Wonder what you may have missed for the three weeks that the soap opera of the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis monopolized the news? Here are some clues. This is only a start but hopefully offers some perspective.
(Article changed on October 21, 2013 at 18:09)
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Over the past few weeks, we have endured the build up to a major political charade, the unnecessary shut down of the government, and a totally manufactured kamikaze crisis over raising the debt ceiling. There may have been other newsworthy things going on, but good luck finding them in the monotonous, ever-vacuous reality show presented to the American public by the mainstream media.
As anyone with a functioning brain would suspect, a lot was happening. I've cherry-picked, by way of illustration, a few items that would seem in the long view relatively important.
Never making the short list for the annual Mr. Congeniality Award, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raged on before the whole world that "Iran is building now ICBMs that the United States says could reach this city (New York) in three or four years," went on to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a blatant liar, and then topped off his rant by claiming "in the last three years alone, Iran has ordered, planned or perpetrated terrorist attacks in 25 countries on five continents." He offered no supporting evidence but he's a great guy so we can be confident he knows what he's talking about. Bibi then went on to say that Israel was prepared to mount a military attack against Iran to prevent them from building a nuclear weapon __ again he offered no supporting evidence of a nuclear bomb in any stage of actual development __ and was prepared to "go it alone" if necessary, meaning I guess, to start World War III without assistance from anyone else.
Ignoring a stunning speech at the United Nations and overtures from Rouhani indicating a desire for peace and a pledge of full transparency and cooperation regarding Iran's nuclear energy programs, President Obama and the bellicose Bibi joined spittle for a bad cop-bad cop number on Iran when the two met at the White House on October 1st. While many if not most nations prefer to error on the side of peace, America apparently is completely baffled by any initiatives aimed at diplomatic discussions and stands firmly behind its current drones-and-bombs approach to solving any and all disputes.
Speaking of drones, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai's visit to the United States was actually given decent coverage in the media, but the prevailing narrative was the violent harassment heaped on her by religious fanatics who oppose her "liberal" views. She was shot in the head by the Taliban for suggesting that women have equal access to education. What was given very short shrift, if mentioned at all, was her message to President Obama when she met face-to-face with the drone-killer-in-chief: "I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees ... I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact." Was he listening?
TPP negotiations continued in high gear. This abominable "trade agreement" __ which in fact is not so much a trade agreement as a blank check for transnational corporations to be able to: trump the authority of national governments; dismember labor unions; capitalize on slave labor and inflict other forms of worker abuse; institute a form of trans-sovereign legal proceedings with no oversight or appeal; institutionalize a corporate race to the bottom in terms of human rights, worker safety, environmental safeguards, community control, and food standards; and completely destroy regulatory mechanisms for assuring the integrity and reliability of international financial systems __ has met with increasing opposition in a number of countries, Japan being foremost among them. TPP is almost completely unmentioned in the American press, so if you don't know about it, you don't have to feel guilty. It's so secret that even members of Congress aren't allowed to see the draft document. So don't tell anyone, okay?
On October 2nd, two days into the government shutdown, President Obama met with America's top bankers, who were conveniently attending a conference in Washington DC. Included were Jamie Dimon (CEO, JP Morgan Chase), Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs), Brian Moynihan (Bank of America), and Michael Corbat (Citigroup). This certainly comes as no surprise, considering Obama's campaign coffers brimmed from the money donated by these same gentlemen. What was telling was that this meeting of gigantic wallets with our President was barely mentioned in the mainstream press, and certainly the details of the high-level discussions were never revealed. We can safely assume that Obama and the fifteen banksters nodded and agreed that the meltdown of the American government was bad and defaulting on the nation's debt obligations would be worse __ as in catastrophic! It most definitely wasn't mentioned in the press that several of these too-big-to-jail bank CEOs were under investigation for uncompetitive manipulation of LIBOR rates, and one in the middle of negotiating a settlement with the Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. My mom used to tell me that people are judged by the company they keep. But she's dead.
