NoisetteandtheDude’s Blog

August 10, 2010

An e-book & a POD book – “Inn Sight” by Elizabeth Berry – be sure to get this book for yourself if you like a good read, particularly if you prefer what publishers call “a cozy” – which means, no graphic violence or sex. This book is a Bainbridge Iland B&B Mystery & it won the 2002 Malice Domestic Award (but has only just been published). It’s murder, intrigue & fresh sheets. A great read.

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 1:36 pm

January 1, 2009

A new year – Let us strive for a new beginning

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 3:47 pm

I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. Not to say I haven’t made them; just haven’t kept them with any notable success.

So this year, I’m keeping it simple. I’m just going to do what I can to support the idea of a new beginning for our country.  We’ll have a new president in 19 days, so I’m hopeful.

I know it won’t be easy. We’re embroiled in two wars abroad and our economy is in near-collapse. It won’t be easy for our new president, who is so often compared to Abraham Lincoln, his notable predecessor from Illinois.

President Obama has a big job in front of him – as did Abraham Lincoln as he took office for the second time in March, 1965.  His nation was at war with itself, his his people were divided, and his nation’s economy was in a shambles. 

So it’s useful, as we look ahead this year, to reflect back on President Lincoln. Here is Lincoln’s second inaugural address, an exquisitely succinct speech quoted in its entirety.

 

Fellow-Countrymen:

 

AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

December 9, 2008

A couple thoughts about economics

Filed under: Economics — noisetteandthedude @ 12:32 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I enjoyed the recent article in The New Yorker about Ben Bernanke, and I hope the “takes a crook to catch one” philosophy works, because Bernanke will be the head of the Fed for awhile. Seems to me that Bernanke can adapt to new realities, unlike the ideologue who preceded him; that’s gotta be a plus. One must never forget that Alan Greenspan, the previous head of the Fed, used to be the main cheerleader of the Ayn Rand fan club. No wonder he seems so baffled now.

The most recent issue of The New Yorker contains an equally fascinating (and equally lengthy) article, this one by Larissa MacFarquhar about Naomi Klein, an article that left me with mixed emotions.  

I’ve already written at some length about Klein’s opus: “The Shock Doctrine,” so you know where I stand on that subject. The background provided by The New Yorker article helped illuminate the origins of her philosophy.

I came away understanding that Ms Klein is certainly more moderate than her parents when it comes to politics, but the conclusion of the article’s author – that Kline is more anti-corporate than anti-Milton Friedmanism – is suspect, I think.

Corporations have indeed been the culprits responsible for the excesses of unregulated crisis capitalism – but the philosophy they followed was Friedman’s. And that philosophy was implemented by governments – most notably our own – not by corporations, who were “merely” the beneficiaries. I suppose it doesn’t really matter; it’s been a hand-in-glove arrangement benefiting all involved. Excepting the people, of course. You know, all us main-streeters who are sticking our grandkids with the bill.

I’m fairly certain Obama is familiar with Ms Klein’s “Shock Doctrine,” as well as Friedman’s “liberal” economics and Keyne’s prescriptions for the government’s proper role in economics.

Let’s hope President Obama shows the same balance in melding their disparate philosophies as he has in assembling his work force – with, one hopes, a whole lot of Keynesianism to counter the unbridled Friedmanism that got us to this sorry situation – and a good hard look at Naomi Klein’s indictment of Friedmanism, too.

He probably will; I’m sure he enjoys The New Yorker just as much as I do.

What do you think?

–The Dude


December 7, 2008

Obama’s best cabinet selection

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 9:34 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This morning, on this 67th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Obama announced his choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs: a Hawaiian-born Japanese-American, General Erik K. Shinseki, who spoke out publicly in opposition to Donald Rumsfeld’s and Paul Wolfowitz’s plan to invade and pacify Iraq with minimal troops.

Shinseki was then serving at the Pentagon as Army Chief of Staff. He retired in protest after Baghdad fell. Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz attended his farewell ceremony.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw this morning on Meet the Press, President-Elect Obama said Shinseki agreed to join the incoming administration because “…both he and I share a reverence for those who serve… When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served – higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance-abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate – it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.”

General Colin Powell called Shinseki “a superb choice… an inspired selection.”

You gotta love the timing – and especially the irony.

-The Dude/Vet

November 26, 2008

A short anecdote: health-care reform needed?

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 12:22 pm

My Tuesday started out like my Monday ended up: with me passing several small but painful kidney stones. Fortunately, I had a couple Vicodin pills left over from some awesomely bloody dental work last summer, so I survived Monday night in a state of befogged bliss.

Which ended Tuesday morning, because I was out of pills (even my Tylenol bottle was empty). Obviously, I needed more Vicodin. So I went to see my doc at 9:00, only to find out he couldn’t see me until 3:00 and – more to the point – wouldn’t write an Rx for painkillers until after he’d examined me, no doubt to make sure I wasn’t just another senile senior seeking oblivion by feigning pain (or, heaven forfend, a Reagan “welfare queen” gaming the system). Just giving me what I wanted (an Rx for Vicodin) wouldn’t be ethical, you know.

So I staggered across the street to Safeway to buy some Tylenol and I survived to my 3:00 appointment just fine, at which time I persuaded Doc that my history of 15 years of kidney stone transmigration was not an elaborate subterfuge. Just to be certain, Doc sent me down the hall to meet his new CAT scan machine (as I knew he would, since he’d just spent $3,000,000 installing it: my town’s third CAT scanner in a three-block radius, all of them owned by competing medical firms, all of them installed last year). I’m no medical facilities planner, but three CAT scanners to serve a town of 10,000 might be overkill – but it has certainly turned my town into THE place to find a scanner; we’re the left coast’s Mecca for people seeking visual proof of virtual ills.

A few minutes later, when Doc’s pretty new machine finished my scan (for which Medicare will foot the bill), I returned to Doc’s office and set up an appointment for Friday, at which time Doc will review my scan results with me (they will, of course, show a small treasure trove of tiny kidney stones that will either find their way into my ureters, or not, over the next several years – just as they have since my last scan five years ago).

Doc’s appointments nurse also handed me Doc’s Rx for. . . Surprise!  Vicodin. Many many Vicodin, actually: 50 tablets, on a prescription I can refill four more times, as I wish, at $5.72 per bottle. I am set for life on Vicodin.

Doc’s Rx was written, of course, before any scan results were available; for all I know, he wrote the Rx during my morning visit. But if he’d given it to me then, Medicare couldn’t be charged for that afternoon’s visit with Doc, nor for that expensive CAT scan from Doc’s expensive machine, nor for my Friday followup visit with Doc. This way, everything can and will be billed – and Medicare and my supplemental insurance will pay for it all.  

Except my Rx, of course.

Isn’t our health care system wonderful? One hand washes the other, and many bonus hands get cleaned and polished as well. Everybody wins!

Except the folks paying the freight for our busted health-care system. Oh, right, that’s us.

But like most everyone who is fortunate enough to have good health insurance, I don’t seem to care. I’ve got 49 pills left in Vicodin bottle number one (with four more bottles on their way), I’m feeling no pain whatsoever, and I’m turning in for the night, having just watched the best superhero movie I’ve seen in awhile: “Hancock” – my kind of superhero: a grungy, foul-mouthed dude who is compelled to fight injustice in a very messy way – but doesn’t really enjoy his job.

Let’s hope President Obama cares. Someone should.

Thanks for tuning in.

G’night all!

–The Dude

November 10, 2008

Ode to Joy

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 11:55 am

The day after the election, my younger daughter and I attended a dress rehearsal performance of Portland Opera Company’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio.”  The production was terrific, all the more special to me because my oldest grandchild was an especially vivid supernumerary on stage for the final scene.  You’ll remember that scene if you’re familiar with the story: the whole town rejoices as Don Fernando, the Spanish minister of state, frees Fidelio/Leonore’s husband, Florestan, from unjust imprisonment by the connivingly murderous governor Pizzaro.

The music of the final chorus, celebrating Florestan’s freedom and the triumph of justice, was so reminiscent of another Beethoven masterpiece: the “Ode to Joy,” the German folk music forming the core of the fourth movement of his ninth symphony. 

That finale brought tears to my eyes – not as many as had been there the night before, when Barack Obama was declared President Elect at 8:00:01, Pacific Standard Time – but still… 

I couldn’t help but see “Fidelio” as such a satisfying and timely metaphor for this election – the triumph of the people over tyranny, of opting for renewal and hope after such a long period of gloom and strife.  Fidelio’s joyful final chorus provided terrific punctuation: we prevailed!

Not that we won’t have a long road to travel to get back to what we deserve: peace, prosperity, a measure of happiness.  But at least we can celebrate now.  We are on the right road, and we’ve chosen the best man to lead us.  And I am certain we’ll get there.

It’s going to be a terrific journey!

 

–The Happy Dude

 

October 31, 2008

That day.

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 5:04 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I got an early morning email from my younger daughter yesterday – an email with a very short message: “It’s that day again.”

Took me a minute of pondering to decipher that.  Finally, “Oh, yeah. That day.”  Elizabeth, my wife of 35 years, died exactly four years ago yesterday – suddenly, unexpectedly, and way too soon.  She was only 68.

And so, a flurry of emails amongst me and the kids, all of us sharing remembrances of G. Elizabeth Berry, my remarkable bride. 

My daughter-in-law said:

“I just got out all of our Dia de los Muertos stuff yesterday and showed Rachel pictures of her grandma Liz for the first time. She seemed impressed. I’m glad that [my man] will be up this weekend so we can give her coffee and peanut butter toast together. I always think of the whole tortured time when I vote, because [my man] and I were sitting down to vote when he got the call to come to the hospital.”

My older son had been spending his day with his girlfriend, listening to Harry Belafonte’s “Calypso” album, one of mother’s favorites.  And he’d just sent a newly composed eulogy to a music blog peopled by some of his friends:

“Mom’s been deceased for four years today. I think this music-saturated list is a perfect place to write a few words about her. Mom’s life was defined by music, and her obsession helped shape me into the insufferable music geek elitist jerk I am today.

She became a mother at a relatively young age, but a part of her wanted to be an explorer, or astronaut, or probably even president of the US. That part of her personality sparked a restlessness and an intense curiosity about people and places that served as a fine example for me. But it also caused her quite a bit of unrest and dissatisfaction, too. But just think about the obstacles a strong woman faced in the 50s and 60s.

Mom was an ardent supporter of civil rights. She had good friends of many sizes, colors, sexual orientation, personality and religion, and she didn’t do this to be politically correct: she enjoyed the (yes I know the term is overused) diversity.

Mom loved music. She loved folk, calypso, and Flamenco, and classical guitar, and symphonic classical music, and opera. She listened to just about everything she could. She claimed to hate jazz, but she liked “Ellington at Newport”. She claimed to hate country music, but she had some Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, too.

Mom played a little guitar, and she’d play Harry Belafonte’s songs for me, and she’d smile when “Brown Skin Girl” or “Come Back Liza” brought me to tears. I am gifted with a good ear for music, and this is due in great part to the music playing constantly in our home.

There were always musical instruments around the house — guitar, piano, mandolin — and I know that is in part why I ended up being able to coax a melody out of just about any stringed instrument. And I think her love of polyrhythmic music is part of the reason I seek out African and Brazilian and Latin American music now, and why it doesn’t bug me if the singer sings in a language I don’t understand.

In 1963, when I was struck dumb by the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, she didn’t get it right away, but she tolerated my thirst for Beatles LPs and 45s. But right after that she went back to school to get her master’s degree in history education, and she started bringing home music that amazed me even more. One day she came in with a stack of albums and said: ‘now, you might not like the way this guy sings, but you HAVE to hear his songs!’ And that started my infatuation with the music of Bob Dylan.

For a good portion of my childhood, Mom was single going to school and working nights. In the late 60s, she took a teaching job in Rapid City, South Dakota. She wrote a fiery letter to the Rapid City newspaper, denouncing the Vietnam War. A young USAF officer read that letter and said to his roommate: “I have to meet that woman.” He looked her up in the phone book, called her, and they were married a few months later. Dad has been such a good father that I just call him Dad — no need for a “stepdad” title.

Later on, an illness left Mom partially deaf. The good news (we would joke) was that she could no longer hear electronic beeps or rings of any kind. The bad news is that this severely diminished her passion for music. But she still loved music she could hear, such as opera.

In 2004, Mom developed cancer of the esophagus, and it came on quick. She died before election day, but she and Dad had mailed in absentee ballots, and Dad is sure that they were part of the reason that Kerry carried Washington state.

Mom would have loved Obama’s run for presidency. And like me, she would have really been torn up during the nomination process when a strong woman and a strong person of color were vying for the nomination.

Anyway, I miss her, but I also am reminded of her each and every day. Today is a good day to put some of those memories into words. Thanks for tolerating my sentimentality.”

 

—To which my younger daughter replied that her mom was more than just a fan of Belafonte: “As a young mother, mom always felt that racial integration should commence and commence immediately, starting with her and Harry Belafonte.  And who could blame her?”

Thanks, daughter – I needed a chuckle, right then! 

I sent one more email to the kids:

“I suppose it’s just more proof that time does indeed pass and that life goes one, and I know that one needs to be grateful.  But when you first said, “It’s that day again,” I drew a blank for just a moment. Then, oh yeah, THAT day.  That day is here.

Earlier this week – Monday, I think – I finally understood the pensive and mildly distracted mood I’ve been in for the last couple weeks.  Looking at my bill calendar did it. You won’t find Liz’s death noted on that calendar – or any in my house – because it’s engraved on my heart.  But actually seeing the date of October 30 on the calendar (with a long list of bills due) made me look inward.  So I cried for a bit, again. And then put my heart away, again.

Until your note this morning.  So thanks for the reminder – really.  Because I don’t ever want to forget.

I don’t automatically think of Oct 30th when I vote, probably because in 2004 Liz and I voted a week or so before the 30th, filling out our ballots in that hospital room over a shared lunch.  It gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure to know that your mom’s vote counted that year, even though she wasn’t around to be counted on election day.  Didn’t make any real difference that we helped make sure that Bush the Lesser did NOT carry Washington state in 2004, but it mattered to me – and I think, to Liz as well.

So I’m going to take a drive today, to a hilltop in Portland, listening to Maria Callas and Luciano along the way.  I’ll leave some more roses and some more tears behind.  Then I’ll drive slowly home, and I’ll have a cup of coffee and some peanut butter toast and I’ll feel better.  I know I will.

And yes, I have paid all those bills that were due today.  Liz would be pleased.

Love, Dad”

Then I drove to Willamette National Cemetery, the veteran’s cemetery in Portland, where Liz’s remains are entombed under a simple granite slab with both of our names on it – where I’ll be placed too, eventually.

When I got home last night, I sent on last email to the kids:

“The drive to Willamette National Cemetery was fast, featureless and forgettable.  As it turned out, I didn’t listen to music at all, didn’t even turn on the stereo.  Just drove and thought and remembered and felt.  I did stop at a Fred Meyer for a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses – and more coffee.  

As fate would have it, I arrived graveside at the exact moment of your mom’s death four years ago: 2:10 pm.  Which seemed fitting.  We had a nice chat.  The lawn had been freshly mowed so it looked especially crisp and green and pretty, and Liz’s bouquet was the only one on the entire hillside.  Apparently an end-of-October Thursday isn’t a big day for commemorations.  The roadside tap for water for the little cone-shaped cut-flower holders wasn’t working – shut off for the cold weather, I suppose.  So I filled the flower cone with the bottled water I’d been drinking, after first taking a last sip.  

