Joe Costello: On Republics

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By Joe Costello. From his book Of, By, For: The New Politics of Money, Debt and Democracy

Looking at Western civilization starting around the time of the Ancient Greeks, there are only scattered and relatively short periods of self-government. There were the Greeks and Romans, but after the fall of the Roman republic in the 1st century BC, self-government would disappear from the West for well over a millennium, reappearing briefly in Italy during the Renaissance, in Amsterdam, Switzerland, and in fits and starts in England. It wasn’t until the establishment of the American republic two centuries ago, that self-government reasserted itself and not until the 20th century would it become ubiquitous across Europe.

Contemporary Americans have little regard for history. We have an even greater diminishing appreciation for the rarity of self-government, even less appreciation of this inheritance bequeathed us, and a decreasing priority to pass it to future generations. Republics don’t collapse abruptly, they are gradually eroded, like Rome. The American republic strains under its military weight and paradoxically its great wealth. Republics don’t collapse into anarchy, they shrivel as dispersed power is gradually pulled away from the citizenry and concentrated in centralized government, in the executive.

The only real reform for a republic, as far along the path of decline as the United States is, is to breakup power. Thomas Jefferson was asked how in the last decades of the Roman republic it should have reformed. He replied simply, “Restore independence to all your foreign conquests, relieve Italy from the government of the rabble of Rome, consult it as a nation entitled to self-government, and do its will.”

The ability for the United States to undertake such a restoration can only spring from the will of the American people. Yet looking beyond the degradation of America’s institutions, we see the republic as a sensibility has declined amongst the people themselves.

Political culture defines the political health of the people; the culture’s decline leads way to the government’s. A few years ago, HBO had an entertaining and educational series called Rome, about the last decades of the Roman republic. In one scene (starts 4:20), they did an exceptional job of simply putting forth the idea of popular decline. In the middle of his war with Octavian, Marc Antony is lulling around Egypt smoking opium and bedding Cleopatra. At this point, Rome is a stinking cesspool. Dressed in Egyptian garb and wearing eyeliner, he gets a message from Octavian taunting him as a coward. Furious and with no self-knowledge of his very un-Roman environment, Antony demands an opinion of his cowardice from Lucius, his chief military-aid.

Lucius, who in the series represents Rome’s old republican virtues, replies Antony is no coward but, “You do have a strong disease in your soul. A disease that will eat away at you until you die.”

Antony replies, “Really, what is this is disease?”

Lucius, “I’m not a doctor. But, I recognize your symptoms. I have the same sickness.”

We Americans have the same disease and we all must fight against it. The only cure is democratic political participation. These processes are the cornerstone of our experience and they must be regular features of our daily lives.

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  1. JGordon

    I think you’re wrong on the last point. There’s no use getting worked up over the state of things (although reading blog posts of people railing against it are very amusing); the cure to our broken system is collapse. As I learned recently from Dimitry Orlov, everyone should just sit back and relax. There’s no way to salvage a declining empire.

    But there is a solution. Apathy and disengagement from the center, along with developing self-reliance and local community ties is really the only path citizens should follow to get any kind of security and peace of mind.

    Why be one of the bloated and diseased masses who are working themselves to death for the corporate state and constantly stressing out about all the corruption and unfairness in the system? When this stinking ship goes down, those folks are just going to be sucked under in the undertow with it.

    1. LucyLulu

      While there is much wrong with our republic today, not all is wrong. There are too many unknown variables to make any surefire predictions. Fortunately, not everyone shares your pessimism and hopelessness. I understand your sentiment though. Often the future looks quite bleak to me, too. However if everyone gave up, failure WOULD be assured.

      How many times have situations deemed hopeless made seemingly miraculous recoveries?

      Best wishes to you, Yves, Lambert, and all the wise, witty, and insightful posters of NC for a happy and safe Independence Day!

      1. 911truthVN

        We Americans have the same disease and we all must fight against it. The only cure is democratic political participation.

        I’m not an American, but a strong and coherent America is very much in Vietnamese interest. To me, it will be a big test how American Democracy get rid of the perpetrators of 9/11 crime.

        Extend and pretend the debt of conscience does not help.

      2. JGordon

        I am not a pessimist, and I detest your characterization of me as such. I’m an optimist. There is a logical fallacy that people often engage in, called “throwing good money after bad”. While I was previously engaged with civics and activism, for various reasons, mainly Obamacare, I realized that I was wasting my time preaching to the ignorant.

        Investing energy trying to salvage the system is a waste. The best thing to do at this point is get a permaculture co-op going, raise rabbits/chickens/goats (which don’t take a horrible amount of effort), and start making friends of your neighbors.

        1. James

          Glad you added this response JGordon. Yes indeed, “you’re a pessimist” is the usual response. Paradoxically (and quixotically), the many assorted “save the empire strategies” which will be trotted out and all to quickly discredited over the next few years (let’s hope they don’t go on much longer than that) will only prolong the pain and suffering for everyone involved and make the presumed reconstruction many orders of magnitude more difficult. Our response (or should I say, continued lack of response) to climate change is a shining example. Had we moved on this back in, say, the late 90s, before the politically environment became totally poisoned, perhaps we would have made some small amount of progress by now and would not be currently experiencing such extreme effects. At the very least, we could have spent that time navigating the long road to building political consensus and economic will toward doing something truly meaningful on a global scale. Instead, all of that time has been squandered and can never be recovered, and many if not most of the effects of climate change have been locked in for at least decades if not centuries to come. The only meaningful thing we can do now is to plan to mitigate its disastrous effects, although it doesn’t look like we in the US are even up for that, at least on a national scale.

          As the economists say, “sunk costs are sunk.” You can’t do anything about them, so just move on and try not to make the same mistakes again. At this point there’s no point in belaboring what can no longer be fixed. To me, Obama (O.Co) was the clearest signal yet that the Republic has been been bought and sold and is now in corporate hands for good. Time to pull the plug on this rotting corpse and let nature have its way with her. In the end it’s the best and only revenge possible against corporate America: to simply abandon their precious “investments” and let their beloved free market have its way with them. Yeah, in the case of the US government that’s what they were after all along (“drown the beast”), so in that sense they’ve “won,” but once again that ship has sailed. In the coming years, like it or not, local will be the new national, so it’s time to get with the new paradigm and make it work as best we can. It’s the only real “choice” we have left now.

        2. Tator

          I am 100% in agreement with JGordon. I am not aware of any republic that reached this same point in its life cycle and turned it around simply by “the people” deciding to revert back to a more pure republic…you cannot undo a government that is corrupt to the core and the voting majority is dependent on transferring wealth from producers to parasites. History has no example of this every happening.

          I am optimist as well how to manage my individual and communitie’s future. Think local self-sufficiency. Get to know your neighbors and offer help when needed. Spread the word among them…we need to take care of each other. This attitude is contagious when coupled with an honest assessment of our government.

          I am not optimistic about our republic (really fascist at this stage). I see civil unrest and turmoil escalating as promised government services, entitlements, pensions ….can no longer be paid.

          The reason I am not optimist is history also shows when you have a government “reset” you get George Washington about 1 in a 1000 times and you get Moa, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler 999 in 1000.
          In all of history, no government became more honest, less corrupt, or granted its citizens more rights as it grew in size. E.L. 2011

        3. Warren Celli

          J Gordon said; “While I was previously engaged with civics and activism, for various reasons, mainly Obamacare, I realized that I was wasting my time preaching to the ignorant.”

          I applaud your professed claim to be rebuilding community J Gordon, but it seems to ring hollow and be at odds with the above supercilious attitude that you project when you say you are through “wasting your time with the ignorant.” If you were pushing Obamacare, or anything for Obama J Gordon, then it is you who are the ignorant one.

          The only cure is collapse you say; “everyone should just sit back and relax.” That also seems to conflict and be at odds with the hard, and very rewarding I might add, work — and capital — that it does takes to establish a farm co-op and work the land. Trees do not just fall over and stack themselves into neat little cord wood piles. And in a co-op J Gordon you will also have conflicts with others who I am sure you will deem “ignorant” as well.

          But where you really profess ignorance J Gordon, is when you say; “When this stinking ship goes down, those folks [the ignorant, forced to work for the corporations] are just going to be sucked under in the undertow with it.”

          The reality is that if the system does go into full collapse J Gordon, those ignorant masses that you so detest wasting your time on are going to raid your farms and kill and eat your crops and your “rabbits/chickens/goats” and steal anything that is not nailed down. Your puny little co-op will not have anywhere near the firepower necessary to contain them.

          An even greater more sure thing reality than that J Gordon is that some corporation will probably show up next door to your idyllic little heaven on earth farm and frack for gas and poison your water supply, or, build a nuclear plant, or, build a state prison, or, build a paper mill, or, ……..

