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The Grisly Reality of the Failing US Empire

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This article originally appeared at Club Orlov


The story is the same every time: some nation, due to a confluence of lucky circumstances, becomes powerful — much more powerful than the rest — and, for a time, is dominant. But the lucky circumstances, which often amount to no more than a few advantageous quirks of geology, be it Welsh coal or West Texas oil, in due course come to an end. In the meantime, the erstwhile superpower becomes corrupted by its own power.

As the endgame approaches, those still nominally in charge of the collapsing empire resort to all sorts of desperate measures — all except one: they will refuse to ever consider the fact that their imperial superpower is at an end and that they should change their ways accordingly. George Orwell once offered an excellent explanation for this phenomenon: as the imperial end-game approaches, it becomes a matter of imperial self-preservation to breed a special-purpose ruling class — one that is incapable of understanding that the end-game is approaching. Because, you see, if they had an inkling of what’s going on, they wouldn’t take their jobs seriously enough to keep the game going for as long as possible.

The approaching imperial collapse can be seen in the ever-worsening results the empire gets for its imperial efforts. After World War II, the U.S. was able to do a respectable job helping to rebuild Germany, along with the rest of Western Europe. Japan also did rather well under U.S. tutelage, as did South Korea after the end of fighting on the Korean peninsula. With Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, all of which were badly damaged by the U.S., the results were significantly worse: Vietnam was an outright defeat, Cambodia lived through a period of genocide, while amazingly resilient Laos — the most heavily bombed country on the planet — recovered on its own.

The first Gulf War went even more badly: fearful of undertaking a ground offensive in Iraq, the U.S. stopped short of its regular practice of toppling the government and installing a puppet regime there and left it in limbo for a decade. When the U.S. did eventually invade, it succeeded — after killing countless civilians and destroying much of the infrastructure — in leaving behind a dismembered corpse of a country.

Similar results have been achieved in other places where the U.S. saw fit to get involved: Somalia, Libya and, most recently, Yemen. Let’s not even mention Afghanistan, since all empires have failed to achieve good results there. So the trend is unmistakable: whereas at its height the empire destroyed in order to rebuild the world in its own image, as it nears its end it destroys simply for the sake of destruction, leaving piles of corpses and smoldering ruins in its wake.

Another unmistakable trend has to do with the efficacy of spending money on “defense” (which, in the case of the U.S., should be redefined as “offense”). Having a lavishly endowed military can sometimes lead to success, but here too something has shifted over time. The famous American can-do spirit that was evident to all during World War II, when the U.S. dwarfed the rest of the world with its industrial might, is no more. Now, more and more, military spending itself is the goal — never mind what it achieves.

And what it achieves is the latest F-35 jet fighter that can’t fly; the latest aircraft carrier that can’t launch planes without destroying them if they are fitted with the auxiliary tanks they need to fly combat missions; the most technologically advanced AEGIS destroyer that can be taken out of commission by a single unarmed Russian jet carrying a basket of electronic warfare equipment; and another aircraft carrier that can be frightened out of deep water and forced to anchor by a few Russian submarines out on routine patrol.

But the Americans like their weapons, and they like handing them out as a show of support. But more often than not these weapons end up in the wrong hands: the ones they gave to Iraq are now in the hands of ISIS; the ones they gave to the Ukrainian nationalists have been sold to the Syrian government; the ones they gave to the government in Yemen is now in the hands of the Houthis who recently overthrew it. And so the efficacy of lavish military spending has dwindled too. At some point it may become more efficient to modify the U.S. Treasury printing presses to blast bundles of U.S. dollars in the general direction of the enemy.

With the strategy of “destroying in order to create” no longer viable, but with the blind ambition to still try to prevail everywhere in the world somehow still part of the political culture, all that remains is murder. The main tool of foreign policy becomes political assassination: be it Saddam Hussein, or Muammar Qaddafi, or Slobodan Milošević, or Osama bin Laden, or any number of lesser targets, the idea is to simply kill them.

While aiming for the head of an organization is a favorite technique, the general populace gets its share of murder too. How many funerals and wedding parties have been taken out by drone strikes? I don’t know that anyone in the U.S. really knows, but I am sure that those whose relatives were killed do remember, and will remember for the next few centuries at least. This tactic is generally not conducive to creating a durable peace, but it is a good tactic for perpetuating and escalating conflict. But that’s now an acceptable goal, because it creates the rationale for increased military spending, making it possible to breed more chaos.

