Friday, 24 October 2008

US Elections: Raising the spectre of the "Stolen Election"

The media have been buzzing over the past few days with talk of possible irregularities in the upcoming US elections. The BBC are reporting a Warning over US election problems, suggesting record numbers turning out to vote and the new (and still dodgy) voting machines could cause havoc on the day. The Daily Telegraph is even more candid: Police fear riots if Barack Obama loses US election, explaining how SWAT teams are in place in Democratic areas to "deal with" problems should Obama's 5-13 point lead somehow mysteriously vanish and McCain end up the winner.

Manuscripts Don't Burn boils this down to a simple question. After the extremely dubious results of the last two US elections, which international observers were not allowed to attend, is the BushCo corporacy going to let go of power to a Democrat, particularly a populist bi-partisan Kennedy figure like Obama. It's a tough call. On the one side, with the economy on the verge of total collapse once the Credit Default Swap tsunami arrives (probably in January), it's not going to be an easy ride for whoever is running the country. However, the possibilities of increased authoritarianism which economic collapse brings is bound to appeal to the Cheney mindset, even if the increasing potential for heavy-handed control comes at the price of economic chaos.

So, twisting our arm, Manuscripts Don't Burn predicts that McCain - Palin will just scrape a victory, by the skin of their teeth, and Obama, like Gore and Kerry before him, will step back from contesting the results "in the interests of national unity". The media will attribute this to a "massive Republican grassroots response" and "increased voter turnout turning opinion polls on their heads". Yes, there will be huge irregularities, yes, the Diebold voting machines will be hammered for having no paper trail, yes, there will be riots and blood on the streets, but, at the end of the day, we don't believe BushCo will step down without a fight.

Of course, there is one good reason why Obama might still win - corporacy support. Despite the fact that he'll be prosecuting numerous banksters over the fraud of the economic collapse, he is possibly better for business right now than BushCo's endless expensive wars. A period of economic and political stability right now would allow the corporacy a breathing space to gather itself together for the next stage of the putsch - large-scale currency and regulatory trading blocs - and possible calm the increasingly restive masses with some acceptable leftist window-dressing and "I'm on your side" emoting. But that might presuppose that the corporacy actually gives a damn, which more and more it appears not to - witness the recent heavy-handed mass arrests during the Republican convention.

So, Manuscripts Don't Burn hazards a McCain win, whilst praying for Obama. The only other factor is the American people. Thank heavens the corporacy hasn't been able to disarm these guys yet, unlike the heavily surveilled masses in the UK.

The Pakistan Gambit (6): Pakistani Govt defies US

Things are moving quickly in Pakistan. Yesterday, the Guardian reported, the Pakistani parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for dialogue with extremist groups and an end to military action.

The US is unlikely to take this sitting down. There have already been a dozen US missile strikes inside Pakistan since September, and a ground assault, fuelling anti-US sentiment. But the US is clear on what it expects the Pakistani strategy to be. "Pakistan needs to and is attacking insurgents in its northern areas," said Patrick Moon, a deputy US assistant secretary of state. "Sanctuaries for Afghanistan Taliban in Pakistan complicate our security operations. Pakistani Taliban and other extremists such as al-Qaida are posing a threat to the stability of Pakistan."

But where do these Pakistani Taliban come from? Well, under a treaty with the tribes of northern Pakistan, the Pakistan army was not originally allowed to enter the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (a legacy of the British Raj). However - and note the savage irony - this accord broke down in 2004 under US pressure calling for al-Qaida bases to be disrupted. It sparked a tribal insurrection and pushed the locals towards extremism, creating a Pakistani Taliban.

The "Pakistani Taliban and other extremists" which the US is demanding the Pakistani government attacks are a direct result of US policy in Pakistan.

Manuscripts Don't Burn awaits the US response with interest. We would expect some major terrorist atrocity inside Pakistan, or perhaps even an attempt on the government. A military coup looks ever more likely.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Growth Junkies: Why we are here in the first place

Manuscripts Don't Burn continues to pillage the Guardian website today as extremely sound analysis of the financial meltdown develops. Next, blogger SocialistMike, furthering GolemXIV's analysis of the CDO tsunami with an analysis of the relentless capitalist drive for growth - what got us into this insane situation in the first place.


