The signs of an empire dying are found both in its foreign policies and in its domestic. The US is dying as an empire, that is certain, and in its last vain attempts to hang on, there are increasing signs that the end stages will be brutal for Americans and for the world at large. I would like to think there are enough men of good will to turn the tide away from the angry lashing out of the wounded beast, but I find little to encourage the hope. We long ago began ceding the country over to the corporate sector and the wealthy oligarchs, and now their ownership is complete. They run our government at all levels, design the laws, decide our monetary policies, create and control our currency, and hold sway over the highest courts in the land. We call this “free market capitalism”, a system which most of us defend vociferously despite not having a clue what the words mean, and which we unerringly confuse with “democracy”. Democracy cannot exist in a capitalistic/corporate system, which constantly accrues control and power through monopoly and money. This ownership and rule of the many by the wealthiest few individuals and companies successfully kills off all competition. It might have been possible for the free market idea and true democracy to coexist for awhile, and the argument may be made that this occurred in the US for some time. However, with the erosion of the independence from corporate influence upon our government that is necessary for such a wedding to result in a long, perhaps uneasy but at least workable, marriage, the inevitable has happened. There is a divorce, and the corporations and oligarchs have won the whole house in the settlement.
We got here through policies of constant deregulation, corrupt politicians willing to take grift rather than serving the people, the dumbing down of the public, tax policies that unduly favor the rich and punish the poor, and the overt corporate control of the media. Remember, we were trying to make capitalism work with democracy; this requires that the government act as a control mechanism on the oligarchic tendencies of capitalism so that the welfare of the commons is protected from predation.
This is where the Ayn Rand/ Libertarian viewpoint escapes me. Get rid of the government, let the monied rule as they will, let the “free market” choose the winners and losers, they say, and all will be right in the land and everyone will be happy. We are getting a taste of that now, and I have to say in response, “How’s it working out for you?” We have Bill fucking Gates allowed to design our education policies simply because he is wealthy. You want to understand why our schools are failing? I suggest we might find a clue in the fact that under both Bush and Obama, the system has been totally remade in a corporate model. Our agricultural policies are decided by a cartel of big-ag companies; as a result, everything we eat is drenched in glyphosate, a massive experiment on the population’s ability (or lack thereof) to withstand the constant onslaught of genetic manipulation, food additives, chemicals, and toxins is being undertaken almost completely unchecked by any agency. The weapons industries run our military and foreign policies. We have a few big banks, replete with the endless cash they provide themselves through the sham of the Fed, lending this free money back to the government at interest, collected from the taxpayers. And this was after they intentionally destroyed the global economy. Here’s your free market: now these same banks, under the guise of the IMF and World Banks, are given the power to demand austerity from pretty much each and every country on the planet, manipulate interest rates, totally rig the commodities markets (driving up food and oil prices), whimsically create new derivatives to the point where currently the derivatives market (you remember that a couple hundred trillion dollars of housing derivatives were the main driver of the crash of ’08, right?) is notionally valued at over 2.3 quadrillion dollars. That this is an entirely impossible and unrecoverable number eludes the imaginations of our politicians, who call the Dodd-Frank Bill “re-regulation” and claim that the SEC, run by former bankers, is on top of it all. Who is going to bail out the banks when this mother of all con-games blows up? Me? You? Rwanda? I think the answer is all the aforementioned. I could go on, but the point I am making is that according to libertarian, e.g., Koch Brothers, philosophy, these are the terms under which we should be happy to exist. These monolithic companies are the winners and we shouldn’t complain if we are the losers. The theory is that we are the losers because we are, well, losers. Take all this down to the final end of the game and you have Monsanto deciding what you will be allowed to eat, Xe mercenaries deciding where you are allowed to go, Haliburton free to tear up the entire country for natural gas without restraint on the chemicals dumped back into our water and permitted to use up all the fresh water, Shell drilling in all the oceans with no repercussions for accidental toxic spills, and every corporation free to operate without safety regulations, limits on how far down they can drive workers’ wages, how far up they can raise CEO earnings, and no limits on how many hours or under what conditions the employees work. The libertarian ideal is already failing – I would submit we are already well into that system – and yet they would have us go further. I simply do not believe that governments per se are bad, but I do believe that this government has sold us out and forgotten what their only duty is; that of seeing to the good of the society it is supposed to serve. It has reneged on its prime directive and is rife with corruption and shysters. Of course the empire is dying. There are no honest statesmen running the place, and the voters are too bamboozled by ideology, too confused by the obfuscation of factual information and propaganda, and too busy trying to hold on to the scraps they have been left with to change the situation.
