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The World As It Is
January 3, 2012 2:30 AM   Subscribe

Chris Hedges: Brace yourself. The American Empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying. Long, incredibly intelligent, insightful and pessimistic discussion of the current state of American politics and society, among other topics. Hedges is a long-time journalist, author and professor, winner of Pulitzer Prize and Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism for his work at the New York Times.

Try to ignore the callers and moxnews.com
posted by crayz (219 comments total) 123 users marked this as a favorite

 
I liked the piece Hedges did with cartoonist Joe Sacco about Camden, NJ. It really is a pretty bad situation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 AM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


He briefly discusses the new book he's writing with Sacco in the video
posted by crayz at 2:51 AM on January 3, 2012


This is fascinating, a half hour in. I'd be lying if I said I weren't a bit uncomfortable with the way Hedges keeps saying "they" to refer to black people, but I've liked the books of his that I've read and I shall press on.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:51 AM on January 3, 2012


interesting. hmm. - I'd never connected the non-existence of a true 'left' faction in USA politics (Communism / Socialism is such a dirty word in the US) as the reason why the Democractic party is so centrist.

The right media presents the Democrats and liberal class middle class as "Left" when they are really in the Middle. - there is no true Left thanks to the demonisation of that position durign The McCarthy era.
posted by mary8nne at 3:19 AM on January 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


thanks for this.
posted by grubby at 3:26 AM on January 3, 2012


5 second summary:

Who controls the world Chris? Tell us.
The huge corporations, like Goldman Sachs.
posted by nickrussell at 3:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interviewer somehow doesn't know how to pronounce either "meme" or "slavishly"
posted by grubby at 3:39 AM on January 3, 2012


I'll be interested to hear MeFi's collective thoughts on his assertion that by and large the parties are the same and all follow the same general corporatism point of view - given recent similar threads.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 3:45 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this material appeals, might I suggest you acquire a copy of Ahmed's "A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation". Chapters 4 (Economic Instability), 5 (International Terrorism) and 6 (The Militarization Tendency) substantiates a great deal of Hedges views, and provides exhaustive and credible references to support. (Amazon)
posted by falcon at 3:46 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I had watched the show. His main hope, perhaps naively, is in the Occupy Movement, which he sees as a rising up against corporate capitalism. Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?
posted by Postroad at 3:58 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


What a piece of obvious nonsense. The US has been in decline since the 1970's and especially Reagan accelerated that dive. And since when has the US NOT been under the huge influence of big corporations after WWII?

America's intellectual memory hardly seems able to remember more than four to six years? Where is Gore Vidal when you need him?
posted by homodigitalis at 4:01 AM on January 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'm 1:24 in and this is the most heartening thing I've heard in ages. Heartening because a public person is saying this in public.
posted by grubby at 4:03 AM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Direct link to C-Span 2 installment of BookTV, featuring Hedges' interview and transcript.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:07 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'll be interested to hear MeFi's collective thoughts on his assertion that by and large the parties are the same and all follow the same general corporatism point of view - given recent similar threads.

I've conducted an opinion poll where political leaders were asked to chose to eat cake or uncooked rotten meat crawling with maggots. It seems that there is a universal preference for cake among political leaders from both sides. Thus the thesis that our parties are the same is proved. I see no reason to look more closely at tax, entitlement, environmental, regulatory or other potential policy differences given their unanimity in choosing cake.
posted by humanfont at 4:08 AM on January 3, 2012 [29 favorites]


Heartening because a public person is saying this in public.

Which almost guarantees that it will be totally ignored by most OF the public.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, it's over. Done. Kaput.

So y'all can just get over it, and forget about going after the responsible parties who sold us out. Done is done, and blame won't do anyone any good. So let them walk away with all the wealth they've conned us out of.
posted by Goofyy at 4:20 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?

Well, there's the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Japan, Russia and depending on your definition Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Portugal was way too leveraged abroad, Russia still has a big hangover and Spain should pick up again if they fix their housing/bank troubles, but the rest seem to be doing okay.

It's possible, yes.

*The Austro-Hungarian Empire was split, so there's no single answer about that.
posted by ersatz at 4:29 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am reminded of countless scenes in movies where the hero walks smugly? suavely? towards the camera carrying a jacket? gun? while an oil refinery? castle? warehouse? explodes in the background.

Only instead of an oil refinery, it's the country, and instead of a jacket it's our wealth.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:34 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


The US has been in decline since the 1970's and especially Reagan accelerated that dive.

No. The 1970s were much bleaker than today. In 1970, 6000 US soldiers were killed in Vietnam in just one year and unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. was loosing the conflict despite massive bombing raids on North Vietnam causing enormous civilian casualties. Contrast the exit from Iraq with the exit from Saigon and this pretty much shows you how different things were. There was a draft until 1973. Inflation and interest were in the double digits. Two oil embargoes one early in the decade and one later left Americans waiting for hours to fill up the car. Dramatic and sudden price increases of everything. You had Watergate, Nixon resigning, Gerry Ford tried to Whip Inflation Now with wage and price controls. And then to top it all off, four years of Jimmy Carter. And disco.

The 70s was a fucking mess, but it got better.

America climbed out of that hole; I think it is a mistake to count America out now.
posted by three blind mice at 4:42 AM on January 3, 2012 [69 favorites]


I've conducted an opinion poll where political leaders were asked to chose to eat cake or uncooked rotten meat crawling with maggots. It seems that there is a universal preference for cake among political leaders from both sides. Thus the thesis that our parties are the same is proved. I see no reason to look more closely at tax, entitlement, environmental, regulatory or other potential policy differences given their unanimity in choosing cake.

And the voters from each party, they both prefer the rotten meat.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:46 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not rotten. It's fermented.
posted by spitbull at 4:54 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can not stress people enough to also watch David Simon's (yes, the guy who did The Wire) lecture "The End of The American Century and the Triumph of Capital over Labor". To summarize, because capitalism and profit are the only tools in our collective toolshed, because of a contempt for labor, because of an unwillingness to share wealth - the American engine is beginning to rust and it's never coming back because people don't want to pay for it to come back.
posted by windbox at 4:55 AM on January 3, 2012 [43 favorites]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?
It's possible, yes.


I misread your answer at first, thinking you agreed with the nation/empire thing. I was reading all the countries you listed and assumed you were referring to their colonial empires but when I got to Sweden, I was like --wait, Sweden didn't have colonies, did it??? That would have busted my bubble for pure, snow-white Sweden. :)

You seem to be implying that all those are decent nations without being empires, but I think their colonial and military pasts don't help your point. Or at the very least, could be misconstrued?
posted by acheekymonkey at 4:58 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


America climbed out of that hole; I think it is a mistake to count America out now.

I agree. It's impossible to predict how things are going to be ten years in the future.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:11 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The decline since the 1970s is in industry, the basis of stable and meaningful jobs. Nothing actually ended in the past few years. People may be waking up to the fact that America's economic growth is unsustainable without industry but it's much too late to do anything about that by now.
posted by shii at 5:11 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The American Empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying

...for (some) Americans.
posted by DU at 5:12 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll be interested to hear MeFi's collective thoughts on his assertion that by and large the parties are the same and all follow the same general corporatism point of view - given recent similar threads.

This book should help answer that question for everyone.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:22 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


America climbed out of that hole; I think it is a mistake to count America out now.

I think the difference now is that, the way the power-brokers in the US climbed-out from the mess of the 70's was to begin the decades-long jettisoning of entire layers of industries and the associated workforces in favor of the newly-opened, dirt-cheap resources abroad. They called it "creative destruction" and gave themselves fat bonuses for their trouble.

And now that we find ourselves in a similar hole to climb out of, who/what gets jettisoned this time? The easy targets are gone. And, I think it's fair to say that the people running the system sure as hell aren't going to inflict any pain upon themselves in order to dig the country out.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:25 AM on January 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


I think it's fair to say that the people running the system sure as hell aren't going to inflict any pain upon themselves in order to dig the country out.

Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:29 AM on January 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.

But still keeping our discourse civil, of course.
posted by Trurl at 5:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Management jobs can be filled for pennies on the dollar in India.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:36 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, yes. God forbid we be rude or something.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:37 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Maybe we can all marry a Canadian.

What?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:42 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


If things were bad last year, and worse this year, it does not imply that things are going to continue to get worse. Things in the US are actually getting better, but too slowly. Do none of you remember the mid 90s when the right wing was freaking out about how the US was never going to recover from the recession and the Clintons were going to institute a UN-dominated new world order, and Waco was just the start?

This is just like that. And in 5 years, everyone was saying the boom was going to last for ever.

A little bit of historical perspective please. There is nothing that has happened in the last few years that is worse than WWII and the Great Depression, or the JFK and MLK assassinations and the vietnam war and Nixon, neither of which destroyed america.
posted by empath at 5:42 AM on January 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


The majority of America need not fear the descent of the empire. You can't fall off the floor.
posted by srboisvert at 5:42 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a little more than an hour into this, and I'm impressed. Mr. Hedges has yet to say anything I disagree with. The dots are all there, folks. Reach one, teach one - as soon as the majority of citizens can see them, change will be inevitable.

(And the interviewer did pronounce "slavishly" correctly. /pedant)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:44 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can't fall off the floor.

Well, not unless the people who own the floor decide to take it away.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:44 AM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ahh 1995, unemployment at 5.6%.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:47 AM on January 3, 2012


I think it's fair to say that the people running the system sure as hell aren't going to inflict any pain upon themselves in order to dig the country out.

>Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.


These sorts of sentiments on MetaFilter of all places make me sick. I do not believe violence is a community value here, and would challenge you to exhaust all other possible tactics to affect change before you thoughtlessly type in these sorts of macho-fantasy, armchair warrior angry words.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:47 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]



The majority of America need not fear the descent of the empire. You can't fall off the floor.


IT IS UNAMERICAN NOT TO CONTINUALLY INDIVIDUALLY TOIL WITH YOUR SHOVEL TO RECIEVE THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABORS
posted by lalochezia at 5:47 AM on January 3, 2012


KokuRyu... "pain" ≠ violence.
There is also the concept of shared economic pain which, currently, is visited upon only the lower and middle classes in this country, while the wealthy seem to be doing better than ever.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on January 3, 2012 [30 favorites]


Mr. Hedges has yet to say anything I disagree with.

When someone agrees with you, that doesn't mean they're smart.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


When someone agrees with you, that doesn't mean they're smart.

That's why I didn't call him smart; I just said I was impressed.

