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Trump raided, in part, because of law he signed to ensnare Clinton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/08/2022 - 11:56pm in

Separate from the investigation being undertaken by the January 6th Committee, the raid on Trump’s Florida home was done at the request of the National Archives, who were seeking official documents Trump had illegally removed from the White House. And there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude to be had, knowing ... READ MORE

Herzog’s Onoda: The Twilight World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/08/2022 - 3:17pm in

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articles, culture

Published in Japan Forward 03/08/2022

Werner Herzog is one of the great film directors of our time. His golden period was in the 1970s and early 1980s when he created such dark masterpieces as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982), all featuring the unsettling presence of German actor, Klaus Kinski.

Kinski attacks Herzog during filming of "Aguirre" Kinski attacks Herzog during the filming of “Aguirre”

Resident in the United States for many years, Herzog has also directed dozens of documentaries and many operas and has appeared as a German-accented  villain in Jack Reacher (2012) and in a Star Wars TV spinoff. In 2008, he made the highly entertaining Bad Lieutenant, set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and starring a rampant Nicholas Cage.

Now, at the ripe old age of 79, Herzog has published his first novel. It is as idiosyncratic as you would expect. Over 132 slim pages, he tells the story of Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who refused to accept that World War 2 was over and continued patrolling a mountainous island in the Philippines until 1974.

It's a novel, remember

Herzog appears to have harboured an obsession with Onoda for a long time. In the late 1990s, when he was in Tokyo to direct an operatic version of Chushingura, the tale of the 47 heroic samurai, he actually met Onoda. In fact, Herzog claims that he declined an invitation from the Emperor, possibly the worst faux pas it is possible to make in Japan, in order to meet Onoda.

Together the two men visited Yasukuni Shrine, where Onoda, long considered legally dead, had been enshrined along with the other 2.5 million people, stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century, who had given their lives for the fatherland.

Herzog was aware that the shrine was controversial, but accepted the invitation, thinking “who am I anyway to allow myself the luxury of such reservations, coming as I do from a country that has brought such horrors on other countries and peoples.”

Onoda left the jungle in 1974 Onoda left the jungle in 1974

At the shrine, a priest produced a flat carton containing the tattered remains of the uniform that Onoda had worn for thirty years in the Philippine jungle. As Herzog writes, “Onoda asked the abbot if he would let me take the uniform in my hands. I bowed, and the abbot laid it in my formally outstretched arms. The abbot exchanged a few words with Onoda and encouraged me to unfold the uniform and to feel it. I did so with extreme care.”

Did any of this actually happen? The book, remember, is a novel – and Herzog is known for his concept of “ecstatic truth” which can be reached “only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.” He cares very little for “the truth of accountants,” meaning facts. Onoda died in 2014 at the age of 91. Whatever happened between the two men, if anything, is transmitted to us via the consciousness of Herzog.

The story proceeds through a series of short, strongly visual episodes which describe the amazing measures Onoda employed in order to evade capture. He and his two comrades would walk backwards for considerable distances to confuse pursuers. Once, his leafy camouflage was so effective that a Philippine soldier on a march through the jungle stepped on his toe. But Herzog’s main interest is in Onoda’s mind, his “fever dreams”, and the new reality he creates through sheer force of will.

Crickets scream at the cosmos. Among the terrors of night was a horse with glowing eyes smoking cigars… The jungle bends and stretches like caterpillars walking, uphill and down. The heron when cornered will attack the eyes of its pursuers.  A crocodile ate a countess…

Needless to say, there is a lot of Herzog in Herzog’s Onoda, but then there is a lot of Herzog in all the obsessional characters that people his best films. Even the protagonist of the documentary Grizzly Man (2005), an American hippie who treats grizzly bears in the wild like cuddly pets, has a kind of crazed nobility. The reality that he has constructed is fragile – but he knows that and is willing to accept the horrific consequences.

Indeed, obsession and refusal to kowtow to humdrum reality are key elements in Herzog’s own film-making process, as demonstrated by his greatest work, Fitzcarraldo.  The story is of an opera-loving adventurer living in the north of Peru during the short-lived rubber boom of the early twentieth century.

Fitzcarraldo, as the Irish protagonist is known, resolves to build an opera house in the small town of Iquitos in the Amazon basin and invite the great tenor Enrico Caruso to perform. In order to raise capital for the project, he attempts to procure rubber from an unexploited and highly inaccessible area of the jungle. That requires transferring a 3-storey 300 ton ship from one river system to another by hauling it over a hill.

Lifting the riverboat Lifting the riverboat

Herzog could have filmed the whole movie in Iquitos and used modern technology and clever camerawork to simulate the ship being lifted over a hill. Instead, he chose to film in the jungle and operated a mechanical pulley and winch system that could have been used in the early years of the century.

The Burden of Dreams (1982), Les Blank’s documentary about the making of the film, shows the engineer responsible quitting on the grounds that there was only a 30% chance of success and that five or six of the staff, all local tribespeople, might die.

In the end, there were no fatalities during that mud-spattered battle to defy the force of gravity, but during the four years spent making the film people died in light aircraft accidents and limbs were amputated because of snakebites.

Herzog had other troubles too. Originally, the main character was to be played by Jason Robards, but the America actor came down with amoebic dysentery after 40% of his scenes had already been shot. Mick Jagger had been cast as Fitzcarraldo’s sidekick, but his scenes – which are surprisingly convincing – had to be removed too.

Jagger with Robards Jagger with Robards

When Herzog flew back to Germany to explain the situation to his backers, he was asked whether it was really worth reshooting all these sequences. His reply: “if I don’t, I would be a man without dreams.” The implication was that life without dreams, even absurd or dangerous “fever dreams”, was hardly worth living. In effect, Herzog himself became Fitzcarraldo.

Both triumphed in their own way. Fitzcarraldo ends up welcoming a boatful of opera stars, including the great Caruso, to a concert hall in a small town in north Peru. The film Fitzcarraldo was chosen by Akira Kurosawa as one of his top one hundred movies and has been garlanded with praise and awards.

Even some of the setbacks turned out to be beneficial. Kinski’s intense performance was far superior to Robards’ low-key Hollywood approach.

The extraordinary Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo The extraordinary Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo

If a film brought out Herzog’s inner Fitzcarraldo, the novel brings out his inner Onoda. “Onoda and I straightaway struck up a relationship,” he writes. “We found much common ground in our conversation because I had worked under difficult conditions in the jungle myself.” Herzog feared the jungle, but was also fascinated by it. In later life, he would return to the Amazonian jungle and hold film school classes there!

The conditions of war and contemporary political debate held no interest for him. In his book, he states baldly that there are no reliable numbers of the Philippine soldiers and civilians who may have died in clashes with Onoda’s three man unit. For this was no game of hide and seek. Onoda considered himself to be a guerrilla fighting behind enemy lines. Indeed, his two comrades were both shot dead in firefights.

Ready to accept the surrender order from his long-retired senior officer From Arthur Harari’s film

Apart from Herzog’s novel, last year a young French director, Arthur Harari, released an enthralling cinematic version of the Onoda story called “Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle.” The fascination is the same. In effect, Onoda rejected the accountant’s version of reality and opted for the ecstatic kind. He constructed a dream and lived inside it for thirty years.

That feat of extreme imagining seems to stand apart from the context of Japan’s lost war, now fading into the history books, and has become an inspiration to creative spirits, especially filmmakers.

Palast’s New Film Exposing Hidden GOP Vote Suppression TrickeryAdd Your Name to the Screen Credits with Producer Martin Sheen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/08/2022 - 8:38am in

If you thought we were missing in action the last year—we were simply QUIET IN ACTION as we hunted down the secret Texas coordinators of the 88 vigilantes who have... READ MORE

The Big Context

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 2:39am in

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Interview of Michael Hudson by Andrei The Saker, August 2022

Russian transcript

Transcript

Key: ATS = Andrei The Saker; MH = Michael Hudson

ATS
Well first of all, Michael, a huge, huge thank you for agreeing to this conversation. It’s a big pleasure for me to have you here, it’s a big honour too, and I really look forward to getting your insight as to what’s happening, ’cause there’s a lot happening right now. The first thing I want to ask you about is a current event then we can go into deeper things. What do you make of Pelosi landing in Taiwan and how do you see … what is this all about, what’s happening here?

MH
Well I think in what you just wrote today you made it all clear. There’s really no practical effect of what she did, so why should China have actually done something military and then something provocative. What Pelosi did is a public relations ploy, she wanted to get more votes in California, and one third of California are Chinese and she thought that that would help. So why should China react materially to something that is just a stunt, and I think you’re quite right, best to wait and see what the outcome of this is. We have no idea … midnight there, so we don’t know what is happening or will be happening. We don’t know what the Chinese will do, especially seeing that the downward direction of US relations with the rest of the world is, it’s bungling everything clumsily so you don’t want to interrupt it while it’s doing that. Let’s see where it goes.

And the rest of the world is seeing just what you’re seeing, the US is pulling a stunt that is a very dangerous stunt and it’s trying to use salami tactics, a little bit here a little bit there just keep pushing and cutting and see what’s going to happen. I think there’ll be indeed some time that China responds when it’s appropriate and the time will be of China’s choosing not that of the United States.

Other countries are seeing how reckless the United States is and that’s building up a resentment not only in China but in other countries, we’re all being endangered by this. We don’t know what the US is going to do. At least in the 1970’s, when President Nixon had the strategy “let them think I’m crazy and they’ll never know what I’m going to do”, that was a ploy but the fear of the world now is that the people really are crazy that are running policy, and not a ploy! They really don’t know what they’re doing and they’re like a bull in the china shop.