As America fails, we see ever more outlandish and unlikely statements coming from its leaders and increasingly incoherent and abusive policies taking hold. Thus, after spending $5 bb taxpayer dollars and sending in our covert agents to provoke a coup in Ukraine and after installing a junta to take the place of a government that was elected there, Obama and John Kerry make complaint about Crimea voting to join Russia as though, yeah, Crimea holding that vote, that was the non-democratic way to do things. Congress joins the administration to sanction Russia for what they call violations of international law, violations which they aver the US never commits. This, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, drone-bombings in multiple countries, the use of torture, secret rendition, white phosphorus and depleted uranium weapons, and repeatedly orchestrating the overthrow of governments on every continent.
For her part, Russia responded to the US by pointing out that the US has embedded 150 members of the mercenary group Greystone in the country to destabilize Ukraine further. There are ongoing uprisings in several Ukrainian cities. Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said that “there is strong evidence that some of these demonstrators were paid.” He was suggesting, of course and despite evidence to the contrary, that it was Russia who was doing the paying and the infiltrating.
Russia is also in the midst of negotiating an oil-for-goods deal with Iran, which will bypass the US dollar and help to negate the sanctions from the US on both countries. The two US Senators who authored the Iran sanctions bill (Menendez and Kirk) are very pissed off and told Obama that if this Iran/Russia deal goes through, the US should broaden and strengthen the sanctions. They are overlooking the implications of Iran and Russia, and potentially other countries who might follow their lead, going off the petro-dollar and the effects it would have on the US economy if we lost reserve currency status, but goddamnit, we will sanction every country on the planet if we have to. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that Russia has the right to reject unilateral US sanctions as having no basis in international law. Juan Cole recently wrote an article in which he observes that while UN Security Council sanctions are binding on UN members, the US assumes its own sanctions must be binding on everyone.
Not content to threaten only Russia, our officials are now threatening our allies in NATO countries. Turns out the EU is righteously miffed at our NSA spying on everyone and several countries are talking about creating an internet system which would bypass US companies, who, after all, provide data to the NSA. Because we are so determined to keep our universal spy apparatus in place, the US Trade Representative made swift to threaten the EU with trade penalties for “violating trade laws”. (This is the same guy who is currently working on the TPP trade negotiations that will give corporations immunity from the laws of all countries who sign the fucker.) [http://rt.com/news/us-europe-nsa-snowden-549/]
Obama issued an executive order last week placing sanctions on “certain persons” with respect to South Sudan.
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the situation in and in relation to South Sudan, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations, poses an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to South Sudan:
(A) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan;
(B) actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan;
(C) actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes;
(D) the commission of human rights abuses against persons in South Sudan;
(E) the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
(F) the use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces in the context of the conflict in South Sudan; […]
The order does not mention, of course, that South Sudan only even exists because the US interfered in the civil war in Sudan in order to carve out the oil-rich south through referendums we wrote for that purpose. We continue to pour billions of dollars into the new country, since the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan remains ongoing and vicious. We have no humanitarian concerns for the people there; our interest is in getting lucrative contracts for US oil companies firmly set into place. The executive order makes much to-do about the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, which is interesting, given that despite signing the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, Obama has signed waivers every year since for several countries that recruit child soldiers, including South Sudan. The Child Soldiers Act makes it law that we cannot give military aid to any country using children in their armed forces. In other words, while sanctioning “certain persons” who may be encouraging the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, the US gov’t is itself providing military and other aid to the armed forces in that country.