YMMV, of course.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I do not agree with everything Mr. Hedges says (e.g., what he says about pornography), I think he's smart, and I look forward to reading both the discussion and the discussion.
posted by box at 5:54 AM on January 3, 2012


Ahh 1995, unemployment at 5.6%.

8% unemployment in 1992, and I think worse in the late 70s, early 80s, plus inflation..
posted by empath at 5:56 AM on January 3, 2012


>Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.

These sorts of sentiments on MetaFilter of all places make me sick. I do not believe violence is a community value here, and would challenge you to exhaust all other possible tactics to affect change before you thoughtlessly type in these sorts of macho-fantasy, armchair warrior angry words.


I would assume that this refers to economic and political pain. To me that doesn't seem unreasonable; when the rich have had their slice of the pie expand so much it seems fair to attempt to redress the situation.

None of this implies more than metaphorical pitchforks.
posted by jaduncan at 5:57 AM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


The 70s was a fucking mess, but it got better.

The 80s?

If things were bad last year, and worse this year, it does not imply that things are going to continue to get worse. Things in the US are actually getting better, but too slowly. Do none of you remember the mid 90s when the right wing was freaking out about how the US was never going to recover from the recession and the Clintons were going to institute a UN-dominated new world order, and Waco was just the start?


So that now we appear to have a bipartisan consensus that in order to maintain "homeland security," remotely piloted drone aircraft have to be able kill anyone anywhere in the globe... and we are at the tail end of a series of economies built around speculative bubbles, starting with the IT and finance booms nurtured by the clintons.

I liked the piece Hedges did with cartoonist Joe Sacco about Camden, NJ. It really is a pretty bad situation.

Having grown up in an abandoned entropic east coast city, I found this to be fairly typical urban safari journalism, only with a nominally "left-wing" agenda i.e. fear-mongering. "They" indeed. Hedges carries his disdain for american culture on his sleeve and seems to be, at heart, a moralist. I don't think that's a good basis for left-politics in the US.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:59 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ahh 1995, unemployment at 5.6%.

8% unemployment in 1992, and I think worse in the late 70s, early 80s,


Or early 2012.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:00 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is odd to read that folks think that we're going to climb out of the whole, somehow.

The 70s were bad, sure -- Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation. The eighties were bad (recession, Cold War scares, the dismantling of programs for poor people). In the ninteties, were were briefly the Huge Big Dog, thanks to the collapse of the USSER. Clinton managed to dismantle more programs for the poor, but oh well.

I live in Upper Darby, PA. We are not Camden, but getting close. Huge mall space, full of mostly empty shops. 69th Street, once a mecca for shopping for the working class, has many closed places, and now the Sears is closing.

My weed connect tells me that the dealers from West Philly are relocating to Upper Darby, to cater to the suburb-dwellers. The dealers can charge 2x as much for crack or whatever. They are thriving.

This used to be a place where manufacturing is king. There is no hope for that at all, now, that I can see. Philly is trying to become the place of great hospitals and universities. Swell. But for the fact that nobody is qualified to get those jobs, because of the educational requirements.

When I lived in NYC, through the financial collapse, it was very easy to believe that things were going to be okay. They ARE okay, more or less, in NYC, because of the financial industry.

The Philly area, outside of Center City and University City, is fucked.
posted by angrycat at 6:09 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


*hole* Jesus fuck maybe I'm Philly's problem.
posted by angrycat at 6:10 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?
Well, there's the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Japan, Russia and depending on your definition Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Portugal was way too leveraged abroad, Russia still has a big hangover and Spain should pick up again if they fix their housing/bank troubles, but the rest seem to be doing okay.

It's possible, yes.


Russia still is an imperial power. (E.g. invasion of Georgia.) Germany arguably is too (through fiscal domination of the EU, ask some people in Greece how they feel about that) and France to a lesser extent. France regularly intervenes militarily in its former colonies in Africa. The UK still has overseas possessions and is an (lesser) imperial power if the U.S. is (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)
posted by Jahaza at 6:10 AM on January 3, 2012


8% unemployment in 1992, and I think worse in the late 70s, early 80s, plus inflation..

They no longer count 'discouraged workers' whose unemployment has run out.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:10 AM on January 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


and we are at the tail end of a series of economies built around speculative bubbles, starting with the IT and finance booms nurtured by the clintons.

What does being 'at the tail end' mean? How do you know we're at the tail end? Booms are always built on bubbles, and the boom and bust cycle has been going on for centuries. Do you think this is the last one? Ridiculous.
posted by empath at 6:13 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


fwiw, the end of America has been predicted since almost from it's birth.

Perhaps it is now.

Perhaps it is not.

But people have, as the paraphrased saying goes, never gone broke from doomsday predictions.
posted by edgeways at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


You had Watergate, Nixon resigning, Gerry Ford tried to Whip Inflation Now with wage and price controls. And then to top it all off, four years of Jimmy Carter. And disco.

Thank God for disco.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:27 AM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


@three blind mice

The 70s was a fucking mess, but it got better.

Sorry for making my point not perfectly clear: it is mostly about the Decline of the Middle Class and Social Mobility, therefore also Civil Rights and Education. The overall Gap between the Poor and the Rich ... the Emergence of a new Underclass and a new Lost Generation ...

Unemployment Rates and National Debt are Indicators of the Boom & Bust Cycles, but tell you not the whole Structure of Society. The Decline of American Industry, Rights, Infrastructure etc. didn't happen over night.

Also the change of mentality took several decades. America is today more right wing than ever, even Obama or Clinton are more right than the Carter Democrats ever imagined their Party would be.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:31 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


The headline in my local paper this morning is about regional squabbling over how best to use an abandoned shopping mall.

They know they want to turn it into another jail. They're just squabbling over who pays for what.

We are so fucked.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:34 AM on January 3, 2012 [30 favorites]


a new Lost Generation

Overblown analogy is overblown. The "Lost Generation" referred to a generation missing millions and millions of its people due to little things like the Spanish flu and World War Motherfucking One. Eight percent unemployment is a speed bump compared to the Battle of the Marne.

These days, the only truly predictable thing about predictions is the catastrophe language.

Looking forward to talking to all of you in ten years when we're discussing the Rise of the New American Hegemony.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:05 AM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


acheekymonkey: . . . when I got to Sweden, I was like --wait, Sweden didn't have colonies, did it??? That would have busted my bubble for pure, snow-white Sweden. :)

Let me google that for you:

Swedish Overseas colonies (wp)

Swedish Slave trade (wp)

Swedish failed colonization

New Sweden Colony

A Brief History of New Sweden in America
 
posted by Herodios at 7:07 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was like --wait, Sweden didn't have colonies, did it??? That would have busted my bubble for pure, snow-white Sweden.

Sweden's longest-lived colonies were New Sweden along the Delaware River (1638–1655), Swedish Gold Coast of Africa (1650–1658; 1660–1663), and Saint Barthélemy (1784–1878) in the Caribbean. Sweden also owned Guadeloupe for 15 months. "Pure, snow-white Sweden" had its own slave trade.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?

Well, there's the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Japan, Russia

Russia still is an imperial power.


If your notion of "decent" includes contemporary Russia but not contemporary America then you are using some other word that's spelled the same.
posted by escabeche at 7:12 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I quite enjoyed Hedges' interview on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition when it aired back in October.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The 70's had lower income inequaliy, higher social mobility, and higher real incomes than what we have today. Just a tiny reality check.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:16 AM on January 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


Well, there's the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Japan

Every one of those countries had huge empires and lost them through no choice of their own. The end of an empire is not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by empath at 7:16 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


the Clintons were going to institute a UN-dominated new world order,

As I remember the "New World Order" was a comment by Bush Sr. in a speech somewhere.

I'm guessing one can trace back to the end of WWII and find 'new world order' stated.

Lets not forget the 'new order of the world' the League of Nations was to bring.

And I'm guessing that buried somewhere in the gunboat diplomacy with Perry opening up Japan - there too you'll find a new order to the world.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:18 AM on January 3, 2012


I misread your answer at first, thinking you agreed with the nation/empire thing. I was reading all the countries you listed and assumed you were referring to their colonial empires but when I got to Sweden, I was like --wait, Sweden didn't have colonies, did it??? That would have busted my bubble for pure, snow-white Sweden. :)

Ooh, I know this one! I'm sitting in Swedesboro, New Jersey as I write this. There is a big sign on the edge of town saying it was settled by the Swedes.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:18 AM on January 3, 2012


Haven't watched the whole thing yet, but I'm not too worried right now. I remember waiting on line 3 hours for a tank of gas. Riots decimated the entire city of Newark in 67 for god's sake and the 70s was like a neverending nightmare of fear for those of us in urban areas.

I'll take this under advisement though, as I did with my history teacher in college who told us we were lucky to be living at the end of the empire because the endings of empires are much more fun than the birth.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:18 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The end of an empire is not necessarily a bad thing.

America won't survive the end of empire intact. Expect balkanization and war in North America when the bills come due.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:19 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


These days, the only truly predictable thing about predictions is the catastrophe language.

But things have changed. Manufacturing has been gutted and moved to other countries. The acceleration of income disparity is real. Economics as a science has been killed and replaced with a financial industry talking puppet -- we can't even honestly examine ourselves.
posted by Trochanter at 7:23 AM on January 3, 2012 [38 favorites]


He sounds bitter, defensive, strident and alarmist.

Exactly what I look for when wondering whether to trust someone's ideas of complete and utter destruction of civilization, as we know it.
posted by Skygazer at 7:25 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You forgot "shrill." You're always supposed to say "shrill." Like with anyone who opposed the Iraq invasion.
posted by Trochanter at 7:27 AM on January 3, 2012 [28 favorites]


we can't even honestly examine ourselves.

That's the most trenchant observation yet to appear in this thread.

American civil discourse has a history of being ugly, but what we're in right now is like a hatchet fight in a dark basement.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:29 AM on January 3, 2012 [32 favorites]


Overblown analogy is overblown. The "Lost Generation" referred to a generation missing millions and millions of its people due to little things like the Spanish flu and World War Motherfucking One. Eight percent unemployment is a speed bump compared to the Battle of the Marne.

