As we finish a dark 2012, what will we see in 2013 of The New America?

Summary:  It’s the time of year to look back on our deeds of the past year, and contemplate what we’ll do in the next. In the past American could think of bold exploration ventures (from Lewis & Clark to Apollo), great projects of domestic infrastructure (from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highways), and expansions of civil rights (from Emancipation to the 1960s). What have we to look back upon with pride? Or forward to with expectation?

… the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
— From C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, chapter VII

Americans watch Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of torture, exulting in their moral decay:




  1. Stage One: the rot starts in the government
  2. Stage Two: decay of professional institutions
  3. Stage Three: evil takes root in our hearts
  4. What comes next?
  5. For More Information

(1)  Stage One: the rot starts in the government

Dark deeds were done in the Cold War, fighting a superpower in the shadow of atomic war.  Sometime during those years evil took root in our government’s national security apparatus.  Exposing soldiers to test their resistance to radiation. Testing LSD on government employees. Massive secret domestic surveillance programs.  All this and more was revealed during the 1970s, especially by the 1975 Church Committee hearings.

Then Bush Jr’s neoconservatives exploited America’s panic after 9-11 — shattering our illusions of olympian invulnerability — to lead us into the pit. Nothing new, but embracing torture and assassination on a larger scale and openly.

And, of course, involving us in combat with more foreign insurgents — dirty wars, which have a long history of corrupting armies. All supported by a scaffolding of lies.

To see the effect on our armed forces: Bleak news, but vital for us to understand: American Morlocks: Another Civilian Massacre and the Savagery of Our Soldiers, 17 March 2012.

(2)  Stage Two: decay of professional institutions


Our first woman president?
Our first woman president?

In May 2011 I wrote More symptoms of decay: professional associations abandoning their standards and obligation to protect us.  The following paragraphs still chill me to read…

The deterioration in the Republic proceeds at a speed beyond my worst fears (underestimating this was my worst mistake on these pages in 2010).  Not just the government, although its institutions rot at an alarming rate.  Torture, surveillance, assassination, foreign wars based on lies — the by now usual long list.  It’s the failure of our private institutions that astonishes me.  The ones that the Founders hoped would contain the government and defend our liberties.

Now attorneys write briefs justifying torture, wars without legal authorization, surveillance and detention without warrant, and indeed limitless Executive power under the authoritarian justification of the President as Commander in Chief.  It’s not just lone actors, as the State legal associations have de facto ratified these actions though their inaction (e.g, the Pennsylvania Bars inaction on John Yoo, and the Alaska Bar inviting him to be their keynote speaker).  And judges openly applauding the President’s violation of the laws.

Perhaps worse (as we expect little good from attorneys) even doctors participate in torture.  Long rumored, now documented in “Neglect of Medical Evidence of Torture in Guantánamo Bay: A Case Series“, Vincent Iacopino (Adjunct Prof of Medicine, U of Minnesota) and Stephen N. Xenakis (Brigadier General, US Army, retired), PLOS Medicine, April 2011.  Will the State Medical Associations act on this clear violation of medical ethics?  {No, they didn’t. But the Brits did, see BBC, 21 December 2012.}

(3)  Stage Three: evil takes root in our hearts

The rot has spread throughout the American people.  Future historians might date our fall from the release of Zero Dark Thirty, and enthusiastic audiences watching a man tortured, leading to the hit by a heavily armed high-tech special ops team on an unarmed old guy and some women living in a suburban house.  It’s mostly lies, but we prefer the lies to the truth — another sign that we’ve crossed a red line between civilization and moral decay.

The rot spreads everywhere.
The rot spreads everywhere.

For more about this see:

  1. Bloodlust – a natural by-product of a long war?
  2. No longer a danger, but a reality: bloodlust in our minds, an inevitable side-effect of a long war.
  3. National decay starts at the heart, and spreads like cancer
  4. Bin Laden won, with our assistance. Our applause shows the scale of his victory. About Zero Dark Thirty

(4)  What comes next?

This decay has been documented on the FM website since we began in 2007.  It has spread faster than in my worst nightmare, yet still most Americans remain oblivious to our rapid degeneration. When and where will it end?

Think of the unthinkable, then remember it can happen here. Remember how easily the NAZI’s got regular people to participate in their horrific activities. Research since then has provided more evidence, as in the Milgram experiment (getting regular people to torture; Wikipedia) and in the Stanford experiments (regular people quickly became cruel power-made jailers; Wikipedia).

Once a people are corrupted there are few limits to what follows.  That might be the big lesson from Germany in the 1930s.  For details see “Nazi Atrocities, Committed by Ordinary People“, Der Spiegel, 18 March 2008. For more evidence see these books:  Christopher R. Browning’s Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1991), Jan T. Gross’ Neighbors: the Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (2001), and Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996).


I maintain that the very best of men may be coarsened and hardened into a brute by habit.  Blood and power intoxicate; coarseness and depravity are developed; the mind and the heart are tolerant of the most abnormal things till at last they come to relish them.  The man and the citizen is lost forever in the tyrant, and the return to human dignity, to repentance and regeneration becomes almost impossible. … Society which looks indifferently on such a phenomenon is already contaminated to its very foundation.

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Memoirs from the House of The Dead (1861), about the life of convicts in a Siberian prison camp

(5)  For More Information

Nothing shows our decay like our changed attitude toward torture.  See these posts for detailed evidence:

  1. Something every American should read, 25 March 2009 — Details about CIA torture programs
  2. We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger., 9 April 2009
  3. So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?, 30 April 2009
  4. The Reverse Nuremberg Defense – “We were just giving orders“, 20 May 2009
  5. Our government does torture, but it is just like the treatment of young reporters by newspapers, 16 February 2010
  6. The US government at work, doing dark deeds in our name, 13 March 2010
  7. Reading about American torturers is a bummer. Let’s close our eyes and pretend it didn’t happen, and will not happen again., 22 March 2010
  8. An expert speaks to us about torture, 5 May 2010
  9. The long-term consequences to America of torturing Bradley Manning, 15 March 2011
  10. More symptoms of decay: professional associations abandoning their standards and obligation to protect us, 4 May 2011

They’re fighting over us





14 thoughts on “As we finish a dark 2012, what will we see in 2013 of The New America?

  1. Is Japan set to lead after 20 years of torpor?“, Reuters, Anatole Kaletsky, Reuters, 19 December 2012

    Missing The Big Japan Story“, Tim Duy, Fed Watch, 25 December 2012

    The loss of the Bank of Japan’s independence to force the direct monetization of deficit spending is the real story.

    In his campaign speeches, he [Abe] called on the bank to set an inflation target of 2 to 3 percent and to buy more bonds to finance government stimulus efforts, another facet of his growth strategy. He warned that he would push to amend laws regarding the central bank to allow the government a bigger say in setting monetary policy.

    It’s funny. Normally Japanese people never talk about elections, but this time I heard several mention it. Of course, nobody talks about who to vote for, but several people all mentioned that they were going to vote. Something is happening over there.

    What’s going on is a ‘Nixon abandons the gold standard’ level event. With “monetization of deficit spending” it sounds like they’re just going to bypass the bond market and have the central bank fund the government directly — the end of central bank independence in Japan. Abe wants to put money into the system until inflation happens.

    It will be interesting. Will it work? I think a lot of people have guesses, but, nobody really knows. I think it is the right move myself, and if so, everyone else will follow. We could see substantial changes in the Federal reserve system some time prior to the end of the Obama administration.


    1. (1) “Will it work? I think a lot of people have guesses, but, nobody really knows.”

      Define “work”. Nobody doubts that a central bank can create inflation. The question is the effects of the inflation. A nation with net debt of aprox 120% of GDP (from memory) cannot afford to let inflation run out of control.

      (2) “everyone else will follow. We could see substantial changes in the Federal reserve system some time prior to the end of the Obama administration.”

      Japan’s problems are somewhat unique, especially after their two decades of stagnation (sustained by massive government deficits). I don’t see why others would follow Japan’s desperate measures.


    2. Re: Work

      “Work” here means stimulating demand and reducing unemployment without disaster — that is no runaway inflation or hyperinflation, etc. Yeah, it is a big scary change, and maybe this ends in disaster. There are some interesting potential disaster scenarios — these are interesting times.

      Re: Central banks creating inflation

      The central bank can create loose credit, but if no one borrows that won’t result in inflation. The Fed has created vast amounts of money, but it’s all just sitting on computers in banks. In order to create inflation that money has to get out to people. By eliminating central bank independence that means the government can use fiscal policy to put money out in the economy by spending without removing money from the economy with taxes or bond sales.

      Re: Debt/GDP

      On the debt/GDP ratio, if you eliminate central bank independence, then the government just creates the money and buys the debt. In the case of Japan this means banks and savers exchange near 0% bonds for 0% cash. Then the government can take the bonds, press the delete key and they’re gone.

      Re: Other countries following the same policy

      Practically, how it spreads to the rest of the world is that the end of central bank independence will put more money in the hands of the Japanese government and this will force the Yen down — in order to play catch up with a falling Yen, the other large currencies will have to follow. This won’t happen right away, so probably Japan gets a few years of declining Yen before everyone else starts playing the same game. I believe the gold standard was similar, and once one country ended the gold standard, that others were forced to follow. It’s the race to the bottom, and this is the latest escalation.


    3. Cathryn,

      I understand where you’re coming from, as we read these things in the news media — said with great authority by experts. But they’re only somewhat true.

      (1) “The central bank can create loose credit, but if no one borrows that won’t result in inflation.”

      That’s true of normal monetary operations. But a central bank can create inflation for certain if they try. Take the classic example: massive dumps of money from helicopters. People will spend the money.

      (2) “By eliminating central bank independence that means the government can use fiscal policy to put money out in the economy by spending without removing money from the economy with taxes or bond sales.”

      The assumption that governments directly execute monetary policy less effectively than central banks with some form of independence (ie, legal and operational) rests upon a weak body of evidence. Most of which comes from third world nations. There is very little evidence that independence (it’s a spectrum, not an either-or) has much effect on inflation in developed nations. A common example is New Zealand, with one of the least indpendent central banks — but one of the strongest anti-inflation histories.

      There is a large literature on this. For example, “When Does Policy Reform Work? The Case of Central Bank Independence“, Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, Pablo Querubin, James A. Robinson, National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2008.

      (3) “On the debt/GDP ratio, if you eliminate central bank independence, then the government just creates the money and buys the debt.”

      The central bank can monetize government debt under any governance structure. Also, developed nations’ governments find little difficulty running up high debt/gdp ratios no matter what structures of their central banks — as they hve in Italy and Japan.

      (4) Japan

      The question in Japan is if Japan’s central bank has behaved imprudently. Japan’s political authorities have acted very slowly, despite Japan’s increasingly perilious economic condition, to force action. Looking at this in terms of central bank independence misses the point. Assuming it will spread like some virus seems like an assumption with little theory or evidence to support it.

      Governments adopted current CB structures because they believed these provide benefits. Japan’s extraordinary circumstances seem unlikely to change that calculus, no matter what the outcome.


    4. [quote]That’s true of normal monetary operations. But a central bank can create inflation for certain if they try. Take the classic example: massive dumps of money from helicopters. People will spend the money.[/quote]

      This has been brought up, but the Fed has never done anything like this, and they won’t because essentially the Fed is still a bank. They have a balance sheet, and when the money goes out, some other asset has to come in on the other side. What they do is they loan money and then they get a note from the borrower, or the buy stuff, and then they own stuff. We saw this after the 2008 crash, that to get money out into the economy, they lent to sham companies founded by billionaire banker housewives. Their ability to get money to normal people was limited — they could loan to powerful institutions, who didn’t really need the money, so they could fund their financial schemes, or they could buy stuff from rich banks and rich people, who also didn’t really need the money. The trickle-down to normal people is very limited, maybe a few maid and butler jobs. The central governments, on the other hand, have no such restriction, and can pass out money to all kinds of parties and fund all sorts of projects.


    5. Cathryn,

      I think you’ve lost the thread of the discussion. Easy to do, since these are complex matters often poorly described in the news media.

      “the Fed has never done anything like this”
      That’s the original point, about the possible significance of the proposed policy change at the BOJ.

      “they won’t”
      Never say never. Forever holds mysteries beyond our imagination. Probably nobody in Japan of 1998 1989 imagined the Japan of 2012.

      “because essentially the Fed is still a bank.”
      Not even remotely correct. It’s a regulator of banks, has the ability to print money at will, and can issue guarantees with few practical limits (as it did during the crash).

      “They have a balance sheet”
      Everything has a balance sheet. Including you and me, and neither of us are banks.

      “when the money goes out, some other asset has to come in on the other side”
      That’s the point of monetization. The government spends money, and the central bank provides the cash. It’s simpler to think of the Fed as what it is, an agency of the government. Thinking of government agencies (eg, the Fed and Social Security) as independent entities leads to incorrect analysis.


  2. What will we see in 2013? More darkness.

    More torture, more murder of innocent women and children overseas in nations we’re not at war with by U.S. assassins and/or drones, more U.S. citizens ordered murdered by the capo di tutti capi — excuse me, the president of the united states, more economic collapse, more dysfunctionality in congress, increasing abandonment of the rule of law, increasing militarization of everyday life.

    FM has identified a number of critical problems with U.S. society which Jane Jacobs pointed out back in 2004 in her book Dark Age Ahead.

    Jacobs identified the following five problems as central in the decay of American society today — problems which few other have discussed:

    Decay of community and family: People are increasingly choosing consumerism over community, isolation over personal contact, and financial advantage to oneself at the expense of community welfare.

    Decay of higher education: universities and students are more interested in credentials than skills, knowledge, or excellence.

    Bad science: elevation of economics as the main “science” to consider in making major political decisions.together with the rise of “junk economics” like the mutant neoliberal economics which appears to have jettisoned even its idol Milton Friedman’s basic principles in favor of weird canards like the claim that government spending can never increase aggregate demand.

    Bad government: congress, the courts and the presidency is more interested in deep-pocket interest groups than the welfare of the population.

    Decay of culture: a society mired in delusions and fairytales that obscures or rewrites history and idolizes toxic character traits like celebrity and aggression while disdaining wisdom, humility, common human decency and empathy.

    So far, it looks like Jacobs was right on target.


    1. Good points, and the consequences of all of them are clear: when facing major (economic, ecological, diplomatic, etc) issues, it is not just that people will not want to work together to address them (individualists who distrust each other and the institutions, and are not ready to invest in common endeavors), it is that they will no longer know how to work together.

      Sill, I think this point is myopic:

      “universities and students are more interested in credentials than skills,”

      Have you ever experienced how corporations and governmental agencies and HR departments all over the place go about recruitment? They are increasingly more interested in credentials than skills — credentials are easy to check for, to assess skills one must be … skilled. And credentials are about money: you want a certification? Pay for an expensive course or MBA or Masters. You do not have a credential? Sorry, your salary will be lower.


  3. Fascinating the way Americans are fascinated with their descent into the abyss. I also love the infinite capacity to kid themselves: “Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Their appetite for self-flattery is also limitless. So easily manipulated and conned. But what do you expect from a nation of shoppers and media addicts, with a history of violent pillage trumped-up with religious self-righteousness?


    1. George,

      It’s always interesting to get an outsiders perspective of things. If it’s not too much of a burden, would you mind explaining how you see America and it’s citizens currently – besides what you say above or with more detail or examples maybe. Also, what would you venture to guess we’ll see in 2013?

      In this please try and include not just your thoughts, but also the thoughts of those you associate with (of such topics of course).


Leave a comment & share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s