So what’s so frightening is that both parties are using this visit … they’re manoeuvring for elections for the Congressional elections this November in the United States and both parties seem to think they can get more votes by threatening the rest of the world by being America first by just saying we’re the unique nation and we can do whatever we want and you’re going to have to adjust to us, look how strong we are, that’ll get votes. There’s no anti-war movement here and what passes for the left actually seem to be on the NATO side ..

ATS
Yes!

MH
… the world is seeing, the world is seeing that.

ATS
We see that very clearly even in Europe the same thing, the so-called left is the worst Atlanticist of them all. But you know what really scares me is that, OK, politicians they want votes, they do political stunts, that’s fine, but the risks involved in that stunt are truly immense and what I think what a lot of American politicians are missing, but also the general public, is that militarily speaking, the other day I was listening to an interview of Andrei Martyanov and he made a very good point. He was asked “Do you believe that the US can prevail in a war against China?” and he said “Well only on one condition, a full scale nuclear war.”

MH
(laughs)

ATS
Short of that there’s nothing, and even in case of a full scale nuclear war first of all, you know, that has never been modelled on computers but we don’t really know what would happen and secondly I do not believe that Russia would let that happen. So, the comparison, I call that a game of nuclear chicken, and what really I find depressing is that during the cold war which I remember well, I mean I was relatively young, I’m 58 now, but I remember the cold war and the mood and a lot of my teachers when I studied in the US were from the Pentagon, government accounting office, office of net assessment, etc. All these senior American officers had an acute sense of responsibility, that is “Yeah, the Soviets are the enemy, understood, we will fight them, understood, but we both, the Soviets and us, have such a weapon in our disposal that the prime directive really is “never allow a pretext for nuclear war”.

And there was an article by a Russian Marshall called Agarkov who wrote about that and then Reagan picked it up and his famous line like “You cannot win a nuclear war” is true I think. The thing is that the acuteness of that perception, that forget about what’s at stake, we just cannot allow those two countries to exchange hundreds or thousands of nuclear warheads because we’re gonna threaten the entire Northern Hemisphere. This is now subordinated to Pelosi’s need to cater to the Chinese immigrants in California? That’s frightening to me!

MH
Well also it shows that the Pentagon, that I understand did not want her to go, the Pentagon has lost control to the State Department. I remember back in the 1970’s during the Vietnam war when my boss Herman Kahn brought me to have dinner with one of the big generals who, I don’t want to say who he was, but he was the leading general in Vietnam for strategy, and Herman said the one thing, you can’t be rude to him, you’re just there so you can see and hear him, and the whole discussion the general felt the war was crazy, we couldn’t possibly win it, any country defending itself and its own National Government against an invader is always going to win and Vietnam had looked always at China as the main threat, and not the United States, and America backing the French, you know, was absolutely crazy and I had never heard as eloquent an argument against the Vietnam war from any of the anti-war people and here were the generals who obviously that was not what the State Department was saying, that was not what Nixon or Kissinger was saying, and I don’t think the army today is still as independent as it was fifty years ago.

I think that the army is like the CIA, you get ahead by agreeing what the politically appointed officers are, so the army has been badly politicised in the United States. Even so because it’s an army it’s realistic about military matters and the State Department isn’t. They’re operating on emotion and on a world view that is inherently hostile.

ATS
Let’s look into that “inherently hostile” thing a little deeper, because I think you made some very interesting points in your articles and I would like to discuss them. I’ll begin if I can with just a few quotes. Josep Burrell said “The war will be long and test the strength, we’ll last, we have no other choice, allowing Russia to prevail will mean allowing it to destroy our democracy and the very basis of international rules-based order.” And then the EU commissioner said “We clearly see the impact. The best way to deal with the economic consequences is to finish the war, to provide Ukraine with the necessary support.” OK.

Yale University professor “Russian imports are largely collapsed in the face of stark challenges, securing crucial inputs, parts and technology from hesitant trade partners.” So, these people are openly saying that they’re in essentially, I mean I think it’s accepted now, Russia and the US are in a full, existential war, that the US is trying so far to wage by proxy and keep below the threshold of overt direct confrontation.

Now, here’s, before I ask you a question, one thing that I want to say just for those who are listening to us. We are used to being conditioned by TV, Hollywood, Tom Clancy and the outcome of certain wars, which were misunderstood in that myth that the US and NATO is a really powerful military alliance. And that’s a fallacy, it’s a complete lie.

If you look at the US military globally, I won’t go into details today, I would say the only branch, there’s two branches that I would consider combat capable, nuclear forces, they’re old, they’re getting there, they had problems but I do not believe that they came to the point where they can’t execute their mission; they’re struggling but they can do it. And secondly, American nuclear attack submarines, of which there are lots as they are high quality, and that’s kind of it.

The aircraft carriers are sitting ducks, the Air Force is in terrible shape, the Army, forget it, couldn’t win a war against, you know, a kindergarten. So the Pentagon must realise that, what are they looking at, if they continue doubling down they’re looking at one of two options, a land war against Russia, a continental land war, which they don’t even have the means in Europe today right now, and would take them months, and months and months to get the kind of firepower and logistics and personnel and training and coordination, etcetera, to be ready for that, or a nuclear exchange with Russia. That’s it, I mean there’s no third option. So these guys should know that going down the doubling down road leads to disaster. I mean, as I wrote in a recent article, the most what the US could do is fire a large amount of subsonic or slow cruise missiles, which either will pass or will not pass. But option one, lets say they don’t pass, like the strike on Syria was a failure, in that case you just shot your best weapon and your out, or they do pass and do inflict actual damage on Russia. What do they think the reaction of the Russians will be to this, and what do they plan, I mean what’s the next step? I don’t see it, do you?

MH
Well, let’s look at the reciprocal implications of what you say. Just like the United States can not mount a land war, and invade any country, neither can any other industrial nation anywhere; maybe China could given its population, but certainly Russia could not mount a land war to move back, to retake central Europe and move into East Germany …

ATS
You’re right.

MH
… nobody could. Any population would all of a sudden, all of the students would become draft dodgers, there would be protests, no country can afford a land war, that is a tactic that is no longer part of the repertory except maybe for Iraq and Iran, you know, small countries and local tribal wars in Afghanistan.

So the question is, what is, why is NATO even preparing for all this expense as if there were, it could have a land war or Russia could have a land war? Well the only explanation I can come up with is that the arms that NATO has spent two percent of its GDP, or supposed to have spent two percent of its GDP on, really are not for fighting. It’s like when you auction hundred year old wine, this wine is not for drinking, this wine is for trading.

ATS
Yes!

MH
Arms are to employ people in the election districts of American representatives and French and European representatives. They’re arms just to create profits for the war makers, they’re not for fighting and so the whole idea that there can be a land war is fictitious, on either side. And once you realise that there is not going to be a land war, the only thing that America has is bombs, as you point out. The question is, what kind of bombs? We’ve seen the bombs that were used to destroy Afghanistan, and the near East and Lybia, everything from that up to a gradation of true atomic bombs That’s the only thing in the US repertory, so it’s muscle-bound, that’s the problem.

ATS
But, before I say, I don’t even agree about the bombs …

MH
Ah, quite right!

ATS
… because the US never faced integrated air defences.

MH
Definitely

ATS
Multi-layered, you know, air defences that are specialized in protecting forces to national air defences.

MH
This is the point I made in 1978 in my book “Global Fracture”, that the … it’s much cheaper to defend than to make an offence. (? indistinct ?) an enormous amount and is obviously pretty successful in being able to shoot down NATO and US missiles.

ATS
But notice that after Iran hit America’s Centcom bases …

MH
Right!

ATS
… they even didn’t have what it takes to take on even Iran!

MH
That’s right!

ATS
With all my respect, and I do have a great deal of respect for Iran, that’s not the kind of integrated air defences with automated command sys … er, you know computers that automate warfare, etc., that Russia presents. I mean there’s a reason why the US never even considered putting a no-fly zone over the Ukraine, it’s because they’re gonna, the air defences, they have nothing against it. They don’t have the correct ant-radiation missiles, they don’t have the correct aircraft, it’s not gonna work!

I mean, the only thing that I see working is the good old Harpoon missiles fired in large amounts which could do limited damage, but they’re not very powerful, they’re not very fast and they’re not very hard targets. So all they have is really nothing much in terms of what are they gonna do. And so Russia, I agree with you completely, that Russia doesn’t have the means to invade, you know, Europe, etc., but if you look at the Russian military posture, the goal of the Russian military is to protect her borders roughly five hundred to maybe eight hundred kilometres away from it; that is to say that if the US even moves that close to the Russian border. Forward deployment was very popular because of Carter, the Gulf and everything, you know, the pre-positioning of equipment, but in modern warfare, where there is no front and back and where could Russia strike at any depth; Russia could land a cruise missile in Portugal if she wants. Even that is not gonna be helpful. So what’s the scenario?

MH
Let’s suppose that the people in Washington who run NATO are smart enough to listen to your blog, and that they understand everything that you said. Then, why are they doing all of this? They’re not supposed to win, they’re not supposed to beat Russia, they’re supposed to do exactly what President Biden said, is that for every Ukranian that we send, Russia is gonna lose another bullet killing him. Soon, Russia won’t have as many bullets.

We can probably take twenty, you know, two hundred thousand Ukrainians and Russia will have two hundred thousand less bullets and missiles. They’re not there to win, they’re there to deplete Russia and you can see that the Americans expected the whole war to be over by now. Russia would have used up all of its arms, run out of bullets, run out of missiles and the sanctions against Russia would collapse the currency and the Russian people would say “We can’t buy Italian handbags any more. We can’t buy what we are used to, let’s change the regime, let’s have another Yeltsin then at least we could buy everything Western that we could.” That was the fantasy. They must know what you’re saying, it cannot be a secret to the West …

ATS
It’s not!

MH
… wear Russia down. They’ve got Zelensky to essentially have the Ukrainians commit suicide and have the German economy commit suicide …

ATS
Yep

MH
… and have the European economy essentially destroy its ability to be economically independent of the United States.

