The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin

Yandex

The arrest of Chinese telecommunications CFO Meng Wanzhou has sent shockwaves through the global markets. The context of the smartphone industry and the new challenges facing big western monopolies from Russia and China is vital background information for anyone who wants to understand these recent, dramatic events.

One of the favorite talking points of defenders of free markets is “capitalism made your iphone.” According to the meme, those who believe in socialism or Marxism are presented as total hypocrites if they own smartphone as only the profit system’s rewarding of entrepreneurship could ever produce such a technological creation.

However, a little investigation reveals that the entire premise of the meme is false. The first cellphone was created by Leonid Ivanovich Kupriyanovich, a Moscow-based engineer in 1955 who conducted his research in state-run facilities. Furthermore, the screens of most smartphones are illuminated by Light Emitting Diodes (LED), the first of which was invented in 1927 by Oleg Vladimirovich Losev. Losev was also a Russian who conducted his research in state sponsored facilities.

Asked to present to the Center for Political Innovation and Students and Youth for a New America on the topic of "What is Neoliberalism?" Caleb Maupin led the discussion based class which can be viewed in the above video.

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The contrived outrage regarding Putin’s high five with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman obscures the fact that Russia-Saudi and Saudi-US relations are completely different.

The US relationship with Saudi Arabia, a longstanding outrage among those who take US foreign policy rhetoric about “human rights” seriously, is widely in question. The slaughter of Jamal Khoshoggi, a journalist associated with the Washington Post, carried out in a particularly brutal manner, was hard to overlook. The fact that the USA sells huge amounts of weapons and purchases huge amounts of oil from a despotic monarchy that still practices public beheadings, has suddenly become a widespread topic of debate. The atrocities in Yemen, currently committed by the Kingdom in effort to restore puppet leader Mansour Hadi, are suddenly now up for debate as well, with liberals suddenly being outraged by crimes they previously ignored.

However, those forces that seek to change the conversation, have latched on to clever conversational diversion. Yes, while the US government’s relationship with the Saudi monarchy is one of billions of dollars in weapons sales and contracts with Wall Street’s four supermajor oil monopolists, Russian President Vladimir Putin is being blasted for giving a “high five” to the Saudi Crown Prince at the G20 in Argentina.

Trump Obama2The November 20th White House Statement, given on behalf of US President Donald Trump, contained a level of crass honesty previously unheard of in US politics. The statement admitted Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist, Jamal Khoshoggi, but justified continued US-Saudi relations in the following terms:

“After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”

Unlike almost all of Trump’s predecessors, US policy was not being defended in the name of democracy or human rights, or even fighting terrorism. What Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti spent their careers trying to prove is now being stated openly: US foreign policy is about money. It’s about oil profits and weapons contracts, not lofty ideals about freedom and security. One is almost reminded of the Saturday Night Live character, Nathan Thurm. Thurm was the caricature of a crooked, corporate lawyer. When confronted with the misdeeds of his clients, the Thurm character would nervously inhale from a cigarette and say phrases like “Of course, do you think I don’t know that?” and “What’s your point?”

While some of the Pentagon brass and some elderly conservatives may appreciate Trump’s frankness and “telling it like it is,” one can be sure that many within the intelligence community are fuming with rage. Trump’s crass honesty is undoing years and years of work, mainly the work of managing the image of the United States and building relationships with potential proxy fighters.  However, this “soft-power” strategy of maneuvering and manipulating Muslim extremists had ultimately climaxed during the term of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Barack Obama: A 21st Century Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte was not a Muslim, and most likely, not a genuine Christian either. Bonaparte rose to power in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when atheism was in fashion within the circles of power. Napoleon arranged for the Pope to coronate him as Emperor, but then dramatically took the crown from the Pope and placed it on his own head. Napoleon was excommunicated by Pope Pius VII, but eventually reconciled with the Church shortly before his death in 1821.

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The foreign policy strategies of the previous two US administrations were very straight forward. George W. Bush favored “spreading democracy” through regime change. Barack Obama had come to office amid frustration with these hawkish neoconservative policies, and instead favored soft-power and manufactured revolutions coordinated with NATO allies.

But what is the foreign policy of the Trump administration? No straight forward answer can be given, even after a sloppy attempt to define the “Trump Doctrine” regarding Iran in an essay from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In the publication Foreign Affairs, printed by the Council on Foreign Relations, Pompeo attempted to explain the actions and objectives of the United States in regards to the Islamic Republic. The article was confused, inaccurate, and much like the Trump administration itself, seemed to be trying to please many different people at the same time.

Hypocrites or Fanatics? – They Cannot Be Both

In attempting to explain the “Iranian Threat,” Pompeo proclaims: “And today, no regime has more of an outlaw character than that of Iran. That has been the case since 1979, when a relatively small cadre of Islamic revolutionaries seized power…” Those who are familiar with the history of the Islamic Republic know very well that the outpourings of people who brought down the brutal, US backed Pahlavi regime and created the Islamic Republic, were anything but small. The millions of people who took to the streets, some of them actually wearing burial shrouds as they marched because they expected to be gunned down, were quite massive. The crowds that greeted Imam Khomeni at the airport when he returned from exile were equally large.

Caleb Maupin discusses the Trade War on RT BoomBust with Bart Chilton.

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Belief in historical progress was once abundant in the western world. In fact, some of the uglier crimes of western colonialism were justified in the name of progress. Colonizers and imperialists often claimed to be more advanced than those they repressed and brutalized, and justified their mistreatment of others in the name of somehow “civilizing” and “advancing” their victims. However, in recent years, this very western concept has been largely eroded.

Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker tried to put forward a western, capitalist conception of historical progress in his article “The Enlightenment is Working” published by the Wall Street Journal on February 13th, 2018. Observing the condition of American discourse, he began his article saying: “For all their disagreements, the left and the right concur on one thing: The world is getting worse. Whether the decline is visible in inequality, racism and pollution, or in terrorism, crime and moral decay, both sides see profound failings in modernity and a deepening crisis in the West. They look back to various golden ages when America was great, blue-collar workers thrived in unionized jobs, and people found meaning in religion, family, community and nature.” Pinker’s article went on to give a defensive attempt to assert the concept of progress in an atmosphere where it is notably absent, and say that such progress is indeed coming from western countries.

Those who still have faith in the future most certainly breathed a sigh of relief when Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose ideological breakthroughs have been added to the Communist Party’s constitution, took the floor at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai for his widely viewed keynote address.