Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reports of the Death of God Are Greatly Exagerated

Les hommes ont banni la Divinité d’entr’eux; ils l’ont réleguée dans un Sanctuaire; les murs d’un temple bornent sa vue; elle n’éxiste point au-delà. Insensés que vous êtes, détruisez ces enceintes qui rétrécissent vos idées, élargissez Dieu: voyez-le partout où il est, ou dites qu’il n’est point.

Men have banned divinity from their midst, they have relegated it to their sanctuary. The walls of a temple are the limits of its view; beyond these walls it does not exist. Crazed as you are, you must destroy these enclosures that limit your horizon; liberate God; see Him where he actually is, or otherwise say that He does not exist.

Denis Diderot, Pensées philosophiques pp. 21-22 (1746)(S.H. [Scott Horton] transl.) [Originally published January 31, 2009 in No Comment at Harpers.org.]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Even-Handedness is the Order of Our Day

[[[Full-Spectrum Dominance / Our Common Weal///[[[{{{Dissent}}}]]]]]]
In this case, the generic formula reads: Full-spectrum dominance over our common weal based on suppression of bloody bold dissent

  • % Our patriarchal cult of kinetic power
  • % Closed society: Us vs. Them
  • % Fear and Control: manipulating the media narrative aka myth-jacking
  • % Absolute dualism enforced with kinetic violence
  • % Cosmos as construct
  • % Moves like a trebuchet or ratchet (boom & bust cycles)

  • beloved/[{UNION}]/Beloved
    In every case: In Union We Trust

  • % Our more perfect Union
  • % Open society; this, our body politic
  • % Empathy and mutual respect; sharing being aware of our shared narrative of our shared becoming
  • % Non-dualism expressed kenotically
  • % Cosmos as organism
  • % Spins like a wheel; the Dao; dharmadhattu; the way the world self-empties into itself, "whereby Spring comes and grass grows by itself."

  • I bow in your virtual directions,
    dp

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    The Cultists of the "Free" Market Have Driven Us to Ruin

    You say "ideology," while I say "mythology."
    A major impediment to swift and consequent government action to contain the impact of the banking crisis has been the dominance of Thatcherite ideology as an almost religious dogma that permeates even Labour, where Brown's predecessor as prime minister, Blair, was portrayed as a Labour version of Thatcher. The ideological absurdity of the situation was underscored recently when the Conservative opposition offered broad support for measures, even though their concern over soaring borrowing led them to oppose the government's ฃ20 billion [sic] fiscal stimulus designed to keep the economy moving. [Retrieved Tueday 27 January 2009 from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KA27Dj05.html Death agony of Thatcher era By F William Engdahl in Asia Times Online].

    Jim Hightower: Alan Greenspan Is a "Quasi-Religious Nut"

    Why was Greenspan so insistent on no regulation? Because he is the hardest of hardcore laissez-faire ideologues, holding a blazing disdain for government. An avowed worshiper of libertarian novelist Ayn Rand, he views public oversight of business as an evil force that deters the creativity of smart elites. He is so psyched by his religious-like faith in the "free market" that he fervently believes in what he considers to be the innate good will and moral superiority of investors and bankers. He asserts that these self-interested individuals can simply be trusted to do the right thing, and that government should not second-guess their decisions.

    Even the faith of snake handlers is not as devout as Greenspan's. Unfortunately, however, he was able to hitch our nation's economic well-being to his own absurdist ideological fancy. The guy who was lionized as the smartest, most- stable economic thinker in the land essentially turns out to have been a quasi-religious nut.

    AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, author of the bestselling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We’ll come back to her speech at the University of Chicago in a minute.

    [break]

    AMY GOODMAN: We return to Naomi Klein, bestselling author of The Shock Doctrine, talking at the University of Chicago on Wednesday about the current economic crisis and the legacy of Milton Friedman.

      NAOMI KLEIN: This process of measuring an elegant perfect, beautiful, inspiring ideology against a messy reality is a painful process, and it’s a process that anyone who has tried to free themselves from the confines of fundamentalist thinking, from ideological constraints, has faced. My grandparents, for instance, were pretty hardcore Marxists. In the ’30s and ’40s, they believed fervently in the dream of egalitarianism that the Soviet Union represented. They had their illusions shattered by the reality of gulags, of extreme repression, hypocrisy, Stalin’s pact with Hitler.

      I bring this up, because the left has been held accountable for the crimes committed in the name of its extreme ideologies, and I believe that it’s actually been a very healthy process for the left, one that isn’t over, that is continuing. But I think that the process of having to examine the unacceptable compromises that were made in the name of hard ideology, that they are paying off in the way the left today is being reborn and re-imagined.

      You know, the most left-wing place on the planet at the moment is, interestingly enough, the first place where Chicago School ideology made that leap from the textbook into the real world, and that’s Latin America. And that happened for a very specific reason, as you know. This—in the 1950s, there was great concern at the State Department about the fact that Latin America, then as now, as it seems to do, was moving to the left. There was concern about what they called the “pink economists,” the rise of developmentalism, import substitution, and, of course, socialism. And, of course, this was a concern because it greatly affected American and European interests, because the crux of the argument of import substitution was that countries like Chile and Argentina, Guatemala, should stop exporting their raw natural resources to the north and then importing expensive processed goods to the south, that it didn’t make economic sense, that they should use the same tools of protectionism, of state supports, that built the economies of Europe and North America. That was that crazy radical idea, and it was unacceptable.

      So, this plan was cooked up—it was between the head of USAID’s Chile office and the head of the University of Chicago’s Economics Department—to try to change the debate in Latin America, starting in Chile, because that’s where developmentalism had gained its deepest roots. And the idea was to bring a group of Chilean students to the University of Chicago to study under a group of economists who were considered so extreme that they were on the margins of the discussion in the United States, which, of course, at the time, in the 1950s, was fully in the grips of Keynesianism. But the idea was that there would be—this would be a battle to the—a counterbalance to the emergence of left-wing ideas in Latin America, that they would go home and counterbalance the pink economists.

      And so, the Chicago Boys were born. And it was considered a success, and the Ford Foundation got in on the funding. And hundreds and hundreds of Latin American students, on full scholarships, came to the University of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s to study here to try to engage in what Juan Gabriel Valdes, Chile’s foreign minister after the dictatorship finally ended, described as a project of deliberate ideological transfer, taking these extreme-right ideas, that were seen as marginal even in the United States, and transplanting them to Latin America. That was his phrase—that is his phrase.

      But today, we see that these ideas are reemerging in Latin America. They were suppressed with force, overthrown with military coups, and then Chile and Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil all became, to varying degrees, laboratories for the ideas that were taught in the classrooms of the University of Chicago. But now, because there was never a democratic consent for this, the ideas are reemerging.

      But one of the things that’s interesting about the new left in Latin America is that democracy is at the very center. And, you know, the first thing that Rafael Correa did when he was elected president of Ecuador, for instance—well, the first thing he did was give an interview. They said, “What can we expect of your economic program?” He said, “Well, let’s put it this way: I’m no fan of Milton Friedman’s.” And then he called a constituent assembly. He created an incredibly open political process to rewrite the country’s constitution. And that’s what happened in Bolivia, and that’s what’s happened in many Latin American countries, because democracy is being put at the center of these projects, because there has been a learning process of looking at the mistakes that the left has made in the past, the ends-justify-the-means mistakes.

      So, I think all ideologies should be held accountable for the crimes committed in their names. I think it makes us better. Now, of course, there are still those on the far left who will insist that all of those crimes were just an aberration—Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot; reality is annoying—and they retreat into their sacred texts. We all know who I’m talking about.

      But lately, particularly just in the past few months, I have noticed something similar happening on the far libertarian right, at places like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. It’s a kind of a panic, and it comes from the fact that the Bush administration adapted—adopted so much of their rhetoric, the fusing of free markets and free people, the championing of so many of their pet policies. But, of course, Bush is the worst thing that has ever happened to believers in this ideology, because while parroting the talking points of Friedmanism, he has overseen an explosion of crony capitalism, that they treat governing as a conveyor belt or an ATM machine, where private corporations make withdrawals of the government in the form of no-bid contracts and then pay back government in the form of campaign contributions. And we’re seeing this more and more. The Bush administration is a nightmare for these guys—the explosion of the debt and now, of course, these massive bailouts.

      So, what we see from the ideologues of the far right—by far right, I mean the far economic right—frantically distancing themselves and retreating to their sacred texts: The Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, Free to Choose. So that’s why I’ve taken to calling them right-wing Trotskyists, because they have this—and mostly because it annoys them, but also because they have the same sort of frozen-in-time quality. You know, it’s not, you know, 1917, but it’s definitely 1982. Now, the left-wing Trots don’t have very much money, as you know. They make their money selling newspapers outside of events like this. The right-wing Trots have a lot of money. They build think tanks in Washington, D.C., and they want to build a $200 million Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago.

      Now, this brings up an interesting point. It’s an interesting point about the think tanks, in general, which has to do with the fact that it does seem to take so much corporate welfare to keep these ideas alive, which would seem to be a contradiction of the core principle of free market ideology—I mean, and particularly now, in the context of the Milton Friedman Institute. I mean, I could see it in the ’90s, but now, is the world really clamoring for this? Is there really a demand that you are supplying here? Really?

      I think this points to a larger issue, and this comes up—has come up for me again and again in talking about this ideology, this ideological campaign. You know, is it—is it really fueled by true belief, and—or is it just fueled by greed? Because it’s not—the thoughts are so very profitable. So they are distinctive in that way, distinctive from other ideologies. And, of course, you know, certainly we know that religion has been a great economic partner in imperialism. I mean, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. But this is a question that comes up a lot. And I think it’s very difficult to answer, and it’s clear, certainly at this school, that much of it is fueled by belief, by true belief, by falling in love with those elegant systems.

      But I think we also need to look particularly at this moment, who this ideology benefits directly economically, keeping it alive in this moment, and how, even in this moment, when everybody is saying, you know, this is the end of market fundamentalism, because we’re seeing this betrayal of the basic tenets of the non-interventionist government by the Bush administration—you know, I believe this is a myth and that the ideology has just gone dormant, because it’s ceased to be useful. But it will come roaring back, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

      But, you know, I was interested that yesterday the Heritage Foundation, which has always been a staunch Friedmanite think tank, that they came out in favor of the bailout. They came out in favor of the bailout; they said it was vital. And what’s interesting about that is, of course, the bailout is creating a crisis in the economic—in the public sphere. It’s taking a private crisis, a crisis on Wall Street, which of course isn’t restricted to Wall Street, and it will affect everyone, but it is moving it, moving those bad debts, onto the public books.

      And now the Bush administration has already left the next administration, whoever it is, with an economic crisis on their hands, but with this proposed transfer, they’re dramatically increasing that crisis. So, we can count, I would argue, on the Heritage Foundation refinding their faith, refinding their faith when it becomes necessary and useful to once again argue that the way to revive the American economy is to cut taxes, cut regulation, to stimulate the economy—and, by the way, we can’t afford Social Security; we’re going to have to privatize it, because we’ve got this terrible debt and deficit on our hands. So, the ideology is far from dead, and what we are, I think, seeing with this proposed monument to Friedmanism is really a way of entrenching it and making sure that it is always available to come back, to come roaring back.

      So, I said I would talk a little bit about Friedmanism and the links to the current crisis. And, you know, it’s pretty direct. Milton Friedman is pretty much accepted as the godfather of deregulation. And this was—this ideology was the rationale for turning the financial sector into the casino that we see today. You know, Milton Friedman was clear about this. He believed that “history took a wrong turn,” and that’s a quote; it’s a quote from a letter he wrote to Augusto Pinochet. He said, “History took a wrong turn in your country, as well as mine.” And he was referring to the responses to the Great Depression. In Chile, it was the rise of import substitution and developmentalism. But in the United States, he was of course referring to the New Deal.

      And I think that the Chicago School of Economics is properly understood as a counterrevolution against the New Deal, against regulations like Glass-Steagall, that was put in place in 1934 after having seen people lose their life savings to the market crash, and it was a firewall, a very simple, sensible law that said if you want to be an investment bank, if you want to gamble, gamble with your investors’ money, but the government isn’t going to help you because it’s your own risk. You can fail. And if you want to be a commercial bank, then we will help you. We will offer insurance to make sure that those savings are safe, but you have to restrict the risks that you take. You cannot gamble. You cannot be an investment bank. And a firewall was put up between investment banks and consumer banks.

      And now we look at the way in which this crisis is supposedly being solved, and what we see, actually, is a wave of mergers in the banking sector, a wave of mergers with the banks getting bigger and bigger until ultimately—you know, the Financial Times was predicting today that eventually the United States will have three big banks, just like Japan does. That’s where it’s heading. And, of course, all of those banks will be too big to fail. So they all have this implicit guarantee; it’s not just Fannie and Freddie. It’s any function that is too important to fail has this implicit guarantee.

      Phil Gramm is the person, you know, on the legislative side who did the most to create the legislative context for what we’re seeing right now in the financial sector. You know, I think everyone knows that Phil Gramm, most famously, recently is the one who said that America was in a mental recession and a bunch of whiners and all of that. And so, he’s not officially an adviser to McCain, but there is talk that if he were to win the elections, he would be Treasury Secretary. You know, I point—I bring him up because Phil Gramm was a Milton Friedman fanatic. I think you know this. In 1999, the same year that he led the charge to strike down Glass-Steagall, he also—Phil Gramm—pressed Congress to get the Medal of Honor for Friedman. When he ran in the—when he made his 1996 presidential run, McCain was the co-chair of his campaign. Phil Gramm was asked, “If you had to rely on a single person as your foremost economic policy adviser, who would it be?” And he replied, “Dr. Milton Friedman.” So we see the connections between deregulation and Friedmanism.

      I also think there’s something else at play in the kind of politicians that are attracted to this particular ideology. You know, Reagan was the first really to embrace it, and Nixon was the great disappointment to Friedman. I’m sure you all know that. You know, he writes in his memoir that when Nixon was elected, he was euphoric. I mean, he couldn’t imagine an American president more closely aligned ideologically than Richard Nixon. But Richard Nixon insisted on governing, and he wanted to win elections, and he imposed wage and price controls. And Milton Friedman sort of had a bit of a temper tantrum and declared him the most socialist president in modern American history. But, you know, it was—so it was really Reagan who campaigned, you know, with his copy of Capitalism and Freedom on the campaign trail, who was the first person to really put Friedmanism into practice.

      And I raise this because, you know, one of the things that we hear about McCain is that he doesn’t really know about economics, and so I think that makes us inclined not to take his economic ideas seriously, not to think he would be a really serious economic force. I think just the opposite. And I think if you look at his campaign platform, you see just the opposite. He wants to privatize Social Security. He is saying that in the first 100 days they’ll look at every single government program, and they will either reform it or shut it down if it is not serving taxpayers. I mean, they are talking about a sort of hundred-day economic shock therapy period. And I think it’s the fact that he doesn’t know about economics, and that Sarah Palin, I suspect, knows a little less, that actually makes them so dangerous.

