Archive for December, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Myopia and Cowardice

By Thomas Wark

In these United States, the bad guys are relentless and have unlimited funding. The good guys dislike the smell of their own sweat and still believe that virtue has amorphous power to prevail against all odds.

No wonder the democratic republic founded on a thesis of checks and balances died a dozen years ago and nobody noticed.

Illustrations abound. Nay, they inundate us daily. They flood us, overwhelm us, numb our senses, beat us into a miasmic mass of helpless resignation.

A microcosm: southern New Mexico is blessed with public lands whose unique characteristics are less spectacularly beautiful than, say, the Grand Canyon; whose historical importance is less obvious than, say, Mesa Verde’s; whose archeological value is less self-evident than, say, the great pyramids; whose thundering silence, unchanged openness, vistaed hopes and majestic instancy feed only souls hungering after solace, not not egos bottomless with greed. They deserve preservation, these lands; protection from the predations of the land-rapers, a license of passage to generations unborn.

I came to live here because of these lands. They are my church, my place to recover from wounds, to think, to simply be. I want to share them with anyone and everyone who will respect them, cherish them, leave them simply to be.

Of course I joined the movement to protect them in perpetuity from from human abuse.

Proposals were written, hearings were held, viewpoints were aired, money was spent, alliances were formed, lies were told, facts were presented, “stakeholders” were asked to comment, experts were called to pontificate, ignoramuses were allowed to prattle, legislation was written and more hearings were held.

At the last of these, the same old well-funded prevaricators, distorters and transmogrifiers turned out in force, spewing the same old bilge that had been refuted many times before. Sen. Tom Udall, the junior of New Mexico’s senators, both of whom supported the wilderness legislation, played prosecuting attorney. His skilled cross-examination stripped each of the nay-sayers of any remaining vestige of credibility.

The legislation, which had already passed the U. S. House of Representatives, seemed headed toward passage by the Senate and signature into law by the President.

But the corporate and private interests that control us do their real work not in public hearings; they work behind the closed doors of the inner offices inside the Beltway. There the pressures were brought to bear upon our gutless public servants that caused the wilderness bill to languish unvoted on. The lame duck congressional session ended and decades of dedicated citizen legwork within the system died.

The lemmings of Teabagistan are chortling with glee in the usual venues of ignorance: call-in radio and ungrammatical letters to local rags that purport to be newspapers, bumper stickers and bill boards, church message boards and crude trade association pamphlets.

By the time a new people’s movement of enlightened conservationists can be formed — IF such can ever be re-formed — the lands will have been devastated, raped of their historic, cultural and natural beneficence.

Just on the matter of public land management alone, similar dramas of dreams deferred are playing out in Utah, Idaho, Montana and throughout the west. Take Utah: some of our most precious heritage lands have long been coveted by the Midases of extraction and the Huns of off-roading. A death-bed sell-out in the last days of Bush II gave the destroyers license to do their worst; it has taken nearly two years for the Dr. Kidglove administration to reverse the Interior Department rules that allowed their criminal acts. But without supportive action by the whores of Congress, this will come to naught.

The bad guys will win, as they always do in these United States, simply because they do not relent, and they have unlimited finances. And because they really don’t have any opposition.

No sweat, right?

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A Christmas Carol for The Year That Was

By Thomas Wark

Silent night . . .

Before they can be hired, capsule Fox News “journalists” have to pass a beliefs test designed by the network’s top boss, right-wing Republican Roger Ailes, to prove their political conservatism.  Recently, a management memo ordered  all “news” employees  not to mention “climate change”  or warming temperatures without immediately stating that critics dispute the data on which these notions are based.  They are not permitted to state that climate change data are peer reviewed by other qualified scientists; or that their “critics”  either lack suitable scientific credentials or are bankrolled by Exxon-Mobil and other major extraction industries  with an implicit understanding that their “science” will produce company-friendly conclusions.

Holy night . . . .

On Christmas Day, a child-soldier, who has never been convicted of a crime, will be held in solitary confinement for 23 hours, and not permitted proper exercise for the hour outside his cell  in a military prison.  This will mark his seventh month of such confinement, which physicians and experts in international law have defined as torture. Acting  on his belief that every citizen has a moral obligation to shed light on immoral actions of his government, Pvt. Bradley Manning  allegedly gave electronic data to WikiLeaks that the government wanted to hide. Manning is being force-fed anti-depressant medication in the hope that it will prevent his committing suicide. He has not been tried on any charges; he has not even been granted the pre-trial hearing that is mandated by  Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is neither uniform, nor just.