Recently a retired U.S. general went on television to declare that what’s needed to turn around the situation in the Ukraine is to simply “start killing Russians.” The Russians listened to that, marveled at his idiocy, and then went ahead and opened a criminal case against him. Now this general will be unable to travel to an ever-increasing number of countries around the world for fear of getting arrested and deported to Russia to stand trial.

This is largely a symbolic gesture, but non-symbolic non-gestures of a preventive nature are sure to follow. You see, my fellow space travelers, murder happens to be illegal. In most jurisdictions, inciting others to murder also happens to be illegal. Americans have granted themselves the license to kill without checking to see whether perhaps they might be exceeding their authority. We should expect, then, that as their power trickles away, their license to kill will be revoked, and they will find themselves reclassified from global hegemons to mere murderers.

As empires collapse, they turn inward, and subject their own populations to the same ill treatment to which they subjected others. Here, America is unexceptional: the number of Americans being murdered by their own police, with minimal repercussions for those doing the killing, is quite stunning. When Americans wonder who their enemy really is, they need look no further.

But that is only the beginning: the precedent has already been set for deploying U.S. troops on U.S. soil. As law and order break down in more and more places, we will see more and more U.S. troops on the streets of cities in the U.S., spreading death and destruction just like they did in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The last license to kill to be revoked will be the license to kill ourselves.

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Spanish architecture: The story of Madrid’s abandoned ‘beach’ for its working class | Culture

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La Playa de Madrid was just 15 minutes from the Spanish capital’s Puerta del Sol square when it was inaugurated. Nine decades later, the distance is the same, but the premises developed by the architect Manuel Muñoz Monasterio in 1932 to create a “beach” in the landlocked city are in a state of complete disrepair.

The great leisure project for Madrid’s working class on the banks of the River Manzanares now houses fetid mattresses, crumpled beer cans, rank swimming pools, tattered tennis courts and facilities that are at risk of disappearing altogether.

Owned by the state agency Patrimonio Nacional, which manages Spain’s national heritage, La Playa de Madrid has been closed for six years. Defaults in rent payments forced it to close, and it subsequently became the target of vandalism. “There is no longer even any security,” says Juan García Vicente from the green group Ecologists in Action, who is upset by the state of dereliction of a site with social and architectural significance in the city’s history.

Madrileños enjoying their "beach" in 1934.
Madrileños enjoying their “beach” in 1934.Revista Arquitectura

The access point to the “beach,” which borders La Zarzuela racetrack on one side and the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park (previously known as Parque Sindical) on the other, has not been opened since the authorities evicted staff and members at the end of October 2014. The company running the complex at that time, which belonged to the former president of the Spanish employers association CEOE, Arturo Fernández, received a court order to vacate the premises as it had failed to pay rent or any tax despite operating the five swimming pools, 11 tennis courts, four paddle courts, one roller-skating rink, four frontón courts, the cafeteria, the restaurant and the parking lot.

Arturo Fernández has left a hole in the National Heritage agency’s accounts to the tune of €867,006, which will have to be paid as soon as his company’s bankruptcy is resolved. The 3,000 Playa de Madrid members who had paid their fees were also denied access. Fernández’s contract had been renewed in 2011, despite the fact that he was already €466,831 in arrears. It was a sum that, according to the Court of Auditors, “he paid a few days before signing the new contract.”

The Playa de Madrid tower was used as the backdrop for a famous 1936 shot of two militiamen by war photographer Robert Capa.
The Playa de Madrid tower was used as the backdrop for a famous 1936 shot of two militiamen by war photographer Robert Capa.INMA FLORES / EL PAIS

To add insult to injury, EL PAÍS has learned that on July 30, National Heritage filed a complaint in court in a bid to evict the new company running the complex, Centro de Eventos Playa de Madrid, which is also behind on payments.

“It has not paid even one month’s rent and has run up a debt of €530,523,” says a National Heritage spokesperson. The new contract went into effect on October 17, 2017, after the president of National Heritage at the time, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, decided to lease the 184,800 square-meter property to a company that not only failed to pay rent, but also reneged on a commitment to invest €3.2 million to renovate the complex.

