Sunday, March 30, 2008

The two Naomis

It's easy to get Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf confused. Their most recent books came out at roughly the same time; they have the same first name; and both write from a perspective one would deem progressively left. The Wolf book, "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot," is more a polemic, full of passion, but not a great deal of scholarship. It outlines the ten warning signs of a nation slinking towards fascism, and delivers a loud call for mobilization before the slide becomes irrevocable. I read it quickly, then passed it on to my daughter. This is by no means a dismissal. The book is a wake-up call to anyone who naively believes that it cannot happen here.

"The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," by Naomi Klein, is, on the other hand, a work of of ... well, shockingly detailed scholarship, a book that cannot be read at one sitting, not because it isn't readable (Klein is a superb writer), but because it is necessary to periodically cogitate on what Ms. Klein has just told you before continuing. The central thesis is this: the "free market" principles devised by the late Milton Friedman and his Chicago School of Economics in the 50's and 60's, and which are the primary philosophic under-pinning of the neoconservative agenda, have always been conjoined with policies of "shock and awe" (a phrase, by the way, that originated with Friedman). In other words, traumatize the populace, either by taking advantage of a natural disaster or scaring the shit out of them with propaganda, and then shove neoliberal market reforms down their throats (including massive privatization of public works) that ultimately benefit multinational corporations and corrupt politicians and their cronies, but strangle democracy and destroy the local economy. With furious prose, copiously backed up with references, Klein reveals the connections between the rise and fall of the "Asian tigers," the breakup of the Soviet Union, Chile under Pinochet, Argentina under the fascist junta, Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans, the SE Asian tsunami, and, of course, Iraq. This extraordinary book will lift the veil from your eyes. It is, as the SF Chronicle called it, "the central narrative of our time."

The talented Mexican filmmaker Alfonso CuarĂ³n and Naomi Klein made a short film graphically illustrating some of the central tenets of her book.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Winter Soldiers

I've been listening to their stories. These are stories from hell from men and women who've been there and back. The hell created on the sands of Mesopotamia by the Legion of Chickenhawks in the Oval Office and their equally spineless droids on Capitol Hill. Do you want to understand why record numbers of returning vets are committing suicide? Do you want to find out what our combat troops were expected to do in the line of duty? In your name? These are the real heroes.

Sub-primes and Spitzer

“When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably.”
-- Former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer

Is there any connection to the finance industry's meltdown and Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace? Greg Palast thinks so, and frankly, when Greg spins, I listen. He's been right more times then he's been wrong (actually, I don't know when he has EVER been wrong).

Yeah, so Bad Boy Eliot got caught doing what Sen. David Ritter (R-LA) and God knows how many other "family values" Republicans have done. But Spitzer is down for the count while Vitter continues to do the hellish work of the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate.

"This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

"Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer."

-- Greg Palast, Eliot’s Mess

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A tale of two scumbags

What exactly is the difference between David Vitter, Republican Senator from Louisiana and Eliot Spitzer, Democratic now-former Governor of New York?

Mostly just two. Spitzer is a liberal Dem. And Venter is still in office.

So, the lesson here, kids, is this. It is a far greater sin to be a whore-mongering liberal Democrat than a whore-mongering right-wing Republican.

Only in America...

... is it easier to impeach someone for having sex than for lying to justify war, torture and multiple violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

My country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of hypocrisy ...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

El Stupido Gallery

For a president who has stayed out of the public eye as studiously as George W. Bush, stepping out in front of the Iron Curtain of his administration only for carefully choreographed photo ops, there are an extraordinary number of photos of Dubya looking ... well, fairly stupid. As we watch the Decider slowly fade into history's no doubt harsh verdict on his appointed presidency, a review seems in order.
But lest you think that that class clown, with all of its intonations of harmlessness, is the true face of George W. Bush, the following perhaps reveal more accurately the soul in the heart of the beast.

Quote of the year

"George W. Bush, when you get right down to it, is a fucker. That's why I don't like him. He's a fucker who does fucked-up things. He's a privileged little shit who doesn't give a damp hell for the opinions of the people he was elected to govern. He buys into the toxic economic theories of unreconstructed capitalism, despite never having had to earn an honest living in his life, and he supports a worldview that cuts out anyone who hasn't had his good fortune -- the worldview of a murderous plutocracy stained with swaths of luck and cruelty where first is first and second is nobody. He's stupid in the truest sense of the word: willfully ignorant and determined to surround himself with people who keep him that way, not only resistant to different ideas but actively hostile towards them. He is neurologically incapable of thinking ahead, and he consigns the consequences of his actions to the status of dreams. And he forced his country into a pointless, unnecessary, unconscionably wasteful war that will poison every aspect of American life for generations."
-- Mister Leonard Pierce, Alternet