Breaking PointOctober 8, 2012
Stable nonlinear dynamic systems maintain their status with a multitude of feedback loops. If negative outside influences or internal contradiction and inefficiencies threaten the system, these feedback loops will keep vital functions intact even if the system structure is already severely damaged. When such a system collapses the breakdown is sudden and catastrophic.
A short while ago I went to the statistics page for this blog (which I seldom do because it is somewhat pointless) and was astonished to see that most of the readers are from the USA.
Addressing this audience and discussing US related issues seems more than appropriate but beside this blogs US readership there are plenty of other reasons to take a look or two at the state of the United States, just to name a few:
A nation of superlatives
The USA is a nation of superlatives in many respects and a military superpower who is not shy to use force. US influence and control is felt everywhere and social, economic, technological developments in the USA have ramifications for the whole planet. In detail:
The US population, which is 4.4 percent of the world population, uses a quarter of the worlds resources. In other words, a US inhabitant uses in average 7.2 times more resources than the rest of the planets population. A detailed breakdown and a comparison by resources and regions shows even bigger disparities, for instance: A US American uses in average 350 liters of water per day, a West European 200 liters, an inhabitant from Sub-Sahara 15 liters.
The USA has the biggest military budget (711 billion US$, which is 41 percent of global military expenditures) and the Pentagon is with a workforce of 3.2 million the biggest global employer. The USA maintains between 600 and 800 military basis abroad.
The USA has 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers and 71 nuclear powered submarines (more than all other navies together). The USAF and the Navy operate 5,000 aircraft, 2,200 cruise missiles, 700 drones, 500 LGM-30G Minuteman missiles with nuclear warheads plus 288 Trident-2 D5 missiles (on submarines) with nuclear warheads.
In 2011, the USA exported weapons worth 66.3 billion US$, which is 78 percent of the global arms market.
The USA has the highest gun ownership rate in the world (an average of 88 firearms per 100 people), US Americans possess between 240 and 260 million guns, roughly 40 percent of all globally civilian-owned guns.
The world’s most valuable corporations are based in the USA: Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Google, General Electric, IBM.
Between 2007 and 2009, the profits earned by Wall Street firms increased by 720 percent, while during that same period, US citizens’ home equity was slashed by 35 percent.
Mass foreclosures let over 18 million homes stand empty while there are three and a half million people homeless. Most major cities have banned feeding the homeless because they want to keep the cities clean.
More than 25 million US Americans are unemployed, the real unemployment rate (including the longtime unemployed and underemployed) is approximately 23 percent. 50 million (16 percent of the population) live without health insurance and yet US health costs are nevertheless the highest in the world. At least 50 million US Americans (by some estimates up to 70 million) are mired in poverty, panhandling/begging is common in US cities.
43 Million US Americans now receive food stamps (that is in a country which dumps nearly 100 billion tons of food every year).
Life expectancy of less educated whites is falling.
Outstanding students loans are one trillion US$, the default rate is 9 percent. Without a solid education there are no chances for a decent job, but paying for this education will enslave young US Americans to the banks for the rest of their life. Public education is starved to death with nationwide teacher layoffs and class size increases up to 60 pupils. State funding of higher education has plunged by 7.5 percent.
Blessed are the Forbes 400, for they shall inherit the earth.
The 400 richest US-Americans own more wealth than their 180 million fellow citizens at the bottom. Most of the billionaires on Forbes list come from wealthy families, 40 percent inherited enough wealth to make them millionaires or billionaires right from the start (so far about social mobility and the myth of the brave entrepreneur who makes his fortune just by intelligence and hard work.)
Only 10 percent of the blessed 400 are Women.
Why do they hate us?
As I mentioned already in the blog post Walking with Gandhi, the question “Why do they hate us?” is asked by nationalities, minorities, immigrants, aliens, and queer, eccentric, uncommon people all over the world. It is probably ask also by the more sensitive and thoughtful US citizens, which appear to be a sizable minority.
Many US Americans will not bother about alien opinions and still see the USA as “God’s great country,” as a force for good fighting against evil and bringing civilization to the undeveloped barbarian nations of the world.
Didn’t the USA bring them Hollywood films, Coke, Marlboro, supermarkets, fast food, Roundup ready, iPhones, iPads, and a lot of other things that make life worthwhile?
Isn’t it extremely ungrateful, that the USA despite worldwide humanitarian efforts is still not regarded as the shining light on the hill and that the American Dream is rarely shared by foreign nationals?
I avoid reading US mainstream media because their news reports are distracting and deliberately misleading. But I like to look every now and then at the cartoon collections on Daryl Cagl’s website. These cartoons are exploiting any imaginable prejudices and resentments in a cynical and arrogant way, they remind me somehow of German cartoons from the time before World War II.
To be fair, the cartoons in my home country put me off as well and if I contemplate this issue thoroughly I come to the conclusion and have to concede that US Americans are maybe just a little bit more arrogant, intolerant, egoistic, and greedy than my countrymen.
They are maybe only a little bit worse, one even has to consider that they are maybe not worse at all. Yet… They are for sure much more dangerous. They have guns, drones, jet fighters, and nuclear bombs.
A new survey conducted by the British research company YouGov for the Guardian found that the US reputation for upholding human rights, respecting international law, and being a beacon for democracy is at an all-time low.
78 percent of Pakistanis mistrust the USA (which seems understandable in the light of continuous drone assassination) but also 41 percent of Brits and 40 percent of French articulate mistrust. These results are probably still painting a much too rosy picture, people are polite and don’t wan’t to appear as grouchy and grumpy.
I live in a small country in the middle of Europe which usually is ignored by US diplomats or dismissed as an unimportant troublemaker not worth bothering with. There are no poll results about public sentiment towards the USA but I have not found anybody who has anything good to say about the remaining superpower.
Especially the persistent US pressure to bring GM-food on our tables has infuriated my countrymen. Public sentiment here is not anti-American, but it is solidly anti US American. US Americans are regarded as arrogant bullies, trigger-happy gunslingers, and slick con-men who use every dirty trick from the textbook of financial fraud and deception to steal and rob the wealth of other nations.
This is of course anecdotal, anecdotal out of necessity because until now nobody dared to conduct a survey here.
The US system in a nutshell
History tells it all! The USA was founded on the genocide of the native Americans (12 million), on the deployment of slaves from Africa, and on the violent conquest of land and resources (the western frontier, the territories seized from Mexico).
The Texan annexation and the capture of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah in the Mexican-American War was justified by the idea of Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that the USA had a God-given right, or destiny, to expand the country’s borders from “sea to shining sea”.
Though Manifest Destiny never became an official dogma of US foreign politics, the belief in a special US American status (the shining light on the hill) and a mission to promote US style democracy and US social and economic organizational structures throughout the world, as expounded by Abraham Lincoln and later by Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush, continues to have an influence in US political ideology.
The Marshall Plan, which in 1948 gave five billion US$ in aid to 16 countries, was by no means a humanitarian action, but a tool to gain influence and to put the receiving countries under pressure to abandon the nationalization of important industries. Truman was disturbed by the formation of British Railways and he wanted to prevent further nationalizations.
GATT, and the following FTAs (free trade agreements) like NAFTA, KORUS FTA, and the right now negotiated TPP all are imposing US economic rules and are the most efficient way to open up foreign markets to US exports. These multilateral pacts take away the sovereignty of the signatory states and hand it over to multinational corporations. 41 percent of US exports in 2010 went to 19 FTA partner countries.
World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund), and most UN organizations (ICC, UNHRC) are controlled by bureaucrats, that US diplomacy has selected, appointed, or approved, which means, that these international organizations impudently and unapologetic do the biding of the USA.