ATS
But in your opinion, am I correct in my feeling that the US sees, and I mean that there is a consensus of the ruling elite, that a sovereign Russia or a sovereign China is an existential threat to the United States and the West.

MH
Yes, and they’re absolutely correct.

ATS
Would you explain that please. Please explain that in quite detail because it’s really important I think.

MH
The US economy cannot recover its industrial power. Its debt is too high, its cost of medical care, 18% of GDP is too high, it’s the rent is so high, 48% of income. There’s no way in which the United States can grow again. Every business recovery since 1945 has started from a higher and higher and higher level of debt, and now it’s reached the limit. A year ago the Federal Reserve said that half of Americans could not raise 400 dollars in a crisis. The recent increase in interest rates have raised credit card rates and debt service by about 450 dollars per average American. So here are people who couldn’t raise it.

All of a sudden they are shifting their consumption patterns to downsizeable. The dollar stores’ spam is now in short supply because people are moving from expensive meat on to that. So Americans are going downhill. So what is it that Russia and China and India represent? They’re countries that are industrializing and moving forward. The American economy and American society is run by the financial sector; they’ve shifted planning away from government to the financial sector which lives in the short run, and essentially the growth of the one percent is shrinking the ninety-nine percent.

Russia, China, the objective of their government is to increase the overall prosperity. When they create money it is not to increase stock market prices or bond prices, or bail out banks that have essentially gambled on which direction interest rates are going, or whether Bitcoin is going to go up or down. So the whole idea of the purpose of society, the purpose of economic development is different, and China, Russia even Iran, India, they’re showing that what they’ve done is simply following the path that America, the United States and Germany did in the nineteenth century.

It’s a mixed economy, they’re using government to provide basic needs like medical care, education freely, whereas America you have to go deeply into debt for both. Medical bankruptcy is the leading cause of bankruptcy here now. So of course, when the government provides most of the basic needs the employers, the industrial employers, do not have to pay wages enough, high enough, to cover 40% for rent, four thousand dollars a month rent in New York city, or the medical charges. So essentially it’s a conflict of economic systems, and in my book I say that the economic system is basically industrial capitalism evolving into socialism in the rest of the world, as opposed to finance capitalism in the United States.

Now a week or so ago on your blog you had this wonderful map of countries that had imposed sanctions on Russia, NATO and America and English speaking countries and the whole rest of the world. This is how the world is dividing, that map tells you everything you need to know.
The West has essentially committed financial suicide, it’s going down. The rest of the world is going up.

What can you do if you think you’re the unique nation; you’re the nation that everyone should look up to and that you can control other countries, but how can the United States control other countries diplomatically without an industrial sector? And with a government having a debt to foreign central banks and a foreign government far beyond its ability to pay? Much worse than any of the global south countries foreign debt.

How on Earth can you hold on even beyond this September, when you’re going to have countries that owe dollar debts on their bonds, Latin America, Africa, when they cannot afford to pay the dollars to the dollar bond holders if they have to pay higher prices for oil and gas and food and raw materials that the United States banks sanctions against Russia has done. Are they going to really lie back and let America force them into economic suicide because their own pro-American elites, their own Boris Yeltsins in Latin America, other countries, are going to say “We have to do what the Americans say”? Or are they going to say “It’s over!”?

ATS
For one second, take off your Michael Hudson hat and put on the hat you are that financier, the one who thinks exactly the way you described it. What do they practically think is gonna happen to Russia, Iran, India and China, do they really sincerely believe they’re gonna break them up into little parts, have them all run by comprador elites and make a killing, do they believe that?

MH
No. That’s just one scenario they have. They say “if we can’t do that then we’re gonna sell all of our stocks and bonds and we’re gonna try to buy into an investment position in these countries and we’ll gamble on their currencies going up and we’ll make money on the casino.” It’s easier to make money in an economy that’s crashing than it is in an economy that’s rising. If you’re one of the one percent you think “Well OK, the United States economy is going to shrink, boy, we will be able to pick up all sorts of companies at distressed prices. We can certainly buy German and French that are broke at distressed prices, then we can make our own new arrangements with Eurasia on some kind of beneficial terms and we’ll come out OK.”

ATS
Here’s a question that I get a lot, and not being a specialist, I reply to the best of my knowledge, but really I think coming from you it would be very interesting to hear your reaction. What do you make of that theory; you’ve described the financiers that are running the United States right now, What about this thesis that I submit to you: Ah, Putin, Xi, they’re all puppets of Davos, of the World Economic Forum, they’re working hand in glove, there is no opposition, it’s not true.

All these guys what they want is, you know, create a united World Order and all these tensions between Russia, the US, China, it’s all fake, it’s tactical but really fundamentally the people running these countries and the US are the same. So my question is double, first of all, factually what can you tell us about how much does Davos and the World Economic Forum or the Bilderbergers, or whatever, or the other version of that is they’re all working for Israel, that’s another one. What do you make of this that puts all of these leadership in the same bag, question first part, and second part is how are they different if they’re different. How would you compare and contrast the ruling elites and specifically the leaders, but also the class that supports them in say China, Russia, and the United States?

MH
Well, the word that the World Economic Association uses to describe itself is “globalism”, and globalism is their word for “colonialism”. It used to be called “imperialism”. Every imperial European country, Britain, Holland, France, they were all globalists, they were reaching out to take over other countries.

The objective of globalism for them was to create a colonial system where they would essentially extract all of the wealth of their colonies for themselves by appointing a local client Oligarchy to rule on their behalf. So they realised that when President Biden has used a different vocabulary and he said “Well it’s really not between globalism and anti-imperialism, it’s between Democracy and Autocracy.”

What he means by Democracy is what you described, an Oligarchy, and Aristotle described how all democracies tend to evolve into oligarchies because as their wealth goes up, some people get wealthier than others and they are in a position to take over the public media and the political system. Ever since Rome, actually ever since ancient Greece that’s been the case. So on the one hand, the West is really, the World Economic Foundation is sort of, let’s say the board of directors of the western economy, and they’re all like, just like the Greeks all used to get together on one of the sacred islands, either Delos or Delphi, that’s the role that Switzerland has today.

Well, now all of a sudden what you have is autocracy. Autocracy means a country with a strong enough government to prevent an Oligarchy from taking over.

ATS
I love that definition, this is a really good definition!

MH
Yes, and they’re strong enough to say “wait a minute, we’re not gonna let individuals wanna make money at the expense of our long term growth, because if we don’t have long term growth we’re not going to be able to maintain our defences against the globalist colonialist West. We wanna grow, we don’t want to let what President Clinton expected to happen, to let Goldman Sachs bankers go into China, extend credit to Chinese industrial companies, have them issue stocks, buy the majority of stocks and end up doing to China like America did under Yeltsin by privatising the raw materials.

Eurasian countries are saying “No, we’re not going to let the Westerners buy our commanding heights We’re not going to privatise our railroads, our school system, our land and our basic natural monopolies for individuals to make economic rent extraction from them. We’re going to make the public utilities to make our economies so low cost and productive so that our industries can outsell those of the West where they’re busy privatising everything.”

By privatisation the West is making everything into a high cost economy. The rest of the world resisting privatisation doesn’t have monopoly rent, doesn’t have to build even the cost of production into medical care, schooling, they basically provide these either freely or at a discount. That’s exactly how the United States got rich in the nineteenth century, by providing government support for industrialization.

Other countries are doing this so we’re dealing with … America has always said to other countries “Do as we say, not as we have done”, and when they actually do what we’ve done, it’s Autocracy. That’s really it in a nutshell.

ATS
Yes, but, doesn’t Putin go to Davos? Why is he going there, doesn’t it prove that he’s working with them?

MH
I don’t think that there’s any way, the West’s idea of working with China and Russia is to buy financial control of their economy by turning all of their assets, their school system, their railroad system, their water system into rent yielding assets, and other countries are not going to do that. So their idea of working together … the West’s idea of working together is not the rest of the world’s idea of working together. They realize that it’s a one-sided deal in which they lose.

ATS
What do you think is gonna happen to, you know, all the innumerable institutions that were run by the west. I’m not talking about just the Trilateral Commission or the Davos Forum, I’m talking about organisations that are essentially run by the US. That’s because their main financiers have control over all sorts of UN agencies, over so-called private corporations, etc. Do you think that Russia and China will literally, you know, let it all go, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, or are we gonna see two co-existing completely different economies of societies on one planet?

MH
I can answer the question quite simply. America will not join any institution in which it does not have a veto power. The World Bank, it has a veto power in, the IMF, it has a veto power in, and in the United Nations it was the communist agents that suggested the US insist on veto power; the man with a pumpkin, I’m blocking out his name right now. So the United States would veto any policy that would benefit other countries more than itself, and it would never permit other countries to dictate what American policy would be.

That’s why the United States has not joined the International Court, because we can make our own laws, you can’t tell us what to do. It’s why the United States supported the IMF as long as the IMF can essentially act as an arm of the Defence Department, just as the World Bank does. So, obviously any group of nations, such as the Shangai Cooperation Organization, needs a banking organization to facilitate the transfer of funds, to arrange currency swaps to create its own line of credit. There will be a non-US World Bank, a non-US IMF. China, in its Belt and Road initiative, has created its own counterpart to the World Bank.

I would expect that these countries will create their own world court, and they can hold war crimes trials, and the United States may not recognise it but at least the war crimes trials can designate who the war criminals are and pass laws for the rest of the world to win the hearts and minds of South America, Africa and the rest of the world.

And there’ll even be something like the non-aligned countries that began to be formed in 1955 in Jakarta, when they didn’t have a critical mass or no other critical mass. Now all these countries in the chart that you had, with the countries that did not join the sanctions against Russia, can create their own group international organisation, and the West will not be in it unless they let the West in without any veto power, which the West, certainly the United States, will not join. And this new set of international institutions, which is what the United Nations pretended to be, or the IMF pretended to be, a truly global organisations for the benefit of everyone, all of these institutions pretended to be, but actually were arms of US diplomacy.

