emphasis mine).

To cut to the chase and to spare you the boring details, about 16,000 people died and a lot were injured. But that’s not the point.

The survivors sued in an American court. Carbide’s lawyers immediately moved to have the trial transferred to India because Indian courts don’t award punitive damages, and given the extent of Carbide’s negligence, such damages would have broken the company.

What is informative about this episode is the argument used by Carbide’s lawyers to justify moving the trial to India. It was more than just a legal argument; it was a wholesale justification of imperialism.

Sorry, but I’ve got to quote it at length.[1]

Indeed, the practical impossibility of American courts and juries, imbued with U.S. cultural values, living standards and expectations, to determine the damages for people living in slums or ‘hutment’ surrounding the UCIL [Union Carbide India, Limited] plant in Bhopal, India, by itself confirms that the Indian forum is overwhelmingly the most appropriate. Such abject poverty and the vastly different values, standards and expectations which accompany it are commonplace in India and the third world. They are incomprehensible to Americans in the United States.

Is that sweet, or is that sweet? The key phrase is “vastly different values”. It confirms what every world-class power has always known but never acknowledged: sanctimonious statements about the value of human life are bullshit. There is a hierarchy of human existence. Some lives are worth more than others, depending on whether they live in a suburban development or a slum.

We also see an example of the law at its finest! The beauty of the law is that it can sanitize anything. If you want to skirt justice, turn to the law. If you want to leech compassion and empathy from the human soul, turn to the law. If you wish to achieve a state of moral numbness, turn to the law. There are very few criminal activities that the law can’t justify, especially if private property is involved. After all, we are a country that yields to a fire truck faster than we yield to an ambulance.

Incidentally, the trial was transferred to India, Union Carbide was spared the punitive damages and American enterprise continued to prosper.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

[1] Quoted in The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Keeping 'em home.

Dear George,

Now I know how they do it!

For years I’ve wondered why Americans are such a docile lot. As the world economy collapses, there is marching in Europe, bonfires burning in front of Iceland’s parliament building and rioting in China. Yet, even as General Motors plans to dump 47,000 workers, as people lose their homes and as the middle class head for the nearest soup kitchen, there’s been nary a peep.

You see, George, in order to have a proper riot, people have to leave their houses. However, if they are too frightened to leave them, then no mob can form and, ergo! no riot or unseemly demonstration.

Then I stumbled across an article that mentioned a term used in psychology—availability heuristic. On the surface, the term seems to be another example of professional gobbledygook.

Believe me, it speaks volumes.

The article quoted an expert who explained, “Because we are constantly reminded, in the press, of threats from other people, we overestimate the chances of these events happening to us.”

Let me give you an example. Some years ago, there was a spate of stories about car jackings, and for a time, carjacking was the media’s “Threat of the Month”. The incidents of carjacking had remained about the same, but the simple fact that the media had shined a spotlight on them created the impression in the public’s mind that the threat was more eminent than it ever had been.

This is why the 24/7 cable news cycle is such an important instrument of social control. Nothing gives a threat gusto like a breathless anchor. And the threats are endless: terrorists, sexual predators stalking the internet for vulnerable children, illegal aliens stealing our jobs, drug dealers, youth gangs, assaults, rapes, robberies, homicides, defective products, tainted food, body odor and yellow teeth.

The beautiful thing is that this doesn’t even have to be a conspiracy! A news channel runs a story about the latest non-threatening threat and notices an uptick in its rating. So, it continues to go with it and the practice spreads. The state is happy because a frightened public is a docile public that will stay home, glued to the television, so they can stay apprised of the latest threat to their wellbeing.

So, instead of a grand conspiracy to render our democratic polity impotent, we have another example of blind momentum that just happened to work out.

The goal is to keep the proles isolated and afraid so they don’t coalesce into groups. Groups have a habit of engaging in debate and discussion that can lead for demands for democratic action. Democracy cannot provide the strong, leadership a world-class power needs. It is little more than mob rule. Granted, mobs can be brutal, but they are not capable of the systemic brutality essential for efficient leadership. No mob can call in an airstrike.

You can tell your cronies all is well on Main Street. The drones are all home watching television.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scattered Droplets of Inspiration.

Dear George,

My mind is scattered, splashed across the inside of my skull like the droplets from a stream of projectile vomit. I am unfocused and unsure, confused and in the dark, a blind man shoplifting goodies from the nearest Nordstrom’s.

It is in moments like these that your image is strongest in my heart.

Shored up by your iconic smirk, I issue forth…

They who whine that cuts in our defense budget would cost jobs don’t flinch at the thought of General Motors firing 47,000 workers. Of course there is a difference: GM is a component of the real economy while our defense budget in pure pork. GM’s downfall is that it doesn’t employ enough congressmen.

Private enterprise my close every retail store and manufacturing plant in a congressional district, but the district’s congressman remains unruffled as long as his district has at least one contract to produce a single component for a single weapon system that is not only useless, but will fail to perform as it’s supposed to do.

It matters not that we don’t have the money to support the Pentagon. All that matters is that directly, or indirectly, defense contractors employ every congressman.

On a slightly different note, I was glad to see Obama dismiss talk of nationalizing the banks as “blog talk”. Blogs must be marginalized because they are the voice of the people and the medium through which grievances are articulated. The Mainstream Media is helpful in this when they criticize blogs for their lack of “professionalism”. Professionalism is little more than a synonym for dehumanization, which is why it is such an important component of policy making. The role of the professional is to sanitize the gore left in empire’s wake.

Yes, George, from the rubble that was Europe at the end of World War II, Great Britain handed us the flag of World Empire. And now, sixty-four years later, Maggie’s drawers wave across the face of the globe, telling us that we’ve missed the target.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stoned Again!


Thunderbird and toking—Jesus, I love them! Earth spinning, wailing my prick to the heavens as the demiurge Jehovah did embrace me and join me to the St. Vitus dance of the free and the mad, spinning spin in the putrid green glow of their screens, blinking on the pale faces of the crazed made wise, pumping their keyboards in a frenzy of abstracted passion ‘til they spunk the milkmaid evil of brain-decayed intellects to explosions of blood and viscera, glowing in the vacant stares of the pinch-faced powerful, farting not flames but platitudes as their manicured fingers squeezed truffles out of road kill to the rattle of abstract equations made elegant as the broken and the shattered sing praise to the greater glory of the demiurge, praising the martyr’s death as he suffers the little children into the purifying flame ripping open their wounds with his nails that their blood might sanctify the holy ground of battle to the dry chants of formula and policy, consigning the dead to the glory of the Homeland as the scalpel of peace cuts away the rot of the old, slicing to the sound of a little child at play, then a blinding flash and a red smear and a child’s torn sneaker on a sidewalk, to the boom-boom symphony, played in the techno-fetish dawn of the new age of the St. Vitus dance of the free.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Down with the flu.

I shall return.


Friday, March 6, 2009

This is why it's so easy.

Dear George,

Listen up; I want to let you in on a little secret. The reason Wall Street is having such an easy time looting the U.S. Treasury has nothing to do with corruption or lobbyist or campaign payoffs to their congressional employees.

It all has to do with rhymes, as in nursery rhymes.

Millions, billions, trillions—they sound the same, so in the public’s eye they are pretty much the same.


Not necessarily.

There’s a handy little trick that puts the difference between the three into perspective. If you substitute seconds for dollars, you get the following relationship:

· A million seconds equals 11.7 days
· A billion seconds equals 32 years
· A trillion seconds equals 32000 years[1]

The following paragraph gives of summary of some of the looted funds that have found their way to Wall Street. After each figure, I have inserted the equivalent time in parenthesis:

The U.S. government has pledged more than $11.6 trillion (371,200 years) on behalf of the American taxpayers over the past 19 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Changes from the previous table, published Feb. 9, include a $787 billion (25,184 years) economic stimulus package. The Federal Reserve has new lending commitments totaling $1.8 trillion (57,600 years)…The U.S. Treasury also added $200 billion (6,400 years) to its support commitment for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…

Anyhow, you get the idea.

With a rhyming game like that it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby.

No wonder nobody pays attention.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

[1] Blastland & Dilton. The Numbers Game.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Constructive Anxiety

Dear George,

Hear, now, as I sing the praises of anxiety, that state of mind that is so dreaded it has become a permanent part of our collective psyche.

