NATO Is a Protection Racket, Among Other Things


Let’s Go Back Over the Story

The rationale for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been based on a genial lie from the beginning: that the United States set up and essentially runs NATO in order to protect Europe from potential Russian aggression. It seems to make perfect sense when interpreted in the context of the Cold War, in which we were obliged by Big Brother to perceive almost everything as a Russian plot. The best defense against this looming danger, the story goes, was a military alliance led by the greatest power in the history of the world, the United States.

In the immediate post-World War II period the US, which took more than its share of the credit for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, saw an opportunity to consolidate its influence over the continent. Given the poverty and disarray of other countries after the war, the Americans saw an opportunity for the United States to advance their world-domination agenda. Their first step in tutoring their European allies, and it was a masterstroke, was to create NATO in Washington on April 14, 1949, and headquarter it in Brussels. This grouping of the Europeans in a single organization made them much more manageable. Casting the organization as a military mutual defense project with the all-powerful US at the head left Europe as a virtual American protectorate. Any significant deviation from the American agenda entailed the threat of American withdrawl of their protection. Of course, that protection had to be paid for. Does this business model sound familiar? It should. It made Francis Ford Coppola rich making movies about it.

The creation of the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1949 laid the foundation of the American neo-colonial infrastructure, along with the Bretton Woods agreements founding the World Bank and the IMF, which guaranteed American economic and monetary dominance. Then, in 1952, came the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA), the greatest electronic eavesdropping agency in the world. With these measures in place the deck was nicely stacked to assure three quarters of a century of American world ascendency. That domination was not seriously questioned until the rise of Chinese industrial, economic and military power in the early 21st century. Today the United States has a new set of defense priorities and the prospect of Russian tanks rolling into Poland is not high on that list.

What Benefits Does NATO Contribute to the United States? 

President Donald Trump whinges a lot about European NATO members not contributing enough to the NATO budget. After all, he alleges, NATO exists to protect Europe. It’s only fair that Europeans should pay their fair share. And from his point of view they don’t seem to be doing that.

The President’s point of view, however, doesn’t hold much water. Is the principal mission of NATO really to protect Europe? President  Trump and his peripatetic Secretary of State, Mike (El Pompi) Pompeo, pretend to be unaware of the benefits that NATO provides the United States. Here’s what the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman and the Center for Transatlantic Relations’ Hans Binnendijk write in their issue brief, NATO’s Value to the United States: By the Numbers:

“NATO promotes peace within Europe and deters major US adversaries from launching large-scale conventional wars.

  • World War II cost the United States more than 400,000 lives and an estimated $4.1 trillion (in 2011 dollars). NATO has been key to preserving peace within the European continent and preventing other adversaries from launching a major conventional war.

  • According to credible sources, a major conventional war today could cost the United States upwards of $2.5 trillion per year.

    NATO is a force multiplier that gives the United States access to military tools in greater numbers than it can achieve by itself.

  • Non-US NATO members have 1,857,000 active duty service members and 1,232,290 reservists. The seven largest non-US NATO member armies have the same number of active duty troops as the United States (1.3 million).

  • Non-US NATO members can deploy 6,983 battle tanks, 34,000 armored vehicles, 2,600 combat aircraft, 382 attack helicopters, 252 major naval craft (including submarines), and 1,582 patrol and surface combatants.

  • France and the United Kingdom alone provide 30 percent of the Alliance’s ballistic-missile-submarine fleet.

  • NATO’s European members are beginning to host the first stages of the Alliance’s new ballistic-missile-defense system aimed at preventing long-range attacks by rogue states on the United States and Europe.

  • NATO members frequently share intelligence across the Alliance, aiding US operations and intelligence-gathering. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany alone add 40,000 intelligence personnel to the Alliance’s intelligence capabilities.

  • Non-US NATO members host twenty-eight US main operating bases in Europe, which cut down on the time needed for the United States to respond to a crisis and are critical for US missions in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • In 2009, for example, Germany contributed $800 million to offset and improve its US bases.

NATO undertakes numerous missions to protect member states and promote security around the globe.

  • NATO has five active missions around the world deploying 18,000 troops.

  • Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has completed thirteen missions including two in the United States (Hurricane Katrina relief and post-9/11 air reconnaissance patrol).

  • NATO allies contributed thousands of troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, including 38,000 in 2011, saving the United States an estimated $49 billion that year. The operation in Afghanistan was the first and only time NATO’s mutual defense commitment was invoked.

  • Non-US members sustained more than 1,000 combat deaths in Afghanistan, with an additional one hundred lost by NATO partners.

  • Non-US NATO members contributed more than 60 percent of assets for Operation Unified Protector in Libya.

  • Non-US Coalition members flew one-third of all coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Operation Inherent Resolve.

  • NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield against piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been led at different times by Denmark, Spain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.

NATO supports and protects the economies of Europe, which are critical to the health of the US economy.

  • US trade with the European Union reached $699 billion in 2015, only made possible because of the security and stability provided by NATO.

