Archive

Archive for September, 2016

USA Are Not Number One

by Robin Bal

Fortune Watch (November 03 2008)

What is it that prevents America from righting herself? Stupid, blind, unthinking patriotism – willful idiots yelling “We’re number one!” while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

That Americas now have shorter lives than Bosnians, that our democracy is only slightly better than the Czech Republic’s, that we have more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world, and that a child born in Slovakia is more likely to survive than in America is pathetic.

Sources used for the above are from wikipedia.org.

http://www.fortunewatch.com/usa-are-not-number-one/

Categories: Uncategorized

A Time for Retrovation

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (September 21 2016)

Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society

It’s been a little more than a year now since I started the narrative that wrapped up last week. The two weeks that Peter Carr spent in the Lakeland Republic in late November of 2065 ended up covering a little more ground than I’d originally intended, and of course the vagaries of politics and culture in the twilight years of the American century got their share of attention on this blog. Now that the story’s told and the manuscript is getting its final revisions before heading off to the publisher, I want to talk a bit about exactly what I was trying to do by taking an imaginary person to an imaginary place where things work better than they do here and now.

Part of it, of course, was an attempt to sketch out in detail the practical implications of a point I’ve been exploring on this blog for a good while now. Most people in today’s industrial society believe, or think they believe, in progress: they believe, that is, that human history has a built-in bias that infallibly moves it from worse things to better things over time. These days, that belief in progress most often attaches itself to the increasing complexification of technology, and you get the touching faith in the imminence of a Star Trek future that allows so many people these days to keep slogging through the wretchedly unsatisfactory and steadily worsening conditions of the present.

Faith does not depend on evidence. If that statement needs any further proof, you can get it by watching the way people respond to technological failure. Most of us these days know perfectly well that every software “upgrade” these days has more bugs and fewer useful features than what it replaced, and every round of “new and improved” products hawked by the media and shoveled onto store shelves is more shoddily made, more loaded with unwanted side effects, and less satisfactory than the last round. Somehow, though, a good many of the people who witness this reality, day in and day out, still manage to insist that the future is, or at least ought to be, a paradise propped up by perfectly functioning machines. That the rising tide of technological failure might be something other than an accidental roadbump on the way to utopia – that it might be trying to tell us something that, by and large we don’t want to hear – has not yet entered our society’s darkest dream.

It so happens that in very many cases, older, simpler, sturdier technologies work better, producing more satisfactory outcomes and fewer negative side effects, than their modern high-tech equivalents. After most of two years taking apart the modern mythology of progress in a series of posts that became my book After Progress: Reason and Religion at the End of the Industrial Age (2015), and most of another year doing the more pragmatic posts that are being turned into a forthcoming book tentatively titled The Retro Future, I decided that the best way to pursue the exploration further was to imagine a society very much like ours that had actually noticed the declining quality of technology, and adjusted public policies accordingly. That was the genesis of Retrotopia: the attempt to show, by means of the toolkit of narrative fiction, that deliberate technological regression as public policy didn’t amount to a return to the caves – quite the contrary, it meant a return to things that actually work.

The form that this exploration took, though, was shaped in important ways by an earlier venture of the same kind, Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia (1975). I don’t know how many of my readers realize just how dramatic a change in utopian literature was marked by Callenbach’s solidly written tale. From the days of Thomas More’s novel Utopia (1516), which gave the genre its name, utopian literature worked with the contrast between the world as it is and an ideal world as imagined by the author, without any connection between the two outside of the gimmick, however worked, that got a viewpoint character from one to the other. More’s Utopia was a critique of the England of Henry VIII, but there was never any suggestion on More’s part that England might be expected to turn into Utopia one of these days, and nearly all the utopian tales that followed his embraced the same approach.

With William Morris, things began to shift. Morris was a socialist, and thus believed devoutly that the world could in fact turn into something much better than it was; during the years that his commitment to socialism was at its height, he penned a utopian tale, News from Nowhere (1890), which was set in a future England long after Victorian capitalism had gone gurgling down history’s sewer pipe. (Later on, in the pages of his tremendous fantasy novel The Well at the World’s End [1896], he wove a subtle but pervasive critique of the socialist views he’d championed – socialism appears there in the stark and terrible symbolic form of the Dry Tree – but that’s a subject for a different post entirely.)

News From Nowhere was quite the controversial book in its day, not least because the socialist future Morris imagined was green, agrarian, and entirely free of the mechanized regimentation of humanity that played such a huge role in the Marxist imagination then as now. Still, the historical thread that linked Morris’ utopia to the present was very thin. The story was set far off in the future, and Morris skimmed lightly over the process that led from the dark Satanic mills of Victorian England to the green and pleasant land of his imagined socialist England.

That was where Callenbach took hold of the utopian narrative, and hammered it into a completely new shape. Ecotopia was set barely a quarter century in Callenbach’s own future. In his vision, the states of Washington, Oregon, and the northern two-thirds of California had broken away from the United States in 1980, and the usual visitor – journalist William Weston, from what’s left of the United States – came to pay the usual visit in 1999. Over the nineteen years between independence and Weston’s visit, the new nation of Ecotopia had entirely reshaped itself in the image of the Whole Earth Catalog, adopting the technologies, customs, and worldview that San Francisco-area eco-radicals of the 1970s dreamed of establishing, and here and there actually adopted in their own lives.

It really is a tour de force. One measure of its impact is that to this day, when you ask people on the leftward end of things to imagine an ideal future that isn’t just a lightly scrubbed version of the present, dollars will get you organic free range doughnuts that what you’ll hear is some version or other of the Ecotopian future: wind turbines and solar panels, organic farms everywhere, and everyone voluntarily embracing the social customs and attitudes of the San Francisco-area avant-garde circa 1975 in perfect lockstep. While I was writing Retrotopia, until some of my readers got the hang of the fact that I don’t crowdsource my fiction, I fielded any number of comments and emails insisting that I really ought to incorporate this or that or the other aspect of the Ecotopian future into my narrative. I didn’t take offense at that; it was pretty clear to me that for a lot of people nowadays, Ecotopia is literally the only alternative to the status quo that they can imagine.

We’ll get to the broader implications of that last point in a moment. Just now, I want to talk about why I didn’t write a mildly retro version of Ecotopia. I could have; it would have been easy and, frankly, quite entertaining to do that. I’ve imagined more than once writing a tale about somebody from our world who, via some bit of science-fictionish handwaving, is transported to an alternate America in which Ronald Reagan lost the 1980 election, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant underwent a full-scale Fukushima Daiichi meltdown with tens of thousands of casualties, and the United States had accordingly gone careening ahead toward the sustainable future we almost adopted. I may still write that story someday, but that wasn’t what I chose to do this time around.

