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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/21/20

Chris Hedges: The Great Delusion

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From Scheerpost

The real lesson we should learn from the rise of a demagogue such as Trump and a pandemic that our for-profit health care industry proved unable to contain is that we are losing control as a nation and as a species.


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Joe Biden and the systems managers of the deep state and empire are returning to power. Trump and his coterie of buffoons, racists, con artists and Christian fascists are sullenly preparing to leave office. U.S. pharmaceutical corporations are starting to disseminate vaccines to mitigate the globe's worst outbreak of COVID-19 that has resulted in more than 2,600 deaths per day. America, as Biden says, is back, ready to take its place at the head of the table. In the battle for the soul of America, he assures us, democracy has prevailed. Progress, prosperity, civility and a reassertion of American prestige and power are, we are promised, weeks away.

But the real lesson we should learn from the rise of a demagogue such as Trump, who received 74 million votes, and a pandemic that our for-profit health care industry proved unable to contain, is that we are losing control as a nation and as a species. Far more dangerous demagogues will arise from the imperial and neoliberal policies the Biden administration will embrace. Far worse pandemics will sweep the globe with higher rates of infections and mortality, an inevitable result of our continued consumption of animals and animal products, and the wanton destruction of the ecosystem on which we and other species depend for life.

"One of the most pathetic aspects of human history," Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, "is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun."

Biden's appointments are drawn almost exclusively from the circles of the Democratic Party and corporate elite, those responsible for the massive social inequality, trade deals, de-industrialization, militarized police, world's largest prison system, austerity programs that abolished social programs such as welfare, the revived Cold War with Russia, wholesale government surveillance, endless wars in the Middle East and the disenfranchisement and impoverishment of the working class. The Washington Post writes that "about 80 percent of the White House and agency officials he's announced have the word 'Obama' on their re'sume' from previous White House or Obama campaign jobs."

Bernie Sanders, apparently rebuffed in his efforts to become secretary of labor in the Biden administration, has expressed frustration with the Biden nominations. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was denied a seat by House Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee because of her support for the Green New Deal. The message of the Biden administration to progressives and left-wing populists is very clear -- "Drop dead."

The list of new administration officials includes retired General Lloyd J. Austin III who is being nominated to be secretary of defense. Austin is on the board of Raytheon Technologies and a partner at Pine Island Capital, a firm that invests in defense industries and also includes Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee to be secretary of state. Blinken, who was deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state, is a strong supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. He was one of the architects of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and a proponent of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, resulting in yet another failed state in the Middle East.

Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair under Barack Obama, is slated to be Treasury Secretary. Yellen as the chair of Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) and later as a member of the board of the Federal Reserve, backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which led to the banking crisis of 2008. She supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She also lobbied for a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security. Yellen backed "quantitative easing" that provided trillions in virtually no-interest loans to Wall Street, loans used to bail out banks and corporations and engage in massive stock buy-backs while the victims of financial fraud were abandoned.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is to become a special envoy for climate. Kerry championed the massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production, largely through fracking, and, according to Obama's memoir, worked doggedly to convince those concerned about the climate crisis to "offer up concessions on subsidies for the nuclear power industry and the opening of additional U.S. coastlines to offshore oil drilling."

Avril Haines, a former Obama deputy CIA chief, is to become Biden's director of national intelligence. Haines oversaw Obama's expanded and murderous drone program overseas and backed Gina Haspel's nomination to be the head of the CIA, despite Haspels' direct involvement in the CIA torture program carried out in black sites around the globe. Haines called Haspel "intelligent, compassionate, and fair." Brian Deese, the executive who was in charge of the "climate portfolio" at BlackRock, which invests heavily in fossil fuels, including coal, and who served as a former Obama economic adviser who advocated austerity measures, has been chosen to run the White House's economic policy.

Neera Tanden, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, has been picked to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, as the head of the Democratic Party's think-tank, the Center for American Progress, raised millions in dark money from Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Her donors include Bain Capital, Blackstone, Evercore, Walmart and the defense contractor Northrup Grumman. The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, also gave the think-tank between $1.5 million and $3 million. She relentlessly ridicules Sanders and his supporters on cable news and social media. She also proposed a plank in the Democratic platform calling for the bombing Iran.

The perpetuation of the deeply unpopular wars and onerous neoliberal policies by the Biden administration will be accompanied by a fevered demonization of Russia, most recently blamed for cyber-attacks. A new Cold War with Russia will be used by the corporate Democrats to discredit domestic and foreign critics and deflect attention from the political stagnation and the corporate pillaging of the country. It will allow MSNBC and The New York Times, which spent two years slogging empty Russiagate conspiracies, to disseminate a daily stream of emotionally charged rumors and shady accusations about Russia. Cable celebrities such as Rachel Maddow will hyperventilate night after night about Russia while ignoring the corruption of the Biden administration. The only reason Russia is not blamed for rigging the election in 2020, as opposed to 2016, by the Democratic Party is because Trump was defeated.

Biden, after his defeat in the Democratic Party Caucus in Nevada by Bernie Sanders, where Sanders got more than twice his vote, immediately played the Russian card, telling CBS News that the "Russians don't want me to be the nominee, they like Bernie." Hillary Clinton started this dirty game when she attacked 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein as a "Russian asset" and in 2020 leveled the same charge against Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The Democrats need an enemy, real or fictious, and Silicon Valley and major manufacturers will not allow them to target China.

More of the same means more disaster. If we want to reclaim our open society and save the ecosystem, we must abolish the corporate stranglehold on global economic and political power. If we want to avert zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, swine flu, avian flu, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease), Ebola, and SARS we must stop consuming animals and their bodily secretions. We must abolish factory farming and adopt a vegan diet. And we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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