"Golem is right about the CDS nightmare hanging over the financial system, but doesn't touch on why we are in the crisis.

"It is because of over-production of commodities and a resulting over-extension of commercial activity and credit. Profits are great in the upturn and it is all reinvested in more machines, more warehouses and transport, more commodities and yet more profit. Soon markets become saturated as the workers producing the goods, whose wages have been held down to boost profits (trickle down etc), can no longer afford to buy what they produce and have to turn to credit, supplied by the very same growing profits of production and retail.

"We have a circuit of capital: investment, consumption, profit, reinvestment. The more profit the more loan capital is available for more credit, both to producers, distributors and consumers. The more loan capital is available the harder it is to find profit from actual production so speculation in credit and future profits starts, based on the loans that producers give to sellers, that sellers give to consumers, on what commodities and assets are expected to return in the future, etc etc. Paper money (meaning bonds, shares, futures, commercial paper etc) comes to replace and equal real money in tradeable value producing more 'profits' that need to be reinvested but with nowhere to go except back into ever higher levels of abstracted speculation in paper. But suddenly the cracks in reality can no longer be covered up. There is a dawning realisation that most of this credit will not be paid back, that it alone is supporting the whole of production and comsumption. Panic ensues.

"Crises are always caused by the same thing - an unequal distribution of the proceeds leads to over production relative to consumption as each capitalist and investor seeks the hightest profit for themselves in a reducing sphere of opportunity.

"Capitalism forces all of us - bosses and workers - to dance to its tune. There is no choice for a capitalist in an upturn - they must competitively reinvest for greater profit or be eaten alive thereby bringing on the crisis - or a downturn - their capital is tied up in unsold commodities and credit is suddenly unavailable from the banks so there are firesales and firings, cutbacks and economies all contibuting furhter to the crisis.

"They must act as a herd; there is no room for reason and objectivity at any stage of the capitalist process of production for any of those involved in it, which is everyone."


Manuscripts Don't Burn has constantly argued against our society being structured for the benefit of the economy (as a mathematical construct) rather than for the benefit of its members - which invariably leads to the nonsense we see today. As Gandhi famously said, what's so great about growth anyway? Growth is the mantra of late Imperialist capitalism, and it needs to be exposed for the hollow, inhuman dogma it is. In its drive for ever greater "efficiency", more and more people are laid off, fewer people are asked to do more work, prices are cut, and eventually no one can afford the goods they are producing. Hey presto - 2008, and people are buying their food on credit cards.

Manuscripts Don't Burn notes the increasing howls of anger and outrage from around the world as the powers that be stuff their pockets and jump the sinking ship whilst the rest of us are left to drown. We also note the increasing polarization into extreme left and extreme right in public opinion - so wearyingly familiar. Dumbing down the education system so that no one knows their history may make people easier to control, but it does mean we just keep on making the same old mistakes.

Manuscripts Don't Burn can see no option other than a re-creation of the labor movement, with all the government oppression, thuggery, and violence that entails. The labor movement and union power was not created because it was "just", "right" or "cool" - it was created because people were starving and the rich-sponsored police clubbed down anyone who complained. Tony Benn once lauded our system for being able to change government without there being blood on the streets: Manuscripts Don't Burn fears those days are over, and agitation and mobilization is the only way out. Every now and then it behoves a generation to fight for the lives of those still to come; Manuscripts Don't Burn had hoped to get through without it happening to us. Sadly, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

The Tsunami Offshore: the on-coming CDS meltdown

The blogosphere has been buzzing the past few weeks with talk of the huge Credit Default Swap tsunami currently being held offshore by the global bail-out. Speculation is that it'll come crashing in shortly after the US elections - the stability of which is the main reason our futures have been hocked.

This morning blogger GolemXIV posted the following summary of where we're currently at on the Guardian website. Manuscripts Don't Burn cannot better it, so with due credit to GolemIV, we'd like to post it in its entirety. You can see the original here.

"We are entering the second and more dangerous phase of this financial melt down. As corporations begin to go down the CDS and CDO's written on their debt will blow up.

"When they do, the holders lose massive amounts of money. They are losing often 90 cents in every dollar. Most of the institutions making these losses are also still highly leveraged. This means a small loss is enough to force them to have to raise more real cash to cover their losses and replace their capital holdings.

"To raise the cash they have to sell assets, call in debts or seek yet more help from the governments.