  • US exports to the former Communist NATO member states (not including East Germany) grew from $0.9 billion in 1989 to $9.4 billion in 2016.

  • Troops and Equipment. NATO benefits from being able to draw on the military expertise and capabilities of its members. This includes tanks, submarines and fighter jets.
  • Non-US NATO members contribute massively to the US defense industry to supply their forces. Currently, European members are planning to purchase as many as 500 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters  from the United States.” The life-of-the-product cost of those 500 aircraft and their maintenance is in the trillions of dollars, which drop straight into the US Treasury.

What Else Does the US Gain from NATO?

  1. Collaborative bases all over Europe (in 21 countries) at the expense of the European taxpayer. While it is true that the Department of Defence has to pay more for stationing troops in Europe at a higher cost of living, the host nations pay this back and an extra surplus to the US Treasury (something most American spokespeople forget to mention). On top of that, all infrastructure of these US bases is paid for by the host nation, including maintenance.
  2. Access to European defense technology. A lot of ‘American’ technology originates elsewhere.
  3. The proximity necessary to lobby European politicians to buy American weapons systems. All of this without any firm commitment as the NATO Treaty states that an attack on one member state must be considered to be an attack on all member states … it specifically doesn’t state that military action is required … this at the request of the US back in 1949.
  4. A unified military, political, and economic influence over virtually all of Europe, including constant aerial surveillance.
  5. A ring of bases and missile emplacements around southern and western Russia.
  6. A reinforcement of the myth of the US as “protector” of Europe.
  7. Strategically placed allies prepared to be invited or coerced into joining any American “preemptive”aggression anywhere in the world.

What Are the Benefits for European NATO Members?

On the other side of the ledger, NATO membership also benefits the Europeans. Here’s how one of the NATO websites (nato.int) explains the advantages for European members:

  • An International Security Hub. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military Alliance of 28 member countries from Europe and North America. Member states are committed to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are at the heart of NATO’s transatlantic bond.
  • Collective Defense. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend NATO territory and populations. 
  • NATO’s Command Structure. NATO has a permanent, integrated military command structure where military and civilian personnel from all member states work together. 
  • Standing forces. NATO has a number of standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence on a permanent basis. These include NATO’s four standing maritime group fleets, which are ready to act when called upon. Additionally NATO has an integrated air defence system that links national air defence capabilities together and includes the Alliance’s ballistic missile defence capabilities. 
  • Deterrence. The Alliance’s deterrence is based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, which remain a core element of NATO’s strategy.
  • Crisis Management. The Alliance has frequently acted to uphold international peace and security.

And one frankly frightening disadvantage:

By joining the NATO alliance European countries assume the risk and responsibility of alienating all of the United States’ enemies. In the worst cases, where NATO members permit the emplacement of American nuclear missiles on their territories, they convert their countries into nuclear targets of new enemies they might never before have considered adversaries.

So Who Owes What to Whom?

This quick comparative summary of benefits accruing from NATO membership for both Americans and Europeans  does not indicate a net debt of the Europeans in favor of the Americans, rather the contrary. Most of what the Americans deliver are promises, and American promises are not enjoying a bull market these days.

A quick look at the map below also belies the supposed defensive nature of NATO, especially now that newer NATO members, equipped and trained in part by the United States, have completed the semi-circle of bases and missiles that potentially threaten Russia from the west. So European NATO members become accomplices in the American virtual siege of Russia. One wonders, are those bases really necessary? In fact, the whole raison d’etre of the NATO project hinges upon the possibility of a Russian blitzkrieg stomping across western Europe. Is it probable? How probable, 90%? 10%? Is it reality based or a figment of the traditional American anti-communist neurosis, the same malady that has “legitimized” bloody military interventions around the world from Korea and Vietnam to Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Is the phantasmagoric statistical probability of the dread Russian bear pouncing on Europe kept in penumbra in order to justify the ongoing American “defensive” presence there? A similar strategy worked in the 1950s. Now it is being dusted off and expected to work again in the 21st century.

The Frosting on the Cake: The Americans’ Secret Terrorist Army in Western Europe

It was Winston Churchill’s idea to create secret “stay-behind” military units in European countries as resistance fighters against the possibility of Russian invasion. Never mind that the Russians had just lost more than 20 million citizens while winning the war for the Allies on the eastern front. So Churchill sent MI6 agents all over Europe to recruit experienced, right-minded fighters, equip them and train them in guerilla techniques. The agents were looking for battle-seasoned troops.

As it happened the Germans had also prepared a stay-behind presence in Western Europe and one of their units had just been rounded up and jailed by allied troops. When the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) found them, instead of treating them as particularly nasty prisoners of war, they offered them a job. That’s how “Operation Gladio,” as the project came to be known, became a swarm of extreme right-wing goons.

After six years of warfare the UK wasn’t really in shape to run a Europe-wide paramilitary network, so their sometime collaborators, the American CIA, took over until 1952 when the management of Operation Gladio passed to NATO. The much-touted Marshall Plan notwithstanding, American and British concerns after the war were not so much about reconstruction in Europe as containment of the Russians and their collectivist ideology, especially in countries like Italy, France and Greece where communists were actually being elected to democratic governments, based on their exemplary resistance to the Germans during the war. 