Partly, of course, that was because Ernest Callenbach was there already forty years ago. Partly, though, it’s because not all the assumptions that undergirded Ecotopia have worn well in the decades since he wrote. It’s become painfully clear that renewable energy sources, valuable and necessary though they are, can’t simply be dropped into place as a replacement for fossil fuels; huge changes in energy use, embracing issues of energy concentration and accessibility as well as sheer quantity, will have to be made as fossil fuels run out and we have to make do with the enduring power sources of sun, wind, water, and muscle. It’s also become clear, painfully or amusingly as the case may be, that the notions that Sausalito intellectuals thought would save the world back in the 1970s – communal living, casual pansexuality, and the like – had downsides and drawbacks that nobody had gotten around to noticing yet, and weren’t necessarily as liberating and transformative as they seemed at the time.

Ecotopia also fell headlong into both of the standard pitfalls of the contemporary liberal imagination. The first of these is the belief that a perfect society can be attained if we can just abolish diversity of ideas and opinions, and get everyone to believe what the affluent liberal intelligentsia think they ought to believe. That’s why I put ongoing controversies between conservative and restorationist blocs into the story. It’s also, on another level, why I put in repeated references to religious diversity – thus there are people running for public office in the Lakeland Republic who end an oath of office with “So help me Jesus my Lord and Savior”, just as there are military officers there who spend every Sunday at the Greek Orthodox cathedral in Toledo, and politicians who attend the Atheist Assembly.

The second pitfall, which follows from the first, is the belief that since you can’t get “those people” to have the ideas and opinions you think they ought to have, the proper response is to hole up in a self-referential echo chamber from which all unacceptable views are excluded. Ecotopia assumes implicitly that the United States, and by inference the rest of the world’s nations as well, are utterly irredeemable; the nation of Ecotopia thus barricades itself inside its borders and goes its green and merry way, and the climax of the story comes when William Weston decides to stay in Ecotopia and become one of the good people. (He had a significant other back home in the USA, by the way; what she thought of his decision to dump her for a San Francisco hippie chick is nowhere mentioned.)

We’ll be discussing both those pitfalls at length in future posts, not least because they bid fair to exert a massive influence on contemporary politics, especially but not only in the United States. The point I’d like to make here, though, is just how deep the latter habit runs through the liberal end of our collective imagination. I’m thinking here of another powerful and morally problematic work of fiction to come out of the same era, Ursula K LeGuin’s haunting 1973 story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”. The core of the story is that there’s a splendid city, Omelas; its splendor depends on the infliction of suffering on one helpless person; now and again, people get upset by this, and leave the city. It’s stunningly well written but evades a crucial question: does walking away do anything to change the situation, or does it just let the ones who walk away from Omelas feel morally superior?

That was one of the reasons why the conclusion of Retrotopia didn’t feature Peter Carr chucking his Atlantic Republic passport and moving in with Melanie Berger. Instead, he caught the train back home, having committed himself to the challenge of trying to move his own country in the direction that the Lakeland Republic has already taken, in the full knowledge that he might not succeed. I had the entire last scene in mind from the beginning of the project, partly as a deliberate challenge to that aspect of Ecotopia, partly because that sort of leap into uncertainty seems much more relevant to our present predicament. We don’t know, any more than Carr did, what lies behind the clouds that hide the future.

Of course the primary difference between Ecotopia and Retrotopia was that my narrative was meant to explore a very different approach from Callenbach’s. He was trying to propose a new, avant-garde, cutting-edge future – it’s often forgotten that the kind of thing Callenbach was talking about really was seen as the next great wave of progress in the 1970s, before the current fad for schizoid withdrawal into a cybernetic Neverland took that title away from it in the 1980s. I’m trying to explore the possibility that going back to what worked is a better idea than plunging forward along a trajectory that leads to no place any sane human being would want to go. He was talking about innovation, while I’m talking about retrovation: the strategy of using the past as a resource for problem-solving in the present.

Retrovation used to be utterly unthinkable in modern industrial societies. At the moment, it’s making the transition from utterly unthinkable to unspeakably heretical – thus another term for it I introduced in a post a while back, the heresy of technological choice {1} – but a lot of people still can’t get their minds around it at all. When I’ve proposed steampunk technology as one model for the future, I’ve inevitably fielded a flurry of comments insisting that you can’t possibly have Victorian technology without child labor and oppressive gender politics – and of course while I was writing Retrotopia, quite a few readers assumed as a matter of course that the tier system in the Lakeland Republic governed every detail of daily life, so that you weren’t allowed to have anything belonging to a post-1830 technological suite if you lived in a tier one county.

Not so. The word I’ve coined for the strategy under discussion, retrovation, is obviously backformed from “retro” + “innovation”, but it’s also “re-trove-ation”, re-finding, rediscovery: an active process of searching through the many options the past provides, not a passive acceptance of some bygone time as a package deal. That’s the strategy the Lakeland Republic puts to use in my narrative, and those of my readers who know their way around the backwaters and odd corners of history may find it entertaining to figure out the sources from which I lifted this or that detail of Retrotopian daily life. The rhetoric of progress, by contrast, rejects that possibility, relies on a very dubious logic that lumps “the past” together as a single thing, and insists that wanting any of it amounts to wanting all of it, with the worst features inevitably highlighted.

I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve been told that rejecting the latest new, shiny, and dysfunctional technology, in favor of an older technology that works, is tantamount to cheerleading for infant mortality, or slavery, or living in caves, or what have you. I’ve sometimes thought that it might be entertaining to turn that around – “if you won’t use a cell phone, you must be in favor of bringing back a balanced global climate!” – or simply taking it in directions a little more absurd than it’s gone already – “if you prefer rail travel to air travel, why, you might as well just restart the Punic Wars!” In either case, the point that might be made is the silliness of the progress-worshippers’ insistence that the past, or the present, or for that matter the future, is an all-or-nothing deal.

That’s also why, to return to my narrative for a moment, I made a point of showing that the sexual mores of people in the Lakeland Republic didn’t correspond to how people behaved at some point in the past – or, more to the point, the mythical notion of how people behaved in the past that’s been circulated by certain pseudoconservatives in recent decades. Thus industrial magnate Janice Mikkelson is a lesbian with a lovely wife, Peter Carr happens to see two young men who’ve just gotten married on their way to their honeymoon, and when Peter and Melanie go out for dinner and an opera, the evening ends in her bedroom. I know that was uncomfortable for the social and religious conservatives among my readers, but it had to be there, for two reasons.

On the one hand, as a moderate Burkean conservative, I see absolutely no justification for imposing legal restraints on what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, or for that matter in that dimension of the public sphere that pertains to marriage licenses – and, after all, this is my utopia and I’ll permit what I want to. On the other hand, just as I put devoutly religious people into the story to discomfit the sort of doctrinaire liberals who believe that nobody should follow traditional religious teachings, I put married gay and lesbian people into the story to discomfit the sort of doctrinaire conservatives who believe that nobody should follow contemporary sexual mores. In both cases, the point I hoped to make is that the Lakeland Republic, with its policy of retrovation and its relative comfort with a diversity of ideas and lifestyles, hasn’t gone “backward”, or for that matter “forward”, but off in a direction all its own – a direction that can’t be defined in terms of the monomaniacally linear fixations of the worshippers of progress.

