Truthout Stories Thu, 03 Sep 2015 11:11:22 -0400 en-gb Private Global Interest Organization Performs Corporate Takeover of Our Education Systems

A discourse of paranoia is slowly but surely creeping into the core of our education systems and if you are a parent who has a child in school, you will know that education today is not like it was even 10 or 20 years ago and that a significant difference is the increase of standardized testing.

What you may not be aware of is that this increase in standardized testing is spearheaded by a private global interest organization called the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) who runs a program called PISA (Program For International Student Assessment).

The OECD has with its PISA program become one of the most influential organizations when it comes to setting the agenda for the future of education, and is rapidly working towards standardizing the world's school systems into one streamlined one-size-fits-all model.

In a mere 20 years, the OECD has become one of the world's leading forces with regards to affecting education policies and currently, more than 70 countries solicit OECD to test its students through international comparative tests and accordingly give 'expert advice' based on the results of these tests on how each country can optimize its education system.

It is for example based on results from the PISA tests that Finland's education system in the early 2000's was glorified and appraised and it is because of their high rankings in PISA that South Korea and Singapore currently are seen as having some of the best education systems in the world, (despite the fact that South Korea for example also has the highest suicide statistics among young people in the world).

How has a private economic interest organization like the OECD been able to penetrate the very fabric of our education systems?

There are two ways in which OECD with PISA is slowly but surely monopolizing educational policies all over the world:

The first is the seemingly innocuous ways in which our education systems are changing through the ways standardized testing are affecting schools and curriculum all over the world on a rather ubiquitous level.

The other is how OECD with PISA has positioned itself as a global overseer of quality in education with which it penetrates the education system to further a specific economic and ideological agenda. Countries are literally basing educational reforms on directions from OECD, in some countries with what some would call devastating effects. More on this later.

See, the thing is: Standardized testing is not simply a "tool" as the OECD presents it, which is used to optimize the quality of our education systems. It is in itself changing the way education is carried out, addressed and seen.

It is not a passive tool for measuring the quality of education at a school because it requires students' active participation and at many schools the result of PISA and other tests are included as part of the students' final grading. Teachers have to change their curriculum to "teach to the test" and local budgets are set based on competitive results between schools in the same area.

This is not simply adding an innocuous tool that only has the effect of optimizing the equality of education - it is pervasive in nature and it is changing oureducation systems more rapidly than we realize.

This is seen no more than in how students experience having to take one standardized test after another. One of my 7th grade students for example experiences perpetual stress over having to do tests close to every week. She is a young, bright woman with an immense drive and creative ambition. She wants to become a movie director and often sits at home writing long scripts. She is even working on a novel. One time she mentioned to me that they had been learning about ancient Mesopotamia in a history class. To me that sounded like a fascinating subject and I asked her with excitement what she had learned. "I'm not really sure," she said. "The teacher is moving so fast through the curriculum pushing us towards the test so it is difficult to keep up."

This is coming from a bright and intelligent young woman who still has an immense curiosity and interest for learning. How much learning potential is wasted when students are rushed through a curriculum only to get to a test at the end?

Another tragic example of the effects that standardized testing has on students can be seen on the American art teacher Mrs. Chang's blog. She gave her 10 - 12th grade students the task to illustrate how they felt about taking tests. You can see the outcome of that project for yourself here.

In 1998, Noel Wilson, a scholar from the Flinders University of South Australia, wrote a paper in the journal EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS titled Educational Standards and the Problem of Error on the devastating effects that standardized testing has on students that is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. A summarized and updated version was added by someone called Duane Swacker in the comment section of this article, which I also recommend reading in relation to a critical perspective on PISA.

In it, Wilson criticizes the entire notion of standardized testing in schools and asks:

"So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.

"So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete."

Paraphrasing Wilson on the epistemological error of the notion of testing, Swacker writes: "A quality cannot be quantified. Quantity is a sub-category of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category by only a part (sub-category) of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that "assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as one dimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error" (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing we are lacking much information about said interactions.

A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the "score" of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place.

The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who "don't make the grade (sic)." Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?"

It is indeed highly problematic that testing is seen as a benevolent tool to improve and optimize education, when it in fact appears to have an oppressing effect on students subjected to it.

The question is then whether this oppressing cookie-cutter effect of standardized testing is an innocuous but problematic side effect of a benevolent project regarding educational reforms or whether it is actually part of a much more sinister agenda to propagate a certain mindset in students graduating from schools around the world?

One of the most revered critics of OCED and PISA is professor Yong Zhao, presidential chair and director of the Institute for Global and Online Educationin the College of Education, University of Oregon.

In the fourth part of his often-referenced four-piece series of articles titled "How Does PISA Put the World at Risk" Zhao argues that the PISA program "was designed to capitalize on the intense nationalistic concern for global competitiveness by inducing strong emotional responses from the unsuspecting public, gullible politicians, and sensation-seeking media. Virtually all PISA products, particularly its signature product, the league tables, are intended to show winners and losers, in not only educational policies and practices of the past, but more important, in capacity for global competition in the future.

While this approach has made PISA an extremely successful global enterprise, it has misled the world down a path of self-destruction, resulting in irrational policies and practices that are more likely to squander precious resources and opportunities than enhancing capacity for future prosperity."

Zhao criticizes the PISA program for measuring the quality of education purely based on academic achievements, entirely leaving out and disregarding socioeconomic facts as well as the psychosocial well being of students. I have discussed this in a previous article where I mentioned how countries such as South Korea might score high on the PISA tests, but they also have some of the highest suicide rates among students - and the question is then whether that is an education system that is worth modeling?

In his closing statement of the article, Zhao argues, "Until OECD-PISA became the only employer in the world with PISA scores as the only qualification, I would not suggest lawyers and doctors in the US, UK, or any nation to replace your children's activities in music, arts, sports, dancing, debates, and field trips with math tutoring. For the same reason, it is not time yet for schools in developed countries to close your swimming pools, burn your musical instruments, end museums visits, or fire your art teachers."

In a 2014 article for the UK-based TES (Times Educational Supplement) newspaper titled "Is Pisa fundamentally flawed?" educational reporter William Stewart outlined the scope of influence that the OECD has gotten over the past decade: "Politicians worldwide, such as England's education secretary Michael Gove, have based their case for sweeping, controversial reforms on the fact that their countries' Pisa rankings have "plummeted." Meanwhile, top-ranked success stories such as Finland have become international bywords for educational excellence, with other ambitious countries queuing up to see how they have managed it."

Like Zhao, Stewart argues that measuring educational quality based on results from PISA is flawed. He argues that the tests are not based on common results but on different results from different students and that this creates highly fluctuating results from country to country and even within the same country, despite the OECD's claim that PISA is one of the most accurate tools for measuring the quality of education. Stewart argues that it is absurd to expect that 50 countries with widely different cultures can be expected to fit into a one-size-fits-all measurement of educational quality and that the tests may therefore potentially be culturally biased.

So how has a private economic interest organization like OECD within the span of a decade managed to influence the course of national educationpolicies on a global level?

In the past 20-30 years a discourse of global competition has become ubiquitously part of the conversation in media and in political sphere. Global competition for profit and resources (where knowledge is one of the most valuable assets a country can mine) is seen as a natural outflow of the processes of globalization and it is in that discourse that the OECD positions itself within and from which it gains its self-proclaimed relevance. PISA is presented as a tool that governments can (and must) use to optimize their educational policies to not fall back in the global competition.

The question is whether the OECD is doing that in fact or whether they, with PISA, are adding gasoline to the fire to further their own agenda, specifically through generating panic and paranoia among member countries who feverishly fight tooth and nail to not be at the bottom of the ranks.

When Sweden, a country who otherwise prided itself of having one of the world's best education systems, keeps dropping in the PISA results year after year, it begs the question of whether PISA is doing more good than harm. Students are becoming increasingly more stressed and meanwhile politicians are acting as lapdogs for the OECD, following their every decree, to do whatever it takes to not fall back and risk being losers in this global game of thrones.

It seems as though the increased focus on global competition in our education systems has done nothing but decrease the actual quality of education, which is in itself an irony of massive proportions. It seems as though an undercurrent of paranoia based on an ethos of "survival of the fittest" is governing our education systems and the question is: Who stands to gain from a system that is set up to make students fail, despite getting aneducation?

I leave you with this analogy that may serve as a precautionary tale, to not let organizations like the OECD dictate the future of education based on paranoia.

In the classic 1954 book about survival and human nature, Lord of the Flies, Jack (leader of the choir boys) convinces the other boys that there is a monster on the island and he soon spreads paranoia to gain power over the tribe. The boys vehemently start hunting the monster. Later, in a vision, another boy called Simon realizes that the monster is not real and that the boys have created the monster as a figment of their own imagination through the intoxication of fear. Jack and his followers kill Simon before they eventually burn down the entire island and destroy what little community was left.

Education is about learning how to navigate the world, how to live together and how to take care of the world and each other in the best way possible. Education is about learning from those who came before us, both from their experiences and examples, but also from their mistakes. Education is about developing and living one's utmost potential so as to best contribute to a world that is best for all, and so for oneself. This is not the type of education that is promoted by the OECD, nor by our countries officials when they so desperately follow the OECD's recommendations without questioning its political agenda.

If we are not interested in an education system designed by a private economic interest organization, whose goal it seems to be to increase paranoia to encourage competition - it is important that we come up with sound alternatives; alternatives such as the democratic (Sudbury) schools that are emerging all over the world, alternatives such as unschooling that questions the very notion of schooling and its capacity to truly educate our children.

At the very least, we ought to question the starting point with which we send our children to school: Is it to teach them to compete and survive in an absurd real-life version of Lord of the Flies or is it to become the best people they can possibly be, so that they may leave a world that is better than the one they came into?

Opinion Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Investigators Find New Developments in Possible Lynching Case Out of North Carolina

It's been a year since the lifeless body of 17-year old Lennon Lacy was found hanging from a swing set in the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina. While state investigators working under the direction of the local district attorney immediately ruled the death a suicide, questions remain about whether foul play was involved since the African-American teen was found wearing too-small shoes that were not his own, allegedly hung himself in a mostly white trailer park using a belt that was not his own, and since the mechanics of the purported self-hanging appear implausible.

Lacy had been dating an older white woman who, along with Lacy's family, has said she does not believe the teen killed himself. Though he had been grieving the recent death of a great-uncle, the West Bladen High School junior, JROTC member and football player was looking forward to playing his first game of the season the same day his body was found. He had even laundered and laid out his uniform in anticipation.

Following public outcry over the case, and spurred by a report from an independent medical pathologist hired by the North Carolina NAACP that raised questions about the thoroughness and conclusions of the local probe, the FBI is now investigating.

At a memorial service for Lacy held at Bladenboro's First Missionary Baptist Church on Aug. 28, which marked a year since the teen was last seen alive, officials with the NC NAACP offered updates about the case:

  • About a month ago, the FBI interviewed Lacy's mother, Claudia Lacy. "There is some indication they're developing a renewed interest in this," NC NAACP attorney Al McSurely told the gathering.
  • Two people came to the NC NAACP with information suggesting Lacy's death was not a suicide; they were referred to law enforcement. The group's president, Rev. Dr. William Barber, described the stories they told as "so chilling."
  • Barber has spoken with new US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, about the Lacy case. He said he believes there will be more attention devoted to the investigation under her leadership.
  • Someone from outside North Carolina has approached the state NAACP and offered to put up a $25,000 reward for information in the case. Barber said that offer is now being vetted by the FBI.

"Because we know all of that, we know it's not over," Barber told the crowd. "If it was your child, you would not want it to be over."

Meanwhile, the NC Music Love Army, a musical collective inspired by the Moral Monday protest movement led by the NC NAACP, is doing its part to keep public attention focused on the case. Last month it released the "Ballad of Lennon Lacy" by Charlotte-based singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay with Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drop Rhiannon Giddens and other Music Love Army members including former "American Idol" contestant Charly Lowry, Dark Water Rising, the Backsliders, Caitlin Cary, Eddie Walker, Skylar Gudasz and Brett Harris.*

Lindsay recently told The Charlotte Observer that he has been "obsessed" with the Lacy case. "It's consuming to do a song like this," he said. "You have to feel it in your bones you're doing the right thing."

The song's lyrics hint at the fact that there have been other cases involving mysterious hanging deaths of African-American men that were ruled suicide despite lingering questions about possible foul play:

I can't believe strange fruit still dangles from a Carolina noose
But I won't turn my back, like anyone still afraid to ask:
Did they take away another precious life, precious life,
And try to make it look like suicide, suicide?

For more information about those other cases, which were documented by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp for a 2012 Investigation Discovery TV show titled "The Injustice Files: At the End of a Rope," click here. Listen to the "Ballad of Lennon Lacy" here.

News Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
DOD's Inspector General Investigates Administration Propaganda Again

In the last few weeks, there have been several reports that senior intelligence officials were skewing the intelligence on how (un)successful the military campaign against ISIS has been. "Officials at United States Central Command - the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State - were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said," the New York Times was the first to report.

Patrick Eddington - himself a former CIA whistleblower - put that allegation into historical context, reminding how intelligence agencies have focused on good news going back to the Vietnam War and repeating in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

While the history lesson is worthwhile by itself, Eddington makes another important point. He notes that Department of Defense's Inspector General, which is investigating the claims, can't be trusted to carry out such an investigation. "The allegations reported by the Times and the Daily Beast are too serious a matter to be left to the DOD IG, particularly given the DOD IG's recent track record in dealing with high-profile whistleblower complaints." Eddington focuses on the treatment that Thomas Drake and other NSA whistleblowers experienced when they alerted DOD's IG to an ineffective boondoggle designed to make SAIC rich, and argues the Intelligence Community and Source Protection Office should conduct the investigation, particularly since other intelligence agencies may also be politicizing intelligence about Syria.

