I’ve been composing this difficult blog in the shadow of a national tragedy, as the country grieves for the 20 children and eight adults senselessly slaughtered at an elementary school in Connecticut last Friday. Although it took a particularly horrific tragedy to jolt Americans into having an actual conversation on a taboo subject — the prevalence of gun violence and frequency of mass-shootings in the U.S. — it’s encouraging that we are finally somewhat soberly engaged in a national discussion addressing this serious problem (it’s my understanding that we’re even contemplating some normally unthinkable remedies, like Senator Feinstein’s proposed “perfected” assault weapons ban, which would exempt only 900 such weapons). Today’s blog, however, is not focused on the recent events in Newtown, CT (or even on the similar tragic event that occurred in the city of Newtown, Australia, where a 1996 mass-shooting led to the passage of national gun laws that transformed Australia’s annual unplanned ritual of grief into a 15-year respite from such horrors — that’s 15 years, and counting, since Australia’s last mass-shooting event, proving that old axiom, Where there’s a will, there’s a way).
This blog is about the urgency of expanding the present reality-based discussion to include the other grave challenges that America faces at this critical juncture in our history, challenges every bit as serious as gun violence (and that’s saying something, with over 30,000 annual gun fatalities in the U.S. and dozens of mass-shooting incidents since our last “wake-up call” at Columbine, just 13 years ago). I don’t mean to downplay the terrible tragedy in Connecticut. Twenty children were killed last Friday. The world will never learn what those young people had to contribute, making their loss immeasurable. I just accidentally saw the face of one of these young victims displayed during a DemocracyNow! musical break (breaks I usually skip past) — which, with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” playing in the background, instantly brought a rush of emotion. It’s like I was hearing the song for the first time; it suddenly meant something to me, especially when DN! host Amy Goodman reminded me that Mr. Clapton had written the song for his dead four-year old son. Simply put, there’s no overstating this loss.
Yet in the greater world, an estimated 6.9 million children under five have perished over the last twelve months, most due to the negligence of an economic/political order that is largely indifferent to their deaths — the vast majority of which were easily preventable, per the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, an additional 20 million children under five suffer from acute malnutrition, and over 170 million children worldwide have seen their growth stunted as a result of chronic malnourishment (a problem that is especially bad in places where the U.S. has been at war for many years, such as Afghanistan).
These statistics, appalling for many decades now, frankly reflect the values of our political and economic leaders. Our leaders — from Wall Street CEOs all the way to their favorite/most effective lackey, President Obama — have proven themselves basically indifferent to massive human suffering and death, including the annual deaths of millions of children. If that statement seems strongly worded, consider how long this nightmare has been going on. Consider how these children’s deaths receive next to no mention in our corporate media and no mention whatsoever in our political contests and debates; consider the policy record, demonstrating that both of our leading political parties serve only the Corporatocracy, an unprecedented global tyranny that requires massive human suffering — slavery, war, and the deaths of scores of millions of children — in order to keep its filthy wheels turning (which is why there are MORE SLAVES in the world today, it is estimated, than at any previous point in history).
This is the fundamental truth that Americans STILL need to grasp after eight long, calamitous years of George W. Bush and four catastrophic years of Barack Obama: our government has been 99-100% corrupted by the greatest enemies of liberty and freedom to have ever walked the earth. I don’t care how hyperbolic that may sound, it’s time for Americans to wake up and look at the world that’s been birthed by our leaders (with our tax dollars). It is the Corporatocracy’s world, plain and simple — Mussolini’s vision, realized: autocratic, oppressive, heedlessly reckless, deeply corrupt (with only one value: PROFIT$), and monstrously cruel to hundreds of millions of human beings — the vast majority of whom will likely die prematurely over the next few decades, thanks to its machinations. These are the threats that American policy (first and foremost) has unleashed: runaway climate change; institutionalized perpetual war, and the extraordinary squandering of resources which we all need to live, especially water (there’s a reason the Pentagon is preparing for a century of “water wars” and the European Union has tried to make financial bailouts conditional on water privatization: the world is quickly running out of potable water sufficient to support our growing population; the powers that be anticipate chaos and increased conflict as a result).
“Future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honor” – from the Observer/UK newspaper’s summary of the key findings of a 2003 Pentagon report, focused on the projected impacts of climate change.
Earlier this month, Glenn Greenwald made an excellent point about how America is perceived in the world vs. how most Americans perceive themselves. Discussing the flap arising from a Korean pop sensation’s “anti-American” (anti-torture) comments, Mr. Greenwald also noted that THE CROWD (before whom “Gangnam Style” artist Psy made his comment — that American torturers should be tortured themselves) ATE IT UP. And South Koreans are our good allies! Predictably, America’s image in the Muslim world has only continued to plummet in recent years, but it should be noted that America’s image problem goes well beyond the Middle East.
