But sometimes people can surprise you, and change their views quite radically. I have undergone such changes myself. As a youngster in college I thought the Republicans were great, I thought that one day I'd be a Country Club Republican myself. I wanted a big house and a big expensive car or two with a perfect sorority girl wife who was both sexy in a cute way, and maternal in the best ways. Yep, I believed in The American Dream. I even voted for Reagan in 1984 to solidify my record as an American Zombie.
But then something happened to me. I got a job covering tax legislation and related amendments, working for a DC law firm. My good college friend J.K. got me that job, he was already working at the firm and his workload was that of 2 people, so it was possible for him to persuade the employer that he needed help and knew of someone who would help adequately. How he figured I fit that bill -- adequate help -- I'll never know!
Shortly after I started that job I began thinking about going to law school. Some adults I knew had suggested it as a good path for someone like me... former Pre-Med/Bio major who had given up on med school and was adrift in uncertainty. Eventually I sat for that LSAT puzzle and did well enough to get accepted to a law school, which pretty well made my decision for me. I was going to go to law school. Yee haw. Or something like that.
Once in law school I began to see how American government actually works. Cases were decided based on monetary power, not detached and objective notions of justice. The fields of contracts, torts and property all confirmed that if you didn't have lots of money and clever lawyers hired with that money, you weren't likely to get anywhere. Sure, an occasional opinion was issued upholding the rights of the underdog, but most times the underdog merely got shat and peed on. The unspoken message conveyed: Get rich to avoid getting shat and peed on. Wield your riches like a sword, smite those who would try to get you to accept responsibility for your errors, defend your riches like they were your children.
Somehow between my 1st and 2d years of law school, I felt my empathies changing. I sensed that underdogs needed protection from the powerful lawyers and judicial system that was rigged against them. I decided to combine my undergrad Bio degree with a law degree to become an environmental advocate. I took environmental law in 2d year and found yet another disappointing fact -- environmental law is about administrative law, not the environment. It's about hoop-jumping, not science. It's about makework, not ecosystem health. It was just another charade, like the idea that tort law can help redress the injuries of people harmed by corporate behavior. Yep, a nice fantasy!
Paul Craig Roberts seems to have undergone a similar change of views. I'd like to offer below his most recent essay at Information Clearinghouse, which I will interrupt with a few observations here and there. On with the show.
US Joins Ranks of Failed StatesWhat better evidence of the brazen conversion of "defense" into "rank profiteering." Why would gasoline cost $400/gallon if used by a bulk buyer, when individual buyers here in America are paying less than 1/100th that amount? In my town gasoline is under $3/gallon right now.
By Paul Craig Roberts, October 21, 2009, "Information Clearing House"
The US has every characteristic of a failed state.
The US government’s current operating budget is dependent on foreign financing and money creation.
Too politically weak to be able to advance its interests through diplomacy, the US relies on terrorism and military aggression. http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE59H0AH20091019
Costs are out of control, and priorities are skewed in the interest of rich organized interest groups at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. For example, war at all cost, which enriches the armaments industry, the officer corps and the financial firms that handle the war’s financing, takes precedence over the needs of American citizens. There is no money to provide the uninsured with health care, but Pentagon officials have told the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House that every gallon of gasoline delivered to US troops in Afghanistan costs American taxpayers $400.
Bulk purchases of items usually yield reduced prices, not hugely inflated ones. That's how American "capitalism" has worked in my lifetime. Supply/demand. Basic "economics." Right?
If the military efforts in Afghanistan are essential, then the price of gasoline offered to the US Military should be far less than what I'm paying at the pump in my town. That's what seems to make sense to me.
But there's no evidence that the efforts in Afghanistan are essential. Rather the opposite appears quite true, if only one looks at the shallowest depths of inquiry!
“It is a number that we were not aware of and it is worrisome,” said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the subcommittee.That last sentence bears repeating:
According to reports, the US Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.
While the US government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor third world peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America’s cities, towns, and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy’s decline. Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country half way around the world that is not a threat to America.
It costs $750,000 per year for each soldier we have in Afghanistan. The soldiers, who are at risk of life and limb, are paid a pittance, but all of the privatized services to the military are rolling in excess profits. One of the great frauds perpetuated on the American people was the privatization of services that the US military traditionally performed for itself. “Our” elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers’ expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.
“Our” elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers’ expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.Let that sink in, reader. And now imagine how much broad application the idea has. Mr Roberts can help you in your imagining.
Republicans and Democrats on the take from the private insurance companies maintain that the US cannot afford to provide Americans with health care and that cuts must be made even in Social Security and Medicare. So how can the US afford bankrupting wars, much less totally pointless wars that serve no American interest?Think about that, reader. We can afford to give $400/gallon for gasoline -- a multiplier of over 100x reality -- but we can't afford real changes to give all Americans health care?
