Michael Booth, the creator of TrumpAndAllTheRest.com, is a US-born publicist, author and online publisher who has lived in a Spanish village in the foothills of Sierra Nevada for the past five decades. Though better known abroad for his fine-art printmaking sites and online magazine, Booth's day job for the past decade and a half, until recently, was his communications agency, dedicated principally to designing and implementing Internet strategies for Spanish companies and institutions. It took him a long time to get out of publicity and into writing but it was worth the wait.
Today the United States exports weapons of mass destruction. Cuba exports doctors.
Are You Blind, Deaf and Dumb?
Granada, Spain, Jan. 17, 2022–I ran across this headline the other day in the Washington Post: “In America, a child is shot every hour, and hundreds die.” It was followed by an article about 13 young people–one by one–who had been killed by firearms in America in 2021. I thought I was inured to lurid headlines from the US, but this one jolted me profoundly. It opened the floodgates to outrage that had been building for decades. There were photographs of all the children before they were killed. If you click on their pictures you can read their stories. I read the first one. I couldn’t face the rest.
The Post reports in the same article:
All of them were killed in an epidemic unique to the United States, where, on average, at least one child is shot every hour of every day. Many survive, but many others do not. In the nation’s capital, nine children were killed in gun homicides last year. In Los Angeles, 11 were fatally shot. In Philadelphia: 36. In Chicago: 59. Those figures don’t include the hundreds of other kids who died in accidental shootings and by suicide.
The Washington Post
Wait, There’s More
It’s not just American firearms policy that cries out to heaven–and to the world community. It’s everything else: the prepotency, the inequality, the racism, the prison population, the incessant meddling in other people’s countries, the utter disrespect for everyone everywhere except their own crop of venal magnates and politicians, the cynical arms trafficking, the imposition of American-style faux democracy and “free” markets, their pretensions that their land of ignorance and arrogance is a model for the whole world to follow… What is the world supposed to think about American diplomats at the highest level whose discourse is limited to threats and insults–Blinkenisms? What about all the cynical regime-change operations and other black ops, which Hollywood converts into profit? What demon issued the Americans their license to kill?
They try to cloak all of these 57 flavors of dystopia in a rancid fog of anti-communism and rabid militarism, lies and hypocrisy. They have become masters of the art of converting adversaries into enemies. They would rather bomb your house than talk to your leaders. What about the dead, the maimed, and the refugee families they leave in their wake, millions of them?
The Case of Cuba
Then there’s Cuba, one of the most grotesque examples of inveterate American evil in our time. The story begins in 1959 when Fidel Castro leads a guerilla army to overthrow the seven-year dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista and proclaim a revolutionary socialist state in Cuba. Batista had enjoyed the support of the American government, thanks to his feral anti-socialist policies. In 1960, after Castro nationalizes all foreign assets in Cuba, American President Dwight Eisenhower freezes Cuban assets in the US and imposes a trade embargo which is still in effect in 2022, having been “reinforced” several times over the past six decades. The repercussions on the lives of the Cuban people were predictably grave and have lingered on until today, despite repeated international appeals. The American recalcitrance seems more due to a monumental fit of pique complicated by the usual hysterical anti-communism than to substantive issues.
Besides umpteen CIA-organized attempts on Castro’s life and biological- warfare attacks on Cuban crops, the US backed a full-fledged invasion by some 1,200 CIA-trained-and-financed Cuban-exile troops on April 17, 1961. The invasion was an immediate disaster due both to the Cuban military’s fast and effective response–the pathetic little Cuban air force sank all the invaders’ escort ships in a day–and the lack of local support for the armed exiles. The principal results of the exercise were the strengthening of Fidel Castro’s government at home and its prestige abroad, including closer ties with the Soviet Union, which reinforced Cuba’s defenses. That reinforcement culminated in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, a deadly-serious Keystone Cops confrontation between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier, Nikita Khruschev. President Kennedy was assassinated the following year on the street in Dallas, Texas. Comandante Fidel Castro died in his bed of natural causes 53 years later at the age of 90. Still Cuba resists. Today the United States exports weapons of mass destruction. Cuba exports doctors.
Unlikely Country Steals a March
Meanwhile, while the Americans were busy huffing and puffing and blowing houses down, an unlikely far-off country stole a march on them. When they finally began to wake up from their neo-con dream, they found themselves confronted by the greatest-ever threat to their presumed hegemony: a heretofore backward, irrelevant, communist, atheist country called China. By the time this shocking new reality registered, with the Asian giant’s economic growth rate having approached 10% between 1978 and 1992, China was out of reach.
What now? Having ceded their industrial preeminence to China decades ago, the only recourse left to the American plutocracy is its massive military establishment. Even in that department, however, the Chinese are hard to intimidate, short of resorting to the Americans’ preponderance in nuclear weapons. A nuclear response, of course, is insane. But does anyone with two fingers of forehead consider the American establishment to be even remotely sane? They, themselves, have unabashedly, if tacitly, affirmed the contrary. Look no further than once and possibly-future President Donald Trump, the semi-literate guttersnipe, pockets stuffed with cash, who makes Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini look like Aristotle and Plato.
American military strategy is increasingly dependent on its fleet of giant, nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. These monsters are 333 meters in length, longer than three football fields. There are currently 11 of them and three more are projected. That’s enough, in any case, to virtually corral the entire Chinese east coast in a semi-circle of deadly naval aviation. But that bucket, too, has a hole in it. According to industry experts, China’s DF-ZF hypersonic anti-ship missiles, online since 2019 and which fly unpredictable trajectories at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10 (3,800-7,600 miles per hour), look pretty formidable. Are the American super carriers capable of defending themselves against this Chinese defensive threat? It remains to be seen, but it is in no way assured. According to navalnews.com, China is not the only country to have hypersonic anti-ship missiles. Russia, Iran, and India are also in the race.
American History is a Rap Sheet
When, in the United States, is enough, enough? The recent history of that great country reads like a rap sheet, reflecting every imaginable flavor of criminality. In fact, in the past couple of decades it looks as if the American powers that be have been re-importing their own policies elaborated for castigating the people of enemy countries and applying them to their own citizens. I refer to economic sanctions in the form of skewed tax laws, unreasonable incarceration policies, massive surveillance programs, horrendous wealth inequality, white-supremacist racial injustice, abandonment of basic welfare responsibilities, blockades of health and education opportunities, rigged courts of justice, unsafe and mortally unfair public safety procedures… Americans can no longer trust their police and their courts.
Let’s wind up with another WashingtonPost headline that will make your day. It’s from Hamtramck, Michigan: “Judge shames 72-year-old cancer patient too weak to tend to his lawn.” The article quotes the woman judge as saying, “If I could jail you for this, I would.” Admittedly, the old gentleman had a feeble excuse: “I’m sick.”
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What is American democracy today, but a dried, empty chrysalis after the butterfly has departed? At bottom, democracy is just a means to an end and that end, according to Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence, is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Americans’ egregious lying and deception–pages out of a rancid cold-war playbook–quickly evolve into dangerous brinkmanship that places the entire world in jeopardy.
No Cause for Sabre Rattling? Never Mind, They’ll Improvise One
It is fascinating to see how the United States is impaling itself like a butterfly on a military map of the world. In keeping with their traditional WDWTFWP (We-do-whatever-the-fuck-we-please) agenda, they are busy laying the groundwork for wars far from home on opposite sides of the world, and with both of the most notorious cases based on false pretenses. The Ukraine brouhaha has its roots in the American-sponsored ousting of that country’s democratically-elected president in 2014 and the subsequent CIA-fomented “civil war.” Long experience has taught the Gringos that a proxy war is more profitable than fighting yourself.
As for the Taiwan “emergency,” it is due to the Americans’ bad faith in denying a fact that they specifically agreed to in a September 13, 2016 State Department Fact Sheet: Taiwan is legitimately Chinese territory. Both of these conflicts admitted of negotiated solutions at the outset but in both cases the American response was to rush into the breach with–arms deals. For that is largely what all the American sabre rattling is about: the war business.
