Grand Delusion: Resisting the Siren Song of Specialness

Chris Floyd

Manifest Destiny: This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers, stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book. The different stages of economic activity of the pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation. Native Americans and animals flee in terror. (Wikipedia)

The U.S. presidential campaign is now in full swing. (In truth, it never actually ends; the savage grasping and grappling among damaged souls seeking their brief season of domination and death-dealing goes on daily without respite.) In the months to come, we will be subjected to an ever-growing, ever-roaring flood of rhetoric about the unique, unquestionable, divinely ordained goodness of America. (And how the "other side" would destroy or demean this precious moral specialness.)

This rhetoric will come both from the radical, society-shaking extremists laughingly called "conservatives" in our fun-house political system, and from the reactionary defenders of elite wealth and murderous militarism laughingly known as "progressives." (And, of course, from the well-fed, milky mannered, comfortably numb burghers known as "centrists.")

All Americans are marianated in this mindset from birth, and it is reinforced in them, every day, by the most powerful and pervasive media machinery in history, by enormous societal pressure, and by the dead heavy weight of tradition. Even the most hardened cynics might feel the stirrings of atavastic response to these siren songs woven into the fabric of the American psyche.

In such cases, I recommend a reading of the following two articles. They will help remind you of the reality being cloaked by the psyche-stirring, button-pushing bullshit of the grasping wretches seeking power.

Tell Me Again: Who's the Stupid/Weak/Incompetent One?

Arthur Silber

Impoverishment, brutalization, destruction and death are what he wants to achieve. He has said so, repeatedly. These are evil goals, and this is a deeply evil man.

I've made this point numerous times before. I'll make it again, because, Jesus Fuck Me Christ, a lot of you are truly, deeply, stupefyingly dumb.

So we have the debt ceiling deal, yet another step on the road to the impoverishment, brutalization and death of all those who are not sufficiently blessed to be part of the ruling class or of the ruling class's endlessly helpful adjunct, the media-blogger complex. For the cognitively impaired, which seems to be most people, that complex includes all "leading" bloggers on both right and left -- that is, Instapundit and his fellow gangsters on the right, and Atrios, Digby, et al. and their fellow gangsters on the left. I use "right" and "left" as those terms are commonly used. Let us please skip the onanistic pleasures of analyzing at interminable length what might make up the "true" right or left: most of those who contemplate such matters are only perpetuating the existing system while pretending they aren't. If you regularly engage with the present political system, you're perpetuating it. The rest is details. More on that issue soon.

Lots of people are celebrating or moaning about the "triumph" of the Tea Party. Apologies: I meant to say the crazy Tea Party. Which triumphed! I betcha some of those who say they will fight to the death to defend Social Security, Medicare, etc. would like to be "crazy" like that. They might actually succeed! Well, they might if you assume their actual and proclaimed goals are the same. Usually, and almost always in politics, they aren't.

A Few Ugly Truths about the Death State and Its Supporters

Arthur Silber
Once Upon a Time...

Last November, in "On Veterans Day: Fuck that Shit," I excerpted a Laurence Vance article. In part, Vance wrote:

What is there to thank our soldiers for? They are not defending our freedoms. They are not keeping us safe from our enemies. They are not protecting us from terrorists. They are not guaranteeing our First Amendment rights. They are not defending U.S. borders. They are not guarding U.S. shores. They are not patrolling U.S. coasts. They are not enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies. They are not fighting "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here." They are not avenging 9/11. They are not safeguarding the American way of life. Oh, and they are not ensuring that I have the liberty to write what I do about the military.

What, then, should we thank our soldiers for? Should we thank them for fighting an unconstitutional war, an unscriptural war, an immoral war, an offensive war, an unjust war, or a senseless war? Should we thank our veterans for helping to carry out an aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and interventionist foreign policy? Should we thank the military for sucking $1 trillion out of the federal budget?

But, some will say, these soldiers are just doing their jobs. They can’t help it if the U.S. military sends them to fight in an unjust war in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are just following orders. They didn’t enlist in the military to kill people.

