09 December, 2007

Vulgar capitalism with Uncle Miltie

One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was the late Milton Friedman, grand guru of unfettered capitalism and credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, "Uncle Miltie", as he was known to his followers, found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity."

Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions.

In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.

The Friedmanite American Enterprise Institute enthused that "Katrina accomplished in a day ... what Louisiana school reformers couldn't do after years of trying". Public school teachers, meanwhile, were calling Friedman's plan "an educational land grab". I call these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities, "disaster capitalism"."

http://business.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2165023,00.html

Globe and Mail Update

September 8, 2007 at 12:02 AM EDT

SNIP

Meanwhile, in the midst of the wave of neo-Keynesian epiphanies, Iraq was hit with the boldest attempt at crisis exploitation yet. In December, 2006, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group fronted by James Baker issued its long-awaited report. It called for the U.S. to .assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise. and to .encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies..
Naomi Klein

Most of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations were ignored by the White House, but not this one: The Bush administration immediately pushed ahead by helping to draft a radical new oil law for Iraq, which would allow companies like Shell and BP to sign 30-year contracts in which they could keep a large share of Iraq's oil profits, amounting to tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars . unheard of in countries with as much easily accessible oil as Iraq, and a sentence to perpetual poverty in a country where 95 per cent of government revenues come from oil.

This was a proposal so wildly unpopular that even Paul Bremer had not dared make it in the first year of occupation. Yet it was coming up now, thanks to deepening chaos. Explaining why it was justified for such a large percentage of the profits to leave Iraq, the oil companies cited the security risks. In other words, it was the disaster that made the radical proposed law possible.

Washington's timing was extremely revealing. At the point when the law was pushed forward, Iraq was facing its most profound crisis to date: The country was being torn apart by sectarian conflict with an average of one thousand Iraqis killed every week. Saddam Hussein had just been put to death in a depraved and provocative episode.

Simultaneously, Bush was unleashing his .surge. of troops in Iraq, operating with .less restricted. rules of engagement. Iraq in this period was far too volatile for the oil giants to make major investments, so there was no pressing need for a new law . except to use the chaos to bypass a public debate on the most contentious issue facing the country. Many elected Iraqi legislators said they had no idea that a new law was even being drafted, and had certainly not been included in shaping its outcome.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070907.wshock0908/BNStory/Front/home

"When I finished The Shock Doctrine, I sent it to Alfonso Cuarón because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists -- including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited -- to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated." - Naomi Klein

http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine/short-film

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posted by u2r2h at Sunday, December 09, 2007

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