The problem, as Greenwald notes, is that most Americans are still laboring under the twin misperceptions that a) we’re not so hated in the world; and b) those who hate us are the victims of anti-American propaganda. These dumb clucks still think “They hate us for our freedoms,” but the ever-astute Mr. Greenwald correctly observes that that insipid refrain was never more than a hollow bit of propaganda itself, crafted to keep Americans “shopping” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — rather than better acquainting themselves with America’s monstrous history in the world, especially in the region that spawned our attackers (aka, the CIA’s old partners — like most of the people whose countries we attack: bin Laden, Saddam, Qaddafi, Bashar Assad…).
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My point in writing this is not to “bash” America. I still think that the best features of my country — our brilliant Constitution and respectable past traditions of providing a relatively democratic, transparent, and progressive government (at home, anyway) and my fellow citizens (many of whom don’t endorse torture and do have critical thinking capacities and a strong moral compass) — may yet redeem this moment… though such a turn of events is increasingly unlikely.
My point is that we MUST respond to this moment, because everything (more or less) depends on how we respond to the existential crises that are upon us:
1) The literally existential threat to humanity — per the U.N. Secretary General, the Pentagon, and, most recently, the World Bank — is climate change. There may yet be time to reverse the overall trend (unlikely, but possible, is my understanding). But there’s definitely time to mitigate the effects on hundreds of millions (maybe even billions) of people, at great risk under the present scenario.
2) There’s also the clear threat to the moral/legal foundations of the country (threatening the country’s soul, if you will) posed by the Bush/Cheney post-9/11 (Global War on Terror-premised) framework that President Obama has needlessly enshrined into law. Contrary to what many “liberals” tell themselves (folks cheerfully oblivious to the existence of Obama’s “Kill List” and other atrocities), President Obama has taken most of Bush’s worst abuses considerably further. For instance, it was not Bush but Obama who officially retired “due process,” Posse Comitatus, and habeas corpus, and, effectively, several of the Bill of Rights amendments. And it is Obama who has casually renewed the fascist PATRIOT ACT and the FISA reinvention that makes near-total surveillance of communications possible in today’s America). Today’s Washington DC is an unambiguous affront to the founding values of the United States, and Obama has done nothing to improve the situation — quite the contrary. Under Barack Obama’s leadership, our government has repeatedly bombed weddings, medical rescuers, children, and funerals — intentionally, killing countless innocents along the way (collateral damage, they call it). With endless billions flowing from our unauditable Pentagon and government, the U.S. — Bush through Obama — supports Pakistan’s ISI, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and countless other terrorists in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and beyond (after fifteen years of voracious news-following and book-reading, I find it impossible to imagine a more committed supporter of global terrorism than the United States). Finally, under the last two presidents, America has worked globally to deny rights to prisoners, journalists, and political dissidents (and not just in Bahrain, but here at home).
3) The assault on our electoral systems, ranging from the utter corruption of our campaign finance system to the wildly unequal voting conditions (hours’ long waits for millions) to the discriminatory voter I.D. laws in more than half the country, to the outrageous gerrymandering that enabled the Republicans to maintain control of the House despite the fact that their candidates (collectively/nationally) lost by over a million votes! And then there are all of the GOP governors and state legislators working to pass laws that allow them to undo elections, replacing elected mayors, city councils, school boards, etc. with appointed corporate cronies (see Michigan). In today’s America, voters are for disenfranchising and ignoring, no matter what promises were made during the campaign. Speaking of which…
4) And then there’s the “Grand Bargain” I’ve been railing about for the last month. It just keeps getting worse; in fact, it’s exactly as if Mr. Romney and the Republicans had won the election, based on the agenda they’re pursuing in DC. So I guess I spoke too soon when I said that Democrats have apparently taken Social Security cuts off the table (that’s what I get for taking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at his word). Such egregious cuts are now back on the table, with conservatives’ long-sought chained Consumer Price Index (or “chained CPI”) suddenly, bizarrely, being advocated and embraced by Nancy Pelosi and this faux-Democrat president. This Democratic proposal translates into $130 billion in Social Security benefit reductions — cuts that Obama promised he’d never seek. Once again, Barack Obama has begun negotiating with himself, further and further to the right — to the point that he’s now considerably to the right of most self-identified Tea Party Americans (70% of whom do not endorse cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit). Taking my cue from some of the world’s most esteemed economists, I’ve already written a great deal about the lunacy of pushing austerity when the economy badly needs stimulus, but Americans need to understand that the nature of this crisis is political and not economic (and here, I’m just paraphrasing Nobel laureate Paul Krugman). Our debt-GDP ratio is within acceptable norms, and the only real driver of America’s projected large deficits is our skyrocketing healthcare costs — which could be reined in, if only PhRMA and AHIP (the giant pharmaceutical and insurance lobbying groups, respectively) didn’t own our political institutions so completely.