          The reality is that we are ALL in this together J Gordon and we must ALL work together to build a better future. I am a strong advocate of living a self directed life, being self sufficient, and local control, but it has to be balanced with an eye and an effort to the health of the greater community. A one for all and all for one mentality is essential to guiding your viewpoints and behaviors.
          The author of this post, Joe Costello says; “We Americans have the same disease and we all must fight against it. The only cure is democratic political participation. These processes are the cornerstone of our experience and they must be regular features of our daily lives.”

          He is correct. The disease that he refers to — and illustrates so well as existing in Rome (it has a far earlier origin) — is called Xtrevilism, and yes, we are all subject to it and must fight against it. Promoting the meme of Xtrevilism vs Fairism will help put the focus where it belongs — on morality. It will also serve to put the focus on fairness, a one for all, and all for one, counter force to the aberrant selfish sociopathic disease of Xtrevilism that is responsible for intentionally creating the chaos that is destroying us today.

          A disease that we must ALL work together to eradicate.

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        4. proximity1

          Re: (both your posts, and this):

          “I am not a pessimist, and I detest your characterization of me as such. I’m an optimist.”

          I don’t doubt that this is what you tell yourself. But I think yours is a case of well-disguised self-deception.

          How very psychically-convenient for you that you’re completely convinced that

          …the cure to our broken system is collapse. As I learned recently from Dimitry Orlov, everyone should just sit back and relax. There’s no way to salvage a declining empire.

          But there is a solution. Apathy and disengagement from the center, along with developing self-reliance and local community ties is really the only path citizens should follow to get any kind of security and peace of mind.

          So everything just “follows its natural course,” is that it?

          There’s not only nothing we ought do about that, there’s nothing we can do about that–is that about it?

          Then, I wonder, and I’d be very interested in hearing you explain why, after this salutary collapse you assure us in inevitable, what exactly will have been “cured” and why should you or we think so?

          I mean, really, isn’t your prescription just a moral and intellectual surrender in face of what is claimed to be inevitable? If it’s inevitable, what about that is or ought to be seen as curative?

          By such lights, I guess you’d see suicide as the ultimate in cures. Nothing resists its force. Once done, one’s worries are literally “over”.

          But for the survivors of the collapse–or do you discount that?–what shall be for them the salutary effects? In what will that cure consist?

          Are they to rebuild things? Why bother?–if it’s all just going to lead to the next version of greedy corporate rule in one form or another? Are you counting on human nature being helpfully reformed by the collapse? If you are, on what are you basing this expectation? And, if you aren’t counting on it, then I guess we have the same set of human faults and frailties post-collapse as pre-collapse. In that case, how is the post-collapse world supposed to profit by the fall?

          Are the greedy and powerful going to be brought down by it? Is that your (unstated) assumption? And then, with those former greedy and powerful weakened–as, somehow, the just and fair are not?–the forces of good then take charge?

          Please explain that part to me, please.

          I’m not suggesting here that we can’t or won’t “collapse” as a functioning society–far from it. I’m arguing instead that it isn’t anything to be wished for or seen as our salvation. If and when it happens, it will be, like much now going on, a catastrophe with, of course, mixed results; some of those results can’t help but be relatively better, but that will be sheer accident and just as many or more things will be left as bad or much worse.

          So, your prescription strikes me as extremely convenient from a pyschic-survival point of view–which is what I think drives it but not otherwise either sound or in touch with reality.

          My view is rather different from yours. Briefly, it goes like this:

          Yes, things now are terrible and terribly corrupt. And, unless we as people alter our habits of thought and action, unless we rouse ourselves and react with some insight–which is going to require real effort in thought and in honest appraisal–yes, things could collapse catastrophically, in ways that engulf and involve most or nearly all of the world. Already we’re on a course of collective suicide by ecological mass destruction. And whatever else happens, that will dwarf in consequences anything that involves “mere” world-wide social and economic collapse. But, to get back to my summary view, everything that now needs doing will still need doing after the collapse and, with only a tiny few execptions, will then be immeasurably harder if at all possible then.

          I think your form of psychic escapism is very common, very easy to understand, and very, very widespread. But none of these make it any the more sane, correct or recommendable. It is, in short, nothing but to draw a happy face on a craven acceptance of inevitable doom and a childish faith that, afterwards, very much by magic–for that’s what you’re involved in, magic thinking–things will work out better.

          You skip all the hard work of showing us or yourself why that fantasy view should make sesne to us, should appeal to us. It’s the sort of infantile make-believe that modern American techno-social trends breed furiously in the mass public and you can see it everywhere in pop culture. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy, We’re Doomed, And Tomorrow’s Catastrophe Brings a Brighter Day—and We Don’t Have to Do Anything.”

          No, thank you. I lost that passifier somewhere–in my reading, I guess.

        5. Nathanael

          Dmitri Orlov is brilliant and correct.

          The current system in the US has reached the point of no repair. This doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax; we have to close the “collapse gap”, and prepare a new system to rise from the ashes of the old. This is if anything more difficult work than repairing the old system, but has the advantage that it actually has a chance of working.

          The system in the US reached the point of no repair once before, just before the Civil War. You could claim that the same system was in place afterwards, but it wasn’t; the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments fundamentally redefined the system, and they were forced down the throats of the losing side of the war.

          1. dale pues

            Thank you for mentioning the Civil War, the period just before. The nation survived its own suicide. Or perhaps not. Morris Berman’s excellent trilogy, especially the final book, Why America Failed, persuades effectively that the South was America’s last chance at survival, slavery nothwithstanding, of course.

    2. Goin' South

      I’m with you.

      Build a counter-society in the gaps left by the current rotting mess as it retreats and shrinks.

      Otherwise, a James Taylor song, “The Secret of Life,” comes to mind:

      Since we’re on our way down.
      We might as well enjoy the ride.

    3. lambert strether

      Here’s a couple of past posts of mine you might like: Rent Party, and One thing you can always do.

      * * *

      I really reject your last paragraph, for a couple of reasons:

      1. I reject the very concept of “the masses.” On the left, at least, the flip side of “the masses” is an enlightened vanguard who will lead them to a better understanding of their true interests. We know how the vanguardism movie ends, and it’s not pretty. It’s even less pretty than our own movie (so far).

      2. I reject the “bloated, diseased” characterization. Clearly, it’s classic othering rhetoric, which, if applied to a minority (say, the Jews, or Occupy) turned quickly into eliminationist rhetoric (the Jews again, or the Tutsis). We know how that movie ends as well. More subtly, many Americans are bloated — it’s one of the first things you notice when you return to this country after leaving it. Diseased, too. I’d argue that’s by design as a consequence of Big Food controlling the food chain, and Big Media peddling a highly addictive and extremely toxic product (television). I think that the 1% of the 1% — the 100 or so squillionaires at the top of the food chain — thinks of the rest of us literally as animals, to be fattened, slaughtered, and culled. Many of the characteristics of the American body politic today derive from being enmeshed in this boundlessly evil system.

      1. Warren Celli

        Don’t knock “othering rhetoric”, it is essential to making judgments. It is how it is applied that counts. More important, is the VOLUME AND REACH of the voice with which it is applied. The aberrant sociopathic diseased Xtrevilist few are in control because they own and control Big Xtrevilist Voice, what you refer to as Big Media.

        That tells us we need a consistent and on target umbrella “othering” message meme — Xtrevilism vs Fairism — and that we must consolidate our efforts to increase the volume of our Fairism voice. That consolidation to a louder and unified Bigger Fairism Voice is key and it must happen soon or the current immorality of all of our creations (think of the code article you pointed me to a few days back as an example) will soon be cast in concrete. We are not using the internet wisely as it is rapidly being co-opted.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. synopticist

          I have to agree with Warren on the “othering’ rhetoric.
          It’s an effective rhetorical device. As an appeal, it works.

          The fact is, the 1% are so ruthlessly sophisticated in their messaging, so skilled at getting their points across, that hundreds of millions parrot them despite it hurting their own economic interest. A lot of it aims at reptilian, as opposed to mammalian, parts of the human brain. The appeal to resentment, the spreading of fear, the constant repitition, these things really work.
          To oppose them properly, we, and people like us, need to use whatever techniques, whatever political tactics are successful.

      2. Nathanael

        Eh. Compared to the hell we’re heading towards with the current ruling philosophy of Louis-XIV-ism, vanguardism is a MASSIVE improvement. I’ll take it over the current alternative. If you can provide a better alternative, that’s great, of course.

    4. LeonovaBalletRusse

      All politics of/by/for the People is local. Fake Global Reich politics was implanted “from sea to shining sea” by Commercial TV.

    5. dw

      collapse will not return us to a republic. history shows what will replace a collapsed republic is a dictatoriship.

      1. Nathanael

        Take that for granted. The next question is, what sort of dictator? We could do tolerably well with an Augustus or a Marcus Aurelius, or horrendously badly with a Hitler.

        The next question after that is, what happens when the dictator goes down? Because he *will*. Then we have an opportunity to create a better, more functional republic. If the dictator is a really good guy, like DeGaulle, he might even help with the project.

    6. emptyfull

      “When this stinking ship goes down…”

      I think I’m going to stop trying to be a futurologist; I keep thinking we’re in for a massive banking crash, but it keeps not quite happening. But I think the prospect of the “ship going down” should make us more, rather than less engaged. If we do hit a major crisis then many people will start looking for explanations. Somebody needs to be ready to organize to defend democracy against the forces of aristocracy and disinformation. The people here might be best suited to win over the non-corrupt intelligentsia and wonks, but I hope someone is preparing some sort of coherant outreach to those who will never understand what a CDS is. Let’s not be so gloomy about human nature that we lose faith in demoracy’s ability to regenerate a society. Corruption has been fought beefore. It does not always win.

      Maybe I’m projecting here, but I think more people love their country and democratic values enough to prevent a full collapse/takeover. I hope, if another crash comes, people like those who propelled OWS last year are ready to (non-violently!) appeal to ordinary people and their sense of justice and community.

      Happy 4th of July everyone! Let’s pledge allegiance to the core values of our republic today! And to their future!

      1. synopticist

        I have this really scary vision, where Obama wins the electoral college, but not the popular vote, and the right decide they won’t accept it.

        And then it all kicks off.

        Happy Independence day to you all.

  2. Bookit

    In 1776, the United States had a population of something like 3 million people. Today, it is more like 310 million people. When societies grow, they change qualitatively, not just quantitatively. They become more complex and, inevitably, more centralized both politically and economically. They create powerful bureaucracies in both the public and private sectors. Joe Costello is exactly correct when he writes that the only antidote is to break power up.

    However, no one I know is really facing up to what that means. It means the union formed in 1789 has outlived its usefulness, and the United States should be broken up, if not into 50 independent nations, then at least into several. That will take care of the public sector bureaucracy called the federal government. (The several states can enter into joint defense pacts, if they want.) Those new nations then need to have the ability and prescience to erect tariffs and capital controls that will protect their own entrepreneurs, small businesses, and small farmers from the predatory practices of the private-sector bureaucracies.

    Will this maximize growth? No. But republics never were about maximizing growth — they were about maximizing self-government.

    1. Justicia

      Swell. Then we can have 50 (or 5) sovereign states at war with each other — starting, no doubt, when Texas and the dry states (OK, AK, KN) try to grab all the water they can from their neighbors.

      1. Mark P.

        ‘Then we can have 50 (or 5) sovereign states at war with each other’

        If it becomes that kind of world, then states will acquire nuclear weapons and that kind of behavior will stop.

        Scary, because nuclear deterrence works far less reliably than people think. But fairly doable, because there’s technology — laser isotope separation — that does away with all the current enormous infrastructure of centrifuges etc. required for enrichment.

    2. dw

      why? there isn’t any evidence that breaking up the US will make any thing better. in fact it could and would make it worse! we tried the confederated version of government it failed. we even tried the weak federation style too. it failed also. about the only thing that might make it better is every one participated in selecting those who who will manage it. and remove any extra rights afforded to those who have wealth.
      breaking it up into 50 different countries would just create what happens in Europe happen here. and it would make Canada the only real power in North America. and then the wars would begin as each new country would attack others looking for resources they dont have (oil, gas, water, etc)

      1. Bookit

        “we tried the confederated version of government it failed”

        Failed for whom? For the elites, of course. The farmers and small businessmen who hammered out the state constitutions, most notably Pennsylvania’s, fared better before the Constitution than after it. Cracking down on them was the purpose of the Constitution, and even back then, the cover story was “economic growth.”

        We need to revisit Madison’s argument in Federalist No. 10. I think he was either a) flat wrong, or b) right at the time but times have moved on. What we should gather from American history since the Civil War is that, no, there is no such thing as a big republic. You can be big, or you can have a republic. You cannot have a big republic. Prior to the Federalist debates, that was basic republican theory. After those debates, the Antifederalists still upheld it.

        As for the argument that 50 states would just go to war with each other, well, sadly that may be true, though I think comparisons with Europe are unconvincing since Americans are much more culturally homogenous and have a history of working together as opposed to Europe’s history of constant warfare. But if the only thing holding Americans back from cutting each others’ throats is a powerful central state, then republicanism is already dead and maybe was a fraud from the beginning.

  3. Chris

    The elite won’t give up their power without a lot of blood being spilled. Sadly if you want to have all that stolen wealth and power redistributed, it will require a revolution.

    And you know, I just don’t think you guys can do it.

    1. James

      It won’t happen by a few applying an irresistible force, but by the many becoming an unmovable object. It’s time to remember that the 1% are the few anyway, it’s just that the 99% have been divided and sedated and forgotten the power that they possess. Sooner or later, reality will wake them up.

    2. James

      Occupy was the harbinger of change, but not the change itself. The next revolution will be a people’s revolution, and will be best described by the phrase, “The revolution occurred while (because) we were all busy doing more important things.” Hence fascist corporate America’s increased emphasis on command and control. Might take a generation or two, but it’s coming…

    3. Jack M. Hoff

      Exactly right. Sad but true, most seem to think that they can convince those in power to ‘play nice with them’. Never mind that those same bastards have been murdering, raping, and pillaging people and their possessions worldwide for a lot longer than they’ve done it to their own. Where was the outrage? Is it that those people didn’t count? Hell, you don’t need to look back too far at all to see the public stamp of approval on these injust mideast wars. Back a bit farther to the Iran Contra affair, where was the outrage at Oliver North? Fuck, he was a hero to these morons. The people in this country really should be born with nose rings in place.
      All I can remark is that this sort of behavior cant be dealt with by diplomacy.

    4. emptyfull

      Uh huh. Right. I’m sure the American military is just trembling in fear of the “black block” and their ability to destroy a few innocent windows (even that meager capability is mostly due to training from FBI informants, I’m sure). All violence does is discredit the movement it is supposedly serving. Anyone serving corrupt interests has much more to fear from Ghandian non-violence than the adolescent fantasies of justice-through-violence of a few left-wingers.

    5. Nathanael

      If the non-violent revolution does not succeed, the violent revolution will. It won’t be led by any of us though. I have a good guess as to the sort of people who will lead it, and they’re the ones who the government has pointedly *been prevented* from investigating by the Republican Party. They’re usually considered “right-wing”, but as history happens it changes the meanings of those phrases…. and they don’t like banksters any more than we do.

      1. 911truthVN

        This email on 9/11/01 should be printed on every newspapers in every conner of the world on the 11th aniversary of 9/11. Well that’s my hope. Only by that way, the republic of USA would not go dictatorship like the way previous democracies has gone. The price is high, it’s your pride, USA !

        From: “David Rostcheck”
        Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 15:12 PDT
        Subject: WTC bombing

        Ok, is it just me, or did anyone else recognize that it wasn’t the airplane
        impacts that blew up the World Trade Center? To me, this is the most
        frightening part of this morning. I hope other people actually are catching
        this, but I haven’t seen anyone say it yet, so I guess I will. I guess
        being an engineer may make one more conscious of these things…

        If you watch the time sequence, you’ll see that it happens like this:

        – A plane hits tower #1, blowing a hole in it high up. The expected things
        then happen:

        – The building stays up. A reinforced concrete building is *extremely*
        strong. Terrorists set off a large bomb *inside* that building without
        significant damage. Notice that neither plane impact does anything like
        break off a big hunk of building floors and send it crashing into
        the street. The WTC towers were specifically designed to survive a direct
        impact from a jumbo jet – which *both do*.

        – The stories from the impact point up burn horribly. Note, fire moves
        upward, not downward.

        – The second plane hits the second tower, lower and moving faster. It
        blows a bigger hole through it, showering debris on the street, but
        the building is clearly still standing and still looks quite solid.

        – The second building begins burning, also from the impact point up.

        – Perhaps a half hour later, the fire in the first building *goes out*. It
        is still smouldering and letting off black smoke, but there is no flame.
        Anyone who saw the documentary on that horrid skyscraper fire in
        Philadelphia that led to the codes requiring sprinklers on every floor
        knows why. There’s no way to get fire apparatus into a skyscraper
        effectively, so it needs to be designed into the structure – which it is.
        The water flows from the roof reservoirs down. Sprinklers can kill
        incredible infernos, and that’s what these do.

        – The fire in the second building goes out.

        – Then, later, the second building suddenly crumbles into dust, in a smooth
        wave running from the top of the building (above the burned part) down
        through all the stories at an equal speed. The debris falls primarily
        inward. The tower does not break off intact and collapse into other
        buildings. The bottom does not crumble before the top. The burned out
        section crumbles also. The crumbling comes from the top (above the
        damage). It moves at a uniform rate. All of the structural members are
        destroyed in a smooth pattern, so there is no remaining skeleton. The
        damage is uniform, symmetric, and total.

        In summary, it looks exactly like a demolition – because that’s what it

        – The first tower collapses in a similar demolition wave.

        There’s no doubt that the planes hit the building and did a lot of damage.
        But look at the footage – those buildings were *demolished*. To demolish a
        building, you don’t need all that much explosive but it needs to be placed
        in the correct places (in direct contact with the structural members) and
        ignited in a smooth, timed sequence. Someone had to have had a lot of access
        to all of both towers and a lot of time to do this.

        This is pretty grim. The really dire part is – what were the planes for?
        If you’re going to demolish the building, what’s the point of the flashy

        The way they’re cutting the footage on the news now makes it look like the
        buildings crumbled soon after being hit by the planes, which is not true.
        They’ve also started slowing the clips from after the demolition explosion
        starts, so you don’t see the top of the building go first – but those who
        taped it, go back and look at the early first-run clips.

        If, in a few days, no one official has mentioned anything about the
        demolition part, I think we have a REALLY serious problem.


        1. enouf

          … A reinforced concrete building is *extremely*
          strong. …

          Sorry, but i couldn’t read any more after above sentence since;
          The Twin Towers were *not* “reinforced concrete” structures, neither are any(?) Skyscrapers.


          p.s. When i first saw live footage that day (~10:30 am EST, after both towers were hit), i immediately knew eventually there’d be a collapse (if only partial), and i thought to myself-How can i tell anyone this information!?–Ah, but *surely* the FireDept. Chiefs (etc) would know! (since i know steel and how it weakens when heated.)

          p.s.s. I still favor a much much deeper, independent, honest investigation – not this claptrap of crap that is known as the Official 9/11 Commission and the ensuing NIST reports — however, (and this is only one issue out of a great many) much of the original steel (evidence) has already been melted after having been exported to China .. sigh

        2. Nathanael

          The vertical / inward collapse of the Twin Towers was due to their extremely bizarre construction, where they were supported from the outside by a steel “shell”. Look it up.

          Normal skyscrapers, supported from the inside, would have fallen onto other buildings. The bizarre “exoskeleton” technique used on the WTC towers caused their unusual collapse pattern.

          1. enouf

            To clarify Nathanael;

            I’ve researched this extensively over the years, …and looked at even nutjob ‘no-planes’ theories’ cough*evidence*cough (contrivances, heh), just so i could truthfully challenge any possible bias i might have.

            Both WTC-1 and WTC-2 had “Cores” too (Central Internal Columns where Elevator-Shafts/Stairwells existed) – which were of even a heavier-gauge steel, than the exoskeletal girders/beams.

            I don’t think the last paragraph of your point is poignant since it most certainly doesn’t apply to WTC-7, which as we all know was the one that truly had no reason to collapse ala-Controlled-Demolition style.


  4. LucyLulu

    On the southern plantations, most slave owners knew their labor was a valuable commodity and made sure they were fed well, had housing, and provided medical care. They understood that providing social benefits was not only the moral thing to do, but was in their economic interest. Happy and healthy slaves were more productive and less likely to run off, revolt, or need to be replaced. Today’s slaveowner’s aren’t as enlightened. They are penny-wise and pound-foolish.

    Excellent article, Yves, and appropriate for today.

    1. Justicia

      Yes, and they fed them just enough to keep them alive, clothed and housed them wretchedly, and gave them less medical attention than the horses.

      No doubt, enlightened self-interest was as great among slave owners as it has been among bankers today. And we see how that’s playing out.

  5. Otter

    Power is certainly “pulled away from the citizenry”.
    However, it is NOT concentrated in centralized government.

    Power is dispersed among countless parasites, great and small, tapeworms, rentiers. Each on its little or big piece of the economy’s blood and bowels. Each defending, since it has no life of its own, to the death, its entitlement.

    The Roman emperors could throw great parties. They could rape and murder with more or less impunity. They could not control, could not even count, the myriad interlocking rentiers, the tapeworms on tapeworms, binding the state fast.

    Clinton (the male) spent no time governing, hardly any time reading the speeches for which he was hired.

    The most significant event in HBO Rome was not Caesar returning home with his legions, nor the Ides of Marches… it was the kidnapping, raping, and murder of Vorenus’ family
    with impunity.

    1. 911truthvn

      So sad people just concentrate on the generalities when they should demand justice

  6. Middle Seaman

    The idea of breaking up the union as a solution to the country’s deteriorating democratic system and becoming a oligarchic one may seem intriguing but may not solve much. Occasionally I contemplated a union excluding the south. The country will be much richer and much more Democratic, but will include almost the whole new oligarchy. Remember, as greedy as the Texas based oil companies were and are, our massive deterioration started only after Reagan and was not instigated by big oil.

    One of our major problems is the breakup of the progressive movement. We now have two camps, the so-called liberal elite and the unions. The liberal elite is blind, arrogant, misguided and ignores the unions; it brought us the disaster called Obama. The unions, attacked from all directions, are not strong enough to block the oligarchy.

    1. James

      Oligarchy is the problem, unions are merely the (pitifully small) response. Break up oligarchies and the need for unions fades of its own accord. A return to local puts a human face on things again. It’s harder to screw your neighbors when you have to interact with them socially and economically on a daily personal basis. When workers became merely “factors of production” to be exploited in the name of increasing “shareholder value,” all the rest was inevitable. Corporate America is bankrupt morally, intellectually, economically, and practically. It’s collapse, as is the union’s, which is now based on it, is inevitable.

    2. Aquifer

      How many union folk voted for Obama? They had a better choice, how many chose it?

      The unions, IMO, have got to stop a) fighting among themselves, b) join with other prog movements such as peace, environment, healthcare, civil rights etc. as they must join with the unions.

      Sorry, but i do believe unions have to do some internal soul searching – in many ways they are their own worst enemies …

      It is true that there is “elitism” in prog ranks, I have seen it myself, and that has to crumble as well, but neither position is “pure”…..

      When a movement cannot honestly self critique and blindly defends its positions, it is in trouble and methinks organized labor may be in this position now …. as are many “lefty” movements. We could not have sunk as far as we have unless “the loyal opposition” either fell asleep at the switch, or agreed to step in front of the train ….

      Even those who rightly understand that climate issues are the biggest threat in the far, intermediate, and, increasingly, immediate future, too often fail to give sufficient care and consideration to those for whom war and jobs, or lack thereof, e.g. loom larger on the horizon …

      1. lambert strether

        One of the nice things about the Occupiers is that they are constantly thinking about what they’re doing, and evolving. That’s refreshing and different from, say, the two legacy parties.

    3. Susan the other

      The question is what can the unions do to counter the productivity achieved by robotics and mechanization? This is the turning point in the political dialog because productivity and efficiency are no longer good for the people even tho they are good for GDP. My favorite new sentence for seeking a solution to this is, let’s find a new sense of industry which creates lots of “low productivity-high social value jobs.”

      1. DiamondJammies


        I think you’re looking at the issue a bit one-sidedly.

        It used to be the case of course that unions and firms would forge productivity agreements where, in exchange for contractual promises stipulating job guarantees, unions would agree to allow the introduction of productivity-raising machinery. With the collapse of the business unionism model and the hegemonic “embedded liberalism” that went with it (which some union misleaders still haven’t come to grips with), these kinds of agreements are rare today.

        The solution, however, is not to become neo-Luddites and decry the evils of labor-saving machinery. The enormous increase in the level of productive forces is perhaps the one thing worth celebrating in these last few centuries of capitalist development. Because within that development lies the key to human liberation — the end of scarcity and toil.

        Our job is make good on this promise by carrying through the global revolution, not by retreating into the insular community, building goat co-ops and “buying local.” The solution is not in 1950’s Leave it to Beaver-neighborliness, or valorizations of the petty-bourgeois business owner (the authentic historial base of German and Italian fascism), but in the forging of international networks of solidarity, not in the shrinking of the mind’s geography, but it’s enlargement.

        As is clear by the responses in this thread, even amongst progressive-minded people, in times of capitalist crisis there is a real danger of retreating into the small, insular, nostalgic, reactionary. We must struggle against this tendency with all we can muster. Liberation depends on it.

        1. Aquifer


          – For the planet’s sake we are a bit too productive, and i don’t mean just re-productive …

          – The fossil fuels that run our machines are crapping our planet and “inefficient” human labor would be an improvement ….

          – We would still have to earn the money to buy all these wonderful “labor saving” machines, wouldn’t we? :)

          Seems to me all the wonderful “labor saving” devices we have invented have necessitated more labor to own them while at the same time trashing the opportunities to labor for them … A paradox, no?

          1. DiamondJammies

            The reason why fossil fuels are ravaging the environment is because productivity under capitalism is geared entirely towards profit and right now the production of fossil fuel energy is more profitable than, say, the production of solar energy. Of course the capitalists will talk about how under some mythical entity that has never nor will ever exist called “the free market,” clean alternatives will eventually replace fossil fuels when the former become more profitable. But in the real world, under the (freely) manipulated (by Exxon/Mobil, Goldman Sachs, etc.) market, money equals power and the incenctive for the legacy energy companies (read: ultra right-wing/fascist Texan oil billionaires) is make sure, through the manipulation of state power, that their product is always the cheapest option.

            Under a system geared toward production for use rather than production for profit, we could invest in the rapid development of clean alternative technology without being undermined by a state run by crazy oil billionaires.

            As far as earning money goes, once we carry through the revolution on a global scale and eliminate the law of value and once all production is geared toward use-values, there will be no need for money.

            Lastly, no, it’s not the case that the labor-saving machines have necessitated more labor to run them. Just look at farming as an example. Do we really want to go back to the days of back-breaking plowing from sun up to sun down? No, of course not.

      2. Aquifer

        Yup! One of my pet peeves is how the concepts of “efficiency” and “productivity” have been elevated to Cardinal Virtues whether or not what is being “efficiently produced” is useful/valuable or not, or what externalities are produced in the process (shucks, the Nazi death camps were extremely “efficient” and “productive”, were they not?) ….

        There is a story about when Milton Hershey (of chocolate fame) was building Hershey, PA. Supposedly one of his formen came up to him and said “Mr. Hershey, come and see this new machine (a steam shovel) – it can do the work of 50 men!” Hershey said – “Get rid of the machine, hire the men!”

        How times have changed ….. Hershey’s is now more “productive” in Mexico …

  7. Paul Tioxon

    “Westbrook views Dewey as the most important advocate of participatory
    democracy. But he acknowledges that Dewey never actually
    developed, let alone implemented, a comprehensive strategy
    capable of realizing his general theories in real-world practice.
    Following Westbrook’s lead, in this book we pay homage to Dewey
    by trying to transcend him. By trying to transcend him, we mean
    reflectively building on both his general theories and his empirical
    experiments in order to solve what we call the Dewey Problem. What
    we mean by the Dewey Problem is, what specifically is to be done
    beyond theoretical advocacy to transform American society and other
    developed societies into participatory democracies capable of helping
    to transform the world into a “Great Community”?”

    The Port Huron STatement at 50

  8. Ael

    Well, if you count Athens as a democracy, you need to count the Viking Thing as well. That lasted for most of a millenium.

  9. Aquifer

    Don’t remember exact quote, but this rather reminds me of what Franklin, coming out of the Const. Conv. supposedly told a woman who asked him what the Founders had “given” them – “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it!”

    It rather appears that we have we have decided it is too much trouble to keep – what with all this voting and nonsense, as if anyone had enough time to pay attention to just who the folks were they were electing to tend to this Republic ….

    As they say – be careful what you ask for …. The folks who eagerly await a collapse and are thinking only in terms of how THEY will survive it, may find they are the first victims of it …..

  10. El Snarko

    WOW! Great post, but you guys are scaring the *#() outta me. You are all smarter than I, yet consistently miss the point. Only the eleveted, insular, and overly secure can blather on in this fashion, proposing solutions right out of a poli sci 201 discussion. Here are four proposals that are real:
    1. The writer who noted the trend toward complexity is correct. For representation to be realistic a senator should represent one million people, and a member of the house two hundred and fifty thousand. Huge institutional change but it CAN be managed. It breaks down the insane geolocation of power and puts it into the hands of the people.
    2. Any foreign committment of the US military for longer than sixty days, should be paid for by the issuance of bonds. A tax equal to what the GAO estimates to be one third of the first years cost should be levies starting in the next tax year.
    3. Banks shold be mandated to be size limites to 70% of todays largest, with the systematically crucial ones given notice that their govermental guarantees aillb elimited to 50% of that value. The rating agencies should be federally regulated, and given fiduciary responsibility for the ratings, or something close to that. The “machinery” of the investment banks has to be taken bu the feds. It IS a utility. Would youlike to see GC running your electricity of water system?
    4.Average voters are disinterested because unlike the corporations and their hangers on, they see no concrete benefit. The Feds should immediately offer zero interest loans to pay off at least one trillion bucks worth of student loand and credit card debt. If payments are made on time to 50% of the total recieved the rest should be written off. Let Obama pass that and he wins with 80%. If incentives work, and if eklections are bought with individual interests, why not try one for the majority?

    1. Nathanael

      Regarding #4, that’s basically what FDR did, and he proceeded to rule for life.

      Obama’s just an idiot about politics! The first populist who understands that people are *ready* for raw populism, and who can also get into power, will simply *win* and can become a dictator if he or she wishes to, with popular assent. It takes a rare talent and level of ambition to be able to do that, so it may take a few years before someone succeeds.

    2. Nathanael

      The question, El Snarko, is how to get *any* proposals like yours implemented with the current stranglehold on power held by the 0.1%. That’s what we’ve been discussing for the last several years…. any ideas?

  11. Dan Kervick

    We Americans have the same disease and we all must fight against it. The only cure is democratic political participation.

    The good news is that the United States has an incredible social infrastructure of democratic governing institutions, just waiting to be revivified by greater participation. We have 50 democratically elected state legislatures, thousands of democratically elected municipal governments, a vast network of school boards, commissions, planning boards. We just have to participate more and build from the ground up.

    1. Ray Phenicie

      Precise analysis-
      A progressive Party ideology-along the lines of OWS -needs to be drawn up, indexed, discussed and published.
      A plan of action for disengaging from the mainstream power structures of finance, government and banking needs to be implamented
      -start by stopping all citizen money flows (taxes) to municipalities, counties and states-and setting up independent agencies vis-a-vis publicly elected boards and councils to say to the powers that be” A new order has arrived=~join us or stay behind, but the train is leaving the station on this day.”
      Say no to the banks, credit card companies and mortgage holding companies as well-they tie into the power structure too closely to continue with them-stopping the money flow at the consumer level will be small step but if businesses see the movement they will join in.

      1. enouf

        hmm, rather than make this a philosophical discussion i’ll just be blunt and brief ..

        What if we enacted/forced Sheila Bair’s proposal?

        Then everyone (participating households) would have the *ability* to buy/pay for everything they need with CASH! outright — therefore tossing the proverbial cog in the gears/spokes of the wheel we know as ‘The Debt Cycle To Hell’.

        — A true Boycott (especially if all 99.44% [excuse the Ivory terminology, but smashing the Ivory Tower of Babel comes to mind, heh]) Especially as it pertains to using the Banksters’ fictional (and fraudulent and theiving) interchanges for commerce, on all levels.

        — A true ‘Opt-Out of the Corp/Fascist Nanny-State’ option (via a direct and immediate spending of funds for truly consumer needs; Food/Water/Shelter/Clothing, + amenities, etc) ONLY ON LOCALLY PRODUCED GOODS, PRODUCTS


        — A stop to BigAgri / BigOil-and-Gas / BigPharma / Big BioTech through coops and communities organized *Locally*, a place where only ORGANIC and BIODYNAMIC farming/agri methods are used–invested from a truly self-sustaining and renewable-energy-only agenda.

        Sure .. there’ll be the few scragglers, the slime of the scum that’ll attempt to take advantage of their new-found wealth and try to multiply it through deception, manipulation, exploitation to appease their fears, (GREED and self-aggrandizement) .. But if one cannot ‘get-by’ on 10M USD in todays dollars, then one has some serious mental-illness issues (sociopath, psychopath, kleptocrat … …)

        From there (above scenario), WeThePeople can then begin to dissassemble all the Institutions that the Kleptocracy has built/promoted/fostered/ordained (on their behalf) – vis a vis ignoring their existence entirely!

        ..from The Federal Reserve / IMF / IRS / WorldBank / BIS / ..all CentralBanking activity –to– the GlobalCorpCartel of the aforementiond ‘Big*’; the veritable CCCP rapacious rapists of our Ecologies –to–>

        Instead; all that is Honorable, Trustworthy, Compassionate, Sincere, and Spiritually-based .. in a word;


        p.s. probably reads like mish-mash, apologies …… i’m not a writer ;0

      1. 911truthVN

        Yes, totally agree, and because of the freedom of speech, the USA would not end like the USSR. Although it would take time for people to get to the crime of this century, but they will some day.

        1. Nathanael

          Arguably the USSR post-Gorbachev had dissemination of news just as good as we do now. And through the same means, mostly; the official media were very questionable, and the official “mainstream media” here are too.

  12. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    “Political culture defines the political health of the people; the culture’s decline leads way to the government’s.”

    It’s precisely the withdrawal – both voluntary and involuntary – from public/political life by the individual into his/her cocoon over the past 40 years that has brought US to this point. Atomization and the depersonalization of politics is precisely what has made MARKET TOTALITARIANISM possible.

    There is no single explanation for how and why this – the collapse of the politcal culture – occurred. Antecedents predate WW2 but accelerated in the aftermath of the 60s – civil rights, AIM, Vietnam, feminism, environmentalism – when the counterrevolution began in earnest. Recall the Powell Memorandum discussed by Yves elsewhere.

    Conspiracy may be a stretch but the rabid individualism exalted by neoliberalism combined with globalization that accompanied its rise – particualrly the decline of manufacturing – have facilitated the very atomization that undermines the sense of collective responsibilty and civic duty that make for the “republican virtue” central to representative institutions.

    Discussion of politics – the lifeblood of democracy – is now taboo as too divisive and controversial. How many picnics and family get togethers today will deliberately avoid any mention of the subject? It’s just not appropriate – politically correct – to bring it up. We simply have forgotten how to argue/disagree with the civility central to republican virtue.

    Of course, it is precisely during this INTERREGNUM when the old is dying and the new has yet to attain critical mass that we must find a way to make the discussion of politics central to public discourse. An opportunity not to be missed! The very shrillness of the present debate is what we must overcome if we are ever going to broaden the scope of this discussion beyond MORE IS BETTER! We must become teachers and lead by example, taking back the public square in which informed political discourse can thrive and create the democratic political culture underlying democracy.

    Waiting on the sidelines for “collapse” is hardly a solution if there isn’t anything waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum when that collapse occurs. We know how feudalism worked out. And I doubt if the life of the technopeasntry on the corporate manor will be much of an improvement. But then again the latest round of self-government, however limited, emerged out the bowels of feudalism, right?

    Who’s to say that the collapse hasn’t occurred already and we’re looking for some cataclysmic event in the future to remove all doubt. But this singular event never comes… Could it be that what has collapsed is the political culture on which self-government depends. Rebuilding it is what is to be done.

    How fitting that on July 4th, 2012 we begin doing so! From the Declaration of Independence to the Declaration of Interdependence. Enjoy the fireworks!

    1. 911truthVN

      Conspiracy may be a stretch but the rabid individualism exalted by neoliberalism combined with globalization that accompanied its rise – particularly the decline of manufacturing – have facilitated the very atomization that undermines the sense of collective responsibility and civic duty that make for the “republican virtue” central to representative institutions.

      Agreed. But in the particular and extreme case of 9/11, it wasn’t a stretch. And here is why. If you haven’t seen the WTC7 collapse video, you should. Even without the hint of that obvious control demolition, you can still understand why WTC1 and 2 destruction wasn’t what they say in the MSM. Here is how: They were attacked by two 767-222 aircrafts weighing maximum of 179 tons with a max speed 567 mph.

      Reduce all the weight by 6 million times, and all the length by 182 times (181.71 ^ 3 = 6 million) get to the size and weight that we can intuitively perceive in everyday experience.

      The height of the WTC1 model is about 7.5 feet (1368/182), The estimated total weight of a floor, dead load plus live load, is 3,306 tons so the weight of the model is 110 floors * 3306 / 6000000 = 0.06 ton = 60 kg = 132 pound.

      7.5 feet and 132 pound is a bit taller and lighter than a typical adult, and the steel frame of the model is one sixth of the total weight , about 22 pound of steel.

      Our 767-222 aircraft model will have a weight of 30 gram (179/6) or one ounce, a length of 10.5 inches, diameter of the circular cross-section of one inch, with a wingspan of 10 inches. This model will have 50% of its weight made of aluminum, and contains 10 cc of jet fuel or two third of a tablespoon (767-200 full gas tank is 63 thousand liters, 767-200ER is 91 thousand liters, divided by 6 million is about 10-15 cc gasoline), flying at the speed 253 m/s or 832 foot/second.

      the speed of a common bullet of 300-500 grains is 1600 ft/s to 2200 ft/s.

      So our 767-222 model would have a typical weight of a bullet of 480 grains, speed of 50-60% or less, and mostly empty inside, with two third of a tablespoon of gasoline.

      So why a normal person won’t collapse in to dust if hit by a typical bullet and the WTC 1 and 2 did ? Just because of 2/3 tablespoon of gasoline ?

      1. Nathanael

        Because people aren’t as brittle as concrete and steel. Learn something about materials science, please.

        Here’s the thing: complicated conspiracy theories about 9/11 are *not necessary*. Bush was personally warned “Al Qaeda Determined To Strike in US” and his response was “All right, you covered your ass” (now go away). Warnings were specifically given about the use of airplanes in suicide attacks on buildings, and these were ignored. Clinton’s anti-terrorism procedures and taskforces were dismantled. The reports of suspicious people learning to fly planes but not to land them were ignored. This is all a matter of public record.

        This is a catalog of an administration which was trying to make sure SOME sort of major terrorist attack happened, even if they didn’t know what it was going to be specifically.

        And then you get into the fact that Saudi Arabia was treated with kid gloves despite supplying most of the hijackers, and so on….

        It doesn’t need to have been a proper false flag attack — we KNOW that “they let it happen on purpose”.

        1. 911truthVN

          Because people aren’t as brittle as concrete and steel. Learn something about materials science, please.

          You’re plainly wrong, steel with high amount of carbon can be brittle, but not steel used in construction. The steel construction of WTC1 and 2 was design to flex under the wind of hurricane. And on the said model of 7.5 feet high and 132 pounds of weight, there was 22 pound of steel frame. That should give much more strength than a typical adult’s skeleton.

          1. Nathanael

            And bullets smash bone up pretty good, but they don’t do quite the same things to flesh….

        2. enouf

          .. Clinton’s anti-terrorism procedures and taskforces were dismantled. ..

          This is extremely notable; re: John O’Neill


          The other extremely notable comment is;
          “they let it happen on purpose”.

          but ofcourse; the kick-off to the neverending WAR!
          (for-profit ofcourse — afar, as well as near, with the disembowelment of all semblance of Unalienable Rights)


        3. 911truthVN

          complicated conspiracy theories about 9/11 are *not necessary*.

          Allow me to cite Mark Twain:
          Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
          You already agree with me that 9/11 was allowed to happen. But here’s the thing. This decision, was publicly known to insiders like Larry Silverstein and guess what ? Some will make money on that. Is that simple enough for you to cope with ?

  13. Hugh

    In discussions like this, it is useful to pull out one of DownSouth’s favorite Niebuhr quotes from Moral Man and Immoral Society:

    “The moral attitudes of dominant and privileged groups are characterised by universal self-deception and hypocrisy. The unconscious and conscious identification of their special interests with general interests and universal values, which we have noted in analysing national attitudes, is equally obvious in the attitude of classes. The reason why privileged classes are more hypocritical than underprivileged ones is that special privilege can be defended in terms of the rational ideal of equal justice only, by proving that it contributes something to the good of the whole. Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold. The most common form of hypocrisy among the privileged classes is to assume that their privileges are the just payments with which society rewards specially useful or meritorious functions.”

    The truth is that we need experts and expertise to manage a society as large and as sophisticated as our own, but we do not need elites. Elites claim expert knowledge, knowledge without which our society can not function. They declare that what is good for them must necessarily be good for us, their wars, their tax cuts, their bailouts. They tell us that the system of wealth and privileges they have built up for themselves is small recompense for their services to us. Perhaps at some point elites did serve some useful function but their privileges never have and they no longer do. They have become a mob of grasping criminal clowns. Their only expertise nowadays is in looting and in propaganda to hide their looting.

    Of course, our public institutions have been eroded. They are being used against us. Our rights, we are told, do not protect us, but their elimination does. Inequality, we are taught, is good for us. Equality we are told is only about race, and lip service is enough to suffice for that. In economics, equality is tantamount to promoting Stalinism. When our elites drive the economy over the cliff in their boundless greed, they blame us, and stick us with the bill. They enter into endless, unwinnable wars without cause or purpose only so they can posture to us over them, so that they can tell us we need their leadership to wage them.

    Our society does have many needs but having elites is not one of them. Their record is one of constant and repeated failure to do anything other than enrich and empower themselves. They are locusts. They are the scourge they say we must have them to guard against. We are better off without them. We certainly can not survive with them.

  14. Shutterbuggery

    Maybe this is the way ALL Republics will always go. They start up with a bang and then fizzle out, unsustainable in the long run by their very nature.

  15. Ben Franklin

    I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

  16. Jagger

    If you want to see how democracies are destroyed, study the failures of the Italian, Spanish, German and French democracies in the 1930s.

    It takes very little to destroy a democracy if the government is unable to effectively govern. Once the people lose faith in a government, extremism offers solutions which divided government cannot. Note in the 30s how small political factions were able to deadlock governments preventing effective governance.

    This is the greatest danger of a deadlocked government unable to govern. Various forms of authoritarian extremism seem the only solution to solve intractable problems which must be confronted. Sound familiar?

  17. LeonovaBalletRusse

    The brainwashing of the American masses begins in grade school with repeated doses of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” = Empire.

  18. Pelham

    I’m reading a fascinating book by Jonathan Haidt, who, as I judge from what I’ve read so far, would come to a different conclusion.

    Americans all across the political spectrum care passionately about our democracy, or what’s left of it. It’s just that many on the right believe that we do indeed have a functioning democracy and, more importantly, a functioning market economy that always delivers the best of all possible worlds if left undisturbed by government. This is an article of faith.

    And it is this that conservatives are absolutely dedicated about defending. They don’t believe democracy and the market are in trouble at all — except insofar as liberals occasionally get their way — and conservatives see it as their duty, indeed as an essential part of their very identity, to defend this system. Far from being lazy and resigned, they’re fearless and sometimes unscrupulous in this regard but in the service of something they truly believe is a higher and worthy cause.

    The job for the rest of us is a tough one. In part because it means re-examining our own beliefs and identities as we TRULY try to understand — rather than diagnose — our fellow citizens on the right. Many of their essential values are quite worthy ones. As Haidt notes — and supports — conservatives’ matrix of values is more complete and realistic than the more narrowly conceived set of essential values on the left. For instance, sanctity is highly important to conservatives but something that liberals and progressives tend to reject or only lightly and conditionally embrace. Does that speak well of us on the left?

    Of course, much depends on practice. And I believe that conservatives wrongly attach their loyalties to many institutions so warped and distorted that they’re no longer worthy of anyone’s allegiance. But the values conservatives aspire to are, in and of themselves, wonderful things in the right situations and contexts. It’s this that progressives would do well to understand.

    1. proximity1


      “And it is this that conservatives are absolutely dedicated about defending. They don’t believe democracy and the market are in trouble at all — except insofar as liberals occasionally get their way — and conservatives see it as their duty, indeed as an essential part of their very identity, to defend this system. Far from being lazy and resigned, they’re fearless and sometimes unscrupulous in this regard but in the service of something they truly believe is a higher and worthy cause.

      “The job for the rest of us is a tough one. (1)In part because it means re-examining our own beliefs and identities as we TRULY try to understand — rather than diagnose — our fellow citizens on the right. Many of their essential values are quite worthy ones.

      (2)As Haidt notes — and supports — conservatives’ matrix of values is more complete and realistic than the more narrowly conceived set of essential values on the left. For instance, sanctity is highly important to conservatives but something that liberals and progressives tend to reject or only lightly and conditionally embrace. Does that speak well of us on the left?

      “Of course, much depends on practice. And I believe that conservatives wrongly attach their loyalties to many institutions so warped and distorted that they’re no longer worthy of anyone’s allegiance. (3)But the values conservatives aspire to are, in and of themselves, wonderful things in the right situations and contexts. It’s this that progressives would do well to understand.”

      I’m going to drop the approach with which I first imagined replying to your comment and instead make a much briefer observation–though I’m leaving as is the above-emphasized bold-face so as to indicate where I think your comment has its worst flaws.

      So, I’ll proceed just to say, if one really wants to move this discussion “forward” in a productive way, we’d do better to dispense with unspecified allusions to “what conservatives think, believe, want, stand for, etc.” and likewise for what “liberals think, believe, want, stand for, etc.”

      Instead, you’ll advance the discussion by setting out what specifically you think “the values conservatives aspire to are, in and of themselves,” and why you believe they are “wonderful things in the right situations and contextsconservatives’“–but here, I fear that I’ll be told, “All of that is set out in Haidt’s book, which you’ll then recommend that I read.

      But I’ve read Haidt in columns, in essays and in every single case, he strikes me as a doctrinaire right-winger who is tendentious in his expositions when he isn’t being an out-right lying idiot. For me, Haidt is the semi-thinking person’s Rush Limbaugh.

      I agree that there’s a world of beliefs and actions held to or done by people calling themselves liberals which strikes me as wildly stupid stuff–and I’m opposed to those people and those things for that reason. Now, I know, I should follow my own advice and provide examples. Very often, they are people whose actions and beliefs are the mirror-image errors of their supposed adversaries on the other side of the political divide.

      So, if “conservatives”–that undefined group– “don’t believe democracy and the market are in trouble at all — except insofar as liberals occasionally get their way —…(and) see it as their duty, indeed as an essential part of their very identity, to defend this system.”

      then, manifestly, they are defending what is in actual fact unfettered rapacious and deadly greed, given free reign in the name–usually of “efficiency,” or “purity of market principles”. And we’re still in the midst of the Hell that these conservatives’ ‘values,’ left unchecked, have produced. Don’t tell me the fault is that they were left unchecked–the consvervatives include people with the power and resources they needed to remove the checks and let the market run amok.

      When one examines conservative ‘values’ closely, they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Haidt may claim otherwise but he’s a f’ing liar when he does.

      Right now, there are conservatives insisting that the troubles we’re in are due to the market’s having been and still being “too regulated” and that if we want to recover order and stability, we need yet freer, unhindered market activity.

      So, for example: forget conservatives versus liberals—just tell me, Who, in your view defends and promotes the belief that “The market is rational and knows best how to allocate money, capital, investment opportunities, and rewards and losses in the most fair and rational way, all things considered.”

      Who do you say argues and defends such a view? And do you accept the validity of that view? Why or why not? And if conservatives believe this, and do their damnedest to practice it, what is it that I need to “TRULY try to understand” about them and their real motives and intentions?

    2. KFrtiz

      Correction: Americans all across the political spectrum [SAY they] care passionately about our democracy….and then 50% vote.

      1. proximity1

        Often not even 50% turn out at the polls. And that’s of course, registered voters— but what part of the whole eligible population is even registered? So, that leaves us with a fraction of the fraction of the fraction which is registered, turns out to vote.

        But—forgive me for once again bringing in complexity—the fact is, some of that typically-minority-of-registered-voters votes without anything like enthusiasm, or faith, in the system. Some others among them vote while knowing that the system is bought-out, because they’re among the elite who’ve bought it. Probably, the majority of the 0.1% at the top do not vote. They may reason with complete accuracy that, “Hey, I own this system itself. Since I own it, I’m not obliged to participate in the electoral make-believe.”

        So, unfortunately, we can’t even reliably reason that, those who vote are real believers in democracy while those who sit out have lost faith in it or never had any to start with. It is very plausible that some of the most sincerely faithful don’t vote not because they are “against” democracy but because they are convinced that we don’t have one in which they can honestly participate.

        Would you have voted in Cuba—under any regime there, whether Castro’s or Batista’s? Were those who refused displaying anti-democratic sentiments?

        1. KFrtiz

          Complexity is right! If the demos don’t vote, there ain’t no democracy.

          A wise man once advised me to make choices and not decisions, whenever possible. Democracy is about choices, however unappealing the alternatives may be. If we don’t make the choices, sooner or later someone else will.

          Happy 4th!!

      2. S Brennan

        You confuse “voting” with Democracy, they are not the same. Why would voting between two nearly identical policy sets [not verbal proposals, but those policies actually carried out], show a belief in Democracy? Obama is from the opposite party as Bush [the 2nd] and yet they have line on line polices as actually carried out…sure the verbiage is different, but verbiage is for those too mentally enfeebled to grasp policy as carried out.

  19. sierra

    Theres’ gotta be an iAPP for all these problems……!!!!!!!
    Where’s my cell????

  20. Jim

    I would argue that much of recent American historical research( see writings of Skcopol, Skowronek,,Balogh, Galambos etc.) on the creation and evolution of what has become our contemporary structure of power tends to support the hypothesis of the gradual interpenetration (over the past 200 years)of the public and private spheres.

    Since both Big Capital and Big State have historically benefited from this interpenetration(i.e. even progressive victories have almost always supported private corporate power) it is not surprising that especially within the past 30 years many public institutions (Congress, Executive Branch etc.) appear more vulnerable to private influence (since an evolving Big State has always historically nurtured an evolving Big Capital).

    What we are faced with today is the consequences (financially, economically, politically and culturally) of the consolidation and interpenetration of power of these two spheres.

    What modern progressives must ask themselves is whether our modern state is a mere pawn of private interests or, as it has historically evolved, gradually become an autonomous force in its own right with its own set of interests which are now, as with Big Capital, structurally antagonistic to the interests of the average American.

    Much of the earlier historical analysis (Beard, Kolko etc.) of the evolution of our modern structure of power was primarily discussed in terms of the unfolding of the capitalist system. More recent scholarship in organizational history (some mentioned above) has focused on the unfolding of power of the U.S. nation-state.

    If both the size and consolidation of the modern state and the modern market are the problem–this situation seems to require a dramatic downsizing of both spheres.

    Within this context, do Progressives have the courage to critique one of their key assumptions: the inevitable “progressive” role of the modern state?

    Within this context, do Conservatives have the courage to critique one of their key assumptions: the inevitable “beneficial” role of Big Capital?

    1. Nathanael

      There’s no symmetry, so stop presenting false symmetry.

      For “conservatives”, they are *required* to support Big Capital, because Big Capital pays them. If they stop worshipping at its altar, they lose their Heritage Foundation funding (etc.).

      For progressives, who have the ability to be intellectually honest, government is *necessary*. There is no actual alternative to government — anything which can provide a city water system or a working court system is, effectively, a government for all practical purposes. Therefore progressives believe that government should be under democratic control, rather than controlled by a minority or whatever privateer has the most power this week.

  21. looselyhuman

    Sick of the glorification of Rome’s Republic, which, as a corrupt oligacrhy, was no great loss. It was hardly democratic self-rule for the majority of Romans, nor functioned in their interests. The first century BC reforms prior to and during Caesar’s ascendancy, and those of Augustus’ principate, were far better periods for the average person of the lower classes and head count…

    1. Nathanael

      The Roman Republic has a ludicrously complicated history (well, there are a lot of years in that history). Some periods were better than others for any given group. Some periods were appallingly undemocratic; some were pretty decent.

      What is perhaps most notable is that the survival of the Roman Republic depended on its ability to *adapt* to change; the structures of the government are not really the same 100 years apart. The ossification of institutions generally meant their eventual irrelevance.

      1. looselyhuman

        I don’t disagree that, by accident, the system designed to maintain the power of the patriciate and the wealthy plebians occasionally failed – mainly because the lower classes went on strike several times in the early republic, creating and solidifying the power of the tribunate. But that institution ended up serving the oligarchy as often as not.

        Anyway, it’s my impression that most of the contemporary idealization of the Republic is specific to the Republic of Cato and the Boni, which is pretty much the same thing as idealizing the Republic of the CATO institute and the Koch Brothers.

  22. Michael W

    Unless Plato was an idiot, one cannot have a democratic republic – and America’s creators never intended for America to be a democracy otherwise they would not have devised a system of governance in which the representative government is, by design, highly divided between what is now 51 governments and is, by design, arranged for constant as possible political stalemate and extreme compromise.
    Plato invented the form of government we call “republic” because his teacher, mentor and lover, Socrates, was forced to swallow hemlock and commit suicide after he refused to retract a statement he made in public which was:”Not all positions in government should be elected, some should be appointed because they require skills which cannot be reliably gained through democratic election.” This seems like a reasonable statement but the Greek Democrats (who themselves were wealthy elites) forced Socrates to either retract it or commit suicide. In reaction to Socrates forced suicide Plato did an historic freak out and devised a system of government which is the diametric opposite of democracy – everything democracy is, a republic is not. A democracy is run by and for the majority of citizens; while a republic is run by and for wealthy elites(In the modern cases fascist Germany, communist republics, third world dictatorships and America etc.). Plato actually envisaged just elites like actors, philosophers, authors etc. who inevitably become very wealthy perverting the power of government to funnel wealth into their hands. As it is impossible to have a country governed by both wealthy elites and the majority of citizens at the same time – it is either one or the other. In the case of America, it is a republic with a lot of votes and America is run by and for wealthy elites. If the Republicans, who constantly preach about small government were sincere about this; they would get rid of 40 state governments and have just 10 – 12 states – why waste billions of dollars on 40 extra useless governments? Except to divide democracy into so many small governments that political power is extremely difficult if not completely impossible to focus to counter balance the power dictatorship of extreme wealth. If Americans were truly interested in democracy they would introduce a parliamentary style of government with the majority party forming the government and having the political control necessary to effectively run the country in the interests of ALL citizens. Recent history has shown that America is run by and for Wall Street and Wall Street’s friends. If democratic government is stalemated – who wins? Rich or poor? The rich of course! Republicans, true to their calling, understand that they can have their wealthy mentors win most easily by democratic stalemate which is far easier to produce than an effective democratic majority government. In America a small minority can prevent the majority from actually governing. There are three basic forms of government. Capitalist, socialist and fascist. In a capitalist system the individual takes the risk and gets the rewards; in a socialist system the government takes the risk and the government gets the rewards – to be distributed for the benefit of all citizens; in a fascist system the government takes the risk and the (wealthy elite) individual gets the reward. The first thing that Hitler did upon destroying German democratic government and pronouncing Germany a republic was to guarantee all of the debts of the big industrialists. This was a foretaste of the later American public/taxpayers bailing out Wall Street billionaires while middle class wealth is destroyed by the wealthy elites and their corporate faces shipping middle class unionized jobs to slave wage countries where workers have zero rights and military/police force is used to punish workers who contend for living wages and good working conditions. Republicans constantly wail about the waste of government bureaucracy which has the power to protect and defend the majority against the extreme power of wealthy elites; yet they are sanguinely quiet about the largest bureaucracy in America – the bureaucracy which comprises 50% of the workers in hospitals and are the bureaucratic paper pushers who deliver unconscionable excessive profits to a small minority of wealthy elites by squeezing the sick and ailing and making certain that health corporations collect every last possible cent and thereby transfer the maximum amount of wealth up to the top 10% of wealthiest individuals. Morality has three positions; Moral-one knows what it is and does it; immoral-one knows what it is and doesn’t do it; amoral-one never considers morality in the first place. Morality is comprised of human, social and spiritual values – none of which can be measured in terms of dollars. Corporations only consider one value, dollars, before decision and action; which makes corporations amoral. The holiest person who ever lived could not produce moral actions on the part of a corporation because only dollar values could be considered. Real democratic government on the other hand is elected by the majority of voters based on their human, social and spiritual values which they expect the elected government to reflect; therefore democratic governments have the ability and responsibility to be moral. And all democratic national and some state/provincial governments not only have the responsibility to be moral, they also can have the grip of death on corporations because corporations are chartered state/provincially or nationally and these governments can force corporations to be moral! For this reason wealthy elites and corporations hate democratic government which is why they spend billions a year corrupting democratic governments – these are people who wouldn’t spend a penny unless there was a dollar in it for them so their billions spent perverting democratic government is absolute testament to the fact that democratic government has the ability to force them to be moral.

    1. enouf

      You make some pretty good points — but might you consider breaking those lengthy posts into about 10 paragraphs or so?


  23. S Brennan

    “Socrates was found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety (“not believing in the gods of the state”),[16] and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock.
    Bust of Socrates in the Vatican Museum

    According to Xenophon’s story, Socrates purposefully gave a defiant defense to the jury because “he believed he would be better off dead”. Xenophon goes on to describe a defense by Socrates that explains the rigors of old age, and how Socrates would be glad to circumvent them by being sentenced to death. It is also understood that Socrates also wished to die because he “actually believed the right time had come for him to die.”

    Xenophon and Plato agree that Socrates had an opportunity to escape, as his followers were able to bribe the prison guards. He chose to stay for several reasons:

    He believed such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has.
    If he fled Athens his teaching would fare no better in another country as he would continue questioning all he met and undoubtedly incur their displeasure.
    Having knowingly agreed to live under the city’s laws, he implicitly subjected himself to the possibility of being accused of crimes by its citizens and judged guilty by its jury. To do otherwise would have caused him to break his “social contract” with the state, and so harm the state, an act contrary to Socratic principle.

    The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the Crito.

    Socrates’ death is described at the end of Plato’s Phaedo. Socrates turned down the pleas of Crito to attempt an escape from prison. After drinking the poison, he was instructed to walk around until his legs felt numb. After he lay down, the man who administered the poison pinched his foot. Socrates could no longer feel his legs. The numbness slowly crept up his body until it reached his heart. Shortly before his death, Socrates speaks his last words to Crito: “Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.” Asclepius was the Greek god for curing illness, and it is likely Socrates’ last words meant that death is the cure—and freedom, of the soul from the body. Additionally, in Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths, Robin Waterfield adds another interpretation of Socrates’ last words. He suggests that Socrates was a voluntary scapegoat; his death was the purifying remedy for Athens’ misfortunes. In this view, the token of appreciation for Asclepius would represent a cure for the ailments of Athens.[14]”

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