A gob-smacking website on neoliberalism, from an IT guy: Softpanorama

The majority of content is about IT; but after 20 years, the political/economic corpus of the site is very large.

This is a "slightly skeptical" self-education oriented site that contains resources for university students and the independently minded IT folks, critical of mainstream fads. Most material is related to programming, especially scripting (shell, Perl, pipes, Unix tools) and Unix system administration. But there are also some pages devoted on neoliberalism, toxic managers, energy and some other more peripheral topics. The site is oriented on people and organization with limited resources It might be useful as a self-education tool for those "over 50" IT folk who recently found themselves excluded and marginalized: "without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape." (Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism). See Over 50 and unemployed.

In the neoliberal society we now live you no longer can be purely technical specialist, you need to understand social context of your life as well. Or you will be squeezed mercilessly. Students who are brainwashed by neoliberal propaganda have high chances to become debt slaves after graduation. Debt peonage is not a new normal and universities became basically real estate hoarders and debtor magnets for the banks. Unless you learn the difference between education and indoctrination you have a chance to became " a debt slave" for banks. What used to be applauded as "the middle class" turns out to be simply an indebted working class.

http://www.softpanorama.org/index.shtml

As I said, the sections on neoliberalism, neoclassical economics, and libertarianism are large and devastating. Here are the first two paragraphs of the Introduction to the Neoliberalism section - which has 70 sub-topics:

Neoliberalism is a very interesting social system which by-and-large defeated and replaced both New Deal capitalism and socialism (and facilitated the dissolution of the USSR by buying out Soviet nomenklatura, including KGB brass). It is the only social system in which the name of the system is somehow is prohibited by MSM to mention. In this system, like under socialism, the state play the leading role in enforcing the social system upon the people, brainwashing them with wall-to-wall 24 x 7 USSR-style propaganda and, if necessary, by state violence. So instead of regulating predatory tendencies of capitalism like under New Deal, state became just a corrupt policeman that serve large corporations and against the people. In this sense any neoliberal country is to certain extent is an "occupied country" and the neoliberal regime is occupying regime, much like Bolsheviks were in USSR space. Much like during Robber barons era, when the state helped to squash West Virginia miner upraising in 1912-21.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, who exercise they political power mainly buying and selling, the process which supposedly rewards merit (producing market winners) and punishes inefficiency. It postulates that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. In a way "market" is a all powerful deity under neoliberal which makes its a secular religion. As such it is very hostile to Christianity. Among other things it denigrates the power of human compassion.

http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Neoliberalism/ind...

I have been clicking around the site for hours. It will take days to figure out where the best stuff is. I do have to say, the site is sorta disorganized. Interesting sub-topics pop up in unexpected major topics/sections. But, for me, scanning the site has been like opening presents under the Xmas tree.

You may ask, "who runs this site". That takes a little bit of scrolling. Eventually, you find:

Copyright © 1996-2016 by Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov. www.softpanorama.org was created as a service to the UN Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) in the author free time.

This is a Spartan WHYFF (We Help You For Free) site written by people for whom English is not a native language. Grammar and spelling errors should be expected.

No biographical info is provided. So, a Google search turns up:

Since 1998 he became an albeit controversial, critic of simplistic, pseudoreligious views on the possibilities of open source and the dangers of its commercialization. In 1999 he introduced the highly controversial term "Vulgar Raymondism" and in 2005 coined the names of two philosophical schools on writing open source software: "Software Realism" and "Software Idealism". In 1999 he published two influential[7] papers devoted to analyses and critique of Eric Raymond's views on the development of open source software: "Critique of vulgar Raymondism"[8] and "A second look at the Cathedral and the Bazaar".[9] These papers discuss the similarities between open source software development and academic research.[10] The first paper produced a sharp response from Eric Raymond.[11]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Bezroukov

I found the site accidentally. Because I'm on a 1950s kick, I was looking up C. Wright Mills "The Power Elite". That led me to something I had never heard of: The Iron Law of Oligarchy (ILO). Clicking on links about that led me to the Softpanorama article on ILO:

In essence, Iron law of oligarchy postulate that any complex organization self-generate its own elite, an oligarchy that has a disproportional influence on the decisions made in the organization. Such an elite is pretty autonomous from "rank-and-file" members and is little affected by elections. As such Iron law of oligarchy stands in stark opposition to pluralism and suggests that "participatory democracy" is a utopian ideal and that democracy is always limited to very narrow strata of existing oligarchy (top 0.01% in the USA). It also stands in opposition to state autonomy theory.

http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Elite_theory/iron...