They can all be created for what the world wanted in the first place. Something like, Russia has already extended the BRICS Bank as a prototype for a new alternative to the IMF, there will naturally be these new institutions taking shape to coordinate trade, development, payments for countries that are unbalanced, the creation of credit so the countries are not forced into bankruptcy if they can’t afford to pay short term debts. Basic coordinating and mutual support organisations. So we’re back to the old philosophy of mutual aid instead of predatory relations.

ATS
But if that happens, considering we already discussed how hell bent the ruling elites of the United States, the financiers, are already, by China, Russia and the other countries in their current still developing stage, my God what are they gonna do if these countries actually … I agree with you, by the way, I think that’s where they’re headed … but my fear is it’s going to be absolute hysteria among Western financiers. I mean, for them isn’t there a moment where they have to choose between death by finance or death by nukes, but it’s the death either way?

MH
Well, as Keynes said, financiers always take the best deal they can get at any moment of time. So if things move not in their ideal way they’ll say “Well, what’s the best we can do?” Well, the one percent can always make more money by squeezing the ninety nine percent in the United States and Europe. It will be very unpleasant to be a European for the next decade.

ATS
Oh yes. I very much agree with that. My personal feeling is that the US has decided deliberately to burn down all of Europe, because it removes a competitor, it allows them to purchase whatever is valuable at cut, you know, very cheap prices. And to fully rekindle the original mission of NATO which is to keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out.

MH
Well the United States calls it a “healing process”. A healing process will be when the American companies get to buy out all the European companies, and essentially probably Germany will become another state just like Rhode Island, England can become another Delaware, it’ll be one happy centralised family.

ATS
But Michael, is that really possible, can they really pull it off while, you know, the quantitative easing is not an option any more, inflation is going up, the country is being de-industrialized? The political tensions internally here are through the roof!
There was a recent opinion poll, where I saw that the majority of Trump voters actually would not be opposed to seceding, that there State would secede from the States that the perceive as being run by, you know, by an etcetera.

Does this country have, I mean it seems to me that, where are they gonna get, you know, the means, the willpower and the time to make any plan or to do anything to try to … you see financiers want to make money, well if they’re busy having a hard time doing this, let’s say somebody who really is, you know, lacking oxygen like in an asthma crisis, if you are in the middle of an asthma crisis you don’t go in the ring to fight Mike Tyson.

MH
Well, you are making a mental leap that is not justified, you’re implying that if 75% of Americans are against something, that’s a political crisis. It’s not a crisis at all, it doesn’t matter. 75% of Americans all believe that women should have access to abortion, neither party supports this. 75% of Americans probably think there should be peace in Ukraine and America shouldn’t be at war. Who cares? That’s no crisis, what does it matter? The popular desires, what they want, are not a crisis if there’s no vehicle to express their unhappiness, and there’s no way in which American voters can express what they want either in the Democratic or the Republican parties, that are really the same party, and are in full agreement with what they’re doing. The voters don’t matter; remember we are talking about the American definition of Democracy, which is an Oligarchy.

ATS
Let me try another angle then, forget about the voters. But surely there are people in this country, there is a manufacturing sector, there’s science and technology, I mean surely there’s some interests that are opposed to the total rule by the financiers and where this is taking the country? I mean, I don’t wanna sound quaint but how about simply patriotic Americans who want their country back and don’t want it to burn down into the delusional, you know, narcissistic dreams of financiers who are completely ignorant on top of that.

MH
The question is, how can they institutionalize these ideas? Now obviously I would like to restructure America on the path that made it so productive and successful for so many administrations, but I don’t have a vehicle to institutionalize it. Even if suppose that Bernie Sanders or even I were President, what could I do with Congress not passing the laws I would like to see? There’s no influence that I can see that I can have that would actually bring about the improvements that you and I are talking about.

Every country, whether it’s Russia or China or America or Europe, any country should follow, how can we do that in America, we’re blocked. I’m surprised the degree to which it’s blocked in Europe, but it shows the extent to which the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, that is the CIA, can not meddle in foreign politics and just bribe and control other countries’ leaders in the way that Lavrov has described America bribing and strong-arming.

ATS
OK, so there’s no way of bringing together or empowering the discontent inside the countries. Europe is …

MH
Yes! Of course there’s discontent, homeless is going way up, of course they’re discontented, but they’re …

ATS
Yeah, yeah, but what I mean to say that there is no way that this could result in political change, you explained that.

MH
I can’t see any …

ATS
Me neither.

MH
… and people like Bernie Sanders tried to figure out what to do, he can’t figure out, Ralph Nader couldn’t figure it out. You know, you look at the reformers who had good ideas, I know many progressives within the Democratic party and they say that there’s nothing that they can do as long as the Democratic party exists. Ironically, the way that they could get democracy in the United States would be for the Democratic party to be completely dissolved, the progressives would all join the Republicans, you’ll have just one party, and at least if you had one party then you could have primary fights over what different ideas there were. Within a single party you could have branches. But with two parties blocking out any alternative, you can’t have, at least what Europe has, and that is a parliamentary system that new parties can emerge with new ideas. There’s no vehicle for a new party to exist with new ideas as long as there’s a two party system in the United States where the Democratic Party’s role is to prevent any left wing critique of the Republican Party.

ATS
Well what I can tell you about Europe is that, first of all, it’s completely under the USA’s thumbs, and the parties … in Europe they just had it simple, they went traditional; if you can’ t provide services or bread and games, repression. The fact that in Holland, of all places, cops used actual live rounds against demonstrators in the country of tolerance, tells you the degree of vicious persecution. In Switzerland, a country I was born in, there is now a law that just for being suspected of supporting terrorism, suspected, they can hold you indefinitely. Just because they thin, maybe a sympathy. Now if you look on top of that, American politicians want to declare Russia a terrorist State and everybody including from, you know, Ralph Nader to Ron Paul anybody who has another opinion is a Putin agent, what it smells to me like is that we’re headed for repression, repression and more repression.

MH
That’s what it looks like.

ATS
That’s it? They’re just gonna jail, censor, and they’re also gonna … I mean it’s literally the, you know, Orwell’s boot stepping on a face. That’ s the future of the West, there’s no other alternative?

MH
It’s the future of the United States, which is remember the unique nation. Other nations have an option, they can emigrate. Europeans can emigrate, you were seeing 20% of the Baltics have emigrated, Ukraine has emigrated. Americans can’t emigrate; they don’t speak a foreign language, they have nothing to offer, they don’t have any skills; maybe they can pick grapes in Mexico, but I’m not sure what else they can do. So that’s the difference, America really doesn’t have much of an option.

It would be nice if American engineers could emigrate to Russia and help organize better factories, but I don’t think they will and they’re really not political enough to be threatened. But the people who are threatened in the United States really don’t have anywhere to go, it’ll be like in the 1940’s, my father was a political prisoner, most people I knew growing up were political prisoners in the United States.

ATS
My impression’s been so far that the key difference between the US and Europe is that in the US there is a Bill of Rights. No such thing in European law, and that Bill of Rights doesn’t really protect us, yes they’re chipping away at it from every corner thinkable, particularly under the heading of national security. National security seems to be trumping the Bill of Rights completely. But still they have that problem, they have this pesky, pesky first, second, fourth, fifth amendment that they would like to bring down, and they really have a hard time doing it.

The other hand, when I look I agree with you; the parties have one agenda, the media is completely … it’s a mouthpiece for the two parties. Congress is run by the same people; there’s nothing left! Essentially are you saying that Russia needs to do absolutely nothing, just wait for the US to self implode?

MH
Of course it has to defend itself, while the United States gets more and more frustrated and angry and acts out its frustrations as it falls apart. I think Marx said the end of Capitalism would not be a pretty sight …

ATS
(laughs)

MH
… we’re seeing that in the United States. As this becomes an issue of national security, as you just said, national security trumps the Bill of Rights. My father was one of the Minneapolis seventeen, and he was accused of having books of Marx and Lenin on his shelf. You’re not allowed … and, the Attorney General who oversaw the case later said the one thing thing he was embarrassed in his life was essentially framing up the Minneapolis ??? and putting them in jail. And he did it to solidify Americas friendship with Stalin, ironically. So that trumps everything. And you saw the Japanese interned in world war two …

ATS
Yes!

MH
… where was the Bill of Rights then? Right now Asians are attacked regularly on the subways and the streets of New York City, where’s the protection against them? You could go right down the list, it’s all … the problem is enforcement, you can have wonderfully utopian laws written, as many of the religions have written them, but it’s all in the enforcement, how are you going to administer them and that’s where the problem is. The Oligarchy is very careful in selecting judges that will do what the Supreme Court is doing now and just making its own rules that have nothing to do with the Constitution, like banning abortion. That’s again, only fourteen procent, I think, of Americans are reported to approve of the Supreme Court, but there it is and what can you do about it?

ATS
But, just in this specific case, it is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong, that the Supreme Court did not ban abortion. The Supreme Court said that there is no constitutional protection for it, therefore it should go down to the States, but it isn’t a ban.

MH
Ah, you’re right and this is a very important point. America is different from every country in having … the Constitution was written by the slave owners, who were terrified that a democracy would enable a majority of abolitionists to ban slavery, and so they wrote into the constitution the slave rights.

The Supreme Court just ruled in the case of global warming and environmental protection there can be no federal rule for environmental protection because the federal government has to leave everything to State rights, and abortion left to State rights. Well, if you have no federal ability to shape or plan an economy, if you have the States can simply go their own way. This was happening half a century ago when there were anti-usury laws in the United States, well …

ATS
Really?