All is calm . . .

The Justice Department has acknowledged it plans to increase the number of its Gestapo-style raids on the homes and offices of peace activists and critics of government policy. Such raids allegedly were legalized by the 6-3 Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.  It held that speech and advocacy otherwise protected by the First Amendment was a crime if government agencies found it to be “coordinated with or under the direction of a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as ‘terrorist.’”

All is bright. . . .

As of Dec. 16, at least 293,685 people have been killed in warfare around the world this year. The United States incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be among the leading killers of civilians, along with the civil strife in Somalia and the Sudan, and the drug cartel wars in Mexico.

Round yon Virgin, mother and child . . .

One in six Americans will go hungry this Christmas, or have to forego other necessities such as heat or medicine, in order to buy food.

Holy infant so tender and mild . . .

For eight years our government has held detainees at Guantanamo without charge or prospect of trial, while administering to them a dangerous drug that an Army doctor characterized as “pharmacological waterboarding.”

Sleep in heavenly peace . . .

While gloating Republicans watched, President Obama signed into law legislation that provides:
$1.1 million in personal tax cuts for the heads of five banks that required $142 billion of taxpayer bailout money;
$1.3 million in personal tax relief for Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire who owns Fox “News” and other media cash cows;
$400 a year tax increases for America’s poorest workers;
tax cuts totaling $35.41 billion for the 400 wealthiest Americans;
slashes in funding for Social Security and Medicare, the only sources of income and health care for millions of elderly Americans;
and massive tax cuts for the corporations that ship American jobs overseas.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Americans bought 1.2 million greeting cards this holiday season that contained images of polar bears.  That’s about five times as many images as there are living polar bears in the entire world. The bears are an endangered species whose habitat has been reduced more than 21 per cent by the global warming that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire denies is happening.  Now the wealthiest corporations in history — American energy companies — are about to begin massive drilling in the Arctic Wildlife refuge, which will destroy a critical habitat of the bear.

Silent night, holy night . . .

Nearly 20,000 people have been killed in the last five years in Somalia, many of them with some of the 40 tons of weapons the United States has shipped into the country.  Somalia  has not had an effective government since 1991.  This year, the warring factions have begun exporting violence to neighboring countries like Uganda, where a series of July bombings killed 70 civilians.

Shepherds quake  . . .

In the Darfur region of Sudan,  more than 1.5 million people will spend Christmas lacking the outside assistance they need for basic survival — food, shelter, water and sanitation facilities.  Several hundred thousand have died either as the result of combat between rival insurgents, or from starvation and disease caused by the fighting.  International aid agencies have been expelled.

, , , at the sight . . .

In April an explosion at a British Petroleum drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 men,  injured 17 and set off the worst oil spill in American history.  The environmental damage was incalculable; the extent of despoilation of marine and wildlife habitat may never be known.  After months of accepting at face value BP’s propaganda about the leak, the U.S. government finally filed a lawsuit on Dec. 15 against BP and eight other companies involved in the disaster.

Glories stream from heaven afar .  .  .

Already one of the poorest, least developed nations in the world, Haiti was struck on Jan. 12 by the worst earthquake in the hemisphere in 200 years.  More than 300,000 people died.  Port au Prince, the capital, was virtually destroyed.   International aid has largely failed to reach the people who need it, many of whom are homeless refugees, because of crime, corruption and inept management.  Later in the year a cholera epidemic killed at least a thousand more Haitians.

Heavenly hosts sing hallelujah . . .

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations are people with unlimited powers of free speech, including the right to spend whatever it takes to rig elections and put only corporate-friendly hacks into office at every level of government.   Sixty-one per cent of the Roberts court’s rulings have been pro-business, as opposed to 42 per cent for all of the courts that preceded it.

Christ the savior is come . . .

June of 2010 was the fourth consecutive warmest month on record globally. Temperatures were 1.25 degrees F. above average, 2.2 degrees F. in the northern hemisphere.  In Moscow alone, 11,000 people died of hyperrthermia, edema, or other heat-related causes. A consensus of scientists held that these weather events could not have taken place if atmospheric carbon dioxide  had been at pre-industrial levels.

Christ the savior is come.

In 2010, The State of Texas required sweeping changes in textbooks for the state’s schools.  They will reflect that no Hispanic American ever achieved anything worth recording in history texts, but Phyllis Schlafly and the National Rifle Association did.  That the civil rights movement was rooted in the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers, not the non-violence of Martin Luther King.  That the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian country.  But because Thomas Jefferson, a leading Founder, coined the phrase, “Separation of church and state,” his name has been stricken from the list of “figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century,” replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. And science teachers must teach the creation myth as an alternative to real science.

Merry Christmas!  God bless us, every one.

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Stand with Bernie!

By Steve Klinger

When Barack Obama said at a meeting with GOP leaders last week he hadn’t done enough to reach out to Republicans in his first two years, see after I cleaned up at the sink I had to invoke the words of Barney Frank and wonder — Mr. President, sales on which planet do you spend most of your time?

Then I figured out he was just laying the ground work for the mother of all “compromises, ” a capitulation on his campaign promise to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

It even came with a preamble, chastising his critics before their lips could mouth a protest: “Sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do, ” he said on Monday. “The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. ”

On Tuesday, he poured salt in the wound, slamming the left wing of his own party, calling some Democrats “sanctimonious” for standing on principle, and whining that “this is the public option debate all over again. ”

Obama didn’t spare Republicans in his invective, comparing them to hostage-takers, but he carried the metaphor to regrettable lengths, contending that the temptation to resist hostage-takers fades when the hostages are in harm’s way. Al Qaeda will remember that one.

In selling the middle class down the river with his deal, even as he purported to act in its interest, Obama managed to redefine compromise itself. This isn’t compromise, it’s appeasement. It’s not deal-making but capitulation. You can’t compromise when you cede the ground before you try to draw the boundaries. You can’t make deals with bullies. You can’t offer concessions to power-hungry sociopaths. You can’t play Neville Chamberlain to Hitler. Well, of course you can, but when you finally realize you’d better draw a line in the sand you’re six feet under water.

The deal Obama swallowed was nothing less than Republican blackmail, with a dash of high fructose corn syrup for sweetening: The lockstep, hardass right, which wouldn’t budge on blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, which wouldn’t allow a vote on the Start Treaty, which refused to support protecting middle-income tax payers from the sunset of the Bush bill, got the president not only to blink once again but to take an infuriating swipe at his own political base. He’d extend the tax cuts across the board for two years and they’d extend unemployment benefits for 13 months. A temporary 2 percent cut in Social Security taxes could allow Obama to claim he was stimulating the economy, but even worse than the protected tax cut for the wealthy was a sweetheart throw-in on estate taxes that will help all of 39,000 American families at the top of the food chain while increasing the deficit by $25 billion.

As usual, Bernie Sanders told it like it is, vowing to fight the tax bill in any way he could and giving yet another speech that Obama, if he had any cojones, should have been giving. Sanders called the deal “a moral outrage, ” rightly noting it’s just the beginning of the right-wing agenda:

“In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else that the Republicans would deny extended unemployment benefits to 2 million workers who are desperately struggling to pay their bills and maintain their dignity. It is also beyond comprehension that the Republicans would hold hostage the entire middle class of this country so that millionaires and billionaires would receive huge tax breaks. In my view, that is not what this country is about and it is not what the American people want to see. Our job is to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy and increase the national debt that our children and grandchildren would have to pay.

“The immediate political task in front of us is to rally the American people so that in the next several weeks we can find at least a few Republicans who will join us in saying no to increasing the deficit by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and no to holding the unemployed and the middle class hostage.

“I believe that we have the American people on our side on this issue. My office, and I come from a small state, has received more than 600 calls today, 99 percent of them in opposition to this so-called compromise that the president negotiated with the Republicans.

“I will do everything in my power to stand up for the American middle class and defeat this agreement.”

The real problem, as Sanders noted while Obama turned a blind eye, is that the tax deal will cause the deficit to balloon even further, so Republicans can come back in two years and cry oh, my goodness, this isn’t working and spending must be cut. Now just what spending do you think these bastards will want to cut: the defense budget — or education, Social Security and Medicare?

Obama was also wrong that the American people don’t want to draw a line in the sand and pitch a fight over the Bush tax cuts. Even Blue Dog Democrats in the House were outraged by the deal being floated, and early indications are that VP Joe Biden has some serious ‘splainin’ to do to get enough support to pass a bill anything like what Obama proposed.

And Sanders, all by himself, can filibuster in the Senate and stall any action in the upper chamber, which I hope he does, and which Americans of conscience from both parties and beyond should urge him to do, if it comes to that.

As for Obama, it is still unfathomable how a man of his intelligence and learning can persist in his self-deluded rationale of “compromise” with the very devils who have made it plain they want to make the country ungovernable for him, and in fact will bring government to a halt in the spring, when by law the national debt must be reauthorized.

Meanwhile Obama, playing right into their hands, is succeeding in splintering the Democratic Party, very likely drawing a primary challenge that will lead to a GOP victory in 2012, but much worse than that an ongoing and vicious bloodletting of middle-class America. At a time when the income gap in this country is shattering records and Republicans, with just enough help from Republican-lite Democrats, are obstructing every measure to help Main Street survive the rapaciousness of Wall Street, Obama refuses to lead, refuses to listen, refuses to acknowledge (in Paul Krugman’s words) the “kick me” sign on his back – while accusing those of us with a conscience and a backbone of ignoring reality.

Irony is so amusing if it’s not accompanied by pain and suffering.

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No compromise with their separate reality

By Gordon Solberg

The “Obama Renaissance” of the Democratic Party didn’t last long, sickness did it? Dozens of interlocking factors contributed to the recent Republican resurgence. Here are a few of them:

• The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision which allows the billionaires and their corporations to buy any and all elections. Democracy as we once knew it is over unless this is changed.

• The corporate media, owned by billionaires, which ignores whatever it wants to ignore, and supports whatever enhances the power of the ruling class.

• A totally obstructionist Republican Party, which prevented an economic recovery solely to enhance their own political power.

• A timid and collaborationist president and his Conserva-Dem allies, who would prefer working with Republicans than liberals.

• The Republicans have always had a far superior propaganda machine. For one thing, they actually have a message to promote (bullshit though it may be), while the Dems, as usual, depend on the corporate media to get their message out, and are unable to effectively articulate their side of the argument – probably because most Dems, starting with Obama, are actually stealth Republicans.

• Hate, hate, hate! Fear, fear, fear! Fox News and the hate jocks: Beck, Limbaugh, and all the rest. Every Podunk little town with a radio station has its own personal hate jock. The strategy here is to poison the discourse. Keep people confused, distracted, and fearful. Eliminate any possibility of idealism. Destroy whatever remains of the civilization we once knew.

What I find most fascinating is the “separate reality” the right-wing manipulators have created for their followers. Within this reality facts are optional, the cerebral cortex is short-circuited, and the lizard brain takes control. Liberals seem incapable of creating messages that speak directly to the brain stem the way that conservatives do. Our intellectual policy wonk discussions cause conservative eyes to glaze over.

The basis for the conservative philosophy, as exemplified by the teabaggers and bankrolled by the billionaires, is fundamentalist Christianity. This curious religion, with its peculiarly Old Testament emphasis, is a faith-based worldview. Faith means “belief without evidence.” There’s no need for logic, facts, or evidence within this worldview. Circular reasoning, or no reasoning at all, is typical. Christians know the truth, and there’s no need for further discussion. “You’re either with us or against us.” It’s a self-contained system that brooks no compromise.

This faith-based worldview supplants science, as the new Republican majority in Congress is about to show us. Take climate catastrophe, for example. In essence, the conservatives are saying, “We don’t believe in global warming. Therefore, global warming doesn’t exist.” Talk about circular reasoning! Pretty slick, eh? But unfortunately, global warming does exist, like it or not, and is rapidly getting worse. The conservative attitude is unspeakably arrogant, and will create tragic consequences for us all.

You can’t reason with people like this, because facts and reason play no role in their thought processes. Compromise is useless. All we can do is put all our energies into building up our side, and hope that our side prevails.

But is there really an “our side”? It looks to me that liberalism represents more a style of consumerism than a sustainable culture. Perhaps on a mental level we share similar ideologies, but in actuality, we’re just a bunch of consumers, pitifully unorganized for the most part, living our isolated lives and guarding, as best we can, our small share of the loot. I first noticed this phenomenon several decades ago, when there was a lot of talk about “community.” I realized that mouthing the words didn’t change anything: I was still totally on my own, and it was up to me to create whatever life I was capable of creating. I couldn’t depend on anybody else.

Perhaps this is why I have never taken liberals as individuals, or liberalism in general, as seriously as I might have preferred. I think liberals, by and large, are intelligent enough to create a measure of health, wealth and happiness for themselves; more power to them. They have achieved a certain level of satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong with this, but liberals, like all successful people, have a lot to lose, and are understandably cautious. They aren’t nearly desperate enough to actually risk anything, and thus the status quo continues.