Notice that this topic is under the "Political Skeptic" section of the website. As I said, navigation of the site is tricky.

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If anyone is already aware of the website, please share your knowledge and opinions. I also encourage folks who went there based on this OP to share links to interesting parts of the site.

Enjoy.

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Comments

Resurgence of neofascism as reaction on crisis of neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization

while classic fascism now is almost extinct, there are multiple and more viable mutations of far right nationalism (which experience renaissance due to effects of population caused by neoliberal austerity) that are called by generic name of neofascism. And it proved to be highly adaptable ideology. For example, some flavors of neofascism replace physical suppression of internal opposition with MSM control (which already achieved in neoliberal societies). Opposition is simply pushed out of mainstream media into alternative media and ignored, not physically suppressed. Similar the idea of racial/ethnic purity can be replaced by cultural, by rejection of alternative culture/language in particular country; Spanish in the USA or Russian in Ukraine. In other forms by more sophisticated forms of identity politics. Similarly, the idea of one party system can be replaced with two party system, producing the same effect and allowing to preserve parliamentary democracy, while achieving basically the same goals as one party system.

As a political behavior all flavors of fascism are distinguished by obsessive preoccupation with militarism, community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood (Nation under attack meme) and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and the idea of national rejuvenation (as reflected in "make America great again" slogan, although it originated in Paleoconservatism movement which isi not connected to fascist ideology of any kind). After all, the concept of national rejuvenation historically was one of the key reasons classic fascist regimes of the last century came to power. First Mussolini and then Hitler espoused citizens’ duty to recover their respective nations ancient strength and glory. The key question for particular country is:

"Does the country have an organized, committed nationalistic (please note that "exceptionalism" is a form of nationalism) militants, in alliance with traditional elites, who are ready to use violence without ethical or legal restraints for internal cleansing of the society and external expansion?".

http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Corporatism/neofa...

This section has 42 subheadings. Someone posted a link to it as a PDF. That PDF file had 1600 pages in it.

As I said, this site is gigantic.

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@arendt

plus some user comments.

Actually links to the relevant stories are listed immediately after the content, in reverse chronological order. When you click on a link, you get a "notable quotes" section, some commentary by the website, and then the actual linked story, then, sometimes, user commentary.

I'm still figuring out how the site is organized.

I recognize many of the relevant stories as ones I have read and/or quoted in my writing. The value of this site is to organize huge amounts of alternative media into topics and chronological order to facilitate research.

I'm beginning to think of the site as more of an uncensored encyclopedia of leftwing political and economic writing.

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@arendt

Us folks in the IT realm tend to follow logic and logical patterns pretty well Smile

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@ChezJfrey

Since good IT people are very successful, it is easy for them to believe in meritocracy and to be evangelized by Libertarians that reinforce that "I did it all on my own" attitude that is so corrosive to society.

Just look at Peter Thiel (an uber-Techno-Libertarian, who is also very tight with the CIA) giving money to kids to start their own businesses and avoid going to college. Great way to create an unbelievably politically narrow worldview, and then have those people in a position to dictate terms to society from crypto-fascist platforms like Facebook.

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@arendt @arendt
I'm sure what you state is prevalent.

What is interesting and contradictory about Thiel's 'pay-to-drop-out-for-tech-venture' is his own experience as first a philosophy degree, then law. So he personally studied human philosophies and the societal constructs of law, presumably enabling his own success, but then aims to quash that same path for future generations, making them narrow, tech-only, money-bots. I'm curious about the true motivation for that plan, given it is so contrary to his own background.

I can state from my own experience, some of my favorite, and I believe beneficial course work in college, was my stint in various philosophy classes (pursuing a BS in accounting/computer science dual). I chose them to fulfill my 'general education' requirements and to this day, I am extremely thankful I did so. Philosophy study turned into a hobby of mine and I think it has done me a great service in teaching me HOW to think, vs. what to think.

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@ChezJfrey

Do what I say, not what I do.

But, he is following a long line of inhuman regimes based on abstruse philosophical ideas - Khmer Rouge (French philosophy), the Shining Path.

Your background is interesting. I agree that any exposure to the hunted-to-extinction liberal arts is an essential part of being educated, rather than simply trained to do a job.

Although I have made my living writing computer code, I was trained as a scientist and always viewed computers as tools. I have followed AI research from its early arrogant, overreaching claims, through the debacle of "hard AI" in the 1990s, to the resurgence of AI based on neural nets.

