The Most Important Graph in the World

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Save the Date: Rail Now! Sept. 20th, Salem Convention Center

Built in 1918, Salem's passenger train stop se...Image via Wikipedia

You are Invited
"Rail Now!"
Monday, September 20, 2010,

8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Salem Convention Center, Salem, Oregon

"Rail Now!" will explore improving passenger travel, and freight rail, between Eugene and Portland within five years.

"Rail Now!" will continue the Oregon and national conversation about investing in America's passenger rail. The federal government is investing billions in passenger rail development for the first time in American history, moving us toward quality transportation and connectivity which much of the world's population has enjoyed for many years.

"Rail Now!" will provide high quality information and education on this very important issue.

"Rail Now!" brings together a variety of experts to talk about what is needed to improve and increase the number of passenger trains serving the Willamette Valley now, on existing tracks. Oregon must join the progress!

"Rail Now!" will explore the economic and environmental benefits of investing in both passenger and freight rail. We will look at what is happening in other parts of the country, understand how Oregon can pursue a conventional 21st Century Rail Transportation System and create jobs now and in the future.

Our Goal: September will resonate with "Rail Now!" conversations and rail ideas, encouraging new thinking with practical achievable solutions to implement immediately in 2011 !!.

Discover Salem: Come early, enjoy the weekend in Salem. Special events are planned at Willamette University and other sites.

REGISTRATION

$25.00 includes Continental Breakfast, Coffee Time, and Gala Lunch

Reservations Absolutely Required

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Time for some dog-days dots connecting

Northwest exposure of the Pentagon's construct... The Pentagon being built in 1942; Image via Wikipedia In this strange period of Consumer Age War --- real, brutal wars and occupations being conducted by an increasingly tiny sector of society for increasingly surreal and irrational reasons, with the rest of us told to go quietly about our primary job, taking on debt to buy imported things --- Chalmers Johnson has been a unique voice of reason, pointing out that average Americans have much more reason to fear the Pentagon and CIA than we do to fear the Chinese, Russians, or even the Muslims whom we armed and tried to use against the Russians and who, as is the way of human puppet forces throughout history, turned against those who tried to keep pulling their strings a decade or two too long.

As America, Oregon, and Salem stare into the fiscal abyss of job cuts, declining tax revenues, collapsing infrastructure (Courthouse Square anyone?), and declining services, it's helpful to recall now and then why other countries are able to fund those things that America no longer manages to do: because we squander our wealth for generations on an attempt to be the first empire to buck the tide of history . . . which is, actually, of a piece with the tide of history, and has been the preferred mode of almost all empires in history -- with those that refuse to divest themselves of imperial possessions voluntarily suffering the most as a result.

In 1962, the historian Barbara Tuchman published a book about the start of World War I and called it The Guns of August. It went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. She was, of course, looking back at events that had occurred almost 50 years earlier and had at her disposal documents and information not available to participants. They were acting, as Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara put it, in the fog of war.

So where are we this August of 2010, with guns blazing in one war in Afghanistan even as we try to extricate ourselves from another in Iraq? Where are we, as we impose sanctions on Iran and North Korea (and threaten worse), while sending our latest wonder weapons, pilotless drones armed with bombs and missiles, into Pakistan's tribal borderlands, Yemen, and who knows where else, tasked with endless "targeted killings" which, in blunter times, used to be called assassinations? Where exactly are we, as we continue to garrison much of the globe even as our country finds itself incapable of paying for basic services?

I wish I had a crystal ball to peer into and see what historians will make of our own guns of August in 2060. The fog of war, after all, is just a stand-in for what might be called "the fog of the future," the inability of humans to peer with any accuracy far into the world to come. Let me nonetheless try to offer a few glimpses of what that foggy landscape some years ahead might reveal, and even hazard a few predictions about what possibilities await still-imperial America.

Let me begin by asking: What harm would befall the United States if we actually decided, against all odds, to close those hundreds and hundreds of bases, large and small, that we garrison around the world? What if we actually dismantled our empire, and came home? Would Genghis Khan-like hordes descend on us? Not likely. Neither a land nor a sea invasion of the U.S. is even conceivable.

Would 9/11-type attacks accelerate? It seems far likelier to me that, as our overseas profile shrank, the possibility of such attacks would shrink with it.

Would various countries we've invaded, sometimes occupied, and tried to set on the path of righteousness and democracy decline into "failed states?" Probably some would, and preventing or controlling this should be the function of the United Nations or of neighboring states. (It is well to remember that the murderous Cambodian regime of Pol Pot was finally brought to an end not by us, but by neighboring Vietnam.)

Sagging Empire

In other words, the main fears you might hear in Washington -- if anyone even bothered to wonder what would happen, should we begin to dismantle our empire -- would prove but chimeras. They would, in fact, be remarkably similar to Washington's dire predictions in the 1970s about states all over Asia, then Africa, and beyond falling, like so many dominoes, to communist domination if we did not win the war in Vietnam.

What, then, would the world be like if the U.S. lost control globally -- Washington's greatest fear and deepest reflection of its own overblown sense of self-worth -- as is in fact happening now despite our best efforts? What would that world be like if the U.S. just gave it all up? What would happen to us if we were no longer the "sole superpower" or the world's self-appointed policeman?

In fact, we would still be a large and powerful nation-state with a host of internal and external problems. An immigration and drug crisis on our southern border, soaring health-care costs, a weakening education system, an aging population, an aging infrastructure, an unending recession -- none of these are likely to go away soon, nor are any of them likely to be tackled in a serious or successful way as long as we continue to spend our wealth on armies, weapons, wars, global garrisons, and bribes for petty dictators.

Even without our interference, the Middle East would continue to export oil, and if China has been buying up an ever larger share of what remains underground in those lands, perhaps that should spur us into conserving more and moving more rapidly into the field of alternative energies. . . .

UPDATE: Watch and/or listen to some amazing interviews with Chalmers Johnson here.
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