Not to worry, NATO had a plan. They would activate the Gladio units in those countries whose elections needed “correcting” to carry out seemingly random terrorist attacks and blame them on the communists, thus swinging voters to the right. These terrifying false-flag operations–a bomb that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 in the 1980 Bologna Centrale station, shotgun killings of whole families in supermarkets in Belgium’s Brabant region, and many others–determined the election results against leftist candidates and saved the day for democracy in the Free World. The truth didn’t come out until 1990 when right-wing militant and Gladio operator, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, testified in an Italian court on another case and the whole Gladio story came to light, both in Belgium and across Europe. Vinciguerra is still serving a life sentence for his–and NATO’s– crimes.

This spine-chilling history didn’t receive much coverage nor follow-up in the American press, though the Washington Post did have this to say on Nov. 13, 1990:

 A secret army created by the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1950s to organize resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe has finally come in from the cold, and the disclosures of its past actions are producing a political flap that stretches across the continent.

The existence of a clandestine paramilitary network code-named “Operation Gladio” was disclosed last Thursday by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in a speech to his nation’s Senate. Since then, European officials have described similar operations in most of the other NATO countries.

The CIA-backed paramilitary network included units in Belgium, France, Greece, West Germany and the Netherlands, according to European newspaper and news-service reports.

(Source: The Washington Post, November 14, 1990)

Please Accept My Apology

If you were already aware of these sensational events and the outrages perpetrated by NATO and the CIA in Europe in the second half of the 20th century, please accept my apologies for wasting your time. If you weren’t aware, I’m delighted to have introduced you to this ongoing sordid story. NATO is still on the march, still selling its repugnant bulwark-of-democracy bill of goods, still providing troops and infrastructure for American skullduggery around the world. So, the next time you see on the news a seemingly senseless terrorist attack that smells like a false-flag operation, remember NATO and Gladio.

Why do those attacks have to be so senseless? Murdering a whole family of five in the aisles of a supermarket is so unthinkably unreasonable. Vincenzo Vinciguerra has answered this question from his prison cell. He said, “That’s what scares them most.”

by Mike Booth

Author’s note: Here’s a link to a three-part article I wrote on Operation Gladio earlier this year.

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“How Many People Must Die to Get Me Elected President?”

Let’s Look at a Few Examples

All candidates like to be elected, and the presidency of the United States is the ultimate election. They work long and hard at it and sometimes play dirty. And that unfair play can end in the deaths of innocent bystanders, as we shall see.

There’s only one rung on the American election ladder that’s higher than being elected president. That is being re-elected, and all but a few American presidents have made it their top priority while in office. For many of them it has been a permanent fixation and they have gone to extreme lengths to achieve it. And we’re not just talking about the mentally and morally deficient like President Trump. It’s pretty much all of them. One wonders, what are the causes of this deadly–for others–White House infirmity?

If you ask them they will, of course, all allege the same thing: “I need four more years to complete the project I promised the American people when I was elected.” Well, yes, but what else? Power hunger? There’s always a dash of that in the mix. It comes with the territory, and the higher you rise on the totem pole the more acute it becomes. Economic motives? Has there ever been an American president who left the White House poorer than when he went in?

The additional four more years of a second term give him time to distribute more favors among influential people–or better yet, corporations– and prepare himself a nice featherbed for when he leaves office. He can be more effective at this during his second term. First-term presidents must walk on eggshells to some extent, lest they garner powerful enemies, back failing initiatives, misjudge a war, or get reputations as self-interested, do-nothing chief executives.

Since re-election is constitutionally prohibited after their second term, they are free to move fast and loose in pursuit of whatever their hearts desire: some plump defense contracts for the military-industrial-technological-congressional complex, some pardons for their convicted cronies, some lucrative seats on boards of directors, a nice fund for a presidential library… The possibilities are endless, but they require time. Four more years.

“All of that may be true,” you say, “but from there to getting people killed in order to be re-elected is a far cry.”

Not That Far, Here’s Richard Nixon

Perhaps the 20th century’s most egregious instance of –What shall we call it?–“cognizant active or passive homicide for electoral purposes”– was the decision cooked up by candidate Richard Nixon & friends, regarding Nixon’s strategy for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 election strategy.

Nixon’s Presidental campaign needed the war to continue, since he was running on a platform that opposed the war. According to the BBC:

Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.

Henry Kissinger, who was working on the Johnson camapaign at the time, alerted Nixon to the Democrats’ imminent peace initiative and Nixon commissioned one of his aids, Anna Chennault, to propose a deal to the South Vietnamese embassy: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.” The Atlantic Wire.

This nifty bit of treason permitted Nixon to win the 1968 presidential election by just 1 percent of the popular vote. “Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American (and a million Vietnamese) lives, before finally settling in 1973 for a peace agreement  that had been within grasp in 1968.” (Source: Smithsonianmag.com, 2013)

John F. Kennedy

Six days into the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, President Kennedy’s first public announcement included this: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States…” Seymour Hersh comments in his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, “Kennedy’s audience, of course, was not only Moscow but his political critics in the Republican Party. ‘Who lost Cuba?’ would not be a theme of the 1962 congressional elections.”

As president, John Kennedy was not above dialing party politics into an international crisis. This became more evident in his handling of the early stages of the Vietnam War. Hersh, in the same book, cites Kennedy’s lifelong friend, Charles Bartlett, quoting Kennedy as saying, “Charlie, I can’t let Vietnam go to the Communists and then go and ask these people–the voters of America–to re-elect me. Somehow we’ve got to hold that territory through the 1964 election. We’ve already given up Laos to the communists, and if I give up Vietnam I won’t really be able to go to the people.” Unfortunately Kennedy never got the opportunity to “go to the people.”

In a footnote Hersh describes Bartlett as “distressed,” at Kennedy’s linking the war in South Vietnam to his political fortunes. Kennedy’s old friend adds, “This made me a champion of the single six-year presidential term.”

Donald J. Trump

Trump takes America into a black hole.
Does it look as if President Trump is leading his followers into a black hole, or is it just me?

Sometimes it’s amusing to have a buffoon at the helm, but more often not. The Trump presidency thus far has given us a bit of everything. Now, smitten with classic re-election fever, President Trump is trying to activate his electorate, degrade his opponent, sidestep his court cases and, while he’s at it, defuse America’s greatest-ever passive election homicide: nearly 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. He might have gotten away with it by employing  his usual look-in-your-eyes, lie-and-shrug routine, but Bob Woodward’s revelation–in his new book, Rage, has probably cooked Trump’s election goose. According to Woodward’s account, the President admitted to being fully aware of the grave dangers posed by the epidemic on February 7, 2020, yet Donald Trump neither said nor did anything about it for months. He alleged that he played down the risks of Covid-19 in order not to cause panic across the country. Perhaps he also thought that an admission of that nature would be detrimental to his election hopes.

At this stage in the game President Trump has few mysteries left to unravel, but the most recent one has Trumpologists around the world  losing sleep. (And there’s a bit of amateur Trumpologist in most all of us who can read.) Why on earth did Donald Trump willingly submit himself to a series of 18 recorded interview sessions with Bob Woodward, a reporter with well-earned fame for his part in bringing down one unworthy United States president already?

by Mike Booth

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Educating the USA

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn …and change.” 

Dr. Ken Robinson

Education Is Not Just Your Best Hope, It’s Your Only Hope

Learning begins as soon as we come into the world. And when I say “we” I mean everybody: you, your neighbors, your country, your world. Because we’re all in this together.

The education of babies and young children is critical because it’s the foundation for everything else, and not just reading, writing and arithmetic. The first vital element of the education of small children is socialization, the art of living among other human beings. Why “small” children? Because, according to education specialists, the first three–some say six or seven–years of a child’s life is the most formative period for the adult that he or she will become. Aristotle is credited with saying, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

One of the best known and most successful manifestations of this reality is the legacy of the Italian doctor, teacher and educator of educators, Maria Montessori. Like many makers of history, Montessori came from an atypical tradition with an steep path before her. Born in a small town in Italy in 1870, as a woman she was discouraged at every step of the way from studying, becoming a doctor, lecturer, author and worldwide eminence in progressive education. The essence of her approach was to shun the mechanized industrial or rote mode of education in favor of a more agricultural model: plant the seeds and provide them with the necessities to grow.

Today the entire world is planted with Montessori and quasi-Montessori schools that have had a profound influence on their students and educational progress in general. Many innovators of today, like both founders of Google (Sergei Brin and Larry Page), the founder of Amazon (Jeff Bezos), the creator of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales) and the designer of the ground-breaking video game Sim City (Will Wright) attended Montessori schools.

Parents Are the First Educators 

Before most children meet their first teacher, between the ages of three and six, all of their learning experiences and character formation are dependent upon their parents. And a child’s selection of parents is a lottery. The ideal is loving, supportive parents with sufficient resources, time to devote to their early years and an awareness of early learning necessities, parents who recognize the importance of play, reading, freedom, creativity and animals, and who foment generosity, consideration and empathy. These children are the lucky ones, and they are more likely to live fruitful lives.

Sadly, the parents of underprivileged, off-the-rails young people are, themselves, products of the same self-fulfilling prophesy. They have neither the resources, the knowledge nor the skills to devote to educating their children during the critical early years, and the results are young citizens formed with the same crooked cookie cutter as their parents. This is obvious and demands programs for educating parents and equipping them with the means to raise their children to be constructive, fulfilled citizens and parents. The circle must be broken. But that would be expensive, no? I’ll refer you to Dr. Robinson’s wisdom: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Criteria for a Good Education

“Good education” is public, egalitarian, well-funded, free and complete from elementary school through university or advanced vocational training. In addition, some countries have innovative pre-school programs like the Finnish Forest Schools in which five and six-year-olds spend most of their time outdoors in nature, year round, rain or shine. The experience of leading countries in education indicates that emphasis should be placed on training expert, motivated teachers and remunerating them well. Curiously, the countries that successfully educate their young to be first, good people, and second, good citizens, find that their students also attain academic results among the highest in the world.