Scientifically, the new Deep Learning techniques are quite well-grounded, both mathematically and from a cognitive science POV. That is why I'm scared that people like Thiel are recruiting soulless nerds with delusions of grandeur to run the AI-drive future.

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riverlover's picture

@arendt I recall one on an island in Canada. There were actually cattle herds on the road seasonally. It was near a one-room school house, abandoned. Other side of the road.

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Hey! my dear friends or soon-to-be's, JtC could use the donations to keep this site functioning for those of us who can still see the life preserver or flotsam in the water.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy, credited to Robert Michels.

Here's a separate review of that law that I found intriguing. Not for the optimists Wink

https://www.cos.edu/Faculty/JohnD/Documents/PS%20MICHELS.pdf

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@ChezJfrey

C. Wright Mills was no optimist either.

He was derided 60 years ago as a jeremiah, but all his predictions have come true.

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ggersh's picture

It is the only social system in which the name of the system is somehow is prohibited by MSM to mention. In this system, like under socialism, the state play the leading role in enforcing the social system upon the people, brainwashing them with wall-to-wall 24 x 7 USSR-style propaganda and, if necessary, by state violence. So instead of regulating predatory tendencies of capitalism like under New Deal, state became just a corrupt policeman that serve large corporations and against the people. In this sense any neoliberal country is to certain extent is an "occupied country" and the neoliberal regime is occupying regime, much like Bolsheviks were in USSR space

Just from what is posted the bias is anti USSR, could it be a Nazi fascist
leaning site

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“We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

― Chris Hedges

@ggersh

He states upfront that the capitalists helped the Nomenklatura loot the former USSR.

I know a lot of Russians who hate the Communists, but state that:

Everything that Lenin said about Communism was a lie.
Everything he said about Capitalism was the truth.

I will keep your caution in mind as I peruse further. I will also be aware that my browsing is self-selecting, so that I may walk around material that you find disturbing.

Also, NB quotes huge chunks of material in his unbelievably long-winded argumentation. Its quite possible that he quotes rightwing stuff to provide the facts that he then demolishes.

I don't know yet. The site is brand new to me.

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Arrow's picture

I'll have a lot of reading now.
ILO...have to really study that
As far as Eric Raymond is concerned. I've read his book and there is much to criticise.
Most of it is Libertarian philosophy which is the hallmark of certain 'techie' types.

Gotta see what he has to say.

There is a growing consensus about neo-liberalism, if not a 'Grand unifying theory' on it.

Thanks for this.

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Reality is leftist. Naked aggressive capitalism can’t fix the world it broke. - Umair Haque

https://medium.com/bad-words/reality-is-leftist-1399401fd93c

@Arrow

There is a growing consensus about no-libetalism, if not a 'Grand unifying theory' on it.

Is "no-libetalism" a typo? What does it mean? Where can I find a definition of it?

Thanks

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@arendt

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@Arrow

...a shape shifting fraud that opportunistically adopts whatever rhetorical cover forwards its aims.

About the best summary of its characteristics/virulence factors is from Mirowski:

http://www.the-utopian.org/post/53360513384/the-thirteen-commandments-of...

Mirowski is a difficult read. His books are so full of exotically referenced insults and convoluted, multi-clause put downs that I can barely finish them. But the particular article I just pointed at is a summary of the one fairly concrete chapter in his book:

https://www.versobooks.com/books/1613-never-let-a-serious-crisis-go-to-w...

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mimi's picture

@arendt
already written in 2013... Wow, for me this comes five years too late. Again, thanks for posting this link.

It's an amazing and scary read, definitely should be gone through step by step.

[1] THOU SHALT REVIVE AUTHORITY IN A NEW GUISE
[2] THOU SHALT ERASE DISTINCTIONS
[3] THOU SHALT WORSHIP “SPONTANEOUS ORDER”
[4] THOU SHALT RETASK THE STATE TO THY NEEDS

A primary ambition of the neoliberal project is to redefine the shape and functions of the state, not to destroy it. Neoliberals thus maintain an uneasy and troubled alliance with their sometimes fellow-travelers, the anarchists. The contradiction with which the neoliberals constantly struggle is that a strong state can just as easily thwart their program as implement it; hence they are inclined to explore new formats of techno-managerial governance that protect their ideal market from what they perceive as unwarranted political interference.

