Hit a bit of a rough patch a couple weeks ago. Woke up with major bloating that has made it hard to eat, and I’m really energy drained. Might be candida, might just be cleansing in process. Doesn’t feel cancer related, but it’s definitely been a hard time. Yesterday I started to feel a shift, so hopefully getting back on track and getting my energy back soon.
Ralph Nader’s new novel, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us,” offers an inspired and practical solution to our national and global problems. The story begins right after Katrina when Warren Buffett goes to New Orleans and spends a chunk of his fortune to help out. Fresh from that experience he convenes a meeting of other progressive-leaning and super-rich folk, including Ted Turner,Â George Soros, Ross Perot, Yoko Ono, William Gates Sr., Barry Diller, Bill Cosby, and Phil Donahue, Â toÂ “address the enormous mismatch of resources between citizen groups and the corporate supremacists.”
Nader makes his case in the most practical terms: many of the super-rich are decent people who want very much to do the right thing and use their wealth to make a better world. If they were band together, they would not only have enough money to take on huge tasks, they would not have to go through the solution-sapping politics of America’s demented “democratic process.”
But Nader didn’t have to write a whole book; he had me with the title. I’ve long believed that the real power to change our world would not come from the bottom up — though people-power, grassroots movements, and community activism will always be important.
The problem is that when populist movements try to usher in great reforms they invariably take on some of the traits and tactics of the ruling elites. The American revolutionaries create a system of white male privilege that engages in slavery and genocide. The French revolutionaries unleash a wave of terrible violence, worse than the royalty they revolted against. The anti-war movement in the ’60s likewise engages in destructive violence while its leadership turns sexist, racist, and authoritarian.
This is really not the fault of the individuals involved; rather, it is a structural conundrum. In order to beat the elites at their game, the revolutionaries must actually play the game, only better. In the process, they become that which they revolt against.
Violence has always provided the clearest example of this conundrum: if you meet violence with pacifism you are quickly destroyed, but if you meet violence with violence then, win or lose, you become infected with violence.
Which is why only the super-rich can save us: they are able to initiate, embody and model the deep systemic change the world needs and to do so in a way that is truly liberating for all. As I recently wrote:
There are only two ways out of this mess. The best solution is a bit counter-intuitive: Those who are at the top of the power-over pyramid willingly and freely come to their senses and do the right thing. This was (and still is) the great hope with Obama — that he would lead a top-down revolution that would change everything.
Those who rule via power-over must freely choose power-with. In this way, the revolution happens with a minimum of power-over force and violence. And those who are already committed to power-with do not have to sacrifice their principles. –[intlink id=”1713″ type=”post”]Domination Rules[/intlink]
The answer to Nader’s question is, “Yes they can!”
Leading up to and throughout the whole Iraq fiasco, Mr. Bush has repeatedly said that all key decisions were in the hands of “the Generals.” Of course, that has meant firing or otherwise marginalizing many good soldiers who recommended actions counter to Bush/Cheney plans. Some of the best unheeded advise has come from retired General William E Odom.
The general has a lot to say, especially on the whole notion that “supporting the troops” means going along with the current Bush policies:
No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.
In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called â€œpost-traumatic stress disorders.â€ In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents donâ€™t seem to occur during the first half of a unitâ€™s deployment in Iraq.
After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.
Not the sort of info that the neocon chickenhawk brigade is interested in. They’re too busy accusing the rest of us of not supporting the troops when we demand that Bush bring them home now.
If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine â€œsupporting the troopsâ€ as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for â€œnot supporting the troopsâ€ where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq.
As a “chicken hawk,” VP Cheney obviously never read “The Art of War,” the oldest known military treatise in the world, written by a true warrior, Sun Tzu. Sun-Tzu wrote that through planning, knowledge, understanding of your enemy and timing of your attack, you win the battle before you fight it. This so-called war on terror and the illegal invasion of Iraq were conceptually doomed to fail from the beginning. The war was lost at the moment it was conceived. Any understanding of history would have shown Cheney and all of those who supported this blunder that you could not take three culturally and religiously diverse segments of the former Ottoman Empire and combine them into a Jeffersonian democracy at the barrel of a gun.
Now, even Arizona Senator and Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is trying to convince the American people that all is not lost in Iraq. He recently wrote, “I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos.” Well, last I checked, we have utter chaos in Iraq because our policy and the implementation of that policy have failed. Also, in a representative democracy, you can disagree with the majority of the American people, but you need to listen to what they are asking you – as their representative – to do.
Contrary to popular belief, withdrawal may not lead to chaos. It depends on how you withdraw. Most of the American lawmakers and pundits that I have heard speak on this issue are trying to have their cake and eat it too. The problem is not withdrawal; the problem is control. Most of these politicians want to withdraw from Iraq while retaining control of the region and its resources. That cannot and will not work.
The global-warming naysayers would have us believe there is a one-shot, magic cure that will preserve the earth in a coolly livable form without our having to do anything or change our ways or spend any money. For the time being the magic cure is ethanol. Ethanol will stop global warming, and as an added plus, it will make the agribusiness interests richer and insure that the GOP carries the corn-growing states of the Midwest. Talk about living happily ever after!