Power goes to him who can see anxiety as a constructive contribution to social stability. Because the drones can’t stand uncertainty, they seek the stability of escapism. Disneyland never changes, and that is their comfort and their succor.

This same dynamic produces the short-term thinking that is the bedrock of our “free” society. When the future looks like shit, all the proles want to do is stay in the “now”. For the anxious, the world shrinks and is reduced to the mantra, “I’ve got mine!” as they close their ears to the coda that whispers, “…for now.”

Anxiety has a bracing effect on religion. In the face of it religion jettisons God and replaces him with a pathological need for a dogmatic fortress. This creates the siege mentality in which all that is different is seen as a toxic threat.

In a world threatened by fantasies of the unknown and the unseen, the only viable response is untrammeled aggression. It is a world that demands torture, not treatment. Our rampart must be earthen works of violence. We must rain fire upon the earth, purging it of its impurities that threaten our freedom.

The state must keep the proles off balance. Let them have faith in nothing that they might embrace the empty and the vacuous with greater vigor. Let their jobs be swept away; let their children seek meaning with the pierced and the inked in the Holy Temple of the Mall. Let them see in the evening news the many threats, seen and unseen, that strangle their well being.

Let them taste the naked truth that ours is a feral economy that devours its children, and let them turn away from this truth and cover its face with the bland shroud of their anxiety.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Hidden Face of Military Genius

Dear George,

Many are the critics who accuse our military establishment of being sadly out of date. They charge that the Department of Defense is still geared to fight a traditional war against a de jure nation state with its compact political and industrial centers, complete with armies and navies engaged in set-piece battles.

The critics point out that such a strategy is as archaic as it is useless when confronting a guerrilla insurgency or when waging a war on terror. What the Pentagon has to do, they say, is lose all its expensive hi-tech hardware and concentrate its resources on labor intensive counterinsurgency operations.

These critics have a firm grasp on a half-truth. Yes, the face of warfare has indeed changed, but it is not the change the critics envision. Traditional warfare’s sole objective was once victory; now it is continuation. War is no longer an extension of policy, it is a revenue stream, and the longer it can be perpetuated, the more revenue will stream into our corporate coffers.

What we are seeing now is the birth of a new strategy known, unofficially, as the strategy of eternal continuance. This strategy is composed of the following components:

· An all-volunteer army
· A well behaved press corps that raises its hand and asks permission to speak
· Shiploads of useless, hi-tech military hardware
· A complete absence of either mission or purpose
· The employment of obsolete and outdated tactics

We are seeing this new strategy in use on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border (now known Afpak, a neat exercise in linguistic reductionism that makes the whole affair sound smaller than it really is.)

The overriding goal of the CIA’s covert war is to “decapitate” al Qaeda’s leadership by using Predator and Reaper drones to drop Hellfire missiles on them. As one critic points out:

What is hard for Washington to grasp is this: “decapitation”…is not a particularly effective strategy with a decentralized guerrilla or terror organization.

Of course it isn’t, and it was never intended to be. This brings us back to war as a revenue stream. Every Hellfire missile we drop on a gaggle of civilians costs taxpayers $70,000, and that money goes into the pocket of the defense contractor that has to replace the missile that was fired simply to require its replacement.

Couple that with the fact that the MQ-1 Predator Drone is a military beach bunny that can only go out when weather conditions are perfect. The Predator is so hi-tech it can’t function in bad weather, which is why they keep crashing at an additional cost to the taxpayer of $4.5 million each. To date, 12% of the Predator fleet has been lost.

Can’t you just hear that stream gurgling away?

Yes, George, what critics brand as military ineptitude is really military genius, and we can all sleep soundly knowing that even as our economy crashes, our defense industry will continue to thrive.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Guilt--who needs it?

Dear George,

I just read a piece about a bleeding heart who claims that if we fail to “master the past” by coming to terms with our nation’s crimes through law, atonement and reconciliation, then even those who did not participate in the crimes share the guilt. This speaker was German, so it follows that he’s really into atonement. We've not yet attained their numbers.

The writer goes on to say that, “In fact, buried deep in America’s moral high ground are the bones of millions of victims of whom most Americans seem oblivious.” Of course there are! What do you expect, given our pathological fetishization of power? No nation can achieve greatness without grinding up a few bones.