"Selling assets is depressing the value of those asset types on the market making all the other holders of that kind of asset a little bit poorer. Bringing them, in turn, a little closer to having to sell themselves.

"Calling in debts forces those from whom you call in the debts closer to bankruptcy. This is the situation with Gmac the finance arm of GM. It is virtually bankrupt and may file very soon. To stave that off, Gmac is forcing the GM dealers to whom it has loaned money to pay up. They are starting to go bust. They default on loans and round we go.

"Sovereign nations have been offering themselves as the backstop to every bad debt brought to them. If they don't stop NOW they will find their own debt, sovereign national debt, is down graded. This may happen to US national debt quite soon.

"Once that happens we are facing a Bond market dislocation. After that I won't be writing any more as there will be no point.

"This is NOT a liquidity crisis it is a Solvency crisis. The banks are insolvent. They know it. It is why they won't lend. The only lending they are doing is on the basis of the real cash the governments have injected. The governments have essentially created little banks inside the carcasses of the banks who are still poisoning the financial stream with all the worthless and toxic debt backed paper they refuse to admit is worthless.

"The banks and governments have refused to admit these assets are worthless. Refused to force them out and to take the losses and begin to rebuild.

"All that is happening is the real worthlessness of the paper is leaking out slowly as one entity after another is poisoned and goes under. Basically the stuff is putrefying and leaking out.

"This isn't rocket science. Even though the bankers would like you to think it is.

"Imagine a group of men walking across an ice sheet. They are roped together for safety. Or as the financial world characterizes it - to spread the risk. Great in theory. But each man is carrying an anvil of debt. One man, lets call him Lehman, falls through. The ropes tighten, everybody stops still. No one can move. Lending stops.

"What they should do is collectively put down their anvils and let them slip down the hole Lehman made. Huge losses but the ice is safe, then hole doesn't widen. But none of them will do this. Each is convinced that one day their anvil of debt will turn to gold and they'll be rich once more. So they stand there slowly dragging each other towards the hole.

"As they get pulled closer together, their combined weight threatens to crash the entire ice sheet. The bad news is WE are all living on that sheet."

The Pakistan Gambit (5): Who Pays the Piper...

Manuscripts Don't Burn is noting with interest the continued development of the Neocon strategic agenda in the Middle East / Iran / Pakistan / Central Asian region, as Pakistan is now brought to its knees due to financial aid to the country having been stalled since June. Last week President Zardari travelled to China, having expressed reluctance to seek US financial aid due to the political strings attached - following recent US incursions into Pakistani territory, including bombing of civilians, schools, etc, on the border, overt pro-Americanism is a political no-no. China clearly said "no" (now why would they do that?), and now Zardari finds himself having to eat his words and go cap-in-hand to the IMF asking for his very own bail-out.

And the cost of all this? An estimated $6bn - cheap given the recent $700bn bank bail-out. And, in return, the US would be able to impose "conditions" rather unpleasant to the democratically elected Zardari.

Manuscripts Don't Burn would playfully like to offer the following scenario: the IMF approach, whether successful or not, will trigger further huge political instability in Pakistan, with, in all likelihood, Zardari shortly falling from power, to be replaced by a far more compliant pro-US non-elected military governorship. With UN oversight, of course, and a nice big fat "peacekeeping force" to make sure everything goes according to plan. Unless, of course, Mr Zardari is willing to play ball, and assume the position...

Or, well, maybe we just have to invade Pakiranistan after all...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Welcome to the Revolution...

Today our societies suffer from a massive disconnect between the world we *think* we live in, and the world we actually live in. Thanks to the propaganda fed to us every day of our lives, we think we live in a "modern" world of democracy, freedom of speech, and individual liberty. In actual fact we live in a world which is barely post-feudal, encumbered by Imperialist caste systems and hierarchies, and switching over from late Imperialism to proto-fascism (call it "corporate feudalism" if you will) during our lifetimes. Note the distinct lack of words like "freedom" and "democracy" in the above.