And of course that’s the crucial point, the most important thing that I hope my readers got out of the narrative. At the heart of most of the modern world’s insoluble problems is the faith-based claim that human history is a straight line with no branches or meanders, leading onward and upward from the caves to the stars, and that every software upgrade, every new and improved product on the shelves, every lurch “forward” – however that conveniently floppy word happens to be defined from day to day by marketing flacks and politicians – therefore must lead toward that imaginary destination.

That blind and increasingly untenable faith, I’ve come to think, is the central reason why the only future different from the present that most people can imagine these days, if it’s not Ecotopia, is either a rehash of the past in every detail or some kind of nightmare dystopia. These days, as often as not, that even extends to science fiction, once our society’s most effervescent cauldron of novel futures. While writing an essay on the genre for a new magazine of science fiction and fantasy, Mythic {2}, it occurred to me – and not for the first time – how few recent works of science fiction seem to be able to portray a future society that isn’t either a straight-line extrapolation from the present, complete with all its most parochial features, a carbon-copy rehash of some specific society of the past, or a smoking wasteland.

Not all that many decades ago, science fiction authors routinely spun future societies as radically different from ours as ours is from, say, the ancient Maya, but such visions are rare now. I don’t think that’s accidental. To borrow a metaphor from Retrotopia, when you’ve driven down a blind alley and are sitting there with your bumper pressed against a brick wall, the only way forward starts by backing up – but if you’ve been convinced by your society’s core ideological commitments that “backing up” can only mean returning whole hog to the imaginary, awful past from which the ersatz messiah of progress is supposed to save us, you’re stuck. There you sit, pushing uselessly on the pedal, hearing the engine labor and rattle, and watching the gas gauge move steadily toward that unwelcome letter E; it’s no surprise that after a while, the idea of a street leading somewhere else starts to seem distinctly unreal.

Other futures are possible. Retrotopia isn’t the only option, though I have to say it strikes me as a much more pleasant choice than what we’ve got now, and retrovation isn’t the only tool we need to get us out of that blind alley, though I suspect it’s more useful than a good many of the more popular items in our contemporary toolkit. Still, time will tell – and if my narrative irritates some of my readers enough to get them working on their own, radically different visions of a future that breaks free of the blind alley of linear progress, all the better.

_____

 

John Michael Greer is Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {3}, current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn {4}, and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

If you enjoy this blog and can handle discussions of Druidry, magic, and occult philosophy, you might like my other blog, Well of Galabes {5}.

Links:

{1} http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-heresy-of-technological-choice.html

{2} http://www.mythicmag.com/

{3} http://www.aoda.org/

{4} http://www.druidical-gd.org/

{5} http://galabes.blogspot.com/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.jp/2016/09/a-time-for-retrovation.html

Categories: Uncategorized

We’re Not Number One

by Nicholas Kristof

The New York Times (April 02 2014)

We in the United States grow up celebrating ourselves as the world’s most powerful nation, the world’s richest nation, the world’s freest and most blessed nation.

Sure, technically Norwegians may be wealthier per capita {1}, and the Japanese may live longer, but the world watches the NBA, melts at Katy Perry, uses iPhones to post on Facebook, trembles at our aircraft carriers, and blames the CIA for everything. We’re Number One!

In some ways we indisputably are, but a major new ranking of livability in 132 countries puts the United States in a sobering sixteenth place. We underperform because our economic and military strengths don’t translate into well-being for the average citizen.

In the Social Progress Index {3}, the United States excels in access to advanced education but ranks seventieth in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety. Even in access to cellphones and the Internet, the United States ranks a disappointing 23rd, partly because one American in five lacks Internet access {4}.

“It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag”, notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative {3}, which oversees the index. The United States has done better at investing in drones than in children, and cuts in social services could fray the social fabric further.

This Social Progress Index ranks New Zealand Number One, followed by Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands. All are somewhat poorer than America per capita, yet they appear to do a better job of meeting the needs of their people.

The Social Progress Index is a brainchild of Michael E Porter, the eminent Harvard business professor who earlier helped develop the Global Competitiveness Report. Porter is a Republican whose work, until now, has focused on economic metrics.

“This is kind of a journey for me”, Porter told me. He said that he became increasingly aware that social factors support economic growth: tax policy and regulations affect economic prospects, but so do schooling, health and a society’s inclusiveness.

So Porter and a team of experts spent two years developing this index, based on a vast amount of data reflecting suicide, property rights, school attendance, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, opportunity for women, religious freedom, nutrition, electrification and much more.

Many who back proposed Republican cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and public services believe that such trims would boost America’s competitiveness. Looking at this report, it seems that the opposite is true.

Ireland, from which so many people fled in the nineteenth century to find opportunity in the United States, now ranks fifteenth. That’s a notch ahead of the United States, and Ireland is also ahead of America in the category of “opportunity”.

Canada came in seventh, the best among the nations in the G-7. Germany is twelfth, Britain thirteenth and Japan fourteenth.

The bottom spot on the ranking was filled by Chad. Just above it were Central African Republic, Burundi, Guinea, Sudan and Angola.

Professor Porter notes that Arab Spring countries had longstanding problems leading to poor scores in the “opportunity” category. If that’s a predictor of trouble, as he thinks it may be, then Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran should be on guard. None do well in the category of opportunity.

In contrast, some countries punch well above their weight. Costa Rica performs better than much richer countries, and so do the Philippines, Estonia and Jamaica. In Africa, Malawi, Ghana and Liberia shine. Bangladesh (number 99) ranks ahead of wealthier India (number 102). Likewise, Ukraine (number 62) outperforms Russia (number eighty).

China does poorly, ranking ninetieth, behind its poorer neighbor Mongolia (number 89). China performs well in basic education but lags in areas such as personal rights and access to information.

All this goes to what kind of a nation we want to be, and whether we put too much faith in GDP as a metric.

Over all, the United States’ economy outperformed France’s between 1975 and 2006 {5}. But 99 percent of the French population actually enjoyed more gains in that period than 99 percent of the American population. Exclude the top one percent, and the average French citizen did better than the average American. This lack of shared prosperity and opportunity has stunted our social progress.

There are no quick fixes, but basic education and health care are obvious places to begin, especially in the first few years of life, when returns are the highest.

The arguments for boosting opportunity or social services usually revolve around social justice and fairness. The Social Progress Index offers a reminder that what’s at stake is also the health of our society – and our competitiveness around the globe.

