The Original Torture Memos

FLASH: Idaho State Sen. tables bill mandating the torture of Idaho youth en masse. No, srsly:

Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.

When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, “That book made my son a Republican.”

[...]

“It was a shot over their bow just to let them know that there’s another way to adopt high school graduation requirements,” Goedde said after the meeting.

Christ.  Extended stress positions and waterboarding would be infinitely more humane. Have you no decency, sir?

Related: Ayn Rand – The Comic.

The Shock Doctrine 1: The Erased World

by matttbastard

Introduction: Blank is Beautiful

Three decades of erasing and remaking the world

The Shock Doctrine opens with a quote from the Book of Genesis, chapter 6, verse 11:

Now the Earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the rest of the earth.

(Creative) destruction in order to cleanse the world of corruption.

What happens when neoliberal economic theory is applied–in many cases through violent, often horrific coercion? Naomi Klein begins her best-selling chronicle of  capitalist Utopianism run amok in post-Katrina Louisiana, where Milton Friedman, revolutionary evangelist of coolly amoral free market fundamentalism, sees an opportunity in Katrina’s destructive wake:

“[I]nstead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they then could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subsidized by the state.”

The result?

Within nineteen months, with most of the city’s poor residents still in exile, New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools; now it just ran 4. Before the storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31.

Klein refers to this sort of opportunistic, ideologically-motivated renewal project ‘disaster capitalism’, noting that, over the past several decades, “Friedman and his powerful followers had been perfecting this very strategy: waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock.”

Shock.

It’s a theme Klein continually examines and reexamines throughout the book–and not simply  in a metaphorical sense, as I will discuss further in later installments.

What stood out most for me in the introduction was how effectively Klein weaves together seemingly disparate strands of neoliberal economics, US foreign policy, and experimental psychology into a coherent thesis.  She manages to avoid the logical inconsistencies of conspiracy theory,  meticulously spreading the foundation for her thesis and taking advantage of her background as an investigative journalist to provide ample support for her contentions.

A few minor quibbles aside (The Cato Insitute is not a ‘neoconservative’ think tank, as Klein dubs it, but, rather, a right-leaning libertarian organization that, contrary to her insinuations, opposed the war in Iraq), the introduction provides both an expansive overview of the themes Klein will explore more in depth in subsequent chapters and an inspiring call-to-arms for those of us who have looked on in horror at the wreckage (both psychological and physical) that has been left behind after decades of neoliberal shock therapy.

If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out Sarah’s first post–and, please, don’t hesitate to offer your own thoughts, opinions, and observations in comments.  We want this to be an interactive dialogue, and look forward over the coming weeks to having you all read along with us.

Next week: The Torture Lab: Ewan Cameron, the CIA and the maniacal quest to erase and remake the human mind

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Armed And Dangerous?

by matttbastard

Ah, wonderful–yet another shocking incident involving the indiscriminate discharge of an electronic control deviceSM®OMFGWTFBBQ!!!1:

Donnell Williams had just gotten out of the bath tub, wearing only a towel around his waist, when he turned the corner to see guns pointing right at him.

“I ain’t never been so scared,” says Williams.

Police forced entry into Williams home while responding to a shooting, but it turned out to be a false call. They had no idea at the time the call wasn’t real and that Williams is hearing impaired. Without his hearing aid he is basically deaf.

“I kept going to my ear yelling that I was scared. I can’t hear! I can’t hear!”

Officers were worried about their own safety because at the time it appeared Williams was refusing to obey their commands to show his hands. That’s when they shot him with a Taser.

[...]

Police wish it never happened, but with the information they had at the time, their choices were limited.

Um, “limited”? What, did they think he had a .30-06 hidden in the fucking bathwater (or *ahem* under his towel)? Seriously, when it comes to limited options, I’d say it’s the naked hearing impaired guy who, having been unexpectedly surrounded in his own home by a mob of gun-toting, Taser-happy jackboots, is the one facing the rock/hard place pincher maneuver.

More from pale @ ACR, John Cole (“THERE HAS TO BE A THIRD FUCKING OPTION“) and Radley Balko, who (rightly, IMO) fears that “repeated iteration of the “non-lethal” claim may well make police officers more inclined to use the thing than they otherwise might be.” Over in comments @ April Reign’s pad, Raging Ranter (who, from what I’ve gleaned, is hardly a state-smashing anarchist) further explores Balko’s point:

The nice thing about guns (and no I’m not being facetious here) is that police know damn well if they use it, someone is going to die. Not maybe, not one chance in 100, but someone WILL die unless he’s damn lucky and the bullet misses or doesn’t hit a major organ. Not only that, but police are trained that way. They are taught under no uncertain terms that when they draw their gun, they MUST be prepared to shoot and kill. That’s why they are never, EVER supposed to “shoot to wound” or aim for limbs or anything like that. They are trained to aim for centre of mass, and to keep pulling the trigger until the assailant falls to the ground and stays there. All police forces in North America are trained the same way. The reason for this is simple. It helps prevent the unecessary use of firearms by police. Cops know damn well that they are only to use their gun if the situation is bad enough to warrant killing someone. Thus, they do not see using a firearm as a half-measure or as something to provide them with an additional margin of safety. It is a deadly weapon to be used only when deadly force is needed.

Now, compare that to a taser. A taser is to be used when deadly force is not warranted. So what criteria does the cop use to make his decision? Basically, he’s left to taser anyone who he perceives might attempt any physical resistance at all. Because the officer knows that the taser is not meant to kill; that it is supposed to represent a “soft” option, he does not feel the same reluctance to use this weapon.

Related: The Christian Science Monitor’s Terrorism and Security Update takes a closer look at the growing debate following the Robert Dziekanski killing over the growing ubiquity of stun gun usage by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

h/t Chet Scoville

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A Shotgun Divorce?

by matttbastard

I’ve been following the increasingly acrimonious Ron Paul-related blogspat between David Neiwert and Glenn Greenwald with great interest. Not particularly concerned with the substance of the dispute, though I will admit to being sympathetic with Neiwert’s position. With that said, as the battle lines continue to be drawn I believe there are broader implications at play.

From what I’ve read, Greenwald has always identified as a (left-leaning) libertarian, and to many libertarians RP represents the first viable presidential candidate since, well, the last time Ron Paul ran for the Executive. Still, the erroneous notion that Glenn Greenwald is a ‘liberal’ has become stone-set conventional wisdom among many on both sides of the aisle. Seems if one expresses a deep and abiding dislike for the Cheney Bush administration one might as well be a goddamn Commie (Pat Buchanan and Gary North: once far-right anti-Semitic isolationists, now objectively Maoist–just add 9/11.)

So, one shouldn’t be surprised to see Greenwald side with Paul in this particular dispute. Neiwert, a journalist who specializes in covering the USian far right, is an ardent proponent of Federal hate crime legislation. Greenwald, a former constitutional law attorney, is a genuine free speech absolutist (according to Wikipedia, white supremacist Matthew Hale was one of his more famous clients). Any affiliation Greenwald has with the USian ‘left-blogosphere’/netroots (read: partisan Democracts, though I wouldn’t place Neiwert in this category, either) should be considered a shotgun wedding of (in)convenience, much like that of Jim Henley or Arthur Silber, than indicative of a genuine ideological convergence (indeed, as Silber has noted, a number of USian progressive luminaries have been content to repeatedly play the useful idiot role on behalf of imperial Donkeys in Congress).

It will be interesting to see if Ron Paul proves to be the catalyst that hastens a schism among anti-Bush forces who share little in common besides a respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, along with a recognition of how much (perhaps irreparable) damage to civil society the War on Terror has wrought. As the specter of lame-duck Dubya (and Deadeye Dick) continues to fade, there appear to be a number of fundamental policy barriers separating liberals and libertarians that are, in all likelihood, insurmountable. At this point, it seems more and more apparent that, contra Markos Moulitsas, the ‘Libertarian Democrat’ will ultimately prove to be the jackalope of contemporary American politics.

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