But there's an even more important example why DOD's IG should not be investigating this allegation: as became clear during the investigation into leaks about the Osama bin Laden raid to the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, DOD's IG may not issue reports on senior DOD officials and will not on people who work in other agencies (as Leon Panetta did when he disclosed classified information). "Due to 'a longstanding Department policy,' … referrals of alleged misconduct by senior officials would have to be removed before [the Zero Dark Thirty report] could be published," Senator Chuck Grassley learned when investigating whistleblower complaints of that investigation.

That's a problem given that reports blame "senior officials" for the politicization of this intelligence.

DOD's policy of suppressing information on top officials may only pertain to leaks and not all misconduct. Indeed, DOD's IG has referred a number of generals for misconduct in recent years.

Yet given how closely this issue - spinning happy stories about our operations in Syria - relates to the prior example - spinning the most positive stories about the Osama bin Laden killing - there's good reason to worry that DOD IG won't implicate any senior officials even if they are politicizing the intelligence on Syria.

News Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Walmart and Walker: Always Low Wages

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at Joey's Diner in Amherst, New Hampshire, on July 16, 2015. (Photo: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock)Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at Joey's Diner in Amherst, New Hampshire, July 16, 2015. (Photo: Andrew Cline /

What do Governor Scott Walker and Walmart have in common? They talk pay raises in public while cheating their workers of pay.

When Walmart announced with great fanfare that it was boosting pay for frontline workers, CMD questioned the spin. After all, Walmart is regularly forced to pay back wages between 2007-2012 amounting to an astonishing $30 million according to a US Senate report. This week, Bloomberg reported that Walmart is cutting hours for its workers, robbing many of the benefit of the recent pay hike.

In July, Scott Walker raised eyebrows when he signed a contract with a big pay boost for the state troopers who provide his security detail. The troopers did not get the 17 percent he proposed, but a more modest $4 an hour raise. Now the US Department of Labor has found that Team Walker violated the law by failing to pay overtime for state troopers who provide round-the-clock security as Walker jets around the country seeking the presidency. The troopers' pay raise has been rescinded and the security detail is being cut. Taxpayers could be on the hook for as much as $1 million. Perhaps "always low wages" should be the slogan for the candidate who recently called the minimum wage a "lame" idea.

Check out PR Watch's SourceWatch profile of the low-road, low-wage Walmart here.

News Thu, 03 Sep 2015 10:42:27 -0400
We Disrupted Hillary Clinton on Behalf of Black Trans Women - Here's Why

(Photo: courtesy of Get Equal)(Photo: courtesy of GetEqual)Last week, we disrupted Hillary Clinton's campaign event in Cleveland, OH, asking her to "divest from private prisons, invest in black trans women." As representatives of Black Lives Matter and GetEQUAL our ask was strategic and intentional. Since Hillary Clinton makes equality for women a critical tenet of her campaign platform, we demand that Clinton - and our own movement for black lives - center the black transgender women so often left out of conversations about gender and racial equity. As cisgender Black women, we are fighting for our trans family: we understand that Black liberation means all Black people, and we resist the idea that anyone is disposable in our work.

We are in a state of emergency - the murder rate of trans women of color, particularly Black trans women, is higher than ever, with at least 20 women murdered since the beginning of 2015. Black trans women make up at least 13 of those killed - in the state of Ohio alone, 6 trans women have been murdered since 2011.

After three trans women of color were murdered in a 24-hour period, Elle Hearns and other transwomen Black Lives Matter organizers called on cisgender Black people to act. Black Lives Matter declared last Tuesday as "Trans Liberation Tuesday," and nearly 20 cities answered the call, holding actions around the country. In her speech for DC's Trans Liberation Tuesday, our friend and comrade Elle Hearns called on cis Black people to do more, saying:

"When you talk about 'Black Lives Matter,' you do not think of Black trans people. You do not think of the Black trans women who are being murdered. You do not think about the Black trans people who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders… We learned about the murders of five Black trans women in one day. And there was no outrage. There was no shutting down in the streets. There was nothing."

We are outraged. We cannot allow silence to herald the death of our Black trans sisters any longer. We cannot accept vague declarations that "Black Lives Matter" from candidates seeking the Black vote while taking money from those who profit from the criminalization of Black people.

Hillary Clinton holds unique culpability for the destruction of Black trans lives: her campaign is funded in part by lobbyists and lawyers for private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group.

Hillary Clinton's previous meetings with those working with Black Lives Matter have ended with little acknowledgement of how she can fight for Black lives as a candidate. Her attempts to deflect criticism by repeatedly demanding "policy proposals" from activists ignore the responsibility that she and other political leaders hold for propping up the broken criminal justice system.

More importantly, over 41% of Black trans women have been arrested and incarcerated at some point in their lives, and Hillary's funders and bundlers play a pivotal role in those experiences of incarceration. As organizations across the country ask Hillary to divest from private prisons, we acknowledge the unique harm that private prisons inflict upon Black trans women, and ask Hillary to not only address the murders of Black trans women across the country, but to divest from a violent system that harms so many Black trans women. In order for Hillary to truly demonstrate that she believes "Black Lives Matter," she must divest from the private prison money that is funding her campaign and actively, intentionally invest in Black trans lives.

This is why we protested Hillary Clinton's campaign event, shouting "Say Her Name," while reciting the names of Black trans women killed in Ohio, the very state Clinton was visiting - women like Cemia Dove from Cleveland. While we shouted the names of our Black trans sisters, the women most deeply impacted by the gender oppression Hillary Clinton speaks about on the campaign trail, Clinton continued to speak, waving us off with, "I'll talk to you about this later." Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton did not meet with us after we were escorted by security out of the event, nor did she acknowledge the state of emergency that Black trans women are facing in this country.

Our action held Hillary Clinton accountable for her investment in the systems that damage Black trans women's quality of life, but we are also holding the movement accountable through our disruption. We can no longer afford a movement for Black lives that does not center Black trans women in our work. We can no longer afford to stay silent when a Black trans woman is murdered - and neither can our movement.

Opinion Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Standing at the Gates: Our Generation Has to Convert Ideas of Change Into Action

(Photo: Youth and Technology via Shutterstock)(Photo: Youth and Technology via Shutterstock)

I don't know if I am becoming more argumentative and cantankerous as I get older, but I find myself in more and more arguments with strangers. The latest episode has stayed with me, partly because on paper our backgrounds and ambitions should have aligned.

I was sitting on a patio of a Mexican restaurant in Cape Town, next to a friend of a friend, a young Italian woman who lives in Silicon Valley. Conscious that this montage of globalization would not have been possible twenty years ago, I asked what brought her to the city. She told me how she is a recent graduate of Singularity University, an 'innovation lab' based in NASA's Ames campus in northern California founded by Ray Kurzweil (father of the Singularity, the idea that a super intelligence will result as man merges with machine in the year 2045) and Peter Diamandis (founder of the X Prize and eager planet miner and solar system colonizer). She explained that she had previously worked at a 'tech incubator' in the 'Valley' and how she was focused on 'disruptive thinking' and 'exponential technologies' that could save the world.

As she glowed in reverence for the curriculum at Singularity University, she explained how she and her classmates have created a mobile application that will help accelerate education for up to one billion people, largely in developing countries, by 'gameifying' education.' Hence her trip to South Africa. Somewhere between 'productization' and 'monetization,' I interjected by stating that the only proven model for exponential growth has been the computer microchip processor. Moore's Law is not a universal law.

In fact, over the past two decades we have had increase in poverty and inequality, increasing food famines, and experts predict mass resource wars as we move to 'peak everything.' The Earth has lost 50% of its wildlife in the last 40 years, and according to the International Panel on Climate (IPCC) we will lose half of the planet's biodiversity - that's half the living plant and animal life in the world - as we mitigate for a four degree Celsius rise in temperature by 2050.

As these statements challenged the core of my new friend's Panglossian world-view, I saw myself fall quickly out of favour. The politeness of new acquaintances gave way to a hostile barrage of illogical suppositions. "Would you have us go back to a primitive way of living? How are you living your supposed values as you drink bottled water? And who wouldn't choose hope over despair?"

It was of course not my intention to elicit this type of reaction. I was hoping to encourage the next generation of idealist to expand her scope to include a more structural analysis of our current situation. But as always, ideology is a constant background condition. It strikes me that the real divide here has two axis lines.

The first is the whether or not one believes the world is getting better or worse. The second is whether one believes that history matters. Quite simply, if you believe the world is getting better and history is inconsequential, the technoutopian world-view has a natural gravitational pull. It doesn't matter that we are creating unprecedented rates of species extinction, or that our current system amplifies the historical injustices of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, slavery, misogyny and racism, or even that perpetual growth has planetary bounds, as our ingenuity and technological prowess will inevitably overcome all of these inconvenient truths.

And of course, the question of who is the world getting better for is never questioned. The Western hope in technology as saviour is conveniently self-enforced by material comfort and privilege, and shelters us from recognising that eight out of ten of our brothers and sisters are living under $5 a day, the threshold which the UN body UNCTAD says is the minimum to achieve "a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing": the inalienable right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If one believes that things are getting worse and history is important, the corollary is that things can of course get better. True optimism is not whitewashing away anything but 'good news' but seeing deep trends of progress and potential in an accurate, whole picture. It is also knowing that where we came from can help us build a better roadmap to where we are going.

As we usher in this better world, we heed the lessons of the past so as to not replicate the violence, oppression, extraction and exploitation of our current economic and political system. We are encouraged to believe the former. Our education system is molded on the 'victors of history,' the elite perspective and selective memory. Those considered talented are usually those who show a deep and unquestioning acceptance of this perspective, who do well on standardized tests and faithfully validate and extend the establishment logic in their careers.

They are lauded with scholarships, awards and promotions that reinforce the virtue of their belief, their 'giftedness.' As John Ralston Saul reminds us, it is in the nature of all complex social and political systems to reward those who best perpetuate their logic. Where that logic is psychotic, based on self-interest, greed and shorttermism, that is the psychology and behavior that will be most rewarded. In such a system, the rest of us - the majority - who do not demonstrate that behavior come to serve its needs through their service of perpetual, and ever-greater debt - if not through school, then through healthcare or access to food or housing. Once indebted, we find ourselves having to work for money that is manufactured in privatized mints and administered by governments, the apparatchiks of the global corporate system.

As elite wealth and its associated power congeals - 85 billionaires now have the same wealth as 3.5 billion people- their power shows itself up as the only truly exponential factor, outside of microchip processors. In turn, thanks to the influence of money in politics around the world, we inexorably entrench the conditions of what we call this . In this way, the world system is organized according to neo-liberal logic of 'trickle-up'economics that serve an undemocratic, unaccountable elite at the expense of the majority.

The result of believing that the arrow of progress is righteous and unbending, especially in the face of stark evidence to the contrary, is that we become not only complacent but complicit in the inherent destructiveness of this brand of late stage capitalism.

Take, as yet another example, the fact that for every dollar of wealth created, 93 cents goes to the top 1%. Unless this can be shown to be a gross and temporary aberration, it can only be concluded that this manner of wealth creation directly, inextricably and exponentially also creates vast wealth inequality. Add to that the fact that every dollar of wealth created heats up our planet thanks to the fossil-fuel based energy requirements; that the world's poor and middle class pay grossly more than their fair share of the world's tax as rich elites and multinational corporations opt out of their social contract through the use of tax havens and accounting black magic; and that, through global trade deals like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the underlying operating principles are, right now, being super-charged and replicated for a whole new generation, and the true and extreme rapaciousness of this system are painfully apparent.

The promise of the Internet was to remove the gatekeepers of this dominant system, to usher in a world of democratic access to information, innovation and decision-making, beyond the old constraints of geographical borders. Instead, the culture of Silicon Valley has created a new ideology.

A fuzzy mix between technological determinism and free market evangelism. In their world, corporations like Google and Facebook are benevolent dictators, busily not being evil, even though they have monetized and made a marketable-commodity of what not long ago we considered our most private data, and are now as much the gatekeepers of this system as any steel or tobacco corporation, or government agency.

They appeal to the logical and necessary instinct for anarchism in our youth (and other free thinkers): the desire to creatively self-organize, and they twist that into an elitist form of Libertarianism, where there is little or no room for governments or regulation.

All the while they are training them to believe that the problems created by the market-fundamentalist system - climate change, mass poverty, rabid inequality - can be solved by the very same market mechanisms. As Peter Diamandis states, "In a world where the biggest problems on the planet are the biggest market opportunities, why wouldn't you be focusing on them?"

We are told that chasing profit through technological incrementalism is somehow commensurate with solving the world's problems. Distracted by 'disruptive innovation,' 'conscious capitalism,' 'social enterprise,' 'impact investing' and other deeply unpoliticized blind alleys, we are told we can go on exactly as we are. We have become prisoners of our own construction, forgetting that the crisis we face as a civilization is as much a crisis of the economic system as it is an ecological, spiritual and moral crisis.

Those who were supposed to become the gatecrashers - the radicals, the misfits, the real innovators, like the brilliant Italian woman I met that day in Cape Town - have become the gatekeepers through a combination of alluring ideology, debilitating privilege and myopic amnesia. As Milan Kundera reminds us in the Book of Laughter and Forgetting, "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

If we connect the dots between the capitalist system and the crises that face us, if we think constellationally, a new set of solutions will emerge. They may include a re-localization of politics and the economy; the rediscovery of the Original Wisdom of Indigenous cultures around the world; putting limits on the power of corporations and taxes on the source of carbon use; a revival of barter and gift economies; the closing down of tax havens; an embrace of steady state economics; the provision of a citizen's income to cover the basic necessities required for human dignity; and even the abolition of military spending.

