NoisetteandtheDude’s Blog

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.


October 24, 2008

Why this “golden age” vet is voting for Obama/Biden

Filed under: Election 2008 — noisetteandthedude @ 5:45 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
  Hi folks – welcome to our blog!    

This is the Dude speaking (aka Dennis Berry) – you’ll hear from Noisette soon. Both of us are new to this venue but eager to join the conversation – and we hope you’ll talk back at us.  Avoid attack language, if that’s even possible in these last couple weeks of the campaign.  But please, do try – we’ll do the same.

Starting a blog is easy – figuring out what to say, not so much.  So I’d thought I’d start by sharing a letter I sent about a month ago to my local newspaper in Astoria, Oregon and to the Portland Oregonian.

For reasons known only to the editors of the Daily Astorian and Oregonian, my letter wasn’t published. So hey!  Now it will get published!

Read on, folks – and tell me what you think.

To The Oregonian, Daily Astorian
Subject Why this “Golden Age” vet is voting for Obama/Biden
Message Like John McCain, I served in Vietnam in 1968 (during the Tet Offensive, when we began to lose the war). Fortunately, unlike John McCain, I wasn’t captured; I could come home and get on with my life.  

In 1968, I voted for Richard Nixon, over my fellow Minnesotan, Hubert Humphrey – I did so because Nixon promised he had “a plan to end the war, with honor.” He did: he simply declared victory and scrammed. That was the last time I voted for a Republican.

Nixon’s plan to end the Vietnam war sounds a lot like John McCain’s plan to end the war in Iraq, doesn’t it? Except McCain has already declared victory but thinks we need to stay there anyway.

But I’m not voting for Obama just because he recognized the futility of fighting wars that erode, rather than advance, our national interest and our international prestige – and turns doubters into terrorists every day. 

I’m voting for Obama because he will usher in a new era of growth for our nation. Not just growth in our gross national product, though that will surely happen as we convert our addiction to Middle-Eastern oil to an ongoing, “Manhattan Project” -scaled investment in clean energy and efficient use of natural resources. Doing so will make us completely energy-independent within 10 years – even as it creates millions of new, non-outsourceable high-income jobs. 

No longer will countries headed by people who despise us control our nation’s destiny; no longer will we be slaves to oil companies and the lobbyists who so freely pass around money on their behalf, egged on by their lackeys in the White House.

By moving us forward into the good new days, Obama’s plans for our country will also let us revisit the good old days, when we felt confident about ourselves as a nation and as a people, rather than fearful and helpless, awaiting the next calamity.

Obama will begin with a coherent foreign policy that will elevate the United State’s stature world-wide. Our foreign policy will be inclusive, rather than exclusive, based on shared interests and common values, rather than an “us versus them” mentality (the real meaning of the “Bush Doctrine). Obama and Biden will emphasize negotiation and diplomacy, rather than threat after threat after threat – threats that can only be backed up by going to war, again and again and again, to no effect.

On the home front, I look forward to living in a country where everyone matters again, and where anyone can express an opinion without being labeled a traiter or an anti-Christ. Where women automatically earn the same amount of money as men when performing the same work, where anyone willing to work hard can achieve success, where all children can count on a college education, regardless of their family’s income level. Where soldiers know that they will be taken care of when they return home from battle.

Where everyone knows they can get medical care when they need it, without going into debt. Where sexual orientation is no longer important to anyone and the benefits of marital unions or partnerships are denied to no one.

Where hard-working retirees like myself know that our Social Security benefits – benefits we’ve already earned – will never become a “profit center” for Wall Street investment companies. And our children and grandchildren can count on the same security.

An America, in short, where everyone counts. All of us, together – one nation, under God – all of us living up to the promises of freedom we’ve ignored for far too long.

That’s why I’m voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden – because I’m convinced they will help us get there.

Dennis Berry
Warrenton, OR

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