Links:

{1} http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD

{2} http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN

{3} http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/

{4} http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/08/26/home-broadband-2013/

{5} http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/atkinson-piketty-saezJEL10.pdf

_____

I invite you to visit my blog, http://www.nytimes.com/ontheground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/opinion/were-not-no-1-were-not-no-1.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The Destruction of TWA Flight 800

by Ron Unz

American Pravda:

http://www.unz (September 26 2016)


Reconstruction of TWA Flight 800. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some years ago as I became increasingly aware of the severe dishonesty of our mainstream media on all sorts of controversial topics, I began telling a joke to a few of my friends.

Suppose, I would say, that I happened to be out walking one pleasant afternoon in Palo Alto, and suddenly heard a gigantic explosion in the general direction of Mountain View, soon followed by a huge pillar of smoke rising towards the sky. Being busy with my own work, I might have no time to bother investigating, and merely wondered what surprising story the front pages of my morning newspapers would reveal as the cause behind those dramatic events. But when I eagerly opened those papers the following day, mention of the explosion was nowhere to be found, either on Page One or anywhere else, even in my own local San Jose Mercury News. So unless I somehow persuaded myself that I had simply imagined the whole thing, I would henceforth stop believing anything I read – or failed to read – in my once-trusted news outlets.

I thought my allegorical fable rather amusing, and repeated it on a number of occasions. But quite recently I came across a rough counterpart in real life, a remarkable tale that had almost completely escaped my attention for over twenty years.

When I used to recall the leading events of 1996, what came to mind was Bill Clinton’s triumphant reelection campaign in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and political overreach by Newt Gingrich’s Congressional Republicans. Perhaps there had also been some sort of plane crash on the East Coast, though none of the details were sharp or memorable in my mind. But in fact, the sudden mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800 on a New York to Paris route was actually voted the top national news story of that year {1}, ranking above the presidential campaign, while the 230 fatalities made it by far New York’s worst disaster of the twentieth century, and the second worst airline tragedy in American history to that date. Indeed, some journalists at the time suggested that the resulting media coverage had eclipsed that of any other transportation calamity since the sinking of the Titanic almost a century earlier.

I had almost forgotten the story of that doomed airliner when I opened my morning edition of the New York Times in mid-July 2013 and read a short review {2} in the Arts Section, favorably discussing a new television documentary presenting the “conspiracy theory” that the plane had been destroyed by a missile rather than by an accidental fuel tank explosion as the government investigation had firmly concluded at the time, a verdict strongly affirmed by both the news and editorial pages of the Times. I had recently published “Our American Pravda” {3} and an eminent mainstream academic who appreciated my piece soon dropped me a note pointing to a website discussion {4} of the details of the plane crash, about which I knew nothing. Being preoccupied with other matters, I could only glance at the material, which shocked me, but now that I’ve gone back and spent some time on the topic, the story turns out to be a truly remarkable one.

The outline of facts is hardly complicated. Soon after taking off from New York’s JFK Airport on July 17 1996, TWA Flight 800 suddenly exploded in the air just off Long Island. So enormous a loss of life naturally produced an immediate scrambling of numerous federal agencies to investigate the cause, and with widespread fears of terrorism, the FBI launched the largest, most complex investigation in its entire history, deploying some 500 field agents to the area. The investigators soon gathered a copious quantity of seemingly consistent evidence.

Large numbers of local witnesses were immediately interviewed by the swarm of federal agents, with 278 of them reporting that they saw a streak of light, much like a missile, shoot up into the sky in the direction of the aircraft just before the huge explosion. Employees at the local FAA radar installation immediately reported to the government that they had seen what appeared to be a missile closing with the airliner just before it exploded, and other installations produced similar radar records. When tests were eventually performed on the plane wreckage, traces of explosive chemicals were found, exactly the sort used in the warhead of a missile, as well as some reddish-orange chemical residue that a laboratory later identified as likely missile exhaust propellant. An enormous effort was made to locate every possible piece of the wreckage, and for many of these, the contours of the damage indicated an initial explosion external to the plane. Almost immediately after the disaster, a bidding-war allegedly broke out between the national television networks for an amateur home-video showing a missile striking and destroying TWA 800, with the tape eventually being sold for more than $50,000 and briefly broadcast on the MSNBC cable news channel before reportedly being seized as evidence by FBI agents. In addition, a local resident provided a still photo taken at the time showing what seemed to be a missile rising toward the aircraft.

Based on all this initial evidence, many of the early news stories reported that the plane had probably been destroyed by a missile, with widespread speculation about whether the calamity was due to terrorist action or instead accidental “friendly fire” from one of the US naval warships operating in the vicinity. Given the extreme sensitivity of the topic, government officials urged the media to keep an open mind until the full investigation was completed. However, the public debate sometimes turned rancorous, with some individuals soon alleging that a government cover-up was in the works. Eventually, the CIA was brought into the investigation, given its tremendous expertise in certain matters.

After more than a year of detailed research, the government investigation finally concluded that no missile could possibly have been involved, with all the eyewitnesses having been misled by what amounted to an optical illusion caused by the explosion of the aircraft. That explosion itself had been entirely spontaneous, probably caused by a random spark igniting one of the gas tanks. Given the controversy in the case, the CIA helpfully produced a computer animation showing the official reconstruction of the events, which was endlessly broadcast by our news media to explain the disaster to the public. The simulation showed the jetliner spontaneously exploding in mid-air, with no external cause, and just to further clarify matters, the CIA animators also inserted an explanatory message in large text: “There Was No Missile”. The New York Times, and nearly all our other mainstream media repeatedly echoed this same simple conclusion in all their stories and headlines.

The vast majority of our sheep-like population absorbed the simple media message “No Missile” and went back to watching their football games and celebrity music videos, being greatly relieved to know that well-maintained 747 jumbo jets flown by leading national airlines can occasionally explode in mid-air without any external cause.

However, various disgruntled “conspiracy theorists” refused to accept these conclusions, and returned to their “crazy missile conspiracy theories”, thereby earning the hearty ridicule of the entire mainstream media, led by the New York Times. These conspiratorial suspicions even extended to the US navy, which had apparently been staging military exercises in the near vicinity of the calamity, exercises that some claimed including the test-firing of anti-aircraft missiles. Indeed, a local resident later provided a home video clearly showing a missile being fired in that exact same area a few days earlier during previous naval exercises.

The entire remarkable history of this incident is persuasively set forth in a excellent twentieth-anniversary book published earlier this year by investigative journalist Jack Cashill, who has been following the case since the late 1990s, having co-authored a previous book in 2003 and also produced an earlier 2001 television documentary Silenced, now available in its entirely on YouTube.

In addition, the 2013 television documentary by a former CBS producer, whose favorable review by the New York Times marked my first introduction to the topic, was discussed at length and substantially excerpted by NPR‘s Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2013/6/20/did_us_govt_lie_about_twa

Cashill is strongly affiliated with conservative publications, while someone like Goodman clearly leans toward the left, but the question of whether an American jetliner was destroyed by a missile, and the facts then covered up by the government is a non-ideological matter, so their perspectives seem almost identical.