MH
… Dakota said “Well, we don’t have any anti-usury laws”, so all the credit card companies moved their head offices to North Dakota and could charge whatever they wanted. As long as you have no federal power to shrink the economy you can not have forward planning, and that has made the United States a failed society. So it’s moved from a failed economy to a failed society; that’s really what we’re talking about for the big context.

ATS
Do you think over time it will actually physically break up into several successor States? There’s a lot of people will say “No, the South, California, the North, New England are so different and they want to go in completely different directions, let them go.”

MH
I don’t know how that can be done within the constitutional framework, there’s really … the South has to secede by military warfare, and certainly other countries, the States that would like to secede are not about to indulge in warfare. There will be something more like civil disobedience and there will just be more a move to dissolution and anarchy, but I don’t see any formal separation.

ATS
Can I run a scenario by you?

MH
Sure.

ATS
I’ve noticed in history, but also in the case of Russia during the 90’s was very typical, when the central power, and it was very much the case in the Ukraine, before the war started it was already very observable, when the central government cannot provide the local leaders with money, protection, or whatever, it can’t crack down on them either any more. The locals sort of create their local fiefdoms which remain part, say the typical Ukrainian oligarchs all have their geographical fiefdom. Formally it was still a united country, but in reality you could see that it was run locally. And I’m thinking of sitting here in Florida, the governor here has taken some very strong positions, and I don’t think he … people in Florida, first of all most people hate the Federal Government, that’s all over the country, so for starters. Secondly local governors can be very popular, and at that point, I mean I would say a DeSantis has no need for the Feds, none. He has everything he has here …

MH
Yep,

ATS
… he can start ignoring the Feds. So then the next step is do the Feds have the need to force him or some other popular governor to comply? And here I recall something that happened in Russia twice. In 1991, elite special forces were given the order to storm the Parliament and to take it over. And we’re not talking about cops, we’re talking about elite KGB special forces, and they said “We’re not doing this; we’re not shooting our own people!” Then in 1993, the exact same thing happened. This time the order was coming not … the first time, you know, Yeltsin was the target, the second time he was the order giver and he said “Storm!” and I was actually in the room with a Colonel from one of these KGB units who got the call said, you know, “Go there, investigate, see what it would take to clear it up” and they again refused to obey.

So where I’m headed here is I don’t know if the Feds have an army of thugs willing to crack down, I don’t see the locals in Florida be it the Sheriff department or the police or anybody, you know, using violence against the local people here. So without formally seceding, I see signs of Florida sort of going on her own way and basically I would not be surprised if they start ignoring the orders coming from DC ? Garbled ?.

MH
You’re absolutely right, that’s what I said, civil disobedience; they’ll just go their own way. You’re right, you don’t need to break up under a situation like that.

ATS
You agree that the civil disobedience could be coming from local authorities?

MH
Yes.

ATS
OK

MH
Yes

ATS
Because it’s one thing, to you know, to scream slogans in the streets and burn a couple of stores, it’s quite another one to say we’re not gonna obey the Federal government and that comes from my office, the Governor – boom!

MH
Well this is what happened in the 1880’s when there was a contested election between the Republicans, the Democrats and the deal was the Democrats said “OK, we’ll let Hayes become president, but you won’t enforce any of the protection of the slavery laws any more; you won’t support reconstruction any more.” Basically that was the modus operandi that lead to the Ku Klux Klan expanding, and all of that. That’s the kind of split we’ll see. So there will be some population movement from one set of States to another set of States.

ATS
Uh huh, we already see it here.

MH
Yes.

ATS
Believe me, here it’s flooded with Northerners and Californians now!

MH
Yep, I bet. In the 1970’s I stopped calling myself an economist and called myself a futurist because I was working for the Hudson Institute, I worked with Alvin Toffler for the Futures Group, and it was easy to forecast the future when everything was basically occurring in a given setting of institution. Right now I’m not even gonna take a chance on seeing the future, because the future can be whatever the Eurasian countries want to happen, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen there.

All I can say is that there is a very positive idea when beginning about ten years ago, when I was teaching in China, many professors wanted me to, you know, come and lecture to their class and everywhere I talked, the students had such forward looking ideas, such enthusiasm. They really felt that they could change the economy and they saw that Shanghai and the free enterprise boys had begun to make the country free for billionaires, and they wanted to clear up what they viewed as corruption, and it really was corruption, and create a new economy, and they were all undergraduates and most of them worked in the Communist Party as officials, promoting ideals and hoping. And that seems to be, these people are now in their thirties, forties, and I don’t think they’ve been corrupted, I think they’re still trying to transform the economy, but everything is open.

People say that well, China’s a Marxist economy, a socialist economy, but Marxism is the Chinese word for politics, I mean it could be anything really that you want. So the future is completely open for what they’re going to do and I think that they seem to be handling, they seem to be a reality-based politics. It’s surprising that in the field of foreign policy there is a split between the realists and the idealists, meaning the Neocons. There’s nothing like that in economics. The mainstream of economics is neoliberalism, privatisation, Thatcherism, to make the world like Thatcher, there’s no reality economics in the West.

In China, officials said “We really have a problem. We sent our students to the United States to be educated and they take economics courses and how’s that gonna help us here; what they’re told is privatise everything and make us look like Margaret Thatcher’s England!” They have to develop an entire new curriculum there, to sort of self guide themselves, and without an idea of where you’re going, you’re not going to go there. So the question is “what ideas are going to become dominant?” Well, that’s why I spend so much time in China, or at least working with the Chinese these days.

I haven’t seen a similar spirit in Russia. There’s a … I haven’t been in Russia for a while, but when I was there the feeling was still such disillusionment, they didn’t have an idea of where they’re going, and Russia is one of the few countries in the world that has no background in Marxism at all, so they don’t really have much of an analysis of finance capitalism and rentiers and all the things that Marx talked about in volumes two and three of Kapital. So I think that China will really take the lead and I think that this will spread to other Asian countries and to Russia too, and you’ll have countries sort of reinventing the wheel, and it’ll be reinventing the wheel of industrial capitalism, State socialism evolving into socialism, and that’ll probably be a good thing but I’m sure there will be a lot of twists and turns interrupted by personal opportunism along the way.

ATS
Well, as I see it, we’ll make it very short because there’s two minutes left here, Michael, I really do believe that it’s quite striking to see Communist China, neo-liberal Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, you know, completely different countries, coming together and I think the two key moments, I think, what unites them is A: they all want sovereignty, second they want their own way to development, they deny any kind of universal ideology that should be imposed on all others, and third, relationships between countries have to be built on International law, only.

That’s what I see the key pillars of the World order that I think is gonna replace, you know, a thousand years of Imperialism, because I really think that this, this last Empire is the last Empire because it’s a model that’s outlived itself, and is despised in most of the countries out there. Very few countries, still you know have some kind of idea about becoming an Empire, mostly because a lot of them tried it and paid dearly. Imperialism is horrible for the country, at first it’s initially beneficial, but then it turns against you and the blowback is terrible. So that’s basically what I hope to see in the future, God willing we won’t have a nuclear war that’s all I can say.

MH
Well this is wonderful; the strength is their diversity.

ATS
Yes!

MH
Being diverse, no country can dominate the others, this is exactly what gives it stability.

ATS
Thank you, Michael, we’re coming to the last seconds here, I have to stop. Thank thank you, thank you, thank you; it was wonderful, maybe we can do it again, I enjoyed every second of that, so thank you for everything!

MH
Thank you, it’s ????
ATS
And have a wonderful, wonderful day!

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The post The Big Context first appeared on Michael Hudson.

Contents of Alex Jones’ phone set to implicate TrumpJan 6 rally organizers communicated with Trump Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/08/2022 - 9:29pm in

The contents of Alex Jones’ cellphone — which were accidentally handed over to the prosecution in their entirety by the shock jock’s own lawyers during the Sandy Hook defamation trial — could provide proof that Trump and members of his administration were directly involved in the planning of the illegal ... READ MORE

Why did the Georgia GOP team up with a Riot Instigator?“WE’LL LIGHT THE WHOLE SH*T ON FIRE!”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/08/2022 - 8:53am in

The press has finally discovered what we reported a year and a half ago: the RNC is working hand and glove with the “Stop the Steal” January 6 insurrectionists. Here’s the full, still unreported, story... READ MORE

Why Georgia DA Fani Willis is the biggest threat to Donald TrumpState racketeering statute, intended to entrap Democrats, could snare Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/08/2022 - 11:36pm in

About a month ago, I would've said there's no chance Donald Trump will be indicted, and I still think that you're not gonna see that on a federal level. But Trump may yet see the inside of a prison cell, thanks to the efforts of Fani Willis, the first... READ MORE

