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Saturday Morning: We’re Living the “Shock Doctrine”

Good Morning Conflucians!

Is it just me? Suddenly, I’m feeling almost in shock at what’s happening in our country and around the world. Maybe I could just regress back to childhood and watch cartoons on TV this morning? No. I have to stay present and face the reality of what is happening.

When Reagan was elected, I kind of checked out for awhile. I refused to read newspapers or watch TV news. I knew it was going to be bad, and so I just focused on other things than politics.

I did that again for awhile after 2000. I was so devastated by what happened–how the election was stolen with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court. I checked out again for awhile–until Bush used 9/11 to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve been paying attention since then. For some reason, this time I just can’t check out and pretend it isn’t happening.

In her book,The Shock Doctine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein writes:

“The history of the contemporary free market was written in shocks….Some of the most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market reforms.”

Klein’s book is about the most influential political-economic philosophy of our times, Neoliberalism–which originated with Economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics. I’m sure Dakinikat can articulate it all much better than I could. I only understand it from my experience and reading–from living it. Klein writes:

Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market would rule every aspect of life, from school to health-care, and even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices, and eviscerating government services. These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock….

Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical ‘free market’ crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. he called this method “economic shock treatment.”

Klein drew an analogy with the CIA methods of mind control and torture, which were used in federally funded experiments back in the ’50 and ’60s in government programs with weird names like MK-ULTRA, Project BlUEBIRD, later called Project ARTICHOKE.

Klein quotes from CIA interrogation manuals:

It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are in essence methods of inducing regression of the personality… Experienced Interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the subject is far more open to suggestion and far likelier to comply than he was just before he experienced the shock.

And another quote:

The subject should be apruptly awakened and immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. When arrrested at this time, most subjects experience feelings of shock, extreme insecurity, and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

This is what our government is doing to us. Bush was pretty good at it, but the shocks somehow seem more harsh under Obama. Maybe it’s because–even though most of us here at TC knew Obama wasn’t going to bring “change we can believe in,” it still seems more shocking when these beat-downs come from a President with a D next to his name, backed by an overwhelming majority of D’s in Congress. And somehow, the fact that these shocks are being administered in the name of health care reform seems so hideous and cruel, that it’s hard to remain present and keep educating yourself about what is happening. Sometimes, I really feel like I’m being hit in the head with a hammer–again…and again…and again.

Here are a few of the latest news stories and opinions. Let’s hang together and fight back against the forces of shock!

From Robert Reich’s blog: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them….

…we…end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs or the costs of pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.

MSNBC: U.S. grapples with child hunger ‘epidemic’

Three weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama set an audacious goal: end hunger among children in the United States by 2015.

Since his inauguration, Obama has seldom broached the subject. His aides brainstorm weekly with several agencies, but their internal conversations so far have not produced fundamentally new approaches. The president’s goal could prove daunting: Childhood hunger is more complex than previously understood, new research suggests, and is unlikely to be solved simply by spending more money for food programs.

NYT: Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Boing Boing: Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

“In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”

Robert Scheer: Dear Barack, Spare Me Your E-Mails

Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.

In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.

With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.

Let’s face it: President Obama is Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.

What are you reading this morning, fellow Conflucians? I hope you can find something to cheer me up. No matter how bad things are, we are all still here and we are in it together, so….


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108 Responses

  1. I could really use a hug right now.

  2. {{{sigh}}}

  3. BB,

    After reading most of this I too wondered if there was anything out there to lend a cheerful note to the day. I then went back to the cartoon at the top of the page and just looked closely at it. The expressions on the faces of the characters is so full of fun and enjoyment that I felt better immediately. I thought back to when I was little and couldn’t wait to get up on Saturday morning to watch the cartoons. Maybe we should start by listing our favorite characters or cartoons.

    All Looney Tune cartoons.

    Foghorn Leghorn

    Droopy Dog.

    • I LOVE Foghorn Leghorn! And Bugs Bunny–I adore him.

      Not a cartoon, but when I get down I like to watch old “I Love Lucy” reruns. I have the complete DVD set.

      • “WKRP” and “MONK” dvds.

      • I find cheesy Bonanza and The Big Valley reruns oddly comforting. A (fake) simpler time. & Barbara Stanwick kicked a*s–she was one tough broad.

        Now, Seinfeld and Will & Grace reruns often give me a welcome relief from reality.

        • Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore Reruns are nice too.

        • for reruns give me “Frasier” any day. Any show where Frasier and Niles got in to some prissy fight is guaranteed to have me laughing no matter how many times I see it. The reason I think is because that shows were written like very intelligent theater and performed as such.