For anyone having less than absolute faith in the official pronouncements of our government and our media, the likely reality of what happened is hardly difficult to guess, and for those who currently maintain such naivete, I suspect it will quickly dissipate if they choose to watch the documentaries or read the books. But the loss of TWA Flight 800 is surely of no great importance to our country. Accidents do happen. A large and energetic military, eager to test its latest missile weapons, perhaps carelessly and fatally crossed paths with hundreds of unlucky travelers on their way to Paris. Some 30,000 Americans die each year in fatal car crashes, and risks are inevitable in our modern industrial society.

However, from a broader perspective, I believe that the truly horrifying aspect of the incident is the tremendous ease with which our government and its lapdog media managed to so utterly suppress the reality of what had happened – an American jumbo jet shot down by a missile – and did so although this occurred not in some obscure, faraway foreign land, but within the very sight of Steven Spielberg’s home in the exclusive Hamptons, on a flight that had just departed New York City, and despite such overwhelming physical evidence and hundreds of direct eye-witnesses. The successful cover-up is the important story, and constitutes a central subtext in all of the books and documentaries on the disaster.

Given the eyewitness testimony and other factors, it is hardly surprising that many of the initial media stories either directly referred to a missile strike or at least mentioned it as one of the main possibilities, and indeed there is some evidence that top government leaders initially assumed a terrorist attack. But President Bill Clinton was locked in the middle of his reelection campaign, and while the slaughter of Americans by terrorists might unify a nation, disasters brought about by careless military action would surely have had the opposite political impact. So it seems likely that once terrorism was ruled out and the American military believed responsible, a direct order quickly came down from the highest levels to make the missile and all evidence supporting it disappear, with all our supposedly independent federal agencies, especially the FBI, bowing to that primary directive.

As part of the standard investigation, all the debris were gathered and stored at a hangar for examination, but FBI agents were discovered spiriting away some of the most tell-tale pieces, or even caught in the wee hours of the morning hammering them into a shape that would suggest an internal rather than an external explosion. The amateur video showing the missile strike was only briefly broadcast by a cable news channel before being seized by government agents. When an investigative journalist acquired debris containing apparent missile residue and passed it along to a producer at CBS News, the evidence was quickly confiscated, with the journalist and his wife even being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for violating an obscure law enacted to prohibit bystanders from removing souvenirs from the scene of a disaster; the veteran CBS producer who accepted the material was vilified as a “conspiracy theorist” and soon forced out of her job, her career destroyed. The written FBI reports of 278 eyewitness statements describing the missile attack were completely ignored, and in a number of cases, later statements were actually fabricated, falsely suggesting that crucial witnesses had revised or recanted their earlier testimony.

These particular examples only scratch the surface of the massive amount of coordinated government fraud and deception that was marshalled to make a missile strike seen by hundreds of witnesses officially disappear from the historical record, and transform the destruction of TWA Flight 800 into a rather mysterious and spontaneous mid-air explosion. The New York Times in particular became the primary mouthpiece of the official “See No Missile” party-line, repeatedly denigrating and ridiculing all those who resisted this total rewriting of the facts and history.

This gatekeeper role of the Times in the cover-up became particularly crucial once the high-profile figure of Pierre Salinger entered the controversy. Salinger ranked as a full-fledged member of the political-media establishment elite, having served as President Kennedy’s press secretary and one of the most visible public figures in Camelot, then briefly as an appointed US Senator from California before becoming a prize-winning journalist and the Paris Bureau Chief for ABC News. Himself half-French by birth, he had many connections to the leadership of that country, which was galvanized by the large number of French victims on the flight. French intelligence became involved, quickly acquiring some of the same voluminous missile-related evidence suppressed by its US counterpart, and passed him the information. Cashill notes that Salinger was a loyal Democrat, and perhaps as a consequence he sat on the story until after Clinton was safely reelected in November, then attempted to break it, publishing a long expose in Paris Match, one of France’s highest-circulation popular magazines.

If Salinger had hoped his prestigious standing and long journalistic record would insulate him from attacks, he was sorely mistaken, and instead the threat his stature and credibility posed to the cover-up unleashed an unprecedented barrage of insult, ridicule, and invective, with the New York Times running eighteen consecutive articles attacking him, and America’s leading news magazines, Time and Newsweek adding their own denunciations. Such remarkable vilification may have partly been aimed at dissuading any other prominent figures from similarly breaking ranks and following Salinger’s lead in exposing the true facts, and if so, the effort succeeded and the cover-up held.

Prior to Salinger’s regime disloyalty, he had regularly appeared on leading American television news broadcasts and his opinions were treated with the great deference accorded to a highly-respected elder statesman; afterward he was purged and blacklisted, shunned by our elite media as a “conspiracy nut”. Indeed, upon his death a few years later, the disloyalty he had shown to his establishment colleagues seriously tainted his New York Times obituary {5}, which closed by describing the “strange turn” he had taken in advocating theories based upon “discredited” evidence.

I don’t doubt that numerous other prominent figures quietly took the lesson of Salinger’s defenestration to heart, much as high-ranking Soviet leaders noted the dire implications of questioning Stalin’s pronouncements. Indeed, I personally know of at least a couple of individuals prominently situated in our current elite establishment whose private views on various controversial topics would surely rank as “utterly conspiratorial” but who remain extremely reluctant to have those views become generally known.

Or take another example, even closer to me. My old friend Bill Odom, the three-star general who had run the NSA for Ronald Reagan, clearly ranked in the upper reaches of the DC national security establishment in the early 2000s, serving as Director of National Security Policies at the Hudson Institute and an adjunct professor at Yale. Yet his strongly discordant views on the Bush response to 9/11 and the preparations for the Iraq War caused him to be totally blacklisted from major media access {6}, reduced to publishing his dissenting opinions on an obscure website or in the pages of small, socialistic quarterlies {7}.

When naive individuals suggest that maintaining a large government conspiracy in America is simply impossible because “somebody would have talked” perhaps they should consider the implications of this incident, which occurred so close to the media capital of the world. And if they ever decide to trust Wikipedia on any remotely controversial topic, they should consult the 10,000 word Wikipedia article on TWA Flight 800 {8}, comparing that exhaustive presentation with the simple facts provided in this article, or the wealth of additional information in the numerous books and documentaries upon which my treatment was based.

The old Soviet Union was notoriously reluctant to ever acknowledge serious government errors, but its propaganda machinery was of mediocre quality, routinely ridiculed both in the West and among its own citizens. Surely, their Politburo members and Pravda editors would have been green with envy at how easily our own American Regime and its media minions suppressed the true story of TWA Flight 800, shot down by a missile just twelve minutes after it departed JFK Airport in New York City.

