Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bernie to Propose the Full-Socialist-Monty - A Government Directed (Militarized) Command Economy

from The Hill
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is set to announce a federal jobs proposal that would guarantee a job with at least a $15-per-hour wage and health benefits to every adult American “who wants or needs one,” The Washington Post reports.

The senator is still in the early stages of crafting the plan, according to the Post, which would provide a job or required training for any American.

Sanders's office has yet to release the details of the plan's funding, but previous large-scale projects proposed by the Vermont progressive have involved ending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

The Vermont senator joins two other possible 2020 contenders, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who have also expressed support for similar proposals in recent weeks.

“The goal is to eliminate working poverty and involuntary unemployment altogether,” Darrick Hamilton, an economist at The New School, told the Post.

“This is an opportunity for something transformative, beyond the tinkering we've been doing for the last 40 years, where all the productivity gains have gone to the elite of society.”

Critics of federal jobs proposals say that government intervention to raise wages could lead to private businesses cutting costs in other areas, including hiring fewer employees. Sanders is a longtime advocate of "Fight for 15," the national movement aimed at raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The proposal would have trouble gaining enough Democratic support to get real traction and conservatives have long said a jobs promise is unsustainable and unaffordable, citing costs, the effects on the private sector and the possibility of inflation.

“It completely undercuts a lot of industries and companies,” Brian Riedl of the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute told the Post. “There will be pressure to introduce a higher wage or certain benefits that the private sector doesn't offer.”

Sanders has not announced a 2020 presidential run but has left his options open. He was notably the country's most popular active politician in a Harvard-Harris poll last year.

The Vermont senator will be 79 years old on Election Day in 2020, four years after losing to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.
I wonder who would get to be the head of "Central Planning" for Benie's new economy.

Friday, April 20, 2018

American Foreign Policy Since WWII, a Success Story!

The MeToo Generation Walkout Redux - 4/20/18

Don't you love it when the next generation discovers just how easily it can be manipulated by Hollywood implanted values, social media and advertisers? Way to stand up for your "authentic" selves and display just what you're made up of to the world!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Corporatocratic Vampire

U.S. Compensation as a % of GDR
from Wikipedia
Edmund Phelps published an analysis in 2010 theorizing that the cause of income inequality is not free market capitalism, but instead is the result of the rise of corporatization. Corporatization, in his view, is the antithesis of free market capitalism. It is characterized by semi-monopolistic organizations and banks, big employer confederations, often acting with complicit state institutions in ways that discourage (or block) the natural workings of a free economy. The primary effects of corporatization are the consolidation of economic power and wealth, with end results being the attrition of entrepreneurial and free market dynamism.

His follow-up book, Mass Flourishing, further defines corporatization by the following attributes: power-sharing between government and large corporations (exemplified in the U.S. by widening government power in areas such as financial services, healthcare, energy, law enforcement/prison systems, and the military through regulation and outsourcing), an expansion of corporate lobbying and campaign support in exchange for government reciprocity, escalation in the growth and influence of financial and banking sectors, increased consolidation of the corporate landscape through merger and acquisition (with ensuing increases in corporate executive compensation), increased potential for corporate/government corruption and malfeasance, and a lack of entrepreneurial and small business development leading to lethargic and stagnant economic conditions.

United States

Labor's share of GDP has declined 1970 to 2013, measured based on total compensation as well as salaries and wages. This implies capital's share is increasing.

In the United States, several of the characteristics described by Phelps are apparent. With regard to income inequality, the 2014 income analysis of University of California, Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez confirms that relative growth of income and wealth is not occurring among small and mid-sized entrepreneurs and business owners (who generally populate the lower half of top one per-centers in income), but instead only among the top .1 percent of income distribution ... whom Paul Krugman describes as "super-elites – corporate bigwigs and financial wheeler-dealers."... who earn $2,000,000 or more every year.
from the Huffington Post (2011)
Polls show that on the major issues of our time — the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts and health insurance — the opinion of We the People has been ignored on a national level for quite some time. While the corporate media repeats the myth that the United States of America is a democracy, Americans, especially Wisonsiners and Ohioans, know that this is a joke.

