Black Friday: Why This One is Especially Dark By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Wednesday, 21 November 2007

A few moments ago I posted on my site the MSNBC version of “The Coming Consumer Crunch” which forecasts severe and painful belt-tightening for American families in 2008. Then when I checked my inbox, a Truthout bulletin listing Kelpie Wilson’s latest article “Give Thanks For Oil” appeared. One paragraph leapt out at me:

Why should we give thanks that the future holds no cheap oil? There are several reasons, but the first is that cheap oil has fueled a 50-year-long party in the industrialized West that has left us with an unsustainable economy that is wrecking the planet. The recent awareness of global warming is beginning to put a damper on our out-of-control binge, but not fast enough to slow the heating of the planet. Rising oil prices will force a cutback in consumption. Rising oil prices will also chill the fantasy of endless growth and force us to confront the reality of planetary limits.

I have no crystal ball, nor do I claim to have well-developed psychic powers, but I’d be willing to bet almost anything that next Thanksgiving season will be dramatically different from this one. A dark curtain of despair has descended, along with $100 oil, on Wall Street, and the amount of debt that the American working and middle classes are trying to juggle is, as Stan Goff so eloquently stated in his article on my site, “Middle Class Angst“, nothing less than “pre-volcanic.”

Cheap oil will allow us to travel “over the river and through the woods” to grandmother’s or someone else’s house, or we may prepare our food orgy at home using gas or electric ranges, savoring the turkey and trimmings made possible by low-cost hydrocarbon energy. While the feast will be more expensive than it was last year, its cost may pale by comparison with the price of next year’s gastronomical adventure-if indeed we can afford one. The after-dinner experience is likely to consist of television or movie viewing at home or another car trek to the local cine-plex for a new Thanksgiving Day release or two. A walk or bike ride requiring no use of hydrocarbon energy would be ideal, but it will take much more energy depletion than we are now experiencing to make that option viable for most Americans.

On Friday, millions of shoppers will descend on malls and box stores where the bells and whistles of credit card transactions will reverberate every few seconds, non-stop for perhaps seventy-two hours. Those bills will come due for those shoppers in a post-holiday hangover of dollar plummeting hysteria, monumental levels of debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, energy depletion, skyrocketing gas and food prices, illnesses treated without health insurance coverage-or just not treated, unprecedented levels of homelessness, and by all indications, within a few months into 2008, America will be well on the road to a re-run of 1929-or something inconceivably worse.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Middle Class Angst: The Politics of Lemmings Part 1 By Stan Goff

Dennis Kucinich: Light Up Black Friday (video)

Shock Doctrine’s Shocking Short Shrift By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Global Research, November 8, 2007
Speaking Truth to Power
Thursday, 08 November 2007

A Review of Noami Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”

I recently had the opportunity to view a lecture by Michael Parenti whom I consider a foremost expert on imperialism. Parenti began his lecture with the use of the word “stochasticism” which essentially means random, non-deterministic, based on conjecture or guess. A simpler way of summarizing it is, “stuff happens.” It is, in fact, the polar opposite of “conspiratorial.” In the lecture Parenti went on to criticize those who refuse to admit that the United States is imperialistic and who explain its imperial adventures around the world as something that “just happened.” Generally, those in academia who rationalize U.S. imperialism are astute, incisive thinkers on other issues, so one is perplexed by the obtuseness they demonstrate around the topic of imperialism.

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The Switch Has Been Flipped: It’s Too Late For Solutions By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Sunday, 04 November 2007

This past week I attended another screening of “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire“[1]. My intention was not to see the documentary yet again-perhaps for the fifteenth time, but to support the film makers, my friends Sally Erickson and Tim Bennett, who were completing the last leg of their West Coast screening tour in my state. However, I did watch most of the film again, and this time, my experience was different. No doubt that had something to do with the walk Tim and I took during part of the film, bouncing around the narrow, vintage streets of Silver City, New Mexico and filling our lungs with the chilly night air. Maybe it was Tim’s comment that when people ask “What can I do?” they don’t really want the truth but rather ten easy steps that will require no sacrifice, no pain, and certainly no change of lifestyle. Tim’s comment resonated with my experience in teaching history to college students who incessantly ask, “But what can we do?” when I systematically lay out the reality of the corporatocracy the United States has become, energy depletion, climate change, and of course, the police state in which we now reside. When I answer the students with my perception of options rather than solutions, they tend to sink in their chairs and tell me that they feel overwhelmed not only with the daunting reality of the planetary situation but even worse, that they wanted me to offer them “hope”, and are disappointed that I instead offer them responsibility. I tell them that since I don’t have any “hope” it would be disingenuous of me to attempt to offer it to anyone else.

Along with showing them “What A Way To Go”, I’ve been showing another documentary lately, “Escape From Suburbia[2] which focuses on individuals and communities who are either relocating to other countries or areas of the U.S. or are digging in to relocalize their communities for sustainable living. It seems that when students or most Americans for that matter realize the enormous personal responsibility that telling the whole truth about the collapse of civilization requires and the commitment, courage, and action that is necessary in order to navigate collapse, they can’t wait to turn their attention elsewhere. Perhaps if they don’t think about it, it will all go away-or so they wish.

By the end of the semester my students usually realize that the future they thought they had doesn’t exist, and they admit, albeit reluctantly, that the class has caused them to ponder profoundly their career path, their values, their desire to have children, and the very reasons they are on the planet. While it’s true that they may leave my class and repress everything they learned, it’s also true that they will not be totally surprised by collapse and that they will have some tools for preparation they might not have otherwise had.

What The Question “What Can I Do?” Prevents Us From Experiencing

As I teach, write, and travel throughout America, I have come to understand that Tim was right: No one who asks “What can I do?” really wants an answer-at least not a real answer. For this reason, the charade of political candidates, elections, and the corporate media that guarantees the success of that particular con game has hypnotically entranced the electorate who overwhelmingly prefer to remain delusional. The majority take little interest in the candidates anyway, perceiving them as yet another group of celebrities. Yet even more delusional are those who call themselves progressive. These individuals are desperate to keep the show on the road and sanction its validity, and they are the ones who least want to know the answer to “What can I do?” because of what it would cost them.

Consequently, they must pre-occupy themselves with “solutions” that have nothing to do with the actual state of the earth and its inhabitants but which offer a false sense of making a difference. When I think of them, I cannot help but note that as the Titanic was sinking it would have made no difference if hundreds of its passengers had collected endless buckets of water the ship had taken on and emptied it back into the sea, but it may have provided them with a momentary sense of participating in a “solution.”

Tenaciously grasping for solutions serves no other purpose at this point in human history than distracting us from the myriad layers of feelings we have regarding the death of planet earth. As Americans we are more afflicted with “death phobia” than are other cultures around the world. Most indigenous traditions have some sort of “good day to die” perspective, but we heroically persevere in our war on death. It seems this is what Tim Bennett meant earlier this year when he wrote a blog piece in which he stated that the switch had flipped and that it is now time to let go of the shore, sailing into the unknown in the lifeboats we have created. As we do so, we exit the paradigm of suicide and opt for survival, knowing all the while that there are no guarantees that we will not succumb.

Whereas many collapse watchers disparage feeling feelings as extraneous and insist that we must focus on taking action dispassionately, I argue that action must be informed by emotion. Otherwise, we will only perpetuate the paradigm of doing estranged from feeling, that is, living from the head while disowning the heart-one of the fundamental premises of the culture of civilization which has brought us to where we are now. Thus, as one part of us may minimize the importance of our actions being informed by emotion, the seasoned sage in us must continually ask ourselves how different we want the new world/community/individual that we are becoming and shaping to be? If we merely pour new wine into old bottles, we fundamentally change nothing. If we take action without feeling the full impact of our fear, grief, and anger, as well as our gratitude for what resources we do have in our lives, we are likely to re-create the culture of empire in another form elsewhere.