My point is that we’ve created a global political/economic order — the Corporatocracy — that would make the Founding Fathers shudder. Mega-powerful elites are not remotely constrained by law. HSBC, one of our TBTF (Too Big To Fail) banks, has recently been busted for decades of money-laundering for drug cartels and terrorists — but no criminal charges will result, either for the bank or for the individuals who ran it. They’re also too big to jail, it seems. Just like Silvio Berlusconi: he routinely had underage prostitutes (child sex slaves, essentially) at his “bunga bunga” parties (for other above-the-law elites), and just a few weeks back he was convicted of bank fraud. Is he headed to jail? No, he’s considering running for a fourth term as Italy’s prime minister! How about the Bush-era neocons and torturers? Well, they’ve done very well for themselves, without a single domestic criminal investigation into their torturing, mass-murdering crimes against humanity (although the rest of the Western world has seen fit to at least compensate some of their many innocent victims). Are there hundreds of thousands of people dead in Iraq as a result of Bush’s criminal war, founded on witting deceptions? Yes, but that’s okay — you neocons and torturers still get top positions in the Obama administration, and you even get to resume your old tricks (like flooding Syria with al Qaeda, covert ops, and light-heavy arms, just because Assad won’t let Starbucks, Exxon, and Wall Street turn his country into another Western fief). And then there’s Rupert Murdoch, perhaps the world’s slimiest media mogul, repeatedly misleading the British inquiry into his organizations’ phone-hacking. Murdoch and his son have apparently lied repeatedly to the Brits, trying to cover up the role they personally played in this scandal — but will they be held to account? Of course not; the hacking scandal also exposed Murdoch’s cozy infiltration and manipulation of official England, from the Prime Minister’s office to Scotland Yard. In movie-mafia lingo, Rupert is a “made man” — he could phone hack the British royal family and get away with it… oh wait, he already has… And now the Obama administration is laboring on Mr. Murdoch’s behalf to allow him to violate decades old media ownership laws (he’s preparing to purchase the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune, both based in areas where Murdoch’s NewsCorp already owns significant other media outlets… Yes, once upon a time, our government didn’t permit one rich bastard to own all the newspapers, radio stations, and television stations in one city — but those quaint days are behind us).
In short, the greatest criminal malefactors, frauds, and terrorists that the world has ever known are UNTOUCHABLE (like the Pope who spent decades shielding serial child molesters from the law).
This world order is unacceptable (and completely unsustainable), and most of the world’s population is trying desperately to resist it. Americans need to join them, opposing and working to reform our broken government… while we still can. We need to understand that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are wafer thin and amount to little or nothing, policy-wise. We also need to understand who our real leaders are (plutocrats, hedge fund managers, and CEOs, with a Saudi prince or two, thrown in for good measure). And we seriously need to comprehend that their atrocities threaten us all. Austerity and drones — the “shock doctrine” and war on terror — have finally come for YOU, America. You’ve already lost your privacy and the right to due process. You’ve already had your economy plundered to the tune of $16 trillion by a bunch of frauds, aided and abetted by the government. What’s it going to take to get you off the sidelines?
The Corporatocracy that America built over the last several decades has grown into a great, murderous, historically destructive force in the world, one that increasingly does not recognize national sovereignty or the laws that have provided the basis of our civilizations for centuries. They’re turning the world into an ever more chaotic and cruel place, one that might not have much of a future at all, if the most dire climate change predictions continue to come to pass.
My advice: RESIST!
(And you can start by calling your alleged “representatives” and the president TODAY, urging them to TAKE ENTITLEMENTS OFF THE TABLE AND GO OFF THE FISCAL CLIFF, IF NECESSARY… After all, I’d rather see the military have to cut $600 billion in spending over a decade rather than a mere $100 billion, which is Obama’s latest, MIC-friendly revision; and I’d rather see tax rates go up MORE for the 1% than for the middle class — something else that will be undone with Obama’s latest offer. Can somebody please remind me again, which side won the election we just had? Because it sure seems like President Romney is getting everything the far right wanted and more…)