The Buddhas of Wall Street & Pentagon

30 Jan

Not being a regular reader of Jane’s Aircraft I was surprised by Stephen Gowans’ references, in his What’s Left? post three days ago, to B-52s. For my generation this bomber gained global notoriety in the skies over Vietnam.

And even more infamously over Cambodia, whose carpet-bombed hysteria created, as a young John Pilger argued, optimal conditions for men in black pyjamas with neither popular support nor power base within the country to take control. Like aliens in some creepy sci-fi, the moment the bombs stopped the Khmer Rouge stepped silently from the forest to evacuate Phnom Penh at gunpoint and – claiming this to be in some unfathomable way a Marxist thing to do – reset the calendar to Day One and implement a cashless dystopia.1

(Not that any contender for rule in this former French colony would have been spoilt for choice. A Ho Chi Minh Trail snaking westward to suck her into the deepening morass of America’s war on the Vietnamese people, and the brainwave of Richard Nixon to hit back with the B-52s while lying to Congress about it, had pretty much closed off all the humane options for a traumatised country with no way of feeding itself.2)

But I’d assumed the B-52 a relic of history like the Bubble Car or Baby Austin, once daily sights on our roads. I felt nerdily impelled to look this up. Sure enough, in updated form it still runs an aerial death delivery service for Uncle Sam, though as a symbol of US Might it’s been overtaken by stealth bomber, cruise and tornado. These will soon be joined if not eclipsed by fast evolving drone technologies, their game-changing lethality recently and generically demonstrated – see the second of my December reads – by Turkey’s Azeri proxy in Nagorno-Karabakh.

We should take care to avoid reductivism in attributing motives for America’s apex predations (with France, Britain, Canada et al as subaltern sharks). But a transfer of $700-800bn per year from America’s many to America’s few, effected by military-industrial complex and IRS, can’t be ignored. This does not negate Mr Gowans’ point, about US thirst for Full Spectrum Dominance as method of choice for advancing its imperial interests. Rather, the two are complementary.

Need America’s rulers win their endless wars? These are after all not only waged thousands of miles away, on peoples posing no conceivable threat to ordinary Americans, but financed by US taxpayers; a group in which they are kept grossly underrepresented by smart accountants and offshore havens like Britain’s dependencies. Financed too by colossal debt levels premised on limitless issues of never-to-be-redeemed Treasury Bonds. And by a global tax – what France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing called America’s “exorbitant privilege” – in the form of a dollar riding artificially high on the need for every oil importing country to hold large reserves of it.3

Given these truths, that tiny club which rules America has no urgently pressing reason to rein in its non stop warmongering. In this murderous arena a central Buddhist principle is playing out in monstrous caricature. Said tiny club has found imperial nirvana in the shape of a self-fuelling application of the tenet that Path and Goal are One.

*

  1. We now know Western help to Pol Pot was not confined to the law of unintended consequences. Thanks again to Pilger, the UK Government was obliged to admit – though not before waging a war of character assassination on Awkward of Oz – to SAS training of the Khmer Rouge to destabilise post-war Vietnam through acts of cross-border terror in the Central Highlands and Mekong Delta.
  2. It was Nixon who in March 1969, just weeks after taking office on an end-the-war ticket, ordered the illegal bombing of Cambodia. The initial version of this post had erroneously blamed his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson. This was careless. Doubly so given my March 2015 post on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
  3. One of several interwoven factors now making the world so dangerous is the threat of petrodollar decline or, to be precise, Washington’s response as it turns up the heat – be its figurehead a Bush or an Obama, a Trump or a Biden – on China.

8 Replies to “The Buddhas of Wall Street & Pentagon

  1. It will be interesting to see how the FSD doctrine plays out on home soil following recent events.

    The focus over recent weeks has been on the simplistic deflective narrative of cheering on big Tech’s cancelling of that section of the US population designated as a “deplorable’s” (70 odd million of them, who are all one single undifferentiated homogeneous blob judging by the dominant discourse) rather than the coalescence of the Neo-Liberals and Neo Conservatives around a single Party (the Democrats).

    An occurrence of circling the wagons to protect elite interests in the MIC and Wall Street both at home now as well as abroad which is a double edged sword in that whilst the present focus in on anything and anyone labelled by the elite and their media as on the’ right’ (which seems to have lumped old style Conservatives, Libertarians and the far smaller alt-right under a single umbrella) will certainly be turned on the ‘left’ as the the standard mission creep model and its flexible definitions proceeds on its merry and inevitable predictable trajectory.

    We are now seeing that played out this past week as a horde of small retail market traders who beat the billionaire Hedge Fund market manipulators at their own game classed by a leading political appointee in the system and former SEC member as no different to the motley mob (which inconveniently for the preferred elite narrative turned out to also include individuals and groups from the left of the political spectrum) who broke away from the main protest and stormed the Capitol on January 6th.

    Having spent some time this week catching up on how the process of shorting operates I’m still having problems with two, what might be labelled, technical elements of the process;

    Firstly, why would anyone who holds shares in any listed company knowingly and willingly lend those shares out to hedge fund billionaires to allow them to drive the price down before the hedge funds return the shares/stocks to them?

    Surely, this must take place without the knowledge of those who own the stock/shares the hedge funds are manipulating?

    Secondly, how is it possible to claim this practice as legitimate and within fair market rules etc when in many cases the hedge funds are borrowing more than the 100% of the stock which exists?

    Whatever, the transfer of $70 billion from the few to the many in this saga has resulted in the rare spectacle of the elite openly and obviously yanking the chain of their bought and paid for politicians and corporate media pundits to plug this gap in the rigged system to protect their yachts, mansions and monopoly access to everyone else’s money and assets.

    From effectively comparing those involved to domestic terrorists and “Trumpists” (how long before sections of the Non Neo-Liberal Left are conveniently shoved under that same banner?) through to preventing any free market trade which negatively impacts on the trillionaire and billionaire class and even forcibly selling shares of small retail investors who outplayed the oxygen breathers at their own game without their knowledge.

    Interesting Times.

    • Thanks Dave. Good points as ever – though you might try unpacking those long multi-clausal sentences into shorter and simpler ones. I’m guilty of the same sin and know the cause – having so many thoughts occurring as we write – so don’t take this amiss!

      I’m rushing out but since you’ve raised the issue of shorting/short selling here’s a brief description, in a capitalism-friendly guide for the tyro investor, of what it entails.

      • Thanks for the article, Phil, which puts a bit more meat on the bone. Though I still don’t understand why any rational individual or Corporate entity who holds stock/shares would allow a broker to lend what hey own to someone else for purpose of driving the value of that stock lower before returning he now devalued asset?

        Nor how it’s legal to borrow more stocks and shares in a company than actually exist for this purpose?

        Moving on I just came across this piece on the aptly named ‘zero hedge’ site:

        https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/you-dad-redditor-shares-heartbreaking-reason-destroying-short-sellers-wsb-raids?utm_campaign=&utm_content=Zerohedge%3A+The+Durden+Dispatch&utm_medium=email&utm_source=zh_newsletter

        To quote:

        This is for you, Dad.

        I remember when the housing collapse sent a torpedo through my family. My father’s concrete company collapsed almost overnight. My father lost his home. My uncle lost his home. I remember my brother helping my father count pocket change on our kitchen table. That was all the money he had left in the world. While this was happening in my home, I saw hedge funders literally drinking champagne as they looked down on the Occupy Wall Street protestors. I will never forget that.

        My Father never recovered from that blow. He fell deeper and deeper into alcoholism and exists now as a shell of his former self, waiting for death.

        This is all the money I have and I’d rather lose it all than give them what they need to destroy me. Taking money from me won’t hurt me, because i don’t value it at all. I’ll burn it all down just to spite them.

        This is for you, Dad.

        Yet another example to be found from scratching below the surface of a narrative which attempts to aggregate millions of people into a single undifferentiated homogeneous block and label them all as beyond the pale with a whole raft of undesirable traits.

        Due consideration rather than snap virtue signalling purity spiral type judgements reveal the systemic processes which have driven larger and larger numbers of working class people away from the professional centerist political class who have abandoned them over four decades to burn down the system via Trump, Brexit etc.

        And it really is the height of self indulgent peurilism to take the position that (a) they ( the working class Labour/Democrat base) had it coming because, you know, white privilege; and (b) “white” multiracism operating amongst non Caucasian groups amongst those labelled “deplorables.”

        If we wish to see any traction, never mind progress, the expirienced left really needs to get it’s act together and take those amongst the NKOTB identity obsessives with their right wing based post modernist intersectionality nonsense and associated hang ups for a walk in the park to explain the realities of class politics and solidarity.

        • Your description of what befell your father will draw the sympathy – and I hope the deep and properly focused anger – of the overwhelming majority of Steel City readers. Many thanks for sharing.

          • Phil, the response above reads as though the provided quote from the linked article was interpreted as a personal one relating to myself rather than someone in the US directly involved with whom I’ve no connection.

            If that was how you read it I apologise for inadvertently misleading.

            • Sorry Dave, my rushed reading has got me into trouble. I did wonder why you’d never mentioned this in the days when we could still take walks together!

              I’ve now applied block quotes, lest other 2 + 2 = 5 merchants fall into the trap of doing as I did.

        • I still don’t understand why any rational individual or Corporate entity who holds stock/shares would allow a broker to lend what hey own to someone else for purpose of driving the value of that stock lower before returning he now devalued asset?

          I take it you are referring to this paragraph in the linked explanation:

          In short selling, a position is opened by borrowing shares of a stock or other asset that the investor believes will decrease in value by a set future date—the expiration date. The investor then sells these borrowed shares to buyers willing to pay the market price. Before the borrowed shares must be returned, the trader is betting that the price will continue to decline and they can purchase them at a lower cost. The risk of loss on a short sale is theoretically unlimited since the price of any asset can climb to infinity.

          In other words unless the share borrower (call him Mr Risky though “he” is likely to be a consortium) has gamed the system in some way (insider knowledge, sheer power to influence the markets and turn Bull to Bear) he is taking a chance. The share lender, (Mr Cautious) makes a modest profit from the trade whether or not Mr Risky’s move pays off.

          But as you imply, under Really Existing Capitalism the fact that Mr Risky wants the shares to take a dip in value introduces a motive. Should he also have means and opportunity, we have a crime in the making. The USA, with its Constitution guarantee of the capitalist ideal of the right to pursue happiness (i.e. money) is, tellingly I say, the world’s most draconian enforcers of “fair” trading. Ask Bernie Madoff, currently in the twelfth year of a 150 year stretch.

          NB – I’ve expanded this response in the form of a dedicated post: Cut across Shorty

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