It’s Not about Winning Wars
We must keep in mind the principal objective of America’s arms-peddling projects. It’s not to win wars–as they have so lavishly demonstrated in every war they have waged since World War II–but to nourish the hyper-bloated balance sheets of the American war industries. War makes for wonderful business.
In the good old days, before Russia’s decisive armament innovations and China’s rise to economic prominence, the United States essentially cornered the market on military hardware. But in recent years they have increasingly been taken by surprise. The Russians’ new S-500 Prometheus surface-to-air /anti-ballistic missile, with a range of around 600 kilometres (370 miles) is about to go online–and on the market. It is effective against intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as hypersonic cruise missiles and aircraft, and rumor has it, perhaps even satellites. According to The Buzz, a Syria-based S-500 obtained a lock-on on an F-35 on June 20,2021. The S-500 is so superior to its American Patriot counterpart that even US allies–notably Turkey–have placed their order, and India is looking like a potential client.
Russia was also the first country to produce hypersonic missiles that fly at least five times the speed of sound in zig-zag trajectories. The Chinese weren’t far behind, though their hypersonic weapon still requires a bit of tweaking. Last August they flew it on a low trajectory all the way around the world before striking just 19 miles off the target. The hypersonics can allegedly be very effective against aircraft carriers. John Harper writes in National Defense Magazine:
Carrier battle groups include ships equipped with advanced air-and-missile defense systems such as Aegis. But hypersonics pose a unique threat compared to traditional ballistic and cruise missiles, analysts say. Although today’s ballistic missiles can achieve hypersonic speeds, they tend to follow a predictable flight path that is easier to track.
The CSBA report warned that the new missiles would significantly lower or negate the effectiveness of U.S. air defenses even if the carrier strike group were operating as far as 1,000 nautical miles from the launch site. Anti-ship weapons may be able to speed past interceptors, while their flight paths could exploit seams between current high- and low-altitude U.S. air-and-missile defense systems, it explained.
National Defense Magazine
Faced with this daunting new challenge to ships on the high seas, posed by both Russia and China, how does the Pentagon decide to proceed? They are currently programming the construction of three new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs)–at something like $13 billion a pop. I am not a naval strategist but I am already asking myself approximately how many hours can those American super carriers be expected to survive in a 21st-century shooting war.
USA–How and Where to Strut Their Stuff
The US currently has 11 nuclear aircraft carriers, more than any other country in the world. They’re also the largest; their total deck area is more that double that of all the rest of the world’s carriers together. Three new ones will bring the total up to 14. Where do they propose to float all these extravagant boats? Let’s look at where are they currently concentrating their naval resources. Curiously, it’s in the Black Sea, which is Russia’s Caribbean, and the South China Sea, whose name speaks for itself. These are purely defensive measures, mind you, not intended in any way as provocations. It’s only as if the Chinese were pacifically strutting their naval power off the coasts of Maryland and California.
All of this armed arrogance is reminiscent of the time after the Second World War when the United States was the undisputed preeminent military power in the world, when most of the rest of the world was flat on its back. But times have changed. It’s as if they haven’t noticed. Or they don’t want to acknowlege the new realities, believing desperately that jacking up the massive “defense” budget every year will save them and their splendid way of life. One is reminded of the mega-nostalgia that Great Britain harbored for the Empire, until it dragged them into Brexit’s blind alley. Today “Great Britain” sounds like a serious misnomer for a chilly, damp, lonely, little island lost in the North Atlantic. Is the United States convinced it should be following the same game plan?
The Waning Power of the Same Old Lies
The Americans’ egregious lying and deception–pages out of a rancid cold-war playbook–quickly evolve into dangerous brinkmanship that places the entire world in jeopardy. Other countries are overtaking the United States on all fronts, and by leaps and bounds. Britain’s eminent China specialist, Martin Jacques, the author of The Post-Western World, commented the other day on The Thinkers’ Forum, that, by the experts’ best estimates, in 2035 the Chinese economy would be double that of the US. That’s just 14 Christmases away.
Meanwhile, the American response to evolving world events is a combination of petulance and nostalgia summed up in the shopworn, “The Russians are coming…” That story may find buyers in Idaho and Mississippi, but it has lost most of its gloss in the real world. What we are seeing these days on the part of the American leadership is panic induced by myopia. They are blinded by the fear of the rising status of both Russia and China. The Yanks being Yanks, the only response they can conceive of is military, the exact worst possible choice.
Neither of their formidable adversaries has spent its time and treasure in the past few decades waging fruitless ideological wars nor surrounding their adversaries with military bases, nor delivering democracy via intelligent drones. China has not saddled itself with the conflicts and complications of religion: no freebooting, down-dumbing megachurches, no private-airliner televangelists, no horny chief executives with racy “spiritual advisors,” no heads of diplomacy bovinely awaiting “the rapture.” China is thus free of politicians at the highest levels of government awaiting–and promoting–an imminent Armageddon, unlike the illuminated American leaders who feel they needn’t bother about solving the problems of the here and now. As they see it, their important work begins after we–and they–are all dead.
Permanent War Is an American Scam
Although there’s no profit in losing wars, the shrewder Americans don’t need victories to make astronomical profits. All they need is for their brilliant communications industry, the greatest creators of public opinion since the New Testament–to sow danger and instability around the world.
They warn of the imminent Russian threat to Europe, the Islamic terrorism threat to the Middle East–and Manhattan–and the wily Chinese threat to the Far East and further afield. It’s an arms peddlar’s paradise out there, and the Americans have been exploiting it adroitly for more than half a century. Every one of those perceived or invented threats to the “Free World” requires its corresponding counterthreat. And that presents one of history’s most lucrative business opportunities. So the wheels of the US arms industry never stop. Never mind that most of these perceived dangers are contrived. In fact, the principal danger is that posed by the Americans themselves, armed to the teeth and led by sociopathic leaders nurtured in a culture of agression, hypocrisy, and deception, while embracing a demented, take-over-the-world agenda. America’s leaders are just as much victims of the prevailing exceptionalist myths as the rest of the country. They went to the same schools.
NATO: Protection Racket, Distribution Center and More
The Americans have been singularly successful selling their world view and all the glittering death toys that accompany it. One of their principal distributors is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an American-engendered military alliance created in 1949 in the wake of the 1947 National Security Act. This enabling legislation opened the doors, a couple of years later, to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), regime-change and black ops specialists, and the National Security Agency (NSA), the world’s foremost wire tapper, signals grabber and hacker. The NSA allegedly has more personnel and a bigger budget than the CIA. Nobody really knows what goes on at the bottom those two murky ponds. What little we do know is thanks to brave and selfless whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Will we ever know all the facts? Not if the US government’s latest foot-dragging on the release of the JFK assassination papers is any indicator.
Though NATO was theoretically created as an anti-communist defensive pact (anti-communism is the magic elixir), it soon became clear that it was much more than that. NATO talking points unceasingly revolved around the imminent danger of Soviet arms and ill intentions, and the fact that NATO nations were dangerously under-armed. Not to worry, the Americans would sell them all the materiel they needed.
NATO began with 12 founding members and has since reached a total of 30, the most recent additions being Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020. The boost in membership was largely thanks to a NATO recruiting campaign among ex-Soviet satellite states after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The principal byproduct of this initiative is a string of NATO (American in essence; NATO’s chief military officer, the supreme Allied commander Europe, has always been an American) bases forming a semicircle around western Russia. NATO maintains that this array of missiles close to the Russian border is a strictly defensive measure. Russia, understandably, does not agree. A report from The Guardian (30 Nov. 2021) features Russian president, Vladimir Putin saying:
“You asked about Ukraine, where are these red lines?” he said in televised remarks during an investment conference. “They are above all in the creation of threats to us which could come from [Ukraine].”
In particular, he warned against the stationing in Ukraine of missile defence systems similar to those in Romania and Poland. Putin claimed they could serve as cover to deploy offensive weapons such as Tomahawk missiles capable of reaching Moscow in minutes.
“We would have to create a similar threat for those who are threatening us,” he said, warning that Russia could deploy hypersonic missiles. “And we can do that already now,” he added.
The frosting on the NATO cake is their terrorist-program-in-Europe initiative that poisoned European politics for decades and may have left some of its operatives on the loose. When it came to light in the Italian courts in 1990 they dubbed it “Operation Gladio.” I wrote a long piece on it in April of 2020.
American Arms Business Not Limited to Europe
American wheeling and dealing in armament is not limited to European countries. The latest succulent operations to surface in the world media are the deals made with Taiwan and Australia. The former is Chinese territory by common agreement since 1971 so that issue settles itself, but Australia? And to the tune of eight nuclear submarines? How do the Americans manage to close these fantasmagoric arms deals and enroll these unlikely allies against shadowy enemies? It’s almost as if the Americans are trying to provoke China to behave as a dangerous enemy.I want to propose a Congressional Medal of Honor for the genius who closed that submarine deal on the Aussies. China is Australia’s most important trading partner–providing a substantial chunk of their economy. The Chinese also have the largest armed forces in the world. Do the Aussies really want to provoke them? It doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t have to. The world is ruled by whims and miffs, business deals and interests, not sense. Let’s just look for the simplest possible solution. There’s always a thriving market for running dogs avid for ever-juicier bones. It is through them that powerful economic interests can influence geopolitical outcomes. All that these powerful interests–governments, industries, banks, big farma, big anything–have to do is to bribe a few well-placed government power brokers in order to influence key decisions. Some of these operations are kept secret, but some of them are flaunted in the world media. The Australian submarine deal is one of these. The Aussies are proud of themselves, like a six-year-old who has just managed to pull the pin on a hand grenade.
Back to Reality
The American portrayal of Chinese policy is the exact opposite of the truth. The Chinese are not the warmongers. They are not surrounding their adversaries with military bases, nor constructing fanciful “defensive alliances” to coerce them. China’s remarkable success in economic development is based not on military threats and black ops but on respect and mutually beneficial cooperation with developing countries–71 at last count.
It is precisely the wealth not misspent on militarism that has permitted the Chinese to invest in their country’s future. The American policy of creating military threats that oblige them to bankrupt themselves matching the Americans in an arms race cannot work on the Chinese the way it worked on the Russians. It was deployed too late. The Chinese were already off and running, and the Americans already trillions of dollars in debt to them.
Then there’s the US propaganda attack on China for its brutal treatment of their Uyghur Muslim minority. This is the ultimate surreal example of the American pot calling the Chinese kettle black. The Americans’ grave concern over civil rights violations in Xinjiang province’s Tarim Basin smell moldy indeed in view of their own heinous racist abuses from Mississippi to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Serbia, Libya, and countless other places. Do the Chinese even have a word for “lynching,” or do they have to borrow it from the American language?
Pre-Cooked American Public Opinion
Where the American yarn spinners can sell their tainted goods is in their own country. American public opinion is pre-cooked. All the lies and myths are readily at hand, the exceptionalism, the uber-patriotism, the racism, the wily Chinese communist enemies, and the “brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” With all this previous conditioning, it’s easy for the Pentagon to send American young people into harm’s way in pointless ideological and commercial wars. And once they get there the support-the-troops pavlovian phenomenon clicks in at home.
The CIA, which orchestrates much of the patriotic drumbeat is virtually a hermetic country unto itself. Its existence is built on foundations of absolute secrecy used to obfuscate the highest elected offices in the land. How do they manage to keep vital secrets from the US Congress and the President himself? They are partial to a ploy called “plausible denial.” By not informing the country’s elected elites of their most egregious operations such as their bloody regime-change operations abroad and domestic surveillance at home, the CIA and the NSA allege that they are not depriving the highest levels of government of vital strategic information. They are actually shielding them from responsibility for some of the country’s most heinous and far-reaching black ops. When they eventually come to light, the response is, “The President knew nothing of this program.” That’s plausible deniability.
What’s Next? Will It Be the End?
The simple truth is: we don’t know if the end is near. If the President of the United States himself can be kept in the dark, how are the citizens of the US and the world supposed to know anything? We have to guess. And given the intellectual and moral stature of America’s leaders, and their behind-the-scenes big-bucks handlers, an impartial outside observer cannot venture even to guess what comes next, nor when. The fact that their American backs are against the wall might encourage them to take desperate measures. Will they try taking on Russian and China in tandem. We can only hope not, and try to forget the depressing old truism: “hope is not a strategy, and a wish is not a plan.”
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Don’t they realize that they will ultimately be swept up in their own maelstrom?
The Grimmest Fairy Tale
We’re accustomed to talking glibly about “the future” as if it were a given. “There always has been a future, hasn’t there,” you may say. Yes, it always has been something we could take for granted, but now it’s not. Now life as we know it on this planet is not assured a future.
How did that happen? One thing is certain: it didn’t happen by “fate” or accident. It didn’t happen due to puerile biblical prophesies, and it didn’t happen by natural disasters, not in the first place, anyway. Those natural disasters were provoked by mankind. (I’m going to permit myself this gender transgression, as most of the floods and firestorms, droughts and extinctions, were caused, directly or indirectly, by men, not women.)
But it’s not complicated. What threw the future of the world into grave uncertainty was greed, but not any old greed. It was–and is–greed hyped up by technology the way the garden shovel was superceded by the bulldozer and the power shovel. It’s a terrifying, mortal, previously unthinkable greed that ruthless men have loosed upon the world.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural address about an earlier generation of Republican obstructionists: “They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
How Stupid Are These Consummate Businessmen, Anyway?
Don’t they realize that they will ultimately be swept up in their own maelstrom? No, they don’t. They think their astronomical treasure will protect them but it won’t. They are convinced of that because they’re drunk on wealth, power and self deception. Just as they have left us bereft of a future they have done the same for themselves. Cold consolation for us.
Where do these mega-cannibals come from? These shrewd exploiters come principally from an upstart nation that was founded two-and-a-half brief centuries ago in a broad, green, far-off land populated by tribes of primitive peoples living wholesome–which is not to say warless–subsistence lives. The founders of this new nation promptly dispatched the natives to the happy hunting grounds. By the mid-19th century they had conquered that broad, green land from coast to coast. They called it the United States of America.
Sadly for history, that procedure of genocide and spiralling profit off the rich land became the playbook for the Americans. (They called themselves “Americans” as if the sum of two entire continents belonged exclusively to them.) The world had seen many conquerors before, but these self-styled Americans added a new ingredient to the recipe. They told the world they were not conquerors, but liberators. They took something they called “freedom” and a primitive, warmed-over miracle religion they called “christianity” with them. These seemingly inoccuous innovations not only promised their victims a pleasant life on earth but also a dandy afterlife.
This sort of balderdash can be labeled “voodoo hypocrisy,” as none of it was true nor ever would be. Instead it became one of the most fearful arms in the American arsenal, thanks more to their outstanding-if-mendacious salesmanship, than to the merit of their product.
Greed Makes the World Go Round
Greed, as we know, is ongoing, like a perpetual-motion machine, only better. Not only does it continue to run; it continues to grow, like compound interest. That’s how unscrupulous American speculators and usurpers coopted everyone’s future and started playing fast and loose with it. They discovered that the most lucrative business of all was the arms trade. It’s the only enterprise where the products are promptly blown to smithereens, creating a perpetual market for the violent death of mainly people with funny names in far-off countries. The flaw in this impeccable plan was the same one all over again. These free-market freebooters discovered the atomic bomb and, by extension, the one winter–the nuclear winter–that not even the Eskimos can escape from. So the exploiters are now in the same boat with those they exploit. Nevertheless, they pretend not to notice. The bizness must go on.
Throughout this entire historical process–though historically it wasn’t actually very long–these unspeakable American men covered themselves with a magical blanket of legitimacy. They were, after all, constructing the Free World. How did they manage to achieve that respectability? The same way they managed everything else. They bought it. They didn’t mess around. They went straight to the Congress of the United States. And they bought it.