In a few years the articles and books about the ethanol hoax will begin to appear, and we will learn who got rich while the earth got warmer and almost nobodyâ€“at least nobody important, nobody with influence and powerâ€“took note. The effects of global warming are all around us. Anybody with a backyard garden knows about them, but the garden lobby does not swing a heavy club.
So here we are, like the polar bear marooned on his little melting iceberg, snuffling here and there, looking out across the warming sea, hoping to God somebody throws him a fish. Well, bless us all, but are we truly too dumb and too selfish to save ourselves and our children?
The radical Christian right has no religious legitimacy. It is a mass political movement. It is interchangeable, in many ways, with other traditional political movements ranging from fascism to communism to the ethnic nationalist parties in the former Yugoslavia. It shares with these movements an inability to cope with ambiguity, doubt and uncertainty. It also embraces a world of miracles and signs and makes war on rational, reality-based thought. It condemns self-criticism and debate as apostasy. It places a premium on action. It dismisses those who do not bow down before its godâ€”and the leaders who claim to speak for Godâ€”as heretics and traitors.
This movement shares with corporatists, who are busy cannibalizing our society for profit, the belief that there are a chosen few who know the truth and therefore have the right to impose it. The citizen, the individual, no longer has any legitimacy in this new world. All legitimacy is assumed by groups, whether they are corporate groups herding us over the cliff of globalization or religious groups that give popular vent to corporate-generated despair through faith in the Christian utopia. In this paradigm-corporate and religious-we become disempowered, afraid, passive and easily manipulated.
Apocalyptic visions like this one have, throughout history, cowed populations and inspired genocidal killers. They have enticed societies into collective suicide. These visions nourished the butchers who led the Inquisition, the Crusades and the conquistadors who swept through the Americas converting and then exterminating the native population. These visions sustained the SS guards at Auschwitz, the Stalinists who consigned tens of thousands of Ukrainian families to starvation and death, the torturers in the clandestine prisons in Argentina during the Dirty War and the Serbian thugs with heavy machine guns and wraparound sunglasses who stood over the bodies of those they had slain in the smoking ruins of Bosnian villages. Those who promise to purify the world through violence, to relieve the anxiety of moral pollution and despair, appeal to our noblest sentiments, our highest virtues, our capacity for self-sacrifice and our utopian visions of a cleansed world. It is this coupling of fantastic hope and profound despair, along with visions of peace and light and absolute terror, of selflessness and murder, which frees the consciences of those who call for and carry out the eradication of those they have banished from moral consideration.
From all this the Sunni Arabs would get an end to the US occupation–among their main demands–as well as an end to de-Baathification and political marginalization. They would have an important place in the new order and be guaranteed their fair share of the national wealth. Shiites and Kurds would get an end to a debilitating civil war, even if they have to give up some of their maximal demands. The neighbors would avoid a reprise of the destructive Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, which killed perhaps a million people and deeply damaged regional economies. And by ending its occupation, the United States would go a long way toward repairing its relations with the Arab and Muslim world and thus eliminate one of Al Qaeda’s chief recruiting tools. A withdrawal is risky, but on the evidence so far, for the US military to remain in Iraq is a sure recipe for disaster.
Consider the choice between two government programs.
Program A would provide essential health care to the eight million uninsured children in this country.
Program B would subsidize insurance companies, who would in turn spend much of the money on marketing and paperwork, and also siphon off a substantial fraction of the money as profits. With whatâ€™s left, the insurers would provide additional benefits, over and above basic Medicare coverage, to some older Americans.
Which program would you choose? If money is no object, you might go for both. But if you can only have one, itâ€™s hard to see how anyone could, in good conscience, fail to choose Program A. I mean, even conservatives claim to believe in equal opportunity â€” and itâ€™s hard to say that our society offers equal opportunity to children whose education may be disrupted, who may even find their lives cut short, because their families canâ€™t afford proper medical care.
And hereâ€™s the thing: The question isnâ€™t hypothetical. Universal health care may happen one of these years, but the choice between A and B is playing out right now.
Doubtless Iran’s government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis. It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called “liberation,” of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites — nuclear and otherwise — in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?
It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel’s leading military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, “Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.”
The crisis in subprime mortgages betrays a deeper predicament facing consumer capitalism triumphant: The â€œProtestant ethosâ€ of hard work and deferred gratification has been replaced by an infantilist ethos of easy credit and impulsive consumption that puts democracy and the market system at risk.
Capitalismâ€™s core virtue is that it marries altruism and self-interest. In producing goods and services that answer real consumer needs, it secures a profit for producers. Doing good for others turns out to entail doing well for yourself.
Capitalismâ€™s success, however, has meant that core wants in the developed world are now mostly met and that too many goods are now chasing too few needs. Yet capitalism requires us to â€œneedâ€ all that it produces in order to survive. So it busies itself manufacturing needs for the wealthy while ignoring the wants of the truly needy. Global inequality means that while the wealthy have too few needs, the needy have too little wealth.