The degrading effects of Terrorism fears

The citizenry has been trained to expect that our Powerful Daddies and Mommies in government will — in that most cringe-inducing, child-like formulation — Keep Us Safe. Whenever the Government fails to do so, the reaction — just as we saw this week — is an ugly combination of petulant, adolescent rage and increasingly unhinged cries that More Be Done to ensure that nothing bad in the world ever happens.

Demands that genuinely inept government officials be held accountable are necessary and wise, but demands that political leaders ensure that we can live in womb-like Absolute Safety are delusional and destructive. Yet this is what the citizenry screams out every time something threatening happens: please, take more of our privacy away; monitor more of our communications; ban more of us from flying; engage in rituals to create the illusion of Strength; imprison more people without charges; take more and more control and power so you can Keep Us Safe.

This is what inevitably happens to a citizenry that is fed a steady diet of fear and terror for years. It regresses into pure childhood. The 5-year-old laying awake in bed, frightened by monsters in the closet, who then crawls into his parents’ bed to feel Protected and Safe, is the same as a citizenry planted in front of the television, petrified by endless imagery of scary Muslim monsters, who then collectively crawl to Government and demand that they take more power and control in order to keep them Protected and Safe. A citizenry drowning in fear and fixated on Safety to the exclusion of other competing values can only be degraded and depraved.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon

The Global War on Stealth Underwear

The “systematic failure” in the nation’s security that President Obama referred to Tuesday derives from the war metaphor itself and from the assumption, begun with Bush’s irrational invasion of Iraq and extended with Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan, that terrorism is a military rather than a criminal threat. The terrorists are not rebel fighters rooted, as are the Taliban and the remnants of the Iraq insurgency, in their homeland struggles and subject to being defeated on conventional battlefields.
Rather, they are rootless cosmopolitans of violence, alienated from any stated homeland and free to move easily about the world, armed in almost every instance with valid passports, visas and money to exploit our inability to seriously evaluate our own intelligence data. They can count on our top government officials ignoring blinking red warnings, as the Bush White House did before 9/11, or the alarm of a well-connected and properly concerned Nigerian banker-father.

Preventing terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland has nothing to do with occupying vast tracts of land or winning the hearts and minds of backward villagers whom we falsely depict as surrogates of an evil empire, as we did in Vietnam and are now doing in Afghanistan. What is needed is smart police work to catch these highly mobile fanatics, and that begins with actually reading and then acting on the readily available intelligence data. It requires detectives with brains and not generals with firepower.

The ballooning of the defense budget after 9/11 has proved a great boondoggle for the military-industrial complex, which suddenly found an excuse to build weapons and deploy conventional forces against a superpower enemy that no longer exists. But our stealth fighters and bombers designed to defeat Soviet defenses that were never built are a poor match against a terrorist’s stealth underwear.

Robert Scheer | TruthDig

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate.
Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.

Chris Hedges | Truthdig

Corporate Healthcare

The health care bill is one of the most flagrant advancements of this corporatism yet, as it bizarrely forces millions of people to buy extremely inadequate products from the private health insurance industry — regardless of whether they want it or, worse, whether they can afford it (even with some subsidies).

In other words, it uses the power of government, the force of law, to give the greatest gift imaginable to this industry — tens of millions of coerced customers, many of whom will be truly burdened by having to turn their money over to these corporations — and is thus a truly extreme advancement of this corporatist model.

It’s undeniably true that the bill will also do some genuine good, as it will help many people who can’t get coverage now to get it (though it will also severely burden many people with compelled, uncontrolled premiums and will potentially weaken coverage for millions as well). If one judges the bill purely from the narrow perspective of coverage, a rational and reasonable (though by no means conclusive) case can be made in its favor. But if one finds this creeping corporatism to be a truly disturbing and nefarious trend, then the bill will seem far less benign.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon

First They Came for the Banksters

With apologies to Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.

Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.

And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?

Thom Hartmann | CommonDreams

Fighting Another Dumb War

I have spent enough time inside the American military to have tasted its dark brutality, frequent incompetence and profligate ability to waste human lives and taxpayer dollars. The deviousness and stupidity of generals, the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy, especially as we head toward economic collapse.

Barack Obama, who is as mesmerized by the red, white and blue bunting draped around our vast killing machine as the press, the two main political parties and our entertainment industry, will not halt our doomed imperial projects or renege on the $1 trillion in defense-related spending that is hollowing out the country from the inside. A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry.

It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat.

Chris Hedges | truthdig

President Obushma

I listened to President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech with the same feeling of growing nausea that I used to get listening to Bush. Yes, hard to believe that the two could ever be compared as public speakers but, with a year’s full of speeches now on the record, the inconvenient truth about Obama is that his actions rarely match his rhetoric.

In each of the four critical areas that define this moment — the crashing global economy, healthcare reform, global climate change, and American militarism — however audacious and stirring his words, Obama’s appointments, policies, and decisions are barely distinguishable from Bush’s.

For the full inside story on the economy, Matt Taibi’s recent piece in Rolling Stone — Obama’s Big Sellout — makes it painfully clear that from the moment Obama took power he turned the economy over to the very same rich scumbags who caused the economic crisis, but who were all major donors to Obama’s campaign.