Which Brings Us to the Brink
Today humankind’s future on this earth rests on a knife’s edge that can cut either way, but not with equal probability. With those slick American entrepreneurs ferreting around the known world provoking powerful potential enemies by ringing them with warships and nuclear-missile bases, the odds look decidedly in favor of some sort of imperialist Armageddon. Why would they do such foolish things? You don’t even need to ask. Just refer to their agenda, which is their deadly script. Your possibilities of surviving? They’re nearing zero.
The plain laws of probability tell us that, after so many near misses on so many fronts, including so many slip ups, from near nuclear launches to the three-trillion-dollar, fruitless-for-all-but-the-parasites Afghan War, the definitive wipeout is now approaching inevitability.
Above us, on Olympus, from where we thought the gods looked after the wellbeing of humanity, it turns out there are only malevolent, self-serving dwarves. What do you think your chances are with them? How do we know who they are? It’s easy, just read the paper. You will have to discard the words but you’ll get the drift just humming along with the music and watching the shit that’s going down.
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The flag is just a rag but America remains enslaved to the atavistic mental claptrap of patriotism, imperialism and militarism that it supposedly represents.
They’re Fixing the System So the Less Educated and Most Gullible Vote for Them
In the good old days the more wealth an American had the more likely he or she was to vote Republican. It made sense. The Grand Old Party was the one that coddled the rich, protecting them from regulations on their businesses and high taxes on their incomes. Today in the US, although richer citizens are still more likely to vote than poorer people, there is a new element in the mix–the stupidity factor–that is gaining weight in the struggle. That factor has to do with the educational level of voters. Some astute Republicans have discovered this relatively new development in election trends over the past 30 years, and it has occurred to them to look at the upside of the phenomenon for their party.
If voters with less education and higher stupidity quotients are more inclined to vote Republican, the secret of winning elections is to foment less education and more stupidity. This fact should vastly improve Republican results in elections at all levels, local, state and national. The brief Trump Era added another variable to the election equation, the dumbed-down factor. The Republican thinkers have discovered that just three straightforward measures will permit the GOP to win a mass of new votes in upcoming elections from a notably undereducated and highly racist sector of American citizenry.
The first step in this Dumb-Down Strategy has been underway for decades, so all the Republicans have to do is to continue to foment it. It’s the lowering of standards in American K-12 schools because, though the US has some of the world’s most distinguished institutions of higher education, their K-12 schools are lamentable by international standards, placing 26th in a ranking headed by China, America’s bitter pill.
According to Keri D. Ingraham, director and fellow of the American Center for Transforming Education:
Here’s the sad truth. Twenty-five countries outperform U.S. K-12 students. Those leading the way are China, Hong Kong, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Canada. China’s students not only place first overall, but they dominate each individual subject as well. U.S. students straggle in at 33rd in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading.
The majority of U.S. public school students do not achieve grade level proficiency. The Nation’s Report Card reveals that only 28.7 percent of 4th-graders, 26.4 percent of 8th-graders, and a mere 22.8 percent of 12th-graders reach basic proficiency levels averaged across seven subjects (civics, geography, mathematics, reading, science, U.S. history, and writing) on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. In other words, over 71 percent of our students lack basic academic proficiencies at the end of their 13-year K-12 schooling.
Discovery.org–Dumbing Down K-12 Education by Keri Ingraham
The second step in the plan to take electoral advantage of America’s dumbed-down electorate is to pitch the election discourse to the least educated Americans. As we might expect, these are the voters who respond best to populist, racist demagogic rhetoric. Donald J. Trump was, of course, sent from heaven to deliver those messages. Step three is to implement, state by state, a meticulous set of restrictive voting laws designed to limit severely access to the polls by groups most likely to vote against the Republicans. That is black and brown Americans and other minorities. This furibund program is being implemented all over America as we speak. Unless it is halted by the courts, an unlikely outcome given their carefully prepared, right-wing composition, both the 2022 mid-term and the 2024 presidential elections will have interesting outcomes.
These Are the Indicators
Young people hardly read any more. They are too busy being entertained in an all-enveloping universe of electronic devices. “Pop culture” carries the day. The young people who are the future of America will soon be travelling–and leading–without a map or a compass, without criteria to guide them. A cursory look at today’s United States Congress tells us that this process is already under way. The whole Trumpian ethos–which has left a profound imprint on American politics, and may be back in 2024–has its roots in profound, arrogant ignorance.
Neighborhood bookstores are disappearing. Those warm, cosseting places where one could stroll and sample, actually pick up and savor a variety of books at leisure, are gone. Those places fomented reading, learning and quiet reflection, and they have been supplanted by the Amazon delivery robot.
Intellectual crutches are available to everybody online. As long as we have Google nobody needs to know anything. It’s all there–for free. As for reading 1,000 pages of Tolstoy, who needs it? Those twenty bucks can more profitably be spent on the lottery.
Perhaps the most pernicious factor in this whole vortex of ignorance is the milieu. Not only does a young person not read; none of his friends do, nor any of theirs. Nor do his parents, nor the former and possibly next President of the United States.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Reminds Us (in a book) of the Danger of the Stupidity Epidemic
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young Lutheran pastor Germany at the outbreak of the Second World War. He was outspoken from the beginning in his opposition to Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. Arrested at his parents’ home on April 4, 1943 he was shunted from prison to a series of concentration camps before being hanged at Flossenbürg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, at the age of 39, just two weeks before Allied troops liberated the camp. While he awaited his execution he wrote Letters and Papers from Prison. One of these essays, entitled On Stupidity, records some of the problems which Bonhoeffer saw at work in Hitler’s rise to power. Though Bonhoeffer and his work have lately been- coopted by the evangelical right, his life and work speak eloquently for themselves. He comments in his essay, On Stupidity:
“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”
This warning/condemnation of harmful herd stupidity is as relevant today in the United States as it was in the Germany of the 1940s. The proof of the pudding would become clear to many misled Americans if ex-President Donald Trump were to win the Republican candidacy and the Presidency in the 2024 presidential election. By then it would be too late and dumbed-down America’s experience of manipulated voters and rigged elections would enter into history as the definitive case study of massive election success based on a deliberately dumbed-down electorate.
Umair Haque, who publishes today’s most lucid commentary regarding the American nosedive, on Medium.com, has written recently:
To say that little Johnny shouldn’t have to learn about slavery is only to say that he should be able to on being ignorant, and perhaps a bigot, like his parents — the Trumpists — are. And if he beats up a few minorities at school, harasses them, insults them…well, that’s just boys being boys. Just like, apparently, only white dudes get to be CEOs because everyone else is dumber than them, I guess. You see my point.
These are old, old fears. You have to understand them that way to really know them. White Americans have lived with these fears since they colonised the land. The Natives were attacking them. The slaves would rebel. They’re coming for our wives and kids are the oldest, most primal fears in the white American imagination. And here they are, being used to drive white America into a mindless rage, all over again.
The American sea of ignorance provides rich fishing for glad handers, witch doctors, militarists and other opportunists in the United States Congress. Their agendas all coincide on one point: re-election is the ultimate good, and they pursue it at all costs. Big business interests knew that for a long time but couldn’t take full advantage of the situation until the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision (January 21, 2010), which gave corporations and some other institutions the status of persons with the same right to contribute freely to election campaigns. Money can buy elections and that decision opened the floodgates to a massive symbiotic relationship between big business and the country’s legislators at all levels.
Before long one of the principal roles of many (most?) lawmakers was as agents of powerful economic interests. The most egregious examples of this phenomenon today are the cases of Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Lea Sinema of Arizona, both captives of fossil fuel interests to the detriment of their party and constituents nationwide. There are many others, enough to to carry the day on any issue, from “defense” spending to coal, oil and natural gas subsidies. It’s a bi-partisan tradition. You can find legislators from both parties on the wrong side of the street, especially on issues of social justice, racism, militarism and voting rights, to name a few.