      • I watch Xena on Netflix.

    • Daffy Duck: “…nothing up here (looks up left sleeve), nothing up here (looks up right sleeve), and nothing up here! (points to head).

    • I liked the dancing flowers and also Bugs Bunny Opera

      “Kill da Wabbit
      kill da wabbit………”

      Oh yeah, I LOVED the Muppet show. It was on at night when my kids were babies and Dave and I would sit and laugh hysterically at it.

  4. I’m going out to get some cooler than cool christmas presents for my little guy. I had work scheduled but aww screw it…I’m gonna go Christmasing and if I’m really good there will be a pumpkin latte in my future. xoxoxo y’all catch ya tonight!

    • She is all over the map.

    • Wow! Did you read the ending? She is joining MoDo in the Clinton nostalgia

      When people slammed Clinton in interviews they were often smiling as they spoke. “The rogue.” “Ol’ Bubba.” Those smiles said something. They liked him. When they like you, they forgive you a lot. Mr. Obama needs to make them smile. He doesn’t. He leaves them cool as he is.

    • Well, now, let’s give credit where due. At least she recognizes that he is a conservative, which puts her way ahead of the idiots who think he’s a socialist.

  5. This is interesting. Felix Salmon disagrees with Tim Fernholtz’s “intemperate attack” on Matt Taibbi.


  6. Naomi’s book was quite a read. When Rahm said, “never let a crisis go to waste” I instantly saw Naomi’s writing play out before my eyes. The bailout for banks was another time where her writing was thrust into our faces. Get the people rattled, then do what you want. Hell, they even admit now that the bailout amount was a total estimate not based on any real information. Bush used 9/11 to advance his war plans. There’s evidence everywhere that her writing is significant.

    • ITA.

    • Her book is a must read — absolutely — to understand what is happening today.

      One thing that happened in the countries that were free-marketized or Milton freidmanized was the huge loss of the middle class. Milton Freidman’s primary target seemed to be the middle class.

      And yet the middle class is the strength– probably the engine of democracy. I’m re-reading an old sociology Professor’s book – and he points out that the values of middle America — the middle class are the values that drive Democracy. But the middle class under siege and the bonus/parasite class is attempting to loot whatever the middle class has left.

      Milton Freidman WAS a nasty individual.

      Also the psychological shock described in Klein’s book — she is so right on target.

      Remember that old Milton was from the Chicago School of Economics — and so are many of 0bowman’s “economic” advisers. Perhaps Milton is returning from the dead to finish his job on America — the Zombie Economist.

      Everywhere that Milton tried to prove his “free market” economy theory — proved that there is no real “free market” — because those with the inside track always were right there to buy up the state owned assets (taxpayer owned and paid for). Tax payers got next to nothing for the assets — and the bonus/parasite class made off like bandits or bank robbers/thieves.

  7. What a supreme clusterf*ck.

    Senate Hits New Roadblocks on Health Care Bill


  8. I think we all suspect that they are capable of anything short of
    Idi Amin and Pol Pot. And for what? To what end?

    • That’s my question. Greed and power are obvious, but what does Klein say about Friedman’s supposed rationale for this economic plan? Did he really believe it would create general prosperity?

  9. Just to get you more depressed-
    “Steps to Take Before Cobra Subsidy Ends”


  10. Well, there is this; It may just be happening and not a moment too soon.

    • Nan, it’s a scam. Your link goes to Benjamin Creme crap. I’ve been watching that guy since the 1970s. I used to think he was simply deluded, but more recently I’ve become convinced that he is a con artist.

  11. BB, sometimes I think we must be twins who were separated at birth regarding our world views. It’s been very difficult for me to become politically engaged recently because the results of the Bush III administration are even worse than I thought. Glenn Greenwald picked up on the dangers early on when he asked why people who were willing to criticise George Bush’s actions were mute when it came to criticising Obama for actions which were the same or worse.

    If one good thing has come out of this Obama/Democrat fiasco, it is that most of the politically aware now understand that we the people are totally unrepresented in D.C. None of us has enough money to buy off the politicians, and that’s really the bottom line. Formerly Democrat blog commenters all over the internet are talking of starting a people-powered third party. It’s not just us anymore.

    I don’t have any magic insights. But am sending you a hug all the same.

  12. OT but maybe not: this post feeds right into a rant that is welling up inside of me and I hope you will forgive me for letting loose.

    I have a dear friend who is a painter (houses etc) in April of last year he was engaged by Coldwell Banker Real Estate to do the painting on a ton of bank foreclosures in CA that were being fixed up by the bank and CB for resale. They told him that pay for the work would not be made for 90 days.

    He has still not been paid for that work even though most of those repos have been sold. He received one partial payment from CB real estate and the check was dated two month before. He has a colleague who is a plumber also contracted for this fix up work. He also has not been paid. Both of them had to layoff workers to survive.

    What do you think are the odds that either the bank or the real estate company or both are holding out on these guys? Holding out on payment to inflate their own bottom lines? How many times do you think money meant to stimulate the economy and save/create jobs never made it past the money changers in the temples of capitalism?

    • Wow, that’s unbelieveable. Maybe they should go to Geither and Obama for satisfaction. The monsters are being allowed to get away with murder.

    • your friend needs to file a complaint with the state real estate commission. real estate agents/agencies are heavily regulated and risk losing their licenses for crap like this. the commission will investigate or, if they decide it’s outside their jurisdiction, will advise. tell him to file as a consumer.

    • Also, if he signed a contract with them, and he is licensed In CA he might be able to lien some of the property, he should check out his contractors rights. If he has no license he might be s***wed. In CA even a handyman/worker needs a license.

    • They should go to the local press–have they contacted any reporters? That’ll get the bank’s attention. File a report with the BBB or attorney general.

  13. http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2009/12/11/harry-reid-slips-lifetime-limit-into-senate-bill/

    I thought this was important enough to make people aware of some of the things in the so-called health bill



    • We are so screwed. Can we not launch The Third Party in NV with a Senatorial candidate to challenge Mr. Protect the Bandits at all Costs? I think Todd Palin would make a great Sen. for NV. Maybe Tryg, but he is not old enough.

      • Reid is already losing in the polls to a Republican.

        • Yep, methinks he’s going to go down.

        • I’m having trouble understanding how this will be good thing. Forget the whole “in charge” thing. If 60 votes are lost, I can’t see how the gridlock and Bushco job loss the repubs offer will be any better.

          • First, we will get a new majority leader. We might get a better one–which wouldn’t be that hard. Second, what good is th 60 vote majority if they’re not going to use it?

          • Yeah, that’s what I meant about the “in charge” thing. Who would it be? The main the health reform bill has gotten this far is because the 60 votes have been used to keep the the filibusters at bay. Maybe that’s your point? However, if we agree that we are looking at shades of gray in regards to Dem versus Repub these days, then getting rid of Reid won’t help.

          • RB – Harry has been unpopular in Nevada for quite some time. His first victory was a squeaker (about 400 votes after the recount) and he won the second time around because Richard Ziser, his nominal Republican opponent was no one anyone in the state took seriously. The Nevada R’s smell blood in the water, and it’s just a matter of seeing who makes it out of the primary. A lot of Dems hate him as well, and not for the reasons you might think.

          • Yeah, I understand BL. Where are you guys on the whole “let’s bury all the waste here and turn the sky green” concept? As I recall, Reid stood up against it.

        • Reid is now losing in NV polls to 3 different Republicans. It may not matter who runs against him. I’d hate to see a 3rd party split the anit-Reid vote.

    • That’s what we have to do. We cannot let the bill cannot pass in this form. But how can we stop it?

      • There were as of the 10th, 327 proposed amendments to the bill. I noticed a lot of the later ones are from dems, like Sanders. We could each read some of them see if there is any hope on any of them and petition to get them included or more added. I have an idea that it is too early to just contact the senators and tell them to vote it down. They are too engaged in trying to make it work.

    • Upon reading FDL’s link I have some questions. FDL might be right, however, enlighten me here, as I understand it, to pass a bill the words and/or meanings must be the same in both bodies. That’s why the Stupak amendment was dangerous. Was this limit in the House version?

      Secondly, are there amendments in the works to remove it? I haven’t looked at all of them.

      Third, if not why not, and should we start contacting people?

      Fourth in light of the linked NYT article, that seemed blown way out of proportion. Why?

      • The way it works is that the Senate will vote on their bill. If it passes, it will go back to the House for reconciliation. Both Houses do have to agree on the wording. But we don’t know for sure that the Supak language is out of the bill. Only Reid knows what he put in there.

        • I know Stupak, is only tabled, but that is better than not. Reid may be one of the few that understands what’s in there, or about to be in there, but everyone can see what’s currently agreed to by vote. Beyond that it’s wheeling dealing horse s**t

  14. BB – I’m in the same boat you are. Can’t bear to look and yet, can’t look away. Every time I tell myself, “Give it up girl,” I realize that I can’t. I am so frustrated I could scream. I do believe that Obama has killed the Democratic brand for decades. But then again, the brand has been on life support for some time.

