Oh, yes, true words indeed.

But I fear they are good seed cast on barren ground.

The United States has demonstrated, time and again, that it is only capable of adjusting its governance after smashing its head into a wall, often after several times.

Its political system is a creaking wreck, a kind of man-made monster lumbering along, force-feed by special interest campaign contributions and marching to the drumbeat of outdated assumptions and truly ignorant superstitions.

Despite decades of declining real income, the American middle class remains moved by silly slogans like “the American Dream” and “America First,” much resembling the flock of some religious cult who even after being fleeced by its leaders insists the religion is true.

The United States is a plutocracy, perhaps as corrupt as France in 1788, and it is an overstretched world imperial power serving the narrow interests of its plutocrats, but always it is mouthing slogans about democracy and freedom and justice, largely dead and empty language, to its ordinary inhabitants.

People insulated from the effects of wars and bad times – the plutocrats and ruling establishment in Washington – just do not feel the impact of such terrible turns of event.

Elections only matter in the most nominal way in the United States, they are part of keeping the myths going, as we’ve seen so clearly in the case of Obama.

This bright, optimistic, and charming man took the world’s attention by storm after eight years of the rancid and hated George Bush.

But in two years what has he achieved? Almost nothing of consequence.

The wars go on. Indeed, they are now killing civilians weekly in Pakistan.

The Pentagon and the American intelligence apparatus have swollen into great wallowing beasts, consuming vast resources to no good purpose.

After a terrible financial catastrophe, what has been changed? Nothing, just countless billions given away to stimulate a temporary respite, paying for which threatens the very security and international position of the American dollar.

We see no meaningful legislation to regulate future financial excesses.

We hear not one voice speak about the painful sacrifices required to pay for all the ghastly excess of war and financial anarchy.

Do we see even one meaningful political change in the way elections are conducted and financed, something that might promise future reform? We do not.

Has anything changed, despite Obama’s early suggestion of a new policy direction, with America’s client state Israel and its terrible seemingly-endless abuse of millions?

Obama’s one big act, his health-care legislation, is an abomination, disliked by liberals and conservatives alike, an ugly ineffective costly compromise.

Has anything happened with the paranoid, democratically destructive legislation around American security, virtual police-state stuff which is unbelievably costly by every possible measure?

Nothing has changed. The election of 2008 might just as well not have taken place.

No individual, however bright and enthusiastic, can move the American establishment from its firm position of ignorance and selfishness and power.

And we all know what Lord Acton said about power.

His words apply to all power, no matter how established, even democratically-camouflaged power.

If you want some interesting insight into the assumptions and attitudes of the American middle class, watch a few American real-estate, cable-channel television shows.

People often want three-car garages. They want granite counter tops. The want four bedrooms. They want three bathrooms. They want central air-conditioning.

They have saved no money. They are looking to finance on the basis of 100% mortgages.

And, perhaps worst of all, they are looking at subdivisions in the middle of nowhere, in Colorado or Texas or Arizona. Places which require cars for everyone and every single errand. Places which require twenty-four-hour-a-day air conditioning for major parts of the year. Places often with no long-term, dependable water resources, often genuine deserts.

Some of these shows actually deal with the results of the earlier excesses, people whose home prices have cratered, who owe huge amounts on their mortgages, people who are trying to sell ugly behemoths they can’t afford, and people who feel entitled.

Americans are entitled to walk away from homes and the loans which financed them when the value of the mortgage exceeds the value of the property, a fact not often appreciated in Canada where we honor contracts. They just hand the keys to the bank and go.

In buying homes, Americans often walk away from contracts too. That’s why in most places the signs in front of homes say they are “under contract” rather than “sold” during the interim between signing and closing. Realtors often keep showing homes “under contract” just in case. In America, for sure you do not know you have a valid sale until the little closing ceremony when money and keys are exchanged.

Another fact not always appreciated in Canada is that American home owners have long had the privilege of deducting the interest on their mortgages from their federal income tax. Yet even with this financial boost, still they cannot make a go of it, and for the simple reason that the deductibility has only encouraged still larger purchases and likely inflated prices.

Such shows tell us a great deal, exhibiting like educational films the results of America’s inability to govern itself sensibly. We see the grassroots reality of loose and chaotic government.

But when I say loose and chaotic government, I always exclude the intelligence monstrosity, the Pentagon, and America’s many and brutal police forces. Nothing loose there – just a quasi-police state taken for granted.



Gideon Rachman,

Yours is a very careless way of writing.

How can you lose what you never had?

I am reminded of the paranoid talk within the United States after Mao took power in China.

It was commonly said that certain people had helped America lose China. Indeed, it was used as a serious accusation in the witch-hunts.

Of course, America never had China.

Setting aside that annoying use of language, there is a phenomenon here worthy of study: America clearly is losing prestige and some influence in the world.

There are several things at work in this.

First, America since World War II has made an intense effort at building a world empire, almost dropping its one-time belief in itself as the good scout who stays out of other people’s affairs. The last half-century or so is dotted with American colonial wars, none of which have anything to do with the defense of America.

Indeed, in recent years, the neo-cons in America actually preached the philosophy of dropping the pretences about empire and just using all that military and economic might to shape the world as it wished.

De facto, this is pretty much what America has done, and despite the empty rhetoric of a Bush or even an Obama and the officious stuff from the State Department about who is or is not performing adequately with regard to human rights and democracy, everyone recognizes the fact.

The holocaust in Vietnam (3 million killed for no purpose justifies the word), the pointless invasion of Afghanistan, the slaughter of a million in Iraq, plus countless coups and interventions, including against genuinely democratic governments such as those in Iran, Guatemala, ands Chile, hardly qualifies America to continue as spokesman for rights and democratic values in the world.

And there is the ugly, suppurating wound of Israel-Palestine which only the United States possesses the power to remedy, power it refuse to use – surely a wound that all critically-minded people know is at the heart of the grievances of many Muslims today.

Then again, if we look at the three genuine attempts at genocide in the world since WW II, where do we see the position of the United States?

In Indonesia, after Sukarno’s fall, when the rivers were running red with the blood of half a million people whose throats were cut and bodies dumped, American State Department officials were burning the long-distance lines submitting names for inclusion in the slaughter.

In Cambodia’s killing fields, where was the United States? Its intense secret bombings and armed incursions (much as in Afghanistan now) had toppled the neutral government, effectively bringing the monsters to power. Then it stood by and attacked the Vietnamese who actually helped end the slaughter for proving the domino theory true by entering Cambodia.

In Rwanda, as the best part of a million people were hacked up, the American government pretended nothing was happening: Clinton and the State Department did not want to talk about it.

It is not a very admirable history, to say the least.

And how about America’s other postwar abuses? The devaluing off the American dollar after the Vietnam War? The great recent financial failure which threatened to send the world into another Great Depression? The result of Americans not being able to govern their own affairs, of spending and experimenting mindlessly at the expense of others?

To my mind, these are all just aspects of the decline of the American empire. Imperial over-reach and the demonstrated inability to govern its own affairs, let alone those of others.

The voting population of the United States – less than one percent of the world’s population – is losing its privileged position as de facto world aristocracy. And that is not a bad thing. A multi-polar world is emerging.