1 Oct., 2013
The White House on Monday afternoon announced that it had issued blanket waivers to three countries, allowing them to receive military aid despite their ongoing use of child soldiers despite a 2008 law to the contrary.
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CPSA) is meant to bar the United States from providing military assistance to countries who have “governmental armed forces or government- supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers.” As per the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, “child soldiers” include children under 18 who have been forced into service, those under 15 who have volunteered to fight, and and those under 18 who have joined up with any force aside from an army. It also includes those who serve in a “support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”
A national security interest waiver was built into the law, however, giving the President the authority to override the law should he deem it necessary to do so. That’s precisely what the Obama administration did on Monday, issuing blanket waivers to three countries known to use child soldiers: Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan. Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received partial waivers as well; this means that they’ll be granted lethal aid only in support of the peacekeeping missions currently ongoing in the country. […]
October 7, 2013
[…] For the past three years, the Obama administration has routinely waived sanctions on countries subject to withholdings – including in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect. At that time, the White House failed to inform Congress or the NGO community of its decision in advance, setting off a fierce backlash that has continued since. In February 2013, a United Nations committee further urged the U.S. president to take a tougher stance. […]
We are also now giving anti-aircraft weapons to members of the “rebel forces” in Syria. (The US media and political classes don’t want us to confuse this with arming terrorist organizations or trying to overthrow a foreign government, although it is in reality both those things.)
On another front, we have some twisted blather from a federal judge regarding the Obama assassination-of-Americans program. Judge Rosemary Collyer just threw out the lawsuit against the Obama administration for the murder of three US citizens abroad brought on behalf of the now-dead Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman. Last July, when she heard oral arguments in the case, she repeatedly asked the Obama lawyers, “where is the due process here?” and stated, ““the executive is not an effective check on the executive”. She has apparently since changed her mind (or had it changed for her) and her decision to dismiss the case is based pretty much on the notion that we have to “trust” any executive decisions on these matters in the interest of national security and that these officials have acted in accordance with the AUMF enacted after 9/11. Are you digging this? The president can kill anyone he wants for any reason he wants, without any oversight from, recourse to, or relief available via, the US legal system. And there goes the heart of the Constitution, based on the Magna Carta, that we have the basic right to be presumed innocent and to have our cases heard in court, swirling right down the toilet.
Here is how a “The New American” article put it:
[…] According to the lawsuit:
The U.S. practice of “targeted killing” has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside the context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Philippines.These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts…. The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law.
All those reasonable arguments are moot now, in light of the court’s tossing of the case. […]
Although Obama administration officials finally admitted that the three men were killed by the United States, they argued to the federal court that national security concerns should preclude the matter from being adjudicated.
While Judge Rosemary M. Collyer refused to accept the concept of the executive branch judging the constitutionality of its own actions, she dismissed the suit.
On the CCR website, the group’s lead attorney, Maria LaHood, commented on the effect of Collyer’s refusal to judge the legality of the murders:
Judge Collyer effectively convicted Anwar Al-Aulaqi posthumously based on the government’s own say-so, and found that the constitutional rights of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them. It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy, and for all victims of the U.S. government’s unlawful killings.
LaHood’s understanding of the constitutional standards for government-sanctioned assassination is accurate. Any killing by the government must conform to the standards established by the Fifth Amendment. That key provision of the Bill of Rights guarantees that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
While every person killed in the name of the United States who has not received the due process the Constitution guarantees is a tragedy and a significant weakening of our moral and constitutional foundation, the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is particularly disturbing and his killing unconscionable. […]
Judge Collyer’s decision to dismiss this historic lawsuit witnesses the era into which our Republic has entered. The president of the United States sits in a chair in the White House rifling through dossiers of suspected terrorists. After listening to the advice of his claque of counselors, it is the president himself who designates who of the lineup is to be killed. As the New York Times explained in 2012:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
The legal conundrum has apparently now been solved in favor of the president’s power to add names to and subtract them from kill lists worthy of the bloodthirstiest Roman dictators.
