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

The Shock Doctrine.

by matttbastard and Sarah J

We’re watching the collapse of capitalism in real time, slow motion.

The economic crisis was largely the result of a vast speculative bubble, one that inevitably had to burst, and those in charge of U.S. and global economic policy knew this, but did nothing to prepare for the impending crisis. The effect was magnified thanks to a deliberate ongoing campaign of ideologically-motivated deregulation for the sake of deregulating. In other words, this didn’t just happen in a vacuum. It didn’t sneak up. It was very much deliberate.

Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine details exactly how we got to this point. The book came out in 2007, but right now serves as kind of a ‘how did we get here,’ with ‘here’ being the new Depression.

It’s a fairly well-known and well-read book in progressive circles, and yet neither Sarah nor I had read it yet. With the bottom falling out of the economy, and inspired by Erik and Rob’s posts on From Colony to Superpower, we decided not just to read the book, but to blog it, reading chapter by chapter, in two places, to see what we each draw from it.

Reading The Shock Doctrine allows us to examine a series of cataclysmic events that have occurred over the past 50 years, so we can hopefully avoid repeating the same mistakes (or allowing the same warped, Utopian ideals to usurp the public debate).

Most importantly, to prevent the same tactics from being applied now, in the wake of the biggest global economic shockwave yet.

Because the more we read, the more imperative we think it is to tie Klein’s thesis and investigations into what’s happening right now, as Friedmanite ideologues continue to preach the doctrine of deregulation and tax cuts as panacea.

So, starting tomorrow, we’ll have posts up once a week, mine here, Sarah’s at Alterdestiny. We agree on lots of things, but come from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to draw different readings of the book. We’re inviting all of you, whether you’ve read the book or not, to join in the discussion, and hope we can cross some of our audiences back and forth and gain some insight into the global economic mess.

(x-posted @ Alterdestiny)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Read this Now or the Fat Cats on Wall Street Will Eat Your Cake

by matttbastard

Echoing Maddow above, Sarah J  (h/t for the vid) shamelessly drops the ‘p’ word (no, not that one–pervs) in what is (hopefully) the kickoff post to a timely series examining populist renewal and class consciousness in a time of economic crisis and political revitalization in the US:

In one of my courses last year, we read [Tom] Wolfe the same week as we read Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson was the kind of populist that we should be looking at now, moving forward. The consummate outsider, constantly angry at the powerful, constantly on the side of the little guy.

When I get angry at NPR’s Science Friday for being completely clueless about the purpose of an auto industry bailout, it’s that spirit that I’m invoking.

It’s not condescendingly taking a whiskey shot or implying that your audience is racist. It’s much more than that. Obama managed to ride populist support into the White House without ever attempting to change who he was. Because he gets it. He knows what it’s like to be broke, to have to decide between paying your heat and buying food. And yeah, it’s been a long time and two Ivy League schools since he’s had to make those choices, but I don’t think he’s forgotten.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

No, seriously, gonow.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

The Return of ‘Lawful Access’

by matttbastard

Well, isn’t this lovely:

The Conservative government is preparing sweeping new eavesdropping legislation that will force Internet service providers to let police tap exchanges on their systems – but will likely reignite fear that Big Brother will be monitoring the private conversations of Canadians.

The goal of the move, which would require police to obtain court approval, is to close what has been described as digital “safe havens” for criminals, pedophiles and terrorists because current eavesdropping laws were written in a time before text messages, Facebook and voice-over-Internet phone lines.

The change is certain to please the RCMP and other police forces, who have sought it for some time. But it is expected to face resistance from industry players concerned about the cost and civil libertarians who warn the powers will effectively place Canadians under constant surveillance.

Constant surveillance–how so?

The concern of critics is that unlike a traditional wiretap that cannot commence without judicial approval, lawful-access legislation in other countries has forced Internet providers to routinely gather and store the electronic traffic of their clients. Those stored data can then be obtained by police via search warrant.

“That means we’re under surveillance, in some sense, all the time,” said Richard Rosenberg, president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “I think that changes the whole nature of how we view innocence in a democratic society.”

Um, yeah, just a li’l bit.

Oh, and, via Michael Geist, it seems our loyal opposition is also doing its part to represent the best interests of the nation by, um, once again proposing its own lawful access legislation–a bill even more odious than the government’s’:

…Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has reintroduced her lawful access private member’s bill, called the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act.  The Jennings bill is a virtual copy of a failed Liberal lawful access bill that died in 2005.

[…]

[T]he Jennings bill would require ISPs to disclose customer name and address information to law enforcement without court oversight.

The Magical ConservaLiberal Unity Pony drops yet another stinking, steaming load on our heads; I love the smell of bipartisan turdblossoms in the morning.

Cough.  Anyway.

From what I can tell, the only substantive difference between Van Loan’s proposed piece of legislation and the one then-Public Safety Minister Stockboy Day tried to surreptitiously impose in 2007 without any public input (before backpeddling quicker than you can say ‘Ogopogo’) is the apparent requirement of judicial approval (which, as noted, may not provide much in the way of protection for a citizen’s private online information–and  Jennings’ PMB offers, um, none).  Otherwise, the state will, in essence, be forcing ISPs to fulfill the darkest fantasies of the tinfoil-adorned black helicopter set.