What would any sane man think about a doctor who takes a job at a hospital knowing that the hospital instructs its doctors to euthanize old and sickly patients – and then says he was just doing his job, following orders, and didn’t take the job to kill people?

Why are soldiers treated so differently? Why do they get a pass on committing or supporting those who commit murder and mayhem?

If you consult my full essay, as well as the earlier "No, I Do Not Support 'The Troops,'" you will understand the argument that leads to this unavoidable conclusion:

There exists no legitimate, healthy reason for any person to join the United States military today. None.

Kingdom of Evil

Arthur Silber
Once Upon a Time...

A human being can be destroyed in a seemingly infinite number of ways, as history repeatedly demonstrates. Our capacity for cruelty is limitless. It would appear to defy gratification. We are all too familiar with the horrifying varieties of physical violence inflicted on the human body, but there is another method of seeking to destroy those whom we have designated as enemies to our own survival. In one critical respect, this method is worse than injuries that might be visited on our fragile corporeal form, for while the body may survive intact, the person -- that is, his mind and soul -- will never be made whole again.

This method of destruction throws the victim into a nightmare world, one which mocks every effort to comprehend it. Cruelty is presented as compassion and solicitude for the victim's well-being; the words of justification seek to convince those who suffer that their unbearable pain should be accepted for their own good. The victim knows that every utterance of his tormentors is a lie, and the more he attempts to understand why they act so monstrously, the greater his suffering grows. The victim can never escape these lacerating questions:

How is it possible that human beings could treat another person in this manner?

How can I survive in a world in which such cruelties not only occur with soul-destroying regularity, but in which these cruelties are considered necessary and moral?

If the victim should conclude that he cannot survive in such a world -- and how can we be surprised that this should be his judgment? -- his soul will be lost. Even if his body continues to function, he will survive in a world rendered eternally bleak, with terror lurking in every moment. The possibility of joy is extinguished.

This is evil; those who seek to impose this fate on a human being are engaged in evil of an especially monstrous kind.

You Can't Think, and You're Goddamned Liars

Arthur Silber
Once Upon a Time...

In the aftermath of the horror in Arizona, all major public voices are united in their absolute, vehement condemnation of violence. Almost all minor voices, including every blogger known and unknown, join in the chorus. It seems that everyone, from the most famous and powerful personages to lowly bloggers offering their thoughts to a world which cares nothing whatsoever about what they say, profoundly opposes violence. If all such people -- which would appear to include all people -- were genuinely sincere in their proclamations (and they may well be sincere, in the manner that people are sincere in their announcement of deeply-held beliefs reflecting the intellectual and moral rigor of sayings blazoned on greeting cards or found in fortune cookies), and, of much greater significance, if they matched their actions to any measurable extent to what they insist is a profound opposition to violence, we would certainly inhabit a paradise on Earth.

You may have observed that we do not. In making this statement, I assume you have not been asleep or unconscious for the entirety of your lifetime. You need have been awake and observant for only a few brief moments to appreciate the charnel house that humanity has made of this planet for most of its presence on this cloud of dust.

As is true with regard to every subject of importance, and as is always true when a subject becomes the focus of our "national discourse," almost everyone who repeatedly and passionately denounces violence is, as my title has it, a goddamned liar. On this occasion, the lies are all-encompassing, and they extend over the entirety of the political spectrum, from craven conservatives to peabrained progressives.

It is only proper to begin with the Liar-in-Chief, the chief executive of the Death State -- who is, he reminds us, a public servant and therefore must be "good and important," as he instructed us last evening. Take a moment to appreciate the hideousness of that moment, for it captures the House of Horror quality of this sickening business.

Silent Surge: A Shocking Act of Political Violence

Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque

The majority of deaths in Afghanistan since 2001
have been innocent civilians. (Fight with Tools)

Americans showed their remarkable collective wisdom once again last week, when a shocking act of violence was met with a steady calm across the political spectrum. Indeed, it seemed the entire country was united in a steadfast effort to downplay any disturbing implications of the despicable act and to keep doggedly to business as usual.

