Having stayed off of Twitter for a brief period as his car-making company’s stock collapsed, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is back… but perhaps regrets it… again!
On Sunday, Musk (with his SpaceX CEO hat on) touted his Starship project, a multibillion-dollar rocket that one day might take people to Mars. “Accelerating Starship development to build the Martian Technocracy,” Musk stated in a tweet, then followed up with the following…
There’s just one thing wrong… the tech ‘genius’ used an image of the moon, not Mars, in the promotional photo.
Although one may argue that the Moon in Musk’s tweet resembles Mars due to its reddish tinge, the twitterati were quick to pounce on Musk’s egregious error, and started educating Musk on the Moon’s looks, shaming him for allowing the mix-up.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and nothing exemplifies that more than the kind of post-mortem that can be done on the failed attempt by the US to overthrow the government of Venezuela. Working through the lack of options that the US has in terms of regime-change in Venezuela, should lead towards a higher degree of investor confidence in the Bolivarian Republic.
We understand that there are ultimately only three ways to attack a target state until it collapses:
Supporting an internal coup/revolution or terrorism;
Economic embargo perhaps leading to or justified by 1, and;
Military invasion justified by the government’s reaction to 1
Then we can see that US has failed in the first two. While the US does appear on the rhetorical level to be willing to embargo the rest of planet earth, they would have to effectively do so in order to embargo Venezuela. By promoting globalization as a virtue, at the institutional level, and not simply recognizing it with problems and all as an inherent component of market economies, the US has withered its own ability to control other civilizations and states in the world’s growing multipolar system.
While the US can place sanctions on Venezuela, and get some countries to even go along with these sanctions, it only improves or strengthens the role and power of those middle-man countries like China which act as ‘value transactors’ of Venezuelan commodities into the global economy. Because it is impossible to ‘cut’ China out of the global economy, it is impossible to cut Venezuela out as well. Given how much China is invested into Venezuela’s economy, as the Wall Street Journal notes, there’s little chance that will change either.
Despite an effort to unseat the democratically elected PSUV government, we were offered some keen insights into the US’s own self-realization regarding their failed process, and publicly so by Pompeo himself.
The level of honesty coming from the Trump administration in the US is refreshing even as it is only half the truth. When we read that Pompeo has explained that the Venezuelan opposition is ‘divided’, this is of course nothing other than good news for those concerned with regional stability, economic development, and a de-escalation of tensions that can lead towards war and instability.
It is also tremendously true, even if Pompeo doesn’t really explain why it’s the case, at least not entirely. But the facticity of the claim in itself reveals that there can be no US sponsored ‘internal regime change’ in Venezuela. Both the governments of Brazil and Colombia – close US allies under their present administrations – have ruled out any sort of military intervention into Venezuela.
“We were trying to support various religious institutions so that the opposition would unite,” Pompeo remarked, going on to explain that “they [the opposition] remain divided on how to confront the Maduro regime.”
This admission came on the heels of the recorded statement to the WP, where he previously explained:
“Our dilemma, which is to keep the (Venezuelan) opposition together, has turned out to be tremendously difficult,”
He continued, saying that:
“At the moment when (Nicolás) Maduro leaves, everyone will raise their hands and say: ‘Choose me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’”
Subsequent to that comment, he would explain that an excess of 40 different Venezuelan opposition politicians have come forward expressing their view that as Guaido is but a transitional figure, that they ought to be ‘selected’ by the US to win an actual (i.e. staged) election. This would be, ideally for them, an election that comes on the heels of an absolute restructuring of the security apparatus of Venezuela. The idea would be to ensure the marginalization of the PSUV forces from the electoral process, a ‘counter-revolution’ of sorts. The staged elections involving various opposition parties and leaders would be an afterthought in all reality. And still, there is no consensus among this opposition on who should lead.
Pompeo expressed tremendous exasperation with this state of affairs, commenting that his realization of the problem isn’t one that came about recently, but is one in fact he was aware of since he began his work in the Trump administration with the CIA. To that point he stressed that these are problems which not only manifested themselves in “public during these last months, but since the day I became director of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), this was something that He was at the center of what President Trump was trying to do. ”
That’s to say, Pompeo understood this problem all along. The whole project was dead on arrival.
There is no military option
Given that Venezuela can’t really be effectively more embargoed than it presently is, the US is left with one option remaining. Yes, that leaves military options, nominally on the table in terms of US pressure tactics and techniques. But the reality is that these are something much less tangible than the US has historically relied upon. A lot of this has to do with the general decline of the US military in comparative terms. While the US maintains something approximating its military capacity in absolute terms, compared to a decade or two ago, it has not managed to maintain that in relative or comparative terms. The ‘gap’ between the U.S and other rising powers, military speaking – and this reflects economic changes as well – has become smaller. Even the Washington Post, as well as other mainstream US billionaire blogs, has admitted as much.
So this leaves the US in something of a conundrum. It has indeed brought Venezuela to the near point of collapse over the course of recent years, creating an economic catastrophe through a combination of sanctions and the manipulation of oil prices. But it failed to push it over the edge, and its thanks to a growing and new international consensus that this was the case.
Venezuelan leadership for its part has admitted also that there are a number of measures and policies that ought to have been in place, long term economic measure in terms of diversifying the economy that would have helped to off-set the worst of the damage done by the manipulated attack on Venezuela’s economy. We’ll recall that Russia experienced similar, based in the same manipulation of oil prices, leading to a temporary ‘shock’ to the Ruble, which plummeted in value relative to the Dollar overnight, stoking a major crisis between June and December of 2014. Russia was in a better position to manage this, and though without hiccups, has managed to avoid the sorts of repercussions that Venezuela has faced.
Strong reasons for optimism and the coming bullish trend
The inability of the US to move further against Venezuela’s economy has only given Caracas time, and organization, to work around them. These work-around measures by Venezuela can improve, but the distance between the economic attacks from the US, and the operationalizing of Guiado in a coup gambit, was too great for the US to use them in combination in an effective way.
It’s worth noting also that the general ‘game plan’ of the US has been effectively written about, expounded publicly, and absorbed by private intelligence agencies and government networks alike. The science and art of regime change has given rise to the science and art of the counter-coup.
When we understand that there is no really viable military option, Caracas knows that it is bracing for further acts of terrorism and sabotage on its critical infrastructure. International help in combatting such state-sponsored terrorism, as reported by Venezuelan state news agency TeleSur has already been had, however, and so we can expect that we will see how effective this has been through the lack of much materializing in this direction.
Taken all together, the essentials for a rebounded Venezuelan economy are in place. Investor confidence and the assurances to Spanish, and therefore by extension German, banking interests operating without the US as a middle-man in Latin America, are well-founded and lead towards a bullish trend.
As a post-mortem on the US’s failed regime change operation in Venezuela, it is an excellent case study in how the international community can properly deal with and respond to the often irrational and potentially destabilizing actions of former global hegemons when in a state of decline. As far as Venezuela is concerned, it’s an excellent case study in sovereignty in the 21st century, despite a west-centric socio-economic focus on globalization.
Researchers wondered what the nation’s most selective colleges and universities would look like if they admitted students solely on the basis of SAT scores.
Their answer: Campuses would be wealthier, whiter, and more male.
Horror of horrors, we know, but there’s no arguing with the data from the Georgetown Universitry study. As The Wall Street Journal reports, rather shockingly to many, more than half the students now enrolled at the top 200 colleges and universities would lose their seats to students who performed better on the SAT.
The result, as the chart below shows, is that black and Latino students, would be worst-affected with enrolments cut nearly in half, to 11% of all students from 19%.
The share of Asian students would slip to 10% from 11%. The principal winners were wealthy white male students, whose ranks would increase. But a large number of white students would lose their seats and be replaced with other white students.
“The SAT does not and should not measure excellence on its own. Data are overwhelming that grades and test scores together better predict college success than either does alone,” a spokesman for The College Board said in a statement.
“Comprehensive research demonstrates that sustained commitment to an activity in high school outside of class further predicts success in college and beyond. Resourcefulness in response to challenges has long been honored in college admissions as a dimension of merit and success in life. A focus on a single score would leave so much talent unseen.”
All of which has us wondering, how long before well-off, so-called ‘advantaged’ families start moving into poor lower-class neighborhoods for just long enough to benefit from the adversity score… making it even easier to game the system for the wealthy? (Easier than paying off cheats to take SATs or bribing soccer and crew teams for entry).
Jeremy Frost summed this farce up best:
“Education by its nature is supposed to be elitist, the better you preform the greater your opportunities. This is just madness, it undermines the entire point of selective admission to institutions of higher education.”
This unbelievable factor in the college admission process discriminates against hard-work and true academic achievement when America, as a nation, is rapidly sliding down the global scale of intelligence as it is.
As The Council of Foreign Relations detailed, among people ages 55 to 64, Americans rank first in the percentage who’ve earned high school degrees and third in those who’ve earned college and graduate degrees. But Americans ages 25 to 34 only rank 10th in the world in high school diplomas, and they’ve dropped to 13th in attaining post-secondary degrees.
U.S. vs. Global Education Attainment Rankings by Age
It’s not that 25-to-34-year-olds are less educated than boomers: 88 percent of them earned high school diplomas, compared with 90 percent of boomers, and they actually managed a tiny edge – 42 percent to 41 percent – in post-secondary degrees. The real problem is that they’re slipping in relation to their global counterparts.
Paradoxically, younger Americans are entering college at a higher rate – 70 percent – than the boomer generation managed. In 1970, only 48.4 percent of high school graduates went on to higher education, according to a study published in 2010 in the American Journal of Applied Economics. But that edge is negated, because fewer than half of today’s students manage to stay in school and earn degrees, a slightly lower completion rate than boomers.
Finally, one wonders if the graduation rate is going to be monitored between the high and low student’s adversity scores? If not, why not? It would seem that without such information no valid evaluation of the program can be made. And as Mark Soane concludes:
“The SAT was the last bastion of objective measurement in the sea of subjectivity that makes up a college application. It is profoundly disappointing to see that the SAT is now subject to the same identity politics bias that everything else is in college admissions. The SAT and the ACT were the best predictors of college preparedness.
If you debase the results, you will get one or all of the following: higher dropout rates; debased teaching standards, resentment and distrust among students.”
How do we look our kids in the eyes, urge them to work their hardest, study endlessly, never stop trying because that’s what counts in America… and then apologize for reducing their chance of making it to their dream school by daring to live in a low-crime, low-poverty, high-cost, two-parent home.
The effort is well worth it, as the book helps us understand how the power structures of societies change over time in ways that may be largely invisible to those living through the changes.
The Inheritance of Rome focuses on the lasting influence of Rome’s centralized social and political structures even as centralized economic power and trade routes dissolved.
This legacy of centralized power and loyalty to a central authority manifested 324 years after the end of the Western Roman Empire circa 476 A.D. in Charlemagne, who united much of western Europe as the head of the Holy Roman Empire. (Recall that the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire endured another 1,000 years until 1453 A.D.)
But thereafter, the social and political strands tying far-flung villages and fiefdoms to a central authority frayed and were replaced by a decentralized feudalism in which peasants were largely stripped of the right to own land and became the chattel of independent nobles.
In this disintegrative phase, the central authority invested in the monarchy of kings and queens was weak to non-existent.
In the long sweep of history, it took several hundred years beyond 1000 A.D. for central authority to re-assert itself in the form of monarchy, and several hundred additional years for the rights of commoners to be established.
Indeed, it can be argued that it was not until the 1600s and 1700s–and only in the northern European strongholds of commoners’ rights, The Netherlands and England–that the rights of ownership and political influence enjoyed by commoners in the Roman Empire were matched.
It can even be argued that the rights of Roman citizenship granted to every resident of the late Empire were only matched in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The rights of commoners were slowly chipped away by civil authorities and transferred to the feudal nobility. As the book explains, these rights included limited self-rule within village councils and ownership of land. These rights were extinguished by feudalism.
The connections between these civil society/legal freedoms (of self-rule and ownership of land/capital), the Protestant Reformation and the birth of modern Capitalism are explained by historian Fernand Braudel’s masterful 3-volume history Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, a series I have long recommended:
The self-reinforcing dynamics of religious, civil and economic freedoms are key to understanding the transition from feudalism/monarchy to the world systems of today, in which some form of self-rule or political influence and economic freedom are expected of every civil authority.
Let’s fast-forward to today and ask what relevance these histories have in the present era.
There are two points worth discussing. One is the acceleration of change; what took 300 years now takes 30, or perhaps less.
The second is the slow erosion of commoners’ self-rule and ownership of meaningful, productive capital.
This gradual, almost imperceptible erosion is what I call neofeudalism, a process of transferring political and economic power from commoners to a new Financial Aristocracy/Nobility.
If we examine the “wealth” of the middle class/working class (however you define them, the defining characteristic of both is the reliance on labor for income, as opposed to living off the income earned by capital), we find the primary capital asset is the family home, which as I have explained many times, is unproductive–in essence, a form of consumption rather than a source of income.
Ultimately, all pensions, public and private, are controlled by central authorities, even though “ownership” is nominally held by commoners. (Ask middle class Venezuelans what their pensions are worth once central authorities debauch the nation’s currency.)
In a globalized, financialized economy, the only capital worth owning is mobile capital, capital that can be shifted by a keystroke to avoid devaluation or earn a a higher return.
Housing and pensions are “stranded capital,” forms of capital that are not mobile unless they are liquidated before crises or expropriations occur.
I am also struck by the ever-rising barriers to starting or even operating small businesses, a core form of capital, as enterprises generate income and (potentially) capital gains.
The capital and managerial expertise required to launch and grow a legal enterprise is extraordinarily high, which is at least partly why a nation of self-employed farmers, shopkeepers, artisans and traders is now a nation of employees of government and large corporations.
What sort of capital can be acquired by the average commoner now? Enough to match the wealth and political power of financial Nobility? This is the source of our fascination with tech millionaires and billionaires: a few commoners have leveraged technology to join the Nobility.
Summary: “The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.”
Neofeudalism is not a re-run of feudalism. It’s a new and improved, state-corporate version of indentured servitude. The process of devolving from central political power to feudalism required the erosion of peasants’ rights to own productive assets, which in an agrarian economy meant ownership of land.
Ownership of land was replaced with various obligations to the local feudal lord or monastery– free labor for time periods ranging from a few days to months; a share of one’s grain harvest, and so on.
The other key dynamic of feudalism was the removal of the peasantry from the public sphere. In the pre-feudal era (for example, the reign of Charlemagne), peasants could still attend public councils and make their voices heard, and there was a rough system of justice in which peasants could petition authorities for redress.
From the capitalist perspective, feudalism restricted serfs’ access to cash markets where they could sell their labor or harvests. The key feature of capitalism isn’t just markets– it’s unrestricted ownership of productive assets–land, tools, workshops, and the social capital of skills, networks, trading associations, guilds, etc.
Our system is Neofeudal because the non-elites have no real voice in the public sphere, and ownership of productive capital is indirectly suppressed by the state-corporate duopoly.
Our society has a legal structure of self-rule and ownership of capital, but in reality it is a Neofeudal Oligarchy.
Establishment comedian Bill Maher warned that if 2020 Democrats run “a campaign based on reparations and concentration camps” it will be “very hard to win the election” against President Trump.
Maher was responding last week’s latest outrage when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called migrant detention facilities to “concentration camps,” a remark she has doubled and tripled-down on despite receiving considerable backlash from Jewish groups and others over the comparison.
While conservative political consultant Liz Mair tried to argue that Democrats can win the argument without invoking Nazi Germany, liberal guests Thom Hartmann and Dan Savage disagreed, with Savage arguing “the use of the term concentration camp has caused people to debate what is actually going on.” Mair replied “that was already happening,” to which a triggered Savage spat back “these are fuckingconcentration camps.“
Maher pushed back.
“Come on, when we think of concentration camps, I think of mass graves, I think of experimenting on human people.”
“If you want to run a campaign based on reparations and concentration camps, then it’s going to be very hard to win the election, I’m not saying you can’t do it, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but very hard to argue that this is helping,” said Maher.
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