This is a horrible thing to say, but at least those people were dead. What America has created over the last 40 years is a generation of people mentally and physically incapacitated by their own society - by the unfairness and the lack of education and quality of life and basic human feelings of dignity and purpose. The problem is now even if someone wanted to fix it, how could you? You go to a culture war with the people you've got

I always think back to 1984 - Orwell understood this dynamic very well. The proles, the masses of society were left uneducated and living like animals. They didn't need to be monitored or censored by the party because they couldn't organize themselves coherently in the first place

There is no grand conspiracy here, but don't underestimate the effects endemic poverty and gross inequality have on a society, and its ability to protect itself against its own worst, internal enemies
posted by crayz at 7:39 AM on January 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


I like Chris Hedges, and I tend to think he says a lot of fairly insightful things. He doesn't bat 100%, but he hits close enough to the mark often enough that I generally enjoy reading his articles.

That said, I don't know about him on this. I mean...wasn't he also predicting just 4 months ago that OWS would bring about revolution in America? I agree we're in decline, and it may stick...but it may not this time. I do think that *eventually* something will have to correct the situation in this country. We can't operate in the red like this forever. "Eventually" is a very flexible term, however, and may refer to an eventuality that occurs after those of us discussing it now are dead and gone.

For my part, I am completely behind the original intent of OWS (not so much the "free mumia" and black bloc types) and think that they have served (and continue) to serve their function admirably for the most part. I never saw them as a hammer, but more as a ratchet.
posted by kaseijin at 7:39 AM on January 3, 2012


@ three blind mice The 70s was a fucking mess, but it got better. America climbed out of that hole; I think it is a mistake to count America out now.

The America that climbed out of that mess had a credit market debt to GDP ratio of only 150% and another 4 decades of global oil production growth ahead of it.

This America is saddled with a credit market debt to GDP ratio of 400%, $14 trillion public debt and $200 trillion unfunded Medicare and Social Security liabilities, is structurally rigged to implode under any condition other then economic expansion, yet stands on the brink of permanent global oil production contraction.

I admire your optimism, but gas station queues are an unreliable proxy for economic health.
posted by falcon at 7:40 AM on January 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


Economics as a science has been killed and replaced with a financial industry talking puppet

How can one kill that which never lived?
posted by me & my monkey at 7:40 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


And if you don't know what I'm talking about, go spend a while living among the average poor and working class people in America today. Things are getting bad
posted by crayz at 7:41 AM on January 3, 2012


Trochanter: You forgot "shrill."

Yeah, I see what you're trying to suggest here, but that's not me. I'm giving this guy a fair shake, and 20 minutes into this his rage against the institutional Left of the 70s, and it's various hypocrisies and shortcomings and failings rings as out of touch and hollow as any Right Winger who still is dull and dimwitted and STUCK in another era enough to not realize we've moved into a very new phase here post 2001, and his inability to envision a new Left or a new and re-invigorated and re-conceived Left, leaves him in this place of utter, utter despair. I don't accept that. All the Obama hate is just tiresome and bullshit.

I think the country is at the beginnings of huge changes and new beginnings, not a complete and utter horrifying descent and ruin. I think OWS is not going to end Capitalism, but re-invigorate it. I think the GOP is either going to have to re-configure itself or become obsolescent.

He's selling books, and he's playing both sides and I'm at 33 minutes now, and I'll see if he has something, anything to offer here beyond doom.
posted by Skygazer at 7:45 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Oprah: negative" - win
posted by grubby at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2012


Germany arguably is too (through fiscal domination of the EU, ask some people in Greece how they feel about that)

Not really. Fiscal domination, in the sense you're talking about, is very recent, and more the product of default than expansion. Also, the idea that the Greeks have been taken over is wildly exaggerated by both right and left because it helps grind the anti-capitalist axe and the anti-EU axe.

Yes, the EU is centred around France and Germany, and always has been since the days of coal and steel, but calling any and all national influence 'imperial' really devalues the term.
posted by howfar at 7:53 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


@crayz

What America has created over the last 40 years is a generation of people mentally and physically incapacitated by their own society - by the unfairness and the lack of education and quality of life and basic human feelings of dignity and purpose.

Thanks for making my point! I agree completely.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:00 AM on January 3, 2012


@ 40 Minutes.

He's asked by a listener to enumerate some positive elements he sees and he comes out swinging pretty hard for OWS and eradicating corporate control of government in the form of "personhood" and decoupling campaign financing and he's coming off the alarmist sensationalistic bullshit.
posted by Skygazer at 8:02 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


@ three blind mice

The 70s was a fucking mess, but it got better. America climbed out of that hole; I think it is a mistake to count America out now.

One more point: IMHO it's not about the End of America, one should more look at it as a transformation of the US in a negative direction.

Most Western Nations have suffered from the "Free Market" Idiocy initiated by Maggie & Ronnie.

The Financial Crisis, the Euro Crisis, the Education Crisis and the Disappearing Middle Class etc. are all consequences of these "Free Market" Experiments and a much smarter and more aggressive Capitalism.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:04 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


and he's coming off the alarmist sensationalistic bullshit

How would you characterise the difference between an opinion about an alarming, sensational situation, and an alarmist, sensationalistic opinion?

I'm genuinely interested. How do we talk about matters which exceed most people's capacity to comprehend the severity of the situation in a way that doesn't risk failing to convey the severity of the situation?
posted by falcon at 8:10 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


@2 hours 21 minutes. Molly Ivins with the 17 perspectives. Nice invocation. Elephants.
posted by grubby at 8:13 AM on January 3, 2012


All the Obama hate is just tiresome and bullshit.

As is all the unqualified and infinitely apologetic Obama love.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 8:13 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


and a much smarter and more aggressive Capitalism.

I would also use the words arrogant, defiant, reckless, unhinged, corrupt and unquestioned sense of total dominance and superiority after the end of the Cold War.

I think it functioned better when it had to prove itself in the free market of ideas against an alternative economic system. It was a natural corrective of sorts.
posted by Skygazer at 8:15 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Just another country"
-Rotten

Fine with me.
posted by jetsetsc at 8:18 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"the occupy movement picks up where the civil rights movement left off"
"economic justice is the only way to finally overcome racial injustice"
"in the same way that germany has an eternal responsibility to what was done to Jews during the holocaust"
"and we have walked out on that"
posted by grubby at 8:20 AM on January 3, 2012


I misread your answer at first, thinking you agreed with the nation/empire thing. I was reading all the countries you listed and assumed you were referring to their colonial empires but when I got to Sweden, I was like --wait, Sweden didn't have colonies, did it??? That would have busted my bubble for pure, snow-white Sweden. :)
You seem to be implying that all those are decent nations without being empires, but I think their colonial and military pasts don't help your point. Or at the very least, could be misconstrued?


I read the question as "is it possible to be a decent nation after losing the status of an empire", so my answer listed countries that were empires, but which did well after losing them i.e. what empath says. On Sweden, see also this.

Russia still is an imperial power. (E.g. invasion of Georgia.) Germany arguably is too (through fiscal domination of the EU, ask some people in Greece how they feel about that) and France to a lesser extent. France regularly intervenes militarily in its former colonies in Africa. The UK still has overseas possessions and is an (lesser) imperial power if the U.S. is (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)

Russia, France and the UK remain militarily active, but they are far from their heyday. France intervenes in its former African colonies due to the disinterest of the rest of the world in Africa; the increasing Chinese influence might complicate this. But, in general, France and the UK don't project military power independently since Suez. FWIW this Greek doesn't consider Germany an imperial power.

If your notion of "decent" includes contemporary Russia but not contemporary America then you are using some other word that's spelled the same.

I didn't mention contemporary America because despite its decline it remains the leading superpower; 'hangover' was meant as shorthand for the various unsavory aspects of Russia-in-transition.
posted by ersatz at 8:23 AM on January 3, 2012


Skygazer: I think the country is at the beginnings of huge changes and new beginnings, not a complete and utter horrifying descent and ruin. I think OWS is not going to end Capitalism, but re-invigorate it.
OK, but based on previous encounters between capitalism and resistant movements, I'm not so sure. Because what's tended to happen in the past is co-opting, whereby resistance gets assimilated as "cool" or "edgy" and ultimately converted into a brand, which then gets sold back to the populace that was previously doing the resisting. The result, of course, is what Tom Frank called an "opposition that ceases to oppose," and Hedges makes a pretty good case that the Obama presidency is simply another illustration of that process at work. I'm not sure that process reinvigorates capitalism so much as further entrenches it.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:23 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


This (excellent) post has weird timing for me: I just finished watching "The Little Foxes" and was marveling at how very prescient that film is about the small group of greedy assholes who were going to--I'm paraphrasing here-- bring down this country by devaluing labor and destroying the environment. There was a message throughout about how everyone was going to stand by and let them, too. Very chilling, indeed. That movie is like an American "White Ribbon".
posted by swingbraid at 8:24 AM on January 3, 2012


Man. I kind of wish people would stop fixating on the people we elect and start fixating on the systems that are in place to elect them.

We have no capability to reform anything so a broken system stays broken and breaks us with it.
posted by rudhraigh at 8:24 AM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


All the Obama hate is just tiresome and bullshit.

As is all the unqualified and infinitely apologetic Obama love.


Fortunately, corduroy never goes out of stye
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corduroy can be removed from styes with seltzer water.
posted by Skygazer at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we get back to this:
Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.
But still keeping our discourse civil, of course.


Civil discourse only works when the moderator is independent. In our scenario, it's not.

It's mind boggling the amount of cognitive dissonance that people put into words like "economy", "system" and "government". Wanting the people that profit off of the status quo to simply give up their 1% status because we what, asked nicely or had a valid argument?

I'm not condoning violence, just damn near certain it's the only way revolutions work.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:36 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Most Western Nations have suffered from the "Free Market" Idiocy initiated by Maggie & Ronnie.

The Financial Crisis, the Euro Crisis, the Education Crisis and the Disappearing Middle Class etc. are all consequences of these "Free Market" Experiments and a much smarter and more aggressive Capitalism.


I see this time as a transitional point where all matters are coming to a head.

Its a system based on a foundation of a certain set of principles. On this foundation are many different systems all interlinked (now more and more globally as well as within nations) forming an interdependent ecosystem. Many of these original principles were assumptions and many could have even been applied in the manner of a prototype i.e. lets see if this work and if it doesn't we'll tweak it. But the fundamental belief was "Progress = growth" i.e. a perpetual motion consumption machine, it was never "good enough" but always "more, more" (Is anyone ever permitted to question this? Or is that why OWS is considered the last best hope?)

I believe that the reason for the series of crises rather than a recession here or a blip over there is that this fundamental engine has hit a wall - that the system itself is flawed and no amount of tweaks and changes without relooking at the fundamental principles and assumptions is going make any difference. Else it would have by now.

Trouble is, much of it is also based on ideology - is it necessarily one that still needs to exist in such black and white terms if the "Other" doesn't? (Even China is trying its own path to integration, right or wrong, between the original ideological split of the Cold War era)

The status quo will be very hard to let go off and rethinking things on a systemic level might require questioning hitherto unquestioned beliefs and ideological dogma.
posted by infini at 8:38 AM on January 3, 2012


As I remember the "New World Order" was a comment by Bush Sr. in a speech somewhere.

I'm guessing one can trace back to the end of WWII and find 'new world order' stated.


Go back a wee bit further...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2012


Falcon: How would you characterise the difference between an opinion about an alarming, sensational situation, and an alarmist, sensationalistic opinion?

This is my mistake. I thought the name of Hedge's book was Brace yourself. The American Empire is Over. And the Descent is Going to be Horrifying

I see now it is the way "Mox News" titled the video. Hedges book is actually soberly and intelligently titled: The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

Which is, you know, sort of a different thing and I'm realizing I just don't know enough about the man to comment fully, I'm as uncomfortable with the institutional Left as he talked about in the beginning of the interview, but sort of read to much into it without fully thinking out where he was coming from, and I think I need to read his books.
posted by Skygazer at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2012


I sometimes think there's a cyclic tendency for things like this (ideas that define a country) that's hard to experience in a lifetime, but easier to see looking back at human history. It's a pattern I find it easy to relate with nature. For example: sometimes the forests have to burn down in order to remain healthy. While there seems to always be prophets of doom in the world, all hoping they have envisioned the correct gloomy outcome, perhaps subconsciously they feel that this country is unnaturally kept alive like our country's forests are unnaturally kept un-burned. The preservation ends up having the negative effect of making them tinderboxes for a later year...figuratively speaking. (we create money from nothing, bail out things too large to fail, watch so many poorly budgeted ideas get put on life support, experience growing corporate power over government via the markets, witness a completely broken system of election....repeatedly address the symptoms, not the root causes)

Perhaps he's somewhat right. Or perhaps there's a different story about a country's strength, told by those who believe most of the criteria for decline we're told to believe in is rather surmountable when the people are being heard again and are back in charge of their destiny. And I don't mean the politician's version of "power to the people" while he's catering to the rich and powerful on the other hand. I'm talking about real-deal democracy which can't happen until we tear down all of these greed-crafted mechanisms working against it. If anything, as we're facing the worst of our decline someday, we'll hopefully remember the power of democracy, kick out all these soothsayers, reform government, and work together to "fix" the dysfunctional status quo. Of course, being humans...there's no such thing as a 100% fix. And it's only a matter of time before we're back to being an overgrown forest...but I suppose that's another story for another time...
posted by samsara at 8:53 AM on January 3, 2012


At 25 minutes in I can say only this: If nothing else, the interview is a fascinating look at Hedges career and how he came to his beliefs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, Skygazer, I've only read "Empire of Illusion," but I don't have a good impression of Hedges as a writer. Both as a writer and a speaker, he uses rhetorical crutches, like corporatocracy, or power elite, or whatever. But, to paraphrase someone earlier in the thread who paraphrased someone else, you go into the debate with the rhetoricians you have.

Taibbi, Greenwald and Hedges all have things I don't like about them, as debaters. But I'm glad they are out there shouting. I forgive them their rhetorical excesses because the other side outnumbers them by so large an amount. And, in case you haven't noticed, the other side is prone to hyperbole and name calling to at least the same extent.
posted by Trochanter at 9:01 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


~As I remember the "New World Order" was a comment by Bush Sr. in a speech somewhere.
I'm guessing one can trace back to the end of WWII and find 'new world order' stated.

~Go back a wee bit further...


Go back a wee wee further than that.
Yeah, I know...it's a mis-translation. Just try that line of reasoning on a Ron Paul supporter, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:01 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I keep thinking back to one of Michael Moore's documentaries where he goes and views the Constitution, and asks one of the guards to show him where "capitalism" was in the document. It's not there, of course.

Capitalism has made a long, and spectacularly successful, march to supplant democracy as our form of government. We are so far gone that most people buy into the notion that the government should be "run like a business". Our political candidates try to impress us with their business acumen. We are constantly encouraged to envision our personal household budget when leaders are attempting to gut what's left of our hard-won social safety net.

Capitalism is fine and good as an economy. Not so much as a government. And today's global corporate capitalism is magnitudes worse, because it has zero allegiance to our citizens. Global corporations can, will , and are, selling us out. Piece by piece, block by block. And every block that gets removed or knocked down makes it that much more difficult to fix.

The most cogent idea Hedges discussed, IMO, was this:

Our government functioned better when we had a political spectrum with a wider range. There's ample evidence that the actual Left in this country has been systematically attacked and, essentially, destroyed. A lot of the governmental checks and balances that we deserve are gone. Change will not come from within government. Even in the "good old days", the left could only manage incremental change. Societal change of any degree will only, and has only, come from people in the streets.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:17 AM on January 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


As is perhaps fitting for such a student of theology, Hedges is a prophet in the mold of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah’s job was to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity),[11][12]

'Chrisiad' and 'Hedgesiad' do lack a certain resonance, however.
posted by jamjam at 9:20 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Left has allowed itself to be persuaded that it is unwise for it to hold on to nationalism, socialism and Christianity; and thus it tries to sit on a legless stool.
posted by No Robots at 9:21 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sit in Vietnam hoping that the Occupy Movements succeed so I can return to the place I initially emigrated to in the 80's.
posted by grubby at 9:24 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are so far gone that most people buy into the notion that the government should be "run like a business".

This is really something that bothers me more than it should. Movies where an outsider uses common sense to balance the budget and saves the government. Helium reserves! ridiculous! Volcano studies? Don't we know enough already? I ran a hardware store for 20 years mister! All the government needs is some good old-fashioned horse sense! If i ran my store like this, why I would be bankrupt!
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 AM on January 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


nationalism, socialism and Christianity

One of these is sane, the other two are not. Hint: "Sane" starts with "s".
posted by maxwelton at 9:25 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Left has allowed itself to be persuaded that it is unwise for it to hold on to nationalism, socialism and Christianity; and thus it tries to sit on a legless stool.

This is a gross generalization and largely untrue. The actual issues keeping the left from fully bringing its power to bear are difficult to sum up in a sentence and this sentence is certainly not a contender for doing so.

The problems we face and the solutions to them are hard to sum up. The problems facing our institutions are similarly large and complex and difficult to sum up.
posted by Fuka at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2012


Sonny Jim: Because what's tended to happen in the past is co-opting, whereby resistance gets assimilated as "cool" or "edgy" and ultimately converted into a brand, which then gets sold back to the populace that was previously doing the resisting.

So far, I think it's resisted that pretty well, but its a great point and needs to be kept front and center in the OWS GA's.

I would like to believe a more healthy Capitalism could do that, but there's a weird sort of brittleness to it right now that almost renders it incapable of finessing the whole co-opt and neutralize the idea/brand so far, and I think a corrupt system that further corrupts government and weakens or ignores rights like those of assembly, the press, free speech, as Wall Street/the banks/the law enforcement complex/the real estate interests, Big Pharma and the medical insurance HMO's have done, become incapable of seeing themselves, as disastrously as any totalitarian system cannot see itself fully, or much as an obsessive person stops being able to empathize or see another side of an argument.

Wall Street ate itself and will eat, is eating, the nation sucking up every last bit of intrinsic wealth to be found in it's society and GOVERNMENT founded institutions and infrastructure. This is what a dying organism does. It cannibalizes itself. I sound just like Hedges now. WHoa.
posted by Skygazer at 9:30 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Capitalism has made a long, and spectacularly successful, march to supplant democracy as our form of government.

And Coca Cola diplomacy - an example from this week's news and one from very long ago (in zeitgeist time)
posted by infini at 9:32 AM on January 3, 2012


I'm liking this Hedges. I'd like to see him and Chalmers Johnson get together for a chin-wag.

The point about WWI being the pivot-point for the destruction of the American Left is very well taken.

I have great hopes for the repression of the Occupy movement forcing the movement to evolve competitive strategies for revitalization. Occupy is the best revitalization movement we've got. And (hold on to your wigs) Obama deserves some credit for mobilizing and then betraying the young activists. A needed kick in the pants. Reactionary opposition is always the best organizer for reform.

Obama means well but is incapable of doing good. That's worlds apart from the Rethuglicans, who are evil and mean harm. But being better than Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich is not the same as being good. Moral relativism is a useless concept when confronted with evil.
posted by warbaby at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Manufacturing has been gutted and moved to other countries.

And worse, no longer does 95% of the population engage in farming- all those peasant jobs have been replaced by machines! What will all those unemployed peasants DO!?
posted by happyroach at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sound just like Hedges now. Whoa.
In Soviet Metafilter, FPP co-opts you.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:34 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sound just like Hedges now. WHoa.

See what I mean? You may spend a lot of your Hedges time questioning his overwrought style, even at times his quality as a thinker, but the guy's got a big honking point.

What I find most flabbergasting (and demoralizing) is that this stuff is so marginalized. We don't even come close to talking about campaign finance when it's the central flaw in the system.
posted by Trochanter at 9:35 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


The problems we face and the solutions to them are hard to sum up. The problems facing our institutions are similarly large and complex and difficult to sum up.

Wicked Problems (click on the link 10 characteristics of)

Wickedness isn’t a degree of difficulty. Wicked issues are different because traditional processes can’t resolve them, according to Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, professors of design and urban planning at the University of California at Berkeley, who described them in a 1973 article in Policy Sciences magazine. A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer, as we will see in the next section. Environmental degradation, terrorism, and poverty—these are classic examples of wicked problems. They’re the opposite of hard but ordinary problems, which people can solve in a finite time period by applying standard techniques. Not only do conventional processes fail to tackle wicked problems, but they may exacerbate situations by generating undesirable consequences.



The author was my prof but he puts forth a pretty good method
posted by infini at 9:37 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Capitalism has made a long, and spectacularly successful, march to supplant democracy as our form of government. We are so far gone that most people buy into the notion that the government should be "run like a business". Our political candidates try to impress us with their business acumen.

Here's graphs of the terms free markets and capitalism in Google books historical word count. I report, you decide
posted by crayz at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And worse, no longer does 95% of the population engage in farming- all those peasant jobs have been replaced by machines! What will all those unemployed peasants DO!?

They moved to manufacturing.
What wide-spread revolution do you see ably-employing now that manufacturing is dieing? A nation of minimum-wage call-center techs? Or do you simply wave the "information economy" wand while chanting "work smarter, not harder" and believe all will be well?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:39 AM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Viva la creative class! Knowledge workers! Service economy! woo hooo *waves left over New year vuvuzelas at trendspotters from 2005*
posted by infini at 9:45 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bet Chris Hedges doesn't have a book to sell.
...oh, wait.

Eh. *shrug* Doesn't make him wrong.

Still, it doesn't have to be a horrifying descent. It could be a Slim Pickens style cowboy hat waving bomb riding rodeo descent.

Spectacle is what the U.S. is about in a lot of ways. The illusion of power and the exercise of force, typically through military force, makes junkies of a lot of people.

Power of the short term lie. Yeah.
He's making me think about the pornography thing too. This is good. Thanks crayz.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2012


And worse, no longer does 95% of the population engage in farming- all those peasant jobs have been replaced by machines! What will all those unemployed peasants DO!?

Starve. Or become violent, since otherwise the oligarchs have no more reason to care.
posted by tyllwin at 9:55 AM on January 3, 2012


Does anyone have a recommendation for a Youtube to MP3 converter, or a similar trick for me to get the audio? It would appear that the length of the video has choked the first few Google results I've tried.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:02 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The 70's had lower income inequaliy, higher social mobility, and higher real incomes than what we have today.

Lower income inequality, yes--higher real incomes, no. They had (for part of the 70s) higher real wages, but the figure for wages leaves out all non-wage income, i.e. benefits. The charts you want (or, perhaps, don't want) to look for are those for "total compensation." That has certainly been pretty flat over the last decade, but it's markedly higher than it was in the 70s.

The right media presents the Democrats and liberal class middle class as "Left" when they are really in the Middle. - there is no true Left thanks to the demonisation of that position durign The McCarthy era.

You know, there's certainly a grain of truth to the old "there's no such thing as a 'Left' in American politics" saw, but it really gets wildly overblown. Has anyone in America actually paid any attention at all to what is going on in Europe (you know, where "even the Right wing politicians would be called socialists in America!!!!") over the past few years? Out of the Eurozone countries and America who has come closer to the classic "left" approach to the economic crisis? America, by a country mile. In America, the left is raging at Obama for not doing enough stimulus. In Europe the debate is solely about how severe the austerity regime ought to be--stimulus isn't even on the table.

Ahh 1995, unemployment at 5.6%.

In 1982 it was at 10.8%. And? Predicting the end of something as amorphous as "the American Empire" because unemployment is high is ridiculous. People have been making predictions of this sort in every decade since the founding of America. In my own lifetime I can remember having versions of this argument from the 70s on (and, of course, in the 60s the assumption that 'The Revolution' was just around the corner was pretty much de rigeur in left-wing circles). No doubt, one day, the prediction will be correct, but I don't, myself, see any more reason to believe it today than last decade, or the decade before that, or the one before that, or the one before that.
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand, I've used this site with satisfactory results:
http://www.video2mp3.net/

No registration required, conversion time depends on the size of the file.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is it possible to have a decent nation?

Switzerland or Norway perhaps? Maybe even Canada. They're all far from perfect, but seem to keep themselves in balance by comparison.
posted by samsara at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2012


O.K., I started listening to the actual recording. He begins with such ridiculous hand-waving nonsense that I just couldn't go on. "America is following the trajectory of all empires." Really? What is that trajectory that all the Empires in human history--from the thousand-plus years of the Roman Empire to the 14 years of the Qin Dynasty--have ineluctably followed? Please show us the not-at-all-arbitrarily-chosen markers you're using to map America's movement along this inevitably trajectory.

"We have run up the largest deficits in human history." I find it mildly hilarious that so many of the same mefites who I have seen savaging Obama for daring to even talk about deficit reduction are happy to give this guy a pass when he waves this largely BS flag (his second "major warning sign" for the end of the American Empire) because he's doing so as part of a diatribe about America's inevitable downfall.
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Coca Cola diplomacy...

If life were a word association game, everytime someone said "Coke" I'd say "fascists ... " and "fascists" again.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


@yoink So, are you going to come back when you've actually listened to the broadcast? Because you risk engaging in "ridiculous hand-waving" yourself if you write off Hedges that glibly.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:29 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please show us the not-at-all-arbitrarily-chosen markers you're using to map America's movement along this inevitably trajectory.

Ok I watched the whole thing earlier this morning so my memory may not be correct, but I don't remember Mr. Hedges ever claiming he could pinpoint where exactly the U.S. is on its imperial trajectory. His observation that the American Empire can't last forever seems pretty uncontroversial and self evident to me, but what do I know.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:30 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alvy Ampersand, I've used this site with satisfactory results:
http://www.video2mp3.net/


Keepvid refers users to Snip2MP3, which I am using now. It's a 323MB MP3 which is about 13% complete and scheduled to take 1-2 hours, possibly depending on my other Internet usage.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Harvard Divinity School, M. Div
anti-porn activist
"I Don't Believe in Atheists"

this is an increment beyond 'huh' and may even reach the level of 'hmmm'

three 'm's, not four because i am being sparing but that is still to say, "hmmm".
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:43 AM on January 3, 2012


nationalism, socialism and Christianity

One of these is sane, the other two are not. Hint: "Sane" starts with "s".


Without nationalism, socialism degenerates into global capitalism. Without Christianity, socialism degenerates into materialist progressivism.
posted by No Robots at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2012


kaseijin: "For my part, I am completely behind the original intent of OWS (not so much the "free mumia" and black bloc types) and think that they have served (and continue) to serve their function admirably for the most part. I never saw them as a hammer, but more as a ratchet."

Well that's our problem! BOP said "Hatchet", not ratchet.
posted by symbioid at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2012


Without Christianity, socialism degenerates into materialist progressivism.

How is that a degeneration? And what on earth does socialism have to do with Christianity in the first place? Smells of apologetics to me.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:12 AM on January 3, 2012


OK, so some people in this thread is like "we dealt with shit before" and I'm not saying that we are truly fucked. But there are factors this time that we didn't have before (and yes, there were factors before that we don't have this time).

I'm hesitant to say that the decline is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, we're an empire who loved to extract wealth from natural resources in distant lands (kind of the sine qua non of an imperial commerce system, no?) Then it was the process of taking domestic labor applied to those resources to build something new and sell to other people (both domestically and internationally).

Then we got the opening with all these lovely free trade agreements that tore down barriers to trade (no judgement on that on my end - I feel uneasy about NAFTA and FTAA and GATT and all that kind of thing, but I don't know if I believe that full on old-school protectionism is really the answer)... Then we had technology like giant massive container ships that made shipping internationally much more efficient, cheap and easy like never before. Add in the low wages in countries with weaker economies and you pit the workers in one nation against each other, driving out the production from the US economy into other countries.

That is not to say that there is absolutely no manufacturing base, but it seems there's been a steady decline since at least the 80s (if not the 70s). How much of our economy for the past half-century was based on a "Cold War Economy"? That "bubble" burst with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.

Anyways, the main point is that things are different in the sense that we've lost a good chunk of producer type jobs and have become, as Hedges noted quite rightly, IMO, a consumer oriented economy. But where does the money come from?

Debt is not necessarily a bad thing (strictly economically speaking - not morally speaking here) if it is used to invest in productive capacity that gives more output. In this sense, of course, I'm not talking of an overall totality of wealth generation, but productive capacity at the national level.

Here's the deal. Finance and Capital are global. Labor is local. Finance and Capital are free with open borders to go where and when they want. Labor, not so much, except in so far as it serves the need of capital.

So while total wealth rises, the share of those on the low end get fucked over because the extraction of value comes from other sources of productive capacity. The consumers, in order to consume, require debt, if they have no job or to continue purchasing beyond the rate of production, yes? (I'm not an economist, so feel free to burst my bubble there).

Hence we have the bubbles that are based upon overvalued houses, overpriced stocks, financial innovations and other such things. The market gets altered due to distortionary effects of herd psychology, and the sheep give up their gold to the butchers who sold them the dream in the hope that they'll get more gold (because lord know they ain't got no jobs).

So we have the modern economic system built upon a rentier foundation, where the only way to make money is rent extraction. Which is why we have such a strong corporate push (for the most part) for things like SOPA. Hollywood and the Music Industry has no way to extract more wealth out of things and instead of finding ways to create new things does what it deems necessary to protect its turf. But this is just one more form of extracting rent from a captive population.

Add in the fact that SOPA goes beyond mere rent extraction into questions of access to information and the right to fair trial and free speech, and you have a dangerous mix. The police state itself is a bubble, the drug war is a bubble. The whole *-industrial complex is one giant massive fucking bubble, and the only way they know how to sustain it without it all collapsing is to keep pushing for more and more things to imprison and make a crime.

It can only end badly. Whether it happens, as some have said, during our lifetime or much later is a question to be seen.

I don't see a solution. I think we're in a "race to the bottom" (again, I hate to think that this is necessarily a bad thing, if it means that other people around the world have a better way of life in the process -- but it IS a bad thing if it's just one more way to make everybody fight for the same scraps, and in that sense, I feel that we are going that route).

Off to sign up w/blogger to GMOFB now...
posted by symbioid at 11:12 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


@no robots

what about those who are injured by the practice of christianity

do they go under the bus or what
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'm just cribbing from Orwell:
One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realises how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.
The Left must straighten out its spiritual basement if it doesn't want its whole house to collapse.
posted by No Robots at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


orwells dead so he cant really answer though
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:23 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is not to say that there is absolutely no manufacturing base, but it seems there's been a steady decline since at least the 80s (if not the 70s).

Often claimed, but no.
posted by dsfan at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Left must straighten out its spiritual basement if it doesn't want its whole house to collapse.

I would submit that I know far more people on the left who, though they do not practice any religion, are far more "Christian" in thought and deed than any of the self-proclaimed Christians thumping their bibles today.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


orwells dead

A prime example of the Left's presentism.
posted by No Robots at 11:25 AM on January 3, 2012


would submit that I know far more people on the left who, though they do not practice any religion, are far more "Christian" in thought and deed than any of the self-proclaimed Christians thumping their bibles today.

It's time for the Christian Left to take back both Christianity and the Left.
posted by No Robots at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


if orwell answered that you could link it maybe

also what about judaism? what about islam or taoism or ...? do they have the right stuff
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2012


Occupy Christianity
posted by Thorzdad at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2012


One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realises how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.

The Left must straighten out its spiritual basement if it doesn't want its whole house to collapse.


Have you actually read the article you're linking to? Orwell's point is that we must take the death of Christianity seriously as a spiritual challenge, and acknowledge that it is truly dying. It is an attack on "the Catholic intellectuals who cling to the letter of the Creeds while reading into them meanings they were never meant to have, and who snigger at anyone simple enough to suppose that the Fathers of the Church meant what they said, are simply raising smoke-screens to conceal their own disbelief from themselves."

If you need it spelling out, Orwell does it for you in characteristically lucid prose:

"I do not want the belief in life after death to return, and in any case it is not likely to return. What I do point out is that its disappearance has left a big hole, and that we ought to take notice of that fact."
posted by howfar at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Often claimed, but no.

Absolutely deceiving. That's production, NOT JOBS.

Manufacturing is at the lowest level it has ever been in this country, in relationship to GDP. Can't hunt the stats right now, but we've gone from almost 30% of GDP in manufacturing in the fifties, to about 8% today - one of the very lowest levels among advanced economies.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:31 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Robots, you're making some pretty big claims here. You might find that 1-2 sentence assertions, however confidently stated, are inadequate to the task of supporting them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2012


I think the truly scary thing about how little manufacturing there is in North America is how hungry we are to consume manufactured goods. It's very Brave New World--all things must be shiny, new and latest version. Replace, never repair. That and the proliferation of reality TV (modernity's gladiator spectacle) makes me feel like we really might be at empire's end right now.
posted by Go Banana at 11:38 AM on January 3, 2012


Absolutely deceiving. That's production, NOT JOBS.

Of course it's production. That's what we ultimately care about--how much stuff we have to consume. The fact that fewer people produce more stuff is in the long-run good for the economy, just like it's good that a much smaller percentage of our population is employed in agriculture than in the previous century.

Can't hunt the stats right now, but we've gone from almost 30% of GDP in manufacturing in the fifties, to about 8% today - one of the very lowest levels among advanced economies.

Don't think the data (Excel file) supports this either. Using this data, and assuming I didn't make an Excel error, here are the shares of manufacturing for G7 countries in 1970 vs. 2010:

Canada 19.0% 10.6%
France 22.3% 10.5%
Germany 31.5% 18.7%
Italy 25.1% 15.0%
Japan 35.0% 19.9%
UK 28.7% 10.2%
US 24.3% 12.8%

So the change is:

Canada -8.4%
France -11.8%
Germany -12.7%
Italy -10.1%
Japan -15.2%
UK -18.5%
US -11.5%

Which seems to place the US right in the middle of the pack in both share of GDP that is manufacturing and in the amount of decline. Granted the figure might be different from the 1950s....but may I ask what data you are using in support of this position?
posted by dsfan at 11:49 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Replace, never repair. That and the proliferation of reality TV (modernity's gladiator spectacle) makes me feel like we really might be at empire's end right now.

That statement above reminds me forcibly of Morris Berman's Twilight of American Culture. He recommends beginning a repository of knowledge for his expected post Imperial fall Dark Ages. I guess Google Books will have to suffice.

If we can pull together the threads of this discussion so far, it would seem that four factors are present when a civilization collapses:


(a) Accelerating social and economic inequality

(b) Declining marginal returns with regard to investment in organizational solutions to socioeconomic problems

(c) Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical understanding, and general intellectual awareness

(d) Spiritual death—that is, Spengler's classicism: the emptying out of cultural content and the freezing (or repackaging) of it in formulas—kitsch, in short.


It is at this point that this scenario may strike the reader as hauntingly familiar, because these four conditions would seem to apply to the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. What reader of these pages is not aware that the gap between rich and poor has increasingly widened since the 1970s? That entitlements such as Social Security are under threat, or that we incarcerate more people per capita (565 per 100,000) than any other country in the world? That millions of our high school graduates can barely read or write, and that common words are now often misspelled on public signs? That community life has been reduced to shopping malls, and that most Americans grow old in isolation, zoning out in front of TV screens, and/or on antidepressant drugs? This is the nitty-gritty, daily reality that belies the glitz and glamour of the so-called New World Order.

posted by infini at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's fair to say that the people running the system sure as hell aren't going to inflict any pain upon themselves in order to dig the country out.

>Then it's our job to inflict it upon them.


These sorts of sentiments on MetaFilter of all places make me sick. I do not believe violence is a community value here,

Corporations don't have pain receptors. So violence is only one of the ways to hurt them.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2012


Debacle! How Two Wars in the Greater Middle East Revealed the Weakness of the Global Superpower
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2012


@infini

it's weird that he groups kitsch in with something like accelerating inequality

it'd be easy to call that "get-off-my-lawn" rambling sugared with a paen to the plight of the people but i think the more sinister aspect of it is a desire for Arbiters to Inflict Judgment
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:06 PM on January 3, 2012


Things may not be so bad if the U.S. collapses. If the central government collapses and the states begin to balkanize then the state of North Dakota will become one of the most powerful nations on earth. Hey I kinda like where this is headed me hailing from ND and all. :) Some North Dakotans have claimed that ND was never really a state to begin with.

Seriously, though, if people are interested in reading about the historical/archaeological material surrounding the systemic failure of complex societies you should read The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:12 PM on January 3, 2012


Granted the figure might be different from the 1950s....but may I ask what data you are using in support of this position?

I'm not where I can look that stuff up right now; I'm working from memory. I believe I've posted the numbers here before. I'll try to find them.

That's what we ultimately care about--how much stuff we have to consume. The fact that fewer people produce more stuff is in the long-run good for the economy, just like it's good that a much smaller percentage of our population is employed in agriculture than in the previous century.

That, I would argue, is only true to a point. A sustainable system is a bit more important. Manufacturing, as a whole, was an industry where the average person could make a decent wage. What are those people going to do moving forward? Cheap goods are essentially useless in the face of high unemployment. Not to mention the trade imbalances we have willingly signed up for.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2012


Of course it's production. That's what we ultimately care about--how much stuff we have to consume. The fact that fewer people produce more stuff is in the long-run good for the economy, just like it's good that a much smaller percentage of our population is employed in agriculture than in the previous century.

Really. And what means do they have to consume this "stuff?"

Have service industry jobs, on balance, paid a wage that permits a citizen without an advance degree to attain a middle class lifestyle, and buy all this stuff? There's an odd correlation between the flatlining of American wages in real terms, and deindustrialization. And the increase in household debt pretty much tracks that trendline as well.
posted by kgasmart at 12:21 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


His observation that the American Empire can't last forever seems pretty uncontroversial and self evident to me

The observation that any human empire cannot last forever is trivially self-evident. It is also uninteresting and useless.
posted by yoink at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


His observation that the American Empire can't last forever seems pretty uncontroversial and self evident to me

You didn't work in the Cheney administration, did you?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:38 PM on January 3, 2012


The U.S. is just a construct to carry forward certain concepts like individual liberty, diversity, self-determination, that sort of thing.
What's so odd about the U.S. not having collapsed is that at least one founder wanted it collapse and renew itself every 20 years or so.

The lifestyle we've created on the back of the ingenious system they created would fall apart anyway. We've been reaping dividends from being so enlightened and open ahead of most of the rest of the world.

Other countries catching up to us on that is a good thing. It means those ideas will continue whether our standard of living equalizes or not.
We're not going to have the Collapse of the Roman Empire sort of thing. The ideas and way of living aren't going to be lost even if the living standard is.

Of course we could renew our commitment to innovation and openness and develop more transparent methods of governance that empowers individuals even further and have a new Renaissance ...

Ha ha ha! Na, I'm just jerkin' with ya. We're really going to have to hit a wall before anyone takes it seriously.
Nice while it lasted though.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:50 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The observation that any human empire cannot last forever is trivially self-evident. It is also uninteresting and useless.

That was kinda the point that i was trying to make; that it's self evident. You seemed put off by the fact that he was positing what most people see as "trivially self-evident". You may find it uninteresting and useless, but then if that is true I doubt you would have taken the time to comment make this comment:

He begins with such ridiculous hand-waving nonsense that I just couldn't go on. "America is following the trajectory of all empires." Really? What is that trajectory that all the Empires in human history--from the thousand-plus years of the Roman Empire to the 14 years of the Qin Dynasty--have ineluctably followed? Please show us the not-at-all-arbitrarily-chosen markers you're using to map America's movement along this inevitably trajectory.

It seems that you didn't feel like it was so self-evident when you made this comment which precipitated my comment pointing that out. If my interpretation of this comment was incorrect than I am sorry, but that's just how I took it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:56 PM on January 3, 2012


@yoink So, are you going to come back when you've actually listened to the broadcast? Because you risk engaging in "ridiculous hand-waving" yourself if you write off Hedges that glibly.

I can't imagine wasting so much time listening to the arguments of someone who begins with such silly claims. It's not as if he's just caught making small talk as the interview begins--he solemnly declares his "all empires follow the same trajectory" theory as the single best piece of evidence that he has for his claims. He then follows that up with the debt-panic nonsense.

If that's his best evidence, I have no interest in hearing what he considers to be the "shakier" stuff.
posted by yoink at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2012


Hey, I'm just cribbing from Orwell:
One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realises how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.
The Left must straighten out its spiritual basement if it doesn't want its whole house to collapse.


If you're saying the Left needs some sort of moral core*, there is already a post-Christian moral system that easily adapts to political thought. It's called Secular Humanism.

Of course, it's not really "post" Christian, it's pre-Christian, since (under the banner of Epicureanism) the system was around for centruies, and was a major philosophical force in Greece and Roman until a radical Eastern mystery cult convinced an entire civilization to throw away its inheritance. The West has been around for a long time, a Christianity is actually the newcomer to the intellectual scene. There have been thousands of polities without Christianity as a political force, including those of republican/democratic bent. There's no reason to believe Christianity is a needed component of any intellectual philosophy, let alone the one that is the heir of all the people who started the move away from it as a political force 600 hundred years ago.

*It, in fact, doesn't.
posted by spaltavian at 1:01 PM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


That and the proliferation of reality TV (modernity's gladiator spectacle) makes me feel like we really might be at empire's end right now.

Of course, Rome had gladiators for several centuries before barbarians showed up at the gates.

The bad news is that you may have a lot of Reality TV to slog through in the future before it's all over.
posted by gimonca at 1:01 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


it'd be easy to call that "get-off-my-lawn" rambling sugared with a paen to the plight of the people but i think the more sinister aspect of it is a desire for Arbiters to Inflict Judgment

I debated a long time over the wording of whether I should add "hesitatingly I put forward this book" because it left me with a mixed opinion regarding him/the book but his emphasis on the decline of intelligentsia (as an academic I suppose) aside, the roman empire comparison is still pretty evocative. Otoh, nobody beats Chalmers Johnson when it comes to the decline genre, though Diamond had me awake at 5am in tears.


On Collapse, Orlov's got an amusing blogpost up - he's linked to it directly:

This morning I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on what the near future holds with an illustrious panel: Richard Heinberg, Nicole Foss, James Howard Kunstler and Noam Chomsky. And it turned out really dismal, if you ask me! The overall message seems to have been that it doesn't matter what any of us say, because so few people are able to take in such bad news without becoming despondent, so we might as well just let Chomsky ramble on like he always does, as a sort of case in point. And of course the moderator just had get up Kunstler's nose with the usual "so this is all doom and gloom, isn't it?" sort of comment. The one funny bit is around 51:26 where Chomsky calls Daniel Yergin "a very serious analyst" right after Kunstler calls him "the oil industry's chief public relations prostitute." Perhaps this will make Yergin an even better prostitute. And Chomsky is a very serious linguist. Think positive!

posted by infini at 1:02 PM on January 3, 2012


Metafilter: We might as well just let Chomsky ramble on like he always does.
posted by symbioid at 1:08 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The American Empire is awesome and vital. Because we are the dominant military power, the dollar is the world's reserve currency and oil is denominated in dollars. This means that countries are willing to lend us money "no matter what." We are the safe haven. This means we can print money on demand to fund deficit spending. So we will never have to face austerity on the level as that being experienced in the euro zone. If it wasn't for American Empire, we would actually have to face the wrath of the bond market and that would make all our lives substantially worse.

We are the hub of the world system. To permit our displacement from this role would be the stupidest and most harmful thing that could happen.

That said, Empire is weak consolation when real unemployment is ~20%. But at least it ensures that social programs will never actually suffer from want of money.
posted by blargerz at 1:08 PM on January 3, 2012


Hey! That's madison's community radio station :) WORT FTW! :D
posted by symbioid at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2012


We are the hub of the world system. To permit our displacement from this role would be the stupidest and most harmful thing that could happen. to us. Perhaps not to the RoTW (tm) non sporting usage
posted by infini at 1:14 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


but his emphasis on the decline of intelligentsia (as an academic I suppose) aside, the roman empire comparison is still pretty evocative.

As much as we are in cultural debt to Rome, the Roman Empire is a terrible model for the American Empire. The United States has stronger republican roots, has a free market, a much better track record of political stability, is a technological innovator, and is a sea faring power rather than a continental power with a massive standing army.

The model to compare America too would be the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th century.
posted by spaltavian at 1:15 PM on January 3, 2012


Either way
posted by infini at 1:18 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If one must make a comparison to Rome, I'd go for the fall of the Republic and its conversion from rule by a terminally corrupt senate into the Empire and an increasingly unhinged dictatorship rather than the fracture into East and West and the fall of the Western empire. Maybe the collapse would be more like the Eastern empire, long, drawn out, and ultimately misremembered and/or forgotten by history.

I'm not sure it's a meaningful or useful parallel to draw but it can be interesting as a thought exercise.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:21 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


MP3 on Soundcloud. I didn't check the whole thing, but the length looks the same ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


WORT! You can't make beer without wort!
posted by box at 2:16 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine wasting so much time listening to the arguments of someone who begins with such silly claims.

Usually it's good etiquette to read and/or watch what the fpp is linking to before commenting.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:38 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had this weird thing where I kept thinking that this was Walter from Freedom, or maybe Walter's more verbose brother.
posted by angrycat at 2:43 PM on January 3, 2012


I like Hedges commentary, but his grasp of economics is poor, and it blinds him to seeing real solutions. He uncritically buys into the "ZOMG USA BANKRUPT" line of thinking, I suspect because he views things from a Calvinist perspective.
posted by wuwei at 3:07 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd go for the fall of the Republic and its conversion from rule by a terminally corrupt senate into the Empire and an increasingly unhinged dictatorship rather than the fracture into East and West and the fall of the Western empire

Which would mean that we're looking at the American Empire flourishing for another 400 odd years, including a period that Gibbon describes as that "during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous."

And, of course, neither the fall of the Republic, nor the ultimate fall of the Western Empire had anything to do with being overstretched militarily abroad--which is the thing that this guy offers as the ultimate reason for America's decline and for that of all other empires. Hilariously, it's not even true of America, which has been far more actively engaged in international military adventures in the past (see e.g. Vietnam).
posted by yoink at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


dsfan:

I don't have any major gripe with your numbers. My google-fu is not going great tonight and it is certainly much easier to find production numbers than it is to find relevant employment numbers.

As much as I hate to use what some would consider a "biased" source, I did find this American Prospect article from 2009 that lays out the problems pretty well, I think:

December 21, 2009
The Plight of American Manufacturing Since 2001, the U.S. has lost 42,400 factories --and its technical edge.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:43 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to have a decent nation without being an empire?

The mirror image of that question -- is it possible to be an ethical empire? -- is one of the great questions of history. It remains largely unanswered, at least in the affirmative.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:44 PM on January 3, 2012


I had this weird thing where I kept thinking that this was Walter from Freedom ...

Now I'm imagining this speech coming from Walter Sobchak.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:48 PM on January 3, 2012


Well - name one nation that wasn't based in some way on slavery. Whether it's Egypt or Mesopotamia, Greece or Rome. The Middle Passage. Soviet work camps. Whatever you call it - it's always slaves.

I guess what I'm trying to say "Slaves, this is your song, thank you... slaves."
posted by symbioid at 3:48 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean to imply that I think Hedges makes an argument which supports the comparison, just that if you're going to make it, that seems to be the most reasonable one of the available options.

I don't think he is necessarily wrong in arguing the general theme that the US is on the road to some form of metamorphosis, and that it's unlikely to be pretty, but I would agree that the idea that we're involved in a decline and fall comparable to previous empires is a misreading of history. In my view, it is less the empire that is crumbling than the system which manages it is undergoing a profound and drawn out change, in a situation not altogether unlike that which led to the signing of the Magna Carta.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:49 PM on January 3, 2012


In my view, it is less the empire that is crumbling than the system which manages it is undergoing a profound and drawn out change...

Which system? Democracy? Or Capitalism? I fear that it will be the latter that will have subsumed the former, when the smoke clears.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2012


I didn't mean to imply that I think Hedges makes an argument which supports the comparison, just that if you're going to make it, that seems to be the most reasonable one of the available options.

No, I understood. I was just building on your point to say how useless these kinds of historical analogies are--at least when they're done as lazily and cartoonishly as this.
posted by yoink at 3:56 PM on January 3, 2012


I'm not sure that in our present system there is even a meaningful distinction between democracy and capitalism. Obviously in their platonic ideals there is, but today, in the American political landscape, I can't really imagine a scenario where you could have one without the other. I don't yet really understand what this signifies, but I think it's fairly self-evident. I doubt it signifies a net benefit for anyone but the already-wealthy.

When I said "system" above, what I really had in mind was the basic premise of the rule of law. I think our conception of what it means to be a "government of laws, not of men" is changing and to me, this it the most worrisome aspect of what's going on.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:01 PM on January 3, 2012


I realize I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to thank you for posting this link. He has a way of very succinctly describing the history that helped destroy our democracy, usher in one party rule, and complete the corporatization of politics.
posted by cell divide at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2012


As much as I hate to use what some would consider a "biased" source, I did find this American Prospect article from 2009 that lays out the problems pretty well, I think

Benny-

Interesting (and factoid-filled) article, though I don't really agree with it's conclusions about free trade. But I would note that it doesn't talk about Germany, or France, or the UK, where the declines in manufacturing output have been similar or greater (and I have to imagine the employment situation likewise--I think there was a Metafilter thread about the decline of UK manufacturing a little while back, actually). If declining manufacturing sinks the ship, the US is going to have a lot of company at the bottom of the ocean.

By the way, reading my comments above, it may have come across as saying everything is terrific, and that's not really what I'm going for. I'm very glad today that agricultural efficiency increased to a level where few of us have to be farmers today, but that doesn't mean that it didn't really suck to be a farmer while that transition was happening. Likewise, I'm pretty confident that in 50 years our descendants are going to be happy that they by and large aren't working as factory laborers (a profession that seems to be curiously romanticized by academic-types who would never want to actually do it themselves in a million years), but that doesn't mean that there won't be real pain along the way, and certainly a measure of a society's moral bearings is how it deals with people who are "victims" of these changes, even if I believe them to be ultimately beneficial.
posted by dsfan at 4:34 PM on January 3, 2012


Chris Hedges seems to think that being an outsider gives him a better POV... but apparently, that only applies to making gross oversimplifications of the complex issues involved.

Rather than characterizing Obama as blindly serving the power elite, perhaps he would learn more if he were to closely examine the legal and political issues that make it hard to do a 180 in American law and foreign policy. The POTUS can do a lot, yes... but he can only do so much, really... especially when Congress is packed with those who are actively trying to impede, undermine, entrap, and destroy him, his administration, and his policies at every turn.

It's the height of marginalizing serious issues when you go after Obama for gutting the Bill of Rights, for example, without paying attention to the fact that it was the GOP who overwhelmingly voted to reject the advice of the CIA, Homeland Security, etc. and to attach a huge assault on citizen's rights into the Defense Appropriations legislation, in a way that would essentially shut down the DoD if it were rejected. It was a classic political catch-22, in that it would either mean that the POTUS was either dismantling the Constitution, or was pro-terrorism and betraying the troops.

The fact of the matter is, the politics of things *DO* matter, because being in power and exercising control over a prolonged amount of time is what is necessary to turn eight years of highly destructive policy around. It's how you change the Supreme Court, so they don't put the rights of corporations ahead of the rights of citizens. It's being around long enough, until the American people come to realize firsthand that *some* form of national healthcare is better than none at all. It's staying in power longer than rightwing extremists in Israel, so that you can negotiate a lasting peace with a receptive government. It's how you wind down wars and gradually get rid of the "War on Terrorism" mentality that makes changing Constitutionally threatening laws so hard to do. It's how you gradually unravel the gordian knots of policy and legalese that make it so difficult to immediately do the right thing. It's how you find the time and the opportunities to slip hard-to-pass advancements for society into legislation where the other side can't afford to sabotage it.

It's fair to argue that increasingly, our highly politicized system of government doesn't work, and is failing the people... but that has more to do with our lack of consensus and our lack of standards for all our leaders than with the POTUS.
posted by markkraft at 4:34 PM on January 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I'm not sure that in our present system there is even a meaningful distinction between democracy and capitalism."

Rather than suggest that all our leaders are hopelessly beholden to moneyed interests, why not speculate how you would differentiate between a politician who was beholden to corporate interests vs. one who was not.

How would you tell the difference, really?! Would they only serve one term?
posted by markkraft at 4:38 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's really about whether or not the politicians are beholden to corporate issues (although I am certainly not saying they aren't) but rather I say there is no meaningful distinction because the way democracy is being carried out now, from the "run the government like a business" refrain mentioned by others in the thread to the Herman Cain PR-tour-slash-candidacy, operates largely under the same profit motive. For a structural example, take the push towards privatization. This is typically argued for (when an argument is even bothered to be made anymore) as a measure that increases efficiency, which effectively translates to private profit. Vast swathes of our democracy are now focused on finding ways for private industry to profit, from SOPA to privatization to de-regulation.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:49 PM on January 3, 2012


"Corporate issues" should read "corporate interests."
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:50 PM on January 3, 2012


It's the height of marginalizing serious issues when you go after Obama for gutting the Bill of Rights, for example, without paying attention to the fact that it was the GOP who overwhelmingly voted to reject the advice of the CIA, Homeland Security, etc. and to attach a huge assault on citizen's rights into the Defense Appropriations legislation, in a way that would essentially shut down the DoD if it were rejected. It was a classic political catch-22, in that it would either mean that the POTUS was either dismantling the Constitution, or was pro-terrorism and betraying the troops.

markkraft, you appear to be misinformed. It was President Obama himself that called for the removal of language from the bill that would've protected American citizens from indefinite detention.

The fact of the matter is, the politics of things *DO* matter

It's all theater; especially the politics. Like Hollywood, Washington needs money for the next big production. What *DOES* matter is where the money for the next campaign is coming from. I'm guessing that for most politicians it comes from the monied interests and other fascist types.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:27 PM on January 3, 2012


Well - name one nation that wasn't based in some way on slavery. Whether it's Egypt or Mesopotamia, Greece or Rome. The Middle Passage. Soviet work camps. Whatever you call it - it's always slaves.

Thank Čapek for robots, then.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:11 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In US, growing talk of a possible war with Iran
posted by stinkycheese at 10:18 PM on January 3, 2012


I guess its too big to fail, now that the Iraqi project deadline is looming.
posted by infini at 11:33 PM on January 3, 2012


war may be on the horizon — either by necessity or by accident

Oops, didn't mean to invade and bomb the shit our of you! Sometimes these things just happen, y'know? We'll be more careful next time.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:54 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this. I have finally found time to listen to it all. Joe Beese first introduced me to Chris Hedges here on the blue. I had only read his work and had never heard him speak. What a delight to listen to someone lucidly and in depth explain their position and why; without sound bites and point scoring. Mr. Hedges tells truth to power and has the power of his convictions to take part in the occupy movement and be arrested.
His background and history help explain where his beliefs come from. The USA needs more people of credibility like this to help try and stop the oncoming storm, but I fear it is too late. I expect blood to flow and even then I wonder if government will come to its senses.
The comparison of American working class despair with that of the workers in Weimer Germany is both telling and troubling.
posted by adamvasco at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2012


markkraft, you appear to be misinformed. It was President Obama himself that called for the removal of language from the bill that would've protected American citizens from indefinite detention.

That is a flat out lie.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


In that case, it's a lie that's getting repeated a lot in the mainstream press the last few days.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2012


What language, exactly did Obama want removed, and when did he say he wanted it removed? That's a specific charge, that I don't think you can back up.
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on January 4, 2012


The Obama administration’s veto threat was not due to the indefinite detention provision. Recent revelations by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicate that the White House actually insisted that any language exempting American citizens from the indefinite detention provision be removed.

According to Levin, who is Chairman of the Armed Services Committee: "The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved ... and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section."

Levin continued: "It was the administration that asked us to remove the very language which we had in the bill which passed the committee … we removed it at the request of the administration. It was the administration which asked us to remove the very language the absence of which is now objected to.”

posted by stinkycheese at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, ain't that a pisser.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:35 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Recent revelations by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicate that the White House actually insisted that any language exempting American citizens from the indefinite detention provision be removed.

Man, that's the lie that just will not die. The language Levin was referring to there is exactly the language that is in the bill that just got signed into law. Go look up the draft language of the bill--it's all available online. If you think it is language that "precludes the application of Section 1031 to American citizens" then, logically, you also must think the law as it now stands does not apply to American citizens.

The Obama administration did want that language removed, yes, because they wanted that entire section of the law removed. They wanted absolutely nothing in the bill enjoining the Administration to detain terrorism suspects in military prisons--foreign or domestic suspects, foreign or domestic prisons. Obama wanted the whole section gone.

Yes, Obama did eventually back off his veto threat (given the huge support for these provisions it is probable that Congress would have garnered a veto-proof majority for the bill if he'd really put it to the test in any case), but he did manage to get the language on detention watered down. Specifically, he is no longer bound by law not to try terrorists in the regular criminal justice system--which was one of the main aspects of this section of the law to which he was objecting.

Still, this is one of those issues where the facts--readily available as they are--seem to be utterly irrelevant. People have their pre-scripted versions of events and they'll plug whatever evidence they can find into them, facts be damned.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


*delicately, with relief, dabs the pee from his lapels*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:31 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The language Levin was referring to there is exactly the language that is in the bill that just got signed into law.

cite?

you also must think the law as it now stands does not apply to American citizens.

It doesn't really matter what we think as per his signing statement President Obama thinks the law applies to American citizens.

Still, this is one of those issues where the facts--readily available as they are--seem to be utterly irrelevant.

Well if it is so readily available what is stopping you from linking to the evidence that supports you position?

Here(relevant part starts at 4:21:09) is a link to the Senate session that is featured in the video I linked. It is my understanding that it WAS the President who requested the removal of the language that would have exempted American citizens, but that its veto threat was in response to the language that would have required the president to use the military to indefinitely detain terrorist suspects. This was subsequently changed and the President rescinded his veto threat. I am not trying to fit any predetermined narrative and welcome any evidence provided that it was not in fact the administration that requested the removal of language that exempted american citizens.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:15 AM on January 6, 2012


sorry that should have read: ",but that his veto threat"
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:48 AM on January 6, 2012


Can someone find the version that was reported out of the Senate Committee? I did some googling and could only find the house version.
posted by empath at 7:56 AM on January 6, 2012


I would appreciate it if yoink, or anyone else, could provide us with some evidence because I am truly interested in finding out what language exactly Senator Levin is referring to. I have been searching for a website that details the changes and evolution of the bill as it moved through congress but my googlefu is failing me :( I already tried OpenCongress.org but don't see the changes that Levin is referring to. I would assume that since Senator Udall is on the Armed Services Committee along with Senator Levin he would have been present during the secret hearings on the bill. That leads me to believe that the request from the administration to remove language exempting american citizens must have come when the bill was being drafted. Of course this is all conjecture and now I am more curious than ever to get to the bottom of this.

On preview: Empath, try opencongress.org; specifically here or here.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2012


From what I understand, Obama wanted no language at all relating to his ability to detain and try suspects, so basically he wanted those two sections struck entirely.
posted by empath at 8:24 AM on January 6, 2012


From what I understand, Obama wanted no language at all relating to his ability to detain and try suspects, so basically he wanted those two sections struck entirely.

Then why would Senator Levin not say that instead of claiming that it was the president who asked to remove language exempting american citizens? That seems to be a pretty bit distinction. I am not saying you are wrong, but isn't it possible the president is saying one thing publicly and saying another in private? Like I said I am interested in getting to the bottom of this, but it seems pretty clear that the Obama administration at some point in the process requested language exempting american citizens be removed, which would fit with the administrations position that congress should not limit the presidents authority or ability to detain terrorist suspects. His signing statement, in this light, is very hypocritical, and furthermore it totally disregards the possibility that in the future some president may not be as benevolent as President Obama.

So basically, in my opinion, we have a president who is either lying to us about his true position(probably not the first president to do so), or is so intellectually handicapped that he can't parse short term benefits from long term consequences. Given that I don't believe that the president is a dotard I can only come to the conclusion that he is a bald faced liar.

Again, just to clarify, this is all my opinion given the information I have. If presented with new information that proves otherwise I will gladly withdraw my assertion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:38 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then why would Senator Levin not say that instead of claiming that it was the president who asked to remove language exempting american citizens?

Senator Levin isn't a non-interested party here. He was one of the primary people pushing for sections 1031 and 1032 and he was dealing with push back from constituents.

Based on this letter from Mark Udall, it seems that the Obama administration was against the sections entirely.
posted by empath at 8:50 AM on January 6, 2012


Based on this letter from Mark Udall, it seems that the Obama administration was against the sections entirely.

I'm not seeing the part you are referring to. The letter doesn't mention the administration's position.

Senator Levin isn't a non-interested party here. He was one of the primary people pushing for sections 1031 and 1032 and he was dealing with push back from constituents.

This is true, but it still doesn't really explain why he didn't make the distinction between the president wanting to remove the sections entirely versus only removing language that exempts American citizens. As I said before that is a pretty big distinction, and I have yet to see any information that contradicts the senator's statement. I don't see any motivation for Levin to outright lie on the Senate floor about something so obviously disprovable if it is in fact false. If he was trying to assuage constituents's fears about the provisions his admission that they do in fact apply to American citizens, and that it was in fact the Obama administration that was the one that wanted it so doesn't really seem to be the way to go about it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:11 AM on January 6, 2012


The Obama administration did want that language removed, yes, because they wanted that entire section of the law removed.

Really? I have yet to see any statement from the president or his underlings calling for the removal of the sections in question. Maybe you could cite that? I doubt it. Anyway it seems to be the Obama diehards who are plugging "pre-scripted versions of events" into the narrative of how this all went down to satisfy their own preconceived notions.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:08 AM on January 6, 2012


You would think Obama would want this matter to be utterly clear, hmm? It's strange that it is not.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2012


Wait a minute, its the other FPP that's about this new law and Obama's words et al, not this one. Here we talk about decline of Empire and Hedges.
posted by infini at 6:08 AM on January 7, 2012


Here we talk about decline of Empire and Hedges.

Ha, you are right. I thought I was still posting in the other thread. I would still think this topic is inbounds for this thread, though, as Hedges mentions the NDAA in the interview and comments on its implications.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2012


Yeah, I got mixed up too, I think? The Hedges link was originally dropped in the NDAA thread so I guess there's grounds for a little overlap.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2012


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