Another tool to promote US ideals are US funded NGOs (non governmental organizations) which often pose as humanitarian organizations. Prominent examples are: NDI (National Democratic Institute), Freedom House, International Republican Institute, GOLOS, Moscow Helsinki Group, Avaaz, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch.
One should not underestimate the power of US media, represented by Hollywood, by TV series (sitcoms, reality shows), by Reuters, Associated Press, Voice of America, New York Times and Washington Post.
As US media corporations aggressively expanded their reach, Anglo-American pop culture became the global popular culture. Music, fashion, visual arts promote the US-American way of life and with it the ideals of consumerism, competition, capitalism.
If all that still doesn’t achieve to sweep away native traditions and rules and open the targeted marketplace for US commerce and resource extraction, there is always the possibility to bribe local politicians or send CIA agents to conduct special operations, which is still not the bottom of the toolbox, because if bribes and special operations (assassinations) finally don’t do the trick, one can always send in the drones.
The US economy in a nutshell
The US economy is capitalism pure, based on (cut-throat) competition and self regulating markets. A capitalist economy needs to constantly expand, because otherwise the system inherent losses would bankrupt the economy. The losses are caused by the destruction of outperformed competitors, by market swings resulting in overproduction as well as scarcities, by lack of long time planning (no infrastructure investments and irresponsible exploitation of limited resources), and by the development and production of goods not according to necessity and demand, but according to profitability, purchasing power, marketing opportunities, and corporate strategic plans.
The latter point means, that unnecessary, unhealthy, even dangerous goods are produced, that demands are artificially created on one hand while basic demands on the other hand are not met, that the supply and the range of goods is geared towards the affluent.
This system undermines any kind of social contract and it doesn’t create sufficient funds for public services, because corporations and wealthy individuals use legal loopholes to reduce their taxes. Tax evasion is viewed as a legitimate action to counter government overreach. Between 20 and 30 trillion US$ are hidden in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Bahamas (Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan praised the Cayman Islands and called for making the USA a tax shelter).
The US economic system is not efficient, it can only be kept alive by constant expansion and ruthless exploitation. This is the worlds biggest pyramid scheme (or Ponzi scheme, or chain letter scheme, if one wants to call it this way) — it will end terribly, but it should end as soon as possible, because every day this scheme goes on increases the damage and the later the breakdown, the more painful it will be.
Well, there is a real chance that the financial system will break down, because the USA is practically bankrupt. National debt has reached 16 trillion US$ and a fiscal cliff is looming.
53 percent of discretionary spending goes to the military, yet the military is needed to enable the cheap exploitation of resources and the trade of commodities to favorable prices.
The Federal Reserve is using “quantitative easing” (a financial tool that doesn’t help anybody except the banks) to unwind the toxic mortgage debacle and to buy fraudulent mortgages, fraudulent mortgage securities, and worthless derivatives with money created on a computer screen. This is deemed necessary because a great deal of the fraudulent paper has been purchased by pension funds and by nations that are important trading partners.
If this fraudulent scheme would unravel all the securities and derivatives would be worth nothing, the pensioners would be moneyless and international trade would stop. It would be the end of the worlds financial system and of world trade in its present form, it would be the end of capitalism.
Creating money on the computer screen is only possible because the US Dollar is the world’s reserve currency, and this fact means also that the USA has to prevent other nations to use different currencies for trading.
Until now the USA has been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States, then the exchange rate against the dollar increases, penalizing exporters. This has allowed the USA to create money without restraint, to buy imports and foreign companies, to fund military operations, and to ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy US American treasury bonds.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan). has already taken steps to replace the dollar as their reserve currency and the ALBA countries (Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua, Barbuda) have agreed to create a regional currency, the sucre, for intraregional trade.
Hugo Chavez has also repatriated some 160 tons of gold reserves worth 11 billion US$ from foreign deposits to shield the country from global economic turbulences.
China in tandem with the other BRIC nations has been secretly removing the dollar in bilateral trade agreements with numerous countries, among them the ASEAN trading bloc. In addition China has taken precautionary steps to prepare for a dollar economy breakdown since 2005, when the first Yuan denominated bonds were introduced.
Muammar Gaddafi planned to reduce the influence of IMF and World Bank (and by that also the influence of the dollar) with three ambitious financial projects: the creation of an African investment bank, an African monetary fund, and an African central bank.
This threat has been eliminated.
The US society in a nutshell
The US society is based on six pillars, which are: specialization, competition, individualism, exemptionalism, consumerism, materialism.
Specialization is necessary to handle the immense amount of accumulated human knowledge. Related issues are: information overflow, the extended mind (mental outsourcing). Specialists develop technologies in their area of expertise without being aware of the consequences for society as a whole and the ecosphere as a whole.
People who coordinate the specialists from various areas are either bureaucrats who have no clue, or politicians, military leaders, CEOs, who all have a narrow and detrimental agenda.
Specialization means also higher dependency on services and support systems. Food is not cooked but bought as ready made packages or as junk food from industrial food producers. Appliances are not repaired but replaced by new ones, home repairs have to be made by specialized craftsmen, do-it-yourself skills have declined.
Competition is the guiding principle not only of the market based economy but also of society as a whole. The workplace is trench warfare, everybody wants to climb up the career ladder and elbow his/her way to the top. Watch your back, choose the right friends, but don’t trust nobody.
The Wall Street Journal recommended nine rules women should follow:
- Work hard
- Do work no one else wants to do
- Cultivate the people in charge
- Know what you want and go for it
- Promote yourself legitimately
- Network with your peers
- Make your own career
- Leave to get ahead
- Dress well and play golf
This are commonplaces and shallow clichés, yet the list paints a telling picture of US mentality and workplace climate.
The urge to compete makes cooperation on any level harder and it is a severe hinderance for labor unions, for alternative movements, for local initiatives.
Dissidents compete with each other for media coverage, alternative media organizations and blogs compete for donations and are pushing out posts on hot topic issues in the attempt to get more readers. One cannot blame them, they grew up in this special climate of competition and it has become a part of their personality — competition is in their blood.
Individualism leads to the atomization of family structures and the dismantling of the social contract. Individualism and competition are closely linked. Everybody is on her/his own.
Exemptionalism means: Manifest Destiny, the shining light on the hill, God’s chosen people. Educating the barbarians outside the USA, giving them helpful advice (and if they don’t take that advice, sending in the drones).
Consumerism: US consumers spend 44 minutes a day on shopping, Christmas shopping takes 42 hours in average. This doesn’t include online shopping times.
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota has 520 stores with 230,000 square meter retail space and is visited by 40 million shoppers annually.
A Stanford University study in 2006 concluded that compulsive shopping is a legitimate disorder that affects approximately six percent (18 million) of the US population.
Materialism: Money is king, humans are valued by their wealth, not by their character; to gather as much possessions as possible is the supreme goal.
The US political system in a nutshell
The checks and balances among the three governing branches have collapsed and the power and influence of the same MIC (Military Industrial Complex) that Eisenhower warned against in 1961 have come to pass. The administration ignores court rulings (NDAA, Guantánamo prisoners, body scanners, FDA pollution rules), and refuses court orders to hand over documents, citing National Security reasons.
There is no transparency and accountability, the dealings of the administration are shrouded in secrecy and all important documents are classified. Whistleblowers are harassed and persecuted.
Bribery is legitimized and institutionalized, it is called lobbying. Every member of congress has 26 lobbyists on his/her heels. Driving through the country in a campaign bus doesn’t cut it anymore, candidates for political positions need to buy advertising. In this time of information overflow the candidates need a lot of money to get heard and most of this money comes from companies who belong to the MIC (Military Industrial Complex).
The candidate with the most campaign money wins the election and US Americans in general think that this is just fine. The Supreme Court ruling Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission was not a watershed, it was only another step to enable the unlimited bribery of politicians.