Not surprisingly, a timid electorate elected a timid president. Those of us who knowingly voted for “the lesser of two evils” sure got our comeuppance, didn’t we? Even though we knew that we’d get screwed either way, Obama’s lack of leadership is more than most of us had expected. Sometimes we’ve got to fight for what we believe in, but Obama doesn’t seem to believe in much, except for protecting the ruling class. If we don’t fight for our own interests, we will soon end up with “shared sacrifice” being imposed on everybody but the wealthy. And let’s not forget the three-step process the ruling class has in store for us: fascism, serfdom, dieoff. We’ve already got fascism, and they’re busily working on the serfdom part. Dieoff will take care of itself. The Republicans and their billionaire overlords are not our friends, and there can be no compromise with them. And we can no longer support the compromisers – which means you, Dems.

The church-going fundamentalists have the advantage of a cohesive shared worldview that is reinforced every week when they go to church, and at all other times by their secular prophets such as Beck and Limbaugh. Liberals, in their diversity, tend to have a live-and-let-live attitude, which often translates into “whatever.”  But you can’t do much with such vagueness. Except, perhaps, to elect tepid politicians who will betray us at every turn.

Turning the fundamentalists into a disciplined political fighting machine was a brilliant strategy on the part of the ruling class. This isn’t surprising, because the billionaires can hire the best minds that money can buy to map out the most effective strategy for them. (The Democratic Party, on the other hand, systematically ignores the excellent advice that is constantly being offered to them for free on the Internet.)

We are now suffering from an unholy alliance between the fundamentalists, who will believe anything their authority figures tell them to believe, and the billionaires, who have unlimited resources which they have already used to purchase Congress, government policy, the news media, and every other lever of power that can be bought. The fundies and the billionaires have one goal in common: total dominion. “Enough” is not part of their vocabulary. At the point where we would expect sane people to say “enough is enough,” they cry, “More, more, more!”

In other words, they want it all, and they won’t stop until they get it. Unless they’re stopped, that is. The billionaires and their enablers are the most formidable adversary we have ever faced, but at least the fundamentalist philosophy contains the seeds of its own repudiation. Fundamentalism, at its core, is a harsh philosophy based on fear: fear of a supposedly all-loving, all-merciful Jehovah God who, in his compassionate vengeance, will send you straight to everlasting damnation and torment in Hell if you don’t profess the right ideology. This destructive, ancient belief system is already being slowly expunged from our culture. The demographics aren’t in their favor, which is why they are trying so desperately to take over while they still can. We can never compromise with such madness.

You will notice a theme developing here: No Compromise. Some of us actually feel the need to stand for something, starting with No Compromise. This is the opposite of Obama’s habit of collaborating with the enemy behind closed doors.  Many progressives have already repudiated Obama and the Dems, but the time isn’t quite ripe for this to go viral. Dem voters won’t really start to wake up until after the lame duck session is over and they see what the Dems did about Social Security and tax cuts for the wealthy and the Catfood Commission recommendations. The Dems will almost certainly continue their flagrant sellout as they squander the last days of their so-called majority. It will be a relief to them not being in the driver’s seat anymore. (Although the billionaires have been calling the shots all along.)

I read widely on the Internet. I read hundreds of articles for every article I write myself. I’m curious to see what other progressive-types are thinking. I’m assuming that if anybody figures out what to do – something that will really work – the strategy will quickly spread. I’m seeing mostly the same old stuff: “Elect more and better Dems.” “Vote Third Party.” “Start community gardens.” “Organize!” But recently I’ve been noticing an uptick in the outrage level. A certain percentage of Dem voters are tired of being betrayed by their so-called representatives. They’re getting pissed. They’re starting to revolt. And in their cautious American way, they’re revolting by doing nothing, which means not voting. This revolution has already started, and just wait till 2012.

Here’s one thing we can count on: The worse the objective situation, the worse the delusion level will become. We will be seeing some amazing new outbreaks of mass insanity as this situation grinds along. Let’s not overestimate the intelligence of the American people in the face of our challenging new reality: More Americans believe in angels than in evolution. As the tectonic plate of superstition (which held the world in darkness for millennia) collides with the tectonic plate of reason (which makes civilization possible), there will be many surprises in store. This will keep things very interesting for the remainder of our sojourn on this planet.

