Award-winning Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has made a career of combining her training in economics (she was a fellow at the London School of Economics), law (honorary doctor of civil laws from University of King’s College, Nova Scotia), and journalism to report on the front lines of the debate over free market globalization for The Nation and the U.K.’s The Guardian. The short film above goes with her bestselling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The film is a short introduction to her thesis, which is documented and defended at length in the book. The idea is that disciples of economist Milton Friedman (who won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on monetary supply, but who is better known as the most thorough advocate of radical laissez-faire capitalism) use societal shocks (invasions, coups, natural disasters, etc.) in a way similar to the way torturous interrogators use individual shocks to gain compliance with captives. Friedman advised his disciples to use crises, shocks, to force through radical privatization of education, commerce, healthcare, prisons, even the military–while people were too numb from a crisis to know what was happening and resist. Klein wants to document this pattern (from Pinochet’s Chile to China after Tienneman Square to Iraq under Paul Bremer to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, etc.) in order for people to recognize and resist it. Her thesis is well worth considering. Radical capitalism is neither the fruit not the handmaiden of democracy, but is most radical in dictatorships (e.g., Pinochet’s Chile, contemporary China, post-Communist Russia) and undermines democracy by concentrating power in business oligarchies and taking it away from the judicial and legislative branches of goverment and concentrating it in the executive–and then reducing government to bare minimum. (It is worth noting that the insurgency in Iraq, though fanning sectarian rivalries between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, and augmented by foreign fighters from al-Qaeda, did not get any real headway until U.S. administrator Paul Bremer forced through the radical privatization of Iraqi business with sweetheart deals for U.S. business and concomitant loss of jobs for the Iraqis. The Iraqi people saw this looting of their natural resources–against international law–as a continuation of the war against them–and THEN the insurgency grew and the U.S. death toll started to mount. Klein contends that Abu Ghraib was a response–another shock– to a people that were refusing to be controlled. It is worth considering. I think what has been done to New Orleans fits this pattern perfectly.)
That’s the title of an excellent article by Aidsand Wright-Riggins, Exec. Director of National Ministries, American Baptist Churches, USA. It focuses on the rampant racial injustice still in the U.S. legal system–well beyond the case of the Jena 6.
If you follow U.S. politics and have anything CLOSE to my progressive commitments, you have to feel sorry for former Sen. John Edwards (D-SC). He chooses what should be the perfect setting and timing for his formal announcement as a candidate for the Democratic Nomination for President in ’08: Wanting to emphasize a campaign against poverty and for peacemaking, he chooses to announce in New Orleans–a city that symbolizes the malign neglect of the poor by the current administration and whose rebuilding has been hindered by the war in Iraq. Then he chooses the perfect timing to announce: Friday, 29 December–end of what is usually the slowest news week of the year. Brilliant.
But events just didn’t cooperate. Between the deaths and funerals of singer James Brown and former president Gerald Ford and Iraq’s execution of Saddam Hussein, Edwards’ announcement was all but drowned out. He drew good crowds in New Orleans and in his quick trips to Iowa and New Hampshire (early primary states in U.S. presidential elections), and the print media covered him well. But clips from his announcement and subsequent trips should have been played repeatedly on all the major news networks–giving him a powerful megaphone prior to the announcements of presumed Democratic “heavyweights” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). But I didn’t see ANY coverage in the networks or 24-hr cable news stations. The deaths of the famous and notorious drowned him out.
And that’s too bad. Because, although I wasn’t all that impressed with Edwards in ’04 (especially after he became John Kerry’s echo–I mean running mate), I have been very impressed since then. He was one of the first big name Democrats in the senate to renounce his vote for the the ’04 “authorization to use force” that gave a veneer of legitimacy to Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Hillary still won’t even call her vote for the same “a mistake.”
Edwards created a think-tank on poverty and he has become far more knowledgeable about foreign policy and more aggressive in defending international law, human rights, and peace. He has boldly called for universal health care (not just universal availability of insurance)–long a dream of progressives. But now that health care is the largest labor cost of business and is one of the problems of the airline and auto industries, Edwards could get support for this long overdue social safety net from both business and labor.
Edwards’ message–economic justice, ending poverty, the U.S. rejoining the international community (instead of trying to command its obedience) and reestablishing human rights and peacemaking, repealing the absurd tax giveaways to the richest at the cost of everyone else–is one that needs to be heard and should find a hearing in today’s USA. Now, if only Edwards can get that message out.
This may turn out to be an interesting primary season for the Democrats–the 2 announced candidates, Kucinich (D-OH) and Edwards (D-SC) are both more progressive than media darling Hillary Clinton. Have times begun to change from our long slide from democracy to plutocratic oligarchy? One can only hope.