Governments hire industry professionals for their private sector experience, for their influence within corporations that the government is dealing with, and to gain political support (donations and endorsements) from the corporations.
The companies in turn hire politicians who are not reelected or have quit by themselves to gain personal access to government officials, to achieve favorable legislation, win contracts, and get insider information.
This is called the “revolving door” principle.
US Democratic Representative Dick Gephardt left his congressional post to become a lobbyist and his lobbying agency Gephardt Government Affairs Group earned 7 million US$ in 2010 from clients including Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Visa Inc., Ameren Corporation, and Waste Management Inc.
The function of US media
Mainstream media is controlled by big corporations, who of course push the corporate agenda (which is: No regulations and taxes and free rein to exploit the planet for every potential resource, leaving death and destruction behind).
The TV networks are owned by:
General Electric: NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Universal, Telemundo, hulu
Time Warner: CNN, TNT, Headline News, Turner Classic
Disney: ABC, ESPN, Lifetime
Rupert Murdoch: Fox, Sky, Premiere, National Geographic
Sumner Redstone: CBS, Viacom, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central
TV, together with Hollywood, presents a virtual world, a world of illusions that not too often corresponds with reality. TV depicts a world, where consumerism, globalization, steady economic growth, and the replacement of natural systems with our own artificial constructions can go on forever without negative consequences.
On TV the superrich become good samaritans (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the Rockefeller family), political leaders are first and foremost concerned about the welfare of the people, and corporations are forces for good, guaranteeing prosperity for all.
In the last years, TV became backed up by internet media (YouTube) and social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+). Despite the possibility of real time interaction there are seldom meaningful discussions, the public discourse is conducted via catchlines, slogans, buzzwords.
This is the age of soundbytes and short attention spans, the trend towards the banality, simplification and trivialization that the advertising industry developed and propagated is now prolific throughout society. Complex issues are merely commodity forms and reduced to brand identities for sale in the market place.
What is left of the left?
The remaining individuals who are not sedated and brainwashed by the non-stop propaganda of corporate media and are still able of critical thinking gather in small activist groups and try to form local initiatives.
They sign petitions, they try to organize public protests (Keystone Pipeline, OWS), they let off steam in segregated corners of the internet (blogosphere, dedicated Facebook and Twitter accounts, comment sections of alternative media outlets).
Many continue to believe that the USA is still a functioning democracy with a few flaws that can be fixed just by electing the proper candidates into important positions.
Many assume that the mounting environmental and social problems can be solved without a significant change in their lifestyle. They are ready to start a revolution, but not by revolutionizing their own life. They believe in a smooth transition to a new and better society, they believe in the vision of a “Green Economy”, where setting up the right companies and buying the right goods will solve all ecological problems.
The vision of a Green Economy is probably a pipe dream because the USA cannot even maintain its present infrastructure with 150,000 bridges in need of repair or enlargement and one-third of the roadways in substandard condition. Half of US households have no access to rail or bus transit. When a storm knocks out power lines the customers have often to wait for days till they are reconnected to the energy grid (this would be unthinkable here in Europe).
How can anybody assume that the current US political and economical system will be able to manage the costly transition to a Green Economy when not even the present structures can be kept in working order?
US Americans drove an estimated 4.6 trillion kilometers in 2011, only three percent less than in 2007. US car dealers sold 1.19 million cars, trucks, and SUV’s in September 2012, a 13 percent increase from a year ago and the highest sales rate in four years. This is in stark contrast to Europe where new car registrations sharply declined (18 percent in France, 26 percent in Italy, 37 percent in Spain).
The beneficiaries of the car sales boom btw where Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen. Sales of GM and Ford were basically flat.
People lined up in front of Apple stores to get the new iPhone 5. Initial sales were lower than expected but rather because of supply problems than because of weak demand. Technology analysts predict, that the product ultimately could bring more than three billion US$ into the economy by the end of the year. Samsung’s Galaxy S 3, the iPhone competitor, is also selling well. The combined smartphone sales of both companies rose 43 percent in one year.