On March 3, 2011, a Rasmussen Reports poll declared that “Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers.” This of course didn’t stop Wisconsin Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature from passing a bill that — to the delight of America’s ruling class — trashed most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Similarly in Ohio, legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public workers is on the verge of being signed into law by Governor Kasich, despite the fact that Public Policy Polling on March 15, 2011 reported that 54 percent of Ohio voters would repeal the law, while 31 percent would keep it.

It is a myth that the United States of America was ever a democracy (most of the famous founder elite such as John Adams equated democracy with mob rule and wanted no part of it). The United States of America was actually created as a republic, in which Americans were supposed to have power through representatives who were supposed to actually represent the American people. The truth today, however, is that the United States is neither a democracy nor a republic. Americans are ruled by a corporatocracy: a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

The reality is that Americans, for quite some time, have opposed the U.S. government’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but We the People have zero impact on policy. On March 10-13, 2011, an ABC News/Washington Post poll asked, “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?”; 64 percent said “not worth fighting” and 31 percent said “worth fighting.” A February 11, 2011, CBS poll reported Americans’ response to the question, “Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?”; only 37 percent of Americans said the U.S. “is doing the right thing” and 54 percent said we “should not be involved.” When a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll on December 17-19, 2010, posed the question, “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?” only 35 percent of Americans favored the war while 63 percent opposed it. For several years, the majority of Americans have also opposed the Iraq war, typified by a 2010 CBS poll which reported that 6 out of 10 Americans view the Iraq war as “a mistake.”

The opposition by the majority of Americans to current U.S. wars has remained steady for several years. However, if you watched only the corporate media’s coverage of the 2010 election between Democratic and Republican corporate-picked candidates, you might not even know that America was involved in two wars — two wars that are not only opposed by the majority of Americans but which are also bankrupting America.

How about the 2008 Wall Street bailout? Even when Americans believed the lie that it was only a $700 billion bailout, they opposed it; but their opinion was irrelevant. In September 2008, despite the corporate media’s attempts to terrify Americans into believing that an economic doomsday would occur without the bailout, Americans still opposed it. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll in September 2008, asked, “Do you think the government should use taxpayers’ dollars to rescue ailing private financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy and market, or is it not the government’s responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayers’ dollars?”; only 31 percent of Americans said we should “use taxpayers” dollars while 55 percent said it is “not government’s responsibility.” Also in September 2008, both a CBSNews/New York Times poll and a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Americans opposed the bailout. This disapproval of the bailout was before most Americans discovered that the Federal Reserve had loaned far more money to “too-big-to-fail” corporations than Americans had been originally led to believe (The Wall Street Journal reported on December 1, 2010, “The US central bank on Wednesday disclosed details of some $3.3 trillion in loans made to financial firms, companies and foreign central banks during the crisis.”)

What about health insurance? Despite the fact that several 2009 polls showed that Americans actually favored a “single-payer” or “Medicare-for-all” health insurance plan, it was not even on the table in the Democrat-Republican 2009-2010 debate over health insurance reform legislation. And polls during this debate showed that an even larger majority of Americans favored the government providing a “public option” to compete with private health insurance plans, but the public option was quickly pushed off the table in the Democratic-Republican debate. A July 2009 Kaiser Health Tracking poll asked, “Do you favor or oppose having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all?” In this Kaiser poll, 58 percent of Americans favored a Medicare-for-all universal plan, and only 38 percent opposed it — and a whopping 77 percent favored “expanding Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64 who do not have health insurance.” A February 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 59 percent of Americans say the government should provide national health insurance. And a December 2009 Reuters poll reported that, “Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation.”