Speaking of too-big-to-jail, Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase walked away with a $100 million slap-on-the-wrist fine from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for the $6.2 billion London whale debacle. As part of the modest settlement, they had to admit wrongdoing __ as in disastrous mishandling of investors money and the concealment of their astronomical losses from their stockholders and regulatory agencies. Whew!! Sure glad that's over so they can get back to more casino banking, an unregulated high stakes game known as derivatives roulette. Yes, another day, another dollar! Or million dollars. Or is it billion? Wait! How many zeroes in a trillion?
While we're on the subject of derivatives and the dizzying heights of risk and stupidity, as the U.S. tottered toward the brink of default and bankruptcy, the total notional exposure of the world's banking system to derivatives continued to grow precipitously. No one knows for sure what the exact figure is, but it's estimated at somewhere between $700 trillion and $1.2 quadrillion, horrifyingly 10 to 17 times the value of the ENTIRE WORLD ECONOMY. What does this mean for you and I? Let's just say that it was these same exotic financial instruments responsible for the economic crisis in 2008, which wiped out savings, pension funds, investment portfolios, ultimately costing Americans an estimated $12.8 trillion, in destruction of assets net value, massive loss of jobs, home foreclosures, crippling of GDP growth and overall productivity, on and on. These financial weapons of mass destruction themselves took a huge hit in the economic collapse five years ago. But with Wall Street and investment bank addiction to gambling still pathologically entrenched as the de facto operating business model, derivative trades have since been steadily accumulating and now exceed the level at the time of the collapse in 2008. We won't have to wonder how bad it will be this next time. We can just watch it on TV __ assuming of course, we each still have a TV and electricity in our homes when this house of cards comes tumbling down.
As criminal negligence of the nation's well-being was passed off as democracy in action on the floors of Congress, accused traitor Edward Snowden addressed the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. His statement was read to the committee by Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, and included this highly salient remark: "A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people, but only by the people after full, informed, and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge, and in my country, the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile." Did you hear about this? I saw no mention in the MSM. I guess he forgot to include a video of Miley Cyrus twerking him.
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their fifth and final report on global warming and definitively confirmed what we already knew, though many continue to deny it. Dude! Elvis is still alive. The Holocaust never happened. There is a Santa Claus! But the simple truth is, these scientists have been wussy whining about the Earth-turning-to-a-pile-of-ash-and-cinders thing for decades now. Time to move on! This is our Thelma & Louise moment. Why spoil a great ending with a lot of wringing of hands and crybaby bawling about something as minor as the extinction of the human race.
In related news, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature released their IPSO review on the dismal state of the oceans. The bad news is that "the anthropogenic stressors on the ocean go beyond the conclusion reached last week by the U.N. climate change panel the IPCC," and that "the ocean is absorbing much of the warming and unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide." Meaning the world's oceans are experiencing the deadly three-pronged effect of de-oxygenation, acidification, and catastrophic warming. These combined with gross overfishing don't bode well. In a phrase, 'the oceans are dying' and we're the ones killing them. The IPSO report doesn't even take into account the vast amount of toxic pollutants and trash that we dump into them. Damn! Anyone hungry? Let's get a McFish sandwich while we still can.
Speaking of poisoning the oceans, the damaged nuclear facilities at Fukushima continued to pour tons of radioactive isotopes into the sea and local environment. Whatever! Refer to the Thelma & Louise remark above. Pedal to the metal. Don't look back. No fear. Right on.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pressed on with his China's Silk Road initiatives. In case you aren't familiar with this __ most Americans aren't __ this enormous economic strategy is a "supremely ambitious, Chinese-fueled trans-Eurasian integration mega-project, from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea; a sort of mega free-trade zone." This region contains "close to 3 billion people and represents the biggest market in the world with unparalleled potential." So while the congressional three-ring circus further damaged our faltering economy , now growing at a sluggish rate of 2.5% , and made America look like a bunch of bumbling idiots, China was building on their already impressive growth rate of 7.8% by "bringing about a new multipolar international order."
This is perhaps redundant to mention, but Chinese President Xi Jinping also dazzled the attendees at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Besides presenting brilliant new prospects to attending nations for even more lucrative trade deals with China, he led a "Happy Birthday" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono on acoustic guitar . Obama canceled his own trip there, presumably because he was busy buying non-chafing Kleenex in case Boehner had another blubbering fit during their budget negotiations. Obama's no show in Bali, Indonesia was the icing on the cake for the rest of the world. America has long been perceived as a bull in a china shop and a force to be reckoned with. But as the crisis with our insane Congress unfolded, we were looking more like a church mouse on LSD. In a much-debated but certainly well-received editorial published by The Xinhua News Agency __ which is the official press agency of the People's Republic of China __ writer Liu Chang called for the de-Americanization of the world economy. Hey guys! It's not too soon to start learning to eat with chopsticks.
Last and at least theoretically not least, during the 17 days of the government shutdown, over 350,000 people in our lovely world died of starvation. At the same time, speculators pumped up on testosterone and panting over the prospect of making a totally awesome killing, continued to drive the prices up on huge stockpiles and surpluses of food.
So what's the point?
Granted, the shutdown of the government and the debt ceiling crisis was much more consequential than Miley Cyrus' twerking or even Gloria Steinem's comments a few days ago about the place of eroticized-objectified-commodified pop stars in the greater scheme of things, specifically Ms. Cyrus.
But it's still a matter of perspective. It should come as no surprise when somewhere down the road, America devolves into a second or third-rate power and the rest of the world has passed us by. Because while we immerse ourselves in our petty dramas and obsess over the ridiculous machinations of our pea-brain politicians, there are a multitude of other things going on across the globe __ and even in our own country __ which ultimately will destroy America's capacity for leadership and undermine our own ability to function as a society and a nation.
It comes down to this . . .
The rest of humankind wrestles with all sorts of challenges. It struggles to make sense of the manipulations, the posturing, the militarization, the privatization, the corporatization, the countless day-to-day clashes between authority and the common citizen's forthright and simple desire for a decent life. It's difficult anywhere for anyone to keep up with and deal with in a constructive way. America has no monopoly on distraction and confusion.
But the other people on this tiny planet are also very aware of our own special American brand of folly __ our breathtaking ignorance of the rest of the world; our un-Christian and hypocritical lack of compassion for others, even fellow-Americans; our infantile fairy-tale "exceptionalism"; our inability to put our own house in order, while we make pompous declarations about how everyone else should live their lives, preferably just like us.
The world sees our divisiveness, our indecision, our insensitivity, our superficiality, our paralysis, and this recent self-destructive congressional tomfoolery exactly for what it is.
Boehner cries. Obama high-fives. Miley shakes her firm little butt. Got it.
We in America can sit on the edges of our seats glued to the boob tube all we want.
We can wring our hands, cheer for our side, and yell expletives at the other.
We can watch this reality show like we watch professional wrestling.
We can pretend these travesties are what's really important.
But someday we're going to have to face the facts.
The real world actually has real news.
You can follow John Rachel's developing world view and constantly mutating political analysis by visiting his website ... http://jdrachel.com
John Rachel has a B.A. in Philosophy, and has written eight novels and three political non-fiction books. His political articles have appeared at OpEdNews, Russia Insider, The Greanville Post, and other alternative media outlets.
Since leaving the U.S. in 2006, he has lived in and explored 33 countries. He is now somewhat rooted in a traditional, rural Japanese community about an hour from Osaka, where he lives with his wife of five years. Daily he rides his bicycle through the soybean fields and rice paddies which sprawl across the surrounding landscape. As of the date of the release of his most recent book, "The Peace Dividend: The Most Controversial Proposal in the History of the World", he has a small but promising organic vegetable garden which begs his attention.
You can follow his writing and the evolution of his world view at: http://jdrachel.com
"Scribo ergo sum."