American Diplomacy as a Tragic Drama

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/07/2022 - 9:26am in

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As in a Greek tragedy whose protagonist brings about precisely the fate that he has sought to avoid, the US/NATO confrontation with Russia in Ukraine is achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. Naming China as America’s main long-term adversary, the Biden Administration’s plan was to split Russia away from China and then cripple China’s own military and economic viability. But the effect of American diplomacy has been to drive Russia and China together, joining with Iran, India and other allies. For the first time since the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1955, a critical mass is able to be mutually self-sufficient to start the process of achieving independence from Dollar Diplomacy.
Confronted with China’s industrial prosperity based on self-financed public investment in socialized markets, U.S. officials acknowledge that resolving this fight will take a number of decades to play out. Arming a proxy Ukrainian regime is merely an opening move in turning Cold War 2 (and potentially/or indeed World War III) into a fight to divide the world into allies and enemies with regard to whether governments or the financial sector will plan the world economy and society.
What is euphemized as U.S.-style democracy is a financial oligarchy privatizing basic infrastructure, health and education. The alternative is what President Biden calls autocracy, a hostile label for governments strong enough to block a global rent-seeking oligarchy from taking control. China is deemed autocratic for providing basic needs at subsidized prices instead of charging whatever the market can bear. Making its mixed economy lower-cost is called “market manipulation,” as if that is a bad thing that was not done by the United States, Germany and every other industrial nation during their economic takeoff in the 19th and early 20th century.
Clausewitz popularized the axiom that war is an extension of national interests – mainly economic. The United States views its economic interest to lie in seeking to spread its neoliberal ideology globally. The evangelistic aim is to financialize and privatize economies by shifting planning away from national governments to a cosmopolitan financial sector. There would be little need for politics in such a world. Economic planning would shift from political capitals to financial centers, from Washington to Wall Street, with satellites in the City of London, the Paris Bourse, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Board meetings for the new oligarchy would be held at Davos’s World Economic Forum. Hitherto public infrastructure services would be privatized and priced high enough to include profits (and indeed, monopoly rents), debt financing and management fees rather than being publicly subsidized. Debt service and rent would become the major overhead costs for families, industry and governments.
The U.S. drive to retain its unipolar power to impose “America First” financial, trade and military policies on the world involves an inherent hostility toward all countries seeking to follow their own national interests. Having less and less to offer in the form of mutual economic gains, U.S. policy makes threats of sanctions and covert meddling in foreign politics. The U.S. dream envisions a Chinese version of Boris Yeltsin replacing the nation’s Communist Party leadership and selling off its public domain to the highest bidder – presumably after a monetary crisis wipes out domestic purchasing power much as occurred in post-Soviet Russia, leaving the international financial community as buyers.
Russia and President Putin cannot be forgiven for having fought back against the Harvard Boys’ “reforms.” That is why U.S. officials planned how to create Russian economic disruption to (they hope) orchestrate a “color revolution” to recapture Russia for the world’s neoliberal camp. That is the character of the “democracy” and “free markets” being juxtaposed to the “autocracy” of state-subsidized growth. As Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov explained in a press conference on July 20, 2022 regarding Ukraine’s violent coup in 2014, U.S. and other Western officials define military coups as democratic if they are sponsored by the United States in the hope of promoting neoliberal policies.
Do you remember how events developed after the coup? The putschists spat in the face of Germany, France and Poland that were the guarantors of the agreement with Viktor Yanukovych. It was trampled underfoot the next morning. These European countries didn’t make a peep – they reconciled themselves to this. A couple of years ago I asked the Germans and French what they thought about the coup. What was it all about if they didn’t demand that the putschists fulfil the agreements? They replied: “This is the cost of the democratic process.” I am not kidding. Amazing – these were adults holding the post of foreign ministers.

This Doublethink vocabulary reflects how far mainstream ideology has evolved from Rosa Luxemburg’s description a century ago of the civilizational choice being posed: barbarism or socialism.

The contradictory U.S. and European interests and burdens of the war in Ukraine

To return to Clausewitz’s view of war as an extension of national policy, U.S. national interests are diverging sharply from those of its NATO satellites. America’s military-industrial complex, oil and agriculture sectors are benefiting, while European industrial interests are suffering. That is especially the case in Germany and Italy as a result of their governments blocking North Stream 2 gas imports and other Russian raw materials.
The interruption of world energy, food and minerals supply chains and the resulting price inflation (providing an umbrella for monopoly rents by non-Russian suppliers) has imposed enormous economic strains on U.S. allies in Europe and the Global South. Yet the U.S. economy is benefiting from this, or at least specific sectors of the U.S. economy are benefiting. As Sergey Lavrov, pointed out in his above-cited press conference: “The European economy is impacted more than anything else. The stats show that 40 percent of the damage caused by sanctions is borne by the EU whereas the damage to the United States is less than 1 percent.” The dollar’s exchange rate has soared against the euro, which has plunged to parity with the dollar and looks set to fall further down toward the $0.80 that it was a generation ago. U.S. dominance over Europe is further strengthened by the trade sanctions against Russian oil and gas. The U.S. is an LNG exporter, U.S. companies control the world oil trade, and U.S. firms are the world’s major grain marketers and exporters now that Russia is excluded from many foreign markets.

A revival of European military spending – for offense, not defense

U.S. arms-makers are looking forward to making profits off arms sales to Western Europe, which has almost literally disarmed itself by sending its tanks and howitzers, ammunition and missiles to Ukraine. U.S. politicians support a bellicose foreign policy to promote arms factories that employ labor in their voting districts. And the neocons who dominate the State Department and CIA see the war as a means of asserting American dominance over the world economy, starting with its own NATO partners.
The problem with this view is that although America’s military-industrial, oil and agricultural monopolies are benefitting, the rest of the U.S. economy is being squeezed by the inflationary pressures resulting from boycotting Russian gas, grain and other raw-materials exports, and the enormous rise in the military budget will be used as an excuse to cut back social spending programs. That also is a problem for Eurozone members. They have promised NATO to raise their military spending to the stipulated 2 percent of their GDP, and the Americans are urging much higher levels to upgrade to the most recent array of weaponry. All but forgotten is the Peace Dividend that was promised in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved the Warsaw Pact alliance, expecting that NATO likewise would have little reason to exist.
Russia has no discernable economic interest in mounting a new occupation of Central Europe. That would offer no gain to Russia, as its leaders realized when they dissolved the old Soviet Union. In fact, no industrial country in today’s world can afford to field an infantry to occupy an enemy. All that NATO can do is bomb from a distance. It can destroy, but not occupy. The United States found that out in Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. And just as the assassination Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) triggered World War I in 1914, NATO’s bombing of adjoining Serbia may be viewed as throwing down the gauntlet to turn Cold War 2 into a veritable World War III. That marked the point at which NATO became an offensive alliance, not a defensive one.
How does this reflect European interests? Why should Europe re-arm, if the only effect is to make it a target of retaliation in the event of further attacks on Russia? What does Europe have to gain in becoming a larger customer for America’s military-industrial complex? Diverting spending to rebuild an offensive army – that can never be used without triggering an atomic response that would wipe out Europe – will limit the social spending needed to cope with today’s Covid problems and economic recession.
The only lasting leverage a nation can offer in today’s world is trade and technology transfer. Europe has more of this to offer than the United States. Yet the only opposition to renewed military spending is coming from right-wing parties and the German Linke party. Europe’s Social Democratic, Socialist and Labour parties share American neoliberal ideology.

Sanctions against Russian gas makes coal “the fuel of the future”

The carbon footprint of bombing, arms manufacturing and military bases is strikingly absent from today’s discussion about global warming and the need to cut back on carbon emissions. The German party that calls itself Green is leading the campaign for sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas, which electric utilities are replacing with Polish coal and even German lignite. Coal is becoming the “fuel of the future.” Its price also is soaring in the United States, benefitting American coal companies.
In contrast to the Paris Club agreements to reduce carbon emissions, the United States has neither the political capability nor the intention to join the conservation effort. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Executive Branch has no authority to issue nation-wide energy rules; only individual states can do that, unless Congress passes a national law to cut back on fossil fuels.
That seems unlikely in view of the fact that becoming head of a Democratic Senate and Congressional committee requires being a leader in raising campaign contributions for the party. Joe Manchin, a coal-company billionaire, leads all senators in campaign support from the oil and coal industries, enabling him to win his party’s auction for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee chairmanship and block any seriously restrictive environmental legislation.
Next to oil, agriculture is a major contributor to the U.S. balance of payments. Blocking Russian grain and fertilizer shipping threatens to create a Global South food crisis as well as a European crisis as gas is unavailable to make domestic fertilizer. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of grain and also of fertilizer, and its exports of these products have been exempted from NATO sanctions. But Russian shipping was blocked by Ukraine placing mines in the sea lanes through the Black Sea to close off access to Odessa’s harbor, hoping that the world would blame the world’s imminent grain and energy crisis on Russia instead of the US/NATO trade sanctions imposed on Russia. At his July 20, 2022 press conference Sergey Lavrov showed the hypocrisy of the public relations attempt to distort matters:

For many months, they told us that Russia was to blame for the food crisis because the sanctions don’t cover food and fertiliser. Therefore, Russia doesn’t need to find ways to avoid the sanctions and so it should trade because nobody stands in its way. It took us a lot of time to explain to them that, although food and fertiliser are not subject to sanctions, the first and second packages of Western restrictions affected freight costs, insurance premiums, permissions for Russian ships carrying these goods to dock at foreign ports and those for foreign ships taking on the same consignments at Russian harbours. They are openly lying to us that this is not true, and that it is up to Russia alone. This is foul play.

Black Sea grain transport has begun to resume, but NATO countries have blocked payments to Russia in dollars, euros or currencies of other countries in the U.S. orbit. Food-deficit countries that cannot afford to pay distress-level food prices face drastic shortages, which will be exacerbated when they are compelled to pay their foreign debts denominated in the appreciating U.S. dollar. The looming fuel and food crisis promises to drive a new wave of immigrants to Europe seeking survival. Europe already has been flooded with refugees from NATO’s bombing and backing of jihadist attacks on Libya and Near Eastern oil-producing countries. This year’s proxy war in Ukraine and imposition of anti-Russian sanctions is a perfect illustration of Henry Kissinger’s quip: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”

Blowback from the US/NATO miscalculations

America’s international diplomacy aims to dictate financial, trade and military policies that will lock other countries into dollar debt and trade dependency by preventing them from developing alternatives. If this fails, America seeks to isolate the recalcitrants from the U.S.-centered Western sphere.
America’s foreign diplomacy no longer is based on offering mutual gain. Such could be claimed in the aftermath of World War II when the United States was in a position to offer loans, foreign-aid and military protection against occupation – as well as manufactures to rebuild war-torn economies – to governments in exchange for their accepting trade and monetary policies favorable to American exporters and investors. But today there is only the belligerent diplomacy of threatening to hurt nations whose socialist governments reject America’s neoliberal drive to privatize and sell off their natural resources and public infrastructure.
The first aim is to prevent Russia and China from helping each other. This is the old imperial divide-and-conquer strategy. Minimizing Russia’s ability to support China would pave the way for the United States and NATO Europe to impose new trade sanctions on China, and to send jihadists to its western Xinjiang Uighur region. The aim is to bleed Russia’s armaments inventory, kill enough of its soldiers, and create enough Russian shortages and suffering to not only weaken its ability to help China, but to spur its population to support a regime change, an American-sponsored “color revolution.” The dream is to promote a Yeltsin-like leader friendly to the neoliberal “therapy” that dismantled Russia’s economy in the 1990s.
Amazing as it may seem, U.S. strategists did not anticipate the obvious response by countries finding themselves together in the crosshairs of US/NATO military and economic threats. On July 19, 2022, the presidents of Russia and Iran met to announce their cooperation in the face of the sanctions war against them. That followed Russia’s earlier meeting with India’s Prime Minister Modi. In what has been characterized as “shooting itself in its own foot,” U.S. diplomacy is driving Russia, China, India and Iran together, and indeed to reach out to Argentina and other countries to join the BRICS-plus bank to protect themselves.