I fail to understand why people get worked up over atrocities. First off, they aren’t atrocities; they’re how we secure our entitlements whenever they are threatened. We’re entitled to Mideast oil, so we snuff anyone who gets in our way. As the Big Dick said, the American way of life is non-negotiable, and because it represents the highpoint of Man’s moral development, we are honor bound to defend it by fair means or foul.

All we have to do is reposition atonement by giving it an imperial spin. Obama seems to understand this. The same article tells us:

Several weeks ago, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed the establishment of a truth commission to investigate illegal practices by members of the Bush administration. Yet President Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to this, instead declaring that he wants to “get it right [by] moving forward.”

There you have imperial atonement: put it behind us and get busy ramping up our next atrocity. There’s no need for guilt or atonement as long as one Predator drone is still in the air looking for another wedding party to snuff.

World War II showed the world that we are the hero in a white hat that gunned down the outlaw. The simple fact that the hero went postal after that and started knocking off innocent bystanders in no way negates the good he did in killing the outlaw.

Guilt is only for those who remember the past. This is why America enjoys such a guilt-free life.

What past?

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are they serious?

Dear George,

It looks like you’ve got to take you minions out to the woodshed. And while you’re at it, tell Rush change his medication. The pills he’s popping are rotting his brain.

I see in the Sunday Times that the newest tactic of the Rabid Right is to brand Obama as a socialist.

Ewwww! Isn’t that a scary word? At least it was fifty years ago. However, that hasn’t stopped the Right from churning out bumper stickers that read, “Comrade Obama—USSA."

The problem with this tactic is that the only logical reply is to ask, “So, what has capitalism done for us lately?”

What has it done?

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why Trees Dance

Dear George,

Have you ever noticed how a tree dances, even on the stillest of days? The dance begins quietly at the base of the trunk and curves slowly upwards until it explodes as the leaves catapult into the sunlight.

Trees dance because they snookered humanity. When Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, he swallowed a seed. The seed took root, germinated and became the label, the epithet, the sobriquet, the designation and the grouping with which we mark, classify, categorize and dub the “Other”.

Without the label, there could be no slaughter or oppression. We can’t oppress Marilyn, but a “bitch” is easy. We’ll think twice about murdering Sam, but offing a “nigger” is a cakewalk.

If the state commits an atrocity against a label or a category, it is not an atrocity; it’s policy.

As Zappa’s talking dog once opined, “The crux of the biscuit is in the apostrophe.” The apostrophe makes the denial of our denial possible. Never say “don’t” (as in, we don’t murder, we only defend) because a denial is a tacit admission that what is denied might exist, but since we refuse to acknowledge the possibility of its existence, we cannot allow the possibility of its denial. (Have Laura explain that one to you.)

I mention this because the state is going to have to do a hell of a lot of labeling as we enter the Deindustrial Revolution.

You’ve heard all the talk about dot.com bubbles, housing bubbles and asset bubbles. Forget them all! They were mere blisters on the mother of all bubbles, the Industrial Revolution. Yes, George, that great outburst of human ingenuity and technological wizardry was little more than a bubble facilitated by cheap oil and a population that lived is sod huts and log cabins.

The tremor you feel under your feet is the mother bubble deflating. The markets are saturated, the consumers are tapped out, the oil wells are starting to run dry, and refinflation is a pipe dream. There ain’t no more return on investment other than funny money expressed as the numbers that dance across the financial world’s computer screens.

As one writer puts it:

It seems normal to most people that they should be able to invest their money and, as a matter of course, get back more than they put in. This reflects the dynamics of an expanding economy; if the production of real wealth is increasing, investments on average will increase in value over time to match the growth in real wealth, and the payback on investments reflects this. Outside of the special conditions of a growth economy, though, that logic no longer applies.

Guess what, Big Guy; the days of an expanding economy are no more, and that’s going to piss off a lot of people. So when granny straps a bomb to her chest and heads for the nearest Duane Reade because her drug coverage has been cancelled, she ain’t granny no more, she’s a “grey terrorist” whom the state can gun down with impunity.

And all the riff-raff that rises up and begins burning and looting are no longer our neighbors; they are “insurgents” who can be strafed and droned in the name of national security.

The tree did us a great favor when it gave Adam that seed. That’s why it dances; it got rid of it.

Have you ever seen a policymaker dance?

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones