“Fascist America: Have We Finally Turned The Corner?”

Summoning Darkness

Darkness is it’s own reward

The title for this post is taken from another online article which will be looked at further down in this post.

*edit, July 13, 2012 – Well, I thought I had the right Democracy Segment for the excerpt below. These segments are all related mind you. But I looked closer and found the exact segment for the excerpt below. This is the segment: “We Don’t Live in a Free Country”: Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance Also, There’s a typo in the transcript that I corrected because the video is clear. I changed the word “has” to “had” in one place.

The following is an excerpt from a Democracy Now special on Obama’s security surveillance network and the anti-civil society legislation it requires to function. The DN website is utterly confusing when you try looking for just the segments dealing with that special. That appears to be a result of everything being mixed together, including additional segments not originally a part of the series but still dealing with the same subject. In any case, (most of) the links are all there. You will find them attached to any single segment in the series. The 3rd installment seems to be the one where William Binney, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Pointras sit with Amy and Juan and discuss the subject. It’s quite gripping. I’ll provide a YouTube clip of one of the segments following the excerpt.

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JACOB APPELBAUM: I don’t fly as much as Laura, and Laura has been at it for a lot longer than I have. But in the period of time since they’ve started detaining me, around a dozen-plus times. I’ve been detained a number of times. The first time I was actually detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I was put into a special room, where they frisked me, put me up against the wall. One guy cupped me in a particularly uncomfortable way. Another one held my wrists. They took my cell phones. I’m not really actually able to talk about what happened to those next.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Because we don’t live in a free country. And if I did, I guess I could tell you about it, right? And they took my laptop, but they gave it back. They were a little surprised it didn’t have a hard drive. I guess that threw them for a loop. And, you know, then they interrogated me, denied me access to a lawyer. And when they did the interrogation, they had a member of the U.S. Army, on American soil. And they refused to let me go. They tried—you know, they tried their usual scare tactics. So they sort of implied that if I didn’t make a deal with them, that I’d be sexually assaulted in prison, you know, which is the thing that they do these days as a method of punitive punishment, and they of course suggested that would happen.

AMY GOODMAN: How did they imply this?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, you know, they say, “You know, computer hackers like to think they’re all tough. But really, when it comes down to it, you don’t look like you’re going to do so good in prison.” You know, that kind of stuff.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what was the main thrust of the questions they were asking you?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, they wanted to know about my political views. They wanted to know about my work in any capacity as a journalist, actually, the notion that I could be in some way associated with Julian. They wanted, basically, to know any—

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange.

JACOB APPELBAUM: Julian Assange, the one and only. And they wanted—they wanted, essentially, to ask me questions about the Iraq war, the Afghan war, what I thought politically. They didn’t ask me anything about terrorism. They didn’t ask me anything about smuggling or drugs or any of the customs things that you would expect customs to be doing. They didn’t ask me if I had anything to declare about taxes, for example, or about importing things. They did it purely for political reasons and to intimidate me, denied me a lawyer. They gave me water, but refused me a bathroom, to give you an idea about what they were doing.
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Notice in that interrogation of Jacob by fascist tools their focus on security – not of the nation and ‘all’ the people in it, but of the state, the 1% and the important people.

Those who choose, deliberately, to break some written or unwritten rule, not because they disagree with it and it’s a bad rule, but solely for gain, may be clever. But once you’ve stepped onto the path of darkness, you are at the start of a journey that certainly takes you somewhere very dark, where the light – judgment and intelligence – has bled out of you. Becoming stupid and dangerous, while still intelligent – for human brains, even of criminals, are amazing, powerful organs – doesn’t always happen all at once. There’s nothing more dangerous than an intelligent being with bad intentions. Look at Satan. Intelligence with love attaches to wisdom. Intelligence without love may be considerable, but it’s faulty and falls far short of what it should be. And it causes problems for everyone.

Look at the incredible case of Barack Obama.

“US government officials routinely criticize other governments for being undemocratic and for violating human rights. Yet, no other country except Israel sends bombs, missiles, and drones into sovereign countries to murder civilian populations. The torture prisons of Abu Gahraib [sic], Guantanamo, and CIA secret rendition sites are the contributions of the Bush/Obama regimes to human rights.

