Chris Floyd is “re-orienting,” leaving blogspace, which is both a personal and public blow. He has been a shard of glass refracting light in our increasingly dismal, pant-hooping world. Everything he ever wrote was a diamond bullet in your brain, without violence or bloodshed. Mere words. A simple act of compassion. I hope we could say that about ourselves, but allow my doubt.
The other day, on April 15, veteran journalist, war correspondent and truthdig.com columnist Chris Hedges was interviewed on RT News about the state of American society, repeating his oft stated warnings about the long corporate assault on and takeover of politics, the seeming death of reason and critical thinking in public discourse, and the development of a feudalistic “totalitarian democracy” in which the vast majority of the population is reduced through a media manufactured state of ignorance, inability to think clearly, and entertainment dazed complacence to a state of serfdom as a renewable ‘resource’ for a capitalism defined by American and multinational big business, and critiquing from this perspective the US budget developments of the past few days.
The budget is closing American schools and libraries across the country while firing teachers and taking away collective bargaining rights, Hedges notes, while banks and the largest corporations are not paying any taxes, including Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, and GE. Protesters gathered on Saturday April 17 at New York City’s Union Square for the Sound of Resistance protests, part of the US Uncut tax weekend protests challenging the banks, most notably Bank of America, for avoiding paying taxes.
US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington’s proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That’s unacceptable.
Obama seeks to trim $1.1 trillion from the budget in the next ten years by cutting or eliminating over 200 federal programs, many dedicated to social services and education. For instance, it cuts in half funding to subsidize heating for low-income Americans; limits an expansion of the Pell grant program for students; and decreases Environmental Protection Agency funding by over 12%.
Meanwhile, Republicans are using their new House majority to slash spending even more brutally. The GOP has made it clear that they are bent on raiding funds for Social Security, Medicare, education; determined to kill health care reform; and gut needed investments in infrastructure, climate change and job creation, at a time when America needs it most.
These cuts will come on top of very painful austerity measures made at the state-level across our nation–worth hundreds of billions–since the recession began.
In short, budget cuts demonstrate that Washington has abandoned ordinary Americans.
What is making the situation worse is the ignorance of politicians and others leaping around he fringes. Hedges also reminds that the US is the only industrialized nation in the world that argues over the existence of evolution. Magical thinking, combined with a military superpower, is frightening, he says. “We invest emotional energy on the ridiculous and the sublime… the liberal class has been decimated… what used to be unconstitutional is now legal“, he says, pointing to illegal searches under the Patriot Act and corporate bailouts under the health care legislation. The rights and needs of citizens are being ignored in favor of corporations.
While all across the blogosphere and in mainstream media I watch people argue about which faction of the ‘corporatist party’ to elect in 2012, I’m reminded strongly here of something Chris Floyd wrote nearly four years ago, in September 2007:
Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed – and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn’t that anymore. It’s gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.
The Republic you wanted – and at one time might have had the power to take back – is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it’s not there. It was kidnapped in December 2000, raped by the primed and ready exploiters of 9/11, whored by the war pimps of the 2003 aggression, gut-knifed by the corrupters of the 2004 vote, and raped again by its “rescuers” after the 2006 election. Beaten, abused, diseased and abandoned, it finally died. We are living in its grave.
The war which we were told the Democrats and ISG consensus would end or wind down has of course been escalated to its greatest level yet – more troops, more airstrikes, more mercenaries, more Iraqi captives swelling the mammoth prison camps of the occupying power, more instability destroying the very fabric of Iraqi society. The patently illegal surveillance programs of the authoritarian regime have now been codified into law by the Democratic Congress, which has also let stand the evisceration of habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act, and a raft of other liberty-stripping laws, rules, regulations and executive orders.
I don’t know how to deal with this piece except to quote from Chris Floyd himself:
Here is another story in the news: in an isolated rural province in Afghanistan, 10 people were killed in a raid by American-led forces. The Afghan government, installed and sustained in power by the United States, said the victims were all civilians — including eight schoolboys.
But there was no international outcry about this incident; it barely garnered a few mentions in the global press. And even these were quickly shunted aside after a NATO official denied the claims of the Afghan government, and affirmed that all those killed in the raid were evil-doers. As the NYT reports:
A senior NATO official with knowledge of the operation said that the raid had been carried out by a joint Afghan-American force and that its target was a group of men who were known Taliban members and smugglers of homemade bombs, which the American and NATO forces call improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s. … “When the raid took place they were armed and had material for making I.E.D.’s,” the official added.
Local officials on the scene in Kunar Province said otherwise. They said 10 civilians had been killed. They said eight of the dead were children:
The governor of Kunar, Fazullah Wahidi, said that “the coalition claimed they were enemy fighters,” but that elders in the district and a delegation sent to the remote area had found that “10 people were killed and all of them were civilians.”
But the NATO official said the Afghans were lying. We will never know the whole truth, of course, for the story will ultimately be controlled by the very force that carried out the attack: the American-led military occupation.
But what an instructive contrast. In one story, an attack which did not happen and which killed no one shakes the entire world. In another story, ten human beings, including eight children, were slaughtered in a sneak attack by night — and the world can scarcely be bothered to notice.
According to a report by Paul Tait of Reuters, published at Truthout.org, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have expanded to near double the level of last year, with plans to expand to 68,000 troops or more by December, up from 32,000 at the end of 2008. Currently, with both U.S. and other allied troops, there are over 100,000 soldiers facing what is reported to be a more “aggressive” and “brazen” Taliban force.
Forty-one U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in the past month; 71 allied troops overall. The article gave no figures for Afghan deaths.
Commander of U.S. forces, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal — formerly head of Special Forces for the Pentagon, during a time when Special Operations units were implicated in torture in Iraq — “said the resurgent Taliban have forced a change of tactics on foreign forces and warned that record casualty figures would remain high for some months” (emphasis added). No one asks why the Taliban should be stronger now, almost eight years after 9/11 — well, no one in the mainstream U.S. press.
No, this is not a post about alcoholism, and the only drunkenness to which it might refer is the manic inebriation that comes with the exercise of great power.
As the U.S. presidential race settles into its pattern of opposing camps supposedly at great odds, especially every four years — of conservative against liberal, hawk against dove, progressive versus reactionary — it is good to be reminded that underneath all of the hullaballoo (and I agree it’s hard not to be caught up in it, as detestable as Bush’s GOP has been these last seven years), that nothing about this race will really change how the U.S. is run, or rather who runs it.
Along those lines, I’d like to refer to a succinct statement of this issue from Chris Floyd, who himself quotes the insightful Gore Vidal. Reading the following, inspired by Floyd’s coverage of the U.S. intervention into Somalia and the subsequent human rights disaster that has followed, is like a splash of cold water, of stone cold sobriety regarding both the festivities and inanities of the past two convention weeks.
The “dark nexus” of the world is where its most secretive business is conducted, such as the bribes and secret payoffs that Sibel Edmonds recently revealed were behind a nuclear proliferation ring that involved many top U.S. officials. According to a recent compelling article by Chris Floyd (whose descriptor above I have quoted), this “shadowlands” is “where covert operations, criminal networks, terrorism, high finance and state policy mingle, and battle, in profitable murk.” I believe Peter Dale Scott famously called this essential, if diabolical aspect of modern history, “deep politics.”
Floyd likens the recent Edmonds tale to that of the scandal around BCCI, “the ‘Bank of Credit and Commercial International,’ a supposed financial group that a U.S. Senate investigation called ‘one of the largest criminal enterprises in history'”.