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Peter Lemkin
02-04-2009, 08:24 PM
It's Not Going to Be OK

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig. Posted February 4, 2009.

The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

There are a few isolated individuals who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul and Andrew Bacevich, as well as writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten and Naomi Klein, along with activists such as Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader, rang the alarm bells. They were largely ignored or ridiculed. Our corporate media and corporate universities proved, when we needed them most, intellectually and morally useless.

Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book “Democracy Incorporated” uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

I reached Wolin, 86, by phone at his home about 25 miles north of San Francisco. He was a bombardier in the South Pacific during World War II and went to Harvard after the war to get his doctorate. Wolin has written classics such as “Politics and Vision” and “Tocqueville Between Two Worlds.” His newest book is one of the most important and prescient critiques to date of the American political system. He is also the author of a series of remarkable essays on Augustine of Hippo, Richard Hooker, David Hume, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and John Dewey. His voice, however, has faded from public awareness because, as he told me, “it is harder and harder for people like me to get a public hearing.” He said that publications, such as The New York Review of Books, which often published his work a couple of decades ago, lost interest in his critiques of American capitalism, his warnings about the subversion of democratic institutions and the emergence of the corporate state. He does not hold out much hope for Obama.

“The basic systems are going to stay in place; they are too powerful to be challenged,” Wolin told me when I asked him about the new Obama administration. “This is shown by the financial bailout. It does not bother with the structure at all. I don’t think Obama can take on the kind of military establishment we have developed. This is not to say that I do not admire him. He is probably the most intelligent president we have had in decades. I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that make it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has the appetite for it in any ideological sense. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”

Wolin argues that a failure to dismantle our vast and overextended imperial projects, coupled with the economic collapse, is likely to result in inverted totalitarianism. He said that without “radical and drastic remedies” the response to mounting discontent and social unrest will probably lead to greater state control and repression. There will be, he warned, a huge “expansion of government power.”

“Our political culture has remained unhelpful in fostering a democratic consciousness,” he said. “The political system and its operatives will not be constrained by popular discontent or uprisings.”

Wolin writes that in inverted totalitarianism consumer goods and a comfortable standard of living, along with a vast entertainment industry that provides spectacles and diversions, keep the citizenry politically passive. I asked if the economic collapse and the steady decline in our standard of living might not, in fact, trigger classical totalitarianism. Could widespread frustration and poverty lead the working and middle classes to place their faith in demagogues, especially those from the Christian right?

“I think that’s perfectly possible,” he answered. “That was the experience of the 1930s. There wasn’t just FDR. There was Huey Long and Father Coughlin. There were even more extreme movements including the Klan. The extent to which those forces can be fed by the downturn and bleakness is a very real danger. It could become classical totalitarianism.”

He said the widespread political passivity is dangerous. It is often exploited by demagogues who pose as saviors and offer dreams of glory and salvation. He warned that “the apoliticalness, even anti-politicalness, will be very powerful elements in taking us towards a radically dictatorial direction. It testifies to how thin the commitment to democracy is in the present circumstances. Democracy is not ascendant. It is not dominant. It is beleaguered. The extent to which young people have been drawn away from public concerns and given this extraordinary range of diversions makes it very likely they could then rally to a demagogue.”

Wolin lamented that the corporate state has successfully blocked any real debate about alternative forms of power. Corporations determine who gets heard and who does not, he said. And those who critique corporate power are given no place in the national dialogue.

“In the 1930s there were all kinds of alternative understandings, from socialism to more extensive governmental involvement,” he said. “There was a range of different approaches. But what I am struck by now is the narrow range within which palliatives are being modeled. We are supposed to work with the financial system. So the people who helped create this system are put in charge of the solution. There has to be some major effort to think outside the box.”

“The puzzle to me is the lack of social unrest,” Wolin said when I asked why we have not yet seen rioting or protests. He said he worried that popular protests will be dismissed and ignored by the corporate media. This, he said, is what happened when tens of thousands protested the war in Iraq. This will permit the state to ruthlessly suppress local protests, as happened during the Democratic and Republic conventions. Anti-war protests in the 1960s gained momentum from their ability to spread across the country, he noted. This, he said, may not happen this time. “The ways they can isolate protests and prevent it from [becoming] a contagion are formidable,” he said.