How can that be? Isn't it just a question of prioritizing the spending, and determining who deserves the money, and what goals we seek to achieve?
The enormous scale of foreign borrowing and money creation necessary to finance Washington’s wars are sending the dollar to historic lows. The dollar has even experienced large declines relative to currencies of third world countries such as Botswana and Brazil. The decline in the dollar’s value reduces the purchasing power of Americans’ already declining incomes."Housing starts" are irrelevant, but I have to accept that Roberts is an "economist" and therefore he often relies on pointless data to buttress his arguments. That's one of my chief complaints about "economics" pundits and experts -- they use "facts" as if the "facts" are inescapable evidence of an economic principle. Let's just agree here -- Roberts is talking about an irrelevancy. It's a vestige of his former "trickle-down" mantra. He may never give up this ghost.
Despite the lowest level of housing starts in 64 years, the US housing market is flooded with unsold homes, and financial institutions have a huge and rising inventory of foreclosed homes not yet on the market.
Industrial production has collapsed to the level of 1999, wiping out a decade of growth in industrial output.This is another Roberts gaffe. The "growth" is another "economics" ruse, an assumption that we need "growth" eternally, and when things are not "growing" then things are bad. Actually, what is bad for our society is a mantra that growth is essential and must be perpetual. The only thing needed is meeting needs. Most "growth" is attuned to wants, not needs. And there, my friends, is the crux of the flaw of capitalism. But I don't want to get sidetracked. Back to Roberts.
The enormous bank reserves created by the Federal Reserve are not finding their way into the economy. Instead, the banks are hoarding the reserves as insurance against the fraudulent derivatives that they purchased from the gangster Wall Street investment banks.Yes, this is true. More compelling is the fact that the fraudulent derivatives were known to be fraudulent. There was no "surprise" when these money-vectors collapsed. Anyone who can see how derivatives work can also see that they are about as safe as russian roulette. They are a massive gamble, and the massive gamble is the whole point of their use. Anyone who claims surprise at a massive loss in the massive gamble -- that person is crying wolf! This is why I say that none of the Wall Street firms actually got into trouble -- or at least, they didn't get into any trouble that they didn't fully comprehend before they got into it.
The regulatory agencies have been corrupted by private interests. Frontline http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/ reports that Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers blocked Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from regulating derivatives. President Obama rewarded Larry Summers for his idiocy by appointing him Director of the National Economic Council. What this means is that profits for Wall Street will continue to be leeched from the diminishing blood supply of the American economy.Of course they have been corrupted. America's federal government now is owned by the businesses it purports to regulate. Hell, even The Wall Street Journal recently told us as much. See here.
An unmistakable sign of third world despotism is a police force that sees the pubic as the enemy. Thanks to the federal government, our local police forces are now militarized and imbued with hostile attitudes toward the public. SWAT teams have proliferated, and even small towns now have police forces with the firepower of US Special Forces. Summons are increasingly delivered by SWAT teams that tyrannize citizens with broken down doors, a $400 or $500 repair born by the tyrannized resident. Recently a mayor and his family were the recipients of incompetence by the town’s local SWAT team, which mistakenly wrecked the mayor’s home, terrorized his family, and killed the family’s two friendly Labrador dogs.I can tell you from personal experience two years ago that the police in my supposedly "liberal" -slash- "progressive" town are adversarial, combative, and brutalizing. I got arrested for riding my bike for one block in the direction opposite a One Way street's flow. I was riding in the street's Bike Lane, which was unoccupied -- and therefore I posed no danger to anyone. The policeman in question saw things differently -- stopped me, yanked my arm up behind my back, handcuffed me, searched my belongings, took me to the station in a cop car, held me for 45 minutes in a jail cell, presented me to the judge. The copper cited me for not only going the wrong way on a One Way street, but also for "obstructing an officer." The whole episode was surreal. All he had to do was have a chat with me and explain what was so dangerous about what I was doing. Instead he felt a need to exert his authority and bully me, brutalize me, harass me, cuff me.
If a town’s mayor can be treated in this way, what do you think is the fate of the poor white or black? Or the idealistic student who protests his government’s inhumanity?
Luckily the municipal judge in my town is aware that our police are excessive and I got a very minimal $15 fine for the whole ordeal. But not before I went through all sorts of ridiculous hoops, including dealing with a public defender who wanted me to plead guilty and accept a massive fine of almost $500.
Citizens as enemies, that's the perspective of "law enforcement" personnel.
In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.
The one percent that comprise the superrich are laughing as they say, “let them eat cake.”