And lest we forget about the economy as we tumble downwards, let us look at some numbers. No, no, no, not the “official” unemployment number. The mainstream media, being comprised of willful idiots and outright liars in the time of our decline, was pleased to offer up the happy news last week that the unemployment number was 6.7 % and that we have regained all the jobs lost since ’08. Okay, first of all, the jobs weren’t “lost”; they were outsourced, taken away to fatten corporate profits, replaced with part-time jobs where the employees are squeezed to produce full-time output, stolen. Being idiots, none of the reporters mentioned the fact that replacing the 8 million jobs “lost immediately after the downturn” does nothing about the jobs needed to keep up with the population growth which has occurred since. We need roughly 190,000 new jobs each month to match the number of new people entering the work force.
Let’s look at a more honest number: the labor force participation rate. A brief explanation of what constitutes the LFPR is offered here:
(CNSNews.com) – The average annual labor force participation rate hit a 35-year-low of 63.2 percent in the United States in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[…]
The BLS bases its employment statistics on the civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people in the United States 16 or older who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of people in the civilian noninstitutional population who either had a job or who actively sought one in the previous four weeks.
The 63.2 percent average annual labor force participation rate for 2013 means that in the average month of 2013 only 63.2 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population held a job or actively sought one.
The BLS has been tracking the labor force participation rate since 1947, when it was 58.3 percent. Over five decades, it climbed to a peak of 67.1 percent in 1997–a rate it maintained in 1998, 1999, and 2000.
As the civilian noninstitutional population has increased and the labor force participation rate has dropped, the number of people not in the labor force has climbed to record highs. In 2000, there was an annual average of 69,994,000 Americans not in the labor force. By 2013, there was an annual average of 90,290,000 not in the labor force.
In January 2014, according to BLS, there were 92,535,000 not in the labor force.[…]
In 2013, according to BLS, there was an annual average of 245,679,000 in the civilian noninstitutional population. On average, 155,389,000 (or 63.2 percent) of those people participated in the labor force. Another 90,290,000 (or 36.8 percent) of them did not have a job or actively seek one–and, thus, were not in the labor force. […]
These numbers are straight-forward and give the accurate reading of unemployment in the US. The BLS has correctly removed from its count anyone in jail, the military and those who can’t work due to long-term physical or mental disabilities. What the current number tells us is that more than one third of Americans who are of age and capable of working do not have jobs. This obviously gives us an unemployment rate of over 33 %.
I will give but two more short vignettes of the nation’s dismal state as it brings on its own collapse. I offer these as brief examples of how little the current crop of American leaders, both political and industrial, care about the health and welfare of the people.
The first has to do with the radiation leaks at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). This is a facility for storing radioactive waste, located within a salt mine in New Mexico. Two immediate questions should be: why are we even housing nuclear waste in a salt pit, given that salt is highly corrosive, and: of what materials are the storage containers constructed, given that salt is particularly harsh on metals? Unfortunately, no-one has asked the questions of anyone who might have the answers.
In any case, the place began leaking radioactive particles in Feb. At first, we were told that no-one had been affected or sickened. Now, however, some of the workers are showing signs of radiation sickness. The site is still leaking. You can find a number of articles if you ‘google’ “leak at WIPP”; I am only going to give a few unbelievable sentences from a local NM paper.
[…] the DOE is not giving up hope that all radiation particles in WIPP’s south salt mine can be eradicated. […]
Radiation was first detected below ground on the evening of Feb. 14 and traces of americium and plutonium were later found outside the site as far as a half mile away from the nation’s only nuclear repository for transuranic waste. […]
A couple of the plans cleanup crews are considering underground at WIPP include mining some of the salt off the existing wall which is done regularly and using sprayable concrete over the contamination areas to get it off the walls. […]
Scientists will also eventually begin testing the salt mined in the north mine for radiation contamination. WIPP currently sells the salt to local private industry, including for use as salt feed at local dairies. Franco [DOE Field Office manager] said he thinks the DOE should be able to continue selling the mined salt.[…]
They have been selling the salt from a radiation storage mine to use as animal feed at local dairies, which provide milk to the area. Are you fucking shitting me?