“My greatest fear is that the Obama administration will achieve relatively little in terms of structural change,” he added. “They may at best keep the system going. But there is a growing pessimism. Every day we hear how much longer the recession will continue. They are already talking about beyond next year. The economic difficulties are more profound than we had guessed and because of globalization more difficult to deal with. I wish the political establishment, the parties and leadership, would become more aware of the depths of the problem. They can’t keep throwing money at this. They have to begin structural changes that involve a very different approach from a market economy. I don’t think this will happen.”

“I keep asking why and how and when this country became so conservative,” he went on. “This country once prided itself on its experimentation and flexibility. It has become rigid. It is probably the most conservative of all the advanced countries.”

The American left, he said, has crumbled. It sold out to a bankrupt Democratic Party, abandoned the working class and has no ability to organize. Unions are a spent force. The universities are mills for corporate employees. The press churns out info-entertainment or fatuous pundits. The left, he said, no longer has the capacity to be a counterweight to the corporate state. He said that if an extreme right gains momentum there will probably be very little organized resistance.

“The left is amorphous,” he said. “I despair over the left. Left parties may be small in number in Europe but they are a coherent organization that keeps going. Here, except for Nader’s efforts, we don’t have that. We have a few voices here, a magazine there, and that’s about it. It goes nowhere.”

Nathaniel Heidenheimer
02-05-2009, 03:13 AM
NY Review of books lost interest. True. We have lost a sense of just how unbelieveably non-"alternative" the alternative or innerlechual mags are.

That is an important gatekeeping function.

Not to mention things like the NYT Book Review. Think about it In 1966 books like Six Seconds in Dallas Could get national reviews. NOw they cant but we keep acting like all we have to do is type the truth and it will get out.

It won't. This is on degree of our inverted totalitarianism. Today's alternative media is about as alternative as Pat Nixon kissing Big Bird (which she did, there is a picuture illustrating this action from 1970 hanging in my classroom, which was just closed by mayor Bloomberg in order to build more smaller schools that have a lot of technology and taxpayer money given to the smartboard company) sorry more inverted totalitarianism.

Myra Bronstein
02-05-2009, 03:20 AM
It's Not Going to Be OK
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig. Posted February 4, 2009.
...

Yeah, I hate to be relentlessly negative but I agree with the Truthdig column.

This is today's press release from the ACLU:

http://www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/38662prs20090204.html?s_src=RSS

"Obama Endorses Bush Secrecy On Torture And Rendition (2/4/2009)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org NEW YORK – After the British High Court ruled that evidence of British resident Binyam Mohamed's extraordinary rendition and torture at Guantánamo Bay must remain secret because of threats made by the Bush administration to halt intelligence sharing, the Obama administration told the BBC today in a written statement: "The United States thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens."

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"Hope is flickering. The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors."

When the ACLU learned of the High Court's ruling earlier today, it sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging her to clarify the Obama administration's position relating to the Mohamed case and calling on her to reject the Bush administration's policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial review of controversial programs.

The ACLU's letter to Secretary of State Clinton is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/38660leg20090204.html (http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/38660leg20090204.html)
The British High Court ruling is available online at: www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/judgments_guidance/mohamed-judgment4-04022009.pdf (http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/judgments_guidance/mohamed-judgment4-04022009.pdf) "

Peter Lemkin
02-09-2009, 07:51 PM
What Obama could do...but won't....in the next 100 days.

http://ccrjustice.org/100days

Richard Welser
02-09-2009, 11:41 PM
A battle, of sorts, raged on OpEdNews since before the election on whether Obama would make positive changes or simply be more of the same. I almost got banned for stating the 'more of the same' and the falsity of the right-left paradigm on the day after the election when many (but not all) were ecstatically joyful.... Apparently, I was not appropriately hopeful. And I had no tears in my eyes....

Now, however, there are many there who are seeing the same thing.. that is, the same old... coming from this neolib and neocon travesty of a government.

Yes, I am afraid we are in for some very hard and very bad times. And now with a whole segment of the population (the segment that doesn't learn and doesn't think) still teary eyed in their optimism about 'change' .... it will take that much longer for them to get a clue.

Which means in that peculiar way, that Obama is much more deadly than, and potentially much more disastrous than McCaine would have been. At least we 'all' would have figured him out from day one.

Every day, it makes me increasingly worried and sick to my stomach.