‘From my lips to yours, darling.’

Your mom’s doing fine.  She enjoyed hearing about your emails re: Harry Belafonte – I swear I heard her laugh.  I couldn’t leave there, until she laughed.  So then I did.

I had forgotten to take along Maria Callas and Pavaroti CD’s, but then remember my iPod was in the glove box.  So I plugged it in and listened to Maria’s “Diva” album and Luciano’s “Concert in Hyde Park, ” performed just before Princess Diane died – the concert was dedicated to Princess Di, or “Donna, Non Vidi Mai” (never have I seen a woman like this), the penultimate aria in the concert (the finale being “Nessun Dorma”).

And that completed a nice circle for me.  Would have been a perfect circle if I’d been able to listen to “Day-O,” too, but at least I could hum it.

And now, some toast and peanut butter.

Love, Dad”

Just before I fell into bed last night, I got an email from a friend in Washington, who had also been thinking about Liz:

“When I do go to Pegasus [a coffee shop where Liz and I met our friends, nearly every day] – there’s a thinly veiled malaise that hovers like fog over the crowd – people try to inject intelligent thought, they try to come up with topics and they try to juice up the conversation, but they fail – mostly because their attempts start in the first person – Liz threw hard balls at you that she expected you to catch – she dropped ideas on the floor and then poured burning oil on them while we danced around trying to make sense of what was happening… then she’d ask something like:  ‘What’s worse?  The mess? The smoke? The fire?’  A few people try but they’re really just telling you something.  Liz brought questions the asked us to tell her something about the questions…it was magic.  We all miss her.”

Indeed we do, my darling Elizabeth.  And we always will.

–Your Dude

October 29, 2008

Making the “Dismal Science” less dismal

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 12:13 pm

First, thanks to Barry and Adam L, for continuing the discussion. Both of you obviously put some thought into your comments, and I appreciate hearing from you.

When I posted “Economics: the Dismal Science,” my focus had been sharpened by reading Naomi Kline’s “The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Economics.”  I’ve still not finished the book, because – like electro-shock – it’s best taken in small doses; too painful if you don’t.  If you don’t believe me, buy Ms Kline’s book, read the first couple chapters (which document the uses of electro-shock as a tool for re-education), then try to get a good night’s sleep.

That said, time is moving right along, and the economy remains THE issue in the 2008 presidential race, even more so as we approach election day (six days from now). So I’m trying to shift my focus to what the next four or eight years will look like, under president Barack Obama.

He’ll be inheriting a mess, and while he’s in no way responsible for it, we will all expect him to solve it for us.  It’s going to be a huge job, and one has to wonder what he’ll do (or even, what he CAN do) on our behalf.

In some ways, the economic downturn Obama faces as he takes office is much like that confronting FDR in the 1930’s.  Most everyone (except John McCain) agrees there is something wrong with the “fundamentals” of how our economy has been operating – and there are fingers pointing in all directions at the culprits.  Variously, the culprits are defined as “trickle down” economics, unchecked corporate greed, rampant consumerism, too little regulation, too much regulation.  Take your pick: you’ll find supporters – and detractors, all equally ardent.

Here’s how I see it: so many fingers point so many different ways because too many people base their analysis on unexamined ideological biases.  That was true of Milton Friedman and his “Chicago School” nation-leading disciples (including Thatcher, Pinochet,  Reagan, both Bushes, McCain, and Clinton).  And it’s equally true of critics of unadulterated laissez-faire economics like John Maynard Keynes and Naomi Kline.

It seems incredibly apparent to me that no one has all the answers.  To be sure, the strengths of market-driven capitalism are well-documented – and few question the central tenet that unregulated, laissez-faire economics can produce an efficient distribution of resources that can benefit all who participate.  It’s also certain that having people in the equation complicates things, because we don’t always behave rationally, even when our own welfare is at stake.

My hope for the next four or eight years is that president Obama will move decisively in solving the dilemma – but NOT by adopting the extremes of Keynesianism or Friedmanism.  As is most always true, a middle road is the most direct road, and a form of Friedman’s Chicago School of economics, carefully leavened by consistent regulation of banks, investment firms and our monetary system, will be sufficient.  We already have a form of socialism (i.e., public ownership) in place now – with congress’s enactment of the rescue package.  And that dismays many traditionalists.

But the rescue package also provides a venue for developing a more rational approach for government management of our economy.  Notice that I refer to “management,” not “regulation.” Because that’s what we’re talking about: government management of our economy, for the public good.

Because we’ve seen that non-management doesn’t work very well; an unmanaged economy does not “raise all boats” and it does not benefit anyone, except those who best navigate the tax codes for their own benefit: i.e., the very rich and the very powerful, who can afford high-priced experts to light their path.

I believe that Barack Obama will draw from the best of both worlds: the “Chicago School” and the Keynesians – and follow the middle path.  It won’t be easy and it won’t be without pain, and it will take awhile.  The great depression didn’t end because of a speech about not fearing fear.  It took action – deliberate government intervention – to turn things around.

But it can be done.  And I’m encouraged to see that, as a “Chicago School Democrat,” Barack Obama understands this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/magazine/24Obamanomics-t.html?pagewanted=all

Let’s hope so.

October 25, 2008

Economics: the Dismal Science

 

…An especially dismal science lately.  We’re all hurting these days, which is the main reason Obama will be elected in a landslide in 10 days. Poor John never had a chance: not only does he admit that he’s no economist, he’s been swamped by a tsunami of repossessions, forfeitures, and just plain panic.  And all of us have had way more than enough of this crap.

But I think we need to poke around in the pile and see if we can understand just how we got here, then set a course to higher ground.  I mean, someone’s got to do it; might as well be us.

Most politicians now agree that under-regulation of the banking and securities industry is the root cause of this latest economic melt-down.  But politicians tend to line up, lemming-like, marching in lock-step cadence to the latest polls.  You and I need to look a little deeper.

Naomi Kline’s “The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism” is a good place to start.  A word of caution: the book is not a pleasure read; it’s too full of things that make your blood boil to be any fun as bedtime escapism.  The problem is that I can’t stop reading the damned thing because it’s so real and brutal.  And so very, very scary.

In painful detail, Kline’s book delineates how Milton Friedman’s “Chicago School” taught a whole generation of economists how to take advantage of – and create  “shocks” to speed adoption of unfettered free enterprise.  They’ve succeeded beyond Friedman’s wildest ambition; his “neoliberal economics” dominates the world.

Lots of terms have been used to describe this kind of economics: “neoliberalism,” “classical economics,” “laissez-faire,” “neoconservatism,” or more familiarly, “Trickle-down economics” or “Reaganomics.” [Your assignment for tomorrow, class: How does trickle-down economics differ from getting pissed on? Compare and contrast.]

The most accurate terminology is Ms Klein’s: “The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism.” Whatever you call it, it’s destroying our country – and our world.

Ms Klein starts by talking about Pinochet and Chile, and how Chicago School economists and the CIA worked hand-in-iron-fist with the Pinochet regime to restructure Chile’s economy – all for the benefit of Pinochet’s governing class, wealthy Chilean business owners and land-holders, foreign investors (especially Ford Motor Company), and the United States government.  All in the name of anti-communism and unregulated free enterprise, and all at the expense of the citizens of Chile, who went from living in poverty to living in fear and ruin.

Much has been written of Friedman’s Chicago School in helping Pinochet achieve the “economic miracle” of Chile.  And much has been written of Pinochet’s human-rights abuses, and Amnesty International’s role in documenting those abuses.  Until Ms Klein’s book, almost nothing has been written about how those abuses were deliberate, and essential to achieve the “Chilean Miracle.”

Amnesty International’s role in documenting human rights abuses in Chile was exquisitely narrow; they could document the specifics of Pinochet’s abuse of his citizens and publicize those specifics in glorious detail, but they could not examine the reasons for the abuse.  They could document the what, but not the why.  Their charter specifically forbad them from looking into the why, and their funding – mostly from the Ford Foundation – was conditional on them not looking for causes.

Which explains why Milton Friedman’s role in promoting those abuses was ignored – and why Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976 for his work with Pinochet, and why Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, for its work in the very same country.  For a couple years there, it appears everyone on the Nobel committee was wearing very tightly fitted blinders.  Or, more likely, just seeing what they wanted to see.

Ms. Klein’s book goes on to explain how the shock doctrine remade the economies of the rest of the world, after Chile: the balance of the “southern cone” (Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia), Great Britain under Thatcher, the United States under Reagan, Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Poland (under Solidarity), South Africa (under the ANC), and China (ongoing).  The list is endless.  And more than a little depressing.

So, what do we do?  I’ve got some ideas – you know I do.  But this tome is already too long.  You’ll just have to wait.  Or better yet, offer your own.

Until next time, thanks for your attention – I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

–The Dude

 

Some thoughts from the Dude on race and the 2008 election

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 9:28 am
Tags: , , , ,

 

Every week or so, American newspapers and broadcasters do a feature about race: the possibility of hidden bias, the Bradley effect, and what it all might mean in this election.  I’ve read them all, and they all reach the same conclusion: no one knows.

But once in awhile, you read something that actually makes you think about what the race issue is really about, and what’s really at stake this year’s election.  Sometimes, what you read is so eloquent and hits so close to your heart that you just have to share it.

So here it is, dear readers, from the New Yorker – a letter to their editors, after they endorsed Obama a couple weeks ago:

“In endorsing Obama, the editors suggest that his election ‘could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness.’  As a seventy-four-year-old African-American who was involved in the civil-rights protests in the nineteen-sixties, I, too, have drawn a connection between Obama and the journey that the United States has made in its attitudes and actions with regard to race.  I remember watching as black people went to the town hall to register to vote carrying American flags; the local police jerked the flags away from their hands and turned them away.  My parents told me of how German soldiers detained in Arkansas were served in white-only restaurants while black soldiers in uniform were forced to go to the backs of those restaurants to get food from take-out windows.  Many civil-rights workers, black and white, died attempting to push the U.S. to live “the values it proclaims in its textbooks.”  The election of Barack Obama will not mean that the struggles about race will be no more, nor will it erase the painful memories of my generation.  But it will be a clear sign that my four-year-old granddaughter will grow up in a nation quite different from the nation that existed when I was her age.  And, because of that, every American has reason to rejoice.”
–Gibert H. Caldwell, Asbury Park, N.J.

So I sent Gilbert Caldwell’s letter to my kids and grandkids in an email, with this addendum:

Amen, Gilbert!  As a grandpa with three granddaughters of the same racial mix as Barack Obama, I couldn’t agree more.  

Interestingly, two of you grandkids are voting for Obama, along with all four of you, my darling children, who know you’ll be disowned if you don’t (and you have SO much to lose – HAHAHA).  

I forgive you Naomi, for not voting, being as how you’ve been all caught up in going to college and not thinking clearly.  This time.  I couldn’t vote at 18, either Naomi.  But Lord, I wanted to: I wanted to vote for Kennedy, especially after our Lutheran minister in Minnesota told us from the pulpit that we simply MUST NOT VOTE FOR A CATHOLIC.  

Unfortunately, I was 18 in 1960, and the voting age wasn’t lowered to 18 until a year or two later.  So to get back at the turds for not letting me vote for Kennedy, I voted for Goldwater in 1964, and Nixon in 1968.  

Sometimes, I can really hold a grudge.

–Dude

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