      And I don’t—you know, I don’t think it is—not to be too flippant—I’m sure that I’ve, you know, offended everyone, so I may as well just say bad things about Ronald Reagan—but I do think that, you know, that it isn’t a coincidence that, you know, a movie star president champions these ideas, or a body-builder governor, you know, who says, “Dr. Friedman changed my life”—I don’t know if you’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introductions to Freedom to Choose, but they’re good. You should. YouTube them. But the appeal of these ideas, I think, to politicians who are actually in over their head on economics—and, by the way, this goes for military dictators, too, like Pinochet—who get control over a country and are totally clueless about how to run an economy, is that it lets them off the hook completely. It says government is the problem, not the solution. Leave it to the market. Laissez-faire. Don’t do anything. Just undo. Get out of the way. Leave it to us.


    AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein is author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, speaking at the University of Chicago against the naming of the economics institute there after its most famous economist, Milton Friedman.



    AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today is Naomi Klein. She took the world by storm with her first book, No Logo. Now she is back with The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

    Naomi, you’re talking about Milton Friedman. Expand it to the “Chicago School.”

    NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So the influence of Milton Friedman comes from his role in really being the popularizer of what’s known as the “Chicago School of Economics.” He taught at the University of Chicago. He studied, actually, at the University of Chicago, and then he went on to be a professor there. He was mentored by one of the most radical free-market economists of our time, Friedrich von Hayek, who also taught for a time at the University of Chicago.

    And the Chicago School of Economics really stands for this counterrevolution against the welfare state. In the 1950s, Harvard and Yale and the Ivy League schools tended to be dominated by Keynesian economists, people like the late John Kenneth Galbraith, who believe strongly that after the Great Depression, it was crucial that economics serve as a moderating force of the market, that it soften its edges. And this was really the birth of the New Deal, the welfare state, all of those things that actually make the market less brutal, whether it’s some kind of public healthcare system, unemployment insurance, welfare and so on. This was actually—the post-war period was a period of tremendous economic growth and prosperity in this country and around the world, but it really did eat into the profit margins of the wealthiest people in the United States, because this was the period where the middle class really grew and exploded.

    So the importance of the University of Chicago Economics Department is that it really was a tool for Wall Street, who funded the University of Chicago very, very heavily. Walter Wriston, the head of Citibank, was very close friends with Milton Friedman, and the University of Chicago became kind of ground zero for this counterrevolution against Keynesianism and the New Deal to dismantle the New Deal. So in the ‘50s and ’60s, it was seen as very, very marginal in the United States, because big government and the welfare state and all of these things that have become sort of dirty words in our lexicon thanks to the Chicago School—they didn’t have access to the halls of power.

    But that began to change. It began to change when Nixon was elected, because Nixon was very close with Milton Friedman, although Nixon decided not to embrace these policies domestically, because he realized he would lose the next election. And this is where I think you first see the incompatibility of these free-market policies with a democracy, with peace, because when Nixon was elected, Friedman was brought in as an adviser—he hired a whole bunch of Chicago School economists. And Milton Friedman writes in his memoirs that he thought, you know, finally their time had come. They were being brought in from the margins, and this sort of revolutionary group of these counterrevolutionaries were finally going to dismantle the welfare state in the USA. And what actually happened is that Nixon, you know, looked around, looked at the polls and realized that if he did what Milton Friedman was advising, he would absolutely lose the next election. And so, he did the worst thing possible, according to the Chicago School, which is impose wage and price controls.

    And the irony is that two key Chicago School figures, Donald Rumsfeld, who had studied with Friedman as a sort of—I guess he kind of audited his courses; he wasn’t enrolled as a student, but he describes this time as studying at the feet of geniuses, and he describes himself as the “young pup” at the University of Chicago—and George Shultz were the two people who imposed wage and price controls under Nixon and when Nixon declared, “We’re all Keynesians now.” So for Friedman this was a terrible betrayal, and it also made him think that maybe you couldn’t impose these policies in a democracy. And, you know, Nixon famously said, “We’re all Keynesians now,” but the catch was he wouldn’t impose these policies at home, because it would have cost him the next election, and Nixon was reelected with a 60% margin after he imposed wage and price controls. But he unleashed the school on Latin America and turned Chile, under Augusto Pinochet, into a laboratory for these radical ideas, which were not compatible with democracy in the United States but were infinitely possible under a dictatorship in Latin America.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in Chile.

    NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think Democracy Now! viewers and listeners know this chapter in history, which was that after Salvador Allende was elected, a democratic socialist was elected, in 1970, there was a plot to overthrow him. Nixon famously said, “Make the economy scream.” And the plot had many elements, an embargo and so on, and finally the support for Pinochet’s coup on September 11, 1973. And we often hear about the Chicago Boys in Chile, but we don’t hear that many details about who they actually were.

    And so, what I do in the book is I retell this chapter of history, but, for me, the economic agenda of the Pinochet government is much more front and center, because I think we do know the human rights abuses, we know about Pinochet rounding up people, taking them to stadiums, the summary executions, the torture. We know a little bit less about the economic program that he pushed in in the window of opportunity that opened up after the shock of that coup. And this is where it fits into the shock doctrine thesis.

    I think if you look at Chile—and this is why I spend some time in the book looking at it and examining it—we see Iraq. We see Iraq today. We see so many similarities between the intersection of a manufactured crisis and the imposition of radical economic shock therapy right afterward. So I’m thinking about the sort of parallels between Paul Bremer’s period in Iraq, when he went into Baghdad with the city still burning and just—you know, I came on the show at the time talking about how he had torn up the whole economic architecture of the country and turned it into this laboratory for the most radical free-market policies possible.

    Well, in Chile, on September 11, 1973, while the tanks were rolling in the streets of Santiago, while the presidential palace was burning and Salvador Allende lay dead, there was a group of so-called “Chicago Boys,” who were Chilean economists who had been brought to the University of Chicago to study on full scholarship by the US government as part of a deliberate strategy to try to move Latin America to the right, after it had moved so far to the left. So this was a very ideological government-funded program, part of what Chile’s former foreign minister calls “a project of deliberate ideological transfer,” i.e. bringing these students to this very extreme school at the University of Chicago and indoctrinating them in a brand of economics that was marginal in the United States at the time and then sending them home as ideological warriors.

    So this group of economists, who had failed to sway Chileans to their point of view when it was just part of, you know, an open debate, stayed up all night that night, on September 11, 1973, and they were photocopying a document called “the brick.” It’s known as “the brick.” And what it was was the economic program for Pinochet’s government. And it has these striking similarities, Amy, with George Bush’s 2000 election strategy—election platform. It talks about an ownership society, privatizing Social Security, charter schools, a flat tax. This is all straight out of Milton Friedman’s playbook. This document was on the desk of the generals on September the 12th, when they reported for work the day after the coup, and it was the program for Pinochet’s government.