The U.S. itself is ending the Dollar Standard of international finance
The Trump Administration took a major step to drive countries out of the dollar orbit in November 2018, by confiscating nearly $2 billion of Venezuela’s official gold stock held in London. The Bank of England put these reserves at the disposal of Juan Guaidó, the marginal right-wing politician selected by the United States to replace Venezuela’s elected president as head of state. This was defined as being democratic, because the regime change promised to introduce the neoliberal “free market” that is deemed to be the essence of America’s definition of democracy for today’s world.
This gold theft actually was not the first such confiscation. On November 14, 1979, the Carter Administration paralyzed Iran’s bank deposits in New York after the Shah was overthrown. This act blocked Iran from paying its scheduled foreign debt service, forcing it into default. That was viewed as an exceptional one-time action as far as all other financial markets were concerned. But now that the United States is the self-proclaimed “exceptional nation,” such confiscations are becoming a new norm in U.S. diplomacy. Nobody yet knows what happened to Libya’s gold reserves that Muammar Gadafi had intended to be used to back an African alternative to the dollar. And Afghanistan’s gold and other reserves were simply taken by Washington as payment for the cost of “freeing” that country from Russian control by backing the Taliban. But when the Biden Administration and its NATO allies made a much larger asset grab of some $300 billion of Russia’s foreign bank reserves and currency holdings in March 2022, it made official a radical new epoch in Dollar Diplomacy. Any nation that follows policies not deemed to be in the interests of the U.S. Government runs the risk of U.S. authorities confiscating its holdings of foreign reserves in U.S. banks or securities.
This was a red flag leading countries to fear denominating their trade, savings and foreign debt in dollars, and to avoid using dollar or euro bank deposits and securities as a means of payment. By prompting other countries to think about how to free themselves from the U.S.-centered world trade and monetary system that was established in 1945 with the IMF, World Bank and subsequently the World Trade Organization, the U.S. confiscations have accelerated the end of the U.S. Treasury-bill standard that has governed world finance since the United States went off gold in 1971.
Since dollar convertibility into gold ended in August 1971, dollarization of the world’s trade and investment has created a need for other countries to hold most of their new international monetary reserves in U.S. Treasury securities and bank deposits. As already noted, that enables the United States to seize foreign bank deposits and bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.
Most important, the United States can create and spend dollar IOUs into the world economy at will, without limit. It doesn’t have to earn international spending power by running a trade surplus, as other countries have to do. The U.S. Treasury can simply print dollars electronically to finance its foreign military spending and purchases of foreign resources and companies. And being the “exceptional country,” it doesn’t have to pay these debts – which are recognized as being far too large to be paid. Foreign dollar holdings are free U.S. credit to the Unites States, not requiring repayment any more than the paper dollars in our wallets are expected to be paid off (by retiring them from circulation). What seems to be so self-destructive about America’s economic sanctions and confiscations of Russian and other foreign reserves is that they are accelerating the demise of this free ride.

Blowback resulting from US/NATO isolating their economic and monetary systems
It is hard to see how driving countries out of the U.S. economic orbit serves long-term U.S. national interests. Dividing the world into two monetary blocs will limit Dollar Diplomacy to its NATO allies and satellites.
The blowback now unfolding in the wake of U.S. diplomacy begins with its anti-Russia policy. Imposing trade and monetary sanctions was expected to block Russian consumers and businesses from buying the US/NATO imports to which they had become accustomed. Confiscating Russia’s foreign currency reserves was supposed to crash the ruble, “turning it into rubble,” as President Biden promised. Imposing sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas to Europe was supposed to deprive Russia of export earnings, causing the ruble to collapse and raising import prices (and hence, living costs) for the Russian public. Instead, blocking Russian exports has created a worldwide price inflation for oil and gas, sharply increasing Russian export earnings. It exported less gas but earned more – and with dollars and euros blocked, Russia demanded payment for its exports in rubles. Its exchange rate soared instead of collapsing, enabling Russia to reduce its interest rates.
Goading Russia to send its soldiers to eastern Ukraine to defend Russian speakers under attack in Luhansk and Donetsk, along with the expected impact of the ensuing Western sanctions, was supposed to make Russian voters press for regime change. But as almost always happens when a country or ethnicity is attacked, Russians were appalled at the Ukrainian hatred of Russian-language speakers and Russian culture, and at the Russophobia of the West. The effect of Western countries banning music by Russian composers and Russian novels from libraries – capped by England banning Russian tennis players from the Wimbledon tournament – was to make Russians feel under attack simply for being Russian. They rallied around President Putin.
NATO’s trade sanctions have catalyzed helped Russian agriculture and industry to become more self-sufficient by obliging Russia to invest in import substitution. One well-publicized farming success was to develop its own cheese production to replace that of Lithuania and other European suppliers. Its automotive and other industrial production is being forced to shift away from German and other European brands to its own and Chinese producers. The result is a loss of markets for Western exporters.
In the field of financial services, NATO’s exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT bank-clearing system failed to create the anticipated payments chaos. The threat had been so loudly for so long that Russia and China had plenty of time to develop their own payments system. This provided them with one of the preconditions for their plans to split their economies away from those of the US/NATO West.
As matters have turned out, the trade and monetary sanctions against Russia are imposing the heaviest costs on Western Europe, and are likely to spread to the Global South, driving them to think about whether their economic interests lie in joining U.S. confrontational Dollar Diplomacy. The disruption is being felt most seriously in Germany, causing many companies to close down as a result of gas and other raw-materials shortages. Germany’s refusal to authorize the North Stream 2 pipeline has pushed its energy crisis to a head. This has raised the question of how long Germany’s political parties can remain subordinate to NATO’s Cold War policies at the cost of German industry and households facing sharp rises in heating and electricity costs.
The longer it takes to restore trade with Russia, the more European economies will suffer, along with the citizenry at large, and the further the euro’s exchange rate will fall, spurring inflation throughout its member countries. European NATO countries are losing not only their export markets but their investment opportunities to gain from the much more rapid growth of Eurasian countries whose government planning and resistance to financialization has proved much more productive than the US/NATO neoliberal model.
It is difficult to see how any diplomatic strategy can do more than play for time. That involves living in the short run, not the long run. Time seems to be on the side of Russia, China and the trade and investment alliances that they are negotiating to replace the neoliberal Western economic order.

America’s ultimate problem is its neoliberal post-industrial economy

The failure and blowbacks of U.S. diplomacy are the result of problems that go beyond diplomacy itself. The underlying problem is the West’s commitment to neoliberalism, financialization and privatization. Instead of government subsidy of basic living costs needed by labor, all social life is being made part of “the market” – a uniquely Thatcherite deregulated “Chicago Boys” market in which industry, agriculture, housing and financing are deregulated and increasingly predatory, while heavily subsidizing the valuation of financial and rent-seeking assets – mainly the wealth of the richest One Percent. Income is obtained increasingly by financial and monopoly rent-seeking, and fortunes are made by debt-leveraged “capital” gains for stocks, bonds and real estate.
U.S. industrial companies have aimed more at “creating wealth” by increasing the price of their stocks by using over 90 percent of their profits for stock buybacks and dividend payouts instead of investing in new production facilities and hiring more labor. The result of slower capital investment is to dismantle and financially cannibalize corporate industry in order to produce financial gains. And to the extent that companies do employ labor and set up new production, it is done abroad where labor is cheaper.
Most Asian labor can afford to work for lower wages because it has much lower housing costs and does not have to pay education debt. Health care is a public right, not a financialized market transaction, and pensions are not paid for in advance by wage-earners and employers but are public. The aim in China in particular is to prevent the rentier Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector from becoming a burdensome overhead whose economic interests differ from those of a socialist government.
China treats money and banking as a public utility, to be created, spent and lent for purposes that help increase productivity and living standards (and increasingly to preserve the environment). It rejects the U.S.-sponsored neoliberal model imposed by the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization.
The global economic fracturing goes far beyond NATO’s conflict with Russia in Ukraine. By the time the Biden administration took office at the start of 2021, Russia and China already had been discussing the need to de-dollarize their foreign trade and investment, using their own currencies. That involves the quantum leap of organizing a new payments-clearing institution. Planning had not progressed beyond broad outlines of how such a system would work, but the U.S. confiscation of Russia’s foreign reserves made such planning urgent, starting with a BRICS-plus bank. A Eurasian alternative to the IMF will remove its ability to impose neoliberal austerity “conditionalities” to force countries to lower payments to labor and give priority to paying their foreign creditors above feeding themselves and developing their own economies. Instead of new international credit being extended mainly to pay dollar debts, it will be part of a process of new mutual investment in basic infrastructure designed to accelerate economic growth and living standards. Other institutions are being designed as China, Russia, Iran, India and their prospective allies represent a large enough critical mass to “go it alone,” based on their own mineral wealth and manufacturing power.
The basic U.S. policy has been to threaten to destabilize countries and perhaps bomb them until they agree to adopt neoliberal policies and privatize their public domain. But taking on Russia, China and Iran is a much higher order of magnitude. NATO has disarmed itself of the ability to wage conventional warfare by handing over its supply of weaponry – admittedly largely outdated – to be devoured in Ukraine. In any case, no democracy in today’s world can impose a military draft to wage a conventional land warfare against a significant/major adversary. The protests against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s ended the U.S. military draft, and the only way to really conquer a country is to occupy it in land warfare. This logic also implies that Russia is no more in a position to invade Western Europe than NATO countries are to send conscripts to fight Russia.
That leaves Western democracies with the ability to fight only one kind of war: atomic war – or at least, bombing at a distance, as was done in Afghanistan and the Near East, without requiring Western manpower. This is not diplomacy at all. It is merely acting the role of wrecker. But that is the only tactic that remains available to the United States and NATO Europe. It is strikingly like the dynamic of Greek tragedy, where power leads to hubris that is injurious to others and therefore ultimately anti-social – and self-destructive in the end.
How then can the United States maintain its world dominance? It has deindustrialized and run up foreign official debt far beyond any foreseeable way to be paid. Meanwhile, its banks and bondholders are demanding that the Global South and other countries pay foreign dollar bondholders in the face of their own trade crisis resulting from the soaring energy and food prices caused by America’s anti-Russian and anti-China belligerence. This double standard is a basic internal contradiction that goes to the core of today’s neoliberal Western worldview.
I have described the possible scenarios to resolve this conflict in my recent book The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. It has now also been issued in e-book form by Counterpunch Books.