For Further Reading:

* http://www.unz.com/article/our-american-pravda/

* http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-how-the-cia-invented-conspiracy-theories/

* http://www.unz.com/runz/was-general-patton-assassinated/

* http://www.unz.com/article/was-rambo-right/

Links:

{1} http://www.editorandpublisher.com/news/biggest-stories-of-1996-p-27/

{2} http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/arts/television/twa-flight-800-examines-a-1996-tragedy.html

{3} http://www.unz.com/article/our-american-pravda/

{4} http://mondoweiss.net/2013/06/democracy-documentary-borjesson/

{5} http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/politics/pierre-salinger-kennedy-aide-dies-at-79.html

{6} http://www.unz.com/article/the-life-and-legacy-of-lt-gen-william-odom/

{7} http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=131

{8} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_800#Controversy

http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-the-destruction-of-twa-flight-800/

Categories: Uncategorized

Putin Ups the Ante

2016/09/28 1 comment

Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (September 27 2016)

 

Syria is the summation of all the errors of a dysfunctional empire collapsing upon itself. History forgotten. Science ignored. Facts denied. Propaganda cannot hide that West is supporting and killing Islamists at the same time in a World War that risks escalating into a nuclear holocaust.

– Vietnam Vet, comments-line,  Sic Semper Tyrannis

 

The attack on Deir Ezzor was a flagrant act of betrayal. For the first time in the five year-long war,  US warplanes targeted an Syrian Arab Army (“SAA”) military outpost killing 62 Syrian regulars. The surprise attacks – which lasted for the better part of an hour and were followed by a coordinated ground assault by members of ISIS –  were intended to torpedo the fragile ceasefire agreement and send a message to Moscow that the US was prepared to achieve its strategic objectives in Syria whether it had to launch direct attacks on defenders of the regime or not.

The attacks – for which the Pentagon eventually accepted responsibility – were followed by a callous and thoroughly-unprofessional tirade by the administration’s chief diplomat at the United Nations, Samantha Power. Power dispelled any doubt that either she or anyone else in the Obama administration cared at all about the people who lost their lives in the bombing raid.  She also made it clear that she didn’t care if the US had violated the terms of the ceasefire just two days before critical parts of the agreement were scheduled to be implemented.

Naturally, Moscow was taken aback by Washington’s reaction, it’s blatant disregard for the soldiers they killed, and its obvious determination to sabotage the ceasefire. Having reflected on Obama’s de facto rejection of the agreement, Putin pursued the only viable option left open to him;  more war.   As a result, he has intensified his efforts on the battlefield particularly around Aleppo where the SAA and crack-units from Hezbollah have launched a three-prong attack that will dispose of the US-backed jihadists that have destroyed much of Syria over the last half-decade  and displaced over seven million civilians.

Bottom line: Having foreclosed the political option for reducing the violence, the Obama administration will now face the consequences for its rejection.

Here’s an excellent summary of developments on the ground around Aleppo from decorated veteran and retired senior officer of US Military Intelligence and US Army Special Forces (The Green Berets), Colonel W Patrick Lang. The article was posted on September 24:

 

As of today, forces have been massed at Aleppo for the purpose of eliminating the East Aleppo rebel pocket.  This pocket has now been without re-supply for an extended period.  This is true for both the jihadi rebels and the civilian population, many of whom are rebel supporters.

In my opinion (“IMO”) the main effort by R+6 is taking place at the SE side of the East Aleppo pocket.  That is now underway with massive CAS from Russian aerospace forces. At the same time Palestinian militia allies with CAS have attacked the fortified Handarat refugee camp at the NE corner of the pocket.  IMO this is a secondary attack intended to prevent the rebels moving forces south to oppose the main R+6 effort.

This is an excellent plan.

At the same time there is an unconfirmed report from SOHR in London (pro-rebel) that a Russian force with 3,000 men has been positioned at al-Safir about twelve kilometers SE of the main attacks on the Aleppo pocket.  If this report is correct this force is well positioned to reinforce the main attack or be used in a defensive move against a rebel effort elsewhere.  It would be in the Russian operational tradition to pass a reinforcing “wave” or echelon of forces through the initial assault forces when they become exhausted by combat …

The foreign policy establishment (Borg) in the West wants to believe that war is obsolete as a factor in the story of humanity …  They believe that they have inherited the earth and that their cleverness will always prevail over mere force.

We will now have a demonstration that this is not true. {1}

 

Obama’s de facto rejection of the ceasefire has created the conditions for a decisive military defeat in Aleppo. The fate of the CIA-trained “moderate” terrorists hunkered down in East Aleppo is not that different from that of General George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn who was surrounded by a superior military force and summarily slaughtered to the man. This is the option Pentagon warlord, Ash Carter chose when he decided to sabotage the joint military implementation agreement and go rogue. Carter opposed the ceasefire deal and in doing so signed the death warrant for hundreds of US-backed extremists whose chances for survival are growing slimmer by the day.

According to recent reports, pro-government forces are advancing on a number of fronts.  At the same time, the Syrian and Russian air forces have intensified their bombing campaign reducing large swathes of the city to rubble and killing several hundred Sunni militants.  While the jihadists have performed better than many had expected, their fate is no longer in doubt. The cauldron is encircled, their front lines are collapsing, their supply lines have been severed, and the end is in sight.

Aleppo will fall and the US-backed effort to topple the Assad government using a proxy army of Islamic extremists will fail.

A few things need to be said about the ceasefire to set the record straight.

First, there was never any chance that the US was going to abide by the terms of the agreement. The US has no way of separating the “moderates” from the extremists which was one of the main requirements of the deal. That was never going to happen. But, more importantly, the Pentagon  – which opposed the agreement from the get-go  – had no intention of complying with its demands.

Why?

Well, for one thing, as  Syrian President Bashar al Assad said himself:

… the United States doesn’t have the will to work against al-Nusra or ISIS, because they believe that this is a card they can use for their own agenda. If they attack al-Nusra or ISIS, they will lose a very important card regarding the situation in Syria. So, I don’t believe the United States will be ready to join Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria.

 

Bingo. Assad is not suggesting that al-Nusra or ISIS are controlled by Langley. He’s merely saying that – inasmuch as the goals of these groups coincide with US strategic objectives (which they certainly do in Syria) Washington will continue to support their activities. In other words, Obama would rather see a “Salafist principality” emerge in Syria then allow an independent, secular government to remain in place. Everyone who has followed events closely in Syria for the last five years, knows this is true.

The other reason the Pentagon opposed the agreement was because  they didn’t want to comply with the military-to-military coordination plan. The western media has been particularly opaque on this issue. For example, according to the New York Times deal would be  “an extraordinary collaboration between the United States and Russia that calls for the American military to share information with Moscow on Islamic State targets in Syria”. {2}

Okay, but why is that a problem? Wouldn’t that be the most effective way to defeat ISIS and Al Qaida? Of course, it would. So, what’s the rub? Here’s more from the New York Times:

 

Chief among Pentagon concerns is whether sharing targeting information with Russia could reveal how the United States uses intelligence to conduct airstrikes, not just in Syria but in other places, which Moscow could then use for its own advantage in the growing confrontations undersea and in the air around the Baltics and Europe {2}.

 

This is complete baloney. The fact is the Pentagon doesn’t want to have to get approval for its target-list (identify and verify) from the Russian military. That’s what’s really going on. And the reason for this is obvious, the strategic objectives of the US are exact opposite of Moscow’s. Washington has no interest in defeating terrorism in Syria, in fact, as we pointed out earlier, Washington is just fine with terrorism as long it helps them move the ball closer to the goalpost. What the US wants is to topple the regime, replace Assad with a US-stooge, splinter the country into multiple parts, and control vital pipeline corridors. These goals cannot be achieved if the Pentagon has to get a green-light from Moscow every time they go on a bombing raid.  How are they going to assist their jihadist assets on the ground if they have to follow that rule?

They won’t be able to, which is why it’s no surprise that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put the kibosh on the deal by bombing the SAA positions at Deir Ezzor. The massacre effectively ended all talk about “coordination” with the Russians. Mission accomplished.

But even this does not completely explain why the Pentagon launched this unprecedented attack that killed 62 Syrian soldiers and moved the two superpowers closer to a direct confrontation. To grasp what’s really going on behind the endless recriminations, we need to understand that the Obama administration has abandoned its original plan to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and moved on to Plan B; partitioning the country in a way that establishes a separate Sunni state where US troops will be based and where vital pipelines will be built to transfer natural gas from Qatar to the EU.

This ambitious plan is more than a redrawing of the Middle East and a pivot to Asia. It is a critical lifeline to a country (USA) whose economic prospects are progressively dimming, whose credit card is maxed out, and who is counting on a Hail Mary pass in Syria to save itself from cataclysmic economic collapse and ruination. Washington must succeed in Syria because, well, because it must, because the red ink has finally penetrated the pinewood hull and is fast filling the galley. A defeat in the Middle East could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, the tipping point in the agonizingly-protracted unipolar-new-world-order experiment.  In other words, it’s Syria or bust. Here’s a little background that will help to clarify what’s going on:

 

Washington has previously made it clear that if it cannot achieve its plan A; regime change, it will go for its plan B; to balkanize the country and help to create a Kurdish and/or Sunni state in eastern Syria …

Attacking the Syrian Army, and allowing ISIL to capture the city will make Deir Ezzor a probable target for the US-backed proxies to attack and annex. {3}

 

So, Washington wants to control Syria’s eastern quadrant (where Deir Ezzor is located) for military bases, pipeline routes, and a Sunni homeland, which is more-or-less the pretext for continued military occupation. Here’s more from an article by Christina Lin:

 

Writing in Armed Forces Journal, Major Rob Taylor joined numerous other pundits in observing that the Syrian civil war is actually a pipeline war over control of energy supply, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey needing to remove Assad “so they can control Syria and run their own pipeline through Turkey” …

… if the Saudi/Qatar/Turkey backed Army of Conquest can control just enough land in Syria for a salafist statelet (aka – Sunnistan) to build the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, then these sunni states can finally realize their pipeline dream. Indeed, the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report corroborates their desire to carve out a salafist statelet in Syria east of Assad-controlled territory in order to put pressure on his regime.” {4}

 

The idea of splintering Syria into numerous fragments (and controlling the eastern portion of the state) has been promoted by western elites across the board, from neocon John Bolton  who said:

 

Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone … Washington should recognize the new geopolitics. The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state.

This “Sunni-stan” has economic potential as an oil producer … and could be a bulwark against both Mr Assad and Iran-allied Baghdad. {5}

Liberal interventionists at the Brookings Institute are pushing for the same balkanization remedy. Here’s a clip from an article at Brookings titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war” by chief military analyst, Michael O’ Hanlon:

 

… the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria … the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time … Creation of these sanctuaries would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL … {6}

 

So, there you have it; divide and conquer. Split up the country, install new leaders, and let the plundering begin. Sound familiar?

But the Russian’s will have none of it, in fact, Putin has responded to Carter’s escalation by escalating himself. The circle around Aleppo has closed, supply lines have been cut, the airstrikes have intensified, and the three-pronged ground assault has already begun. So while Washington may have big plans for Syria, they appear to be failing where it counts most …. on the battlefield.

Links:

{1} http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/09/httpswwwwashingtonpostcomworlda-ferocious-assault-on-aleppo-suggests-the-us-may-be-wrong-on-syria20160923909e33b0-.html

{2} http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/middleeast/syria-john-kerry.html?_r=1

{3} http://thesaker.is/syrian-ceasefire-failed-what-now/

{4} http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/chinese-stratagems-and-syrian-buffer-zone-for-turkey-qatar-pipeline/

{5} http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/opinion/john-bolton-to-defeat-isis-create-a-sunni-state.html?_r=1

{6} https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/06/30/deconstructing-syria-a-new-strategy-for-americas-most-hopeless-war/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/27/putin-ups-the-ante-ceasefire-sabotage-triggers-major-offensive-in-aleppo/

Categories: Uncategorized

The American Dream Is Dead

And Now Even The Mainstream Media Is Starting to Admit It

by Michael Snyder

http://endoftheamericandream.com (February 04 2016)

Are you living “the American Dream”? If so, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate, because most Americans are not. In fact, as you will see below, a new survey has found that there is nowhere on the entire planet where the average wage earner is making enough money to live “the American Dream”. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now the middle class makes up a minority of the population, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year, and poverty is growing rapidly. The American Dream is essentially dead, and even the mainstream media is starting to figure this out.

Just today, someone sent me a US News & World Report article entitled “Even Americans Can’t Afford the American Dream”. The following is an excerpt from that article …

 

 

The study goes country by country, factoring in average local wages and prices to calculate the regional costs of luxuries such as midsize homes (by US standards, 1,480 square feet); electricity and high-speed Internet; cars and enough money for gasoline; food for a family of four; and enough disposable income to periodically dine out and attend movies or other events.

Researchers ultimately found there isn’t a country on the map whose average wage earner could afford all of these expenses together. What’s more, average consumers in Saudi Arabia and Oman are actually closer to financing these socioeconomic goals than the average American. The average Saudi household would only need to see monthly salaries climb by about $74 to realize the American dream in their own country, while US workers would need hundreds of dollars in additional income.

 

 

Isn’t that alarming?

The American Dream is out of the grasp of most people living in America, and there isn’t anywhere else on the globe where a majority of the workers are experiencing it either.

That same article also contained a few other facts that are truly sobering …

 

 

“After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it”, the Pew report said. “Since 1971, each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade, and no single decade stands out as having triggered or hastened the decline in the middle”.

Another recent study from the Brookings Institution found that median wages fell in eighty percent of America’s largest metros between 2009 and 2014.