    So what I’m doing in the book is saying, you know, these two things are not coincidental. You know, when Pinochet died—he died the same—shortly before Milton Friedman—we heard—or, actually, he died shortly after Milton Friedman—we heard this narrative, you know, in places like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, of, “Of course, we disapprove of his human rights violations,” and this sort of, you know, shaking of fingers at the atrocities that we know about in Chile, “but on the economy he was terrific,” as if there was no connection between the free-market revolution that he was able to push through and the extraordinary human rights violations that took place at the same time. And what I’m doing in the book and what many Latin Americans do in their work is obviously connect the two and say it would have been impossible to push through this economic program without the extraordinary repression and the demolition of democracy.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about shock in the sense of torture. It’s where you begin: “Blank is Beautiful.” Talk about that.

    NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I start the book looking at the two laboratories for the shock doctrine. As I said, I look at different forms of shock. One is the economic shock, and another is body shock, shocks to people. And they aren’t always there, but they have been there at key junctures. This is the shock of torture.

    So one of the laboratories for this doctrine was the University of Chicago in the 1950s, when all of these Latin American economists were trained to become economic shock therapists. Another one—and, you know, this isn’t some sort of grand conspiracy that it was all planned, but there was another school, which served as a different kind of shock laboratory, which was McGill University in the 1950s. McGill University was ground zero for the experiments that the CIA funded in order to understand how to—basically how to torture.

    I mean, it was called “mind control” at the time or “brainwashing” at the time, but now we understand, thanks to the work of people like Alfred McCoy, who has been a guest on your program, that actually what was being researched in the 1950s under the MK-ULTRA program, when there were these experiments in extreme electroshock, LSD, PCP, extreme sensory deprivation, sensory overload, that actually what was being developed was the manual that we can now see at use in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. This is a manual for unmaking personalities, for total regression of personalities, and creating that window of opportunity where people are very suggestible, as we saw in the film. So McGill, in part because I think it was seen by the CIA as easier to perform these experiments outside the US—

    AMY GOODMAN: McGill in Montreal.

    NAOMI KLEIN: McGill in Montreal. At the time, the head of psychiatry was a man named Ewen Cameron. He was actually an American citizen. He was formerly head of the American Psychiatric Association, which I think is quite relevant to the debates going on right now about complicity in the psychiatric profession with current interrogation techniques. Ewen Cameron was head of the American Psychiatric Association. He moved to McGill to be head of psychiatry and to head up a hospital called the Allan Memorial Hospital, which was a psychiatric hospital.

    He got funding from the CIA, and he turned the Allan Memorial Hospital into this extraordinary laboratory for what we now understand as alternative interrogation techniques. He dosed his patients with these odd cocktails of drugs, like LSD and PCP. He put them to sleep, sort of into a comatose state for up to a month. He put some of his patients into extreme sensory deprivation, and the point was to make them lose track of time and space.

    And what Ewen Cameron believed, or at least what he said he believed, was that all mental illness was taught later in life, that these were patterns that set in later in life. He was a behavioral psychologist. And so, rather than getting at the root of those problems and trying to understand them, he believed that the way to treat mental illness was to take adult patients and reduce them to a childlike state. And it’s been well known—it was well known at the time—that one of the side effects of electroshock therapy was memory loss. And this was something that was seen, actually, by most doctors as a problem, because patients were treated, they may have reported some positive results, but they forgot all kinds of things about their life. Ewen Cameron looked at this research and thought, “Aha, this is good,” because he believed that it was the patterns that—because he believed that it was the patterns that were set in later in life, that if he could take his patients back to an infantile state, before they even had language, before they knew who they were, then he could essentially re-mother them, and he could turn them into healthy people. So this is the idea that caught the attention of the CIA, this idea of deliberately inducing extreme regression.

    AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the woman you visited in the nursing home who had gone through this.

    NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. I start the book with a profile of a woman name Gail Kastner. Gail Kastner was one of Ewen Cameron’s patients. And I read about her because she successfully sued the Canadian government, which was also funding Ewen Cameron. I read about her lawsuit, that she had just won an important victory: she had gotten a settlement, because she had been used as a guinea pig in these experiments without her knowledge.

    So I called her, actually just got her number from the phone book. And she was very, very reticent to talk at first. She said she hated journalists, and it was very difficult for her to talk about it, because she would relive all these experiences. And I said, well—she said, “What do you want to talk to me about?” And I said, “Well, I just got back from Iraq”—and this was 2004—“and I feel like something that was done to you, the philosophy of what was done to you, has something to do with what I saw in Iraq, which was this desire to wipe clean a country and to start over from scratch. And I even think that some of what we’re seeing at Guantanamo with this attempt to regress prisoners through sensory deprivation and remake them is also related to what happened to you.” And there was this long pause. And she said, “OK, come and see me.”

    So I flew to Montreal, and we spent the day talking, and she shared her story with me. She talks about her electric dreams, which is, she doesn’t have very many memories of what happened to her in this period, because she underwent such extraordinary shock and it did wipe out her memory. She regressed to the point where she sucked her thumb, urinated on the floor, didn’t know who she was, and she didn’t have any memory of this, any memory at all that she had ever been hospitalized. She only realized it, I think, twenty years later, when she read an article about a group of fellow patients who had successfully sued the CIA. And she picked out a few lines in the newspaper articles—regression, loss of language—and she thought, “Wait a minute, this sounds like me. This sounds like what I’ve heard about myself.” And so, she went and she asked her family, “Was I ever at the Allan Memorial Hospital?” And at first they denied it, and then they admitted it. She requested her file, and she read that, yes, she had been admitted by Dr. Ewen Cameron, and she saw all of these extraordinary treatments that had been done to her.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, but when we come back, we’re going to move from shocking the individual, shocking the body, to shocking the body politic, whether in Chile or in Iraq. We’re talking to Naomi Klein. Her book is being released today. It’s called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Stay with us.

    The Unspoken Word Behind Words Never Lies

    AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Noam.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be with you again.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, let’s start off by your response to President Obama’s statement and whether you think it represents a change.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s approximately the Bush position. He began by saying that Israel, like any democracy, has a right to defend itself. That’s true, but there’s a gap in the reasoning. It has a right to defend itself. It doesn’t follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. So we might agree, say, that, you know, the British army in the United States in the colonies in 1776 had a right to defend itself from the terror of George Washington’s armies, which was quite real, but it didn’t follow they had a right to defend themselves by force, because they had no right to be here. So, yes, they had a right to defend themselves, and they had a way to do it—namely, leave. Same with the Nazis defending themselves against the terror of the partisans. They have no right to do it by force. In the case of Israel, it’s exactly the same. They have a right to defend themselves, and they can easily do it. One, in a narrow sense, they could have done it by accepting the ceasefire that Hamas proposed right before the invasion—I won’t go through the details—a ceasefire that had been in place and that Israel violated and broke.

    But in a broader sense—and this is a crucial omission in everything Obama said, and if you know who his advisers are, you understand why—Israel can defend itself by stopping its crimes. Gaza and the West Bank are a unit. Israel, with US backing, is carrying out constant crimes, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, where it is moving systematically with US support to take over the parts of the West Bank that it wants and to leave Palestinians isolated in unviable cantons, Bantustans, as Sharon called them. Well, stop those crimes, and resistance to them will stop.

    Now, Israel has been able pretty much to stop resistance in the Occupied Territories, thanks in large part to the training that Obama praised by Jordan, of course with US funding and monitoring control. So, yes, they’ve managed to. They, in fact, have been suppressing demonstrations, even demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, that called for support for the people of Gaza. They have carried out lots of arrests. In fact, they’re a collaborationist force, which supports the US and Israel in their effort to take over the West Bank.

    Now, that’s what Obama—if Israel—there’s no question that all of these acts are in total violation of the foundations of international humanitarian law. Israel knows it. Their own advisers have told each other—legal advisers have explained that to them back in ’67. The World Court ruled on it. So it’s all total criminality. But they want to be able to persist without any objection. And that’s the thrust of Obama’s remarks. Not a single word about US-backed Israeli crimes, settlement development, cantonization, a takeover in the West Bank. Rather, everyone should be quiet and let the United States and Israel continue with it.

    He spoke about the constructive steps of the peace—of the Arab peace agreement very selectively. He said they should move forward towards normalization of relations with Israel. But that wasn’t the main theme of the Arab League peace proposal. It was that there should be a two-state settlement, which the US blocks. I mean, he said some words about a two-state settlement, but not where or when or how or anything else. He said nothing about the core of the problem: the US-backed criminal activities both in Gaza, which they attacked at will, and crucially in the West Bank. That’s the core of the problem.

    And you can understand it when you look at his advisers. So, say, Dennis Ross wrote an 800-page book about—in which he blamed Arafat for everything that’s happening—barely mentions the word “settlement” over—which was increasing steadily during the period when he was Clinton’s adviser, in fact peaked, a sharp increase in Clinton’s last year, not a word about it.

    So the thrust of his remarks, Obama’s remarks, is that Israel has a right to defend itself by force, even though it has peaceful means to defend itself, that the Arabs must—states must move constructively to normalize relations with Israel, but very carefully omitting the main part of their proposal was that Israel, which is Israel and the United States, should join the overwhelming international consensus for a two-state settlement. That’s missing.

    Our Patriarchal Cult of Kinetic Power

    O brother, my Brothers! I've got something from the Department of Comparative Mythology you're going to love.

    Hey Dave, very long time no see. We met back in Seattle in the 80s when the Center for Democratic Renewal was holding Hidden Hate Crime hearings in the U District. I was a psychology undergrad back then. Max, I've never met you, but I've become a fan of your killer videos. I was doing that kind of thing back in the day, only with crappy cassette recorders. I'm so jealous!

    Now I'm a grad school dropout, convenience store cashier, house-painter extraordinaire, and Zen poet. I've been studying the mythological aspects of empathically-mediated altruism for some time now.

    Joseph Campbell lectured for years at the Foreign Service Institute, beginning in 1956. Someone is using the power of myth to power weapons-grade propaganda in a process of manufacturing consent I call myth-jacking.

    It's a synthesis of Klein's Shock Doctrine, radical behaviorism, military kinetics, and comparative mythology. This is how we do it!

    I bow in your virtual directions,
    Dave "knowbuddhau" Parker
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Myth-Jack THIS

    ALICE WALKER: "Well, I think it's it's quite a wonderful occasion. uh I would've liked, of course, a bit more feminine uh in the prayers, I would like a mother-father god rather than a patriarchal, only male god, um but I think that that is um something that we can live with, since we've gotten this wonderful new administration which I think can listen, it may not change things as much as we would like, but um I think we would have a hearing, which is would be very different than what we have suffered for the last eight years." [Democracy Now! Tuesday January 20, 2009 01:43:25-01:44:00 http://www.democracynow.org/pages/inauguration]
    The Associated Press embraces the Orwellian tactics of Bush followers to describe the debate over Guantanamo detainees
    • The Torturers are a Patriarchal Cult of Kinetic Power

      And Cultist Warren invoked the ultimate terrorist, the torturer-in-chief. His "prayer" was a nationalist sermon. Sadly, Obama also sounded the themes of this patriarchal cult of kinetic power.

      ALAN WATTS: A society of ‘the saved,’ you see, necessarily requires outside it a society of ‘the not saved.’ Because if there is not that contrast, you don't know that you belong to the in group. And in this way all social groups with claims to some kind of special status must necessarily create aliens and foreigners. And St. Thomas Aquinas let the cat out of the bag one day when he said that the saints, in heaven, would occasionally peer over the battlements into Hell and praise god for the just punishment visited upon evil-doers.

      Because our image of god, and the image, don't forget, has far more emotional power than any amount of theology and abstractions. It is "Our Father" which really influences us, as a conception of god, not "necessary being," or Tillich's decontaminated name for god, "the ground of being," or Professor Northrup's uh "undifferentiated aesthetic continuum," [laughter], uh these aren't very moving. even though subtle theologians prefer this kind of thing. and will tell us that when we call god the father, we don't have to believe literally that there is a cosmic male parent and still less that he has a white beard, and sits on a golden throne above the stars. Nobody no serious theologian ever believed in such a god.

      But nevertheless the imagery affects us because the image of the monotheistic god of the West is political. The title King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the title of the emperors of ancient Persia. The image of god is based on: the pharaohs; the great rulers of the Chaldeans; and the Kings of Persia. And so this is the political governor and lord of the universe, who keeps order and who rules it, from, metaphorically speaking, above. So anyone who would say, I am god, is therefore implying that he's in charge of everything that he knows all about it and therefore everybody else ought to bow down and worship him. But in India if you say, I am god, they say, Congratulations, at last you've found out. Because the image is quite different.

      See our image of the world is that the world is a construct. And it's very natural for a child to say to its mother, how was I made? As if you know you were somehow put together but that goes back to the imagery of Genesis where god creates Adam and makes a clay figurine. And then he breathes the breath of life into the nostrils of this figurine and it comes to life. So there is the fundamental supposition that even underlies the development of Western science: that everything has been made and then someone knows how it was made. And you can find out, because behind the universe there is an architect. This could be called, the Ceramic Model of the Universe.

      Because there's a basic feeling that there are two things in existence: one is stuff, material, and the other is form. Now material, like clay, by itself, is stupid, it has no life in it--has no intelligence, and therefore for matter to assume orderly forms it requires that an external intelligence be introduced to shape it. And therefore with that deeply embedded in our common sense it's very difficult for people to realize that this image is not necessarily for a description of the world at all, in fact the concept of stuff is completely absent from modern physics, which studies the universe purely in terms of pattern and structure.

      The monotheistic god of the West is a tyrant who forces inert, stupid, god-forsaken dirt into order from the absolute outside. We do the same with everything outside our skin; with drugs and medicines--and potent ideologies-- we do the same on the inside, too.

      We are free, sure: free to follow his dictates to the letter, any discrepancy being reason enough to cast us into burning hell forever unless we beg convincingly for mercy.

      This is the mythology of the torturers.

      RICK WARREN: Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story.

      The Scripture tells us Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

      May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

      I [a man,] humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS) [a man], who taught us to pray, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

      Amen.

      Myths shape the cosmos in which we enact the theater of life. We use our war machines to raze our enemies to the negative second power, simultaneously exalting ourselves to demi-god status—we’ve turned deus ex machina into “Shock & Awe.”

      In his address, Obama invoked another political god: our Father in Washington, General George Washington, neatly conflating God, Washington, and himself, drawing on divine authority for political power.

      So much for separation of church and state!


    BARACK OBAMA: We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you,” for we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

    We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth. And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

    To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those—to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

    To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect, for the world has changed, and we must change with it.

    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them, not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

    And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all, for as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

    It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job, which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

    Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

    What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but, rather, seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

    This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

    So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

    At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”

    America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

    Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/21/president_obama_calls_for_new_era


    Here are two examples of myth-jacking from the Foreign Service Institute Web site. I wonder what the report on US looks like? That's why I'm writing to you two: if you were tasked with myth-jacking US to war, how would you do it? From McCarthy to McCain, I'm tellin' ya, brothers, this is how we do it. The first paragraph is perfectly Campbellian.

    POLITICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE IRANIAN URBAN MIDDLE CLASS AND IMPLICATIONS THEREOF FOR U.S. POLICY

    Attachment 2/ /6/Confidential, Drafted by Bowling on March 20.
    Definition

    A meaningful definition of the Iranian urban middle class must be sociological and historical, not primarily economic. The urban middle class constitutes that element of Iranian society in which there are present two cultures, two value systems, the traditional and the Western. Those elements of society in which the traditional value systems are overwhelmingly predominant are excluded, i.e., the peasantry, both in the countryside and recently arrived in the large cities, most landlords, older religious leaders, and the great majority of small merchants and artisans outside the capital. Similarly excluded is the very small minority of thoroughly Westernized individuals, in high levels of society, who are really strangers in their own society.

    The political middle class must be identified with the process of cultural clash.

    [...]

    Good and Evil

    There are certain key concepts of the world which are born and bred into Iranians which unfortunately tend to sharpen the terrible psychological dilemma outlined above. They are rooted in Iranian history, and can be traced back to Zoroastrianism and picked up again in the Iranian interpretation of Shi'a Islam.

    Persians tend to believe in the all-pervasive presence of a powerful force of evil in the world. All actions, all motives, are divisible into good and evil. It is probable at any time in history that the forces of evil control the world, while the good man, like the hidden Imam, is forced to hide and remain inconspicuous, to lie and pretend if need be, until the moment arrives for battle. Thus, most Persians cannot ascribe political actions with which they disagree to error, or to grant good intentions to the author of such actions. The term "political compromise" cannot be translated into colloquial Persian without a connotation of "sell-out".

    Two results follow from this--first, since the forces of evil are strong and organized, actions by others which one disapproves are not isolated, they are linked together in a mesh of intertwining conspiracies with an overall evil motive behind them. Second, public and private morality are inextricably confused--no politician with a reprehensible private life can be other than evil in his public actions, and no saintly man can be really wrong in his public life.

    As a corollary of the above, Persians tend to follow blindly a man who has convinced them that he is on the side of right, without examining political issues critically. Since members of the urban middle class have deep aggressive drives against the traditional ruling class and the Westerner, it is natural to associate a saintly leader with opposition to these two forces. All the ingredients are present for what we would call demagogic politics directed against them as scapegoats and as evil forces. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/kennedyjf/xvii/17704.htm


    U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa
    James Swan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    4th International Conference on Ethiopian Development Studies
    Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
    August 4, 2007

    As Delivered
    [...]
    The Eritrean Government has fabricated a national mythology by demonizing neighboring Ethiopia, for the central purpose of garnering complete compliance with his autocratic domestic policies. By channeling Eritreans' patriotism into hostility toward Ethiopia, the government ensures that [it] can rule as it likes, without public opposition. Democracy and economic opportunity remain purely theoretical concepts for the people of Eritrea. [http://www.state.gov/p/af/rls/rm/90573.htm]

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Listen Closely to These Unspoken Words

    Robert Fisk: So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza...

    Originally published Thursday, 22 January 2009 in TheIndependent.co.uk


    It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.

    There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

    But for the people of the Middle East, the absence of the word "Gaza" – indeed, the word "Israel" as well – was the dark shadow over Obama's inaugural address. Didn't he care? Was he frightened? Did Obama's young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights – why a black man's father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago – would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people? It wasn't a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.

    Sure, it's easy to be cynical. Arab rhetoric has something in common with Obama's clichés: "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play ... loyalty and patriotism". But however much distance the new President put between himself and the vicious regime he was replacing, 9/11 still hung like a cloud over New York. We had to remember "the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke". Indeed, for Arabs, the "our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" was pure Bush; the one reference to "terror", the old Bush and Israeli fear word, was a worrying sign that the new White House still hasn't got the message. Hence we had Obama, apparently talking about Islamist groups such as the Taliban who were "slaughtering innocents" but who "cannot outlast us". As for those in the speech who are corrupt and who "silence dissent", presumably intended to be the Iranian government, most Arabs would associate this habit with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (who also, of course, received a phone call from Obama yesterday), King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and a host of other autocrats and head-choppers who are supposed to be America's friends in the Middle East.

    Hanan Ashrawi got it right. The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be "immediate" she said, at once. But if the gentle George Mitchell's appointment was meant to answer this demand, the inaugural speech, a real "B-minus" in the Middle East, did not.

    The friendly message to Muslims, "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect", simply did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring in outrage. Yes, the Arabs and many other Muslim nations, and, of course, most of the world, can rejoice that the awful Bush has gone. So, too, Guantanamo. But will Bush's torturers and Rumsfeld's torturers be punished? Or quietly promoted to a job where they don't have to use water and cloths, and listen to men screaming?

    Sure, give the man a chance. Maybe George Mitchell will talk to Hamas – he's just the man to try – but what will the old failures such as Denis Ross have to say, and Rahm Emanuel and, indeed, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton? More a sermon than an Obama inaugural, even the Palestinians in Damascus spotted the absence of those two words: Palestine and Israel. So hot to touch they were, and on a freezing Washington day, Obama wasn't even wearing gloves.

    Our American Dictatorship

    America Is Moving Toward Czarism and Away from Democracy

    By David Sirota, SFGate.com. Posted January 24, 2009.
    Via AlterNet.org

    Every patriot should be concerned about the intensifying efforts to supplant democracy with something far more authoritarian: "American czarism."

    History's great American parables teach that if anything unified our founders, it was a deep antipathy to dictatorship. As bourgeois revolutionaries from Boston to Philadelphia courageously split with the British crown in 1776, they created three equal branches of government to prevent, in the words of James Madison, "a tyrannical concentration of all the powers" in a president's hands.

    For two centuries since, civics books, Hollywood biopics and party convention speeches have constructed a mythology insisting that this democratic commitment to checks and balances makes our country a beacon of freedom -- the "shining city on a hill" overlooking a despotic world below. We are told that democracy's tumult -- its messy debates, legislative sausage-making and electoral friction -- is the best way to guarantee that public policy represents public will, therefore making us a strong and durable nation.

    If that is true, then every patriot should be concerned about the intensifying efforts to supplant democracy with something far more authoritarian. Call it American czarism.


    That term should be as impossibly oxymoronic as crash landings and deafening silence, considering our Constitution's desire to create a "government of laws and not of men," as John Adams said. But politics is filled with paradoxes from Reagan Democrats to Obama Republicans, and czars -- i.e., policymakers granted extralegal, cross-agency powers -- have become increasingly prevalent in our government over the past century.

    After the Great Flood of 1927, for instance, President Calvin Coolidge named Herbert Hoover the federal government czar overseeing relief efforts, and Hoover subsequently appointed "dictators" (he actually used that term) to help coordinate the response.

    During the power consolidations of the New Deal in the 1930s, a Time magazine story headlined "Dictator or Democrat" reported on the "suspicions of those throughout the nation who have an uneasy feeling that [President Franklin] Roosevelt, under cover of the emergency, is trying 'to slip something over' on democracy." In the 1940s and 1950s, parks commissioner Robert Moses -- famously known as "the power broker" -- amassed so much personal authority that he was able to almost single-handedly redesign New York City. And lately, presidents have given us poverty, energy, drug, health and even Iraq war czars.

    Until now, this slow lurch toward czarism has primarily reflected the ancient, almost innate human desire for power and paternalistic leadership. The current president reminded us that executives see all-powerful "deciders" when they look in the mirror. And Americans -- sans kings to rally around -- have been elevating commanders in chief to superhero status well before Barack Obama's Marvel comic-book debut and George Bush's flight-suited "Top Gun" impression in 2003.

    In recent years, this culture of "presidentialism," as Vanderbilt Professor Dana Nelson calls it, has justified the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps and a radical theory of the "unitary executive" that aims to provide a jurisprudential rationale for total White House supremacy over all government. But only in the past three months has American czarism metastasized from a troubling slow-growth tumor to a potentially deadly cancer.

    In October, Congress relinquished its most basic oversight powers and gave Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sole authority to dole out billions of bailout dollars to Wall Street. At the same time, it did nothing when Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke used fiats to commit "$5 trillion worth of new money, loan guarantees and loosened lending requirements," according to Politico -- all while he refused to tell the public who is receiving the largesse.

    And the Washington Post has reported that lawmakers may appoint a "car czar" who "would essentially control the purse strings" of an auto industry bailout and "could force Detroit's Big Three automakers into bankruptcy" if he or she didn't like their behavior.

    Put bluntly, the unprecedented usurpation of spending power by the executive branch and the Federal Reserve is systematically undermining our democracy's most sacrosanct principle -- the one that is supposed to ensure "the legislative department alone has access to the pockets of the people," as Madison said. And this new czarism is so strident because it reflects both executive power lust and the 21st century economy.

    Today, keystrokes and mouse-clicks instantly whisk trillions of dollars across the planet, and many of those keystrokes and mouse-clicks are uninhibited by the grindingly slow processes of democracy.

    Saudi princes don't have to publish announcements in a federal register before moving cash from sovereign wealth funds into foreign investments. China's rulers aren't obligated to obtain legislative approval when buying or dumping U.S. Treasury bills; and transnational corporations will not wait for public hearings before shuttering offices, eliminating jobs and cutting off credit.

    Our nation is integrally connected to this fast-moving globalized economy, and American czarism effectively posits that in order to compete, we must anoint strongmen as saviors, prioritize speed instead of sobriety and emulate dictatorship instead of democracy.

    Indeed, the Economist magazine's prediction that the "economic crisis may increase the attractiveness of the Chinese model of authoritarian capitalism" is coming true right here at home, as we seem ever more intent on replicating -- rather than resisting -- that model.

    This, as much as personal hubris, explains why Paulson and Bernanke sought unprecedented latitude in spending trillions -- they want to be able to move as fast as their autocratic counterparts in other countries, and believe congressional oversight will slow them down.

    It explains why UC Berkeley economist Laura Tyson says we need an auto czar who will "take a number of approaches to this problem that are already known, that have been discussed endlessly, and force it through" -- because to economists, a czar quickly "forcing it through" is more important than any consideration for democratic deliberation.

    And it explains why when Obama aides this week demanded complete control over the second half of the Wall Street bailout funds, House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D -- Mass., shirked his oversight duties and said he's "willing to accept their word" that they will spend the money responsibly. In czarism, that's what legislators do: "accept the word" of the czar.

    In sum, it explains why the age-old struggle between capitalism and democracy is once again defining our politics -- and why capitalism is now winning.

    That triumph may be terrific for the czars and great for their industry suitors, but as the founders would likely agree, it is a pyrrhic victory for America.

    David Sirota is a best-selling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released this month. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network -- both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    "The evidence is sitting on the table." --Manfred Nowak, UN Rapporteur for Torture

    Trouble is, Nancy "No Impeachment" Pelosi controls that table.

    UN Rapporteur: Initiate criminal proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld now

    By Scott Horton
    Originally publishe January 21, 2009 in No Comment at Harpers.org

    In an interview on Tuesday evening with the German television program “Frontal 21,” on channel ZDF Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Rapporteur responsible for torture, stated that with George W. Bush’s head of state immunity now terminated, the new government of Barack Obama was obligated by international law to commence a criminal investigation into Bush’s torture practices.

    “The evidence is sitting on the table,” he stated. “There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.” He pointed to the U.S. undertakings under the Convention Against Torture in which the country committed that it would criminally prosecute anyone who tortured, or extradite the person to a state that would prosecute him. “The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court,” Nowak said.

    Manfred Nowak, an internationally renowned law professor at the University of Vienna, currently serves as an independent expert for the United Nations looking at allegations of torture affecting member states. In 2006, he undertook a special investigation of conditions at the U.S. detention facilities at Guantánamo in which he concluded that practices approved by the Bush Administration violated human rights norms, including the prohibition against torture.

    The ZDF piece also includes an interview with attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, who brought charges against Rumsfeld before German prosecutors. He states that the Obama administration is “off to a good beginning” with its explicit renunciation of torture, but it still has not shown how it will hold Bush, Rumsfeld, and others to account for their crimes, nor has it demonstrated its legally obligated duty to provide compensation to torture victims.

    Law professor Dietmar Herz clarifies that under U.S. and international law, George W. Bush bears personal responsibility for the introduction of torture. From the point of his departure from office, head of state immunity terminates, and under clear principles of international law, the United States is obligated to commence a criminal investigation and then a prosecution.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    The Fix Is In The Myth

    HA! Sister Alice Walker said it even as I was trying to unfreeze Firefox: the imagery was entirely patriarchal. "I'd like to have seen a mother-father god," she said, instead of just the patriarchal god alone.

    That's the thing about this monotheistic god of the West: it's a deification of being a cosmic pinhead. It's a dick thing.

    Listen to Warren, to the oaths, to the oddly truncated history Obama reviews wherein "44 Americans have taken the oath of office," entirely eliding their extreme homogeneity: 100% rich white male Christian Imperialists [have preceded him]. He invokes the ghosts of the Revolutionary War, then skips clean over every other ghost up until the 20th century. What's up with that?

    Obama closes the circuit by invoking our Father again, only this time, it's our political god in Washington, not Heaven: General George Washington. So we have god the all powerful tyrant-creator, sole authority over all, nicely conflated with the founding fathers of our country. Thus, Obama is drawing on divine authority for political power.

    Myth-jacking!

    When the transcript is up, I'll quote Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church, invoking the Old Testament god of ultimate male-only authority.

    Rev. Lowry stole the show. I'll update this post with his closing poem.

    "I Barack--I Barack Hussein Obama"

    So help him god, Obama is president!

    DiFi Announces Justice Roberts

    "Everyone, please stand."

    Was John Williams Sober When He Wrote This?

    Sounds like drunken whales singing.

    Sounds Like Whales Singing

    The music, to me, sounds like whales singing. I'm sure the crowd of over a million is suitably impressed. It's 2 minutes past! Swear him in already!

    What?! Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Another Playing a John Williams Composition

    It's time! Swear him in already!

    ". . . so help me god."

    So much for the separation of church and state.

    Bennet Introduces Justice Stevens to Give the Oath to Biden

    Here he goes, he's swearing in.

    Aretha Franklin is Singing "Our Country Tis of Thee"

    And she's wearing a grey hat with an enormous bow that covers as much ground as here vocal stylings.

    Dr. Rick Warren is Turning a Democratic Prayer into an Imperial Sermon

    ". . . and every one of our freely elected leaders." And what of the rest?

    And when we go on, tomorrow, to behave just as badly as we did yesterday, forgive us. We're just going through the motions here.

    ". . . .and all the nations of the world will stand before you in judgement."

    Now he's invoking royalist imagery in the invocation of a democratically elected president. Totally inappropriate use of mythology, for the people; totally appropriate, for the Establishment.

