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Naomi Klein warned progressives in 2008

But did they listen?  Nooooo.

What she is saying sounds an awful lot like what Conflucians were trying to warn.  If you don’t hold him accountable *before* the election, you won’t get anything from him afterwards.

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Anyway, it looks like progressives are about to make the same mistake again.  Can they be taught?  It’s not looking good.

Some of the things Klein said that should have triggered alarm bells is that Obama had no plan for getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was not an anti-war president.  As Jane Caro said politicians should underpromise and overdeliver.  And if progressives had been paying attention, they would have realized that Obama was promising nothing. The other thing she says is that as soon as Hillary bowed out, Obama put Jason Furman on his economics team.  Furman was not a friend to organized labor.  But note the timing.  Obama waits until progressives have put out for him and when there’s no way to get back the person they just blew off.  Then he brings in the guy that Wall Street liked.  He did something of the same thing on the telecomm immunity bill.  Hillary voted against it for principled reasons.  Obama voted for it- because Hillary had bowed out.

Klein was also wrong about some things.  She was wrong to hold one woman accountable for the Iraq War and let that one vote color her opinion about the character and vision of that candidate.  Progressives were completely deaf to everything that Hillary said that was not in reference to the war.  And no, she wasn’t held accountable by the voters for her IWR vote.  She was dumped because the money coming from Obama’s camp was too good to pass up.  Progressives’ deafness to everything *but* the war allowed something even more dangerous to creep in.  The Wall Street boys knew the financial collapse was coming and they set up the election so they would be in charge when the shock hit.  Klein came to Zuccotti park to talk at the Occupy movement’s birthplace.  And she was inspiring and absolutely correct about everything including the urgency.  But she undermined her own Shock Doctrine theory when she focused all of her attention on the war to the exclusion of the economy.  When the economy crashed and income inequality became even more obvious and suffering and unemployment started to take a toll on the American psyche, it took all focus away from the war.  Therefore, verily I say unto you anti-war activists, if you want to get out of illegal, abominable wars, you must exercise vigilance about your economy.

It wasn’t just the PUMAs who were trying to get progressives’ attention.  Klein happens to be incredibly good at predicting the fallout of the political decisions we make.  But “when your heart’s on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes”.  Progressives were infatuated with Obama and ignored all of the warning signs.

Four years later, the guy ignores them, abuses them, pushes them around and tells them they’re nothing without him.  And what to progressives do?  They go back to him because they think they have no other choice.  They will not stand up for themselves.

We’ve seen this plot before.  It will not end well.

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2000 year old mystery solved

Jesus at the first General Assembly on the Mount teaching the Beatitudes

I’m not religious, as anyone who has ever read my blog knows.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not astonished by the power of Christianity.  And by power I mean that after 2000 years, a poor peasant from Gallilee was able to transform the world.  How the heck did he do it?

The historians have looked at the archaeology and the limited historical records and the culture of the time and proposed some interesting facts about Jesus.  They fill in a lot of the missing gaps that the religious leave out, like the details of the social class that Jesus was from and the Israel he lived in and the reign of Herod.  But the facts were missing something intangible.  They were missing a narrative that would explain why the movement became so popular.  It had to be more than the Roman roads.

The religious have the Niceaen Creed, that was put together several centuries after Jesus’ death.  It emerged after a battle between the various sects of Christianity over the divinity of the Christ and how many pieces of God there actually were and other esoterica.  But they came to a consensus eventually, after they threw out all of the Gnostics and other heretics.  They adopted four gospels and some other books.  Why on earth they decided to throw in Revelations we will never really understand.  Maybe they thought fear would make Christians behave.  But their spin on Christianity never made a lot of sense to me either and I’ve seen even the most dedicated and eloquent pastors twist themselves into knots over the transubstantiation.  And the sacrifice to redeem us for our sins?  Ummmm, what?  I know a lot of people believe it and if it makes them feel safe, then who am I to argue.  I’m not saying the resurrection never happened because anything is possible.  But the symbolism just never made much sense to me.

It’s not eschatology.  Eschatology predated Jesus and existed in other Jewish sects after his death.  It wasn’t the treatment of the poor.  The Buddha understood suffering and ignorance long before Jesus came along.  And it wasn’t gnosis because the Greeks had that nailed down.  So, what was it that made this carpenter so powerful?

It wasn’t until this week that I finally got it.  When the pieces came together, I had a “oh, Wow!” moment.  Suddenly, I saw Christianity in a whole new way, one that even most Christians wouldn’t recognize, but would be completely familiar to the original apostles.

Let’s start with an empire.

The Romans were wealthy, militaristic and oppressive.  They bought up client kings in the provinces they conquered or intended to conquer. Their rule was law.  Peasants of client states paid their taxes.  They had a limited number of rights because they weren’t really citizens.  Most people were poor.  The fact that John the Baptist, prophet and eschatologist, had such a thriving ministry is a testament to the feeling of hopelessness among the poor.  Life in Judea could be nasty, brutish and short if you were born into the wrong class and people were generally unsympathetic to their plight.  The lower class, because there was no middle class, put its hopes in divine purification of the evils of the world. The average Jew lived in a country that was not his own and was barely tolerated by the Roman aristocracy and its army. This is the world that Jesus came from.

The story we have is that:

He preached to the poor.  He counselled them.  He was a great teacher.  He told parables and made his listeners think in new ways.  He fed them.  He celebrated with them.  He gave a sermon to end all sermons about peace, mercy, mourning, fulfillment, hunger and persecution.  He condemned the rich and arrogant.  He pissed a lot of people off.  The Pharisees got tired of him making Pharisees out of them.  His teachings made him famous.  He went to Jerusalem with a following planning an act of civil disobedience.  He and his closest friends pooled their money and had one last dinner where he told his friends that the day after next, they probably wouldn’t see each other again.   He goes to the Temple during a religious holiday where people from all over the country are using the place as a giant bank and he throws out the money changers who are collaborating with the Romans.  The Temple priests already overworked on a Jewish holiday and with Rome keeping an eye on them, are worried about this troublemaker his apostles making a ruckus and a mess and disturbing the peace.  So, they reported him into the local police.  He and his followers made camp in a garden and tried to stay up all night.  They were all scared, especially the head troublemaker because he knew he had broken one rule too many.  The Romans came in the middle of the night to break up the camp and arrest him. He tells his followers not to resist because they’re supposed to be all about peace.  His followers scattered.  He is thrown into jail, humiliated and beaten.

There’s some debate in the accounts of what happens next.  Did the Temple priest want him dead or just out of his hair?  Well, whoever turned him in probably knew what was going to happen next but if the Temple hadn’t turned him in, the money changers would have and business would be satisfied.  Better get ahead of the problem. The Roman governor condemned him  and nailed him up to be a lesson to all other future troublemakers.  He was killed.  His followers were disorganized and confused.  But got themselves together after some miracles and spread the word.

How strange.

Here we are in the 21st century and what do we see?

An empire, wealthy, militaristic and brutal.  It has no problem taking what it wants.  The wealthy buy the people they want to do their bidding.  The citizens live in a downwardly mobile world.  They pay their taxes but are at risk of losing everything in a poor economy.  Their votes are meaningless.  People who are poor or become poor through no fault of their own are shown no sympathy.  Eschatology thrives.

A bunch of people see that what has happened to less fortunate countries at the hands of that empire is starting to happen to them.  They decide to take matters into their own hands.  They don’t have a leader but they have a Jewish prophetess who preaches a Sermon in the Park.  But really, anyone could do this.  She just happens to be particularly memorable and moderately well known and she’s good at it.

Naomi Klein gives a sermon in the park

They feed the poor, counsel the troubled, comfort the persecuted.  They come to the great city and set up their camp near the money changers.  They try to turn the money changers out.  The money changers appeal to the police.  The authorities decide that their behavior is setting a bad example of non-compliance and is disturbing to business people.  The police raid their park and arrest them.

They must have seen that coming.

They continue to sacrifice themselves.  The number of their followers starts to swell when the people see how much they are willing to give of themselves to uphold a moral movement.

Now there are a probably a lot of people out there who are rolling their eyes and thinking this is a metaphor stretched too far.  But for me, the pieces of this puzzle finally fit.  The reason why Christianity succeeded was not because Jesus was so important.  In fact, he was just there for the beginning of what was a very long struggle.  It was so successful because it started off as a moral response to an oligarchical rule and the way it went about its actions affected so many people that by the time Jesus was made a sacrifice and an example by the Romans, his followers had reached a critical mass to keep the movement going.  He had laid out a framework of actions and behaviors that anyone could follow.  The apostles didn’t need a leader anymore because they *were* the leaders.  Of course, a miracle story is a good ice breaker but if you are a Christian because of the Christmas story and the Resurrection, you may be missing the point of the movement. It is what the early Christians did in their own communities that made the movement resiliant.  For centuries, they practiced civil disobedience, took care of one another, expanded their membership to include the gentiles and Samaritans (the other 99%), travelled from place to place, gave up what they had to minister to the poor, stayed with wealthy widows like Priscilla, and more modest followers like Mary and Martha, and sacrificed themselves over and over again until they were so popular in the empire that the Emperor himself gave in. By that time, the Christians already didn’t resemble what they started out as.  And that is a danger that a look back through history can help us avoid.

The Jesus movement is the one to emulate, not that it was the original intention of Occupy Wall Street.  It may be that successful grassroot movements have the same things in common.  Conditions for success have to be present, there has to be a tipping point and some of the other factors may not be easy to copy.   Many have tried.  But it takes more than a good communication route.  It isn’t enough to get people together at conferences to discuss politics.  It can’t be directed by a small group of people with money working behind the scenes.  The reason why MoveOn and Netroots Nation and the Tea Party have failed to move the public where Occupy Wall Street has succeeded is that the latter is a moral movement with a simple message and the people in it are willing to make personal sacrifices because they have nothing left to lose.  And the recent brutal crackdown by the authorities is a demonstration of the power of that morality.

Today, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We also know from our own personal experiences that a moral movement does not need a religion in order to succeed even if the religious decide to join it.  A moral movement also knows that it doesn’t need to have a political flavor.  It’s purpose is to lead people to a new way of thinking, new values and set of behaviors, new rules of acceptance and condemnation. When you change the way you think and behave, you become a new person, isn’t that right, Christians?  And a country full of new people becomes a new country.  The closest we have had in this country to such a movement was the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, lead by Martin Luther King Jr. who also made a personal sacrifice.

The tactics that this movement uses is a mix of the highly technical and the primitive.  Anyone with an iphone can record the events, and anyone with a voice can become a leader.  Anyone with a clever and amusing idea can capture the attention of thousands.  The message and tactics combined make this movement accessible to everyone while the images of sacrifice broadcast on the new Roman road can both anger and inspire.

This week, the current movement made its most significant sacrifice to date.  But there will be others.  As the prophetess said, we need to show each other kindness and take care of each other because we have chosen to challenge the most powerful forces on the planet.  And it will be hard.  It will be much easier to conquer each other.  Wise words. But in our lifetime, we may see a new generation of that movement from 2000 years ago.  That rebirth has happened before.  This time, the scale is global and echoes the economic and cultural atmosphere of the originators.  But with perseverance, it shouldn’t take 400 years to gain the upper hand.

Hold hands, look both ways before you cross the street and watch out for each other.

Look around.  You are part of a global uprising.  Don’t be afraid.  Love.  We are winning.

More Naomi Klein please

Check out this video of the panel discussion of the Occupy Movement at The New School from last Thursday night. Naomi Klein is brilliant again.   She is soooo good and so articulate.  She explains things so clearly you just automatically understand them.

And then there’s Michael Moore.

What can I say?  I’m sure he means well and his movies are pretty good.  I especially liked Fahrenheit 9-11.  But it seems like anytime there is an incipient “movement”, he’s right there, grabbing the spotlight.  And he’s as fickle as a magpie, attracted to one shiny object after another.  Like glomming onto Barack Obama and assuming that those of us who were old enough and wise enough to not “tolerate this crap”, ie Obama’s crap, are bitter white people who are Tea Partiers.  He’s just wrong about that.  Those of us who are Democrats in Exile are not antagonistic towards Occupy Wall Street.  We were just early- by three years.  Yes, while Moore was mooning over Obama and basking in Obama’s reflected shininess, we saw how his campaign threw working people under the bus.  The reason it took younger people longer to get to our point is that Obama sucked up to them in 2008.  They were naive and idealistic and blessed.  The rest of us were told in no uncertain terms that we were irrelevant and unwanted.  We were the canaries in the coalmine.  If Moore had really been paying attention to the way the voices of working people were ignored in 2008, he would have seen the future of the Obama administration.  He didn’t.

Anyways, I know he’s a good guy but enough, Michael.  Naomi is the spirit of the movement.

OccupyWallStreet: Naomi Klein explains it all

I saw this video at Suburban Guerilla (H/T Susie Madrak).  It’s an easy to understand explanation of what OccupyWallStreet is all about from Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine.  The clip is about 7 minutes long.

I am not surprised at the right wing rhetoric that is permeating the blogosphere today.  Here are some of the memes that are mischaracterizing OccupyWallStreet:

1.) It’s a mob.  I think Jon Stewart dispatched this meme Wednesday night with a quick look at how the Tea Party got its name.

2.) It’s all a bunch of college students who are sucking off of their parents.  They want free everything.  This is not true and I have the pictures to prove it.  There are a ton of people over 30.  If you go, you will find someone your age, I guarantee it.  As for college students sucking off their parents, I don’t know what some of these people do for a living but if their parents want to support them in a protest, what’s it to you?

3.) They’re just a bunch of lazy bums.  Ahhh, yes, I can practically smell Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh from here.  There ARE a lot of unemployed people there.  I was one of them.  But the city does have 3G coverage, even if it sucks for a large metropolitan area.   (Which makes me wonder why the infrastructure is so bad in the US) So, while you march, you can keep track of your job database search hits and take phone interviews.  The unemployed would much rather have a job, money, their houses, health insurance.  But all they have is time on their hands and righteous indignation.  So, they help out at a protest and help build a movement.  They do it so you don’t have to.  Thank them.  Clearly, this is a mean spirited attack on working people who through no fault of their own became unemployed.  It’s designed to make us feel bad and embarrassed.  Butcha know what?  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, as Eleanor Roosevelt said.  I don’t really give a flying f%^* what Rush or Glenn or any other moron has to say.  There are a lot of extremely intelligent and hardworking people unemployed right now so I am in very good company.

4.) They want free food, education, housing, healthcare.  I don’t think that’s true.  I think they want to enjoy the fruits of their labor and they don’t want to be exploited by the 1% anymore.  And when you think about it, Americans pay a lot in taxes compared to other countries.  I know Americansdon’t know it because how many of us get to work in another country?  What I mean by a lot is that for the amount of money you pay, you get relatively little.  A comparable amount in a developed European country will get you basic healthcare, a college education at a very affordable cost, maternity benefits Americans can only dream about and many other things.  And it’s not like Americans aren’t already distributing the wealth.  NJ taxpayers get 60 cents back in federal assistance for every dollar we send to Washington.  States that are the reddest and most unequal get far more than their dollars worth of taxes.  You don’t hear New Jerseyans screaming their heads off that Alabamians should join the 21st century but maybe you will in the near future.

I’m sure there will be more.  The right never misses an opportunity to turn Americans agains themselves.  Remember that kid who survived a car crash with severe head injuries and lived only because his poor parents enrolled him and his sister on SCHIP?  Yeah, I think the right called him a blood sucking slacker too at some point.  Fox, Rush, Glenn, and the Republican leadership have absolutely no shame.  They will smear anyone who tries to get between them and the 1%.

But those of you who have already bought into that narrative, what’s in it for you?  After the right uses you to strike back at the occupation, what will it give you?  Petty power over people who are gay or immigrant or female?  Is the right going to take on the bankers?  Put your adult kids to work?  Make your insurance premiums cheaper?  Are you going to get a break on your property taxes?  That last one is hillarious to anyone living in NJ under the Christie regime.  You dodged a bullet when Christie decided not to run for president.  Go ask Rush or Glenn what you get.  We’ll wait.

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….

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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