I attended a speech by a new big bank CEO. It was ‘highly recommended’ that we all go. I put on my suit jacket and headed to the theatrical venue. The place was almost full. Three executives talked, two sitting in stage-like leather armchairs. I almost nodded off. Until the new CEO started veering a bit off the standard fare of praising us and praising the very large profits the bank had earned this year. The strategy, Piketty readers, is to get more ‘high net worth individuals’ to sign up with our wealth management area. The news that the upper-middle class is getting richer and that HNWI are growing is positively giddy information for the bank. This is a ‘growth opportunity.’ So growing class differences are just grist for some businesses, especially banks.
He said he’d just spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley with tech CEOs. Then the new CEO praised Uber in the context of ‘creative’ destruction. (Schumpeter’s phrase…) He asked if anyone in town had used Uber and very few raised their hands, because it has not hit our town yet. Now if you don’t know what Uber is, it is basically desperate white 20-somethings with a car and a cell-phone who have become private taxis. No medallions, no driving qualifications, no experience, no background checks, just cheap service – kind of like Jimmy Johns or Pizza Hut drivers letting you ride along. OK. Who is getting destroyed? Those stodgy older Latino, black, Somali or old white drivers – i.e. whatever ethnicity drives cabs in your town – who have spent a long time getting medallions. People with families who might be driving for years, not just as a precariat ‘gig.’ So this is sort of like union-busting, courtesy of Silicon Valley. The ethnic component is not irrelevant. “Uber = Cheap White Taxi” right now.
Then he finished up by saying we need to ‘digitize’ our wealth management area. When he realized that word might have different meanings, he quickly said, ‘getting you the best software so you can serve your clients.” Of course, the other meaning of digitize is replacing people with software. It was not lost on anyone.
So who is going to be destroyed? It should really be called ‘unequal destruction.’
As a leftist, I am particularly sensitive to law-enforcement issues. Cops are not my favourite people. In a large number of years, I’ve had what I consider to be only one positive interaction with a cop. And I’m white! The FBI is the domestic king-pin of this bunch and anything involving them is bad news. A few days ago my computer came up with an “FBI” logo that said the FBI had seized my computer and I would be arrested in 48 hours for various crimes. Now, common sense tells you the FBI is not giving anyone 48 hours to do anything. But then again, in the back of your mind, you are thinking, “Is this some way they are fucking with people?” Political bloggers? Anyone? So I pulled the plug immediately on my machine, shut down the internet and powered it up about an hour later. The computer alone was good, so I ran an anti-malware program. About 5 hours later I came back home to find out it had found 8 virus files, and I deleted them.
All logical. But any leftist has a bit of paranoia, which to me is merely a healthy scepticism. This particular incident happened when I switched from DuckDuckGo back to Google because of ‘odd’ problems with DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo does not track searches or is included in the NSA database, while Google is. Which is one reason I was suspicious.
So I said, what if there is even a 1% chance that this is real. Maybe they have started doing things in a different way? The upshot is that I realized there is no ‘safe’ place to put things or people at present. There are no ‘safe’ houses. I contacted a criminal attorney when I finally got to a computer, and then I thought, well, I will check the internet and see what they say about an FBI virus. Indeed, what showed up was many hits from software companies showing you how to delete this virus. There are at least 8 FBI viruses, all relating to different ‘crimes’. When people phoned the FBI, they laughed and said, ‘Lady, we’d just show up.’ The FBI does not seem to be bothered by people impersonating them on the internet. Perhaps they appreciate the increased fear levels that this FBI scam entails. (It is actually a scam to get people to send money to pay a fine for the ‘illegal’ activity.)
The surveillance state might not mean anything to you … until suddenly it does. The FBI is the real virus.
Blow Back to Iraq
Some commentator on National Government Radio said the consensus around re-entering the hot war in the Middle East had reached ‘9/11’ levels. This is typical NGR war-braying hyperbole, but some surveys showed 58% approval (WaPo, yesterday) for some kind of action, especially after the beheadings of independent journalists by the ‘Islamic State.’ (“IS”) However the majority still oppose a ground war. The war drums from liberals and conservatives in the U.S. media and political class have been beating for weeks now. Uniting on Afghanistan or Libya or Ukraine or Syria or Gaza is merely business as usual for the co-imperialist partnership of the Republican and Democratic parties. This is always prepatory to some kind of military action. It is usually predictable that most people will fall into line when both parties unite … again. Although certainly on the bombing of Syria only a year ago after the faked gas ‘red line,’ they did not. Obama’s speech last night should bring the numbers up more.
War is sort of like a football game. You have to get the fans cheering before you can play well. Of course, the militarization of sports events in the U.S. is just more cultural collateral damage.
Obama’s speech last night ignored the prior support by Qatar and the Saudi’s for Islamic Sunni fundamentalists in Syria, and now Iraq. Most of the money flowing into the IS is coming from Saudi Arabia – though not, allegedly or clearly, from the government. The IS now controls the oil fields north of Baghdad and south of Damascus. Obama also did not mention that the hand-picked Shiite government of al-Maliki helped create the temporary Sunni support of the IS – a puppet government chosen by the U.S., now discarded overnight. The latest NGR lie is that Assad is allied with the IS! They allege that the Syrian army ‘allowed’ IS to control the Syrian oil fields. On the face of this, this is ludicrous, but Americans will buy almost anything. It smacks of CIA covert propaganda. Nor did Obama mention that people in the Middle East have been looking at U.S. atrocities for years.
It is actually possible that the Iraqi Baathist and tribal Sunnis would turn on the IS at some point. There are already killings between the two factions, usually by IS at this point. U.S. military intervention will prevent this situation from occurring by bombing the Sunni tribal fighters too.
Quoted in Alternet:
Anbar tribal leader “Suleiman has claimed that ISIS fighters make up only 5-7% of Resistance fighters in Iraq, and that the resistance could oust ISIS from regions it controls. But he has said it will not do so until government forces withdraw from northern and western Iraq and a political transition grants civil and political rights denied to the people of these regions.”
The IS is part of the blowback of the Syrian and Iraqi sectarian conflicts, which were precipitated by destructive U.S. involvement and invasion. IS is a brutal organization of reactionaries – religious fundamentalist, extremely sexist, anti-working class. Yet their real goal is control of the oilfields by using archaic Wahabbist / Salafist rhetoric and money. The IS is reported to be making $2M a day on oil sales. That oil was reachable through the Iraqi government until now. That is what is really at stake and why the U.S. is intervening again. Can it form a ‘grand alliance’ of ‘moderates’ to take back the oil, including Iran and Syria? Good luck on that. At this point, splitting Iraq into 3 countries is about the only real solution. Self-determination so to speak. The insistence on maintaining one state in boundaries marked by the English colonialists is delusional.
September 11, 2014, a day that will live in infamy for several reasons.