The sales of smartphones, already present in more than half of US homes, and tablet computers, found in one-third of US homes, are expected to drive annual consumer electronics sales to 206 billion US$ this year, which would be a growth of 5.9 percent.
Consumer spending increased 3.3 percent in 2011, US consumer credit grew at an annual rate of 8 percent and total consumer borrowing as reported in August now reaches 2.72 trillion US$.
What does that mean: It means, that the US consumer is having a party at the expense of the planets ecosphere and despite the fact, that it is already early in the morning the US consumer doesn’t want to go home because he/she knows that after this party all the partygoers will have to endure the excruciating pain of a terrible hangover.
Send in the clowns
(Send in the clowns is a song by Stephen Sondheim from his musical A Little Night Music).
It is amazing to see, how intelligent and on the surface seemingly rational US Americans still take sides for the incumbent in the forthcoming presidential elections.
I presented my opinion already in the post Words of limited importance and don’t have to repeat myself, I only want to point to Michael J. Smith’s well written and witty blog “Stop me before I vote again”.
Actually, a few additional ideas and corresponding old ideas in new formulations may not hurt, so here they are:
Not voting will delegitimize the system and send a signal to fellow citizens who still have not got it.
If you really want to vote because you believe in democracy and want to dwell in the illusion that you had your say and you could make a difference, vote for a third party candidate (Stein/Honkala, Barr/Sheehan, Lindsay/Osorio). Voting for a third party candidate will also send a signal, though it is the second best option.
Voting for Mitt Romney is not a good option but it is still better than voting for Barack Obama. Romney may be excellent in robbing and steeling, he may be an expert in hostile takeovers, tax evasion, and restructuring companies to death by layoffs, but he is not as good a liar and deceiver as Obama. Both are “confidence men” but Obama is the more gifted one.
Electing Romney would make the dysfunction of the system more apparent and would make it easier for the left (is there a left left?) to leave the Democratic Party behind.
Voter registration drives understandably are failing for Democrats, but Obama is outspending Romney on TV ads and has reportedly twice as much campaign cash as his Republican rival.
Mitt Romney made so many mistakes until now and performed so poorly that one has to asked, if this could be a fixed game? Have the plutocrats (the permanent government) after Obamas grandiose performance in his first term decided to use him another four years, is the election campaign just a staged spectacle to confuse, nauseate, sedate the population?
Lately I’m not so sure about this possibility because Mitt Romney surprisingly won the first of three televised debates with President Barack Obama, polls and analysts say. After the 90-minute duel focussing on taxes, the deficit, and healthcare, polls gave Romney a 46 to 67 percent margin with Obama trailing on 22 to 25 percent.
Maybe Romney is not such a bad performer as it until now seemed and it took him just some time to adjust his style for a new audience. In his old job he needed to fool investors, but now he needs to fool the broad public, which has a significant different psyche.
Debates though never had much impact on election outcomes. No candidate who was leading in the polls six weeks before the election lost the popular vote since Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Was this just another fixed round of the game to make the race more interesting again? WWE-wrestling in politics? Both candidates are performers and US politics is about performance, not about ideas or ideals. The blessed Forbes 400 have hedged their bets and they will win in either way, in the end they will get the best performer as president to sell their politics to the population.
But why then this gigantic sums of campaign money? The presidential elections will cost 2.5 billion US$ and the total cost of US elections in November (for the presidency, House of Representatives, and Senate) will be 5.8 billion US$.
For the ruling elite this is money well spent, because it distracts, sedates, misinforms, brainwashes the population. Critical issues are not debated, the current social and economic system is never critically examined, is not questioned and challenged.
The fallacy of “lesser evilism”
At the end of September Rebecca Solnit posted a piece on TomDispatch.com, where she is a regular contributor. The article was titled: “Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to the Dismal Left,” and it tried to drum up support for Barack Obamas reelection and to dismiss criticism against his policies.