And, as Impolitical (h/t) notes:

The dangers of such powers being placed with law enforcement and the potential for abuses have been made abundantly clear by the experience Americans have had with the Bush administration and the revelations from whistleblowers in the last year.

Two examples:

Am in full agreement with Geist here:

…Van Loan should commit to active consultations with the privacy community before introducing the legislation; renew the government’s pledge for full court oversight (including for customer name and address information); and there must be full hearings on the bill that place the burden on law enforcement to demonstrate that there is a problem with the law as it currently stands.

Bottom line: this is not a path any purportedly ‘free’ society should hastily embark upon.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

PSA: Support the Uniting American Families Act of 2009

by matttbastard

Immigration Equality:

Great News! Rep. Jerrold Nadler plans to reintroduce the Uniting American Families Act on Feb. 13!

You can make the bill a success by convincing your Representative to support the bill from Day One. Reintroducing the bill with as many cosponsors as possible will show powerful momentum for the rights of gay and lesbian binational couples!

Please call your Representative and ask them to be an original cosponsor of the “Uniting American Families Act of 2009”

It’s easy!

  1. Find out who your U.S. House Representative is.  Go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm, enter your address, and you will be provided the name of your U.S. Representative.
  2. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your U.S. Representative.
  3. Tell your representative’s staff:

I am calling to ask Representative ________________ to be an original cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009.  To cosponsor, he/she must contact Rep. Jerrold Nadler who is the lead sponsor.

The U.S. government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born life partners for immigration.  Because of this, we face the terrible choice of separating from the person we love or leaving our country.  As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country.  Please ask Rep. _________________ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 by reaching out to Rep. Nadler before February 12.

Thanks for asking your member of Congress to celebrate love this Valentine’s Day by cosponsoring UAFA!

h/t Sarah J

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Stretching a Gapingly Inapt Analogy (Without Forceps, Even!)

by matttbastard

Paging Robert E. Lee:

According to [Missouri] Republican State Rep. Bryan Stevenson, the proposed pro-choice “Freedom of Choice Act” is the biggest federal power grab since the “War of Northern Aggression.”

Listen:

Oh well.  At least the fetus fetishists appear to be finally broadening their eye-gougingly overwrought rhetorical palate. I mean, really–genocide analogies are, like, so 2008.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Olbermann: Alex Rodriguez Inducted Into The Apology Hall Of Fame!

by matttbastard

I really don’t give a toss about the A-Rod steroid controversy.  Am far more curious why Washington Post reporter Michael A. Fletcher felt the matter was of such national import that he asked the freakin’ POTUS for a response during Monday’s prime time press conference.

As O-Dub put it:

We’re in the middle of a fiscal crisis, two wars, and numerous other national and international issues. A-Rod could shoot up heroin, snort cocaine and disrobe during the all-star game and it would be immaterial.

Still, I couldn’t resist posting the following montage, a fitting tribute to the many insincere career-salvaging expeditions embarked upon by disgraced public figures over the years.

Watch it:

On a related note, I will never, ever tire of Jimmy Swaggart’s iconic tearful confession–even if the nostalgic indulgence in schadenfreude simultaneously resurrects the unfortunate image of him getting a blowjob in sweatpants.

My sincere apologies if any of you were eating while reading that.

(video courtesy CSPANJunkie)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Quote of the Effing Century (Or, On the Original Stimulus Package)

by matttbastard

I rather adore the willy. In fact, when these long, drawn-out discussions about sex happen on radical feminist sites, I sometimes find the urge to hop in, scream “I LIKE DICK!” and run away, giggling like a third-grader. The fact that I haven’t done so is a testament to my general self-restraint and, uh, amazing level of maturity. Or something.

Natalia Antonova, who, btw, is made of pure, undiluted WIN (and infinite maturity.  Or something.)

h/t Sarah J via email

Recommend this post at Progresive Bloggers

The problems of the modern GOP, encapsulated in two paragraphs.

by matttbastard

From yesterday’s WaPo:

“If you get the principles right in the first place . . . the politics will take care of itself,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a leader of the new conservative vanguard. “It comes down to basic principles — who’s better at preserving jobs, small business or the government? If you think it’s small business, look to the Republicans.”

Curly Haugland, a Republican National Committee member from North Dakota, said there is little need for ideas when the main task for the GOP will be fighting back Democratic ones. “We’re going to have plenty to do just playing defense,” he said. “These people [the Democrats] are going to be aggressively on the march.”

Not to get all Eastern Elitist on y’all, but when you have a Taliban Wing “conservative vanguard” led by people named ‘Jeb’ and ‘Curly’ determining policy strategy, well, congratulations — you’re no longer a viable national party.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Perspective.

by matttbastard

I  stand by my previously expressed policy objections to the compromised Senate version of the recovery plan. I also still think the ‘moderate’ Kabuki performance that apparently trumped the real-world consequences of cutting funds to the states was despicable (but, hey, as long as the ‘workhorses’ keep garnering kudos from the Village).  Hopefully a lot of what was stripped from the bill is put back in when it goes to conference committee.

With that said, the following graphic illustrates why, considering how urgent it is to pass a recovery plan as soon as possible,  something is better than nothing (literally):

jobs

(h/t)

Related: Americans United for Change launch radio ads praising Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe  for “providing the leadership we need to get the job done” and helping the Senate “reach agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups — including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor.”

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers