Chris Hedges Won’t Be Invited to Davos

Chris Hedges, who came out of the Harvard Divinity School intending to be a minister and instead became a New York Times  war correspondent, is deeply knowledgeable about the things that matter and thus deeply pessimistic about the future of our species. This passage from The Death of the Liberal Class sums up his dark vision:

“Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. The ten-thousand year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And human kind, which thought it was given dominion of the Earth and all living things will be taught a painful lesson about balance, restraint, and humility.”

With so little time left, even the most thoughtful books seem beside the point. If finding a comfortable cave with a few like-minded people isn’t an option, what is? For Hedges, civil disobedience is the remaining option for living a moral life.

“We view ourselves as rational creatures,” he writes. “But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers, and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, steer us toward mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?”

I agree with almost everything Hedges has to say, and when I don’t, it is with much diffidence that I question it; he’s that smart and knowledgeable, and most of all, that well-motivated. And, of course, rational people agree with his disdain for the trivialized, mind-fucking exercise that passes for electoral politics. Most of us understand too that the corporate lobbyists who deliver up the cash in whatever legal forms the “lawmakers” have devised to accept the bribes without going to jail are thoroughly corrupt as are the CEOs who supply it and the corporate media, often the same bribe-givers, who make a bundle off these elections.

But civil disobedience, which means jail and sometimes pepper spray and clubs, takes more courage than most of us have. That’s why the Occupy protesters were and still are so important. They are heroes. There aren’t enough of them. There never will be.  No movies, books, plays, Facebook-driven campaigns, not even brilliant social critics who can still get their ideas and messages out (mostly to like-minded people), can accomplish what the Zucotti Park people were able to do: They forced the corporate media to cover them in ways that grabbed the attention of the dumbed down American public, framed the issue beautifully–the 1% against the 99% – and even dragged Obama, however reluctantly, to take the rhetorical risk of offending Wall Street.

In these times, if there are more important people on the planet than the Occupiers–put Julian Assange in there–I can’t think of any.  They’re the leaders. When it comes right down to it, it was their courage that counted. Hedges and a handful of other well-known people have been willing to join them.

But there has to be enough political space, enough breathing room for the vast majority of people, the people who know they’ve been diddled and who know it wasn’t Barney Frank that brought the country down, to add their weight to the Occupy resistance-and still get up the next morning and go to work to pay their rent; the people who don’t want to be sheep in a pen, but who will never set up a tent in Zucotti Park.

And so while the plutocrats and their paid propagandists still seem to want a democratic  fig leaf to cover their naked greed, politics in whatever form–even elections, still matter, even if only a little bit.



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Mr. Bloomberg meet Mr. Mister

Chris Hedges’ wonderful book, The Death of the Liberal Class,  reminds me of the political potential of great theater. What follows is mostly but not entirely word for word from the book. I don’t love typing, but it’s better to type what Hedges has to say than to read (and watch) the repackaged talking points pour out of political campaigns, government agencies and corporate public relations offices. Here’s Hedges:

During the New Deal, the Works Project Administration (WPA) established the Federal Theater Project. By the time the project was shut down four years after it began, its productions had played to more than 30 million people. Ticket prices were low. Money went to salaries for the actors, directors, designers…

It was perhaps the last potent counterweight to the propaganda state. They produced high quality works that spoke to ordinary lives and the misery that had engulfed the country… New plays, classical drama, modern drama, radio drama, puppet plays, Yiddish, Spanish, Italian, and German language theater, children’s theater, dance drama, musicals, religious drama, vaudeville, and circuses—hundreds of productions in every state of the union poured out of the project, It was the high point of American theater.

The productions—which took on factory owners, bankers, coal mine owners, government bureaucrats and industrialists—led to howls of protest from the power elite.

Orson Welles and John Houseman, who directed the Negro Theater Unit of the Federal Theater Project in Harlem, mounted a production called The Cradle Will Rock, a musical written by Marc Blitzstein—who would be blacklisted in the 1950s—set in “Steeltown, USA.” The musical followed the efforts of a worker, Larry Foreman, to unionize steel workers. His nemesis is the heartless industrialist Mr. Mister, who controlled the press, the church, the arts, the local university, politics, the community’s social organizations, and even the local doctor.

The Cradle Will Rock spared no one, from Mr. Mister’s philanthropic wife and spoiled children to Reverend Salvation, who used religion to bless war and capitalism, to the corrupt editor of the local paper, Editor Daily…

The Cradle Will Rock, like much of the popular work that came out of the Federal Theater Project, addressed the concerns of the working class rather than those of the power elite. It excoriated greed, corruption, the folly of war, the complicity of liberal institutions in protecting the power elite, and the abuses of capitalism. Mr. Mister ran the town like a private plantation.

The Cradle Will Rock needs reviving. How about Call Me Mike?

Rev. Sharpton at the Wailing Wall. He turned out to be Mike's "favorite civil rights leader."

If you’re wondering about this image of Al Sharpton at the Wailing Wall, just take a look at this link to Mike! Wall Street’s Mayor: It really happened.  As he did with so many others, Mike  answered Sharpton’s prayer.

On the day Mike announced he would sign the bill overturning term limits,  Sharpton’s National Action Network received $50,000 from a pot of money controlled by Joel Klein, then New York City School Chancellor. Sharpton told the New York Times, “I’m leaning toward those who advocate in favor of making changes in the law through a referendum. But I haven’t come to any final determination yet.”

A few days later, another $60,000 came in over the transom. Sharpton stopped leaning and said no more about term limits. Later, Sharpton said he never got any of Mike’s money: “not that I know of.

NOTE: Sharpton’s organization received seven-figure payments earlier in Mike’s mayoralty. The circumstances surrounding those payments–traced by good investigative reporters to Mike and his hedge fund colleagies–are described elsewhere in the book.

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In Mayor Mike’s New York, Children Get Lead Paint, Wall Street Gets Its Own Spy Center (as seen on Wall Street on Parade)

The wonderful Pam Martens posted the article below today on Wall Street on Parade. Many thanks Pam!

In Mayor Mike’s New York, Children Get Lead Paint, Wall Street Gets Its Own Spy Center

By Pam Martens: August 14, 2012
illustration by Keith Seidel

We learned a little more about the policies of Mayor Michael (“just call me ‘Mike’ ”) Bloomberg last week. Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly held yet another press conference at the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center on Broadway in the Wall Street area.  As we first reported on October 18, 2011, this Center was built with at least $150 million of taxpayers’ money but its “partners” in spying on the people of New York City, with their very own staffed computer workstations in the Center, are some of the most notorious Wall Street firms: for example, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase, as well as the regulator that’s got their back, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Exactly what is the logic of going into partnership to battle crime with the very firms which the U.S. Department of Justice and regulators worldwide are investigating for their own crimes?  In the case of Citigroup and JPMorgan, the allegations are that they are involved in a global banking cartel colluding on the rigging of Libor interest rates; just the sort of people you want sitting next to your top secret criminal databases.

Bloomberg and Kelly held the press conference to trumpet their latest high tech spy gadget: a program built by Microsoft called the Domain Awareness System (DAS).  The new system will let the City aggregate and analyze data from the thousands of spy cameras placed around Manhattan, license plate readers, radiation sensors, tap into criminal databases and the like.

Since October of last year, 10 months ago, I have been attempting to gain additional information on the spy center through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, New York’s version of the Federal FOIA statute.  Under FOIL, readily available information should be handed over in 5 business days.  Despite followup letters, emails and phone calls, the City of New York has failed to turn over information that the public has every right to access.  In fact, it’s failed to turn over anything.

We learned one new piece of information last week from Neal Ungerleider, a reporter for Fast  Not only does Wall Street have a seat in the spy center, but so does a multi-national pharmaceutical company, Pfizer.  I’ve also confirmed that the very firm that was involved in the eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Properties, also has a seat in the spy group.

To fully comprehend the mindset of  New York City’s One-Percent-Mayor, one must read Neil Fabricant’s heart rendering and brilliant new book, Mike! Wall Street’s Mayor, with uproarious illustrations by Keith Seidel.

The Mayor who built a $150 million spy center for his pals on Wall Street, delivered the following to poor and desperate families with children, as Fabricant reports in his new book:

“When it comes to homeless people who don’t have many supporters, the iron fist comes out of the velvet glove.  He once told attendees at a Working Families Party forum that the reason that shelter occupancy rates have reached record levels is that he has made city shelters ‘more attractive’!  One of Mike’s first attractive shelters was an unused Bronx jail that Rudy Giuliani had rejected as a shelter.  The levels of peeling lead paint were eight times the toxicity level defined by the city’s Health Department.

“Mike began filling the old jail with homeless families, 90 to begin with.  A firestorm of criticism erupted.  Mike said he’d compromise and stop sending children younger than six years old to the jail.  The courts finally ordered him to close it down…The Coalition for the Homeless reported that a record 113,553 homeless people – including 42,888 children —slept in city-funded shelters in 2010, a 37 percent increase from 2002.  The number of homeless families is 45 percent higher than when Mike took office.”