[5] THOU SHALT REDEFINE DEMOCRACY
[6] THOU SHALT BECOME THE MANAGER OF THYSELF

Neoliberalism thoroughly revises what it means to be a human person. Classical liberalism identified “labor” as the critical original human infusion that both created and justified private property ...Not only does neoliberalism deconstruct any special status for human labor, but it lays waste to older distinctions between production and consumption rooted in the labor theory of value, and reduces the human being to an arbitrary bundle of “investments,” skill sets, temporary alliances (family, sex, race), and fungible body parts. “Government of the self ” becomes the taproot of all social order, even though the identity of the self evanesces under the pressure of continual prosthetic tinkering; this is one possible way to understand the concept of “biopower.” Under this regime, the individual displays no necessary continuity from one “decision” to the next. The manager of You becomes the new ghost in the machine. ...

Needless to say, the rise of the Internet has proven a boon for neoliberals; and not just for a certain Randroid element in Silicon Valley that may have become besotted with the doctrine. Chat rooms, online gaming, virtual social networks, and electronic financialization of household budgets have encouraged even the most intellectually challenged to experiment with the new neoliberal personhood. A world where you can virtually switch gender, imagine you can upload your essence separate from your somatic self, assume any set of attributes, and reduce your social life to an arbitrary collection of statistics on a social networking site is a neoliberal playground. The saga of dot.com billionaires, so doted over by the mass media, drives home the lesson that you don’t actually have to produce anything tangible to participate in the global marketplace of the mind. ...

Neoliberalism has consequently become a scale-free Theory of Everything: something as small as a gene or as large as a nation-state is equally engaged in entrepreneurial strategic pursuit of advantage, since the “individual” is no longer a privileged ontological platform. Second, there are no more “classes” in the sense of an older political economy, since every individual is both employer and worker simultaneously; in the limit, every man should be his own business firm or corporation; this has proven a powerful tool for disarming whole swathes of older left discourse....

It also appropriates an obscure historical development in American legal history—that the corporation is tantamount to personhood—and blows it up to an ontological principle. Third, since property is no longer rooted in labor, as in the Lockean tradition, consequently property rights can be readily reengineered and changed to achieve specific political objectives; one observes this in the area of “intellectual property".

[7] THOU SHALT REDEFINE FREEDOM AND KNOWLEDGE
[8] THOU SHALT KEEP THY CRONYISM COSMOPOLITAN
[9] THOU SHALT KNOW THAT INEQUALITY IS NATURAL
[10] THOU SHALT NOT BLAME MONOPOLIES AND CORPORATIONS
[11] THOU SHALT TRUST THE BANKERS
[12] THOU SHALT REDFINE CRIME
[13] THOU SHALT ACCOMMODATE THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

Ok, I have to put it down now. Too much to digest and swallow, never eaten so many bad commandments in one scoop.

HORRIBLE.

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7 users have voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

@mimi

In the book "Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste", he details how the neolibs managed to escape unscathed from the 2008 debacle, and actually wind up more firmly in the driver's seat than ever. Unfortunately, his narrative is so hard to follow, much less summarize, that my only take away is how they easily twist the meaning of words and concepts with the aid of the media and the ideologues known as economists.

To me, the scariest thing about neoliberalism is that they are literally erasing the meaning of words, like Orwell's Newspeak. One of your quotes catches one aspect of the assault on language and meaning:

Not only does neoliberalism deconstruct any special status for human labor, but it lays waste to older distinctions between production and consumption rooted in the labor theory of value, and reduces the human being to an arbitrary bundle of “investments,” skill sets, temporary alliances (family, sex, race), and fungible body parts. “Government of the self ” becomes the taproot of all social order

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gulfgal98's picture

@arendt

...a shape shifting fraud that opportunistically adopts whatever rhetorical cover forwards its aims.

It is a perfect description of neoliberalism. Thank you again for this great essay.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West "...isn't the problem here that the government takes on, arbitrarily and without justification, an adversarial attitude towards its citizenry?" ~CantStoptheMacedonianSignal

@gulfgal98

He covers the evolution of what he calls the "Neoliberal Thought Collective" from 1950 onwards. He shows how it kept changing its prescriptions and even its name. (Originally, they identified as neoliberals. These days they deny that's what they are and accuse the left of making up "neoliberal" as an insult.) It is this constant morphing of its assault that allows neoliberalism to defeat attacks on it, much as the constantly changing coat of malaria defeats the immune system.

Mirowski is smart enough to follow every twist and turn of the NTC's propaganda; but his writing assumes we are all just as smart as he is. That's why his books do not get traction outside of the economics community. (And that's why he hasn't been crucified by TPTB. He is free to shout the truth where the only people who will hear him are guaranteed to ignore him.)

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Another tech site with a politics section is anandtech.com.

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gulfgal98's picture

a while back. There were seventeen essays in the series but I never quite finished it due to the elections and other issues that popped up. In fact, I am not sure it could be finished. However, if anyone wishes to go back and read those essays, here is a link to the most recent essay in the series. In it you will find links to all the previous essays. IMHO, the two most important ones are number 3 which describes the characteristics of neoliberalism and number 4 on the myth of meritocracy.

If you chose to read only one essay, read number 4 on the myth of meritocracy. Number 4 provides the understanding into the mindset of neoliberals and why we cannot expect them to change. Hillary Clinton is probably the most glaring example of that mindset.

BTW, I am happy to see new links here in your essay and I look forward to reading them. Great essay!

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West "...isn't the problem here that the government takes on, arbitrarily and without justification, an adversarial attitude towards its citizenry?" ~CantStoptheMacedonianSignal

mimi's picture

...

"Oh My God! They Killed init! You Bastards!" -- from a Slashdot post

Can't help it, but I love the thought of those bastards doing it. Smile

It helps to get away from the "code fan boys". /ducking

I remember during 1994 to 1996 I tried to understand something about UNIX, LINUX, Perl and command lines and thanks God, the first system admin, who helped me maintaining and coding parts of my website was a perfect religiously motivated, dictatorial asshole. (a Johnny Conquero kinda guy, just not so nice as JtC ... /ducking from JtC throwing rotten eggs on me)

Don't let a few insignificant facts distract you from waging a holy war A Slashdot post

Thank God, he helped just through the ether, so he wasn't able to see my reactions to his "killings". I am such an anti-holy-war honest to God little woman. So ...

"A programmer is a device for turning coffee into the source code."

Foregive me for liking my coffee more than source code... Smile

It is time to unmask the programming community as a Secret Society for the Creation and Preservation of Artificial Complexity.

yeah, for a simpleton like me, it's easy to hate Artificial Complexity. And I hate even more Secret Societies.

But other than that, I think I can learn all I wanted to understand since the mid nineties from that site. Now... if I just weren't such a lazy bastard...

edit to say:
P.S. I forgot to say thank you for this post. It is a huge and important help.

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"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

@mimi

It was sort of distilled Dilbert.

I have never worked in a large software development organization, but I have been close enough to them to appreciate why the Manifesto is written.

My favorite joke about software development is a cartoon where a manager says to his team:

You guys start coding. I'll go find out what they want.

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SnappleBC's picture

Oct 03, 2017 | ronpaulinstitute.org

The answer to the question in the title of this article is that Russiagate was created by CIA director John Brennan. The CIA started what is called Russiagate in order to prevent Trump from being able to normalize relations with Russia. The CIA and the military/security complex need an enemy in order to justify their huge budgets and unaccountable power. Russia has been assigned that role. The Democrats joined in as a way of attacking Trump. They hoped to have him tarnished as cooperating with Russia to steal the presidential election from Hillary and to have him impeached. I don't think the Democrats have considered the consequence of further worsening the relations between the US and Russia.

Public Russia bashing pre-dates Trump. It has been going on privately in neoconservative circles for years, but appeared publicly during the Obama regime when Russia blocked Washington's plans to invade Syria and to bomb Iran.

Russia bashing became more intense when Washington's coup in Ukraine failed to deliver Crimea. Washington had intended for the new Ukrainian regime to evict the Russians from their naval base on the Black Sea. This goal was frustrated when Crimea voted to rejoin Russia.

The neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony requires the principal goal of US foreign policy to be to prevent the rise of other countries that can serve as a restraint on US unilateralism. This is the main basis for the hostility of US foreign policy toward Russia, and of course there also is the material interests of the military/security complex.

Russia bashing is much larger than merely Russiagate. The danger lies in Washington convincing Russia that Washington is planning a surprise attack on Russia. With US and NATO bases on Russia's borders, efforts to arm Ukraine and to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO provide more evidence that Washington is surrounding Russia for attack. There is nothing more reckless and irresponsible than convincing a nuclear power that you are going to attack.

Washington is fully aware that there was no Russian interference in the presidential election or in the state elections. The military/security complex, the neoconservatives, and the Democratic Party are merely using the accusations to serve their own agendas.

These selfish agendas are a dire threat to life on earth .

Reprinted with permission from PaulCraigRoberts.org .

Heh... you think?

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I bet the pearly gates have some eloquent graffiti

@SnappleBC

Ron Paul can sound not insane when he is talking about getting the US out of foreign wars.

I believe there is a lot of this kind of material buried at Softpanorama.

I'll have to start making a list of links to it.

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