“Washington violates the human rights of its own citizens. Washington has suspended the civil liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution and declared its intention to detain US citizens indefinitely without due process of law. President Obama has announced that he, at his discretion, can murder US citizens whom he regards as a threat to the US.

“Congress did not respond to these extraordinary announcements with impeachment proceedings. There was no uproar from the federal courts, law schools, or bar associations. Glenn Greenwald reports that the Department of Homeland Security harasses journalists who refuse to be presstitutes, and we have seen videos of the brutal police oppression of peaceful OWS protestors…” – Paul Craig Roberts, “World’s Apex Bully Leads World Into Lawlessness,” counterpunch, Weekend Edition April 13-15, 2012

Paul Krugman said, about presidential contender and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, that he’s a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like. Actually, Paul said someone else said it, but I wasn’t able to come up with that information. What’s the difference between silver tongued (to some ears) Obama and loopy-sounding Gingrich? Well, There is undoubtedly a difference in the degree of intelligence and sophistication. The evil American-led corporatocracy is smart enough to put smart men, with a couple of exceptions, in the White House. Are either of those guys making progress? Pfft!

Paul wasn’t suggesting that Gingrich was dumb, period. Newt Gingrich is probably smarter than I am. Paul (who won a prize for his work in economics) is suggesting that the harmful ideology (to the environment and the economy) espoused by people like Newt, who have sold their souls for gain, is dumb – from the standpoint of rational people who haven’t sold their souls and who don’t believe in inequality and the sacrificing of millions, and the liveable planet, for the (temporary) security and comfort of a few. In the above linked-to video Krugman also notes that the Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential race are fools and clowns and that that’s the Republican problem. Their ideology is one that only fools and clowns can believe in. But he should know. He’s an economist and they’re destroying economies and what other conclusion can he come to!

Canadian journalist and author Rick Salutin, in his article remembering Conservative Dalton Camp, had some interesting things to say about Conservatives and rightwingers:

“…conservatives are not right wing, at least not inherently so, any more than socialists are inherently vegetarian…

“I’ve always felt it would be useful for Tories to focus on the “conserve” in conservatism, just as leftists ought to pay more attention to the “social” in socialism. There are many good reasons for the conserving impulse. For instance, what is, is, rather than being a mere theory, a grand projection no one can actually see or test…

“There is a nice flexibility to this kind of conservatism. Why? Because once a new program or element is embraced by the people, it becomes something to be tended and conserved. Take public health care. It was introduced here by the change-oriented left of the last century but has become so valued by Canadians that it is described, though hardly treated so by politicians, as a sacred cow.

“So last year’s radicalism can become this year’s conservatism, as the boundaries shift. David Orchard of Saskatchewan began as the head of a leftish anti-free-trade group, which argued that free trade would destroy the family farm and other things Canadians cherish. He ran against Joe Clark for leader of the PCs last time around and placed second. It was widely seen as a kind of scandal or joke, but you can see the sense it makes.

“Meanwhile, right-wing conservatives such as Ralph Klein or Mike Harris take pride in their commitment to drastic change based on ideas — the Common Sense Revolution, the Reagan Revolution. They are dedicated to smashing what was created in the past, in the name of abstract visions or a thought process (“common sense”) that created them. They are all about ideas (when they are not about money) and, in that sense, share more with 20th-Century ideologies such as fascism and communism than they do with Burkean or Disraelian conservatism — with the odd addition that their vision of the future really harks back to the laissez-faire days of early, unregulated capitalism and the free market.” – Rick Salutin, “Yoohoo, We’re here too!,” rabble.ca, 2006

Really, Their ideology, their beliefs, don’t stem from conviction. They simply provide cover, or they’d like them to, for their sophisticated criminal behavior.

The clever mafia capitalists have caused untold destruction and suffering (10s of millions in the the US alone, as Richard Wolff notes in this audio clip: “Continuing The Fight Against Foreclosures”) by the way they, and their partners in politics (Republicans ‘and’ Democrats), have played with Americans’ desire to own their own homes (and cars, etc.), giving them credit they should not have given them, then sitting back and watching it all go to hell as defaults skyrocketed and banks and mortgage lenders sold the debt for oodles of cash with each buyer expecting to be able to find another buyer to take the toxic debt off their hands. Of course, it couldn’t go on forever.