Tricking the Turkeys
The leitmotif that ran through the Trump administration was the dismounting of “big government,” and they were alarmingly successful at it. This is evident in Trump’s selection of members for his cabinet, ideologues instead of experts. Their job across the board was to cripple or eliminate government agencies that were vital to the health and wellbeing of the country and potentiate freebooter capitalism. The country has not recovered yet, neither in practical nor ideological terms. A lot of fallout from the Trump years has not been mopped up. Worse than that, a lot of Americans still think Trump was right, even though they were the first victims of his strip-the-country-of-its-defenses policies, and would vote for him if he were a candidate in 2024 .
It’s a classic case of the turkeys voting for Thanksgiving. How do unscrupulous, self-serving politicians convince the turkeys to vote in favor of their own extermination, whether figurative or, in the case of the military, literal. The flag is just a rag but America remains enslaved to the atavistic mental claptrap of patriotism, imperialism and militarism that it supposedly represents.
In the first place candidates for the Thanksgiving table have to be turkeys, i.e. undereducated. Eagles would not fall for such an obvious con. The explanation for such unthinkable barnyard gullibility lies in America’s traditions, myths, mores and folkways. It boils down to different flavors of myopic patriotism, baseless exceptionalism, and bare-faced mendacity on the part of America’s leaders, all part of the compost that fertilizes the American stupidity whose victims voted for a crooked, carnival barker President once–and may well do so again.
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Is there any hope for a great country that has painted itself into a dark corner where the rich have been permitted to buy the democracy and tailor it to their own dubious purposes?
Did They Drop the Ball?
Meet Antony Blinken, the Secretary State that President Joe Biden appointed when he took office in January of this year. Blinken had a unique opportunity to shine on the world stage at the Anchorage (Alaska) meetings between China and the US.
CNN reported on the welcome accorded the Chinese: “In his opening remarks, Blinken initially said the US intends to defend the “rules-based order” without which there would be a “much more violent world” and said that Chinese activities in places like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies, “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
In keeping with President Donald Trump’s benchmark diplomatic style, Antony Blinken opened the US-China meetings, with an aggresive litany of China’s supposed abuses in their region. Some observers at the event likened these remarks to China condemning US actions in Florida, Texas and Mississippi, insofar as all of the places mentioned by Blinken are, under international law and mutual agreement, subject to Chinese sovereignty. What about Taiwan? In a 1979 Joint Communique issued with the People’s Republic of China, the State Department of the United States “recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.” (Source: US Department of State)
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi did not hold back in his rebuttal to Blinken: “We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world… Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.”
As I see it, any normal person reading this account of the American welcome to a high-level foreign representation whom they invited to travel thousands of miles to a vitally important meeting, would conclude that the American greeting was awkward, illogical and ultimately counterproductive. It doesn’t seem to make sense on any level: intellectual, social, strategic, and, least of all, diplomatic. What were the American representatives thinking? Have they so little intelligence, such a lack of sensibility, and a deficient sense of decency, that they are incapable of offering a simple welcome for openers?
I doubt that Blinken is unintelligent nor that his mother didn’t inculcate in him notions of sensibility, decency and simple good manners. But those niceties are shelved when it comes time to sit down face to face with someone the ruling magnates in his country consider an enemy. Because militarized America doesn’t have adversaries, it has enemies. And its officials don’t respond to logic, decency or common sense when they sit down at a meeting, only to the script incorporated into their country’s belligerent agenda. And that agenda includes military solutions almost exclusively. The business of America is war, and Secretary Blinken is not about to change that fact.
The Americans and the British never had much regard for China. Granted it was a huge country with rich resources, but it was half a world away as well as impoverished, disperse and its people were vexed for being exploited by foreigners. When we first hear the term “opium wars” most of us conjure up visions of the Imperial British authorities waging war to prevent those degenerate Chinamen from downgrading the country through widespread drug use. Later we learn that the truth was all the contrary. The British fought the opium wars in order to guarantee themselves the “right” to peddle opium to the Chinese, who were fighting to protect their countrymen from the degenerate British drug businessmen. Nothing ever changes. Colonialism is still about business.
Then came the Japanese imperialists with their hideous rape of Nanking in 1937-38. Curiously, neither the British nor the Japanese seemed aware that, during the previous twenty centuries of human history, China had dominated eighteen. That is not an insignificant historical anecdote. It is a telling clue to the future. And the future is now.
Over the past half century the Chinese have made massive advances with a minimum of military interventions. China is again in motion and, despite having the world’s largest army, the Chinese follow a non-violent game plan, advancing without truculence or bombast. Their emphasis is on hard work, bargaining and sharing. Their Belt and Road initiative is about trade, not war, about mutual benefits, not destruction. Instead of mounting a vast network of military bases across the world, they invested in China and the Chinese, elevating a sector of 800 million people out of deep poverty.
They knew it was going to be a long march but they are accustomed to that. Mao Zedong’s year-long, 5,600-mile retreat in the face of Chaing Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang Army in 1934-35 set the benchmark for Long Marches. Of the 100-200,000 men who set off from Jaangxi Province with Mao, only 8,000 reached the destination in Yan’an in Shaanxi Province in northern China a year later. From there the Chinese communists came back after 22 years to send the Chinese nationalist army fleeing to the Chinese island of Formosa (today Taiwan) and take over the ruling of the country. This heroic feat both inspired China’s communists and elevated Mao to the party’s leadership. The great Chinese comeback was under way.
They still have a ways to go, but they’re working on it, propelled by a real annual GDP growth rate between six and 10 percent since the mid-70s. The following figures help to explain why China makes the Americans nervous. They’re the comparative yearly figures for economic growth China-US for 2013-2018 (Data from IMF WEO Database, April 2020):
These numbers sing a powerful song. At this rate China can be expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy sometime between 2028 and 2032. China is America’s most important source of imports and the US is indebted to them (as of 2021) $1.1 trillion. (Source: US Treasury Report)
The United States is China’s most important trading partner and China is the US’s third most important, after Mexico and Canada. Seen by an impartial observer China and the United States can be conceived as virtual Siamese twins, linked at their spines and with shared interests in virtually all fields, though they can never see eye to eye. Both are living in the critical era of the Covid 19 pandemic, each in their own way, the US with the highest Covid statistics in the world and China the lowest. Aren’t there things the US can learn from China in this field and others? Shouldn’t they be cooperating? The American agenda seems to preclude that possibility.
The Pentagon and the big American weapons providers don’t see the benefits of cooperation with China. They see just another opportunity to provoke a war and reap the usual harvest of profit and disaster. Never mind that this might be the Big One. They prefer to insult and threaten the Chinese, not only verbally but by converting the South China Sea into a playpool for American gunboats, and whipping up contrived “defense” alliances like the recent AUKUS initiative. This frankenstinian spawn unites the United States; their loyal Sancho Panza, Great Britain; and Australia in a palpably anti-China conglomerate. What do the Australians think they have to gain by offending their principal trading partner. Here are recent figures for Australia’s exports.
China: US$90.6 billion (43% of total Australian exports) Japan: $19 billion (9%) United States: $13.1 billion (6.2%)
The AUKUS agreement also includes the purchase of up to six nuclear-powered submarines from the US, the better to provoke the Chinese dragon. The aims of this trilateral defense initiative seem to be muddled from the outset. Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, is quoted in The Guardian on September 16, 2021: “But let me be clear. Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” as if an atomic submarine were not a nuclear weapon. Will the AUKUS “defense” partnership, which at bottom is a massive American arms deal, lead to a cold-war-style arms race? It would be remarkable if it didn’t.
At this point in the game the same question always arises: how do the Americans manage to dupe their allies into leaping carelessly into the ugliest stewpots? The Aussies also took part in the disastrous Vietnam debacle in the 60s and 70s. And in 2014, in a highly dubious decision, they committed US$11.5 billion to the purchase of 58 American-made, problem plagued F-35A Lightning II fighters. Since 2001, Australian forces suffered 38 combat deaths in the Americans’ Afghanistan clownshow. Do the Aussies never learn? Observed from afar this American penchant for implicating their friends in their military adventures seems utterly gratuitous. “But Australia is obliged to collaborate with the United States under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” the Aussie collaborators will say. “North Atlantic?” Yes, of course.
