Millions of Americans drink "unhealthy" water; military suicides escalate; schools erode and health programs collapse. — The New York Times
In ten years of a new Century, U.S. systemic dysfunction became more dramatic. The government responded by retreating down the ancient Egyptian River
The Senate passed a $626 billion "defense" budget without discussion. Since 1947, when the War Department became the Defense Department, Congress has allocated trillions of dollars, but all for offense and with dubious results: Korea (1950-53), Vietnam (1964-74), Iraq and Afghanistan. None of those countries attacked or threatened us.
In Copenhagen, Obama reflected the denial mood of Congress, banks and corporations and offered platitudes to reduce global warming while admitting the perils of growing climate change. Raising unpleasant future scenarios signifies unacceptable political pessimism. The press, predictably, abdicated on all issues not connected to celebrity scandal.
Last September, Fidel Castro said modern media’s main message was "Buy this, buy that." After watching CNN International, a network whose founder, Ted Turner, attributed to Fidel the idea of fashioning a global news network, he called such "news" a purveyor of "universal disorientation."
Mass confusion also derives from priorities. As unemployment grew and war raged, newspaper headlines and TV news shows featured Tiger Woods’ women. Even George Orwell didn’t imagine how incessant visual shock images and audio babble could combine with the blur of newsprint to immerse the public in depths of muddle.
Misdirected U.S. residents also entered the second decade of the Century as victims because of scams and con jobs perpetrated by CEOs. Ruses perpetrated by the country’s highest officials which led to the U.S. military’s reduction of parts of Iraq and Afghanistan to rubble – with massive death and injury.
The Century itself began with a sham election. Bush’s presidential qualifications equaled mine as a religious icon painter. No matter. The Supreme Court established that democracy did not include counting votes in Florida.
Shortly after, Bush’s buddy and campaign contributor, ENRON chief "Kenny-Boy" Lay, stood naked as his company defrauded the public — billions of dollars of losses hidden by fraudulent accounting – we learned the new meaning of "innovative." For six consecutive years Fortune named ENRON its "most innovative company."
Some ENRON executives made billions by helping cause and then profit from a California power shortage; others guided creative accountants through courses in numerical book-cooking so as to create the façade of profitability. Other monster-sized corporations with high ratings also collapsed (Adelphia and WorldCom) thanks to dubious profiteering and speculating by top executives.
Despite warning signs that "prosperity" included phony accounting, Fed Chairs offered rosy predictions of an eternal housing boom. The U.S. economy would perpetually rise.
The venerable Bernie Madoff assured clients, with phony assets statements, that they would enjoy ever larger fortunes by investing pension and endowment funds in his licensed ponzi scheme of $64 billion. Bernie’s good times lasted more than a decade.
Bush had done nothing of note until Osama’s crew struck. Bush’s National Security neo cons then pushed their aggressive agenda through a terrified Congress and an un-skeptical media. Invading Afghanistan would somehow retaliate for the 9/11 outrage, rid the country of the hated Taliban and, most importantly, capture the evil Osama bin Laden. Without fear or fact, neo con ideologues manipulated publics in the U.S. and England. In record time, we had a new war, and a hastily drafted Patriot Act to curtail our liberties for the purpose of stopping bin Laden, who wanted to curtail our freedom.
After no opposition to war in Afghanistan emerged, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "conned" the media and Congress, with British collusion, into war in Iraq (see the film "In the Loop"). Over six plus years, hundreds of thousands died. Iraq’s integrity got shattered. No weapons of mass destruction were found; nor ties between Saddam’s Iraq’s and Al-Qaeda. Bush and Blair shrugged: "It’s a better world without Saddam." Relatives of the dead shouldn’t complain because their loved ones died "for a better world."
Scandal also struck religion – again. Ultra religious megapreacher Ted Haggard liked getting speed inserted into his stimulant-craving booty according to his masseuse who followed the drugged-up Ted’s nether orifice with his own you know what. Like the fictional Elmer Gantry, Ted preached fidelity while imagining kinky scenarios. After his "outing," Ted "cured" "homoerotica" by spending two weeks in Christian rehab. Now happily reunited with wife and kids, Ted counsels others with similar "problems."
In November 2008, Americans, recoiling from the Bush nightmare, voted for "hope" and "change." Obama then appointed the same old perpetrators as top economic bosses (Treasury Secretary Geithner and Economic Adviser-in-Chief Summers) and continued Bush’s Afghan war with more troops. Our rotting infrastructure will somehow take care of itself and the unemployed and foreclosed should have faith. Happy New Year and Take to the Streets!
Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. He has written regularly for Counterpunch for four years.