Sara Robinson wrote an article for AlerNet titled “Fascist America: Have We Finally Turned The Corner?” And excerpt from it follows:

** The last time I visited this subject in 2010, progressives were reaching a point of maximum despair. In 2008, the GOP had taken its most thorough drubbing since the FDR years. But, just two years on, the far right had not only regrouped; it had taken full control of the Republican Party under the resurgent Tea Party banner — and was getting set to elect some of the country’s most extreme political, social and economic Neanderthals. In the process, it was also about to retake Congress, along with control of over half of the state governorships and legislatures.

And take over it did. In the wake of this victory, the far right’s new electees shifted into overdrive, immediately introducing brutally aggressive legislation to bust unions, disenfranchise Democratic voters and roll back a century of progress on reproductive rights. The speed and power of the onslaught was breathtaking — but it was also driven by desperation. What most pundits missed was the fact that the far right had no time to waste, because both the mood of the country and its basic demographic realities were changing under their feet.

Polls over the past decade show that America is, at its core, a progressive nation in every way that matters, and that this trend is solidifying and expanding with time. **

My online response to the above linked-to article follows (within the asterisks). I’ll activate the included links for your convenience and correct a few small typos. I just realized I added a link which wasn’t in the original post, but I’ll leave it. “Citizens United” wasn’t a link or attached to one. I made it into a link:

** I read Sara’s article with increasing alarm. She’s all over the place. The one thing she says clearly, as she’s going back and forth between ‘we are losing’ and ‘we are winning’, is that we don’t have fascism. That’s the fatal error in her ultimately unhelpful article. As the Bible (which contains a lot of wisdom and a fair bit of suspiciously fantastic stuff) says, “If the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, Who will get ready for the battle?”

As much as writers like to write, Genuine activists – including caring people who are from the 99%, poor and ‘not’ comfortable or ensconsed in pleasant jobs – will want to communicate, urgently, and do so clearly. They need help doing so and information that we share with each other that will help us to fight back effectively against real, existing fascism is appreciated. But don’t tell us we don’t have fascism. You may only be demonstrating your own self-serving ignorance when you do.

Give us as much historical background and facts and statistics as you like. The more the better. But don’t mislead us. Fascism is, simply, what you get when the political class and the capitalist class controls everything, while, of course, telling the people that they have a democracy and their voices are being heard. (If the people want to do their oppressors a favor and believe them when they say we have democracy and therefore not bother looking for it, they won’t mind!) Capitalists see the people as the enemy precisely because they’ve made us into one. They are so bent, along with their partners in politics and elites in general, in propping up a system that is based on exploitation that the idea of real democracy is utterly horrifying to them. Disdaining the people follows. You don’t exploit family members, neighbors and fellow citizens. But you can exploit enemies. Or pinkos. Or socialists. Or radical nationalists. Whatever. Also, Capitalists are a macho bunch. They like the idea that they can have it all – by taking it from others. It’s not simply ideological. But ideology isn’t usually rational. The way we understand ideology, People choose one and then automatically follow it, for better or worse. Of course that’s bad. If ideology was constantly shifting, because he who holds it is principled and caring and would never let ideology prevent him from acting in a principled and caring manner, then we wouldn’t recognize his ideology, which would shift constantly, and it wouldn’t matter. I’m not saying that having a frame of understanding isn’t useful. It is. It has it’s place. But that place is not primary.

Ideology, whether fascist, socialist or populist, is no substitute for principles and love.

Another word or two: If I pinch you on the butt, hard, and you squawk loudly, your squawking isn’t an indication that you are the attacker and I am the victim. We are ‘hardly’ pushing the fascists back. And the point isn’t that we are pushing back. The point is that they are in control. And the people have some responsibility for that. We are here by design, largely, but also because we haven’t been wary. And that’s another way of saying that we haven’t cared enough. We’ve been okay with letting cowboys herd and look after us, as though we were all going to sit down at the end of the day and enjoy a good steak dinner together as equals.