“This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.”

It is hard to find a single action on the economy that would have been any worse under Bush.

Ditto healthcare reform. Oh, they’re all making noise now about how it’s fine that the public option is dead because we’ll expand Medicare instead, and won’t that be great. Only a) it will never happen, since the same crew of congressional creeps who blocked single payer and the public option are lining up to block this latest plan and b) even if it does happen it is still a massive wealth-producing machine for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Any un- or under-insured folks out there thinking that relief is on the way are seriously deluded. In the end they will change some terminologies and claim some reforms and the system will continue to decline just as it did under Bush.

Climate-change? In advance of the Copenhagen summit, Obama and the American congress did not even address the issue. The strongest message in the American zeitgeist is that climate scientists are crooks and cheaters; Obama made no effort to set the record straight on Climate-gate or to rouse the public for Copenhagen.

Maybe he gets a pass on this one, given that there’s so much on his plate. The sorry fact remains that the state of American environmentalism is as lame and disjointed as if Bush were still in charge.

Finally, as Obama picks up his Peace Prize: I cannot think of single thing that Obama has done — beyond his nifty speechifying — that is in any way better than Bush regarding American militarism and the war on whoever.

The many injustices of Guantanamo; the secret torture prisons and the practice of rendition; rejection of the international treaty banning land mines; sucking up to the Israelis and turning a blind-eye to continued illegal settlements; escalating an unwinnable war that will only destroy more innocent lives and generate new enemies; and through it all, not a hint of the understanding that militarism represents a hellish misappropriation of essential resources.

As during the darkest hours of the Bush administration, we should give up all hope of a peaceful transition to a more humane world. With Obama at the helm things will be getting much, much worse — a total breakdown of the dominant power structure — before there’s any chance of anything getting better.

Michael Sky | ThinkingPeace

Climate, Oil, War, and Money

If a clerk at H and R Block sat down for an hour with Uncle Sam, he’d surely be reaching for the Pepto-Bismol after five minutes. We’ve been able to play games with ourselves for a whole year about the true state of our capital resources.

It is a mighty big system, kept chugging along on little more than inertia, as things will when they are headed downhill and gravity exerts its influence. But it begins to seem now like a great reeking freight train of toxic waste out-of-control on the downgrade and headed for a very nasty smash-up.

The Green Shoots crowd — a sub-category of identity maniacs, who think the USA is immune to the laws of history and physics — has made common cause with the oil and climate deniers to proclaim that we are returning to normal, back to the “consumer” orgy, the suburban sprawl nexus of McHousing and miracle mortgages, and new frontiers of corporate profit-raking.

They are tragically wrong.

Instead, we’re headed into the wildest king-hell debt workout that the world has ever seen, which will propel a lot of people used to working in air-conditioned cubicles into a world made by hand. We march day by day into the great holiday season with mortgages going unpaid and the credit cards getting cancelled and money disappearing and the fears and grievances mounting.

Pretty soon, the folks doing “God’s work” at Goldman Sachs (and their tribal kin on Wall Street) will announce their annual bonuses (because they are publicly-held companies, which have to do so).

Won’t that be a galvanizing moment for us all?

James Howard Kunstler | CLUSTERFUCK NATION

Obama’s War

Obama has been taken over by the military industrial hawks and national security theorists who play war games with other people’s lives and money. I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader.

So, we must look elsewhere, starting with ourselves. The first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open. Obama is wrong on his policy — deadly wrong — and those of you who see this have both a moral and patriotic duty to reach out to others to inform, organize and mobilize our grassroots objections, taking common sense to high places.

Also, look to leaders in Congress who are standing up against Obama’s war and finally beginning to reassert the legislative branch’s constitutional responsibility to oversee and direct military policy. For example, Rep. Jim McGovern is pushing for a specific, congressionally mandated exit strategy; Rep. Barbara Lee wants to use Congress’ control of the public purse strings to stop Obama’s escalation; and Rep. David Obey is calling for a war tax on the richest Americans to put any escalation on-budget, rather than on a credit card for China to finance and future generations to pay.

This is no time to be deferential to executive authority. Stand up. Speak out. It’s our country, not theirs. We are America — ultimately, we have the power and the responsibility.

Jim Hightower | CREATORS.COM

Obama the War President

It was nice while it lasted — the audacious dream, the anti-war President, the brand new way of doing things. Nice to feel like progressives were at last on the side of history. Nice to imagine that America, having made the huge breakthrough of electing an un-white guy, would go on to even more critical breakthroughs.

No more war. Winding down the empire. Shifting military spending to social needs. Environmental action. Universal healthcare…..

True, the wheels have been wobbling and threatening to fly off the wagon from Obama’s very first appointments. But he’s such a charming, likable man, so much better than the last guy!

Just as Bush’s supporters stood by him despite all his failings because he was such a likable man, I just ignored the uneasy feelings and kept hoping that the next big decision would be better.

That will never happen. Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan has confirmed that his presidency is firmly in the hands of the military-industrial-complex. We will continue to flush ever greater sums and precious lives down the sewer of war-mongering and we will have neither money nor will to do any of the other important things.

War trumps everything. Being a war president means that he will never be the people’s president that we worked so hard to elect.

Michael Sky | ThinkingPeace