Progressive Calendar 04.19.11
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011 23:23:25 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   04.19.11

1. Alliant vigil     4.20 7am
2. Sunrise vigil/BP  4.20 7am
3. John Echohawk     4.20 9am
4. GLBT              4.20 6pm
5. Chris Hedges      4.20 7pm
6. Water/MidEast     4.20 7pm
7. NOVA/power        4.20 8pm

8. Eagan peace vigil 4.21 4:30pm
9. Northtown vigil   4.21 5pm
10. LRT/JohnnyHoward 4.21 5:30pm
11. Forum/ArabSpring 4.21 7pm

12. Anthony Schmitz - Johnny Howard StP Ward 1 city council candidate
13. Ralph Nader     - Waiting for the spark
14. Laura Flanders  - Demonizing taxes, heightening inequality
15. Tom Engelhardt  - Sleepwalking into the imperial dark

--------1 of 15--------

From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
Subject: Alliant vigil 4.20 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info:

--------2 of 15--------

From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at]>
Subject: Sunrise vigil/BP 4.20 7am

Sunrise Vigil to mark one-year after Gulf oil spill

From: Lois Norrgard [mailto:Lois [at]]
Subject: Sunrise Vigil to mark one-year after Gulf oil spill

50 2nd Street E, St Paul 55101 (Corner of the Wabasha street Bridge and
Kellogg Blvd in downtown St Paul)
7:00 a.m. gather - 7:30 a.m. Vigil - Wednesday April 20, 2011

Join us!
I realize it is in early am - but if you are in the cities / near the
cities / can get to St Paul by 7:00 AM!  On Wednesday April 20 - please
join the Vigil. It has been 1 year since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

(I'll have bagels!)

Local residents to hold sunrise vigil to mark one-year after Gulf oil
spill April 20th will mark one year since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig
exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men and sending 205 million
gallons of oil into the Gulf ecosystem. Now, one year later, oil and dead
animals continue to wash ashore. Join us for a sunrise candlelight vigil
to remember the 11 lives lost and spotlight the continued environmental
and community recovery needs in the Gulf.

Last month, we marked the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in
Prince William Sound, Alaska.  Twenty-two years ago, 11 million gallons of
oil spilled and the local economy still hasn't recovered.  These two
disasters and many others remind us that drilling is a dirty and dangerous

Right now, risky and aggressive drilling is being proposed for America's
Arctic Ocean. Join us to stand up for our public lands, waters and local
communities and tell Congress and the Obama administration to break our
addiction to fossil fuels and lead us to a clean energy economy.

"We will never be able to drill our way out of high gas prices," said Lois
Norrgard, Midwest Field Representative for Alaska Wilderness League.
"Drilling just increases Big Oil's big profits while Americans pay at the
pump and in many other ways."

Sunrise candlelight vigil for Deepwater Horizon disaster

50 2nd Street E, St Paul 55101 (Corner of the Wabasha street Bridge and
Kellogg Blvd in downtown St Paul)
7:00 a.m. gather - 7:30 a.m. Vigil - Wednesday April 20, 2011

Local residents (YOU!) and fellow concerned citizens
VISUALS: Candles, banners and signs welcome
More information: Lois [at]

--------3 of 15--------

From: "Laura Waterman Wittstock" lwmpls [at]
Subject: John Echohawk 4.20 9am

Join First Person Radio hosts Laura Waterman Wittstock and Richard
LaFortune with Andy Driscoll as we talk with John Echohawk (Pawnee) about
his illustrious legal career as an attorney, as leader of the Native
American Rights Fund, and about his political work on behalf of Indian
Country. This is a show not to be missed!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
¬†9 am to 10 am¬
KFAI 90.3 fm Mpls 106.7 fm St. Paul

John Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, was a co-founder
of the Native American Rights Fund in 1970 and has been its Executive
Director since 1977. The Native American Rights Fund has been involved in
most of the major Indian rights litigation since 1970. He serves on many
national boards and has received numerous service awards and other
recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field. In 1992, he served
on the Clinton-Gore transition team for the Department of the Interior and
in 2008 he served on the Obama-Biden transition team for the Department of
the Interior. B.A., University of New Mexico (1967); J.D., University of
New Mexico (1970); admitted to practice law in Colorado.