Digital technology will inevitably play a powerful facilitating role, but technology is only a tool. In the absence of new principles - a new and wiser ideology - guiding the hands that use it, it can only change the pace, and not the direction, of travel.

Put simply, the task of our generation is one of reconstruction. If we want to truly be gate crashers, we must move beyond the frustration of the ineptitude and psychopathy of the elites, corrupt politicians and robber barons that are lionized in our media and educational institutions. We must start by taking responsibility.

The most powerful realization we must engender in ourselves and communities is that there is no separation between humans and all other life; this planet is, ultimately, a single bio-organism. From there, it is a short step to realizing that human power is such that the current state of this world - all the wealth and wonder and all the destruction and misery alike - are a product of our collective manifestation. We have a social, political and economic system that reflects our level of consciousness.

So we must simultaneously go deep within ourselves to reconnect with our source, and spread ourselves wide, throughout our communities. We must do whatever re-progamming is necessary for this new consciousness to emerge - unlearning, re-learning, remembering, examining our imprints, getting to a non-ordinary state through meditation or the use of psychedelics or whatever avenues allow us to be free thinkers again. And we will of course use the existing system to build the new system.

The aim will be to create structures that allow the conscious evolution and ascension of our species, in symbiosis with Nature. As the great Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo was fond of saying, we have to go from theoreticians of evolution to practioners of evolution. We must all be gatecrashers now.

Opinion Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
The Stock Market ]]> (Lauren Walker) Art Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Police in Texas Hospital Shoot Patient in the Chest

Three days after police shot him, Alan Pean was awake and in stable condition. His brother, Christian Pean, says his condition is improving. (Photo: Christian Pean)Three days after police shot him, Alan Pean was awake and in stable condition. His brother, Christian Pean, says his condition is improving. (Photo: Christian Pean)Christian Alexander Pean, a fourth-year medical student in New York City, had been anxiously texting his father in Houston throughout the morning to inquire about his younger brother, Alan Christopher Pean, a patient at St. Joseph Medical Center in Texas. The night before, on August 26, Alan had called his parents to tell them he was in the middle of a panic attack.

"We knew it was an acute mental health crisis," Christian told Truthout. Alan's parents implored their son to seek help, so Alan, a student at the University of Houston, drove himself to the hospital. While in the parking lot, he experienced a severe mental health episode and crashed into multiple parked cars. He was treated for possible injuries in the emergency room, and officially admitted to the hospital early the next morning, when he was transferred to the medical psychiatric ward on the eighth floor.

Three days after police shot him, Alan Pean was awake and in stable condition. His brother, Christian Pean, says his condition is improving. (Photo: Christian Pean)Three days after police shot him, Alan Pean was awake and in stable condition. His brother, Christian Pean, says his condition is improving. (Photo: Christian Pean)Christian Alexander Pean, a fourth-year medical student in New York City, had been anxiously texting his father in Houston throughout the morning to inquire about his younger brother, Alan Christopher Pean, a patient at St. Joseph Medical Center in Texas. The night before, on August 26, Alan had called his parents to tell them he was in the middle of a panic attack.

"We knew it was an acute mental health crisis," Christian told Truthout. Alan's parents implored their son to seek help, so Alan, a student at the University of Houston, drove himself to the hospital. While in the parking lot, he experienced a severe mental health episode and crashed into multiple parked cars. He was treated for possible injuries in the emergency room, and officially admitted to the hospital early the next morning, when he was transferred to the medical psychiatric ward on the eighth floor.

Alan's parents, including his father, who is a doctor, flew up to Houston that morning from their home in McAllen, Texas. They immediately went to St. Joseph to corroborate Alan's psychiatric health and implored the staff that he needed inpatient mental health treatment. But the hospital seemed bent on discharging him, Christian said. The staff did not even summon a physician to speak with Alan's parents, claiming no one was available.

It never surprised him that police came so close to fatally shooting his little brother, a young Black man, in a space designed to care for people.

Frustrated that their concerns were dismissed but assured that their son was in good hands, Alan's parents left to their hotel a few blocks from the hospital. A few hours later, they received a call from St. Joseph Medical Center: Alan was being discharged and was ready to be picked up.

In the short time it took his parents to walk back to the hospital, however, something terrible happened to Alan. His parents were told when they arrived that their son was in the intensive care unit. When Christian heard the news, his mind immediately leaped to horrifying possibilities; as a Black man living in the US, he had been conditioned to fear the worst for himself and his family.

"My dad texts me and says, something happened, he's in the ICU," Christian said. "And one minute after, I asked, did they shoot him? I instantly thought that was what had happened."

Christian's worst fears proved true.

Somehow in the 10 minutes between the call to pick up Alan and his parents' arrival, two off-duty Houston police officers working security at St. Joseph were summoned by hospital staff to help them control Alan, who had allegedly become combative. During the violent encounter, according to the police and the family's legal team, Alan struck the two officers in the head, leaving one of them with a concussion. After using a Taser weapon to subdue Alan, one of the officers unholstered his gun and fired a single bullet into Alan's chest.

Fortunately, the bullet missed all of his vital organs. But the news utterly broke his parents. How, they wondered, could trained medical professionals have sicced armed police on their son, a registered mental health patient in the hospital's care?

It was beyond devastating for Christian, too. But it never surprised him that police came so close to fatally shooting his little brother in a space designed to care for people.

"That's what is sad about it," he told Truthout. "I trusted my brother to the system, and I still inherently had this fear that something like that could happen to him."

Policing Hospitals

What happened to Alan was a horrific expression of how divestment in mental health services and the criminalization of mental illness can have a particularly lethal impact on people of color. Following Alan's shooting, an online petition was started to collect statements from concerned health-care professionals. Many wondered why hospital staff escalated the situation by calling police rather than diffusing the situation through peaceful means, and some, including Christian, began posting the hashtag #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives.

Alan's parents have since hired attorneys from the high-profile O'Mara Law Firm, the legal team that represented George Zimmerman in the trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Shawn Vincent, the communications director for O'Mara, said police are simply not equipped to handle people experiencing mental health emergencies.

The two Houston police officers who scuffled with Alan Pean were more than ordinary security guards, who usually are not armed.

"Cops are given a use of force spectrum, and they're trained on when they can use deadly force, but [the training] doesn't account for mental illness," Vincent told Truthout. "It's a problem especially if violence is part of the mental illness they're suffering from."

Yet police have steadily become the front line of mental health intervention over the last few decades. This change has even seeped into hospitals, where mental health services have broadly been decimated by years of divestment. Alex Vitale, a sociologist who studies policing at Brooklyn College, says this can be seen in the rise of uniformed officers in hospitals, where emergency room staff are increasingly unable to treat potentially violent symptoms of mental illness.

"Forceful interactions in hospitals [are] going to go up as more and more mentally ill people only have access to services when they're in crisis and go to the emergency room," Vitale told Truthout. "Hospitals are responding to that by creating more police presence."