We speak of course of Barack Obama's latest "surge" in Afghanistan: his third such escalation of the murderous militarist misadventure in that ravaged land, now heading toward its 10th year of American occupation. Yes, while everyone -- including our leading progressives -- were occupied first with the sight of the orange vulgarian John Boehner waggling the sacred Speaker's gavel then with the latest mass shooting by an American following what George Bush called "the path of action" (i.e., the pursuit of politics by deadly violence) -- the Nobel Peace Laureate was sending 1,400 more troops into the killing fields of Afghanistan.

This move guarantees that there will be an "uptick" in civilians deaths, to borrow the hideous argot of Vice President Joe Biden during the very first Obama "surge" -- which took place less than a month after Obama's inauguration. More killing, more resistance, more extremism, more grief and hatred, more corruption and war-profiteering -- but what of that?

Written on the Body: The Progressive Torture of Bradley Manning

Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque

Tonight, in the tenth year of the 21st century, the government of the United States is torturing a young man -- one of its own soldiers -- whom it has incarcerated but not indicted. He has been held in solitary confinement for months on end, subjected to techniques of sleep deprivation taken from the Soviet gulag, denied almost all human contact except from interrogators, constantly harassed by guards to whom he must answer every few minutes -- all in an attempt to break his mind, destroy his will, degrade his humanity and force him to "confess" to a broader "conspiracy" against state power.

His name is Bradley Manning. He is 23 years old. The "crime" he is accused of committing is releasing video evidence of an American atrocity committed years ago in Iraq: the murder of Iraqi civilians by helicopter gunships. Under the American system of jurisprudence, of course, he is considered innocent until proven guilty of this heinous 'crime' of truth-telling. He has not been tried or convicted of this charge, or any other crime.

Yet tonight, in the tenth year of the 21st century, in the United States of America, under the leadership of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, 23-year-old Bradley Manning is being subjected to same tortures routinely inflicted on other unindicted, untried captives of the militarist state.

Journalist Andy Worthington, who has been one of the most thorough and assiduous chroniclers of the modern American gulag, has noted the parallels between the treatment imposed on Manning and that doled out to earlier prisoners of the bizarre, lawless limbo concocted by the American war machine for those who threaten -- or are perceived to threaten -- its ever-expanding, ever-more corrupt operations around the world. Worthington states that the conditions of Manning's imprisonment

bear a marked and chilling resemblance to the conditions in which a handful of US citizens and residents were held as “enemy combatants” under the Bush administration. The key elements here are the elements of profound isolation and suffering ... not just the solitary confinement, with no other human being for company, but also the refusal to allow Manning to have a pillow, sheets, or any access to the outside world through the reporting of current affairs.

The WikiLeaks Critics’ Pathological Obedience to the State

Scott Lazarowitz
Strike the Root

The most recent example of the sheeple’s State-obedience has been the response among many politicians and news media blabbermouths and scribblers to the latest WikiLeaks release. The documents show the utter ineptness of our government officials who have no idea what they’re doing, and the documents also show the bureaucrats’ crassness and attitude toward foreign leaders.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had written on her Facebook page that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has “blood on his hands.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the document release “threatens our national security.” And U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said that Assange should be charged with espionage and that the release “is worse even than a physical attack on Americans; it's worse than a military attack.”

Do we need any more proof that F.A. Hayek was right when he asserted in his book, The Road to Serfdom, that the worst get on top? And by “worst,” I mean morally and especially intellectually.

Now, when I listen to these people – and I try not to, believe me – I can’t help but conclude that it is just imbecilic for Sarah Palin to assert that Assange has “blood on his hands” merely by exposing the incompetence and buffoonery of government officials. One would think that the one with “blood on his hands” would be George W. Bush, who started both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, and both based on either lies or propaganda, or both. Whoever starts wars has blood on his hands, and worse, when starting the wars was clearly based on deception and, even worse than that, for self-serving political reasons – in Bush’s case, to get himself reelected.