 

 

The middle class has been shrinking for a very long time, and now that collapse is accelerating.

So what is the solution?

Well, CNN is reporting that a new survey has discovered that middle class Americans feel that the federal government should do more to help them out …

 

 

Hey federal government! The middle class would like some help, too.

A majority of Americans say the feds don’t do enough to help the middle class, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday. The middle class is more neglected than the poor or children, survey respondents said.

 

 

More socialism for everyone!

That will solve all of our problems, right?

Of course not. Actually, if we had a much smaller government that would probably go a long way toward fixing things. This is hard to believe, but in 2015 Americans spent more on taxes than on food, clothing and housing combined.

If the federal government would just stop taxing us into oblivion, a lot more of us would do okay all on our own.

These days, so many families are just scraping by from month to month. As the cost of living continues to move steadily upward, many Americans find themselves forced to go into debt just to cover basic expenses.

And our society actually encourages all of us to go into debt, and so we think that it is okay. But many of us end up digging financial holes that we never get out of. This is especially true for a lot of young people today. One recent survey found that 68 percent of all Americans had destroyed their credit before the age of thirty.

Of course then we hear on the news that the economy is “not growing fast enough” because consumers are not spending enough money.

The experts that are telling people this don’t seem to understand that most consumers are tapped out at this point.

You can’t get blood from a rock, and as a result a lot of retailers are really hurting right now. The following list of store closures comes from my recent article about the ongoing retail apocalypse …

* Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

* K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

* J C Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of forty stores in 2015.

* Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

* The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

* Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

* Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

* Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

When I was a young boy, I think that you could have said that the American Dream was still alive and well in the United States.

But after decades of exceedingly foolish decisions, things have completely changed and the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes.

If you doubt this, please see the list of statistics that I have shared below that comes from one of my previous articles …

#1 This week we learned that for the first time ever recorded, middle class Americans make up a minority of the population. But back in 1971, 61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households.

#2 According to the Pew Research Center, the median income of middle class households declined by four percent from 2000 to 2014.

#3 The Pew Research Center has also found that median wealth for middle class households dropped by an astounding 28 percent between 2001 and 2013.

#4 In 1970, the middle class took home approximately 62 percent of all income. Today, that number has plummeted to just 43 percent.

#5 There are still 900,000 fewer middle class jobs in America than there were when the last recession began, but our population has gotten significantly larger since that time.

#6 According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#7 For the poorest twenty percent of all Americans, median household wealth declined from negative 905 dollars in 2000 to negative 6,029 dollars in 2011.

#8 A recent nationwide survey discovered that 48 percent of all US adults under the age of thirty believe that “the American Dream is dead”.

#9 At this point, the US only ranks nineteenth in the world when it comes to median wealth per adult.

#10 Traditionally, entrepreneurship has been one of the engines that has fueled the growth of the middle class in the United States, but today the level of entrepreneurship in this country is sitting at an all-time low.

#11 If you can believe it, the twenty wealthiest people in this country now have more money than the poorest 152 million Americans combined.

#12 The top 0.1 percent of all American families have about as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent of all American families combined.

#13 If you have no debt and you also have ten dollars in your pocket, that gives you a greater net worth than about 25 percent of all Americans.

#14 The number of Americans that are living in concentrated areas of high poverty has doubled since the year 2000.

#15 An astounding 48.8 percent of all 25-year-old Americans still live at home with their parents.

#16 According to the US Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month, and nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty right now.

#17 In 2007, about one out of every eight children in America was on food stamps. Today, that number is one out of every five.

#18 According to Kathryn J Edin and H Luke Shaefer, the authors of a new book entitled $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (2015), there are 1.5 million “ultrapoor” households in the United States that live on less than two dollars a day. That number has doubled since 1996.

#19 46 million Americans use food banks each year, and lines start forming at some US food banks as early as 6:30 in the morning because people want to get something before the food supplies run out.

#20 The number of homeless children in the US has increased by sixty percent over the past six years.

#21 According to Poverty USA, 1.6 million American children slept in a homeless shelter or some other form of emergency housing last year.

#22 The median net worth of families in the United States was $137, 955 in 2007. Today, it is just $82,756.

The American Dream Is Dead, And Now Even The Mainstream Media Is Starting To Admit It

Categories: Uncategorized

Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage?

Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (September 23 2016)

If black athletes in the NFL honestly think that African Americans who live under Old Glory are as “equally protected” as whites, then they should stand up during the national anthem and sing-along. But if they know that blacks aren’t getting a square deal,  and that blacks can be gunned down at any time by trigger-happy cops who never face the consequences, then they owe it to themselves and their country to demand change by remaining seated.

I’m sorry that football players have to go through this. I’m sorry they find themselves in a situation where they’re forced to make a political statement. After all, they’re not politicians and they don’t want to be. They’re private citizens like the rest of us who just want to do their jobs, make some money, and be left the hell alone.

But what choice do they have now? The epidemic of cop killings around the country is forcing people to stand up and say “Enough”. So now black athletes are being asked to either stand up, sing along and act like highly-paid circus animals, or follow in the steps of Rosa Parks and Malcolm X and Mohammed Ali and the other people of conscience who put themselves at risk by acting on principal.

That’s the choice they’re faced with, isn’t it?  Do I act like a man and stand on principal or take the easy-way-out and go along with the crowd?

There is no third option.

Football players are not going to be able to sweep the whole matter under the rug like the Seattle Seahawks did last week by standing with arms linked (while the anthem was played) to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims of police violence. That was a total bullsh** response. It doesn’t matter if you stand separately or stand and link arms; when you “stand” you are paying tribute to the flag. Period.

In contrast, sitting is a demonstration of defiance. Sitting is an act of protest. Sitting is an act of colossal courage. Sitting is an act of solidarity with the victims of police violence. And, regardless what anyone says, sitting is an act of supreme patriotism, the kind of patriotism that surpasses empty displays of ritual conformity and heel-clicking submissiveness. Sitting is a jarring, thought-provoking way of forcing Americans to look themselves in the mirror and ask the painful questions they try to avoid at all cost, like why are all these young, unarmed black men getting blown away with such maddening frequency, and why do these killer cops never pay for their crimes, and why is it still so goddamned hard for black Americans to get any goddamned justice in this country?

No one wants to talk about these things because they make us feel bad about ourselves, they tarnish our sense of “exceptionalism” and our idiot belief that we are a “post-racial” society.

Post racial, my ass. There’s a large group of people living in this country whose rights have always been provisional and who’ve never gotten a fair shake, and that sure as heck hasn’t changed since Obama got took office,  in fact, the situation is worse than ever.

When living under the American flag means that everyone is protected equally from killer cops, then I’ll gladly stand for the national anthem. Until then, forget about it.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/23/oh-say-can-you-see-the-carnage-why-stand-for-a-country-that-can-gun-you-down-in-cold-blood/

Categories: Uncategorized