Tag Archives: White House

The Dance of Death

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

By Chris Hedges/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Petition calls for Obama to be tried for ‘war crimes’ in The Hague

Image: earthreform.org

A petition accusing Barack Obama of war crimes and demanding he be prosecuted has been published on the White House website. It has already gained about 4,000 signatures.

“We demand conviction of a war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in [The] Hague. He is guilty of crimes not only against the USA citizens, but against the whole world,” the petition states.

The authors also note that “one of the most dreadful prisons in history – Guantanamo – continues to function.”

The US added to the de-stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, too, the petition’s authors state.

“Libya was destroyed as a result of Obama’s aggression. In Syria, Obama’s agents train, fund and organize terrorist groups, deceitfully naming them ‘moderate opposition,’ who, among other things, bear a relation to Al-Qaeda, implicated in crimes against the American people.”

More from Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Fence jumper probe finds problems at Secret Service

 

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Image: Win McNamee, Getty Images

 

A federal review of how a fence jumper managed to elude the Secret Service and enter the White House found inadequate training, staffing shortages and problems with communications at the agency in charge of protecting the president.

A summary of the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation released Thursday night revealed new details about the Sept. 19 events in which an Army veteran climbed the exterior fence, raced across the lawn and entered an unlocked door on the north front of the White House.

The intruder, Omar Gonzalez, got over the White House’s protective fence at a point where an ornamental spike, or trident, was missing, the report said. An officer who tried to raise an alarm about the jumper was unaware his radio warnings were not received by uniformed officers.

The report said some officers were unable to see the intrusion because of construction on the White House grounds. Other errors included an assumption by officers on duty that an intruder could not make it through thick barrier bushes and that the exterior White House door would be locked. It was unlocked.

More from USA Today

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American Doomsday: White House Warns of Climate Catastrophes

Temperatures across the world in the 1880s (left) and the 1980s (right)
Image: EPA

Sorching temperatures, flooded cities, wildfires and changes in the growing season are just some of the hard realities of a changing climate that are beginning to hit Americans directly, says a new White House report.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the White House report released on Tuesday says.

 The third National Climate Assessment, the result of four years of research by hundreds of leading scientists and experts, draws a dire picture of a future in which human activity has contributed directly to massive changes in weather. A 1,000-page draft version of the National Climate Assessment was issued last year, and the final version was approved on Tuesday.
Posted by Libergirl

White House defends phone record seizure, does not confirm Verizon report

The White House is defending the practice of gathering phone records from American citizens while neither confirming nor denying a report that the National Security Agency is collecting information regarding communications by Verizon customers.

Such information has been “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats,” a senior Obama administration official said.

“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” the official said.

The practice was first revealed by the British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday, which obtained and published a highly classified court order that requires the production of “telephony metadata” by the telecommunications giant.

More from NBC News

Posted by Libergirl

Beware the IRS

President Obama has a sharp comedic delivery for a politician, but sometimes you wish he’d joke a little less about abuses of federal power.

He, er, slayed them in the aisles at the 2010 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, warning the Jonas Brothers to steer clear of his daughters: “Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

The year before, giving a commencement address at Arizona State University, Obama dryly noted that since ASU officials hadn’t offered him an honorary degree, they’d “soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.”

After the IRS scandal that broke last week, the president ought to stay away from that kind of material. Mindful of the impending release of a Treasury Department inspector general’s report on improper targeting of Tea Party groups, the IRS offered a Friday news-dump “apology” for unlawful behavior that agency leadership has known about for at least two years.

A draft of the IG’s report obtained by the Associated Press notes that in June 2011, senior IRS official Lois G. Lerner learned that agency employees had targeted applicants for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status for having “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names — demanding confidential donor lists, and the like.

Lerner objected, but the modified criteria adopted as a result, flagged suspect groups for, among other things, “Educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” — hardly less troubling.

My colleague John Samples notes that “the long delays of approving tax status,” which began in the run-up to the 2010 midterms, may have chilled political speech: “Do any sitting members owe their offices to the IRS?” he asks.
More than one commentator saw “shades of Richard Nixon” in the burgeoning scandal, recalling our 37th president’s expletive-laden demands for IRS targeting of Democratic contributors.

White House Counsel John Dean employed slightly cleaner language in an infamous 1971 memo on “how we can use the available political machinery to screw our political enemies.”

Past presidents have found the IRS an extremely useful piece of federal machinery for that purpose. A lot of what we know about that sordid history comes from the Senate Select Committee on intelligence abuses, chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) in the mid-’70s.

As Chris Hayes wrote in the Nation in 2006, “Church and many Democrats had every reason to believe they would be chiefly unmasking the full depths of Nixon’s perfidy,” but soon found that presidents of both parties were culpable: “Secret documents obtained by the committee even revealed that the sainted FDR had ordered IRS audits of his political enemies.”

In The Lawless State, his account of the Church Committee revelations, Morton Halperin noted that “the first organized political ‘strike force’ was formed within the IRS in 1961, and was directed against right-wing political groups.”

In this case, I doubt there was ever a JFK or Nixon-style direct command from on high to harass the Tea Party. It’s more likely to be a case of “proactive” bureaucrats inspired by presidential railing against the Tea Party and Citizens United: “Will no one rid me of these meddlesome right-wing freaks?” We’ll know more as congressional investigations unfold.

Meanwhile, Obama’s recent commencement address at Ohio State University looks even more brazen. Recall that the president warned the graduates that their ability to think clearly had been undermined because “you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems … that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”

Not so fast.

By Gene Healy/The Washington Examiner

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Citizen petition to White House: Make members of Congress wear logos of corporate donors – like NASCAR drivers

A citizen petition on the White House’s website is asking the government to force politicians to display the logos of their corporate donors on their clothing during public events – in the form of NASCAR-style patches on their clothing.

‘Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals,’ the White House petition reads, ‘it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events.’

‘Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those “sponsors'” names during all official duties and visits to constituents.’

The Obama Administration's We The People website allows ordinary citizens to make proposals and trigger White House replies
Image: we the people

More from The Daily Mail

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