--------4 of 15--------

From: hosthome [at]
Subject: GLBT 4.20 6pm

Interested in sharing your resources and helping sustain your community?

One of the ways that the Twin Cities' community is addressing homelessness
experienced by GLBT young people is through the GLBT Host Home Program of
Avenues for Homeless Youth, which offers a transformative and
community-based approach to providing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender youth with safe homes.  As volunteers of the program, adults
open their homes and their hearts to young people who need and are looking
for a healthy and nurturing connection.  If you are interested in hearing
more about this community building program, please come to one of the
following informational meetings:

Wednesday, April 20, 6-8pm
@ Midtown YWCA
2121 East Lake Street Minneapolis, MN 55407


Thursday, April 21, 6-8pm
@ Midtown YWCA
2121 East Lake Street Minneapolis, MN 55407

Come learn about the history of the GLBT Host Home Program and about the
application and screening process for potential volunteers. You will
also have an opportunity to hear from hosts who shared their homes with
youth.  See you there!

Questions?  Call Raquel (Rocki) at Avenues for Homeless Youth:
612-522-1690, ext. 110.

--------5 of 15--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Chris Hedges 4.20 7pm

Chris Hedges Lecture
Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Macalester College, Weyerhaeuser
Memorial Chapel, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul.

Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The
New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor,
and National Public Radio. He is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute
and a Lannan Literary Fellow and has taught at Columbia University, New
York University, Princeton University, and at a correctional facility in
New Jersey. His most recent books are: "Death of the Liberal Class" and
"The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress." Free and
open to the public. Sponsored by: Institute for Global Citizenship. FFI:
Email tivey [at] .

--------6 of 15--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Water/MidEast 4.20 7pm

Water for Peace Panel Discussion: "Water Conflict in Iraq and the
Middle East"

Wednesday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. University of Minnesota, Walter
library, Room 101, 117 Pleasant Street Southeast, Minneapolis. "Water
Conflict in Iraq and the Middle East" will bring expert panelists
together to discuss water rights, access to clean water, and regional
conflict around water issues in Iraq and the Middle East. Panelists
include: Basil Mahayni, Marc Dettman and Barry Reisch. According to
the United Nations, at least six million people in Iraq
have no access to clean water. Dr. Mustafa Kibargolu of Bilkent
University in Turkey cautions that, "unless some old water policies
are purged and new ones introduced, it is a real possibility that this
region will become a time bomb in terms of water rights." Sponsored
by: the University of Minnesota Graduate School Student Group,
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Development. FFI:
Contact IARP,

--------7 of 15--------

From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at]>
Subject: NOVA/power 4.20 8pm

NOVA: "Power Surge"
Can emerging technology defeat global warming? The United States has
invested tens of billions of dollars in clean energy projects as our leaders
try to save our crumbling economy and our poisoned planet in one bold, green
stroke. Are we finally on the brink of a green-energy POWER SURGE, or is it
all a case of too little, too late? From solar panel factories in China to a
carbon capture and storage facility in the Sahara desert to massive wind and
solar installations in the United States, NOVA travels the globe to reveal
the surprising technologies that just might turn back the clock on climate
change. NOVA will focus on the latest and greatest innovations, including
everything from artificial trees to green reboots of familiar technologies
like coal and nuclear energy. Can our technology, which helped create this
problem, now solve it?