Sara surely knows about the big things going on. Yes, There’s OWS. And there’s the incredibly powerful weaponry in the hands of the fascists (corporatists, anti-democrats, whatever you want to call them) that we’ve all been reading about, with horror, and which she alludes to. (Murray Dobbin cottons onto this push and shove by fascists and their victims, you and me, nicely in his 2010 Tyee article titled “This Is The Security State Steve Built.” See: http://bit.ly/bR1mV0) You’ve got Citizens United (2010), Obama’s elimination of habeus corpus, the National Defence Authorization Act, CISPA (which overrides numerous privacy laws because it’s not about the people’s security but the security of the police state and it’s true beneficiaries) and the overall program that all that coding will allow to operate [and] which we first knew as Total Information Awareness (See this GR review by Dr. Kingsley Dennis titled “Global Gridlock: How the US Military-Industrial Complex Seeks to Contain and Control the Earth and Its Eco-System”: http://bit.ly/asQRey or just Google it and sift throught the returns.). When George W. introduced it, following 9/11, there was a public backlash and it disappeared. But the people didn’t win anything. They lost. The government just decided to stop talking to us (North Americans. I’m Canadian, not that that means much.) about it. Now we learn that they continued to work on that security surveillance network and have just put the finishing touches on it in time for all the draconian laws to kick in and allow it to be turned on just in time for OWS to be utterly crushed. All is in order – in the view of the lunatics running the world.

The Right likes a fight. That’s it’s macho, scorpion nature. If it thinks it’s target is outgunned, it will seek a fight. It’s not entirely rational, for [that] attitude and behavior has the potential – if you want to celebrate that fact rather than get busy and make the danger substantial – to bring the whole rickety system of inequality and exploitation down on everyone’s heads, including those who matter, but it is what it is. And, as we see, now, more than ever, the Right is powerful. We are not. And it’s better for us to at least know it, get busy and know our enemy and prepare for a real, substantial fightback that is more than just squawking loudly in pain. ‘Do’ more than ‘talk’ about doing. Encourage ‘doing’, rather than getting people to pump their fists in the air in a perverse parody of the fascist police beating their shields prior to rushing unarmed citizens protesting brutality and injustice. Don’t set the people up for a fall, unless your goal is to utterly crush their spirit and make it impossible for them to ever rally again against the forces of darkness and repression. **

It’s striking the way the corporatocracy likes and tells the big lies. A Big Lie is one that is so outrageous that those telling them expect targets hearing them to believe them because “They wouldn’t tell such a big lie. Therefore, It must be true.” Captured governments love doing deficit terrorism for example. They tell the people that deficits are evil and then create them – through huge tax cuts to corporations and the rich and unfair taxation generally (including making no real, ongoing effort to deal with offshore tax havens) and huge expenditures on the military. The weaker the U.S. gets politically and economically, the stronger it gets militarily, a dangerous thing. The reality is that while we have neoliberal (brutal, or, as I see it, ripe) capitalism, we will have the neoliberal agenda of privatization and deregulation. Political tools assist their partners in the private sector in their goal of stealing everything in the public sector. When publicly funded programs and institutions are not properly funded, they go to crap. People, especially when they are uncritical in their assessments (changing but…), will only see that this or that (publicly funded healthcare, transportation, education, whatetever) isn’t working and not be impressed and/or complain about it. At that point, the privatizers come out of the woodwork and denounce ‘socialist’ healthcare, transportation, education, whatever. They conveniently overlook the fact that the experiment in ‘socialist’ this or that didn’t fail because it failed, but because it was never allowed the chance to succeed. It’s overseers – captured governments – sabotaged them.

Anyway, It’s easier for privatizers to make the case for privatizing services etc when their partners in politics help to sabotage those same services. Deficits enable privatization. And brave capitalists in and out of government seem unwilling to come clean with the public about their bs on the subject of empty treasuries and deficits, for which reason the social spending solution badly needed right now isn’t happening (or where it is happening, it isn’t happening on a large enough scale). Economic suicide is preferable apparently. Lying EU leaders, determined to protect their class and the bankers within it, and lying American politicians (Barack Obama received more campaign donations from the now discredited financial industry than his opponents, for which reason he has not made any effort to re-regulate the industry, which continues with the same practices that caused chaos.), anxious to do the same, point to social spending as the root of all economic problems.

Instead of being assured by our leaders that the medecine national economies need (stimulus via social spending producing society-building jobs and services) will be forthcoming, we are being forced to watch as those ‘leaders’ pour fuel (austerity or cutting social spending) on the destructive fire (no demand – because there’s no money – for products and services, and therefore no reason for production, all due to high unemployment and no paycheques, leading to no taxes on goods and services and from functioning businesses to fill up treasuries and keep the wheels turning). Austerity will only make the stagnant, crumbling world economic order stagnate and crumble faster.