Lose The Word “Solutions”; Embrace The Notion Of “Options”

At the same time that I’m pleading for the end of “solution obsession”, I’m suggesting re-focusing on options. We cannot “solve” the issues of climate change, energy depletion, species die-off, global pandemics, global government, or the rampant proliferation of fascism. For those awaiting a mass awakening or mass resistance, I fear you wait in vain. We would be hard-pressed to find any population in the history of the human race that is as comatose as that of the United States in this moment. In my opinion, focusing on “mass” anything is the opposite of where our attention must be, namely, local and community survival. Notice, I did not say local “solutions” but rather, survival. As I have stated repeatedly, the issues are: Who do I want to be in the face of collapse? Who do I love and trust and want to share my life with? Who do I need to reach out to in order to enhance all of our well being? As the “I” becomes “we”, we all must ask: Do we need to remain where we are in order to survive, or do we need to go elsewhere? What actions should we be taking? Have we put in place a structure or process for practicing and improving our communication skills and resolving conflict? What is our level of food and water security? What is our access to alternative or traditional medicine?

These are merely a few of the plethora of questions that must be addressed, and putting our attention on “solutions” will only distract us from doing so. In other words, “What can I do?” is not only not useful, it could actually get you dead.

More Options

I borrow again from the film makers of “What A Way To Go” when I offer “Five Things You Can Do” from their website:

•1) “Fully acknowledge and internalize that the culture of Empire is destroying the support systems on which the community of life depends, and robbing us of our essential humanity.”

I suggest mulling the words “internalize” and “humanity.” Then ask yourself how electing presidential or Congressional candidates, not unlike putting lipstick on a pig, can stop the evisceration of your essential humanity. Ponder the system that nominates and owns those candidates and determines their political positions during their terms in office. Notice that all candidates, in order to be nominated or elected, must participate in the evisceration of your humanity.

•2) “Talk about your concerns with everyone you know.” Notice their reactions. Notice the incredulity, the apathy, the denial, the false hopes of “solutions.” Then notice how you feel. Notice also the individuals who hear you and sense that what you are feeling is valid because they feel it too. Continue to connect with those individuals; they are inestimably valuable to you.

•3) “Find your work in the world to preserve life, change this culture and/or create restorative ways for individuals and communities to live in harmony with each other and the non-human world.”

Start asking yourself why you are here. What did you come here to do? Why did you show up on planet earth at this time and not another?

•4) “Assess what you actually need during this transition in order to live and do your work. Only buy what you need and buy from local sources in order to support the creation of local economies.” To what extent are you powering down and simplifying your life? Do you know your neighbors? Local farmers? Local business people?

•5) “Find or deepen your spiritual connection to that which is greater than you. Ask and then listen for guidance about how to live joyfully and creatively in the face of these unprecedented times.”

Notice that none of these has anything to do with mass movements or political candidates. In fact, they are all about you and your internal and local worlds. Could it be that for some of us it might be easier if the options were all about the macrocosm instead of the microcosm? Is it not more comfortable to focus on mass movements and political candidates instead of the personal responsibility that collapse throws in our faces?

Options Engender Opportunities

Collapse is a multi-faceted word which I frequently use in my writing and speaking. It is important to use the word and not resist it because the entire construct of civilization is collapsing in front of our eyes. For example, the U.S. has not “entered a recession” but rather the first stages of global economic collapse. Our public schools are not merely turning out undereducated students, the entire educational system is collapsing. It’s not that energy depletion will make it more difficult to “grow our economy,” but rather that in reality, growth is over! Although we refuse to recognize our limits on planet earth, planet earth is setting limits whether we like it or not. As James Howard Kunstler says in “Escape From Suburbia” in response to Dick Cheney’s maxim that “The American way of life is not negotiable,” if we refuse to negotiate our way of life, then energy depletion will make sure that we get a new negotiating partner called “reality.”

When we refuse to accept the fact of collapse, we armor ourselves from endless opportunities for personal and community growth. Perhaps other collapse watchers would prefer not to hear about “opportunities” inherent in collapse, but I feel compelled to name them!

I would be the first to admit the possibility that nuclear war may erase all potential for human survival as collapse more fully unfolds. However, I would also adamantly insist that it may not be inevitable and that local communities and families who have consciously prepared for collapse can not only navigate it but create mini-societies where an entirely new paradigm prevails. In the latter scenario unimaginable opportunities (a word very closely connected with “options”) abound for remaking human relationships, human connection with the earth and the non-human world, and the reclaiming of our ancient memory of living within limits as partners with, not dominators of, the earth.

Paradoxically, “solutions” obfuscate opportunities whereas options nurture them. Not only is it too late for “solutions” but the process of collapse, which is well underway, challenges us to revere and seize options in which reside unfathomable opportunities. The switch has been flipped; there’s no turning back to antiquated means of addressing unprecedented challenges. Time to stop asking “What can I do?” and start doing the five things you can. It could mean the difference between suicide and survival.

__________________________________

Watch this website, Speaking Truth to Power for more information about Carolyn’s forthcoming book, The Spirituality Of Collapse: Restoring Life On A Dying Planet.

[1] See review of “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire” by Carolyn Baker

[2] See review of “Escape From Suburbia” by Mick Winter

see
Escape from Suburbia: A Documentary Review By Carolyn Baker + Holloway: Escape from Suburbia (videos; trailers)

Stop Calling Me A “Doomer” By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Monday, 22 October 2007

People must first be made to give up on the existing system before they will become receptive to fundamental change.

Michael Byron, Ph.D.

Author of Infinity’s Rainbow: The Politics of Energy, Climate and Globalization

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Celebrating American Tears: Responding to Naomi Wolf’s Recent Missive by Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

by Carolyn Baker
Atlantic Free Press
Speaking Truth to Power
Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Last month I reviewed Naomi Wolf’s recent best seller, The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot in which I praised Wolf’s succinct and thorough analysis of the triumph of fascism in the United States. This past week, Wolf’s article “American Tears” has been posted on a variety of internet sites and forwarded to me several times. Whereas I was inspired to give The End Of America a glowing review that it more than deserves, I must take issue with the fundamental premise of “American Tears” which is in my opinion, the most inappropriate of all responses to the dire situation Wolf elucidates in The End Of America.

Wolf begins by stating:

“I wish people would stop breaking into tears when they talk to me these days.”

This statement left me breathless and gasping for air. However, I continued reading because I already had a sense of where Wolf was going. As I had correctly intuited, her premise is that we should not be debilitated by our grief, but rather rise to the occasion and fight for the constitutional democracy that is being stolen from us.

What I found so appalling about Wolf’s essay was not her premise with which I agree in part, but the vacuousness of her one-sided perspective. Yes, we must resist the fascist empire that has declared unspoken war on every nation on earth and on its own citizens, but I must disagree with why and how Wolf admonishes us to resist.

Before any further analysis of Naomi Wolf’s perspective, let’s pause to consider what is at stake. Scientists are telling us that nearly 200 species per day on earth are going extinct; virtually every resource on earth, including energy, water, and food is being perilously depleted and privatized; the capacity of the planet to carry its current number of inhabitants is already stretched to the breaking point and cannot sustain the rate at which human population continues to grow; our food, water, and air are nearly unfit to take into our bodies; numerous, endless resource wars around the globe could potentially erupt into nuclear holocausts; the future of our children and grandchildren has been mortgaged into abject poverty; educational institutions are producing graduates who are incapable of thinking critically; the world economy is entering economic meltdown; and ghastly global pandemics are waiting to eliminate breathtaking numbers of human beings.