    DiFi Lays Claim to the American Dream

    This is the moment when the American Dream finally reaches the White House, she says.

    "I call on Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church."

    OMG! Listen to this: what a tyrant he describes, a patriarchal tyrant, alone. He's not praying, he's preaching.

    And the Crowd Goes Wild! Is DiFi an Android?

    The crowd is cheering, the band is playing, Obama is descending the steps. "Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats." Senator Diane Feinstein is announced. She welcomes us to the ceremony. The crowd cheers briefly. My stream is choppy, she sounds like Max Headroom.

    President-Elect Obama is Announced

    The announcer's voice makes it sound like a sporting event. Here's the fanfare!

    "And now the moment."

    Obama is set to appear any second now.

    Another fanfare: Here Comes Biden

    The officials are appearing solo, without their spouses, notes Alice Walker.

    Cheney Is In A Wheel Chair

    Vice President Cheney has been wheeled in! Wheeled in in a wheel chair, having hurt his back packing boxes.

    The Fanfare Has Sounded

    Watching the Inaugural ceremonies live on Democracy Now!

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    O How I Miss Vine Deloria Jr. Right Now

    [This comment has been edited by its author since first posting on Glenn Greenwald's blog Unclaimed Territory at Salon.com.]

    The Tools of Law vs. This Kerneling Spirit
    [Read the article: Binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture]
    [Read more letters about this article: Here]


    O how I miss Vine Deloria Jr. right now. He used to say, Indians "laugh themselves sick" when they hear about the importance of treaties and how much respect there is in Washington for the rule of law. The tools of law use law as a tool of dominance.

    Everything being said about Israel's Occupied Territories applies to America's, too. We even took the precaution of slaughtering the buffalo, outlawing the languages, kidnapping the children, in every way depriving the people of their culture as a matter of public policy.

    (By the way, where are the billions of dollars due to tribes from the BIA trust funds?)

    So now, with the blatant disregard for the law shown by our "Holy" War Party leaders having become so flagrant that it's impossible to deny, white America is experiencing the terror of having no standing, no voice, no recognition, no redress inflicted by design, by deliberate intent of the "authorities."

    Hey, you whining Liberals, you harping Conservatives: Tell it to the Indians. Tell it to those who were promised 40 acres and a mule, and got Jim Crowed instead.

    Welcome to the plantation.

    A terrorized, docile, self-imprisoned population is the intent of the atavistic strategy we've been using to establish "full-spectrum dominance:" namely, fear and control.

    Let's define some terms. What are we? Are we sovereign, self-aware citizens who share being aware of our shared becoming? Or are we rats in Skinner Boxes, mere Newtonian automata, god-forsaken machines susceptible to malicious hacking?

    Do we force our selves into being? Or do we will our intentions into realities? Examine your own habits of belief, thought, and speech. Are you an unwitting mechanical holy warrior?

    We are not machines, we are organic beings. We are not forced into order from the outside by a tyrant-creator; we grow from within.

    This is about white Western male dominance and the tragic failure to see that every act of oppression has an equal and opposite effect on the oppressed. The power of oppression is ultimately self-defeating.

    The Cult of Power

    [[[Full-spectrum dominance / "the morale of the state"///[[[{{{Protestors}}}]]]800]]]

    • Full-spectrum dominance over the morale of the state powered by the sacrificial imprisonment of 800 protestors.

    Our More Perfect Union

    beloved/[{Protestors}800]/Beloved

    • This should go without saying: the more we are oppressed, the stronger our resistance becomes.

    1100 dead Gazans compared to 10 dead Israeli soldiers. Now that's what I call "leveraging." The difference is of two orders of magnitude; two "powers."

    Israel is razing Gaza to the negative second power, aka "bombing them back to the Stone Age." The US is supplying the weaponry for Israel to exalt itself to the second power, aka deus ex machina aka "Shock & Awe."

    So there stands proud Israel over prostrate Palestine, propped up and powered by machines of war made in the USA. There's no question that our actions are monstrous. The question is: Which one is Dr. Frankenstein, and which the Monster? And what makes you think you aren't either?

    James Joyce would remind us that we are all implicated in causing the suffering, and the suffering itself. As an American, I am part of the cause of the war; as a human, I identify with the suffers on "both sides." Who drew the line? Isn't the drawing of lines, the saved vs. the damned, for example, the root of the problem?

    By conceiving of our selves as essentially divided from our own Mother, we make of Her our shadow monster, then spend eternity running from and fighting with our very own source and destination: from the womb to the tomb, we all come out of a mother and go back into the Mother.

    America has, too, waged aggressive war in the past, Iraq was not the first; we have, too, tortured in the past, we have our own atrocities for which to atone. And new ones almost every day. It's as if some of us never heard of Mark Twain and the Anti-Imperialist League.

    Machining our selves, our Beloved, and our Mother into submission is the problem, not the answer.

    How is this spirit kerneling through this husk of stones? As a plant grows: from within.
    Permalink Sunday, January 18, 2009 09:43 AM

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Paging Speaker Pelosi, Can You Hear Me Now?

    Another Admission: Okay, So We Tortured
    By Scott Horton
    Originally published january 14, 2009 on No Comment at Harpers.org

    Susan J. Crawford served as general counsel to the Army for Ronald Reagan and as Dick Cheney’s inspector general while he was secretary of defense, then landed an appointment to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. According to Professor David Glazier, a prominent practitioner and scholar of the court’s jurisprudence, she was the most reliable and consistent pro-government vote on that court, authoring less than her fair share of opinions and focusing instead on dissents in which she carped at her colleagues for occasionally ruling in favor of service members. In short, she was the perfect vehicle for Bush-style justice for the Gitmo detainees.

    [...]
    Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani’s health led to her conclusion. “The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, she said.

    This admission is important for several reasons. First, it is an acknowledgement of criminal conduct by the administration by one of its own team. Second, Crawford very properly abandons the absurd legalisms of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel which essentially boil down to “if the president authorizes it, that means it’s legal.” Third, she has apparently evaluated “torture” on the basis of the totality of the treatment meted out by interrogators and jailers to the prisoner, not by segmenting and evaluating each individual technique applied. That is what the law requires, and what the Justice Department studiously ignores, fully aware of the inevitable conclusion to which it would lead. It adds up to another admission of high crimes. The case for criminal accountability continues to build. http://harpers.org/archive/2009/01/hbc-90004186
    Nancy "No Impeachment" Pelosi: "If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story...."

    "JUAN GONZALEZ: ...Congressman Kucinich, your response to her take on the situation with impeachment?"

    "REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, now that I"ve heard that the Speaker is looking for evidence that crimes may have been committed, I certainly want to direct her attention to the thirty-five articles of impeachment that I presented, which assert quite directly that crimes have been committed,...There are many examples of laws that have been broken." [End DN! http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/30/house_speaker_nancy_pelosi_defends_her]

    We have the goods. Do we have a democratic republic, or feudalism?

    "[F]eudalism in this sense is... based on the relation between lords and the peasants who worked their own land and that of the lord. The peasants owed labour service to the lords, who provided military protection and also had extensive police, judicial, and other rights over the peasants. In this view, feudalism came to encompass all aspects of social organization and was characterized as a system that was both oppressive and hierarchical...feudalism involves the exchange of allegiance for a grant of land (fief) between two people, usually men, of noble status." [Encyclopedia Britannica 2008]

    Congress and its committees are ours, not fiefs of either party.