That’s not only the wrong solution, but it’s also perverted for it punishes the innocent and rewards – by some measures – the criminals who are destroying the world and causing suffering. And when deficits are in the area of militarization, it’s completely nuts. The argument made by neoliberal, hawkish politicians and other proponents of military spending is that you have trickle down effects from that spending that the wider public and the economy benefits from. Yes, but. Aside from the issues of democracy – in which the question whether the people agree to go to war (let alone get informed fully about situations that states say require a military response) isn’t asked – Look at the waste of money! You spend money on bullets and bombs that get used once – to destroy. Of course, Capitalists have recently acquired a closed loop system in which the same companies that capture governments that take us to war, so that markets and profits for those corporations can be ensured, are also involved in every aspect of the vertically integrated war making system. They fight (in huge numbers alongside regular soldiers or they assist armies in a number of capacities), they destroy and they rebuild and that rebuilding includes refashioning the destroyed country economically and politically so that it serves their interests and not the interests of the nationals on the receiving end of the hostility.

As for the trickle down, As John Ralston Saul notes, governments could just as easily directly invest in technology and so forth that we see financed indirectly through war making.

And this doesn’t even touch on subjects such as those that Joseph Stiglitz (who, incidentally, also thinks that austerity isn’t the solution to recessions) looks at in his books. He notes that the American (and I’m sure this applies to Canada as well) government lies about the cost of it’s wars. It doesn’t take into account shady accounting – What would it take to get it to do that?! – and the huge cost of looking after many wounded soldiers who return from war. Another incalculable cost, not only in dollars, that I would mention has to do with oil. The thirst for oil and water is helping to put our liveable earth into a state in which life on it will be impossible. And armies depend on oil.

And this is why you can’t have democracy – from elites’ standpoint. If you had democracy and the people became fully informed about all of this madness, the fascists perpetrating these crimes against humanity, God and nature would be stopped dead in their tracks. The people (hopefully) would say STOP! But we don’t have democracy and special interests (in old polluting industries and weapons manufacturers) and their political allies will have their way, backed by the armies and other instruments of repression wielded by the state, lost to the people when they lost, partly through carelessness, their governments.

“The production of so many weapons has indeed kept men working in difficult times…

“The idea that building weapons is a good way to create jobs and to earn foreign currency is so naive as to have a certain charm about it. Even to believe that military spending might help the economy is revolutionary. Throughout history, military spending has been considered a disaster for economies. The twentieth-century Western belief in the opposite is, in part, a curious offshoot of Keynesian economics, produced by the conviction that it took World War II to end the depression. One of the extra lunacies of current economics is that while Keynes is now considered bad, weapon production programs are still good.

“In order to obscure this contradiction, economists came up with the theory of “the trickle-down effect.” The investment, for example, of several billion dollars into a nongrowth area such as tanks, in the hope that there will be a trickle down of a hundred million dollars, into civil transport, is presented as an efficient form of industrial investment.

“Those who defend this theory always cite a long list of successes. There is hardly a plane or radio which is not derivative of something military. Fast trains. New metals. The entire nuclear energy sector…

“The interesting question, however, is not whether this system works but whether any other system works better. Why can’t governments make their investments directly in those civil society sectors which they have been hoping might receive a few drops of knowledge from military research? If R and D is what we are really after, then the trickle-down system is an astonishingly inefficient way of going about it…

“The new elites, whatever their particular professional training, share identical views on how things ought to be done. But their basic premise is wrong. it was not the building of weapons for World War II which ended the Great Depression. It was the need, after the war, to reconstruct a devastated Europe…

“The truth is that the central role now held by weaponry in our economies has become a major barrier to real growth and therefore to recovery. The problem with arms – if the human and moral questions are set aside – is that they are not really capital goods. You cannot build or evolve or develop through armaments. You can only stockpile them. Or you can use them. Once only, in most cases. And only to destroy…”

Interestingly, Saul doesn’t suggest that all weapons production should end while noting the argument made by governments about the need to stay armed to the teeth or else face opponents who are. Weapons production ‘will’ end. But forget that for a minute. Consider the kind of world that imperfect humans have made. The main feature of this melting, decaying, burning world is inequality. It’s paradigm, or operating principle is: ‘riches for the strongest’. Saul is right, as are corporatocracy governments – who do not have good intentions now and didn’t have good intentions when they implemented the Marshall Plan – who plead for our indulgence as they (use our money) to make those weapons with which they will defend us, democracy and freedom. Did you throw up? Very good. If you are not done puking, then reflect for a moment on the fact that this earlier madness was sanity compared with what’s going on now. Today’s fascist rulers don’t even have a plan of domination that’s rational. They are now committing economic suicide – just to see what it would look like maybe.

The global economy was saved by the world’s dark hegemon post WWII, via the spending it did for reconstruction in NA, Japan and Europe, but it’s not a global economy that works for everyone. In my book, If it doesn’t work for everyone, then it doesn’t work. North America post WWII did acquire a (imperfect) social democratic state, with labour and big business cooperating to a great extent. But beginning in the early 70s, big business, whose spirit crystallized in the nasty and powerful Trilateral Commission, decided that it didn’t like democracy and began attacking it and the working class and has never looked back.

“The Grand Area was to have a definite structure. The industrial societies were to be reconstituted with much of the traditional order restored, but within the overarching framework of US power…

“By 1947, it was perceived that European recovery was foundering and that large-scale US initiatives were required for it to proceed along the desired lines. The first major policy initiative to this end was the Marshall Plan. In his comprehensive study of this program, Michael Hogan outlines its primary motivation as the encouragement of a European economic federation much like the United States, with over $2 billion annually in US aid in the early years “to avert ‘economic, social and political’ chaos in Europe, contain Communism (meaning not Soviet intervention but the success of the indigenous Communist parties), prevent the collapse of America’s export trade, and achieve the goal of multilateralism.” The alternative would be “experiments with socialist enterprise and government controls,” which would “jeopardize private enterprise” in the United States as well. A major concern was the “dollar gap,” which prevented Europe from purchasing US manufactured goods, with grave implications for the domestic economy.

“The understanding that reconstruction of European (and Japanese) capitalism was essential to the health of the US economic order recapitulated the thinking of the Harding Administration after World War I…

“…Overcoming the dollar gap, “which had originally prompted the Marshall Plan,” required a restoration of the triangular trade patterns whereby Europe earned dollars through US purchase of raw materials from its colonies. Hence European (and Japanese) access to Third World markets and raw materials was an essential component of the general strategic planning, and a necessary condition for the fulfillment of the general purposes of the Marshall Plan: to “benefit the American economy,” to “redress the European balance of power” in favor of US allies (state and class), and to “enhance American national security,” where “national security” is understood as “control of raw materials, industrial infrastructure, skilled manpower, and military bases.” The “strategic dimensions of the Marshall Plan,” [Melvyn] Leffler continues, thus required that “revolutionary nationalism had to be thwarted outside of Europe, just as the fight against indigenous communism had to be sustained inside Europe.” This was a difficult problem because of the prestige of the anti-Fascist resistance, often with a strong Communist element, and the discrediting of the traditional US allies in the business classes because of their association with fascism. Despite the “rhetorical commitment to self-determination,” US policy demanded that the former colonies retain their dependent role; the same might be said about the commitment to democracy, which, if more than rhetoric, would have meant that popular forces to which the US was opposed – Communists, radical democrats, labor, and so on – be permitted to play more than a token role in political and social life. Marshall Plan aid was used to coerce political choices, notably in Italy in 1948, and “to force Europe to soft-pedal welfare programs, limit wages, control inflation, and create an environment conducive for capital investment – part of it financed out of labor’s pocket” (Thomas McCormick).” -pages 46, 47 & 48 of “Deterring Democracy,” by Noam Chomsky (pub 1991)

Here’s Naomi Klein on the closed loop of the new (in important respects) “disaster capitalism complex”:

“The Bush administration immediately seized upon the fear generated by the attacks [of 9/11] not only to launch the “War on Terror” but to ensure that it is also an almost completely for-profit venture, a booming new industry that has breathed new life into the faltering U.S. economy. Best understood as a “disaster capitalism complex,” it has much farther-reaching tentacles than the military-industrial complex that “Dwight Eisenhower warned against at the end of his presidency: this is global war fought on every level by private companies whose involvement is paid for with public money, with the unending mandate of protecting the United States homeland in perpetuity while eliminating all “evil” abroad. In only a few short years, the complex has expanded its market reach from fighting terrorism to international peacekeeping, to municipal policing, to responding to increasingly frequent natural disasters. The ultimate goal for the corporations at the centre [sic] of the complex is to bring the model of for-profit government, which advances so rapidly in extraordinary circumstances, into the ordinary and day-to-day functioning of the state – in effect, to privatize government.