I could continue the litany, but if you’ve read thus far and feel nothing in your body, please check your vital signs. If you do feel something, it’s important to notice what that is. In fact, our not noticing, our not feeling, is exactly what has brought about the horrors I have just enumerated.

The heroic, cerebral, non-visceral perspective embraced by Wolf is unequivocally part of the problem. But what do I mean by heroic?

Western civilization is the product of the heroic attitude depicted in countless myths and fairytales of the past five thousand years. Greek and Roman mythology were replete with tales of the hero’s journey-the overcoming of ordeals in order to prove one’s faithfulness to the gods and goddesses and one’s sense of integrity to the community. The Judeo-Christian tradition further perpetuates heroism in protagonists like Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus, St. Paul, Augustine, the crusaders, and the panoply of saints.

The apotheosis of heroics in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the savior who brings salvation. Despite the Enlightenment and the rejection of the mythological, Western civilization has been profoundly and permanently characterized by a heroic attitude. In this country, our Puritan ancestors declared that their fledgling colony was a “city set on a hill”, “a light unto the world”, “a new Jerusalem”-hence the birth of the American notion of exceptionalism. Like it or not, their work-and-win ethic has permeated our culture, subtly instilling in us the belief that we must survive, conquer, and prevail. “Good” human beings, “morally responsible” Americans want to conquer adversity and win. In fact, to do otherwise implies a deficiency in character.

Heroism, a traditionally masculine, problem-solving perspective, abhors the emotional. “What good are tears?” it arrogantly asserts; “Stop sniveling and start fighting!”

I hasten to add that I am not excluding the need for problem-solving and resistance in the face of the plethora of adversities that threaten the earth and its inhabitants. What I am arguing is that the heroic approach is ineffectual given the fact that it is fragmented and incomplete because the natural human response to the death of the planet is nothing less than gut-wrenching grief.

Dr. Glen Barry, founder of Ecological Internet, states:

The Earth is dying and it makes me feel sad. Not just a bit tense or melancholy; but deeply and profoundly anguished, depressed, and angry. Humanity had so much potential that has been wasted. Our self consciousness, opposable thumbs, upright walking and ability for limited rationality has lead to great triumphs in philosophy, art, sport and leisure. But alas other aspects of our animalistic nature; libido, insatiable appetite, and desire to dominate, have won out.

Barry is mourning the loss of feeling and the triumph of heroics, and until any of us is able to feel our grief and consciously, viscerally mourn the loss of our planet, our civil liberties, and our humanity, we are ill-equipped to resist or make the changes in our own lives that will influence either microcosm or macrocosm. Certainly, it is possible to “get stuck” in grief, but from my perspective, that is hardly the most ominous pitfall in front of us. If anything, our inculcation with American heroics has facilitated ungrounded political organizing detached from our bodies and emotions which, like civilization, disconnects us from the totality of our humanity.

I’m well aware that the great labor organizer, Joe Hill, is famous for his adage, “Don’t mourn, organize”, but Joe’s late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century world was quite different from ours. He and his comrades in struggle were not facing the death of the planet and the possible extinction of the human race.

What seems to escape Naomi Wolf is that humans are capable of feeling deep grief and demonstrating fierce resistance at the same time. Indeed, this reality is paradoxical, and being incredibly complex creatures, paradox is one of the most fundamental aspects of our human experience.

It appears that what Wolf, along with nearly all Americans is unwilling to face, is that not only is the American empire in a state of freefall, but so is civilization itself. What she fails to understand is that the paradigm of civilization has already expired, and that humanity is now navigating its way to an entirely new paradigm. That process will be increasingly painful, formidable, and terribly uncertain. What will not work is reversion to left progressive or green politics which refuses to acknowledge the reality of collapse and heroically struggles to keep a crumbling civilization and its old paradigm intact. But then what do I mean by “work”?

I do not mean “succeed” in the heroic sense of the word. I do not define success at this point in human history as preventing collapse and electing the right candidates who will kiss the catastrophe and make it all better. Rather, I mean refusing to succumb to the ferocious undertow of denial that permeates the heroic perspective and instead, telling the truth about the current reality. In order to do this, we must first grieve the incalculable losses in front of us, and at the same time, introspectively assess how we will respond to them.

Introspection does not mean self-absorption. It means evaluating how one wishes to live in the face of collapse and who one wishes to share one’s life with. It means scaling down not only one’s lifestyle, but one’s problem-solving perspective. That is, instead of looking for political heroes who will solve problems for us on a national or global level, we focus on our community and work with trusted others to address issues in our place. As the crumbling of governments, financial systems, and other institutions exacerbates, collapse itself will compel us to implement local solutions. Thus, even in the face of such a painful demise as the collapse of civilization, we may be able to surrender to and celebrate the opportunity for rediscovering our own humanity and that of the other individuals who inhabit our community. Perhaps what we most need to discover and experience is not heroics but transformative defeat-the defeat of the paradigm of civilization.

Kahil Gibran in “Madman” wrote:

Defeat, my Defeat,
my deathless courage,
you and I shall laugh together
with the storm,
and together we shall dig graves
for all that die in us,
and we shall stand
in the sun with a will,
and we shall be dangerous.

Naomi Wolf states that the time for tears has to stop, and the time for confronting has to begin. Yet only our tears give meaning and dynamism to our resistance. Could it be that the most effective means of being truly “dangerous” and revolutionary is to accept the defeat of civilization? Could it be that what is most needed now is not heroics but American tears?

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see

The Police State Is Right Here, Right Now By Carolyn Baker

Talk by Naomi Wolf – The End of America (video) (must-see)

American Lockdown: Law Enforcement Out Of Control And Beyond The Pale By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Monday, 08 October 2007

In my recent article “The End Of America: The Police State Is Right Here, Right Now” I included experiences of escalating intimidation on the part of law enforcement in the United States within recent months. I must confess that when I cite such incidents, I fear that in a few days or weeks, it will all go away, and everyone else, myself included, will begin to question the validity of the examples, breathing a heavy sigh of relief and rejoicing that the situation isn’t nearly as dire as I’m asserting it is.

This time, however, I have nothing to fear because since that article was posted, the ante of out-of-control law enforcement in America appears to have been upped with a rapidity that I could not have imagined just a few weeks ago.

Have we not all heard about the New York woman on her way to rehab who passed through the Phoenix airport, became distraught when she had just missed her flight, and was arrested for disorderly conduct by airport police? The suspect, Carol Ann Gotbaum, was handcuffed and then placed in a holding cell and left alone. According to police, when they returned, she was dead. At this writing, Gotbaum’s family and officials are awaiting the autopsy report-the “official” cause of death.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see

The Police State Is Right Here, Right Now By Carolyn Baker

Who Runs The World And Why You Need To Know Immediately By Carolyn Baker (updated)

Canada Bars Entry to U.S. Peace Activists: CODEPINK Responds (video)

Vigilant Shield 2008: Terrorism, Air Defences, and the Domestic Deployment of the US Military by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The Shock Doctrine: Q&A From the Seattle Talk (video)

Reviewing Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” by Stephen Lendman

Police Kill Woman in Phoenix Airport: Gestapo Goons Strike Again

America’s Police Brutality Pandemic By Paul Craig Roberts

Who Runs The World And Why You Need To Know Immediately By Carolyn Baker (updated)

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
10/02/07 “ICH
Speaking Truth to Power
Monday, 01 October 2007

A review of The True Story Of The Bilderberg Group, By Daniel Estulin

It is difficult to re-educate people who have been brought up on nationalism to the idea of relinquishing part of their sovereignty to a supra-national body. — Bilderberg Group founder, Prince Bernhard

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The Police State Is Right Here, Right Now By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
09/20/07 “ICH

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air-however slight-lest we become unwilling victims of the darkness.

