All across the planet, especially in the urban areas, the cost of living keeps on rising. Yet, at the same time, millions of homes, apartments and other types of housing units remain empty.
If the much heralded "invisible hand" of the free market were operating as the ideological defenders of capitalism tell us it does, then housing prices should be going down. The law of supply and demand should cause such a drop, in the context of over-abundance.
However, this is not the case. Real-estate is no longer a market driven by consumers, but rather by speculation. The owners make their profits, not by renting out their property, but by waiting for an increase in market value and then selling it.
In a very real sense, housing and real-estate has become a new kind of stock market. In a casino-like atmosphere, wealthy people purchase a building, work to increase its market value, and then "flip it" for profit. The current U.S. President Donald Trump became very wealthy as a real-estate speculator in New York City, pioneering the market environment we now see in urban areas all over the world.
From the moment that the Saudi-led onslaught against Yemen began, the USA has been solidly behind Riyadh. Yemen now faces a humanitarian crisis, yet the forces committed to sovereignty and economic development remain strong, nowhere near surrender. Signs now indicate that as the war continues, some circles within the US power structure may be looking at other options, including negotiations.
US media routinely distorts the conflict in Yemen. The primary narrative is that the war is a complex, internal matter with scores of different factions competing for power. Typical US media reports on the conflict in Yemen overload the reader with references, mentioning “the Houthis”, Saleh, Al-Queda, ISIS, tribal forces, etc.; leaving the reader with the impression that Yemen is simply a disastrous mess of armed factions killing each other in ways that are beyond comprehension.
In addition to the primary narrative, more explicitly hawkish publications, specifically a hardline minority in the US press closely tied to Israel and Saudi Arabia, will repeat an even more distorted narrative. FOX News and the Wall Street Journal, both part of News Corporation, which is partially owned by Saudi Arabia, will often tell a story about Iranian imperialism. They present the war as Saudi Arabia fighting off an attempt by the Islamic Republic to colonize its neighbor.
Both of these narratives distort reality. The war in Yemen is not a deeply complicated mess, and it is not a proxy war with Iran. The war in Yemen is a struggle by one of the poorest countries in the world to assert its independence. Saudi Arabia, aligned with the United States, is fighting to keep Yemen an impoverished, underdeveloped satellite state.
It has become almost cliche to compare the current atmosphere of Russo-Phobia in US politics to the 1950s “Mccarthyism.” The sometimes open and sometimes subtle demonization of alleged Chinese influence in Hollywood has drawn similar parallels. While the anti-Russia, anti-China atmospheres of the 1950s and today are very different, in some ways they are quite similar. The commonalities between the two episodes point to certain truths about the psyche of the American people, especially certain demographics, and what those demonizing the two Eurasian superpowers are really afraid of.
An Inner-Party Purge
The opening of Mccarthyism in the USA, much like the current “Russia Investigation” was a fight within a major US political party. Though Mccarthyism eventually moved toward Republicans calling Democrats “soft on Communism,” the period opened with the Democratic Party purging its own ranks of a distrusted element.
Prior to the Second World War, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had often stood up to his own party in order to transform the United States. Democrats who opposed him had formed the “American Liberty League” in the 1936 Presidential election. Prominent Democratic leader Al Smith urged opposition to Roosevelt saying that the USA “can have only one capital, Washington or Moscow!” This was, of course, a not so subtle recognition of the fact that Roosevelt’s mass movement of supporters had many outspoken Communists and Socialists in its ranks. Though Roosevelt died 1945, after the war, the leftist political army that had backed him remained intact.
The world famous founder of Alibaba may be a billionaire CEO, but the words he is repeating around the world contain echoes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. It may be difficult for the untrained ear to identify it, but it should be no surprise that this rock star of China’s centrally planned economy is on good terms with the deeply ideological ruling Party. For those with a deeper understanding, Marxist undertones can be found all throughout Ma’s technological optimism.
Many people have opened the Communist Manifesto, expecting to find a blueprint for an ideal world scrawled out before them. However, very little was written by Karl Marx or his associates about the supposed nature of the future world. Instead, the focus of Marx’s writings was on the philosophical concepts he coined, dialectical and historical materialism. In essence, Marxism is an understanding of world history as being driven forward by a struggle to advance living standards, and achieve a higher mode of production.
Speaking at Valdai Discussion Club in October, Jack Ma harshly criticized those who responded to the birth of the internet with fear. He said “where other people worry, we figure out ways to solve the worry.” He reminded those of us in the audience of the many fears that accompanied the invention of the automobile. He says “If we have more imagination and creativity we will feel much better.”
On July 8th, at a small theater in Manhattan, one of the country’s most outspoken anti-capitalist voices debated a well-known figure of the Alt-Right. In this rare occurrence, articulate representatives of the two ideologies that have been clashing in the streets had a chance to debate with words, not fists.
Representing the political left and socialism was Caleb Maupin, a journalist and political analyst. Maupin does not shy away from the word “Communism” and used the debate to present a unique vision for “Socialism with American Characteristics,” as well as to castigate the far-right for its bigotry and primitive thinking which dehumanizes immigrant workers, low income people, and others within US society. Representing the Alt-Right was Augustus Sol Invictus, a Republican Senate candidate who has been a headline speaker at “Unite The Right” rallies. Invictus was once a libertarian, but ended up being shunned in free market circles for his blatant use of fascist imagery and association with white nationalists.
The ban on travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is primarily an attack on the people in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is a move to further isolate the DPRK, and prevent tourist dollars from flowing in, while also preventing fraternization between Americans and citizens of the country. However, the State Department’s decision also has another target in the crosshairs, one much closer to Washington DC.
According to reports in the press, roughly 5,000 US citizens visit the DPRK each year. Most are tourist youth attracted to the mystique and adventure of traveling to a country so widely demonized in the US media. Communist organizations send political delegations and Christian sects such as the Mennonites often send missionaries and aid workers. However, one can be sure that among the 5,000 people who visit the country each year is more than a few American spies, posing as tourists.
When one looks over the recent history of Americans being arrested in North Korea prior to the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the reasons for the arrest almost always indicate activities that could be described as espionage. Merrill Newman, for example, was a former member of the US military’s “White Tigers” division during the Korean War. The 85 year old man was arrested in the DPRK as he wore a ring with the insignia of this anti-DPRK fighting and intelligence unit. After being arrested he confessed to participating in some of the war crimes against the Korean people during the 1950-1953 war. Newman stated “I did not realize North Korea was still at war” after his eventual release.
After Chinese stocks fell on Monday, July 17, the media based in the United States offered an almost unanimous explanation. According to the U.S. press, the Chinese Stock Market fell in response to the two-day National Financial Works Conference. A headline in the Wall Street Journal from Tuesday, July 18 reads “Beijing Talks Tough, and Stocks Fall.” Editorials and other statements go on to say China is facing potential ruin because of too much government oversight and regulation. This is an ideologically loaded assumption and analysis of events, which misses the overall lessons of China’s recent history.
First of all, it is important to note that U.S. analysts seem desperate to make negative predictions about China’s economy, and look for any possible indicator to point towards. Many will recall how in June of 2015, after turmoil in China’s stock markets, the U.S. media announced a pending collapse and spoke endlessly about a “Chinese slowdown.” The doom and gloom they predicted never materialized, and China has continued to expand. China’s rate of GDP growth remains between 6.7 percent and 6.9 percent, a rate that would be envious to most nations on earth. The USA’s rate of growth for 2016 was merely 2 percent.