These days, hospitals like St. Joseph can hire off-duty officers in order to beef up their security. The two Houston police officers who scuffled with Alan Pean were more than ordinary security guards, who often are not armed and can only make citizen arrests. They were cops who were simply off the clock.

No public agency officially tracks the number of active police who also freelance as security, but a growing industry of firms that specialize in matching off-duty cops with hospitals, corporations, school districts and other entities may have those figures. One of the largest of these firms, Off Duty Services Inc., is based just outside of Houston, and places officers in medical facilities in the area and across the country. A representative from Off Duty Services told Truthout the company could not reveal whether St. Joseph Medical Center was one of their clients.

Police Step In as Mental Health Services Are Dismantled

Contracting off-duty cops to work security in hospitals can be considered part of the way police have been used to plug the hole left by divestment in mental health services across the United States. From 1986 to 2009, the proportion of mental health spending on inpatient and residential care dropped from 63 percent to 35 percent, and more recently, a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that from 2009 to 2012 budget cuts for state mental health spending totaled $4.35 billion. By 2013, a quarter of people who thought they had mental illness never received any care, mostly because they couldn't afford it, according to a 2013 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Meanwhile, the federal government has spent over $14 billion through the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to fund the hiring of more than 125,000 officers and deputies since 1994. The glut of police has meant that firms like Off Duty Services, which was established in 2002, can peddle police to hospitals where the volume of qualified mental health staff has been cut. That's a problem, because across the board, most officers get no more than eight hours of training in the police academy on how to diffuse tense interactions with mentally ill persons, according to The Intercept. This has led to predictably tragic results: The Washington Post found that over a third of unarmed people killed by on-duty police this year showed signs of mental illness.

Firms like Off Duty Services peddle police to hospitals where the volume of qualified mental health staff has been cut.

There's much evidence, both anecdotally and tested, that police are quicker to use egregious violence on minorities. Officers are 21 times more likely to shoot a Black man than a white man, according to an investigation by ProPublica, and a psychological study from 2005 found that white officers were more likely to shoot unarmed Black people than unarmed white people. Christian Pean says he would be remiss if he didn't think, on some level, that implicit bias or prejudice had something to do with his brother's death.

Christian Pean says he would be remiss if he didn't think, on some level, that implicit bias or prejudice had something to do with his brother's shooting.

"One reason I was so quick to know he was shot is that I am hypervigilant and hyperaware of violence against Black men in this country," Christian told Truthout. "But we in our family are not pitting ourselves against anybody. We just don't want to see this happen to anyone else again."

The decision by hospital staff to discharge Alan may also have had something to do with Texas' particular history of poorly funding mental health training of hospital personnel. Texas ranked near or at the bottom of per capita mental health spending for the decade before 2013, and despite the legislature's major increase of $259 million for the state's mental health budget, there is still a major shortage of beds for inpatient mental health care. Additionally, said Greg Hansch, the public policy director at the Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the funds had a limited impact on trainings for hospital staff in tactics to diffuse tense encounters with mentally ill patients.

"I think that's an area the state needs to look at," Hansch told Truthout. "They don't have very strict requirements [for mental health workers in hospitals], and they're just taking people who have very limited qualifications and who are not clinicians necessarily, just mental health workers. And that's not good enough for monitoring this very vulnerable population."

A Son, a Brother, a Loved One

The horror didn't stop with Alan's shooting. Immediately afterward, representatives from the Houston Police Department met with his parents and asked, irrelevantly, whether or not he had a criminal record. The department has since charged Pean with two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer, and set his bail at $60,000, which the family has posted.

St. Joseph staff has also limited his family's contact with him. Christian told Truthout that between him, his younger brother, Dominique, and his parents, they've been able to see Alan for no longer than 45 minutes. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, hospital spokeswoman Annette Garber said, "While we regret any incident in which parents, caregivers or police officers are harmed, we are certain that in this instance hospital staff and the police officers took all appropriate action in a situation with a dangerous patient."


Christian wants the world to know his brother is more than a tab in a police file.

Over a third of unarmed people killed by on-duty police this year showed signs of mental illness.

"Alan is a great person, a kind person with friends and family trying to help him. And all that gets lost because the system is so broken," he said. "They don't realize when they do things like this and people get hurt, it's about empathizing; it's about putting yourself in people's shoes and realizing this is a son, a brother, a loved one."

Fortunately, Alan's condition has greatly improved since police shot him on August 27. In a video posted on YouTube, he is seen alert and waving at the camera.

"I love you all," Alan says. "Thank you all for praying for me. It's made a huge difference, and I can't wait to hug each and every one of you guys."

News Thu, 03 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
We're at a Dangerous Climate Crossroads - Here's How We Can Save the Planet

(Photo: Thawing Arctic via Shutterstock)There is really only one thing we can do to prevent a total climate catastrophe: we must keep carbon in the ground. (Photo: Thawing Arctic via Shutterstock)

As President Obama tours the Arctic to raise awareness about global warming, we're getting new evidence about just how dire a situation our planet is in.

In preparation for this fall's big climate talks in Paris, 56 countries have come out with their own national targets for cutting greenhouse gases.

And while a bunch of countries getting together and taking action against CO2 emissions certainly sounds like a good thing, there's a catch.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

According to new data from the Climate Action Tracker, the targets those 56 countries have come out with would result in an atmospheric temperature rise of 3.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Since the official goal of this year's climate talks is to prevent warming from exceeding the very dangerous level of 2 degrees Celsius, this means that the current national targets are, well, inadequate, to say the least.

That's a really big deal.

After we cross the two degrees Celsius tipping point, global warming will lock in with devastating consequences for every single living thing on this planet.

This could happen as soon as a few decades.

Michael Mann, a frequent guest on the Thom Hartmann Program and one of the world's leading climate scientists, estimates that we only have until 2036 - 21 years - to prevent the earth's temperature from warming to 2 degrees above where it was before we started using fossil fuels.

And here's the thing, even that two degree Celsius benchmark might be not be enough to hold off environmental devastation on a scale we haven't seen in millennia.

Two degrees Celsius warming is what the world's climate negotiators have decided is "possible" and "acceptable," but according to former NASA scientist James Hansen, even that little warming is a recipe for disaster.

He explained why in a recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Hansen now says we have to limit ourselves to one degree Celsius warming - a number we're already dangerously close to reaching.

So time really is running out to save the planet.

At this point, there's really only one thing we can do to prevent a total climate catastrophe: we must keep carbon in the ground.

And the best way to keep carbon in the ground is to put a price on it.

Right now, the fossil fuel industry is the only industry in the world that doesn't have to pay to clean up its own waste.

Instead, these guys pass the costs of that waste (carbon pollution) on to the rest of us in the form of what economists call "negative externalities."

Some examples of "negative externalities" include things like the cost of cleaning up from climate change driven severe weather events, the cost of pollution-related health problems and the cost to local economies of fishing grounds devastated by ocean acidification.

Because the fossil fuel fat-cats like Exxon and the Kochs just pass the costs of these externalities on to you and me to pay the bill, while getting an estimated $5.3 trillion in subsidies every year, the fossil fuel industry is artificially profitable and artificially competitive.