Meanwhile, under the National Heritage’s current president, Llanos Castellanos, an initiative is underway to revamp the more than 22,000 hectares of green spaces owned by the institution throughout the country, including the Playa de Madrid complex, which will be finalized when the judicial process ends. “The aim is to turn it into a sustainable property that is financially self-sufficient, and to make sure that what has happened does not happen again,” says Castellanos.

The Playa de Madrid facilities as they are today, after the premises were completely shut down six years ago.
The Playa de Madrid facilities as they are today, after the premises were completely shut down six years ago.INMA FLORES / EL PAIS

The phony beach was fashioned from a shallow river, from which “a beautiful arm of the sea” was created, to quote an ad from that period. But the dam that stored up the water to create a 300-meter shoreline was dismantled this January by the Tajo Water Confederation so that the river could follow its natural course unimpeded, according to García Vicente.

“It was a very interesting dam because it still allowed the water to flow and remain clean,” says Alberto Tellería, a member of the Madrid Citizenship and Heritage Association, who still remembers the complex’s dance floor and the announcement of a design competition for cheap evening dresses in 1934.

The “beach” was very popular among the working classes during the Second Republic, before Francisco Franco’s air forces razed it. And it was there that the photojournalist Robert Capa constructed his iconic image of of two militiamen greeting each other under the lighthouse tower.

An aerial view of the facilities in an archive photo provided by the Spanish Air Force.
An aerial view of the facilities in an archive photo provided by the Spanish Air Force.Ejército del Aire-Colección Anmogon

But unpaid dues and ignored commitments have proved the ruin of the site, which is these days trapped between two highways. “These are public facilities of extraordinary significance,” says Juan García Vicente, who has been fighting for years for a path that will connect Madrid with El Pardo, on the left bank of the river.

This path should be ready in a couple of months and access to the “beach” will be reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, the dignity of the complex is still to be restored, which according to Carlos Ripoll, a member of the Madrid Architects Association (COAM), has an “impeccable” language all of its own.

The simple and modern lines of the structures designed by the creator of the Las Ventas bullfighting ring and the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium are hidden behind pines, cork oak and poplars, and they are reminiscent of the international tone set by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Muñoz Monasterio, who sided with the regime after the civil war (1936-1939), carried out the post-war reconstruction in 1948, refurbishing it according to Franco’s taste, with slate roofs and spires. But the subsequent inauguration of the nearby Parque Sindical (now known as the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park) and water contamination ended Madrid’s dream of having a beach.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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Russians’ Alcohol Consumption Drops 80% in 7 Years

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Alcohol consumption has been reduced by 80% over the past 5-7 years in Russia, Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova stated at a working breakfast during the Gaidar Forum today, reports RIA-Novosti.

The Gaidar Forum is an annual event in Moscow hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, which brings together economist, Nobel Prize winners, leading professors, and representatives of the Russian and foreign elite to discuss the most acute problems of the day, especially as concerns Russia’s position and strategic role in the world.

“We have managed to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages by 80% per capita…” Skvortsova stated. Meanwhile, “the number actively engaged in sports has grown by more than 40%.”

She also noted that smoking among adults has dropped 22%, and has been reduced thrice over among children and adolescents.

According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization, the number of Russians who drink several times a week had by then declined to 5%, and the number who drink several times a month to 33%. Russian citizens were found to drink about as much as citizens of Denmark, Great Britain and Croatia.

The Russian Orthodox Church has played a key role in reducing the amount of alcohol consumption in the country. There are more than 500 active anti-alcoholism projects in Russia today under the auspices of the Church.

“One of the Church’s most successful works in the sphere of temperance education is the celebration of the All-Russian Day of Sobriety on September 11,” stated Valery Doronkin, head of the Coordinating Center for Combating Alcoholism and Endorsing Sobriety of the Synodal Charity Department.

Special prayers are added to the Litany of Peace and the Litany of Fervent Supplication on the Day of Sobriety. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill stated on this day in 2016:

By decision of the Holy Synod in 2014, the day of the Beheading of St. John the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist is deemed the Day of Sobriety, because precisely the mad state of Herod, drunk on wine at his banquet, was the cause of such a frightful order which he gave—to behead the holy prophet.

We know what terrible sufferings drunkenness has brought our people in the past, and which continue today: the destruction of families, the birth of sick children, people, losing the meaning of life and health, called to the fullness of existence, becoming invalids in youth only because they didn’t have enough strength to turn from sinful attractions and stop drinking.

According to the primate, not only the health of the nation, but also “the very existence of our people and state” depends upon this question.


Source: Orthodox Christianity

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G7 countries accused of prioritising military spending over climate action

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G7 countries “are stuck in the 1970s and 1980s” and avoiding profound societal changes needed to address the climate crisis, while embracing “the ruse of net-zero” carbon emissions, according to leading climate scientist Prof Kevin Anderson.

Speaking at a briefing on climate issues at the summit of the Group of Seven leaders, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States, in Cornwall, Prof Anderson said: “Net zero is the latest ruse that we’re using to avoid making profound social changes and to avoid the rapid and just phasing out of our existing oil, gas and coal industries.”

The former director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK said this was also avoiding the adoption of challenging policies and the huge transformation of infrastructure required.

Net zero was “a way of passing the buck to future generations”, he said at the event hosted by the COP26 Coalition – the campaign group seeking greater climate justice commitments at the United Nations climate conference in November.

“We need leaders now who are prepared to grasp the enormity of the climate challenge but also the wider ecological crisis – rather than the eloquent, simple greenwashing of ‘business as usual’. And that’s what we’re seeing currently.

“Despite ramping up of good news stories in advance of COP26, the reality is that the gap between the necessary action and actual cuts in emissions for both 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is just getting bigger. Playing into this ongoing failure is the ubiquitous language of ‘net zero’, under which almost any organisation, region or country can claim to be aligned with the Paris commitments,” Prof Anderson said.

“But dig a little deeper and claims of net zero are often little more than a ruse whereby immediate cuts in actual emissions are substituted for future speculative ‘negative emissions’, offsetting and other forms of mitigation denial,” he said.

Military spending

Niamh Ní Bhriain of the Transnational Institute’s war and pacification programme said prioritisation of military spending, costing almost $2 trillion (€1.7 trillion) a year, was an issue that “must be brought into the room in discussing climate justice and global poverty”.

A total of 57 per cent of that spend on military, security, intelligence and borders came from G7 countries, she added. “This is a political choice. This is a question of political will; that we’re spending this much on the military.”

Unprecedented spending on borders by rich countries of the global north to prevent migrants coming to their shores was part of a militarised response to migration, which she predicted would become even more prevalent when parts of the world became uninhabitable as the climate crisis deepened.

COP26 Coalition spokesman Asad Rehman of War on Want said G7 countries, who bear the greatest responsibility for fuelling crises that threaten the lives and livelihoods of billions, could no longer make empty statements or hollow promises to act. “Leaders must listen to the millions of people in every corner of the world who are demanding a justice transition.”

As a first step the G7 must commit to doing their fair share of emissions reductions by 2030 to limit warming to well below 1.5 degrees, he said, and commit “to unlocking the trillions needed to build a sustainable economy of the future – one that guarantees universal public services, living wages and puts people before profit.”

Rising sea levels

Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion Ireland have been staging theatrical displays along the coast of Ireland calling on G7 leaders to take adequate action against sea level rise.

The UN estimates there could be anywhere between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, with many of those on the move because of the effects of sea level rise, an Extinction Rebellion Ireland spokeswoman said. “These estimates envisage flooding of Irish coasts; meanwhile, other island nations around the world are already suffering,” she said.

Off the Down coast Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland members dress as red rebels and serve tea at a table half submerged in the sea to highlight rising sea levels
Off the Down coast Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland members dress as red rebels and serve tea at a table half submerged in the sea to highlight rising sea levels

“Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 these nations have utterly failed to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Greenwashing and empty promises won’t stop the sea levels from rising; our crops from failing or the entire ecosystem on which our lives rely on from collapsing. 2021 is a critical year and the decisions made by the G7 are make or break,” she added.

In Dublin, activists formed the Extinction Rebellion and G7 logos on the beach of Sandymount Strand, capturing the large-scale visual by drone camera.

In Cork, protestors used a tape measure to mark the rising sea levels and highlight the risk of flooding that coastal communities face. Off the Down coast Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland members dressed as red rebels served tea at a table half submerged in the sea.

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