    Hell, I’d run against Harry if I thought it would make a difference.

    In addition, these Johnnie-Come-Latelies screaming about Obama’s ‘betrayal’ are about to drive me around the bend. Between the tribalism gotcha and the Rahm is the puppetmaster screeds, I’m about to go around the bend.

    • Thanks for the link! Did you see this? I posted up above:

      Felix Salmon:

      Personally, I love it that Taibbi exists, and I’m impressed that his 6,500-word screed (into which a great deal of work clearly went) in fact has very little in the way of factual errors, let alone “lies”. Yes, Taibbi is polemical and one-sided, and he exaggerates his thesis, and he’s entertaining; I daresay he’s learned a lot from watching Fox News. And no, I would never want to live in a world where everybody wrote like that. But Taibbi is one of a kind, and we can enjoy him and learn from him as such. He might not end up changing policy in Washington. But he’s doing a much better job of making the policy debate relevant to Rolling Stone’s readership than anything Tim Fernholz has ever done.

      • Haven’t read every word of the back and forth, but Felix struck the best balance imo.

        • Ping pong. Now Fernholtz responds to both Salmon and Taibbi, defending the administration. Fact is Frank’s bill from the House is weak, including the consumer protection agency piece. Dodd is promising a much tougher version in the Senate on overall regulation and even oversight of the Fed. Strong rhetoric but won’t be holding breath. And imo, Taibbi would be more credible if he had a good editor.


          • Taibbi’s credibility isn’t helped by the simple fact that he sold Obama like he was the cure for cancer in 2008. He rode that horse on the way up, now he’s riding it on the way down. Fuck him!

          • That works too. 🙂

          • OK, I haven’t read the latest from Fernholtz, but I love this from the Taibbi response:

            But let’s cut the bullshit about the bailouts being intended to help ordinary homeowners and save auto workers. We could have paid off every subprime mortgage in America for about $1.4 trillion and instead shelled out at least ten times that to Wall Street, primarily to pay off derivative bets made by bankers on those assets

  15. With all respect and kind wishes during this holiday season, you are proselytizing and speaking for myself only, I reflexively tune out when that happens. Peace and love.

  16. I’m so glad you brought up The Shock Doctrine. It was a NY Times bestseller back in 2007, a real page turner thst reads like a thriller. It does provide a pretty good blueprint for Obama’s politics and use of power.

    You did an excellent job presenting the thesis of the book and all the main ideas. I just want to share with TC readers Klein’s description of a meeting in Washington D.C. on Jan 13, 1993 that blew my mind. Those present were an array of friedmanite “technopols” who occupied high positions in governments from all over the world. They were intent on planning future strategies to advance their common ideology, what one the attendees called “Machiavellian Economics”.

    The general topics of discussion were on how to get reluctant politicians to embrace neoliberal policies that are usually unpopular with voters. Some specific questions they posed for discussion were to me downright shocking for their pertinence to our convulsed present: “How soon after elections should shock therapy be launched?” “Are center-left parties more effective than right-wing ones because the attack is unexpected?” and “Is it better to warn the public or take people by surprise with ‘vodoo politics’?” (pp. 320-321)

    Now we have evidence that they had been planning the ascent to power of someone from “center-left” like Obama for over a decade! And the strategy would be shock therapy made palatable with “voodo politics”, an excellent term to describe the hopium induced stupor that still paralizes progressives in this country. That’s why they planned the Clinton coup d’etat in the DNC. Obama was their man, well funded by Wall St. and neoliberal interests, rich as Midas, well guarded by Geithner and Summers to guarantee he’d do their bidding..

    It will take decades to revert the policies of the “Bush-Obama Era” (they are the same except in kind of imagery and the quality of speeches). The pillage continues while the country sleeps. We need to wake up NOW!

  17. This is exactly why the government wants to encourage religion. Because the more you think a supernatural power is going to save us, the less time you spend pushing for actual change in the real world.

  18. Sorry to break the news to you but Jesus wants nothing to do with this hot mess.

  19. Nesting died because I took away the the proslyetizer

  20. I always seem to miss the best trolls. Darn it.

  21. BB, I haven’t read the book yet- now I see I must. Thanks. Some books define a generation’s thought process, I think, like evoking Johnny Mnemonic did for the Obats.

  22. Ah, but what do we do about any of it? How do informed people engage in useful dialog and then act on any resulting ideas? On some smaller, local andor interpersonal level, there must be something to be Done.

  23. New post up

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