In the U.S. corporatocracy, as in most modern tyrannies, there are elections, but the reality is that giant corporations and the wealthy elite rule in a way to satisfy their own self-interest. In elections in a corporatocracy, as is the case in elections in all tyrannies, it’s in the interest of the ruling class to maintain the appearance that the people have a say, so more than one candidate is offered up. In the U.S. corporatocracy, it’s in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that the winning candidate is beholden to them, so they financially support both Democrats and Republicans. It’s in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that there are only two viable parties—this cuts down on bribery costs. And it’s in the interest of these two parties that they are the only parties with a chance of winning.

In the U.S. corporatocracy, corporations and the wealthy elite directly and indirectly finance candidates, who are then indebted to them. It’s common for these indebted government officials to appoint to key decision-making roles those friendly to corporations, including executives from these corporations. And it’s routine for high-level government officials to be rewarded with high-paying industry positions when they exit government. It’s common and routine for former government officials to be given high-paying lobbying jobs so as to use their relationships with current government officials to ensure that corporate interests will be taken care of.

The integration between giant corporations and the U.S. government has gone beyond revolving doors of employment (exemplified by George W. Bush’s last Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who had previously been CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Barack Obama’s first chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers who in 2008 received $5.2 million from hedge fund D. E. Shaw). Nowadays, the door need not even revolve in the U.S. corporatocracy; for example, when President Obama earlier in 2011 appointed General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as a key economic advisor, Immelt kept his job as CEO of General Electric.

The United States is not ruled by a single deranged dictator but by an impersonal corporatocracy. Thus, there is no one tyrant that Americans can first hate and then finally overthrow so as to end senseless wars and economic injustices. Revolutions against Qaddafi-type tyrants require enormous physical courage. In the U.S. corporatocracy, the first step in recovering democracy is the psychological courage to face the humiliation that we Americans have neither a democracy nor a republic but are in fact ruled by a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

Friday, April 13, 2018

2018 Maryland Legislative Wrap-Up

from the Baltimore Sun
Maryland lawmakers will leave Annapolis Tuesday having resolved some of the costliest and most controversial issues of their four-year term — setting aside election-year politics to pass gun-control legislation, stave off the potential collapse of the state’s Obamacare market, deliver targeted tax relief and become the first state to regulate political ads on Facebook.

The General Assembly’s annual 90-day marathon of lawmaking involved a record 3,100 bills and showcased unusual bipartisanship, which leaders of both parties said was meant to demonstrate a contrast to gridlocked Washington.

“These are such challenging times, and you’ve got to sink or swim,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat. “We decided we were going to join hands and get things done.”

House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, a Republican, explained it this way: “Voters are punishing politicians who don’t work together and solve problems.”

The Democrat-dominated legislature and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan worked together to address issues that have bedeviled Congress.

State leaders responded to gun violence and school shootings with a ban on bump stocks — a device used in the Las Vegas massacre to rapidly fire on a concert goers. They also passed legislation to enhance school security, requiring local districts to have trained school resource police officers or an arrangement with local police to respond quickly to threats.

They bridged a divide between tough sentences for violent offenders and violence prevention, crafting a broad response to Baltimore’s record homicide rate last year. The legislation increases funding for the Safe Streets program while also imposing new mandatory minimum sentences for people who repeatedly use guns in crimes.

Lawmakers passed modest tax relief to alleviate rising state tax bills, the inadvertent consequence of federal tax reform passed in Washington last year.

They approved what could be an $8.5 billion incentive package to lure Amazon’s next headquarters to Maryland, the largest publicly known offer in the country.

And leaders of both parties launched a behind-the-scenes effort to shore up Obamacare with a $380 million tax on insurance companies meant to prevent premium increases of up to 50 percent for people buying insurance on the health exchange. Hogan said that bill will be among the roughly 120 he intends to sign Tuesday morning in Annapolis, surrounded by Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

On Monday afternoon, the governor was heralding what he called “probably our most successful session out of all four years.”

“A lot of smart people in Annapolis and pundits and reporters and people who follow State House politics said, ‘You’ll never get anything done in an election year. That all we’re going to do is fight and call people names, and it’s all going to to be about politics,’ ” Hogan said. “There was almost none of that.”

Of course, there was some of that.

The session opened in January with a swift override of Hogan’s veto of a mandatory paid sick leave law and closed this month with another flexing of Democratic strength. Lawmakers, on a party-line vote, passed a bill curtailing the governor’s role in the school construction process, and again overrode the veto that followed.

As a result, most Maryland companies will have to provide paid sick leave for their workers, and future decisions about which schools get built will rest with an independent commission.

Some high-profile and partisan initiatives failed, including the governor’s push for term limits for lawmakers and progressive Democrats’ call for a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Neither ever advanced to a committee vote.

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s effort to expand the craft beer industry resulted instead in a bill to study whether he should continue regulating alcohol.

On the final day of session, Franchot — a Democrat whose role in the school construction process was also diminished — joined a rally in front of the State House calling to oust Miller from his leadership role. It’s a position Miller has held since 1987, longer than any other Senate president in the country.

Franchot said he plans to go door to door in Miller’s Calvert County district between now and Election Day to “talk to voters about what went on here” and “about the need for honest government.”

Lawmakers responded to the #metoo cultural movement by passing new rules and public reporting requirements to root out and prevent sexual harassment in Annapolis. An independent investigator will be required anytime a lawmaker is accused of misconduct more than once.

Monday marked the end of several decades-long General Assembly careers for high-ranking Democrats in the legislature. More than 40 people in the 141-member House of Delegates will not be returning next year and posed for photo.

“I missed the picture,” Del. Frank Turner said with a sigh. The Howard County Democrat spent 24 years in the General Assembly, most recently as vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee. He led the floor debate to legalize gambling and to increase the gas tax, which is currently paying for billions in infrastructure projects. Turner is retiring this year, and negotiated late into the night trying to reach a deal that would give free community college tuition to all Maryland high school graduates who need it.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “I’ve spent 2,100 days on this floor.”

Lawmakers this year passed bills that had languished for years, including legislation to revoke parental rights of rapists, to increase a long-neglected child care voucher for the working poor and to dedicate $167 million annually to help fix Baltimore’s aging subway system.

They also banned conversion therapy for LGBT people under 18 and pet store sales of dogs from so-called puppy mills. They passed laws to make it a crime for police to have sex with people in their custody and to set higher fines for texting while driving.

On the final day of the 2018 legislative session, some advocates were working right up to the midnight deadline, bouncing from office to office trying to rally votes for their causes.

Gene Ransom, chief executive of Med-Chi, the Maryland State Medical Society, worked until nearly midnight to defeat a bill that would have made it easier for trial lawyers to present expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases.

“It’s a classic fight — lawyers vs. doctors — you don’t get more Annapolis than that,” Ransom said.

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary was mourning the apparent demise of her proposal to raise the state’s minimum marriage age, which is now 15. The Senate was refusing to go higher than 16, and the House wouldn’t go lower than 17.

“That’s unacceptable,” Atterbeary said.

The Howard County Democrat sponsored successful bills this session that will make it easier to convict serial rapists and to seize guns from people convicted of domestic violence crimes. But the last-day setback still stung.

“I should be ecstatic,” she said. “But I feel like crying.”

Last year at the same time, Del. Cheryl D. Glenn was nearly in tears after a deal collapsed to expand the fledgling medical marijuana industry to include black-owned firms, which did not win a single license to grow the drug. This year, what she called a better version of the bill passed early on the final day, so she spent the afternoon hand writing thank-you notes to the Democrats and Republicans who got it passed. She ordered 100 gold cannabis leaf pins for everyone to wear at the bill signing.

“The speaker always says this is the ultimate team sport, and this is a great example of that,” Glenn said.

Voters will see another bipartisan issue on their ballots in November when they’ll be asked to amend the state’s constitution to create a “lock box” for the money generated by casinos. The idea is to make sure the gambling money is used to increase funding for schools, not supplant existing revenue.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, a Baltimore County Republican, said it took compromise to pass school safety legislation that he called the most important accomplishment of the session.

The price of compromise meant that he wasn’t totally happy with the finished product.

“Unfortunately, it’s not as tough and as strong as I wished,” Jennings said. “I want an armed police officer in my child’s school at all times.”

House Speaker Busch, a Democrat, said he had expected this election-year session to be filled with acrimony given the nation’s political climate, not bipartisan accomplishment.

“No one succeeds down here unless you work together,” Busch said. Maryland residents “want that — for all of us to be mature adults down here.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Syrian Trap

from McClatchy
While we were sleeping, Russia, Iran and Turkey made an ominous deal

There can’t possibly be that many Russians of importance left to sanction. But President Donald Trump has laid more economic restrictions on Russia, Russians and Russian companies, described as the most punitive yet, for a variety of evil-doings in recent years.

Forget for a moment that every president loudly announces such sanctions, which then are largely forgotten by everybody. If there’s any Russian (or Iranian or North Korean) dense enough to still keep assets in these United States, maybe they don’t really care about them. And if President Vladimir Putin has buckled to pull troops out of Crimea after four years of escalating U.S. sanctions, no one’s noticed.

All this, mixed with Trump’s poorly-explained trade tariff tiff with China and his abnormal normal White House chaos, has managed successfully to distract from development of an unholy Middle Eastern alliance that should cause serious concerns, not just for the White House.

Last week Putin, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s strongman Tayyip Erdogan completed a successful summit in Ankara by announcing their new partnership to establish a ceasefire in Syria and to start rebuilding the war-ravaged land that is ravaged in large part by their own forces.

All this without even an FYI to the U.S. administration that once played a major role in the oil-rich region. It’s a continuation of Putin’s deft power-plays to restore Russian influence well beyond its own borders and especially within the tumultuous Middle East. It’s been years in the making and benefited from Barack Obama’s inept inactions.

Remember Obama’s unscripted red-line threat about Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people? With Russian knowledge, Syria’s Bashir al-Assad defiantly did just that. Obama didn’t really want to do anything. He looked weak. Putin offered to broker the phony destruction of all those lethal gases, which bailed out Obama and cemented Putin’s influence in Syria.

Last year Assad gassed civilians again. Within 48 hours on Trump’s orders, five dozen cruise missiles devastated the launching airbase. They repeated the gas attack this month. Trump has threatened new retaliation.

Nonetheless, Trump’s instincts are to abandon the region, which much of his staunch base approves. He recently announced a complete pullout from Syria of about 2,000 special operations advisers helping Kurdish and Syrian rebels fight Assad and destroy ISIS, now holed up in one last hardened stronghold.

As they had with Trump’s desire to leave Afghanistan, his advisers, mainly Defense Secretary James Mattis convinced him to walk that back. Their valid argument being such hasty retreats would leave the same power vacuum as Obama’s hasty 2011 troop withdrawal from Iraq, which allowed ISIS to spawn and flourish in the first place. Not to mention once again abandoning loyal Kurdish fighters.

Turkey is allegedly a NATO ally, allowing U.S. planes to fly against ISIS from Incirlik. But Erdogan regards the Kurds as terrorists and has now thrown in his lot with Putin and Iran. NATO’s European members will not do much because Turkey currently houses 3.5 million Syrian refugees and if Erdogan opened that human spigot, they would flood into Europe causing economic and political turmoil.

To cement Russian influence in Turkey, Putin is building a $20 billion nuclear reactor there and has just sold Erdogan $2.5 billion in sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to use against someone’s planes.

That’s the same self-serving economic infiltration Putin used to tie Iran’s militant mullahs to Moscow. As the world’s largest exporter of terror, Iran has sent 100,000 troops to bolster Assad. There, they buy influence with Damascus, get priceless combat experience and advanced training from Russian advisers for use someday against someone.

Iran now has a direct landline through Syria to support its terror partners in Hezbollah right on the borders of Israel, where Trump may visit next month. Much as Iran is arming and supporting Yemen’s Houthi rebels to destabilize Saudi Arabia.

Still pending this spring is Trump’s anticipated decision to abandon completely Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Tehran maintains that will free it to resume full-scale weapons development, which will likely prompt the Saudis to do the same. Trump has threatened to – wait for it – slap sanctions back on Iran.

Sound familiar?
Has the Time Come to Openly Arm the Kurds?
The Last Time Gas was Released in Syria

We Fight...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Is the Nascent Trade War with China Driving UP Trump's Poll Numbers?

from Rasmussen Reports
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 51% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-eight percent (48%) disapprove.

The latest figures include 33% who Strongly Approve of the way Trump is performing and 38% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -5. (see trends).

This is the president’s best overall job approval rating since April of last year. President Obama earned a 46% job approval rating on April 4, 2010, his second year in office.
from CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Wednesday tried to tamp down economic anxieties over tariffs recently announced by China and the United States.

"We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.," Trump tweeted, adding, "Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!"

He later tweeted, "When you're already $500 Billion DOWN, you can't lose!"

Trump's proclamation comes amid a tit-for-tat on trade restrictions that he decided to engage in.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration published a list of about 1,300 Chinese exports -- worth about $50 billion annually -- that it intends to target with 25% tariffs. China responded on Wednesday, with its Ministry of Commerce announcing plans to impose its own 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of US exports. The 106 affected products will include aircraft, cars and soybeans.

The escalating exchange of tariffs has many analysts -- and markets -- fearing a potential trade war.

US stocks were poised to open sharply lower on Wednesday after China announced its plans.

Last month, after the administration announced that the US would impose steel and aluminum tariffs, Trump tweeted that "trade wars are good."
"When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win," he tweeted. "Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore-we win big. It's easy!"
Polling from before the election (July of 2016) on Trade:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Enemy of the Deep State

Julian Assange has been silenced again, and the timing is most suspicious. With the Cambridge Analytica story dominating the news, it seems some powerful people have reasons to keep the brave WikiLeaks boss quiet right now.

Ecuador is a small country, and one can only imagine the brutal behind-the-scenes pressure exerted on it by Western powers to increase the isolation of Julian Assange from the public space. Now, his internet access has been cut off and many of his visitors are refused access, thus rendering a slow social death to a person who's spent almost six years confined to an apartment at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

This happened before, for a short period around the time of the US elections, but back then it was a reaction to WikiLeaks publishing documents which could have affected the outcome of the Trump/Clinton race, while there is no such excuse now. Because, currently, Assange’s “meddling” in international relations consists only of publishing on the web his opinions about the Catalonia crisis and the Skripal poisoning scandal. So why such brutal action now, and why did it cause so little uproar in the public opinion?

As for the second question, it is not enough to claim that people simply got tired of Assange. Rather, a key role has been played by the long and well-orchestrated slow campaign of character assassination which reached the lowest level imaginable two months ago with the unverified rumors alleging how the Ecuadorians want to get rid of him because of his bad smell and dirty clothes.

In the first stage of attacks on Assange, his ex-friends and collaborators went public with claims that WikiLeaks began well but then it got bogged down with Assange’s political bias (his anti-Hillary obsession, his suspicious ties with Russia, etc.). This was followed by more direct personal defamation: for instance, he is paranoiac and arrogant, obsessed by power and control. But now we have reached the direct bodily level of smells and stains.

Manipulating Motives

They say Assange is paranoid? How could anyone who lives permanently in a flat which is bugged from above and below, a victim of constant surveillance organized by secret services, not be? As for him being a megalomaniac? When the (now ex-) head of the CIA says your arrest is his priority, does this not imply that you are a “big” threat to some, at least? And the trope where Assange behaves like the head of a spy organization? But WikiLeaks IS a spy organization, although one that serves the people, keeping them informed on what goes on behind the scenes.

Yet, they say Assange is a refugee from justice, hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy to escape judgment. But what kind of justice is this which threatens to have him arrested when the case has already been dropped?

So let’s move to the big question: why now? I think one name explains it all: Cambridge Analytica – a name which stands for all Assange is about, for what he fights against; the disclosure of the link between the great private corporations and government agencies.

Remember what a big topic and obsession the Russian meddling in the US elections was – now we know it was not Russian hackers (with Assange) who nudged the people towards Trump, but instead the West's own data-processing agencies which joined forces with political forces. This doesn’t mean that Russia and its allies are innocent: they probably did try to influence the outcome in the same way that the US does in other countries (only in this case, it is labeled "democracy promotion"). But it means the big bad wolf who distorts our democracy is not in the Kremlin, but walking around the West itself – and this is what Assange was claiming all along.

Covert Rule

But where, exactly, is this big bad wolf? To grasp the whole scope of this control and manipulation, one should move beyond the link between private corporations and political parties (as is the case with Cambridge Analytica), to the interpenetration of data processing companies like Google or Facebook and state security agencies.

We shouldn't be shocked at China but at ourselves who accept the same regulation while believing that we retain our full freedom and that media just helps us to realize our goals (while in China people are fully aware that they are regulated). The overall image emerging from it, combined with what we also know about the link between the latest developments in biogenetics (wiring the human brain, etc.), provides an adequate and terrifying image of new forms of social control which make the good old 20th century “totalitarianism” seem a rather primitive and clumsy machine of domination.

The biggest achievement of the new cognitive-military complex is that direct and obvious oppression is no longer necessary: individuals are much better controlled and “nudged” in the desired direction when they continue to experience themselves as free and autonomous agents of their own lives. And this is another key lesson of WikiLeaks: our lack of freedom is most dangerous when it is experienced as the very manifestation of our freedom. Because what can be more free than the incessant flow of communications which allows every individual to popularize their opinions and forms virtual communities at the user's own volition? This is why it is absolutely imperative to keep the digital network out of the control of private capital and state power, i.e., to render it totally accessible to public debate. Assange was right in his strangely ignored key book on Google (When Google Met WikiLeaks, 2014) in his understanding of how our lives are regulated today, and how this regulation is experienced as our freedom. Meaning, we have to focus on the shadowy relation between private corporations which control our commons and secret state agencies.

People Power

Now we can see why Assange has to be silenced at exactly this moment when the topic of Cambridge Analytica is everywhere in our mainstream media. At a time when all the effort of those in power goes into reducing it to a particular “misuse” by some private corporations and political parties – but where is the state itself and the half-invisible apparatuses of the so-called “deep state”?

No wonder that the Guardian, which extensively reports on the Cambridge Analytica “scandal,” recently published a disgusting attack on Assange as a megalomaniac and fugitive from justice. Now, as far they are concerned, write as much as you want about Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon, just don’t dwell on what Assange was drawing our attention to: that the state apparatuses which are now expected to investigate the “scandal” are themselves part of the problem.

Assange characterized himself as the spy of and for the people: he is not spying on the people for those in power, he is spying on those in power for the people. This is why the only ones who can really help him now are we, the people. Only our pressure and mobilization can alleviate his predicament.

One often reads how the old Soviet secret service not only punished its traitors even if it took decades to do it, but also fought doggedly to free them when they were caught by the enemy. Assange has no state behind him, just us, the public – so let us do at least what the Soviet secret service was doing, let’s fight for him no matter how long it takes!

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- Slavoj Zizek, "Assange works for the people – now we need to save him"
Wikileaks exposes the Smart TV hack