We’re talking about benchmark Finland, of course, but also Norway, Japan, Estonia, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea, along with several other countries in Asia and other places. The United States is not among the top 20 countries in this ranking.

What Does a Failing Primary Education System Yield? The American Example

Quality education is expensive but forward-looking countries don’t hesitate to budget all that is needed to provide first-rate teachers and administrators, installations and equipment. Contrast that with education financing in the United States, where it’s usually paid for by local property taxes. This means that zones with high property values have plenty of money for fine schools, whereas those with low property values have far less money, leading to netly inferior schools and education levels. Poor housing goes hand in hand with lower cultural levels, so inner-city kids have two strikes against them–economic and cultural–the day they start kindergarten. Unless they have extraordinary luck, their school experience is destined to be deficient. By the time they are turned out on the street, with or without a high-school diploma, they are fodder for the penal system.

With no further education aspirations nor job skills they turn, in the great American tradition, to fast, easy money. As they don’t have access to the markets of Wall Street, they deal in drugs. This scenario, where black and other minority young people predominate, leads inevitably to the courts, where the deck is stacked against them, and to prison, where they earn master’s degrees in crime and violence. When they eventually leave prison they have children of their own, reproducing the deadly cycle of inequality, hopelessness and bitterness. Add to all of this the reality of being constantly harrassed and occasionally murdered with impunity by white police officers, and you have a volatile cocktail. How much human potential is lost with the marginalization of black and brown America?

This lifestyle of underprivileged young Americans, whether inner city or rural is a tragedy by design, but it needn’t be that way. In a country inspired by the human values that prevail in the rest of the advanced world, education would be free and equal for all. Soft drugs like marijuana, would be legal and controlled, and draconian mandatory sentencing would be a thing of the past. The United States suffers the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world, along with the most obscene military offense budget. How complicated would it be for the country to invert national priorities and build schools instead of prisons and wage education instead of war? Why isn’t that happening? These are measures that would truly make America great again for all citizens except for the few who are currently profiting obesely from permanent war and private prisons.

American Higher Education Is a Different Story

Where the US does excel is in its higher education. Its elite universities, with their advanced degree programs and elaborate research facilities are the best in the world, attracting select foreign students. Many of these graduates return home to form the mandarin classes in their own countries. Others remain in the US to join the American intellectual and scientific elites.

High costs are the flaw in the American university system, serving to exclude students from humble origins. Even those who manage to finance their university educations with loans are heavily burdened by the obligation to pay them back. Total student loan debt in the US, as of 2020, is about $1.56 trillion. Students pay off that debt at an average of $393/month.

Anthropologist David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, argues that student debt is “destroying the imagination of youth”:

If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, joyous people in your society and saddle them with, like $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes your music. There goes your culture. There goes everything new that would pop out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate the interesting, creative and eccentric people.

A nice irony in this uniquely-American scenario is that the current American Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an enthusiastic promoter of school privatazation, was obliged to admit in her pre-appointment ethics report her investment in LMF WF Portfolio, a company which helped finance a $147 million loan to a debt collection agency, called Performant Financial Co.,  that was a major investor in a student debt collection company. (Source: PRwatch.org, 2017). DeVos, a devotee of charter and religious schools, declared last August that it’s a “good thing” that the coronavirus pandemic will force the nation’s schools to make changes that should have “happened many years ago.”

A Country’s Education System Conditions Its Society and Vice Versa–The Norwegian Example

If you look at leading countries around the world you will find that their levels of prosperity and wellbeing coincide nicely with their educational philosophies and school systems. The first striking factor is that most of them are designed to inculcate human values, intellectual curiosity, creativity and teamwork as opposed to competition and individualism. The exceptions, besides the United States, are Singapore and some other Asian countries where academic achievement is emphasized. Even in those places, achievement is oriented more toward collective than individual objectives.

Norway is a exemplary case. In recent years, it has repeatedly been ranked as ‘the best country to live in’ by the United Nations Human Development Report. This annual ranking is based largely on average levels of education and income, combined with life expectancy, but also factors such as human rights and cultural freedom. (Source: StudyinNorway.no)

This is how Norway started at the beginning of the 20th century.

Norway’s wealth and high standard of living is based in large part, since the 1970s, on its offshore oil wealth, aptly administered to the benefit of the entire society. Clever investment of the excess has made Norway’s soverign wealth one of the highest in the world with an influential presence in international stock markets. Norwegians earn on average more than Americans, which determines their high standard of living and permits them advanced education systems, a complete social security system and universal health care.