Photo by Harold Wainwright on Unsplash

 

The post American Diplomacy as a Tragic Drama first appeared on Michael Hudson.

Laugh and Live: A Barbarian on Japan’s Art Island

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/07/2022 - 7:02am in

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Published in Nikkei Asia 13/ 7/2022

The first thing I see on disembarking from the ferry is a giant polka-dotted pumpkin sitting on the dockside.

“That’s an iconic artwork,” says my companion, browsing the guidebook. “People come from all over the world to see it.”

“It looks more like a piece of scenery from Sesame Street.”

“At least it makes you think. That’s the whole idea.”

"Where's Cookie Monster?" Yayoi Kusama's red pumpkin “Where’s Cookie Monster?” Yayoi Kusama’s red pumpkin (photo: NW)

All it makes me think is that contemporary art is full of hype and blather. Yet, I’m willing to accept that the fault lies with me. I’ve come all the way to Naoshima, Japan’s art-island, to have my prejudices confirmed or disproved by concentrated exposure to the subject.

Naoshima is the brainchild of the late Tetsuhiko Fukutake, founder of Benesse Holdings, an education and publishing company.  A man ahead of his time, Fukutake came up with the word “benesse” to signify the well-being that he wanted to promote through his business and cultural activities.

Set in the Inland Sea, the island is a twenty minute boat journey from the mainland of Okayama Prefecture. The northern part is dominated by a copper-smelter operated by Mitsubishi Materials. Turning the southern part into an art site was an extraordinarily ambitious, multi-decade project.

 NW) Once a dentist’s clinic, this building is now an artwork called Dreaming Tongue (photo: NW)

A bus takes us up the winding road to the isolated, super-luxury Benesse House Hotel which contains the Benesse House Museum. On its walls, I spy a Hockney and a Warhol which are pleasant, but unmemorable. More puzzling is a series of almost identical black-and-white photos of shorelines by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Hiroshi Sugimoto's shoreline photos (photo by NW) Hiroshi Sugimoto’s shoreline photos (photo by NW)

“He’s interrogating the meaning of the sea,” says my companion, reading from the explanation on the wall.

“The guy went to beaches all over the world to take these photos, and they all look the same?”

“The sea is the sea.”

Unable to argue with that, I move on to the next artwork, which is “Three Chattering Men” by Jonathon Borofsky*. It consists of three tall metallic figures with jaws that go up and down while they utter the words “chatter, chatter, chatter.” From time to time, they burst into brief snatches of song.

“How annoying is that! It must drive the people who work here around the bend. No, don’t tell me. It’s supposed to be annoying, right?”

A smug nod from my companion. The next chamber is where my resistance starts to crumble.  The piece, by Bruce Nauman, is a tower of neon signs that flash out an apparently random sequence of three word messages, all ending with “and live” or “and die”.

LAUGH AND DIE / SCREAM AND LIVE / EAT AND DIE / FAIL AND LIVE / PAY AND DIE

I sit in front of the display for some fifteen minutes, semi-mesmerized. The effect is like a high-speed fortune-telling device. Except these are not potential futures, but certainties. All will happen to everybody, one way or the other.

We walk along the beach towards the Lee Ufan Museum which, we are assured, is a kilometre further along the coast. Except that after walking back and forth for a considerable time we see nothing resembling a museum. What we do see is a large field with a couple of huge boulders in it.

“Are those works of art?” I muse. “Or are they just random rocks?”

“They could be both,” says my companion, unconvincingly. “Maybe it’s an open-air museum.”

We approach the rocks and study them carefully, but end up none the wiser. We are on the point of giving up when a group of art-lovers emerges from the side of a large green hillock. The hillock, it turns out, is a vegetation-covered bank behind and below which hides the bunker-like Lee Ufan Museum.

Like many of the art-related buildings on Naoshima, it was designed by the brutalist architect Tadao Ando, who was part of the art island project right from the start. Lee Ufan’s stone and steel objects do nothing for me, but the museum itself is a remarkable structure, using natural light to illuminate the exhibits.

A ten minute walk away is the Chichu Museum. Again, Ando’s building is largely underground, yet quite literally casts new light on the artworks. I found Walter de Maria’s cathedral-like installation pompous and unpleasant, but the setting of five of Monet’s waterlily paintings is the highlight of the whole Naoshima experience. There is no question that ex-boxer Ando’s creativity has significantly heightened the impact of Monet’s genius.

Inside Taro Ando's self-designed museum on Naoshima Inside Tadao Ando’s self-designed museum on Naoshima (photo: NW)

Next morning we take a ferry to Teshima, a larger island which suffered for decades from illegal dumping of industrial waste. Teshima Art Museum, twenty minutes from the port by electric bike, houses a single artwork –  “Matrix” by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa, winner of the Pritzker prize in 2010.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the artwork is the museum itself, including its backdrop of terraced paddies – restored for the project – drowsing in the sunshine.

We take a looping path past the flying saucer-like café and through a grove ringing with birdsong. Then it’s shoes off to enter a giant egg-shaped structure with two large oval apertures open to the elements. Inside, there are no pillars or walls, just curved surfaces.

The view from inside the Teshima Museum The view from inside the Teshima Museum

It takes a while to figure out what’s going on. Dribbles of water emerge from holes in the ground, scoot across the super-smooth floor, make strange shapes, merge with other dribbles to form streams and pools. It’s a slow, engrossing process

“I get it,” I whisper to my companion. “This is the primeval soup from which all life emerges.”

“Maybe so, but watch where you’re putting those big feet!”

“Damn!” It’s too late. Before I know it, I’m hopping around in a mini-lake and my socks are sodden.

“Looks like you just delayed life on earth by fifty trillion years,” my companion smirks.

What can I say but “sorry”.

We whizz down the mountain to the Yokoo House, a venerable residence of stone and charred cypress blocks that has been repurposed as a gallery.  On display is the distinctive iconography of Pop Artist Tadanori Yokoo, featuring the seven gods of good luck, Yukio Mishima, pyramids, erotic woodblock prints, and pastiches of movie scenes and famous paintings.

There is also a mysterious circular tower to explore, and a bright red rock garden containing a golden stork and real carp swimming in a psychedelic pond. The effect is like wandering through one of Yokoo’s dreams.

 NW) Tadanori Yokoo’s psychedelic garden (photo: NW)

The pamphlet praises the two toilets that Yokoo has designed for the house. Having been too busy examining artworks to attend to the usual necessities, I decide to pay a visit to a Yokoo toilet and kill two birds with one stone.

The interior is indeed glorious with lavish fittings and a throne-like seat, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t get the flush to work. Much to my mortification, I’m forced to leave behind a sizeable memento of my visit.

“You took a long time,” said my companion.

“I was interrogating the distinction between art and function.”

“At least it made you think.”

Probably the next visitor too, I reckon.

There was much else to intrigue and delight on the art island tour. To name a few favourites, there was the Tadao Ando museum, the Art House experiments in Naoshima’s Honmura district and Hiroshi Senju’s waterfall paintings at Ishibashi.

At the ferry terminal At the ferry terminal (photo: NW)

Have I been converted to the cause of contemporary art? Not entirely. I’m never going to be reconciled to that polka-dotted pumpkin, and there were other works that struck me as empty and pretentious. But I plan to be back some time for a second helping. The setting is so magical that even getting annoyed is enjoyable

Weeks later, I still hear the chattering men* going “chatter, chatter” in elevators and cafés. Sometimes I close my eyes and see neon signs flashing.

TOUCH AND LIVE / EAT AND DIE / PLAY AND LIVE / RAGE AND DIE / KISS AND LIVE

 

*it seems that the “Three Chattering Men” exhibit has been removed since my visit.

Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman Greg Palast's most important investigation ever

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/07/2022 - 11:20am in

Greg Palast and his investigations team bust the most brazen, racist attack on voting rights yet—engineered by Georgia’s Brian Kemp to ensure victory in his rematch with Stacey Abrams. You’ll meet Kemp’s army of vigilante vote challengers — one who dresses up like ... READ MORE

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