~Justice William O. Douglas~

In April, 2007 I was pleasantly surprised to find Naomi Wolf’s article, “Fascist America, in 10 easy steps” posted in several places online. I have been a fan of Wolf for many years, greatly appreciating her works and especially her 1991 book, The Beauty Myth. I had been looking for a list-or more specifically, an encyclopedia of the losses of civil liberties in the United States that might clarify for my history students the extent to which America has become a fascist empire. Wolf’s “10 Easy Steps” was perfect, but her just-published book, The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot, from which the 10 easy steps was compiled, offers an even fuller picture-a succinct and engaging explanation of how our civil liberties have been hijacked in the past decade. It is the most poignant, powerful, genuinely patriotic piece of literature I have encountered since Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. No wonder then, that the book’s cover greatly resembles that 46-page tract by Paine written in 1775-as well it should.

One of the most frightening realities of teaching college history is that most students rarely have a clue what fascism is. They know about Hitler and the extermination of Jews, but they see little connection with Nazi rule in the 1930s and 40s and the current political milieu in the United States. Overwhelmingly, they cannot define fascism, nor can they define socialism or democracy. After all, they were pre-occupied during grammar school with becoming standardized human beings by way of taking standardized “No Child’s Behind Left” tests, five hours a day, four days a week. So why would they know the definitions of fascism, socialism or democracy?

Refreshingly, Wolf is not shy about using the term fascism and lets the reader know why. “I have made a deliberate choice in using the terms fascist tactics and fascist shift when I describe some events in America now. I stand by my choice. I am not being heated or even rhetorical; I am being technical.” (20) She explains that where Americans tend to see the various political “isms” as all-or-nothing, that perception is often inaccurate because of what she calls a “range of authoritarian regimes, dictatorships, and varieties of Fascist states…there are many shades of gray on the spectrum from an open to a closed society.” (20)

Wolf also emphasizes that America has flirted with fascism openly in the 1930s when numerous corporations and robber barons helped finance Hitler and when as Edwin Black notes in IBM And The Holocaust, some American corporations assisted the Nazi regime in carrying out its “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.” In fact, several of these corporate tycoons attempted to stage a coup d’ etat to overthrow Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and restructure the American government under fascist control. A thorough investigation of American politics and society from the end of the Civil War until the present moment reveals, as I have carefully traced in my book U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You, that much of recent American history is replete with a preference on the part of corporations and the politicians they own for an economic and political system on the far right end of the spectrum. In fact, resistance to fascism in the United States has been an arduous and daunting struggle for those who have been able to understand and oppose the appeal that fascism has to the corporatocracy, and in fact, take seriously Mussolini’s fundamental definition of fascism: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

As an historian who views American history as the complex unfolding of events that it is, I feel invigorated upon hearing someone like Wolf-especially the Wolf of feminist Beauty Myth fame-part company with the presentation of the Founders as “dead white men” inwardly tormented by various hypocrisies, such as the ownership of slaves and the subordination of women. Yes, Jefferson owned slaves and fathered six children by one of them, but what gets lost in that drama and other colorful stories of the Founders is that they were also thinking, speaking, and writing highly subversive thoughts. “You are not taught,” says Wolf, that “these men and women were radicals for liberty; that they had a vision of equality that was a slap in the face of what the rest of their world understood to be the unchanging, God-given order of nations; and that they were wiling to die to make that desperate vision into a reality for people like us, whom they would never live to see.” (27) I do not wish to romanticize the Founders and their generation living in a milieu replete with racism, misogyny, and classism, but neither will I throw their achievements out with the bathwater of political correctness, nor is Wolf willing to do so in her examination of them.

In the “10 easy steps” outlined by Wolf, countries move from open to closed and repressive societies by devolving past certain markers, and Wolf makes a powerful case for the way in which the United States is following a similar pattern without any significant deviation. In each instance she compares and contrasts how America’s adherence to the pattern compares or contrasts with the pattern in pre-World War II Germany. The 10 steps are:

  1. Invoking an external and internal threat
  2. Establishing secret prisons
  3. Developing a paramilitary force
  4. Surveiling ordinary citizens
  5. Infiltrating citizens’ groups
  6. Arbitrarily detaining and releasing citizens
  7. Targeting key individuals
  8. Restricting the press
  9. Casting criticism as “espionage” and dissent as “treason”
  10. Subverting the rule of law

As noted in the quote from Justice Douglas above, the fascist shift is a protracted process; it never happens overnight, and in U.S. History Uncensored, I offer an historical narrative describing exactly how we have arrived where we are-at “the end of America”. Some aspects of the process were generated before the U.S. Civil War, but our recent history is nothing less than the story of the acceleration of the fascist agenda and the death of the Republic.

Frequently, books come into our lives with momentous timing. Several weeks ago a friend of mine was traveling through a small town in upstate New York looking for the location of a meeting he was scheduled to attend. Realizing that he was lost, he spotted a police officer in a marked car and waived to the officer to pull over. The officer pulled over, and my friend innocently got out of his car to walk back to the officer’s car. Suddenly, the officer’s voice came blasting across a loud speaker, “Get back in the car! Stop where you are! Get back in the car!” My friend returned to his vehicle and waited for the officer to approach his driver’s side window. The officer, with a hand on his holstered firearm, angrily asked my friend what he wanted. When my friend asked him for directions, he replied with hostility that he didn’t know the location of the place for which my friend was searching and once again repeated, “Never get out of your car when you’re dealing with a police officer.” So much for asking directions from a police officer these days.

On another occasion, two friends of mine returning from Canada were detained at the U.S./Canadian border, and while one of them had a U.S. passport, the other had forgotten to bring his. He produced a variety of identification but was taken aside, questioned, shouted at, and harassed in an extremely hostile manner as if he were an enemy of the state. Fortunately, after over-the-top intimidation from a couple of surly customs officers, he was allowed to enter the U.S.

About three weeks ago I was returning from a routine visit to the dentist in Mexico and had a U.S. passport with me, even though none will be required for returning from Mexico until January, 2008. I was told by a very aggressive female customs agent to pull over to the center where vehicles are detained. I was ordered in a very hostile manner to give her my driver’s license and the keys to my vehicle and stay in my vehicle. When I asked what the problem was, I was told to be quiet and again, to stay in my vehicle. Having taught in Mexico for three years, returning to the U.S. every day and rarely having to show any identification whatsoever, I found this procedure to be astonishingly rigid and unnecessary. I have made many trips to Mexico in recent months and have never had any problem when the automatic photos that are taken of every license plate crossing the border appeared on U.S. Customs computer screens.

After what seemed like an eternity the female officer returned and told me that it appeared that I had had an expired vehicle registration four years ago which I had not taken care of and that I needed to do so at once. She gave me the name of the court where the offense was allegedly registered. The very next day I contacted the court and discovered that indeed I had been stopped four years ago for an expired registration for which I was given a warning. Every year since, I have purchased my annual registration well before the deadline, but the offense was never brought to my attention, and I even acquired a new driver’s license last year through the motor vehicles division and was not informed of the offense. Not wanting any further hassle regarding the “heinous crime” of having an expired registration four years ago, I agreed to pay the small fine imposed by the court.

Some readers may assume that I was harassed because of who I am and my open delivery of alternative news and opinions on this website daily. I, on the other hand, do not believe that this was “all about me.” Whether or not it was, it is blatantly obvious to me that the behavior of law enforcement in the United States has shifted dramatically in recent months. Whether or not I was targeted, which I sincerely doubt, this kind of treatment is becoming standard in law enforcement procedure throughout the United States.

And now fast-forward to Monday, September 17, 2007 (U.S. Constituion Day), at the University of Florida and the tasering of a student questioning John Kerry regarding the 2004 elections and Kerry’s membership in Skull and Bones-an incident which has been viewed by millions on the internet and on mainstream TV news broadcasts. Writing of this debacle, Wolf’s article “A Shocking Moment For Society” appeared on various internet sites this morning, and in it she states:

There is a chapter in my new book, The End of America, entitled “Recast Criticism as ‘Espionage’ and Dissent as ‘Treason,'” that conveys why this moment is the horrific harbinger it is. I argue that strategists using historical models to close down an open society start by using force on ‘undesirables,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘enemies of the state,’ and those considered by mainstream civil society to be untouchable; in other times they were, of course, Jews, Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals. Then, once society has been acculturated to that use of force, the ‘blurring of the line’ begins and the parameters of criminalized speech are extended – the definition of ‘terrorist’ expanded – and the use of force begins to be deployed in HIGHLY VISIBLE, STRATEGIC and VISUALLY SHOCKING WAYS against people that others see and identify with as ordinary citizens. The first ‘torture cellars’ used by the SA, in Germany between 1931 and 1933 – even before the National Socialists gained control of the state, during the years when Germany was still a parliamentary democracy – were informal and widely publicized in the mainstream media. Few German citizens objected because those abused there were seen as ‘other’ – even though the abuse was technically illegal. But then, after this escalation of the use of force was accepted by the population, students, journalists, opposition leaders, and clergy were similarly abused during their own arrests. Within six months dissent was stilled in Germany.

What is the lesson for us from this and from other closing societies, some of them democracies? You can have a working Congress or Parliament; newspapers; human rights groups; even elections; but when ordinary people start to be hurt by the state for speaking out, dissent closes quickly and the shock chills opposition very, very fast. Once that happens, democracy has been so weakened that major tactical and strategic incursions – greater violations of democratic process – are far more likely. If there is dissent about the vote in Florida in this next presidential election – and the police are tasering voters’ rights groups – we will still have an election.

What we will not have is liberty.

We have to understand what time it is. When the state starts to hurt people for asking questions, we can no longer operate on the leisurely time of a strong democracy – the ‘Oh gosh how awful!’ kind of time. It is time to take to the streets. It is time to confront those committing crimes against the Constitution. The window has now dropped several precipitous inches and once it is closed there is no opening it without great and sorrowful upheaval.

As I read Wolf’s latest article, I realized that despite my enormous admiration for her and The End Of America, there are a number of areas where I must disagree with her.

First, the only thing shocking to me about the University of Florida incident is that so many Americans are shocked that it happened. Last night I posted a communication to her mailing list regarding the incident from former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who says:

No police officer should be in the business of denying Constitutional rights to anyone; I am particularly chagrined when it appears that a black police officer participated in this attack on an innocent student.

What is happening to us???? How much more will the people accept?? I was outraged as early as 2000 when Florida was stolen and the Democrats said nothing!!!! Now, innocent students get tasered just for asking questions.

What kind of US Senator do we have who can’t or won’t answer a question about his own election that affects all of us???

Wolf has given us a compendium of civil and Constitutional rights stolen from us during the past eight years of the Bush administration. If one understands this odyssey of oppression, then yesterday’s tasering of a questioning student makes perfect sense. I appreciate why Wolf used the word “shocking” in her most recent article, but I’d be willing to bet that she isn’t shocked at all-not after the extraordinary documentation she has given us in The End Of America. What I do believe she wishes to clarify is the intentionally traumatizing methodology of law enforcement to maintain social control.

Secondly, I must take issue with Wolf regarding her statement that “…we on the left must snap out of our ‘it’s-all-the-WTO-the-two-parties-are-the-same’ torpor…We have to reengage in an old-fashioned commitment to democratic action and believe once again in an old-fashioned notion of the Republic. We need to help lead a democracy movement in America like the ones that have toppled repressive regimes overseas.” (141)

Again, let’s fast forward not to Monday, but today and the headline “Senate bars bill to restore detainee rights“-a decision which supports the Bush administration’s denial of habeas corpus to Guantanamo prisoners who want to challenge their imprisonment in court. Need we reiterate one more time that since the 2006 elections, the Democrats have done virtually nothing to end the occupation of Iraq? Need we watch the video one more time of John Kerry standing mute and statue-like on the University of Florida auditorium stage-saying or doing nothing as a student was tasered for asking him why he handed the 2004 election to George W. Bush? Does anyone seriously believe that in a world where fellow students applaud as police remove and taser a questioning student and do nothing to speak up against such an outrage that we will see a viable, effective “democracy movement in America like the ones that have toppled repressive regimes overseas”?

As for Wolf’s suggestion in today’s article that we “take to the streets”, the police state is preparing for that eventuality as well by letting us know that it has developed severely injuring electromagnetic crowd control technology that will dramatically limit how many and how often people can “take to the streets.” Welcome to full-spectrum “1984”.

I repeat: the police state is right here, right now!

Moreover, some pivotal factors that Wolf has not addressed are global energy depletion, climate change, and global economic meltdown which are exacerbating the fascist shift about which she so brilliantly writes and which will continue to embolden that shift as energy scarcity, climate chaos, and financial crises add fuel to the fires of terrorism that the ruling elite have so consciously and carefully incited and fanned throughout America. As American society continues to unravel, the fascist shift will escalate, and what is left of our civil liberties will further evaporate.

As for political parties, I prefer the definition offered by Mike Ruppert in “America: From Freedom To Fascism” in which he explains that the two major parties are like two crime families-the Genoveses and the Gambinos. They function like players in a crap game that feign opposition to each other, but when the chips are down, they will always unite to serve their common interests. (If the Iraq occupation is not a case in point, then I don’t know what is.) When we vote in presidential elections for corporately-owned candidates or “the lesser evil”, we are merely choosing between the two crime families, and even if one candidate were not a crime family member, our votes in the past two presidential elections, as Bev Harris has so astutely demonstrated, have been hacked. In the throes of the current, and I might add, rapidly-accelerating fascist shift, what evidence do we have for assuming that if there is an election in 2008, anything will be different? Tell me again, what’s the definition of insanity?

At this moment another Naomi comes to mind-Naomi Klein whose book Shock Doctrine I shall soon review on this site. In that work Klein documents one of the key strategies of fascist empires: shocking their citizens into submission in a variety of ways from widespread societal terrorism to the administering of electroshock therapy to individuals. What we witnessed at the University of Florida yesterday, and what we are likely to see more frequently in America, are deliberate shock tactics applied by law enforcement to citizens for the purpose of achieving massive social control.

Some of my students who are criminal justice majors tell me that the latest strategies now being taught to police officers are “shock doctrine” techniques which terrorize and intimidate civilians in order to control them. Law enforcement officers are no longer encouraged to “keep a cool head” but to “follow their own instincts” (which usually means their own internal, adrenaline-charged state of terror) and react with full force because it’s easier to apologize (or encounter a lawsuit) than to ask permission or risk being killed. Terrified people should not be wearing a badge and carrying a gun, and when they are, a fully terrorized society is guaranteed.