NOVA "Power Surge" can be seen at
Wednesday, 4/20, at 8 pm on TPT-2
Thursday, 4/21 at 2 am on TPT-2
Monday, 4/25 at 11 pm on TPT-2
Tuesday, 4/26 at 5 pm on TPT-2

A note from coordinator Chuck Prentice - Over past years NOVA has
been a trusted source of information.  However, now that David H. Koch is
a principal funder of NOVA, you may want watch NOVA programs related to
climate and energy with caution - watching out for the prospect that Koch
brothers' dirty oil agenda might somehow influence the program. We have
not been able to preview this new edition of NOVA to see whether there is
any spin in it or not.  But a NOVA program on early human development last
fall drew criticism over the fact that it presented the idea that
pre-historic climate change might have helped humans evolve, thus perhaps
suggesting that coming climate change might be a good thing. {I recall
that. Sneaky. -ed]

--------8 of 15--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 4.21 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.

--------9 of 15--------

From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 4.21 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at]

--------10 of 15--------

From: Patty Lammers <pattygfcdc [at]>
Subject: LRT/Johnny Howard 4.21 5:30pm

Wanted to let everyone know about this meeting hosted by Ward 1 City
Council Candidate Johnny Howard

What Do You Think about light-rail development in our neighborhood?

Are you concerned about parking?
Most street parking on University will be eliminated
Where will customers and employees park instead?

Will residential streets become clogged with parked cars?
Will you have to pay for a permit to park in front of your own house?

What about traffic flow?
During construction, traffic will be one lane in each direction
When buses stop, traffic will too?

Will frustrated drivers spill onto neighborhood streets?
Will they endanger kids and the elderly?

I Want to Hear Your Opinion!
Real leadership starts with showing up to listen

Join me! 5:30-7:30 PM, Thursday, April 21
Lao Family Community of Minnesota
320 University Avenue

Phone: 651-894-3216
Email: johnnyhoward4ward1 [at]

Coffee: Every Friday morning, 9-10, at Golden Thyme Coffee,
921 Selby Avenue, St. Paul

Prepared, paid for by the Committee to Elect Johnny Howard - Rachelle
Robinson, Treasurer, 638 Van Buren Ave., St. Paul MN 55104

--------11 of 15--------

From: Joe Schwartzberg <schwa004 [at] UMN.EDU>
Subject: Forum/Arab spring 4.21 7pm

Free and open to the public. Come and bring a friend
April 21, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church,
511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis (at Lyndale and
Hennepin). Park in church lot.


The talk will review the demographic, economic and political factors
leading to youth revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and
analyze prospects for genuine democratic change in the region. Despite
similarities in the underlying conditions among countries in the region,
there are also numerous differences in their institutional frameworks,
economic underpinnings and state-society relations. This presentation will
compare the countries already affected, or likely to be affected, by the
momentous changes underway and seek to draw insights about future

Presenter: Professor RAGUI ASSAAD. Assaad is a professor at the Humphrey
Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a
non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He researches
labor policy, economic reform, youth unemployment, female labor supply,
and community development efforts in his native country, Egypt, and is a
fellow of the Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and
Turkey. He received his doctorate in city and regional planning from
Cornell University in 1991. He has received a Humphrey "teacher of the
year" award on four separate occasions.

--------12 of 15--------

From: Roger Meyer <roger [at]>
From: Anthony Schmitz [mailto:apbschmitz [at]]
Subject: Johnny Howard StP ward 1 city council candidate

Help the Johnny Howard for Ward One City Council campaign. Johnny
needs someone to set up and manage a facebook page. The right person
for this job will be able to add new posts in clear, concise language,
plus moderate the page daily to maintain it as an effective tool for
Johnny's campaign. For more information, call Tony at 651-757-7479.

Here's another way to help the Johnny Howard for Ward One City Council
campaign. Johnny will have an ongoing need for issue research
throughout his race. A good fit for this job is someone with an urban
planning or reportorial background, who can boil research and practice
down into succinct policy recommendations. Transportation, housing and
job training are among the obvious areas for investigation. For more
information, call Tony at 651-757-7479.

[Democracy is served if a choice is offered.  Please give Johnny a hand.

--------13 of 15--------

Waiting for the Spark
by Ralph Nader
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by

What could start a popular resurgence in this country against the abuses
of concentrated, avaricious corporatism? Imagine the arrogance of passing
on to already cheated working people and the jobless enormous corporate
losses? This is achieved through government bailouts and tax escapes.

History teaches us that the spark usually is smaller than expected and of
a nature that is wholly unpredictable or even unimaginable. But if the dry
tinder is all around, as many deprivations and polls reveal, the spark, no
matter how small, can turn into a raging inferno.

The Boston Tea Party lit up the American Revolution. Storming the hated
Bastille (prison) by impoverished Parisians launched the French
Revolution. More recently, in December 1997, an Israeli military vehicle
rammed a civilian van in the West Bank killing seven occupants and
igniting the first Intifada.

Last December, a young fruit vendor, abused by thieving police in a small
Tunisian town, immolated himself in the local square. Seen by millions on
Facebook, this self-sacrifice launched the Tunisian and Egyptian overthrow
of their long-time dictators. Later, in Syria, after police arrested 13
youngsters in a southern border town for anti-government graffiti the
place erupted in riots and rallies that are spreading to other cities.

A few weeks ago, many progressives and quite a few pundits believed that
the recurrent, ever larger February-March rallies in Madison, Wisconsin by
workers, students and others against the Governors. and the Legislature's
attack on public employee unions and social services, following earlier
blatant corporate welfare enactments, would be the long-awaited spark.

The Madison eruption spread briefly to Ohio and Indiana where Republican
officials were moving in the same direction, punishing workers and
families while leaving the corporate and wealthy to count their mounting
privileges. There, the crowds were neither as large nor as frequent. In
all these states, the Republicans got most of what they wanted, albeit
with a possible, future political price to be paid. The rallies have
subsided, not even culminating - as some organizers hoped - in a gigantic
march on Washington, D.C.

Granted, rallying a long repressed people into losing their fear and
demanding, as in Cairo's huge Tahrir Square "out with the dictator", is a
simple, anthromorphic goal. In our country, the rallies are hardly as
clearcut, though use of the citizen right of recall for Republican
legislators, and later Governor Walker himself, may produce an interesting
accountability election. But sparks are difficult to sustain.

In authoritarian regimes, there are few options for dissent or airing
one's grievances. So when the spark does occur, the climate is fertile for
an explosion of outrages.

In the United States, there are largely myths such as "anyone can sue," or
"anyone can run," or "anyone can directly tell off the President or the
Mayor," or "anyone can blow the whistle". These combine with a few
celebrated successes by rebels or an ordinary David taking on a Goliath
for a win here and there, from a corporate-government ruling class that
bends a little so that it doesn't break.

Meanwhile, the inequality, gouging, political exclusions and overall gaps
between the top one percent and the rest tighten the grip of the oligarchy
and its draining, violent militarized empire.

Loss of control over almost everything that matters, including their
children to daily direct corporate marketing of junk food and violent
programming, is rampant. Over seventy percent of those polled told
Business Week that they believed corporations had "too much control over
their lives"  - and that was in 2000 before conditions and controls - viz,
the Wall Street collapse, severe recession and taxpayer bailouts -

The American people don't see much they can do to counter the pressures of
greed and power that tracks them daily from debt to debt, from lower
standards of living to outright penury, from denial of critical healthcare
to the iron collar of the cruel credit score, from inscrutable,
computerized bills to fine-print contracts trapping their sense of
unfairness into waves of frustrations, from being put on hold by the
companies until they're told no, no, no or penalty, penalty, penalty!

How do we break the cycle of despair, exclusion, powerlessness, and
endless betrayal by those given the authority to bring down the exploiters
and oppressors to lawful accountability?

The Empire rips up the Constitution and takes the reserve army of the
young unemployed to kill and die in aggressive wars of the White House's
choice, with Congress watching from the sidelines; its only role to funnel
trillions of tax dollars into the insatiable war machine's unauditable
budgets. President Eisenhower wanted us to control the
"military-industrial complex". Instead it grew much more out of control.
Eisenhower's grave warning as expressed in his farewell address in 1961
was prescient.

The spark can come from a recurrent sequence of abuses that strike a
special chord of deeply felt injustice. Or it could be a unique episode or
bullying that tolls the feeling "enough already" throughout the land. Such
sparks cannot be manufactured; the power to arouse and break people's
routines is spontaneous.

When that moment comes, millions of Americans whose self-respect and keen
sense of wrong will remind them precisely why our Constitution begins with
"We the People" and not "We the Corporations". They will realize the
necessity for a Jeffersonian revolution.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent
book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most
recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions

--------14 of 15--------

Demonizing Taxes, Heightening Inequality
by Laura Flanders
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by GRITtv

Yesterday was Tax Day in the US, and that's almost universally greeted
with groans and complaints. That tax word's been so effectively demonized
that it may be there's no coming back. Is it time for a new word?

Some research by Duke University's Dan Ariely suggests it might be.

Ariely's study showed that Americans actually want a more equitable
society - in fact, they think they have one.  When asked to identify their
homeland from a list of nations described only by their level of
equality - a majority of those polled picked Sweden, thinking it was the
US. When asked to create their ideal society, Democrats, Republicans, men
and women, the rich and the poor all created a distribution of wealth that
is much more equal than the one we've got.

All that "social mobility, low inequality" stuff - Americans love it. They
just don't have it. In fact, social mobility here's been shrivelling, as
the wealth gap's been opening up.

There are only a few ways to get that more equal distribution: government
investment (benefits and services) corporate action (paying people more)
or redistribution: taking from each according to their means, to help the
whole.  We call that tax.

Yet according to Ariely, the very same people who expressed an ardent wish
for an equal society have an highly averse reaction to the word tax.  Why,
he wondered, recently, to National Public Radio.

It's not so hard to figure out. Day in day out, when you hear taxes
mentioned, what's the context? Social citizenship? Tools of an equal
society? Or is it rather all about how heavy the burden is, how overtaxed
Americans are. The Taxman, the IRS - the first public workers our media
teach us to hate.

There are taxes to hate - taxes that go to give a blank check to the
military, or tax credits for corporations that export American jobs. But
the truth is, taxes on the rich have done nothing but fall since the
Reagan years. And inequality's only gotten bigger.

What's the money media's stake in all this? It's hardly hidden. Remember
that GE tax refund for $3.2 billion? The co-owner of NBC and MSNBC isn't
alone either. Time Warner and News Corp, owners of CNN and Fox, are also
on a list of the biggest corporate tax avoiders.

When you hear that news story about how tax day is no fun, remember that
you're actually paying more than the company behind the news. And remember
who it was who taught you to hate taxes. And if you come up with a new
word, let us know?

 The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv
and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts
weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at

--------15 of 15--------

Sleepwalking into the Imperial Dark
What It Feels Like When a Superpower Runs Off the Tracks
by Tom Engelhardt
Published on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by

This can't end well.

But then, how often do empires end well, really?  They live vampirically
by feeding off others until, sooner or later, they begin to feed on
themselves, to suck their own blood, to hollow themselves out.  Sooner or
later, they find themselves, as in our case, economically stressed and
militarily extended in wars they can't afford to win or lose.

Historians have certainly written about the dangers of overextended
empires and of endless war as a way of life, but there's something distant
and abstract about the patterns of history.  It's quite another thing to
take it in when you're part of it; when, as they used to say in the
overheated 1960s, you're in the belly of the beast.

I don't know what it felt like to be inside the Roman Empire in the long
decades, even centuries, before it collapsed, or to experience the waning
years of the Spanish empire, or the twilight of the Qing dynasty, or of
Imperial Britain as the sun first began to set, or even of the Soviet
Empire before the troops came slinking home from Afghanistan, but at some
point it must have seemed at least a little like this - truly strange,
like watching a machine losing its parts.  It must have seemed as odd and
unnerving as it does now to see a formerly mighty power enter a state of
semi-paralysis at home even as it staggers on blindly with its war-making

The United States is, of course, an imperial power, however much we might
prefer not to utter the word.  We still have our globe-spanning array of
semi-client states; our military continues to garrison much of the planet;
and we are waging war abroad more continuously than at any time in memory.
Yet who doesn't sense that the sun is now setting on us?

Not so many years ago, we were proud enough of our global strength to
regularly refer to ourselves as the Earth's "sole superpower".  In those
years, our president and his top officials dreamed of establishing a
worldwide Pax Americana, while making speeches and issuing official
documents proclaiming that the United States would be militarily "beyond
challenge" by any and all powers for eons to come.  So little time has
passed and yet who speaks like that today?  Who could?

A Country in Need of Prozac

Have you noticed, by the way, how repetitiously our president, various
presidential candidates, and others now insist that we are "the greatest
nation on Earth" (as they speak of the U.S. military being "the finest
fighting force in the history of the world")?  And yet, doesn't that
phrase leave ash in your mouth?  Look at this country and its frustrations
today and tell me: Does anyone honestly believe that anymore?

It wasn't a mistake that the fantasy avenger figure of Rambo became
immensely popular in the wake of defeat in Vietnam or that, unlike
American heroes of earlier decades, he had such a visibly, almost risibly
overblown musculature.  As eye-candy, it was pure overcompensation for the
obvious.  Similarly, when the United States was actually "the greatest" on
this planet, no one needed to say it over and over again.

Can there be any question that something big is happening here, even if we
don't quite know what it is because, unlike the peoples of past empires,
we never took pride in or even were able to think of ourselves as
imperial?  And if you were indeed in denial that you lived in the belly of
a great imperial power, if like most Americans you managed to ignore the
fact that we were pouring our treasure into the military or setting up
bases in countries that few could have found on a map, then you would
naturally experience the empire going down as if through a glass darkly.

Nonetheless, the feelings that should accompany the experience of an
imperial power running off the rails aren't likely to disappear just
because analysis is lacking.  Disillusionment, depression, and dismay flow
ever more strongly through the American bloodstream.  Just look at any
polling data on whether this country, once the quintessential land of
optimists, is heading in "the right direction" or on "the wrong track,"
and you'll find that the "wrong track" numbers are staggering, and growing
by the month.  On the rare occasions when Americans have been asked by
pollsters whether they think the country is "in decline," the figures have
been similarly over the top.

It's not hard to see why.  A loss of faith in the American political
system is palpable.  For many Americans, it's no longer "our government"
but "the bureaucracy".  Washington is visibly in gridlock and incapable of
doing much of significance, while state governments, facing the "steepest
decline in state tax receipts on record," are, along with local
governments, staggering under massive deficits and cutting back in areas
- education, policing, firefighting - that matter to daily life.

Years ago, in the George W. Bush era, I wanted to put a new word in our
domestic political vocabulary: "Republican'ts".  It was my way of
expressing the feeling that something basic to this country - a "can do"
spirit - was seeping away.  I failed, of course, and since then that
"can't do" spirit has visibly spread far beyond the Republican Party.
Simply put, we're a country in need of Prozac.

Facing the challenges of a world at the edge - from Japan to the Greater
Middle East, from a shaky global economic system to weather that has
become anything but entertainment - the United States looks increasingly
incapable of coping.  It no longer invests in its young, or plans
effectively for the future, or sets off on new paths.  It literally can't
do.  And this is not just a domestic crisis, but part of imperial decline.

We just don't treat it as such, tending instead to deal with the foreign
and domestic as essentially separate spheres, when the connections between
them are so obvious.  If you doubt this, just pull into your nearest gas
station and fill up the tank.  Of course, who doesn't know that this
country, once such a generator of wealth, is now living with unemployment
figures not seen since the Great Depression, as well as unheard of levels
of debt, that it's hooked on foreign energy (and like most addicts has
next to no capacity for planning how to get off that drug), or that it's
living through the worst period of income inequality in modern history?
And who doesn't know that a crew of financial fabulists, corporate
honchos, lobbyists, and politicians have been fattening themselves off the
faltering body politic?

And if you don't think any of this has anything to do with imperial power
in decline, ask yourself why the options for our country so often seem to
have shrunk to what our military is capable of, or that the only
significant part of the government whose budget is still on the rise is
the Pentagon.  Or why, when something is needed, this administration, like
its predecessor, regularly turns to that same military.

Once upon a time, helping other nations in terrible times, for example,
would have been an obvious duty of the civil part of the U.S. government.
Today, from Haiti to Japan, in such moments it's the U.S. military that
acts.  In response to the Japanese triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami,
and nuclear meltdown, for instance, the Pentagon has mounted a large-scale
recovery effort, involving 18,000 people, 20 U.S. Navy ships, and even
fuel barges bringing fresh water for reactor-cooling efforts at the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.  The effort has been given a military
code name, Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for "friend"), and is, among
other things, an obvious propaganda campaign meant to promote the
usefulness of America's archipelago of bases in that country.

Similarly, when the administration needs something done in the Middle
East, these days it's as likely to send Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
- he recently paid official visits to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and
Egypt - as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.  And of course, as is
typical, when a grim situation in Libya worsened and something
"humanitarian" was called for, the Obama administration (along with NATO)
threw air power at it.

Predictably, as in Afghanistan and the Pakistani borderlands, air power
failed to bring about speedy success.  What's most striking is not that
Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi didn't instantly fall, or that the Libyan
military didn't collapse when significant parts of its tank and artillery
forces were taken out, or that the swift strikes meant to turn the tide
have already stretched into more than a month of no-fly zone NATO
squabbling and military stalemate (as the no-fly zone version of war
against Saddam Hussein's Iraq stretched to 12 years without ultimate

Imperially speaking, two things are memorable about the American military
effort in Libya.  First, Washington doesn't seem to have the conviction of
what's left of its power, as its strange military dance in (and half-out
of) the air over that country indicates. Second, even in the military
realm, Washington is increasingly incapable of drawing lessons from its
past actions.  As a result, its arsenal of potential tactics is made up
largely of those that have failed in the recent past.  Innovation is no
longer part of empire.

The Uses of Fear

From time to time, the U.S. government's "Intelligence Community"  or IC
musters its collective savvy and plants its flag in the future in periodic
reports that go under the generic rubric of "Global Trends".  The last of
these, Global Trends 2025, was prepared for a new administration taking
office in January 2009, and it was typical.

In a field once left to utopian or dystopian thinkers, pulp-fiction
writers, oddballs, visionaries, and even outright cranks, these compromise
bureaucratic documents break little ground and rock no boats, nor do they
predict global tsunamis.  Better to forecast what the people you brief
already believe, and skip the oddballs with their strange hunches, the
sorts who might actually have a knack for recognizing the shock of the
future lurking in the present.

As group efforts, then, these reports tend to project the trends of the
present moment relatively seamlessly and reasonably reassuringly into the
future.  For example, the last time around they daringly predicted a
gradual, 15-year soft landing for a modestly declining America.
("Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful
actor, [the country's] relative strength - even in the military realm -
will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained.")

Even though it was assumedly being finished amid the global meltdown of
2008, nothing in it would have kept you up at night, sleepless and
fretting.  More than 15 years into the future, our IC could imagine no
wheels falling off the American juggernaut, nothing that would make you
wonder if this country could someday topple off the nearest cliff.
Twists, unpleasant surprises, unhappy endings?  Not for this empire,
according to its corps of intelligence analysts.

And the future being what it is, if you read that document now, you'd find
none of the more stunning events that have disrupted and radically altered
our world since late 2008: no Arab lands boiling with revolt, no Hosni
Mubarak under arrest with his sons in jail, no mass demonstrations in
Syria, no economies of peripheral European countries imploding down one by
one, nor a cluster of nuclear plants in Japan melting down.