According to edsys.in, Norway has the sixth-best elementary education system in the world. (The first five are Finland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark and Russia.) In 2020 Norway jumped ten positions to sixth in this ranking. One of its schools’ underlying tenets is the importance of play. It’s student-to-teacher ration is 10/1. That’s one expert, highly-paid teacher for every 10 students. Education in Norway is free. Public universities in Norway do not charge students tuition fees, regardless of the student’s country of origin.

Norwegian schools maintain the same high standards as everything else in the country.

Granted, Norway Is a Rich Country

But so is the United States, potentially much richer. How is it possible that Norwegian society is so far ahead of the US in most every parameter you want to examine, from personal qualities to national priorities? They are gentler, more other-centered folk, better educated and better citizens. They’re less nationalistic, less militaristic, more altruistic and polite, more generous and more travelled.

This revealing tweet is from Ian Bremmer, posted on the occasion of President Trump’s “shithole countries” remark on January 12, 2018, when Trump also said that he preferred immigrants from Norway :

NORWAY

Most prosperous #1 (US #18)

Happiest country #1 (US #14)

Most gender equality #2 (US #49)

Most political freedom #1 (US #45)

Most press freedom #1 (US #43)

People there must be clamoring to come to America.

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What Sort of Survival Awaits the US, If Any?

Graveyard_thin

I Never Should Have Left Them Alone

Three years ago, when I started writing about the American decline, I was determined to talk straight and to share with the Americans–and the rest of the world–my “native transatlantic” point of view. That is, though I was born and educated, worked and served in the US Army in the States, six months after I was discharged from the army in April of 1968 I gave away all my worldly goods and bought a one-way ticket to Europe, where I have lived ever since. Does that make me an “ex-pat?” No, actually I’m Spanish. In 1983 I renounced my American citizenship before a Spanish judge and was granted Spanish nationality. I never looked back, except to observe the fascinating political and military goings-on in the country of my birth.

I thought the US was on an ill-fated trajectory then with its new clown President and its stale Congress–on both sides of the aisle–though the Republicans, who had signed on to President Trump’s ship of fools, were the ones wielding the institutional wrecking ball. But I did not expect the tailspin that was to ensue over the next three years. Seeing right-wing fervor gathering momentum like a train hurtling down a mountain with a dead engineer, I expected the demise of the Republicans’ reign of ignorance and arrogance to play out over a couple of decades. But no, it’s here, it’s upon the American people right now. It’s over.

Neither the dummy in the White House nor his far-right followers in the Congress and the courts, foresaw the maelstrom of coincidences that was about to fall upon their country with Old Testament virulence. It was beyond their competence even to suspect the possible conflation of the sudden technological and economic superiority of a giant Asian country, a deadly virus pandemia that is taking advantage of optimum conditions in the US to savage mercilessly both the population and the economy, and the sudden widespread citizen reactions to racial injustice in the country. The Trump administrations response to these crises ranged from dead wrong to nil. The Trumpeteers’ negligence was such that they even discarded the pandemic contingency plans that the Obama transition team left them in writing.

US Experiencing a Deadstick Landing on Rough Ground

Led by President Trump’s oafish incompetence and blatant pandering to reactionary big-money interests, the undisputed greatest country in the world has become a laughing stock, more to be pitied than respected. Just as seriously, the world’s most reliable partner nation has become unworthy of anyone’s trust. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “arsenal of democracy” became the world’s number one perceived threat to peace. (Sources: https://www.indepthnews.net/, indy100.com, mothership.sg)

world-peace-threat-ranking

It was during this process that the American degradation was so severe that, in order to cloak all the indecency, they had to revive a derogatory coverall phrase popularized in 1964, the year in which the Warren Commission shared its implausible Kennedy assassination findings. Those who questioned the conclusions of the Warren Commision were “conspiracy theorists.” Just sticking that label on them disqualified their opinions immediately and utterly. Subsequently, any questioning of controversial matters such as the 9/11 attacks, Global Warming,  G-5 and electromagnetic pollution, the Moon landings and more was labeled “conspiracy theories” and discarded out of hand. In the end, whom do we credit for America’s landing men on the moon, Werner von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists or Stanley Kubrick?

Exceptional Canadian Takes Down American Exceptionalism

Canadian anthropologist, Wade Davis, in a recent Rolling Stone article titled “The Unraveling of America,” took a concerned look at how Covid-19 signals the end both of the American era and American exceptionalism. He affirms that, of all the disruption provoked by the pandemic, what most stands out is “the absolutely devastating impact” on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America. Davis writes:

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.

As if America didn’t have enough problems already, the Trump administration’s inept responses to this uniquely dangerous set of circumstances have dragged the US into the definitive status of a rogue country with a dubious future:

  • Slapping senseless tariffs willy nilly on countries around the world, from Canada to China, seemingly oblivious to the inevitable repercussions.
  • Militarizing everything, from the streets of American cities to the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, the Caribbean, and the South China Sea.
  • Dispatching one of the most loutish “diplomats” in living memory to bully America’s allies and adversaries into toeing the arbitrary American line. Under what imaginable legitimacy can the US order Iran not to trade oil with Venezuela, or oblige Russia not to build a gas pipeline to Germany?