The Forever War Scam
Not all of the treasure lavished on America’s perpetual war project is lost. Part of it returns to American coffers in the form of payment for their ever-more-sophisticated and deadly armaments. Unfortunately, the American people at large never see nor benefit from the wealth generated by the arms trade. In fact, the arms trafficking merry go round amounts to an elaborate procedure to funnel America’s wealth from the wallets of taxpayers who finance the research and pay for the country’s formidable stockpile of arms and their delivery systems, into the exclusive pockets of the armament magnates.
Who are they? According to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics, five of the nation’s biggest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and General Dynamics — generated enough profit in 2020 to spend a combined $60 million to influence American foreign policy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. OpenSecrets.org (Feb. 25, 2021), reveals that America’s armament industry skims a bit of the cream off the top of their earnings to keep the political pussycat lubricated. Over the last two decades they have given $285 million in campaign contributions and spent $2.5 billion on lobbying.
No Wonder Uncle Sam’s Alarmed
Part of the secret of China’s meteoric rise in the world is the money they didn’t have to spend on waging wars near and far, nor establishing hundreds of military bases around the world or sponsoring endless false-flag regime change operations. Add to the money not misspent the vast number of enemies not made by not invading anybody. Do the Americans think their regime-change penchant hasn’t created expensive enemies?
The Chinese won their civil war (1927-1949) and have spent their time since then building a prosperous peacetime. During the same period that the US was squandering tens of trillions (with a T) on bellicose follies, China was investing in its country and its people. Today they are extending their prosperity projects to the Middle East and Africa, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. Their strategy is to share, not invade, and it’s working, much to the chagrin of the American oligarchs.
China’s biggest international trade project was announced in 2013 and pursued enthusiastically since then. It is their Belt and Road Initiative and it is already achieving significant advances. According to its website, BRI is a transcontinental long-term policy and investment program which aims at infrastructure development and acceleration of the economic integration of countries along the route of the historic Silk Road. That silk road now crosses the Atlantic to bring economic development to countries such as Chile and Cuba, among others. According to the Belt and Road site, 71 countries are currently taking part in the Initiative, together representing more than a third of the world`s GDP and two thirds of the world`s population.
Is there any hope for a great country that has painted itself into a dark corner where the rich have been permitted to buy the democracy and tailor it to their own dubious purposes, relegating the onetime government to a merely decorative role? What happens when a society weaned on competition foresees a future in which it can no longer compete? Can it still learn valuable lessons from gentler, more humane and egalitarian countries? Or will it resort to even more desperate measures? These are the operative questions. Will the Americans find the answers in time?
Stupidity denotes the inability of a person to understand something due to insufficient intelligence, thus leading to the misinterpretation of a fact. (Thesaurus.com)
How Does The United States Manage to Remain World Leader in Covid 19 Mismanagement?
It’s a magical mix of of stupidity and greed in the most advanced country in the world that makes this seemingly impossible outcome inevitable. Every-man-for-himself, rugged-individualist Americans cannot win against a widespread, highly-contagious virus, regardless of their high tech and bags of money. Winning in this case requires an everyone-pulling-together effort for the common good. It sounds like socialism, doesn’t it. That’s because it is like socialism. Could that be why large segments of Americans are rejecting the collective effort–the masks, the social distancing and prophylactic measures? Whatever the case, stupidity rules.
Like everything else that’s mortally wrong with American society, the collosal losing response to the Covid 19 epidemic is a result of faulty philosophy. As much as Americans love a shooting war, there are no military solutions to a pandemic. Fighting a virus on the rampage requires the rigorous and uniform application of boring preventive measures that are disastrous for the economy in the short term. “Uniform” refers to all sections of the country, all creeds and political persuasions, rich and poor, black and white and all colors in between. America’s current approach to the problem–overlapping and conflicting authority at the federal, state and local levels, and tolerating organized resistence to vital public health measures–is a recipe for disaster. The current disaster has claimed 648,000 lives–and counting–thus far. More than 600,000 unnecessary deaths boggle the mind. This price is far too high. Even so, the country marches stupidly on.
Is this stupidity catching? Yes, and it is highly contagious, thanks principally to the actions and omissions of low people in high places. The word and example of any state governor, legislator, or member of the United States Congress has a following, by default. They are, after all, elected by thousands or even millions of voters. What motivates these seemingly short-sighted politicians to lead their innocent followers into the hell of fatally-flawed public health policies?
Their justification conforms to mindless right-wing, laissez-faire agendas that extend to every aspect of American life, from hands-off-everything government policy to iron-clad opposition to regulating business. Political campaign planners rely on varied agendas to assure the fidelity of their candidates’ followers. These agendas may be ambitious like the megalomaniac Project for a New American Century or simple campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again.”
Everyone with two fingers of forehead understands these problems and their fatal outcomes, but too many adepts of ultra-conservative ideologies prefer to overrule common sense and sane public health policies with their noxious agendas. They not only harm themselves but do untold damage to people near and far (starting with their own elderly family members) by perpetuating the spread of the virus through deadly chain reactions. This is the stupidity of the thoughtless application of the Americans’ sacrosanct “individual freedom.” They are riding that tired old horse into their early graves.
The other collective that wields an unnatural–and unnaturally stupid– influence in American society is that of the merely rich. An American billionaire, no matter how crass, venal or damaging to others, enjoys massive admiration and support in that benighted country, though his or her only merit is posessing a lot of money, no matter how they came by it nor what foolish–or actually dangerous–initiatives they sponsor with it.
Stupidity Goes Hand in Hand with Other Undesirables
Supine stupidity does not come along by itself. It is usually accompanied by a group of undesirable friends and allies with equally noxious effects on American society. Hyper patriotism (and its first cousin, exceptionalism), and primitive religious cults are usually found in first rank of the mix. None of these phenomena are dangerous in and of themselves. As we used to say when we were kids, “It’s a free country.” However, taken together, they contribute to a mode of baseless, unfounded thinking that is not really thinking, rather the parroting of false premises that are useful to ruling elite. The most sinister friend of that group is militarism, fabulously profitable for a few, but mortally dangerous for millions in America and around the world. The patriotic and militarist lies, so easy to propagate in a naive society, have deep roots in America, and will take a long time, if ever, to uproot.
Who Suffers from the Pandemic?
Everybody suffers, some catastrophically, some less, but, directly or indirectly, everybody suffers. Nobody gets off scot-free… except the Chinese, who took universal, rational measures against the pandemic from day one, and never looked back.
The people and organizations who benefit from America’s current level of public-health stupidity are the usual suspects, the same elements who foment and reap benefits from an ignorant, arrogant and bigoted electorate on other playing fields. They’re the country’s smash-and-grab political demagogues first and foremost. Then, of course, there’s Big Pharma, already blessed with an iron-clad law (the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003), that prohibits the government from negotiating prices on medications sold to the Medicare system. Unless that legislation is amended, the economic results for drug companies from Covid vaccines and treatments can be expected to take their profits into another dimension.
What’s to Be Done?
The cure for countries that are occupied by stupidity is not hard to prescribe: it’s educating the country’s young people for life among one’s fellow human beings. The rest is secondary and falls into place once the matter of cordial coexistence is in hand. Though it’s not hard to recommend, this solution is one of life’s most difficult tasks to achieve. This is especially true in a country like the United States with a set of national values based on laser-beam self interest and darkest Darwinian competitiveness, with all of its powerful industrial and economic interests tearing through the society like an amoral buzz saw. Then there’s the question of size. Effecting any change in a land so extensive and varied is a monumental order. All of these elements coinciding make the most fundamental element in the mix–a willingness to convene among people of all types, conditions, and opinions–virtually unachievable. Until that first step is taken, however, nothing is possible. Will the Americans be able to make that move in time? Thereon hinges the future of their country–and the entire world–for better or for worse.
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There’s a line from a great John Lee Hooker song that pops up at our house from time to time and always gets a big laugh: “This is nineteen and fifty-two, baby, I’m gonna turn over a brand new leaf…”
If you’re over the age of 16, you may have discovered by now that it’s not always easy to turn that leaf over, especially if you live in the United States. Large parts of the rest of the world are substantially different. The differences have to do with sovereignty and priorities. In most European countries the citizens rule their own countries by means of highly-respected, honest, and closely monitored democratic governments. As for their criteria, most of them have to do with the wellbeing of the citizens.
