“That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
– George Carlin
If anything truer has been said about the American Dream, I’ve yet to find it. I was shooting the breeze with a friend of mine who sells wine and stuff at our neighborhood outdoor market one afternoon not too long ago, under a cloudless sky with the temp in the sixties. We were tasting a new wine he had just discovered along with some dried tomatoes and sardines when a young couple approached his stand and made known through gests and a few words of French that they were looking for some wine. My friend, who speaks pretty good English, but speaks it like he does French, meaning pretty fast, launched into a semi-esoteric explanation of what he had on offer, and the poor couple kind of just stood there, looking at one another, not understanding a word he said. I intervened, asking them in my best midwestern American English what they were going to eat with the wine, or for what purpose they were buying some wine in the first place.
They broke into relieved smiles and said that they didn’t really know, but were going to meet some friends and thought a bottle or two would be appropriate. We both complimented them on their intentions, and they ended up buying three bottles, just to be sure. As Yves-Marie was wrapping them up, I asked them where they were from. North Dakota. Ah … That’s where pipeline protest is going on, I said. What’s your take on that ? The young wife said that the protesters were polluting the site more than the pipeline company because there had been a flood and that there were abandoned cars, clothes, tents, and garbage bags littering the site. Ah, I said, and left it at that, though I really wanted to launch into a rant about the equivalencies of tar sands extraction and leaky pipelines as compared to abandoned cars and tents, and let them leave with whatever doubts my little « Ah » may have engendered.
A few minutes later, another American couple shows up, just as lost in French. Yves-Marie launches into his esoterica. I stand back and watch the incomprehension begin to overtake their desire to buy. I break in pretty much as before, and they end up buying three or four bottles because it’s their daughter’s 21st birthday, and for him, « Beer, wine, it’s all the same to me ! ». I ask where he’s from. Ohio. So you’re on vacation ? Yes and no. He’s just come back from Algeria where he does freight train maintenance. Yeah, right, I think to myself. His wife, maybe half his age, chimes in that this is her first trip out of the country and that she « loves Paris ». And they hurry off, as if too much contact might be contagious.
Yves-Marie turns to me, raising his eyebrows in question, and I explain that that’s exactly why I left the States. That belief has replaced reason, that he saw it happen, right there. That there is no talking to people like that, much as I’d like to think that there’s always a way to convince that there’s an entire world outside the cognitive bubble that exists in the US.
And I go on a long rant about the Flynn resignation, his interview with RT and how, reading the transcript, even given the inevitable syntactic/transcription errors, it amazed me that we could have people running things who were so incapable of coherently expressing themselves.
Fact-based journalism is a ridiculous, tautological phrase. It’s like talking about oxygen-based human life. There is no other kind. Facts are journalism’s foundation; the pursuit of them, without fear or favor, is its main objective. Roger Cohen, NYT, 11 feb 2017.
There’s a bar in my neighborhood here, in Paris, just down from the mini-supermarket where I go to buy toilet paper and other stuff that I can’t find say, at the butcher’s or the baker’s or the local open air market. I stopped in this afternoon for a quick Jameson’s and spotted the NYT at the end of the bar, apparently freshly delivered. And on the front page, I come across this Cohen edito. I think the quote above says pretty much all that needs to be said about the state of « journalism » in the US (or any of its proxies worldwide).
If repeating a lie often enough is the means by which a regime legitimizes itself, then this is a perfect example. If stating a somewhat true thing is supposed to give the rest of his edito some semblance of credibility, then he fails miserably to convince.
In the first place, « fact-based » journalism, given the history of the NYT’s plagiarism of USG diktats (Iraqi WMDs anyone?), is one of the more well known oxymorons in recent times. Who, in her/his right mind would believe anything this rag has to say about anything ? Especially if they put shit like this on the front page ?
I won’t go through the entire thing. We’ve all been there, done that. I’ll leave you to make your own decisions. Happy reading …
Warning ! Self-congratulatory material is included in this message.
Good afternoon Ted,
Just read your recent piece on living – or not – in the USA and decided to reply.
I left the US for the first time in 1966. Then again in 1968, in 1972, in 1987, in 2002, and finally, and for good, in 2009, when I did more than just sell the car or motorcycle for short-term financing of a plane ticket and walking around money til I found a job. I fire-saled the whole kit and kaboodle, gave away what I couldn’t sell or didn’t want to carry, and now watch from the other side of the pond as the US implodes.
It was kind of like giving up a bad habit or an addiction. You break away, and the novelty of being somewhere else is liberating as long as the butterflying around lasts. But being American, accustomed to central heating, private transport, and not too much paperwork, there always seemed to come a moment when the allure of familiarity overcame the promise of another adventure.
Those days pretty much came to an end with The Shrub’s election (or theft of) and when I opined to a national magazine that our town had become a speculator’s paradise, which lead to the ruin of my local charter business and a kind of ostracism in general.
And now I watch my country of adoption tear itself apart – maybe a good thing – as a result of the corrupting influence of my country of origin.
At the least, for the moment, we still have good food and drink, more than decent healthcare, and great public transport. Fuck the central heating !
All the best,
What a strange series of events ! I read the following articles this morning in this order : Sharmine Narwani (via ICH and The American Convervative) on « How Trump Can Defeat ISIS », Finnian Cunningham’s « Shut it ! West’s Free Speech Challenges are Sign of Systemic Insecurity (ICH via RT), Rod Dreher’s « Decline et Fall (American Conservative), Michael Howard and Ramzy Baroud over on DissidentVoice, and again, on ICH, Pepe Escobar’s fine piece and finally, thanks to an alert from my wife, an article in l’Obs which may be the final nail in François Fillon’s bid for the French presidency.
What struck me about all these articles is the fact that they illustrate just how much in decline the West really is. I don’t think it’s news to anyone that the US has been unhinged for quite a while now, probably since its founding, but since its emergence as a superpower post WW II and its political, economic, and cultural takeover of Europe (mostly successful), as well as a good part of the rest of the planet (by any means necessary, mostly violent), it’s no wonder that the US is considered the major obstacle to world peace, and why it’s flailing about incoherently to try to maintain Karl Rove’s empire. It matters not that a psychopath said it. In essence, he was correct. The US considers itself an empire and is doing all it can to maintain this status, regardless of history’s antecedents or today’s realities.
The problem with Narwani’s argument is that she posits conflict as inevitable (or even desireable) :
And now Trump looks set to ignore the foundational truth that scuppered both Obama and Clinton efforts in the Mideast: you cannot pick fights with both ISIS and Iran and expect to win anything. You have to pick one—or prepare to hunker down for endless conflict.
In other words, the US has to fight someone, as if we somehow have the right to be there in the first place. Aside from a decent analysis of why Iran is a natural US ally in the supposed fight against ISIS (or in any other real sense of the word « ally »), Marwani takes the disdainful approach so common among people who seemingly have no empathy for what’s going on over there, namely, that we can use various proxies to do our fighting for us, which reminds me of Obama’s observations about not wanting to fight « dumb wars », code for « Why should we send our boys and girls over there when we can pay the local help to do the dying ? ». From my perspective, that’s about as racist as one can get. Even more so from our first black president. That’s real community organizing. Disgusting.
To top it off, Marwani claims, in terms all good shysters understand,
Is Washington prepared to break from its failed policy trajectory and make the crucial choice between Iran and ISIS? Because if Trump is willing to do that, a plan to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda is in easy reach—and it will barely cost the deal-making businessman a dime. (My bold).
She never brings up the point that all these ISIS mercenaries are paid and supported, directly or indirectly, by the US. Does she sincerely believe that the MIC is going to willingly walk away from its present gravy train ? It begs belief. Plus, Washington’s « failed policy trajectory » is nothing of the sort. This sort of chaos-seeding « trajectory » has been going on for way too long, and the folks on « The Farm » and associated alphabet soup directories are not about to give up their lavish free lunches.
The long and short of all this is that we have a convservative magazine making a semi-cogent argument for leaving Iran alone, but for lots of the wrong reasons.
Then we come to Cunningham’s article, whose closing remarks are worth noting :
The recent rush to close off free speech is more a sign of uncertainty in societies amid political turmoil. The uncertainty is evident on both the traditional right and left of the political spectrum. However, it seems more indicative of insecurity as opposed to any objective social movement toward intolerance.
Now, more than ever, is the time to keep public debate open, not shut it down due to some narcissistic sense of being offended. Where views are obnoxious or wrongheaded, they should be challenged and thwarted through intelligent argument.
There are valid discussions to be had about equality, secularism, immigration, national and economic rights, globalization, war and peace, and many more issues.
Discussion and dialogue are the best way to evolve public understanding, nationally and internationally.
If we begin practicing communication apartheid, then the outcome is what we are seeing underway among certain Western states declaring Russian media as somehow illegitimate. Closing down communications is often the first act of conflict.
The point of this collection of articles being that there is something going on in the US and its vassals in the EU that might be characterised as a kind of socio-political neurosis or PTSD. A combination of information overload, increasing inequalities, constant wars creating growing numbers of refugees and increasing hostilities (the list is long), has created a sense of confusion and desperation among larger and larger populations which, in turn, creates an emotional rather than a reasoned reaction. Thus, we have the spectacle of supposed Lefties violently shutting down free speech rights rather than defending them and, at the same time not protesting, massively, Obama’s wars and drone programs or any other of his various crimes, domestic and international.
These new Leftie thought police are being just as manipulated as the Tea Partiers, are falling for the very same tactics they denounce as deplorable.
Politics as a job program for the criminally incompetent.
And why not ? When you look around at the kinds of people running things these days, you really wonder what these people would/could do if they had to look for a real job. And I dont mean simply walking through the revolving door, because I don’t think Slick Willie ever had to fill out an application or present a resumé for anything he ever did (the one exception being, maybe, for his Rhodes scholarship, which he never completed anyway. But that kind of scholarship isn’t much more than a kind of finishing school for future puppets of the Deep State, so doesn’t much count for the purposes of this rant. Or maybe it does.)
If they had to live in the real world where people don’t have staff to do the things that make up the daily preoccupations of most (more than 99%) of us, I don’t know how they would survive, let alone prosper. What do these people know how to do other than read speeches written for them by lobbyists or communications firms ?
To take the most recent case of Obama (who tried to give us la Clinton, but gave us Trump), we have the meteoric rise of a not so typical prep-schooled unknown, rising through the ranks of conservative-backed institutions to emerge as some kind of « constitutional scholar », the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review (who never wrote a signed article), a community concerned activist backed by the likes of the Ptritzkers and the Rezkos (banking and real estate con artists), first to the state Senate, then the national Senate, and then to the presidency.
But what did he actually do ? From what I’ve been able to discover, not much, apart from arranging a few real estate deals mostly advantageous to Chicago’s elite, making a few obligatory speeches denouncing war and inequality, and then, becoming president, continuing all the policies of the preceeding administrations, pretty much doubling down on the most egregious war crimes.
If he were to be honest on his CV, who, other than like-minded criminals, would hire this guy ?
He had the chance, and the mandate, to change the course of things in the US. But I reckon he figured the will of the people wasn’t as important as the needs of the oligarchs who put him in the Whore House and, with a lot of rhetorical flourishes, managed to escape impeachment and prison.
While it may be a temporal stetch to reach back to the Enclosure Acts to the hapless Jimmy Carter’s establishing The Carter Doctrine:
“an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
It certainly isn’t a reach to connect the two to the unbridled, late stage capitalism that is wreaking havoc around the world today.
Good old Jimmy, who only recently discovered that the US is an oligarchy.