(My blog has a new address: )

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Illusion and reality

“A populace deprived of the ability to separate lies from truth, recipe that has become hostage to the fictional semblance of reality put forth by pseudo-events, site is no longer capable of sustaining a free society.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion

“The tyranny most corrosive to democracy is not the tyranny of money but the tyranny of illusion.”
Benjamin Barber in The Nation

By Steve Klinger

The most frightening thing about the current state of the crumbling American Empire (aka democracy) isn’t military, political or even economic in nature – it’s cognitive. It is one thing to conduct a dialogue with those who dispute your point of view due to a different interpretation of facts, knowledge, logic or reason; it is quite another to try to communicate with those living in a different reality that values none of those concepts.

It’s like two people driving cars in opposite directions.  One has a view of the road and the other is looking at a video simulation. Multiply this by many millions and you can begin to comprehend the scale of the traffic wreck in which this nation is about to find itself. For the most part, the countless tons of metal have not yet collided, the human occupants have not yet been bloodied and mangled, but the squeal of the brakes is chilling as we hold our collective breath, anticipating the catastrophic impact.

The drivers looking through clear glass see heavy traffic but a possible way forward, if the rules of the road are obeyed. The others are steering to a screen that shows monsters and terrorists to be struck down, then switches randomly and in rapid order to American Idol, Glenn Beck, NASCAR and Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Barack Obama stands in the intersection with a whistle and a flashlight, eager to explain the inner workings of traffic control, but no one will listen, so he tells the drivers with clear windshields to come to a halt.

Hyperbole? Maybe so, but then the degree of cognitive dissonance in 21st-century America is unprecedented. In a society driven by unfettered free enterprise, controlled by an insatiable plutocracy, all the tools of Constitutional governance are breaking down as virtual wealth evaporates and real wealth drains into the richest pockets, and with it, political power. Blend this with a culture that values hedonism, hero-worship, distraction, violence, ignorance and addiction and it should come as no surprise that trouble lies ahead on every horizon.

Given its great wealth of natural resources and its centuries of success in dominating and exploiting those obstacles in its path to world dominion, it has taken a while for this nation to hit the wall. But now, running out of frontiers and resources, and faced with rising competition from hungrier, more disciplined, less decadent societies, the U.S. is unable to sustain the growth that fuels its lifestyle. All the complexities of modern civilization have robbed it one by one of obvious solutions, such as slavery, colonialism and wholesale outsourcing. Bereft of its former industrial production but with its appetites unslaked, the beast starts to devour itself through its one remaining industry: finance.

The rabble, drugged into complacency by the illusion of middle-class comforts and upper-class dreams, doesn’t begin to worry until all those well-laid plans of affluence and leisure start to run afoul of some very persistent realities: unemployment, foreclosure, immigrants, competition, declining wealth, natural disasters.

Under these conditions, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt and, yes, anger, quite naturally begin to arise. But given the illusions on which so many millions of Americans were raised – fantasies of wealth, happiness and success – is it surprising that in time of crisis the ability to reason or even value rationality should fail them?

Compound this with a cunning ability on the part of the media and politicians who serve as the mouthpieces for the plutocracy to find constant scapegoats for the masses to blame, to ignite culture wars in which champions of nonviolence, sharing, compassion and social justice are portrayed as elitist and conspiratorial. Hearkening back to those times of pestilence and famine when the primitive portions of the brain dictated human behavior, the puppetmasters sway their minions by invoking primal emotions that resonate with fear and fundamentalism. Thus can evolution theory come to be equated with creationism, and global warming be rationalized and bigotry justified.

Thus can someone like Sarah Palin do no wrong in the eyes of those who idolize her. To her supporters, the more she reveals ignorance, spews hypocritical platitudes and butchers words, the more admirably antithetical she becomes to the educated, reasonable, articulate “elitists” who put her down. Even quitting her elected position as Alaska’s governor doesn’t diminish her appeal because she has managed to personify the “rogue” image that contrasts with the career politicians from whom America needs to be “taken back.”

The movie Idiocracy hilariously portrayed a nation of dysfunctional morons 500 years in the future, but it begged the obvious question of whether it will take that long or there will be any nation left to govern. And in its broad satire, it failed to distinguish between a decline in pure intelligence and the more insidious reality of a culturally induced rejection of learning and reason, knowledge and science, logic and understanding.

Either way, the incapacity of the masses plays into the hands of those in whom the power really resides. It’s almost as if they planned it that way. The question to ask may not be whether Idiocracy takes place 500 years too late but whether 1984 was set 30 years too early.

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