You won't find once subservient semi-client states thumbing their noses at
Washington, not even in 2025.  You won't, for example, find the Saudis in,
say 2011, openly exploring deeper relations with Russia and China as a
screw-you response to Washington's belated decision that Egyptian autocrat
Hosni Mubarak should leave office, or Pakistani demands that the CIA and
American special operations forces start scaling back activities on their
turf, or American officials practically pleading with an Iraqi government
it once helped put in power (and now moving ever closer to Iran) to
please, please, please let U.S. troops stay past an agreed-upon withdrawal
deadline of December 31, 2011, or Afghan President Hamid Karzai publicly
blaming the Americans for the near collapse of his country's major bank in
a cesspool of corruption (in which his own administration was, of course,
deeply implicated).

Only two-plus years after Global Trends 2025 appeared, it doesn't take the
combined powers of the IC to know that American decline looks an awful lot
more precipitous and bumpier than imagined.  But let's not just blame our
intelligence functionaries for not divining the future we're already in.
After all, they, too, were in the goldfish bowl, and when you're there,
it's always hard to describe the nearest cats.

Nor should we be surprised that, like so many other Americans, they too
were in denial.

After all, our leaders spent years organizing their version of the world
around a "Global War on Terror," when (despite the 9/11 attacks) terror
was hardly America's most obvious challenge.  It proved largely a "war"
against phantoms and fantasies, or against modest-sized ragtag bands of
enemies - even though it resulted in perfectly real conflicts, absolutely
genuine new bases abroad, significant numbers of civilian dead, and the
expansion of a secret army of operatives inside the U.S. military into a
force of 13,000 or more operating in 75 countries.

The spasms of fear that coursed through our society in the near-decade
after September 11, 2001, and the enemy, "Islamic terrorism," to which
those spasms were attached are likely to look far different to us in
retrospect.  Yes, many factors - including the terrifyingly apocalyptic
look of 9/11 in New York City - contributed to what happened.  There was
fear's usefulness in prosecuting wars in the Greater Middle East that
President Bush and his top officials found appealing.  There was the way
it ensured soaring budgets for the Pentagon and the national security
state.  There was the way it helped the politicians, lobbyists, and
corporations hooked into a developing homeland-security complex.  There
was the handy-dandy way it glued eyeballs to a one-event-fits-all-sizes
version of the world that made the media happy, and there was the way it
justified ever increasing powers for our national security managers and
ever lessening liberties for Americans.

But think of all that as only the icing on the cake.  Looking back, those
terror fears coursing through the body politic will undoubtedly seem like
Rambo's muscles: a deflection from the country's deepest fears.  They
were, in that sense, consoling.  They allowed us to go on with our lives,
to visit Disney World, as George W. Bush urged in the wake of 9/11 in
order to prove our all-American steadfastness.

Above all, even as our imperial wars in the oil heartlands of the planet
went desperately wrong, they allowed us not to think about empire or,
until the economy melted down in 2008, decline.  They allowed us to focus
our fears on "them," not us.  They ensured that, like the other great
imperial power of the Cold War era, when things began to spiral out of
control we would indeed sleepwalk right into the imperial darkness.

Now that we're so obviously there, the confusion is greater than ever.
Theoretically, none of this should necessarily be considered bad news, not
if you don't love empires and what they do.  A post-imperial U.S. could,
of course, be open to all sorts of possibilities for change that might be
exciting indeed.

Right now, though, it doesn't feel that way, does it?  It makes me wonder:
Could this be how it's always felt inside a great imperial power on the
downhill slide?  Could this be what it's like to watch, paralyzed, as a
country on autopilot begins to come apart at the seams while still
proclaiming itself "the greatest nation on Earth"?

I don't know.  But I do know one thing: this can't end well.

Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt
 Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the
Nation Institute's He is the author of The End of Victory
Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The
Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War:
How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).


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