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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
If anyone required further proof of the parasitic nature of religion, this sums it up quite nicely:
The Vatican says it was profitable in 2010, after three years of being financially in the red.
The Vatican said Saturday that it made a profit of more than $14 million last year on revenue of about $356 million. That contrasts with a loss of nearly $6 million in 2009 and losses in 2007 and 2008 as well.
The separately administered Vatican City State also was profitable in 2010, with earnings of more than $30 million on strong ticket sales at Vatican museums.
Despite the 2010 profit, the church said that donations from churches worldwide – the so-called Peter’s Pence – fell nearly $15 million to just under $68 million. The Vatican offered no reason for the decline in donations, but sexual abuse allegations against parish priests emerged last year in Europe, traditionally a top region for donations.
At least the Vatican is being open about the fact that their crumbling religion is little more than a giant, multinational corporation with hundreds of millions of customers. Other religions are not quite so honest, but at its core religion is little more than a rather transparent gambit to acquire ever greater wealth and power.
The “official” unemployment rate is nailed at around 10%, the foreclosure rate is climbing, bankers are getting fatter than ever, Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are still in place, the healthcare system is still in the hands of corporations, we’re up to our asses in three wars, the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay is still open, our civil liberties are in worse shape than ever, Obummer’s just rolled over for John Boehner on the budget deal — and now Obummer’s got the sheer gall to ask me if I’m “in”.
In the absurd fashion of American politics, the 2012 presidential election campaign has already kicked off, some 18 months before the actual event. The slick, corporate publicity machines now have nearly a year and half to tweak and refine their mind-numbingly vacuous political platform, endlessly shoving it down our throats all the while, until Americans are united in two camps of catchy three-word slogans. Yes, we can!
As the crackdown on protesters on Yemen grows more and more violent, the United States continues to supply the dictatorial regime with weapons and military advisors:
All told, over the past five years, the U.S. has provided more than $300 million in aid to Yemen’s security forces, with the dollars escalating precipitously under the Obama administration. In 2008, under President George W. Bush, Yemen received $17.2 million in baseline military assistance (which does not include counterterrorism or humanitarian funding). In 2010, that number had risen to $72.3 million while, overall, Yemen received $155.3 million in U.S. aid that year, including a “$34.5 million special operations force counterterrorism enhancement package.” These funds have provided Yemen’s security forces with helicopters, Humvees, weapons, ammunition, radio systems, and night-vision goggles.
Additionally, U.S. special operations troops (along with British and Saudi military personnel) have been supporting, advising, and conducting training missions with some of Yemen’s elite forces – including the Republican Guard, Special Operations Forces, and the National Security Bureau — which are commanded and staffed by Saleh’s sons and other close relatives.
The United States government enjoys publicly extolling the virtues of democracy, but their actions speak otherwise. A cursory examination of U.S. involvement in the Middle East reveals a meddlesome empire intent on protecting its own interests at all costs; principles of democracy are considered only a selling point when the war-weary population seems reluctant to support yet another armed intervention. As the same excellent article from TomDispatch goes on to describe:
Ignoring the most pertinent issues of the day, Yahoo! News and the AP continue to distort reality in favor of promoting the fictional corporatist narrative. Witness today’s headlines:
As I’ve noted previously, the format of the headlines is such that most people accept the authoritativeness of the source implicitly. While the majority ordinary Americans complain incessantly of inherent media bias, most people fail to perceive the subtle coercive effects embedded in the very stories selected for coverage, as well as the cleverly scripted language employed in ever mainstream media news story. The corporate agenda is stealthily advanced through an almost imperceptible framing of carefully selected stories, utilizing pseudo-professional language and intentionally inaccurate phrases which distort any given issues and steers the national dialogue into a predesignated, rightward leaning conduit.
So let us dissect this latest monstrosity of “professional” journalism, beginning with the headline: “WH warns tax defeat could trigger new recession.” The greatest deception here is the implication that the recession has somehow ended, and we now stand in danger of entering a new one. It is hard to understand how anyone could believe the recession has ended, given that the unemployment rate is still hovering near 10%, hundreds of thousands of families have had their homes repossessed, and millions remain dependent on welfare. The recession has not ended for ordinary Americans, but perhaps the AP is referencing the fact that corporate America has recorded its highest profits ever.
Yesterday I concluded my post with the following ominous observation:
It will be interesting to observe how the story continues to unfold, but ruthless retaliation against Wikileaks and Assange is almost certainly assured.
Today that brutal retaliation was initiated, as Julian Assange was arrested in London on dubious charges of rape and sexual molestation:
LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to London police Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Assange was at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to attend a hearing. His Swedish lawyer told The Associated Press his client would challenge any extradition from Britain to Sweden. …
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been accused by two women in Sweden. He faces rape and sexual molestation allegations in one case and sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in the other. Assange denies the allegations.
His British attorney Mark Stephens says the allegations stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex” last summer. …
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was pleased by the arrest.
“That sounds like good news to me,” he said.
It is impossible to know how accurate these allegations might be, but it seems highly likely that they have been fabricated in an attempt to smear Assange’s name and, by extension, the reputation of WikiLeaks. The accusations could also serve several important functions beyond mere reputational harm. First, as long as Assange is detained he cannot actively assist in furthering the WikiLeaks agenda. Second, as long as Assange is in custody he stands the risk of being held – and tried – for charges not yet pressed. Third, Assange and WikiLeaks will undoubtedly be devoting a great deal of money towards extricating Assange from this legal quagmire.
“Well, the Tea Party movement itself is maybe 15, 20 percent of the electorate. It’s relatively affluent, white, nativist. You know, it has rather traditional nativist streaks to it. But what is much more important, I think, is the—is its outrage. I mean, over half the population says they more or less support it or support its message. And what people are thinking is extremely interesting. I mean, overwhelmingly, polls reveal that people are extremely bitter, angry, hostile, opposed to everything.
The primary cause undoubtedly is the economic disaster. It’s not just a financial catastrophe, it’s an economic disaster. I mean, in manufacturing industry, for example, unemployment levels are at the level of the Great Depression. And unlike the Great Depression, those jobs are not coming back. U.S. owners and managers have long ago made the decision that they can make more profit with complicated financial deals than by production. …
It destroys the society here, but that’s not the concern of the ownership class and the managerial class. Their concern is profit. That’s what drives the economy. And the rest of it is a fallout. People are extremely bitter about it but don’t seem to understand it. So, the same people who are a majority, who say that Wall Street is to blame for the current crisis, are voting Republican. Both parties are deep in the pockets of Wall Street, but the Republicans much more so than the Democrats. And the same is true on issue after issue. So the antagonism to everyone is extremely high. Actually, antagonism—they don’t like—population doesn’t like Democrats, but they hate Republicans even more. They’re against big business. They’re against government. They’re against Congress. They’re against science.“
Chomsky’s analysis of the Tea Party is highly illuminating. The hardcore Teabaggers represent perhaps a fifth of the population, but a solid half seems to at least approve of their message. At its foundation, the Tea Party movement is nothing more than an abstract, objectless anger. People are bitterly enraged over the state of our society, but they are unable to articulate precisely what – or who – infuriates them.
In searching for information for my recent post on the pervasiveness of US troops in the world today, I came across an interesting NY Times article from early 2008 entitled “Pentagon Seeks Record Level in 2009 Budget.” The article was written in the waning days of the Bush era, as the 2008 primaries were in full swing. The buzzword “change” was sweeping the nation, and the mood was one of cautious optimism: although times were grim, there was genuine hope that this time, with Obama, things would be different.
Fast forward nearly three years, and it is remarkable to note just how little has changed. The issues and concerned discussed in the article could readily be applied to the present, with a few minor changes here and there — such as replacing “Bush” with “Obama.” For instance:
As is typical with any political discourse in America, important issues are drowned out among the din of the ceaseless repetition of various right-wing mantras, which are remarkably limited in scope. It seems for the last thirty years – at least – the most often recurring salvo has been, “Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Kill government! Kill government!” Obviously, such simplistic demands fail to perceive the complex reality of modern society. The tax cuts they cry out for inevitably go towards the extremely wealthy, while reducing the size and scope of government generally means the cessation of services that offer the most help to ordinary Americans.
But the exchange is highly predictable. The economy is in decline, so the people demand tax cuts – “for the rich” goes without saying. Unemployment is skyrocketing, so the people demand tax cuts. The trade deficit is dangerously massive, so the people cry for tax cuts. An estimated 45 million Americans go without access to health care, so the people – well, you get the idea.
But in the midst of the deafening roar of the vociferous right-wing zombies (a minority, by all indications, but an exceedingly vocal minority), the most pertinent issues are wholly forgotten – at least within the carefully constricted world of the mainstream media. Read more of this post