Marketing and window-dressing is all - the virtuosity of spin. Even in the Middle Ages, when people were chopping one another up on the flimsiest of pretexts and with alarming alacrity, the prevailing dogma was a Candidean "all for the best in the best of all possible worlds", that the state was structured "as God ordained it", and that the world was one of universal brotherhood and love. When of course nothing could be further than the truth. It should give all of us pause when we blather on about freedom and democracy - the West is a loose mercantile coalition of one party states masquerading as two party states. The reason the US elections pretty much fall 50/50 each time is because people vote pretty much randomly - there are no real issues to distinguish them. "What color chains do you want today?"

To paraphrase Orwell, revolution never comes from the "proles". Western history documents several so-called revolutions - English in the 17th century, American and French in the 18th century, a close call Europe-wide in 1848, the Russian in 1905-17, Chinese in 1949, etc, etc. In none of these were the leaders from the working class; quite the opposite, they were from the disgruntled mercantile classes, looking to remove the glass-ceilings of inherited privilege. And they worked - but only by recruiting the proles to their side by LOTS of egalitarian-sounding marketing.

We are facing a similar Revolution today. Twenty years ago the Cold War began to crumble. Since then, the old guard have struggled to stay in power - finding us a new Bogey Man (in a beard and turban this time) to drum up population-controlling fear, and desperately trying to keep the old oppositional us-and-them confrontation going to feed the military-industrial complex which drove 20th century history from start to finish. With the most Orwellian of irony, the old world order even tried to sell itself to us as the New World Order. Some people bought it; someone always does.

But there is a bunch of mitteltier rebels out there trying to break the NWO glass ceiling; and it's the merchants, again. There are resources *everywhere* available for exploitation today, and the corporate feudalists want to *get at them*! In every Western country over the past decade we've seen corporate interests and government interests gradually become the same - actually the definition of fascism - but in clear opposition (most of the time) to the OWO/NWO.

Hence today's Revolution. The OWO/NWO is collapsing under the weight of its own inertia; in its place, a much more agile corporacy, perhaps not quite global yet, but heading in that direction. As with most Revolutions, its going to be disturbing to the peace of all of us for a while, but, uniquely, perhaps, this time, our New Masters, the corporate feudalists, would like to keep us Consuming and Producing just as before - it's simply the agenda that's changed. There's been a coup d'etat in the West.

Tragically, the rest of us are left blinking in the rubble, clutching our smoke-and-mirrors dreams of a free modern world of liberty and fraternity in tatters to our chests. To quote Starship Troopers (!), the only freedom any of us ever really have is figuring things out for ourselves. Bitter comfort, when you may be losing your house and savings to "historical necessity".

The trouble with Marx is that Lenin gave us the idea we could shortcut the historical dialectic, somehow jumping from "post-feudal late Imperialism" to "socialism-building-communism" in one fell swoop, hurdling possibly centuries of social development in a single bound. The aftermath of the Russian revolution gave the lie to Leninism. But Marx is still in there - we inch one step forwards, as capitalism comes face-to-face with its own contradictions when placed on a global stage. Now we get to post-capitalism - a kind of managed version of what we had, with hopefully some greater social controls. But, dang, is this social progress thing ever a slow business...

HG Wells in "The Shape of Things to Come" predicted total economic collapse and a century of rigorous self re-education before our society could reach some form of sensible organization. Here at Manuscripts Don't Burn we think that's optimistic; last week the US spent TEN TIMES the sum it would take to deal with global hunger on a "bailout" of its banking system, so we have a way to go yet before the era of universal brotherhood dawns.

Perhaps this is the eternal paradox of the intellectual. The world *could* be a paradise, if only people were... well, different... not like they are... weren't people, basically... if only they were more like us here at Manuscripts Don't Burn... oh, bother... ;-)

In this hinterland of history at the tale end of the Middle Ages, we can offer only this advice, from a dear friend who happens to run a Swiss bank investment company in the City in London: Keep it local. Show, don't tell. Create functioning communities and networks *where you are*. Sidestep the corporacy and create your own alternative system. Rebel in small things; don't watch advertising; don't follow the demands of the herd to be "alternative" in acceptable ways. Keep smiling, and crack targeted jokes. Never just mumble and let another overt oppression take place.

As the ex-mayor of London said, if voting changed anything, they'd abolish it.

Cause for hope or despondency? Manuscripts Don't Burn votes for Hope - at the price of eternal vigilance. Our civilization has a long way to go yet before it reaches the place our propaganda tells us it's already at. But that's no reason not to keep heading in that direction. It *is* the right direction.