In spite of my disagreements with Naomi Wolf’s suggested solutions, I cannot recommend The End Of America enthusiastically enough. It is now a permanent part of my U.S. history curriculum and is an ideal tool not only for educators, but for parents who want to teach their children where all those civil liberties we used to have actually came from as well as how and why they are disappearing in the present moment.

Carolyn is an adjunct professor of history, a former psychotherapist, an author, and a student of mythology and ritual. Visit Carolyn’s website http://carolynbaker.net/

Speaking Truth to Power

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps by Naomi Wolf

The Colbert Report: 10 Easy Steps to Fascism by Manila Ryce (video link)

Reviewing Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” by Stephen Lendman

Student Tasered for Armed Madhouse Question to Kerry by Greg Palast + UF Lacks Freedom of Speech + Protest for Meyer (video; link)

The Whitehouse Coup – The Dark Heart Of Fascism In The United States (must-listen audio link)

Bush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream By David Swanson

Bush’s Bogus Bailout: Introduction To Tony Soprano Economics 101 By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Sunday, 02 September 2007

We have only begun to see the reverberations of the mortgage meltdown. They will be as sweeping and mindboggling as global warming or an earthquake measuring 10 on the Richter scale.

I’m an historian, not an economist, so anything about economics-macro, micro-whatever, has been as foreign to me for most of my adult life as soil samples from Mars. But several years ago I had an epiphany that shattered my then-left-liberal/progressive world. I awakened from decades of delusion that I could adequately grasp world and national events without understanding the essential nature of how money works in the capitalist economy in which I live. I realized that until I acquired that understanding, all of the other subjects I preferred to talk about-war, social justice, race, gender, environment, energy depletion, civil liberties, globalization, and many more were inextricably connected with the financial machinations of the imperial beast within whose belly I reside. Today, I do not claim for one moment to be an authority on economic issues, but I have studied the works of some folks who are, such as Catherine Austin Fitts, Michael Panzner, Michael Hudson, John Crudele, Paul Grignon, and Hazel Henderson. From them I have learned to more skillfully read the tea leaves of the current economic upheaval that is brewing within the United States and is now rippling into the global financial markets. Furthermore, I have realized that my government and the economy of the United States is being run as a criminal syndicate, and that the most useful way to understand the subprime mortgage meltdown and its implications was to familiarize myself with the economics of Tony Soprano, that infamous main character of the HBO TV series “The Sopranos”, Mr. King of New Jersey “waste management” and proprietor of the Bada Bing.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The End of the World as We Know it: Hope vs Mindset By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Thursday, 16 August 2007

A friend for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration recently challenged me on my incessant hope-bashing stance and gave me some food for thought which has caused me to reframe the concept of “hope” in my own mind in a way that I can live with. What I cannot live with is a definition of “hope” that externalizes it-that fosters denial and a false and naïve anticipation that government, religion, or to quote Lincoln, “the better angels of our nature” will somehow save humanity from slamming with lethal velocity into the brick walls of our own making-climate chaos, global energy catastrophe, planetary economic meltdown, population overshoot, species extinction and die-off–or nuclear holocaust.

The iconoclastic and cynical James Howard Kunstler is fond of mocking people who ask for “hope” and insists that any hope we have in the face of the end of the world as we know it (EOTWAWKI) must come from within. I’m not sure what that means to Kunstler, but I’m getting clearer about what it means to me.

Naïve hope takes myriad forms and from my perspective one example is the hope that impeachment of Cheney and Bush is even possible. And I must add that Bush has not lost his “brain” with the departure of Rove. Who needs a brain when Darth Vader is the real man behind the curtain and has more political and economic power in the United States government than the average American can even imagine? Another example of false hope is faith in the U.S. political system and the possibility that clean elections exist, not to mention the hope that one will even happen in 2008. Other “hopes” include: the hope that the Democrats will finally find their spine, that the economy will improve without the working and middle classes being eviscerated by a financial meltdown as catastrophic or worse than the Great Depression, that technology will solve the energy dilemma, that moving to another country guarantees personal safety and human liberty, that the human race can exist for another century without a nuclear exchange, that a global spiritual awakening will occur in time to transform the human race and avert catastrophe.
Continued…


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

In Praise Of “Sicko” But What Happens When The U.S. Healthcare System Dies? By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Sunday, 12 August 2007

It had to happen, but it took so long-indeed, too long, for a courageous filmmaker to rise up and put the abysmal U.S. healthcare system under a microscope in order to reveal how utterly pathological it has become. On one level, Moore repeated a blatant flaw in his craft so obvious in “Bowling For Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 911” in that he almost always fails to fully connect the dots and take his work to the next level, and “Sicko” was no exception. Nevertheless, the film left me laughing, cheering, and crying and particularly gleeful regarding memos sent by management throughout the Blue Cross system warning employees of the possible side-effects of “Sicko” on their company’s image. In the light of Moore’s impressive research and documentation, after listening to the film’s horror stories of patients raped by the “disease-care” system, after witnessing the confessions of former players in that system who have come clean and can only live with themselves by spilling their guts regarding the devious methods they used to keep the system intact and bloat its profits, after hearing the Oval Office conversation between Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichman in which the two salivated over the spoils guaranteed to the industry as a result of creating a sprawling network of HMO’s, after the poignant scenes near the movie’s end of real people-9/11 rescue workers, actually getting extraordinarily humane and completely free healthcare in Cuba, there is little left to say about the American system because one can only hold one’s nose and gasp for fresh air in face of the overpowering, nauseating stench of the most brutal medical industry on earth. I do not hesitate to label it unequivocally, pure evil.

Not only is the American disease-care industry the biggest rip-off of any healthcare system on earth, but it is being used to prop up an expiring economy because it creates jobs, and without those jobs, the U.S. unemployment rate, already fudged with bogus statistics, would immediately spike. Not only is U.S. healthcare devastating the lives of Americans who use it, but it is being manipulated to give the appearance of economic health in a code-blue economy now in collapse.

Moreover, unlike the healthcare systems of many developed countries, the American system gives much lip service to preventive medicine, but only about 1% of the American healthcare dollar goes to prevention programs and for one simple reason: Sickness is profitable, and prevention is not.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:

HR 676 Universal Healthcare: Don’t Stop Believin’ (video; Kucinich; 35 percenters)

“SiCKO” Builds a Movement By Roger Hickey (+ video link)

Thank you, Dennis, for offering REAL health care reform (vid)

Stop everything, watch this film, buy the DVD, share with your family-Review of Sicko by Lo

The Joyride That Was The American Empire By Carolyn Baker (Michael Panzner)

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
ICH
Speaking Truth to Power
08/13/07

A review of Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future From Four Impending Catastrophes

A few days ago a friend called me just after hearing Michael Panzner on the Thom Hartmann show on Air America. My friend wanted me to read Panzer’s book, Financial Armageddon and see what I thought. Apparently, Panzer’s radio interview remarks were filled with passion and a sense of urgency, and upon reading the book, I experienced the same intensity in the author’s writing which pleasantly surprised me. Here was a financial guru with 25 years’ experience in the stock, bond, and currency markets and a faculty member of the New York Institute of Finance, who unlike Ben Bernanke and the silver-lining pundits of the financial pages, was not telling us that everything is going to be fine or that things will “bounce back in 2010”.

Anyone familiar with my writings knows that I have never claimed to be a fiduciary wizard, but in recent years I have written more on topics related to economics than at any time in my life. I do not believe that all social issues can be resolved if only we change how money works in the United States or the world, but I am profoundly aware of the role of economic issues-perhaps more than militarism, healthcare, education, politics, or any other institution, in the dead-ahead demise of empire. I also notice that few in the left-liberal end of the political spectrum have a firm grasp on economic issues which I suspect comes from a fundamental polarization between activism and financial intelligence-a reality which motivated me a few years ago to write an article entitled “Activists And Accountants: Absolute Allies.” Michael Panzner is definitely not from the left end of the political spectrum, which makes the contents of Financial Armageddon all the more fascinating and momentous. I came away from the book with both remarkable reinforcement of my position that the United States has entered economic collapse, but also perplexed regarding the myriad blind spots that the author seemed to have regarding the causes of the current economic meltdown. I am not aware of how Panzner may have altered his views since the publication of his book earlier this year, but at the time of writing, Panzner did not mention or was not aware of a number of glaring realities regarding the gluttonous greed-fest that has characterized the United States since the end of World War II. I will address those inconsistencies first, then highlight the places where I think Financial Armageddon is absolutely on-target.

What is most disturbing to me about the book is what appears to be a total lack of perception regarding the role of fraud, theft, and malicious intent in the American and global financial train wreck which has been exacerbating over recent decades. Panzner seems to conclude that all of this is just one huge accident attributable to incompetence or the American consumer being lulled by creature comforts. The book begins with a chapter on debt-personal and governmental-a factor so pivotal in economic catastrophe, but little attention is given to the intentional engineering, for example, of consumer debt by centralized financial systems and how monstrously profitable it is.

In the recent documentary “Maxed Out“, Harvard law professor and author of several books on consumer debt, Elizabeth Warren, states that the middle class is near extinction not only because of a lack of financial information, but specifically because debt is, in her words, “obscenely profitable” for lenders. Panzner says little about this in the book, but he does say that “Ever-growing investment returns, an endless housing boom, and the Federal Reserve had conditioned Americans to believe that, inevitable good fortune would eventually bail them out-should it even prove necessary.” (4) The current debt nightmare, however, is not merely about “conditioning” but is, in my opinion, based on hard evidence, calculated and contrived. Both “Maxed Out” and “In Debt We Trust” make this exceedingly clear. Furthermore, in examining the history of the financial train wreck now in the making, one must grasp the history of America’s aristocracy, not only in the days of the Robber Barons, but within the past thirty years. Catherine Austin Fitts’ website subtitled, “The Aristocracy Of Stock Profits” provides an excellent historical account of this.

Nowhere in the book does Panzner mention the $1.3 trillion missing from the Pentagon or the $59 billion missing from the Department Of Housing And Urban Development and a plethora of other instances where money is “missing” as documented, again, by Catherine Austin Fitts. Nowhere does he address the issue of fraudulent inducement, also noted by Fitts in her audio CD on the housing bubble, which simply means, enticing people to borrow when it is obvious that it will be impossible or near impossible for them to repay.

It is crucial to understand that the current economic meltdown is a transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the ruling elite. Wealth transfers do not just happen, nor are they the products of incompetency. They are intentional and well-planned. Central to wealth transfer is corruption at the highest levels of the economic and political systems. In hindsight, we look back upon the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s, at that time, the largest theft in the history of the world, yet today, our minds cannot begin to wrap around the wealth that has been stolen from the American people, making the S&L scam look like piggy bank pilfering–and to my knowledge, Catherine Austin Fitts at her Solari and Dunwalke sites, is the only person to have documented this so impeccably.

In fact, I recently received an email notice from Fitts stating:

Recently, we have seen numerous press accounts of bank and hedge fund losses from sub-prime mortgages. Remarkably, these reports imply that the losses are the result of a market downturn or contracting credit cycle. But there has been no mention of the extraordinary profits that were generated or who reaped them. There is no mention of who is poised to make a fortune on the bubble collapse. Even the most sophisticated commentators of our day are describing this financial coup d’etat as the unintentional consequence of “market forces.”

Coup d’ etat? How’s that for blowing the “incompetency theory” out of the water? Panzner alludes to corruption in his book but overall tends to place it in the future. Locating it in the context of a chaotic society during and after collapse, he says that “Corruption will likely become endemic…”, but, I protest, corruption is now and has been and is the principal reason for our financial predicament. In fact, in the opening of the chapter “The Retirement System”, he states that it is the leaders of the public and private sectors who put off an accurate assessment of what the future held, “even though they knew a day of reckoning would come.” (15) Yes, they knew a day of reckoning would come, and their intention was to feed as voraciously as they could off their current situations and be long gone before the reckoning. Just as the culprits of the Savings and Loan caper profited on the way up, they also profited on the way down, as will a few predators in the current subprime catastrophe.

In fact, an article this week in Forbes Magazine, “Profiting From The Meltdown” opens with: “A consortium of the nation’s leading investment banks have quietly created an index that is not only protecting them against the recent market meltdown but also promising to make them bundles of money in the process.”

Panzner does not mention the role of the Federal Reserve in engineering Financial Armageddon and the fact that it is neither “federal” nor has any kind of reserve. No expose of the Fed’s money policy, fractional reserve banking, or printing money out of thin air backed by nothing is offered. Nor does he illumine the reader about the Fed’s ultimate ulterior game plan. It appears that he is unaware of the global ruling elite, sometimes are referred to as the New World Order, who have engineered Financial Armageddon and will be safely ensconsed in their solar-powered bunkers, calculating their profits while surrounded with an abundance of food, water, and private security forces when all hell breaks loose.

One cannot adequately comprehend the perfect economic storm that is brewing worldwide without understanding the role of the Fed as one of the pivotal entities necessary for the construction of what financial analyst, Bill Bonner, calls the “Empire of Debt“. Curiously, Panzner does not address the reality of empire nor its historical ascension to global economic superintendent a la the Federal Reserve.

Mike Whitney states in his most recent article “Stock Market Meltdown” that:

Economic policy is not ‘accidental.’ The Fed’s policies were designed to create a crisis, and that crisis was intended to coincide with the activation of a nationwide police state…. The Federal Reserve is a central player in a carefully considered plan to shift the nation’s wealth from one class to another. And they have succeeded. Nearly 4 million American jobs have been sent overseas, the country has increased the national debt by $3 trillion dollars, and foreign investors own $4.5 trillion in US dollar-backed assets. While the Fed has been carrying out its economic strategy; the Bush administration has deployed the military around the world to conduct a global resource war. These are two wheels on the same axel. The goal is to maintain control of the global economic system by seizing the remaining energy resources in Eurasia and the Middle East and by integrating potential rivals into the American-led economic model under the direction of the Central Bank. All of the leading candidates-Democrat and Republican—belong to secretive organizations which ascribe to the same basic principles of global rule (new world order) and permanent US hegemony. There’s no quantifiable difference between any of them.

Whitney, of course, is talking about organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Group. It is within these entities that the ruling elite have been planted and cultivated.

Additionally, Financial Armageddon does not mention energy depletion or climate change as precipitous factors converging with global economic meltdown, exacerbating it and creating what I have frequently referred to as the Terminal Triangle as we “cook on the road to collapse”. These are factors that will only intensify the grim post-collapse world that Panzner does acknowledge later in the book. However, to fail to mention the current and future juxtaposition of these three for the first time in human history is a glaring omission.

To his credit, however, Panzner does steer his writing into future scenarios which sound remarkably like those posited by Dmitry Orlov in his series on collapse entitled “Post-Soviet Lessons For A Post-American Century“. Echoing James Howard Kunstler’s adage that “suburbs are the slums of the future”, he states that “In the wake of the early 21st-century housing boom, the migratory landing points may well be the millions of condominiums and boarded-up new homes left empty or mired in foreclosure in what were once the hottest real estate markets.” (107) Reminiscent of Orlov he writes:

Meanwhile, newfound transparency in the wake of the unfolding financial crisis will expose a scale of fraud, corruption, and self-dealing that many will find almost impossible to comprehend. Day in and day out, reports will surface about hidden losses, false accounting, inflated appraisals, sizable off-balance-sheet obligations, valuation discrepancies, unregulated offshore entities, phantom, profits, insider trading, and businesses bled dry to enrich a few individuals at the expense of employees, investors, bankers, and bondholders.(116)

Sorry to say, but all of this sound a whole lot like the current moment, and certainly everything enumerated here will only worsen, and Panzner admits as much in the final chapters as he presents a world of chaos, lawlessness, hunger, thirst, homelessness, inveterate wandering, and people with nothing to lose doing whatever it takes, in order to survive.

I was getting worried early-on in the book that the author would not mention martial law and “vast detention camps”, but he does when explaining the extent of lawlessness, troublemakers, and immigrants “who will increasingly be seen as an unacceptable threat to national security.” (127) Additionally, “Americans will be confronted by an unfamiliar and frightening array of legal, financial, and security restrictions, including lockdowns, curfews, internments, capital and exchange controls, and even [oh yes especially] martial law.” (185) It will be a world where the dark and seamy side of life are apt to be predominant with addictions, vices, and suicide prevailing everywhere. There will be much thievery, scamming, and violent crime and as Panzner says, “People who underestimate the severity of the dangers ahead and fail to take the necessary steps at the outset risk being left penniless.” (142)

When all is said and done, Financial Armageddon offers some sound advice and strategies, which some readers may be aware of, for navigating the crumbling empire . The author insists that having access to information, especially alternative news, will be crucial. Not knowing or predicting how long the internet will exist or remain uncontrolled, he strongly recommends that people familiarize themselves now with alternative news sites and continue to do so as long as they can. In addition, he emphasizes hyperinflation and the risks it will entail in terms of using cash. Precious metals will be a strong hedge, and barter will become a basic, commonplace form of exchange. Practical knowledge of fundamental skills, healing with herbs and other alternative remedies, and personal disaster planning will be essential-as will be the ability to navigate a rotting infrastructure which, and I’m sure Panzner would concur, that in August, 2007, we are just beginning to witness the tragic consequences of.

Panzer also adds the spiritual factor in the equation:

Coping when many people are trapped beneath the rubble of an irresponsible or impetuous past will call for considerable courage, stamina, and resolve, which must come from within. Constant turmoil and heightened uncertainty about the future will require ‘what if?’ thinking and the ability to anticipate situations that used to be rare or non-existent. (143-144)

In addition, Panzner states unequivocally that:

For most Americans, the period ahead will be a time to scrimp and scrape and shy away from a natural sense of optimism that says tomorrow will be better than today. Instead of looking for handouts and loans, people will increasingly have to draw upon their own creative inner spirit to satisfy whatever needs they might have and uncover alternatives to spending money, without necessarily expending a great deal of valuable time and energy in the process. (179)

Gee, do I hear Panzner saying what I have been saying for years– that we must “kill hope an enliven options“? Yes, indeed I do, and I also hear in his chapter on Relationships, that brains, wit, physical fitness, and the best laid plans of mice and men without human connection and skills that enable people to sustain it, will come to nought.

I look forward to Panzner’s next book and trust that it will hit harder than Financial Armageddon. Nevertheless, I enthusiastically recommend this book as well as the Financial Armageddon website.

In summary, the joyride is over, and if you are reading these words, you are probably one of the few people in America or in the world who really understands what that means.

Carolyn Baker is an adjunct professor of history living in Southern New Mexico. She can be contacted at cbaker@nmsu.edu

Speaking Truth to Power

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:

Stock Market Brushfire; Will there be a run on the banks? By Mike Whitney

Stock Market Meltdown By Mike Whitney

A Brief Commentary On Financial Crises by J. R. Nyquist

When Collapse Is No Longer Science Fiction: Choosing Hospice Work Instead Of Hope By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Monday, 06 August 2007

By owning the truth and all of its distressing emotions, we empower ourselves beyond our wildest dreams.

Within the past month, America has witnessed two dramatic events which have illumined the devastating demise of its infrastructure-the New York City steam explosion in mid-July and the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, on August 1. And in the same span of one month, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “collapses” with a seizure. Now, in neon lights, we have the word “collapse” writ large across empire even as the overwhelming majority of Americans refuse to face the collapse of every institution in the nation: the economy, healthcare, education, religion, transportation, energy, political systems, and so much more. In fact, the word “collapse” is now being used in American journalism with increasing frequency to describe the ubiquitous crumbling of nearly all facets of our society. Yet as most progressives with the exception of Oprah, along with middle America, avoid talking about the ghastly plot of the recent novel “The Road” or steer clear of discussing information such as that contained in the documentary “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire“, they have only to turn on CNN and see that collapse is no longer something imagined by Stephen King or wild-eyed, doom-and-gloom “conspiracy theorists”. Collapse is here, it’s now, and it’s going to exacerbate, and Minneapolis is a metaphor as well as another gruesome literal example of civilization’s grotesque self-annihilation.

Continued…

see:
Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky

Escape from Suburbia: A Documentary Review By Carolyn Baker + Holloway: Escape from Suburbia (videos; trailers)

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Thursday, 02 August 2007

Sit still and listen
For you are drunk, and
We are at the edge of the roof…
–RUMI

We must cease investing our emotional energy and condition in the events of civilization. It is diseased to the core. We must realize the “dear thing” cannot be saved, even with major surgery.
–William Kotke, The Final Empire, The Collapse Of Civilization

Continue reading

Building Circles Of Community: “Lone Rangers” Cannot Survive Collapse By Carolyn Baker

Dandelion Salad

By Carolyn Baker
Saturday, 28 July 2007

The inexorable reality is that any community that does not process feelings and build trust by doing so…is NOT, I repeat, NOT sustainable.

A treasure trove of information pertaining to preparation for collapse can be found on the internet and in libraries throughout the world. Earlier this year I reviewed Mick Winter’s book on preparing for Peak Oil and have since posted on my site Stan Goff’s piece on “35 Ways To Prepare For Peak Oil” My own article, “What To Do, What To Do?” addresses preparation for collapse from yet another perspective. Websites such as Matt Savinar’s Life After The Oil Crash, Energy Bulletin, and Post-Carbon Institute offer ongoing suggestions for preparation as well. Yet the one topic which receives almost no attention is the notion of how individuals create community in the face of the collapse of civilization. This is curious since, in my opinion, all individuals raised in the culture of empire are deeply wounded emotionally and spiritually and have little experience of living harmoniously in community. In fact, more often than not, people who are preparing for collapse tell me that their experiences with attempting to create and maintain community have been disappointing at best and disastrous at worst, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why so few people address the topic.

Much talk of ecovillages and intentional communities abounds among collapse watchers, and in many of such venues that have actually been created, a significant amount of time is devoted to community building-sometimes a minimum of three hours per day. One may wonder how anything else can get done when people sit in community circles that many hours. Who plants and weeds the garden? Who cooks? Who washes dishes and empties garbage into the compost?

What many communities have discovered is that community building requires so much time that its members must have “sprung themselves” from the system to such an extent that they have the time required to devote three or four hours per day to sitting in a circle and processing feelings and making decisions about the community’s well being. What does not work well, experience tells us, is a community in which people share residence but are still chained to a system in which they must commute to exhausting jobs, return to their groovy ecovillage, and have little or no time or energy left to do the emotional work necessary to sustain it.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.