Oil and gas are only cheaper than wind and solar because their market price doesn't reflect the damage they do to our planet and our society.

But if their market price did take into account this damage, then the fossil fuel industry would immediately lose out to renewables that are actually much, much cheaper than gas, coal or oil.

Which is why President Obama or his successor should put propose a national carbon tax and make the fossil fuel industry and billionaires pay to dispose of their own trash.

Even a small $10-per-ton national carbon tax would cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 28 percent of 2005 levels, save tens of thousands of lives, and, if the proceeds were given back to us like Alaska's permanent fund, could help jump-start the renewable energy industry.

This isn't complicated. It's economics 101.

So if President Obama really wants to beef up his climate legacy, he should do more than just visit some melting glaciers in Alaska.

He should start working right now on the one thing that will really take the fight Big Oil: a national carbon tax.

Opinion Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400
With a Record Backing Coups, Secret War and Genocide, Is Kissinger an Elder Statesman or War Criminal?

Four decades after Henry Kissinger left office, his influence on the national security state can still be widely felt as the United States engages in declared and undeclared wars across the globe. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and helped revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism. We speak with Greg Grandin, author of the new book, Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman.


AMY GOODMAN: It’s been nearly 40 years since Henry Kissinger left office, but his influence on the national security state can still be widely felt, as the United States engages in declared and undeclared wars across the globe. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and helped revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism.

During his time in office, Henry Kissinger oversaw a massive expansion of the war in Vietnam and the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia. In Latin America, declassified documents show how Kissinger secretly intervened across the continent, from Bolivia to Uruguay to Chile to Argentina. In Chile, Kissinger urged President Nixon to take a, quote, "harder line" against the Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. On September 11th, 1973, another September 11th, Allende was overthrown by the U.S.-backed general, Augusto Pinochet. In Jakarta, Indonesia, Kissinger and President Gerald Ford met with the Indonesian dictator, General Suharto, to give the go-ahead to invade East Timor, which Indonesia did on December 7, 1975. The Indonesians killed a third of the Timorese population. Kissinger also drew up plans to attack Cuba in the mid-’70s after Fidel Castro sent Cuban forces into Angola to fight forces linked to apartheid South Africa. While human rights activists have long called for Kissinger to be tried for war crimes, he remains a celebrated figure in Washington and beyond.

Joining us now is Greg Grandin, author of the new book, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. Well, Greg Grandin is a professor of Latin American history at New York University. His previous books include Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World and Empire’s Workshop.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Professor. Greg, why did you take on Kissinger?

GREG GRANDIN: I felt like that, to the large degree, he’s gotten away with it, right? He’s 92 years old, and there’s been a rehabilitation of Henry Kissinger and supposedly what he stands for, not just by the political right, but by the—across the political establishment. Hillary Clinton embraced Kissinger last year in a review in The Washington Post of his last book. Samantha Power went to a Boston Red Sox-Yankee game with him, and they—

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, liberal hawk, who wrote—who came to—who made her name writing about genocides, including three genocides that Kissinger is implicated in. And they came together at a Yankee-Red Sox game and bantered. I feel like there’s a way in which Kissinger embodies the national security state. Now, let me say, obviously, there’s another critique of Henry Kissinger based on all of the acts—you know, Christopher Hitchens’ famous book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger—and I think that that’s useful, but I think focusing on Kissinger as a war criminal misses the larger—his larger importance in the endurance of the national security state and the continuity, from Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos to Iraq and beyond.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean. What exactly does it miss?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, I think there’s ways in which Kissinger came to power, took office in 1969 at a very vulnerable moment for the national security state. The old imperial presidency was giving way, was cracking up; that postwar consensus that had governed the country from the 1940s through 1966 was breaking apart as a result of Vietnam, as a result of economic issues and race issues in the United States. And Kissinger was very instrumental in figuring out—not only presiding and, in some ways, accelerating that crackup, because certainly the bombing of Cambodia and all of his—all of his illegal activities, that furthered polarization, hastened the unraveling of that consensus, but I think it was also instrumental in re-establishing the national security state on new footing, in order to move forward in a—to a post-Vietnam War, in three ways in particular.

One, I think that he’s instrumental in re-establishing covert activities and clandestine activities, and figuring out ways to bypass a lot of the focus that reporters, critical reporters, such as yourself and Allan Nairn, and a critical Congress began to place on the presidency. I think you can see a continuity between what he was doing in southern Africa, for instance, supporting—in using third-party mercenaries in order to wage an illegal war, with what comes later under Reagan, Iran-Contra. I think he’s very important in emphasizing the need for spectacular actions in order to demonstrate credibility, but not just credibility to the world, credibility to a war-weary citizen at home. I think him and Nixon are also very good at leveraging domestic dissent and polarization, and using militarism and war in order to—for political gain at home.

So we all know about Nixon’s Southern strategy, an attempt to win over Southern Democrats by playing to racism at home. In some ways, what Nixon and Kissinger did in Laos and Cambodia was the foreign policy of the Southern strategy. Kissinger would go and use the fact that they were bombing a country to destruction to placate, in like blood tribute to, a rising new right, and go to Ronald Reagan as president—as governor of California and said, "Well, look what we’re doing. We wouldn’t have had Laos, we wouldn’t have had Cambodia, if we don’t have Nixon," as a way of kind of paying tribute to that militaristic right.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Henry Kissinger in his own words.

HENRY KISSINGER: The average person thinks that morality can be applied as directly to the conduct of states to each other as it can to human relations. That is not always the case, because sometimes statesmen have to choose among evils.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s an archival interview of Henry Kissinger featured in the documentary, The Trials of Henry Kissinger.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, that—quotes like that, when Kissinger is talking about the need to downplay and not use morality or idealism in foreign policy, is often used to mistakenly describe him as a realist or a believer in realpolitik. But one of the things that I argue is that if we take realism as a belief that the material world exists, that the truth of that world is evident in the facts of that world, then Kissinger is not a realist. He comes out of a certain kind of German irrational, kind of will-to-power idealism. He’s very much influenced by German metaphysicists, such as Oswald Spengler, such as Immanuel Kant, that believe that human beings actually don’t have access to reality, that their understanding of reality comes through their action. Now, how that relates to foreign policy is that Kissinger is open—and this is something that he’s been saying since the 1950s forward—that one has to act in the world, that one has to act in the world in order for one to have an understanding of the world, that—he’s told us that great powers are always gaining or losing influence, and then one has to—one has to basically create reality.

AMY GOODMAN: You quote him from 1963. I’m sure you know this quote by heart.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. It’s the—well, it’s the epilogue. I don’t know it by heart. You can read.

AMY GOODMAN: "There are two kinds of realists: those who manipulate facts and those who create them. The West requires nothing so much as men able to create their own reality."

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. Now just think—fast-forward to the 2000s, and the Bush administration roundly came under criticism when one of its staffers, that is now believed to be Karl Rove, said that "We’re an empire now. When we act, we create reality." And that was taken as an example of neocon hubris and neocon arrogance, a certain kind of irrational idealism that believes that reality is created through military power. And oftentimes Kissinger is set up as the opposite of that, as a sober realist. But the fact is that he’s not. It’s true that the first generation of neocons—Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz—came up attacking Kissinger. They thought he was a loser for Vietnam, an appeaser for détente, and a sinner because he didn’t believe in American idealism. But the fact of the matter is that Kissinger kind of lays the groundwork for their extreme subjectivism.

You could see a strong continuity between, for example, Dick Cheney’s "1 percent doctrine," where he says that we can’t wait for all the evidence to become—we have to treat a 1 percent intelligence as if it was 100 percent certainty, and that’s the justification for why we have a warrant to go into Iraq, to go into Afghanistan, to go into wherever. Kissinger said all of that 40 years ago. And Kissinger—what’s unique about Kissinger is that every other postwar realist—George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, Arthur Schlesinger—be they liberal or conservative, at some point breaks with national security state, over Vietnam, over the arms buildup. Kissinger, with every lurch to the right, he lurches with it. He moves from Rockefeller, a liberal Republican, to Nixon, in a bat of an eye, from Nixon to Reagan, from Reagan to the neocons. And so, I don’t think that—I don’t think Kissinger creates the national security states, but I think his long career illustrates it and shines a light on it like nobody else.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, activists with the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest of Henry Kissinger when he arrived to testify on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting in January. Let’s go to a clip.

CODEPINK PROTESTERS: Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes! Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The committee will stand in recess until the Capitol police will restore order.

CODEPINK PROTESTERS: Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes! Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!

MEDEA BENJAMIN: In the name of the people of Chile, in the name of the people of Vietnam, in the name of the people of East Timor, in the name of people of Cambodia, in the name of the people of Laos.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill police to remove them.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place about—you know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested. … Get out of here, you low-life scum.

AMY GOODMAN: So said Senator John McCain. Thirty minutes later, two more members of CodePink interrupted Kissinger’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

HENRY KISSINGER: Yet if we look around the world, we encounter upheaval and conflict and chaos.

ALLI McCRACKEN: CodePink calls for the arrest of Henry Kissinger for war crimes. Vietnam: From 1969 to 1973, Kissinger, working for Richard Nixon, oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, which led to the deaths of millions—millions of people. Many thousands more died from the effects of massive doses of Agent Orange or from unexploded bombs that cover the countryside.

ANNA KAMINSKI: Chile: Henry Kissinger was one of the principal architects of the coup in Chile on September 11th, 1973, a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Chairman, I salute Henry Kissinger for his many—

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you. Thank you, Doctor.

ANNA KAMINSKI: Sixteen years of repression, torture and death followed.

AMY GOODMAN: The protests at the Senate Armed Services Committee testimony of Henry Kissinger. Greg Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, just the fact that he’s still being called to give testimony. I mean, you could look at one disaster after another: Cambodia, southern Africa—he instigated counterinsurgencies in Angola and Mozambique that cost the lives of millions of people—what he did in Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: You have students, so you know when you say, "Well, this is obvious, it’s a long career," many people really know nothing about this history—

GREG GRANDIN: They know nothing—

AMY GOODMAN: —in Latin America. Explain.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, in Latin America, he supported Operation Condor. He was instrumental in organizing the coup in—not just in Chile, in Bolivia. He was involved in Uruguay and Argentina. He either—you know, he brought a moral legitimacy or he was actually involved in the destabilization campaigns that led to coups. And then, once the region fell to right-wing, anti-communist governments, he was instrumental in supporting Operation Condor, which was a kind of transnational consortium of death squads that carried out a international terrorist campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: That was broader than Chile.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, that was broader than Chile. It was broader than Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: And why did he support Pinochet in the coup against the democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, in general, because Salvador Allende was a Marxist, but he was an elected Marxist and a democratic-elected Marxist. And there’s indication that Allende scared Kissinger more than somebody like Castro did, because Castro kept power not through elections, so he was easily dismissed or contained as a dictator. Kissinger’s fear was that Allende would actually allow for a transference of power, and thus kind of complicate this bipolar world between the Soviet Union and the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go for a moment to another clip. This is a clip of a well-known TV personality who is coming back on the air in just a few days. This is Stephen Colbert, Stephen Colbert who is dancing in Kissinger’s office.



AMY GOODMAN: That was Kissinger calling security. But, of course, it was all a joke.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, and I think that’s part of the rehabilitation, the transformation of somebody implicated and responsible, directly or indirectly, in a number of genocides and mass murder, turning into an avuncular kind of comic figure that we can make fun of. I mean, at the same time, people like Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton, they seek out his advice, and they banter with him. And I think it’s—it’s ritualistic. It’s a way of kind of invoking purpose or invoking gravitas. I think that things have gotten so bad in the foreign policy establishment, and things have gotten so bad for U.S. strategy abroad, that there’s a nostalgia for what Kissinger represents. But nobody really quite knows what Kissinger represents. He kind of represents purpose. But what I try to argue in the book is that there’s a hollowness to the purpose, that leads to a circularity, of escalation causing more escalation causing more escalation. And—

AMY GOODMAN: His involvement in Israel-Palestine?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, he was deeply involved in the Middle East, particularly after the U.S. was defeated in Southeast Asia. And he was instrumental in kind of locking in the impasse. There are historians that write about this. Rashid Khalidi talks about how Kissinger kind of locks in the current stalemate. He commits the United States not to recognize Palestine until the Palestinian Authority recognized the legitimacy of Israel, but he doesn’t demand any such—he doesn’t demand any such conditions on the support the U.S. gives to Israel. But beyond Israel-Palestine, his support for the shah, his support for Saudi—


GREG GRANDIN: In Iran prior to the revolution. Using kind of the duopoly of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran prior to the revolution, as guardians of the Gulf was disastrous—Kissinger’s kind of using petrodollars, the increasing rise of oil prices, energy cost, funneling it back into the U.S. defense industry and selling weapons to the shah. Anything he wanted, the shah got. Anything Saudi Arabia wanted, Saudi Arabia got. It’s kind of created the infrastructure of permanent crisis that we see in the Middle East. You know, when we think about the rise of the mujahideen in the 1980s against the Soviet Union, we tend to focus on the CIA’s support for what eventually becomes al-Qaeda. But it’s back in the 1970s where Kissinger urges Pakistan to move into Afghanistan to start to destabilize that country as a way of—as a kind of pawn in the Cold War.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Henry Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal? We have 20 seconds.

GREG GRANDIN: Yes, obviously. But I also think that we should also—beyond that, there’s ways in which the language of prosecution and war crimes kind of—kind of eclipse a deeper historical understanding. And if we want to get out of—if we want to understand the mess we’re in now, we have to—beyond just the kind of language of moral outrage and understand Kissinger’s role in rehabilitating the national security state.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of Latin American history at New York University. His new book, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman.

News Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0400