It is unfortunate that so many people don’t learn from history, and can’t see into the long term. People just don’t seem to comprehend that the U.S. government’s very policies of interventionism and territorial expansionism are really what have been undermining Americans’ security. Much of what we have been suffering now – an out of control federal government and its intrusions abroad that motivates the inhabitants of those foreign territories to retaliate, and a “War on Terror” police state run amok – is the result of the Elder President Bush’s first Iraq war, also totally unnecessary and based on lies and propaganda, that included the intentional destruction during the 1990s of Iraqi water and sewage treatment facilities that led to surges in cancer and child mortality rates and an even angrier Middle Eastern and Muslim population. And Julian Assange has blood on his hands?

Lies Are All You Know

Arthur Silber
Once Upon a Time

Depending on my mood, I am astonished, horrified, sickened and/or immensely amused when writers, on both the right and the left, who repeatedly proclaim their skepticism and distrust of government (at least of certain significant aspects of governmental activities) offer figures about employment and the economy as if those figures accurately reflected the truth. The figures such writers put forth and then amplify with learned commentary are, of course, provided by the government. One might think that fact would be regarded as of some significance by those who are often skeptical and distrustful of government. One might be mistaken! For almost everyone, trust in and obedience to authority is the automatic default position; we are trained well and thoroughly, from our earliest years. (The second part of my series on Wikileaks discusses how this training takes place, and offers links to many articles that analyze the mechanisms in detail.) There are but few exceptions; they tend to be dyspeptic, dysfunctional irritants such as your humble correspondent.

Thus, the following exercise in cooling clarity from Paul Craig Roberts could be regarded as stating the obvious -- except that for most people, none of this is obvious at all:

If we cannot trust what the government tells us about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist events, and the reasons for its wars and bailouts, can we trust the government’s statement last Friday that the US economy gained 151,000 payroll jobs during October?

Apparently not. After examining the government’s report, statistician John Williams ( reported that the jobs were "phantom jobs" created by "concurrent seasonal factor adjustments." In other words, the 151,000 jobs cannot be found in the unadjusted underlying data. The jobs were the product of seasonal adjustments concocted by the BLS.

As usual, the financial press did no investigation and simply reported the number handed to the media by the government. [Ditto every blogger I've read on the subject.]

Discounting the war production shutdown at the end of World War II, which was not a recession in the usual sense, Williams reports that "the current annual decline [in employment] remains the worst since the Great Depression, and should deepen further."

In short, there is no employment data, and none in the works, unless gimmicked, that supports the recovery myth. The US rate of unemployment, if measured according to the methodology used in 1980, is 22.5%. Even the government’s broader measure of unemployment stands at 17%. The 9.6% reported rate is a concocted measure that does not include discouraged workers who have been unable to find a job after 6 months and workers who want full time jobs but can only find part-time work.

First Bad Deal Gone Down: Origins of the Current Democratic Debacle

Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque

The last, wan hope for real change in the American system was not lost through the imperial dithering of Barack Obama's "Bush-Clinton Terror War Continuity" administration during the past two years. No; those last wan hopes went down the drain in 2006 -- the year that the Democratic Party regained control of Congress ... and promptly made a screeching U-turn on virtually every anti-war, anti-imperialist, pro-liberty, pro-people position it had taken against George W. Bush.

The sell-out -- or rather, the pay-off to the corporatist-militarist power factions who actually control the Democrats -- was immediate, brazen and deeply destructive. It helped entrench the vast abuses of power of the Bush Regime (and its bipartisan predecessors), it guaranteed the deaths of thousands of innocent people in the continuation and expansion of the Terror Wars, and it laid the groundwork for Obama's "Third Bush Administration" of presidential death squads, pointless "surges" in bloody quagmires, remote control slaughter by drone, bristling defenses and relentless expansions of authoritarian power, and cringing, servile capitulation to Big Money on every possible front.

As Bruce Dixon points out in a timely and important piece at Black Agenda Report, the instant the Democrats regained Congressional power in 2006, they immediately jettisoned all talk of impeachment, all investigations of war crimes and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, all impetus for real health care reform, all their previously vociferous opposition to Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other "dissenting" positions that they had cynically trumpeted in order to manipulate the public's genuine anger and thirst for change. (Ironically, the Democrats are now being hoisted on their own petard, as the corporate-run "Tea Party" Republicans are about to oust them from Congress with their own cynical manipulations of genuine anger and thirst for change.)

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