Her piece used a rich vocabulary and included a multitude of popular quotes and idioms but in the end it was nothing than a long and tiring tirade, a stream of clichés and platitudes. Rebecca Solnit is a gifted writer and though I not always agree with her I appreciate her writing alone for her skillful use of language. But this piece was not skillful at all and I was amazed how a talented writer could so profoundly fail to deliver.
I have seen that before when otherwise excellent journalists and bloggers tried themselves as Obama apologists and the phenomenon can be easily explained: When one has to excuse the inexcusable (murder, warcrimes, betrayal, lies and deception) and explain the unexplainable, so much working memory computation is needed, that there is not enough brain capacity left to maintain a brilliant writing style.
I was interested in the public reaction to this article but as there is no comment section on TomDispatch I visited Common Dreams, which usually republishes Solnit’s articles. Her piece was there, together with 728 comments, which was probably a record breaking response and enough material to gauge the mood of the audience.
The reactions were predominantly negative and most times more skillful and witty than the article itself. When the article was not worth reading, the comments were and therefore I have to give Solnit at least credit for creating an opportunity where progressives (alternatively also named as liberals or “the left”) could express their true sentiments.
A few excerpts from the comment section:
I am always astonished by the mental gymnastics and rhetoric which twists in the wind while saying nothing valuable.
Kind of tortuously hard to follow the many comparisons in her logic, but I bet it came real easy to Rebecca. So go to bed now all you dismal, complaining, bitching, punishing, condemning, bitterness poisoning, premature surrenderist “radicals obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else” (say what?) and think long and hard about what it really means to value truth, and to distinguish on-going victories from minor differences, (you know like “voting for the killing of children, as opposed to voting for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children”, see — it gets easier…) Stop raining on this parade of pragmatic and imperfect victories and terrorizing people with threats of Che pedicures.
Ms. Solnit’s cliche filled essay complains about the cliche of the lesser of two evils, because she must admit that she has hitched her wagon to Obama’s stairway to heaven and declared the slaughter of Muslim children OK because “thousands” of American children will do better under Obamacare.
Ms. Solnit can go through life with her rose-colored glasses afixed to her pollyanna head — and maybe she even sleeps well at night since she clearly doesn’t give a thought to Obama’s war crimes — but I prefer critical thinking.
We judge what evil a person is capable of doing, not by the occasional good things they do, but by the worst things they have actually done, and on that count, Obama has no scruples, ethics, or moral constraints that I can see or understand. He is a cypher behind all his lies. I don’t know what motivates him, other than a quest for power (for what end, I don’t know) and personal gain for himself and his family. I don’t know what his underlying values are, but I do see, in his behavior and policies, how carelessly and easily he craps all over values I rate very highly.
And your (Solnit’s) fear-mongering rings hollow so long as you cannot point to any possible policy which Romney endorses that you would not be just as willing to excuse or overlook if Obama implements it as you have all his previous crimes and misdeeds. You dismiss lesser-evilism as a cliche but what better explanation can you offer for how you could have been brought to scribbling apologetics for a president who has consistently operated to the right of Nixon?
In explicitly endorsing the more effective evil, Wall Street’s Trojan horse, you (Solnit) are collaborating in war crimes including drone murders and illegal coups, in the shredding of the constitution, and in the wholesale violation of human rights. You are co-conspiring in blanket amnesty for financial fraud, in rigged trade pacts, in the subversion of national sovereignty, in welfare for the sickcare rackets, and in the coming austerity and destruction of Social Security.
I don’t appreciate being chastised for pointing out that atrocities are atrocities, and maybe should actually be taken into account when casting a vote for someone.
It’s a manipulative article, or, I should say, that it attempts to be, as most posters here are not taken in. What strikes me about it is its dishonesty. Like other Obama supporters on this site, she should just admit that she doesn’t really care about people being murdered in other parts of the world.
Quislings like the author of this piece and her loyal defenders, coupled with those in the White House sipping on their double mocha latte while measuring human life in terms of ‘collateral damage’ sickens me.
I’m not bitter that Obama proved to be a lying lackey of the plutocracy. It just means I’m done with him.
Why do you want a war criminal reelected?
No authentic leftist considers the Democratic Party remotely worthy of salvation or reform. As Chris Hedges noted recently: “Obama is not in charge. Romney would not be in charge. Politicians are the public face of corporate power. They are corporate employees. Their personal narratives, their promises, their rhetoric and their idiosyncrasies are meaningless. And that, perhaps, is why the cost of the two presidential campaigns is estimated to reach an obscene $2.5 billion. The corporate state does not produce a product that is different. It produces brands that are different. And brands cost a lot of money to sell.”
Solnit’s campaign is naive and counter productive. And she does not seem to understand — or care — that the difference is in “brand” only.
This is an insipid piece. I bet she thinks Gore’s cap and trade is progressive. And if she doesn’t get the connection between ‘empire’ and what happens in the homeland, she is not very bright.
Makes you wonder how much character and what type of principles this writer has. I’m sure Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon and George W Bush did some good things also.
As fascism becomes increasingly overt here, many people, especially those among the professional class, mired in the type of mindless careerism exalted via capitalism, are driven deeper and deeper into denial, as they have a great deal of themselves invested in the illusions of the current poisonous sociopolitical systems… therefore, the ‘system’ to them, although marred with a few minor blemishes, (!?) is basically fine.
The worst part is that these paranoiac people will once again accept ever last thing and lie Obama throws at them, NDAA Sec 1021, increase in spying on them, kill lists, unconstitutional wars, drone killings, etc.
Thank you for taking a proud and declarative stand on one side of history’s great moral imperative, on the side of imperial fascists, comfortably-ensconced in your own liberal-elite veal pen. I’m surprised and terribly disappointed that such spineless moral relativism comes from Tom Dispatch.
Many who visit this site (Common Dreams) live in the only developed country that does not have a mainstream, national non-right wing party to vote for (the US). And then on top of that predicament, if they intend to refuse to vote for one of the two mainstream right wing parties, they come upon this lecture at one of their favorite sites claiming they are bitter and impractical. In other words, metaphorically speaking, they get a slap in the face.
Obama didn’t get elected because of some populist movement. He got elected because of the slickest marketing campaign of 2008. The corporatocracy loves him, maybe even more than they love Romney.
Nice attempt to pacify the dissenters, but it does not convince. I know it is not possible to not participate in evil in this life; I know we are corrupted by the corrupting influences of the world around us and simply saying we “don’t believe” in the evil doers who run our nation does not free us of our share of responsibility… I know, I know… but still. When there is one shred of free, liberating action we can take, that is, to CHOOSE to not participate in this one, simple, symbolic act (voting or not voting in the two-headed one party system), some of us will take that freedom and hold it. Yes, go ahead with your lesser evilism if you must, comfort yourselves with your nose-holding practicalities… but don’t ask us to refrain from our “self-righteous positions” when you won’t refrain from yours.
All the above is intelligent, well said, pointed, and a pleasure to read, yet it has to be seen, if the outcry of a small group of disillusioned dissidents can eventually be transformed into a general paradigm shift of US society.
This may happen or not, but no matter what, it appears, that the breaking point that I referred to in the title of this post and the nature of which everyone who has read the post attentively will be able to easily guess, will soon be reached in anyway.
Finally, as a proof, that even non native speakers of English can have a small repertoire of clichés and popular idioms at their disposal this one:
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst (which in this case curiously could be the same).
P.S.: Some readers will wonder why I risk alienating my main audience by posting such a massive criticism of the USA. Please take into account, that this blog is not about competing with and outperforming other bloggers, it is not about gaining as much readers as possible, it is not about publishing some good feel phrases that are acceptable for everybody who steps by.