David Healy
02-10-2009, 12:13 AM
A battle, of sorts, raged on OpEdNews since before the election on whether Obama would make positive changes or simply be more of the same. I almost got banned for stating the 'more of the same' and the falsity of the right-left paradigm on the day after the election when many (but not all) were ecstatically joyful.... Apparently, I was not appropriately hopeful. And I had no tears in my eyes....

Now, however, there are many there who are seeing the same thing.. that is, the same old... coming from this neolib and neocon travesty of a government.

Yes, I am afraid we are in for some very hard and very bad times. And now with a whole segment of the population (the segment that doesn't learn and doesn't think) still teary eyed in their optimism about 'change' .... it will take that much longer for them to get a clue.

Which means in that peculiar way, that Obama is much more deadly than, and potentially much more disastrous than McCaine would have been. At least we 'all' would have figured him out from day one.

Every day, it makes me increasingly worried and sick to my stomach.

we are after all, at war Richard. On two foreign fronts even-- 5000 US dead, 10's of thousands east and central Asians dead and counting, and you're worried about your stomach? Perhaps Alka-Seltzer will help :thrasher:

Perhaps the world is giving President Obama a bit more than two weeks to make progress clearing the disaster(s) that have befallen the USofA during the past 8 years. Hand wringers notwithstanding of course.

Where do you buy one of those crystal balls you guys are peering into?

David Healy

David Guyatt
02-10-2009, 03:17 PM
we are after all, at war Richard. On two foreign fronts even-- 5000 US dead, 10's of thousands east and central Asians dead and counting, and you're worried about your stomach? Perhaps Alka-Seltzer will help :thrasher:

Perhaps the world is giving President Obama a bit more than two weeks to make progress clearing the disaster(s) that have befallen the USofA during the past 8 years. Hand wringers notwithstanding of course.

Where do you buy one of those crystal balls you guys are peering into?

David Healy
:party:

Of course we're at war David. War is what we in Anglo-AmericaLand do best. War is America's best and most glorious contribution to human civilization - not-with-standing the wonder of Alka-Seltzer. And it is what what you and others pay for from your tax dollars so that we can export utter chaos in order to comply with the demands of our God... profit

And so we can remain stupefied by our compliant media spinning their web, telling one and all that we are not to blame; that we are doing this for civilization and freedom.

The following is America's honour roll of exported wars over the last half a century (but it is not all inclusive).

Hail the star spangled banner:ridinghorse:

1. China - 1945 to 1960s: Was Mao Tse-tung just paranoid?
2. Italy - 1947-1948: Free elections, Hollywood style
3. Greece - 1947 to early 1950s: From cradle of democracy to client state
4. The Philippines - 1940s and 1950s: America's oldest colony
5. Korea - 1945-1953: Was it all that it appeared to be?
6. Albania - 1949-1953: The proper English spy
7. Eastern Europe - 1948-1956: Operation Splinter Factor
8. Germany - 1950s: Everything from juvenile delinquency to terrorism
9. Iran - 1953: Making it safe for the King of Kings
10. Guatemala - 1953-1954: While the world watched
11. Costa Rica - Mid-1950s: Trying to topple an ally - Part 1
12. Syria - 1956-1957: Purchasing a new government
13. Middle East - 1957-1958: The Eisenhower Doctrine claims another backyard for America
14. Indonesia - 1957-1958: War and pornography
15. Western Europe - 1950s and 1960s: Fronts within fronts within fronts
16. British Guiana - 1953-1964: The CIA's international labor mafia
17. Soviet Union - Late 1940s to 1960s: From spy planes to book publishing
18. Italy - 1950s to 1970s: Supporting the Cardinal's orphans and techno-fascism
19. Vietnam - 1950-1973: The Hearts and Minds Circus
20. Cambodia - 1955-1973: Prince Sihanouk walks the high-wire of neutralism
21. Laos - 1957-1973: L'Armée Clandestine
22. Haiti - 1959-1963: The Marines land, again
23. Guatemala - 1960: One good coup deserves another
24. France/Algeria - 1960s: L'état, c'est la CIA
25. Ecuador - 1960-1963: A text book of dirty tricks
26. The Congo - 1960-1964: The assassination of Patrice Lumumba
27. Brazil - 1961-1964: Introducing the marvelous new world of death squads
28. Peru - 1960-1965: Fort Bragg moves to the jungle
29. Dominican Republic - 1960-1966: Saving democracy from communism by getting rid of democracy
30. Cuba - 1959 to 1980s: The unforgivable revolution
31. Indonesia - 1965: Liquidating President Sukarno ... and 500,000 others
East Timor - 1975: And 200,000 more
32. Ghana - 1966: Kwame Nkrumah steps out of line
33. Uruguay - 1964-1970: Torture -- as American as apple pie
34. Chile - 1964-1973: A hammer and sickle stamped on your child's forehead
35. Greece - 1964-1974: "Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution," said
the President of the United States
36. Bolivia - 1964-1975: Tracking down Che Guevara in the land of coup d'etat
37. Guatemala - 1962 to 1980s: A less publicized "final solution"
38. Costa Rica - 1970-1971: Trying to topple an ally -- Part 2
39. Iraq - 1972-1975: Covert action should not be confused with missionary work
40. Australia - 1973-1975: Another free election bites the dust
41. Angola - 1975 to 1980s: The Great Powers Poker Game
42. Zaire - 1975-1978: Mobutu and the CIA, a marriage made in heaven
43. Jamaica - 1976-1980: Kissinger's ultimatum
44. Seychelles - 1979-1981: Yet another area of great strategic importance
45. Grenada - 1979-1984: Lying -- one of the few growth industries in Washington
46. Morocco - 1983: A video nasty
47. Suriname - 1982-1984: Once again, the Cuban bogeyman
48. Libya - 1981-1989: Ronald Reagan meets his match
49. Nicaragua - 1981-1990: Destabilization in slow motion
50. Panama - 1969-1991: Double-crossing our drug supplier
51. Bulgaria 1990/Albania 1991: Teaching communists what democracy is all about
52. Iraq - 1990-1991: Desert holocaust
53. Afghanistan - 1979-1992: America's Jihad
54. El Salvador - 1980-1994: Human rights, Washington style
55. Haiti - 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?
56. The American Empire - 1992 to present

From William Blum's "Killing Hope":

http://www.killinghope.org/

Richard Welser
02-13-2009, 02:41 AM
we are after all, at war Richard. On two foreign fronts even-- 5000 US dead, 10's of thousands east and central Asians dead and counting, and you're worried about your stomach? Perhaps Alka-Seltzer will help :thrasher:

Perhaps the world is giving President Obama a bit more than two weeks to make progress clearing the disaster(s) that have befallen the USofA during the past 8 years. Hand wringers notwithstanding of course.

Where do you buy one of those crystal balls you guys are peering into?

David Healy

David, I don't really care for snide and derision. It speaks volumes about the person expressing it.

You misunderstood me. My stomach doesn't hurt from worry. I was (perhaps unclearly to you) identifying that I am disgusted.

I also feel some disgust for folks who haven't been paying attention to what Obama has actually done, said and the people he has surrounded himself with. And yet wish to give him more time .. to do what? To surround himself with yet more neolibs and neocons - who continued to promulgate the same failed policies of hegemony?

It doesn't take a 'crystal ball'. It merely requires a modicum of perspicacity.

--------------
David, thanks for posting Blum's list. It is a wonderfully revealing list of the Corporate/Financial Empire's accomplishments......

Peter Lemkin
02-13-2009, 10:22 AM
Bill Blum, a friend, really has done great work in his books and monthly 'reports' [available on his site (http://www.killinghope.org/)]. By his own admission, and is obvious, his list is quite incomplete and maybe should be called 'the greatest hits by the Empire' - since WW2. He also has a list [again partial] of foreign assasinations, and then there are all the domestic ones, bank thefts (top-down; inside-jobs), scandals and such....the entire list would someday make a nice subject for a encyclopedia, IMO. Quite a historical discgrace we have hidden [by the most see-through of negligees] of the propaganda and mythology machine - paid for by our tax [and stolen] money; drug and arms money - the blood of the People, worldwide in essence.

Magda Hassan
02-13-2009, 03:30 PM
That's right Richard. I don't know why anyone is holding their breath. All I see is Continutiy They Can Believe In. If he was going to do change he could have done it and he hasn't. There was a an opportunity to make change, radical change and as we can see it is radical change which is needed. He could have got the best and brightest but he chose Clinton retreads and Bush accomplices. No crystal ball needed. It is crystal clear.