“To kick-start the disaster capitalism complex, the Bush administration outsourced, with no public debate, many of the most sensitive and core functions of government – from providing health care to soldiers, to interrogating prisoners, to gathering and “data mining” information on all of us. The role of government in this unending war is not that of an administrator managing a network of contractors but of a deep-pocketed venture capitalist, both providing its seed money for the complex’s creation and becoming the biggest customer for its new services…” -pg 14 of “The Shock Doctrine – The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism,” by Naomi Klein (pub 2007)

They might as well privatize captured governments.

Joseph Stiglitz is an interesting figure. John Perkins, who wrote “Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man,” gives him a thumbs up but I’m skeptical. Even in a Democracy Now clip I recently watched, he said some things that sort of signalled to me that he’s not immune himself from inflexibility, let’s call it. I’ll present, below, some of his discussion with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. It’s all interesting, but, as I have to come to expect from professionals like Stiglitz who were in high positions within the corporatocracy, the language he uses is… exceedingly diplomatic. And sometimes funny, as when he refers to tax increases as a negative stimulus. He mentions the ‘budget framework’ that, in recessionary conditions, means governments must either cut spending or raise taxes. But what is that framework? They are just bs arbitrary lines drawn by captured governments that decide that they can’t go into deficit no matter what, as William Black points out in this article I just discovered after finishing this post: “Why Paul Krugman Needs To Run A Teach-In For Ignorant New York Times Business Reporters.” But, as John Ralston Saul notes, that’s silly. Everything leads to deficits. It’s a money system and running a state or province involves spending. Duh! When you spend, you deplete the treasury, which, if politicians are managing properly, is also always taking in revenues via fair taxation and a decent level of employment and hence taxpaying citizens. Did Amy or Juan catch that? I’ll never know. Tax cuts are a gigantic part of the problem. (Raising them therefore is part of the solution.) Corporations that already don’t pay their fair share of taxes continually demand and get tax cuts, helping to cause those deficits that governments giving them out tell us are so evil. Anyway, Without further adieu:

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JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, one of the things that intrigued me about your book was the effort that you did to look at the historical development that preceded this Great Recession of 2007, 2008. You actually trace the origins of some of the aspects of the crisis back about a decade to what was happening in the third world, especially in Asia, all of the countries that experienced crises in 1997, 1998 — Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. And it reminded me very much that people forget that the Great Depression of the 1930s was actually preceded by an enormous crisis in the third world in the 1920s that, if people had been looking, would have told them what was about to happen here in the United States. Now, you had a front-row seat in that, because you were involved with the World Bank back then. Could you talk about what happened in the late ’90s and its relationship to the current crisis?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: There are actually two connections. One of them is that we were seeing played out around the world the consequences of the kinds of deregulation, financial market deregulation, that had begun in the United States and around the world in the era of Reagan and Thatcher. In the quarter-century before that, the world had experienced the first extended period in which there was no financial crisis since the beginning of capitalism. Financial crises had happened over and over and over again, and after the Great Depression, we passed a set of regulations in the United States, and similar ones in other countries, that at last had provided an element of financial stability. We had stopped the banks from engaging in the excesses that had repeatedly marked their behavior.

We forgot that, those lessons. We deregulated. Unfortunately, the World Bank and the IMF were at the forefront of that in the days and the years before I arrived, and the result of that was that there were literally more than a hundred financial crises around the world in the period after the deregulation movement began. And the consequences were really serious. I saw, for instance, Indonesia, in the central island of Java, the unemployment rate got up to 40 percent. You know, I can remember people saying, you know, “We’re so much smarter than we were back in the Great Depression, we know how to prevent another recession of that depth.” But we were as smart then as we are now, and the right policies were not put into place, and Indonesia went into this really serious depression.

The second link is a forward-looking link. Because of the way the US Treasury and the IMF managed those crises around the world, the policies they pushed on these countries, the economic downturns turned into recessions, recessions turned into depressions. I talked to the prime minister of one of these countries, and he said, quite frankly, “We were in the class of ’97. We saw what happens if you don’t have enough reserves.” And then he went on to say, “We’ll never let this happen again.” And he and countries all over the developing world started to save. They started to build up reserves, hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Now, this led to greater security for them, but it has contributed to a global problem. If people aren’t spending, there’s a lack of global aggregate demand, a lack of spending that will sustain the global economy. In a world of globalization, it is global aggregate demand that matters a great deal.

So, what we are now seeing, and we’re likely to see in the future, is that this problem, already serious, is going to get worse, because the countries that did better in this crisis were the countries that had built up the most reserves. China has built up reserves of over $2.3 trillion. Yeah, it’s a huge amount of money. China is the one country that never went into a recession. Growth did slow down from about 12 percent down to seven, eight percent, maybe for some quarters even lower than that, but it’s back to nine percent. It could do that because it had these huge reserves. So the lesson that countries are learning is save, don’t spend. And, of course, if the countries follow that lesson, then the global recovery will be very anemic.

AMY GOODMAN: Coming forward to today, Joe Stiglitz, I wanted to turn to President Obama in his State of the Union address, who called for a freeze on government spending, except, well, notably, in relation to spending on war. The record $3.8 trillion budget Obama unveiled the following week boosts money for war while cutting domestic spending. This is what he said.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in his State of the Union address. Your assessment of this? You’re also author, with Linda Bilmes, of The Three Trillion Dollar War. What about the cost of war and the spending freeze on everything but war?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, first, wars are very expensive, and that was the point that Linda and I made in our book, that much of the cost of the war is beneath the ground, dishonest accounting, costs that we’re going to have to pay, for instance, for the disabled. The fraction of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that are coming back disabled is enormous. It’s now almost one out of two. And many of these disabilities are very, very serious. And we are going to be paying these costs for a half-century going forward. So we should remember that these costs are larger than the costs that they’re admitting to.

But going back to the basic economics of what we’re talking about here, two points I’d make. The first is a point that Linda and I made in our book, and that is, spending on the war is spending that does not stimulate the economy. It provides the least bang for the buck in terms of the economy of almost any other kind of spending. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve used large numbers of foreign contractors. Money that’s spent over there doesn’t have a second round of effects back at home. What we count on when we spend money in other areas is that we spend the money, the people who receive the money spend the money, that creates more jobs, and then they spend the money. And that round — that circulation of the money around keeps building up. But if we spend the money over on war costs, we don’t get those kinds of indirect benefits.

Secondly, unlike other kinds of spending — on investments, on education, infrastructure, technology —- we don’t get extra tax revenues from the extra growth. When we spend money on these other areas, the economy grows. When the economy grows, tax revenues increase. It’s reflecting the same kind of shortsighted behavior perceptions that got the country into trouble in the first place. It’s not the national debt today that matters; it’s the national debt five, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If we spend the money well and that creates a stronger economy, that will create more tax revenue. And just like a firm borrows to make profits in the future, it makes perfect sense for us to borrow to create jobs today and to get more tax revenues in the future, and our national debt will actually be lower if we spend more money now.
***********************

The Democracy Now episode from which the above transcript was taken is here, in parts evidently:

Finally, In my online comment, linked to in my above online response to Sara Robinson’s article, I linked to a 2010 Tyee article by Murray Dobbin. It’s titled “This Is The Security State Steve Built.” I connected most of the dots that Murray connects here in his piece, and I did it before I came across his piece, which was reassuring (and gratifying), since I was beginning to think I had become an unconscious conspiracy nut. I have not seen too many other pundits connecting all these glaringly connected dots. No matter. If Murray was right in 2010 about this trajectory (of the Canadian state, following the direction of the US), How right is he now? On balance, the net sum of anti-civil society legislation that is issuing from the fascist American state, and which will be mirrored here sooner or later, clearly, is greater than in 2010. And it is more pernicious, seeing how it was in formation on one track, now all but completed, parallel with another track, also all but completed, that saw the assembly of security surveillance infrastructure. The fire has been put to the fuse with legislation now on the books and designed to weaken the people (by stripping them of civil rights) while strengthening the fascist state by enabling the operation of it’s shiny new security surveillance network. Happily, the authors of our misfortune will find they’ve been erased from another book.

“He who conquers will thus be arrayed in white outer garments and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life. Rather, I will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels… Furthermore, Whoever was not found in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 3:5;20:15)

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