In the United States sovereignty rests, through devious indirect control of all three branches of government, in the hands of big interests: Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Tobacco, Big Defense Industries… Everthing that could conceivably be privatized has been privatized. Most Americans perceive this as normal. The all-powerful private sector is erroneously seen as a given, but it’s not. It’s a choice. Why would the citizens of an advanced society entrust the running of their country to a small minority of mega-wealthy money jugglers and industrialists with one priority: the absolute rule of the greatest country in the world, with policies that benefit only themselves? What could persuade a sovereign people living under a democratic Constitution to relinquish the rule of the their country to such a band of parasites?
The answer is both simple and complicated. The people have been tricked. It’s been a long time coming, but today big business’s dominance of the United States is pretty much absolute. Who’s going to turn over the new leaf now? And how? And when? One great uncertainty hovers over all the rest: Is it already too late?
All for Profit in the Past, Present and Future
All the trappings of a modern democratic government in the United States are just a shadown drama of shifting kimonos on a rickety, ill-lit stage. In all matters of fundamental importance, American business calls the shots. And we don’t have to guess at their priorities. They are all about securing their own rule and maximizing profit for their managers and stockholders with little or no regard for the hopes and aspirations–and at times the very survival–of everyday people, both at home and abroad. Who are the stockholders, anyway? Curiously it’s mainly the bankers, industrialists and their congressional facilitators, themselves.
Other kinds of issues are considered vital in more truly advanced countries, beginning with the character of their maximum leaders and the impression of sanity and seriousness they project at home and abroad. Every American president since George W. Bush has been perceived by discerning observers, in greater or lesser degree, as a sinister clown. Then there are the principal subjects of concern in any truly advanced country: education, public health, equality of opportunity, racial justice, the climate crisis, truth and decency in dealings with their world neighbors–issues that hardly enter into American government calculations, regardless of which of their political parties–Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee–is in office.
Do you doubt it? Ask any black or brown American. Ask any American family living in a car or on the street, or any head of a family who works two McJobs and still can’t afford to rent a decent home. Question any Iraqi, Afghan, Libyan, Iranian, Somali, Central or South American. Inquire of China, or even Japan, whom America ushered into the history books as the first country to endure not one but two surprise nuclear bombings. (Why two? Because America had two different bomb models, playfully dubbed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy,” and President Truman wanted to test them both in real-world situations.)
A History of Exploitation, Genocide, and Other Iniquities
American colonists from the very beginning felt that they had a God-given right to eliminate the heathen Native Americans. The few that survive today are just a result of a slipshod genocide. Slavery in America rested on the same God-given foundations. Despite a series of poorly-executed laws to end the horrors of slavery after the Civil War, it didn’t die. It mutated. Thanks to Jim Crow laws, passed in all southern states and given a wink and nod from Washington, black people in the south suffered decades more of brutal exploitation. Nor is that sordid heritage over yet. Today the American penal system–the largest in the world–has picked up where Jim Crow left off, disproportionally incarcerating and exploiting black citizens in similar or worse conditions than their slaveholder forbears.
America’s special brand of racism has broken the back of their democracy, a fact that has been highlighted by the recent spate of voter suppression initiatives around the country. The US is home to so many–and such virulent–racists that they can severely limit voting rights through democratic processes alone: racist-majority state legislatures, courts, juries, and police, not to mention the majority of race haters militating in the Republican Party.
Where America Excels
There is one field in which American technology is unsurpassed, and that is the business of communications, persuasion and salesmanship. They have never been bettered in the business of mind twisting, devious salesmanship and the diffusion of false “facts.” They have convinced the majority of American citizens that their country is a hilltop beacon of freedom and democracy with the sacred obligation to take that enviable model abroad to less fortunate countries.
That basic “truth” has given rise to myriad bastard offspring, including the subversion of legitimate governments and “regime change,” assassinations of legitimate political leaders included (Guatemala, Iran, the Republic of the Congo, Chile…). Nor were they averse to outright invasions (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia); along with those that are currently/still brewing (Yemen, Libya, another Afghanistan, Syria, Taiwan, Cuba, Venezuela, another Iraq…)
The American salesmanship voodoo is wonderfully exemplified in the decades-long campaign to involve allied defense establishments in the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II project to develop an advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. This endeavor began its life in 1992 as a congressional pork-barrel operation situating manufacturing operations in 48 of the 50 states. This is standard operating procedure both for winning widespread backing in Congress and creating a project that would be too big to fail. They were right on both counts, as the project is still stumbling forward 20 years later.
The product is a multi-faulty multi-service fighter plane with expensive and ungainly separate versions for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It also resembles a textbook fraud, by casting all prospective clients as partners, thereby making them co-responsible for the aircraft’s myriad development glitches, holdups, and astronomical cost overruns. It is, in short, a big-B boondoggle, the most expensive weapons system in military history, to the tune of $1.7 trillion. Aviation and military procurement insiders refer to it as “the fighter plane that sank the Pentagon.” According to an article in Forbes (Feb. 23, 2021), the US Air Force has just declared the F-35 unfit for duty. “The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem.” One wonders about the experts from other countries who signed on to the program. What convinced them, the carrot or the stick? Do they have important stock portfolios? Do their kids go to elite schools in America?
A Grisly Endgame
American business had its demise dialled into its DNA. As companies became more concentrated and monopolistic, with more advantages and fewer controls engineered by their legislative arm, more of their domestic competitors were driven to the wall. That led to layoffs and deteriorating conditions for workers. Little by little big business in America was killing the market it needed to stay afloat and now the job is almost finished. Ironically, this process, while stifling trade in America, opened up fabulous opportunities for the Chinese, who are creating millions of jobs and getting rich as America’s manufacturing arm.
China’s annual Gross Domestic Product growth rate has hovered just under 10% since 1978 when they began reforming their economy, never dropping below 7.9%, even during the pandemic. By way of comparison, the US GDP growth rate over that same period never reached 5%. These numbers go a long way towards explaining America’s perception of China today as an arch enemy. The Americans have always had trouble distinguishing between adversaries and enemies. The difference seems to be: you can bomb the latter. This last graph reflects the growth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States over the past two decades. They’re buying up their last viable competitor.
Two of the sectors that still thrive in the US are the so-called “defense industries” and financial services. The needs of the former dictate America’s policy of forever war, making defense a distinctly risky business. The latter are essential to the management of the fortunes of America’s 20.27 million millionaires and 724 billionaires, none of whom sleep in their cars nor on the street.
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Let’s start with “exceptional.” It’s not complicated. Something exceptional is out of the ordinary, usually on the positive side: an exceptional athlete, an exceptional writer or teacher or mechanic… From there to American Exceptionalism in the current sense is a long leap.
Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University. Writing on ForeignPolicy.com, October 11, 2011, Walt characterizes America’s unique exceptionalism with cool realism:
Most statements of “American exceptionalism” presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.
The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America’s global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities — from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom — the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.
Nevertheless, Americans are undoubtedly exceptional, if not always in good ways. As Walt points out, they’re uniquely unaware of the ways they are like everyone else. That fact alone negates most of the exceptional rights Americans–especially those in power–like to arrogate to themselves in their dealings with other countries. Manifest Destiny didn’t disappear with the Mexican War nor the snatching of Hawaii. It’s still alive and kicking, though a long series of American governments have pretended–and continue to pretend–not to notice. They prefer to emphasize the supposed democratizing effects of American intervention. That is a bald lie of course, but they’ve been peddling it more or less successfully for generations. Lately, however, it’s growing exceptionally thin.
Under the immense influence of the military/industrial complex and loose-cannon, high-tech American billionaires like Robert Mercer with his sinister election-meddling dwarves, American government–and ultimately American society–changed radically. With virtually absolute power over America’s priorities this new ruling clique permitted itself the luxury of taking off the gloves and baring its fists both at home and abroad. As a consequence people, both east and west, are living worse lives, if they’re living at all.
The American power elite consider their military supremacy a determining factor, the definitive justification for imposing their truculent rule everywhere. But they hadn’t counted on the remarkable resilience of poor people defending their homelands, nor the rise of China, nor the implications of a China-Russia coalition. And when the Taliban reared its turbanned head last week and booted the occupiers out of Afghanistan after 20 years, the geopolitical world experienced a sea change. America’s undisputed world suzerainty had ended.
It’s no mystery that the United States has always been a place where the playing field was tilted in favor of big enterprise. The American rich can now purchase politicians and, through them, impose their wills on the country and the world. This reality goes a long way towards explaining why many foreign countries look askance at American-style democracy, which suddenly doesn’t have any clothes on.
How Are They Exceptional? Let Me Count the Ways
The Americans are exceptional for still trying to sell the “Free World,” which Neil Young dismounted utterly in 1989 with his brilliantly cheeky “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To mention the Free World today in enlightened company elicits a snort-beer-through-the-nose hilarity.
They’re exceptional for losing wars one after another to theoretically much weaker countries. How do they manage that?
Their response to the Covid-19 pandemic was so exceptional–the worst in the world–that I won’t bother elaborating on it. The interesting sidebar on this story is how the pandemic revealed a major flaw in American-style democracy. Americans have so much “freedom” that the government couldn’t implement an effective universal plan to fight the virus, and they paid the consequences with more than half a million deaths. China, on the other hand, an unvarnished dictatorship, dictated a set of regulations that stopped the virus in its tracks and permitted social and economic life in their country to go on as usual and steal a march on the rest of the world in the process.
Their firearms policies, which are careening from the ridiculous to the sublimely insane, are unique in the world, truly exceptional. Though school shootings figure first in American press coverage, gun suicide numbers are much higher, especially among war veterans. All of them should have been prevented decades ago. The Second Amendment is just a smokescreen.
Their recent foreign-policy blunders, at the hands of Antony Blinken, a truly exceptional Secretary of State, are making observers around the world ask themselves about the qualifications of the man who appointed him.
Their exceptional education system precludes most young Americans, including black and brown youth, from getting college educations. And those who do manage to graduate are saddled with terminally debilitating college debt.
Their responce to hard-core American racism–in all of its manifestations, from police brutality on the streets, to mandatory sentencing in the courts and disproportionate presence of minority inmates in American prisons–is pathetically exceptional.
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country…
Even the most liberal Americans are tarred by their country’s uber-patriotic, exceptionalist brush. It was inevitable. They were all born and raised under the American bell jar, obliged to breathe toxic air and drink tainted water, both literally and figuratively. Even the best efforts of left-wing professors are incapable of changing those perceptions. America is where young Americans got their first driver’s license, their best friend, their first kiss. In all fairness, America has undeniable attractions–the mountains and seashores, those amber waves of grain. It’s a land of opportunity, if only for a fast-diminishing few. It has brilliant, committed minds like those of Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and all the other clear-eyed thinkers and truth tellers. But it doesn’t have enough of them to offset the dream of the quick buck, glittering consumerism, the greatest brain-washing operation the world has ever seen, and the promise of eternity up in heaven, speaking in tongues.
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The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game.
President Biden’s Abrupt Decision to Pull Out Has Repositioned the World
The Taliban have just taken Kabul without firing a shot. It’s not a joke, though it certainly plays out like one. Who facilitated this grave and unexpected sea change in the delicate Afghanistan situation? It was President Biden, actually, by telegraphing his intention to pull all American troops out of that beleaguered country by September 11, thereby leaving the gates of Kabul wide open to Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Commander of the Taliban Faithful. Akhundzada’s troops are fortuitiously reinforced lately by all the great American war-making equipment they recovered from fleeing Afghan troops. Get used to the Taliban leader’s name. You’re going to be seeing and hearing it a lot in the future.
As things stand right now 11:30 a.m., Granada time, Tuesday, August 17, 2021, American and Taliban soldiers have managed to clear the airstrip at Bagram Airport where masses of people are waiting–hoping against hope–to be airlifted out. Planes are now landing and taking off at a brisk pace, essentially the time it takes them to load. The first flight out this morning was a C-17 transport plane carrying 120 Indian diplomats and embassy workers. It landed at the Indian Air Force base at Jamnagar, the largest city on the western side of India, at 11:15 a.m. local time.
President Joe Biden has lost none of his American chutzpah during these trying times. This morning he was reported as threatening the Taliban with immediate retaliation to any attempt on America or American interests. With American aircraft taking off and landing by the mercy of Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada (remember him?) and with his 6,000 troops surrounded by some 85,000 Taliban fighters, high on victory, Biden’s bravado sounds a bit foolhardy.
The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game. Let’s look at them in order of merit:
The Taliban have fought relentlessly for military and political dominance of their country for nearly 20 years. In the eyes of many of their countrymen they are the heroes who have finally managed to boot out the foreign invaders.
The Chinese, who have deployed and continue to deploy a sane, sensible foreign policy–no war, no bases, no threats, offering just mutually beneficial development and infrustructure assistance to Afghanistan and other appropriate countries around the world. (What is meant by “appropriate?” It means countries with valuable natural resources who need help to exploit them and otherwise develop their countries.)
Donald Trump and his sector of the Republican Party. With so much at stake and so much of that up in the air, the ex-president’s credibility, vis a vis that of the current president, has taken a massive leap forward, a step that significantly advances his cause in the 2022 mid-term elections and beyond.
All of America’s adversaries, whose objectives instantly shine a little bit brighter.
Ironically, we are obliged to add to this list of potential winners the American Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Despite their ongoing 20-year cockup in Afghanistan and their recent blindness to emerging Afghan geopolitical realities, American governments will always place their trust in military solutions. So the great arms developers, manufacturers and traffickers will no doubt continue their lugubrious triunfal march. Will they convince President Biden that, given his latest world-class fumble and its repercussions for American prestige around the world, he might recover some of his credibility by going back to war against the Taliban? Almost nobody has any confidence in his proposed “counterterrorism-from- over-the-horizon solution.”
USNews.com paints a rock-and-a-hard-place metaphor:
This defining moment for Biden’s legacy has been met with growing speculation that the U.S. may have to return to its longest war zone as the Taliban continues to take ground, execute America’s local allies and, many fear, position itself to overrun the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. But the situation on the ground, along with the domestic appetite for furthering U.S. conflicts abroad, make that impossible. Political and logistical realities have shifted dramatically in and around the country, and other powers in the region, namely Russia and China, are actively working to prevent the U.S. from ever re-entering.
President Joe Biden. As if he didn’t have enough problems already, President Biden has committed a massive–and massively evident–mistake. He has left himself, his country, his allies and the Afghan people at the mercy of the Taliban, a dangerous, fanatical religious movement that now seems to hold all of Afghanistan in its grip.
The Democratic party, inextricably linked to Biden and his mega-faux pas.
For the American people, who are not feeling terrible buoyant right now, this turn of events can only increase their feelings of instability and uncertainty.
The US intelligence services. These may not be as intelligent as we thought.
The Afghan people. The magnitude of this loss will depend upon the severity of the Taliban regime.
Many of the world’s investors, right down to the IMF, who will find Afghanistan’s fabulous mineral riches not quite such a sure investment as they were three days ago. Afghanistan has over 1,400 mineral fields, containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, naturalgas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals. Gemstones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. According to a joint study by The Pentagon and the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated US$1 trillion of untapped minerals. (Source: Wikipedia)
President Biden’s Image Chipped and Tarnished
For many of us, Joe Biden has been on thin ice from the outset of his presidency. It was clear that he was nobody’s first choice, with the possible exception of the Democratic National Committee. They would prefer a reliable old pol from the entrails of the machine. But he’s too old. He’s doddering a little bit. The backup he gets from his staff is lackluster at best. At this point in his trajectory he badly needs a resounding victory, not an abject defeat. The worst of this situation is that it’s not just a personal setback. It’s a humiliation for his country. And his country is the United States of America.
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