Okay, here’s another. The new food labels, touted by our FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, a month or so ago. The FDA and the White House have unveiled changes (coming soon to a store near you! Well, okay, this may take a few years, but we are making an effort here) to the nutrition facts printed on food products, ostensibly made to enhance consumer information. Mrs. Obama said as she introduced the new labels, “As consumers and as parents, we have a right to understand what’s in the food we’re feeding our families. Because that’s really the only way that we can make informed choices – by having clear, accurate information. Our guiding principle here is simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into a grocery store, pick an item off the shelf, and tell whether it’s good for your family.” The labeling changes are relatively simple and will affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products. Calories will appear in larger font. Serving sizes are updated to reflect the amounts Americans actually eat; i.e., since we eat ridiculous amounts of food at one time, the “serving size” will reflect that. A 20 oz soda, currently listed as 2.5 servings, will be labeled as 1 serving. A “serving” of ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to a full cup. Some serving sizes are (seriously) going to be based on the current, typical container sizes, perhaps so the food industry does not have to retrofit the factory equipment. So, for example, right now a typical single-serve yogurt container holds 6 oz, but is labeled as less than one serving (the calories, etc. on the label are based on 8 oz being a single serving); rather than change the packaging, the FDA is just going to call 6 oz a single serving. Other stuff like muffins and toaster pastries (are those still considered real food?) will have the “serving” size doubled to reflect the packaging already used. We’ll get a new category called “added sugars”, which will show sugars that are not naturally occurring in food. They are not going to highlight the corn syrup content or give its percentage by volume. Whether this disastrous ingredient will be listed as “sugars” or “added sugars” is not clarified. Vitamin D and potassium will be added to the labels, but vitamins C and A are no longer required to be listed. If you are like most parents, you tend to pick your kids’ juices based on vitamin C content. That’s going to disappear from the labels.
Despite the estimated $2 bb it will cost them to implement the changes, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups “applaud the announcement” and “look forward to working with the FDA on these updates to the nutrition labels” to “help consumers build more healthful diets for themselves and their families.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups are exactly the same entities that claim adding the two words “Contains GMOs” is too costly for them to absorb, that such labeling is unrelated to nutrition and health, and that it is completely unnecessary information. One of their representatives actually admitted in a printed outburst that labeling GMOs would cause people to avoid those products.
Over 90% of the population wants GMO labeling. Countries all over the world are fighting the invasion of our GMO crops and consider them dangerous. Our First Lady, on the other hand, is helping the food industry giants obfuscate the widespread use of GMOs through this deceptive labeling initiative, ostensibly designed to let the public know which food items are “good for their families”, but which does not include any demand for the inclusion of the the number one piece of information that the public needs and wants. You can be sure that the food industry will use this “new label” ploy to avoid forevermore the idea of displaying GMO content on product labels (or highlighting the amounts of corn syrup, now known to bring its own health risks); they will say that they have just earmarked a tidy sum of money to modernize labels and, by the way, they followed the guidelines offered by the White House. For his part, Mr. Obama has loaded the FDA, EPA, and USDA with former Monsanto executives and employees. The Dept. of Agriculture, thanks to pressure from companies like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, is now considering legalizing the usage of the herbicide 2,4-D (the primary ingredient in Agent Orange, for God’s sake) on US food crops, as apparently the vast amount of glyphosate housed within the GMO crap we have been force-fed, not to mention the GMOs themselves, has not been killing us off fast enough.
Based on what I see in comment sections, I think more people are beginning to catch on that something is awry, but are very confused about who to trust and what to do, a situation expressly encouraged and largely instigated by the powers that be. We talk about electing “better politicians” or we idealize one political group or candidate, each promising “the solution” and argue over which is “the best”. But this country was built by hustlers and is now entirely run by sociopathic con-men. I doubt there is any changing the trajectory of the fall. This is the Thunderdome, baby. There is no hero waiting in the wings to make it all right again. All I can suggest, if you aren’t one for active revolution, is that you keep your loved ones close, be as kind as you can to those you meet, as they are stuck in this with you, and try to avoid the flying monkeys.