What Are the Chances of United States Survival?

Since the end of the Second World War the United States has relied on just a few factors to insure their predominance in world affairs:

  • Their economic and manufacturing superiority… Given recent geostrategic realities, this factor now lacks virtually all reasonable validity.
  • Their overwhelming military might… The Americans have spent themselves into poverty attempting to maintain their highly-touted military superiority. But as long as that favorable balance depends upon nuclear weapons–and lots of countries have them–the most the Pentagon can hope for is not an American victory, rather a lose-lose endgame.
  • Their ability to convince the world that “American democracy” and “the American way of life,” are superior to all others… These myths, doubtful at best for decades, have come tumbling down with a loud crash during the 2020 triple emergency.

So, can the United States survive? That question takes us into a guessing game, of course, but we can speculate to some extent in view of recent history. If “survive” means to amble blissfully on in business-as-usual mode, I think it’s reasonable to predict that they cannot survive. They have lost the script and the ability to sell it.

Can they survive by any stretch of the imagination under the leadership of the Trump administration? I think they clearly cannot. Trump is staring into his own lose-lose abyss. If he wins the election it will be up to him to right the country’s trajectory, something that he has shown us he’s incapable of achieving. If he loses in November and tries to employ truculent or other unscrupulous measures to hang on to power, his imminent political demise and that of his country, as we know it, are assured.

 

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Mail Order Coup d’Etat

Post Office Slowdown

President Trump Blocks Post Office Funding in Order to Foil Mail-in Voting–And Admits It

What could look at first glance like a routine budgetary measure at the United States Postal Service might well be Phase Three–or Four or Seven–depending upon when you start counting–of a fascist-style takeover of the United States government. By the President’s own admission, the object of cutting back funding is to debilitate and slow down the mail service to the point where it is incapable of processing mail-in votes in time to be counted. Insofar as the taproot of American democracy is free and fair elections, any form of tampering with those elections is an attack on the United States as a democratic country as we know it. In greater or lesser decree it’s treason, a coup d’etat.

And Trump’s post-office ploy is just that. What’s left of his White House brain trust suspects that permitting mail-in voting would be detrimental to his re-election, as it would encourage the votes of the the minorities, the disadvantaged, the elderly and other demographics who suspect that he may not be “making American great again.” Trump, or someone who thinks for him, actually prepared the ground for subverting the postal service and, by extension, the 2020 presidential election. In a move that insiders consider contrary to political etiquette–that’s what they have in Washington instead of ethics, “etiquette”–the Trump-inspired USPS Board of Governors appointed one of his substantial campaign contributors/fund raisers (to the tune of $2 million) to run the United States Postal Service. Continue reading “Mail Order Coup d’Etat”

The Race Is on for Coronavirus Vaccine Profits

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Health and Business, or Vice Versa

It’s potentially the greatest opportunity ever presented to the world of business. Coincidentally it’s also the greatest opportunity for massive fraud. It’s the elusive Covid-19 vaccine. One wonders what is going through the heads of the pharmaceutical executives competing for the biggest prize ever, a vaccine that every person in the world urgently needs, and for which the producers can virtually name their own price, just as they do with the medicines they sell to the American Social Security administration.

It also presents the greatest opportunity to save lives, reactivate economies, and bring the world back to life. But, given the American pharmaceutical industry’s track record, one suspects that the economic incentive is their first priority. Let’s take a look at how they’re doing thus far.

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration’s Six-Billion-Dollar Vaccine Betting Shop

As of early July this program of massive Trump administration cash handouts extends to eight pharmaceutical companies for expediting development and preparation for the clinical trials necessary for the manufacturing of their respective vaccine candidates: Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutical), AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Merck, Vaxart, Inovio, and Novavax. According to Science magazine, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said a group of vaccine experts his agency convened to work with Warp Speed did a scientific review of 50 candidate COVID-19 vaccines. Members of that group have expressed surprise at some of Warp Speed’s choices. Continue reading “The Race Is on for Coronavirus Vaccine Profits”

You Can Stop Worrying About a Civil War

Military Takeover2

And Start Thinking about a Military Takeover

Two years ago I posted here a two-part article about the possibility of a second civil war in the US that I called The Next American Civil War. The opinions reflected in that article were not mainly mine. They were expressed by qualified experts whose overall conclusions were that the probability of civil war in the US over the next 10-15 years ranged from 5% to 95%, with an average of 35%. But after seeing recent events in Portland, I’m inclined to think that America’s most imminent threat is not a civil war. Considering the likely distribution of forces in the country it’s more apt to be a quick-and-dirty military takeover.

Most Americans are not radical Trump supporters. Polls reveal that half of them reject President Trump’s ultra-nationalistic, white-supremacist, right-libertarian views and lowbrow stage presence. They don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog society, nor get too “involved” in politics, much less street altercations. They just want to muddle through, from election to election. They live hoping that the government will somehow sort itself out and life in their country will return to normal, much as President Trump hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will one day just “disappear.”

Can’t we reliably suppose that the country is in the clear when it comes to domestic military melodrama, thanks to the majority of “moderate” voters? No, we cannot, as a majority of moderates is seldom decisive for the very fact of being moderate and having to weigh in against a minority of hard-core militants. That is not to say that civilians can be expected to play a major role in deciding the fate of America if it were to come down to a cataclysmic, anti-democratic situation. Continue reading “You Can Stop Worrying About a Civil War”

Let’s Talk About Evil, America

American Evil3

We Must Make Some Value Judgments

When I was a sophomore in college we used to sit up all night in the mezzanine lounge at Case Hall (MSU) and talk about life. It was probably because we had time and what the Spanish call “inquietud,” roughly “restlessness,” but more extensive. I thrived on those conversations but also found them frustrating thanks to a smart student from New York who was a bit older than the rest of us and was a folk singer. He commanded some respect.

Whenever I would arrive at what I thought was an acceptable conclusion on any subject he would say, “Ah, Mike, you can’t affirm that. That’s a value judgment.” And he was always right. This went on for the better part of the school year. Then, one night in the spring of 1963, around four in the morning, he had me cornered again and it occurred to me to reply, “Jesus Christ, Harvey, that’s what we’re here for, to learn to make valid value judgments.” Since then I’ve been free.

The dictionary says of evil: “profound immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force,”citing this example: “his struggle against the forces of evil.” It goes on: “morally reprehensible, bad, wrong, sin, immorality, vice, iniquity, baseness, perversion, corruption, depravity, villainy, atrocity, malevolence…” I would add my own personal flavors of evil: “hypocrisy, aggression, embargos and sanctions, genocide, falsity, dishonesty, opportunism, ruthlessness, greed, dirty tricks, black ops, exceptionalism, lies and euphemisms, false flags, regime change, free world, economic crimes, manifest destiny, militarism, and utter lack of human values…” Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Evil, America”

Trump Activates Fascist Takeover

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“They speak about the dumbing of America as a foregone thing, already completed, but, duh, it’s a process, and we haven’t seen
anything yet.”–Michael Herr, Kubrick (2000)

Full-Blown Fascism Lifts Off in America

The deployment of President Trumps “federal troops” in Portland–a traditional progressive bastion–and his promises to take similar measures  in Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, Detroit and other Democratic strongholds, forms the edge of the wedge of a truculent new strategy with three obvious objectives:

  • To consolidate his campaign for re-election and rally his followers with theatrical shows of force.
  • To intimidate his opposition all over the country.
  • And this is the most worrying: To rehearse on the street his studied, incremental fascist takeover of America.

    What are they hiding beyond the bread vans, the riot gear and the anonymity?

Disclaimer: When I say “his” troops and “his” strategy, I’m not referring to Trump personally. Nor would I dare to suggest that he “studied” anything. I think it’s clear by now that Donald J. Trump is incapable of the structured thinking required to elaborate a coherent plan, whether it be for a political or a military campaign or both. In normal circumstances the activation of this blatant boots-on-the-street operation would seem premature. The elections are still 13 weeks away. But a series of grave recent events has obliged what’s left of the Trump team to anticipate the program. The exploding coronavirus epidemic and Trump & Company’s extreme incompetence in dealing with it, his alarming descent in the polls–his revered “ratings”–and the corresponding rise of Joe Biden, demanded a high-profile response. Continue reading “Trump Activates Fascist Takeover”

This United States Will Self Destruct in 90 Days

Trumps_America

American Democracy’s in a Downward Spiral

Is It Terminal?

Freedom House is a Washington-based think tank with an illustrious pedigree dating back to the age of bi-partisan cooperation in the US government. Created in 1941 with the mission of battling isolationism in America and fascism around the world, its two honorary chairs were the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Wendell Willkie, who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1940, before losing to Eleanor Roosevelt’s husband, Franklin. Over the years, Freedom House has studied a broad spectrum of threats to freedom, from McCarthyism to Soviet oppression. Since 1973, it has published “Freedom in the World,” an annual country-by-country report that has been called the “Michelin Guide to democracy’s development.”

This single high-court decision is responsible for converting the US Congress from a truly representative legislative body into a brothel in which most of its members are available in exchange for fees sufficient to reassure their re-election. That sounds crude, but it’s cruder than it sounds.

 

 

 

The 2020 edition recorded the fourteenth straight year of deteriorating freedom around the world; sixty-four countries have lost liberties in the past year, while only thirty-seven registered improvements. Its assessment of the United States is also disturbing. In 2009, the U.S. had a score of ninety-four out of a hundred, which ranked it near the top, just behind Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia. In the decade since, it has slipped eight points; it now ranks behind Greece, Slovakia, and Mauritius. Looking at the United States, Freedom House analysts note the trends that they usually assign to fragile corners of the globe: “pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption. Fierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself.” (Source: FreedomHouse.org) Continue reading “This United States Will Self Destruct in 90 Days”