Owned and Operated is a documentary about dismantling corporate rule. This non-ideological film features dissidents across the political spectrum, among them John Oliver, George Carlin, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Rifkin, Rob Hopkins, Ron Paul, Ray McGovern, James Corbett, Alex Jones and Brian Wilson. In addition to the film’s touchy-feely ending, I was also disappointed in the filmmakers heavy promotion of technology as the solution to the world’s urgent political and ecological crises.
In my view, the best part of the film is Part 1, The Freak Show. This is a humorous but surprisingly accurate depiction of modern corporate culture and the dangerous and bizarre effect of systematic corporate indoctrination on human behavior.
Part 2, Class War and Organized Greed, concerns the obscene greed of the 1% and their systematic takeover of our supposedly democratic political systems.
Part 3, Freedom vs Security concerns the systematic loss of civil liberties that has accompanied the War on Terror.
Part 4, The Awakening, concerns recent mass movements triggered by the 2008 global economic meltdown, including Occupy, the Arab Spring, Anonymous and the Zeitgeist, Transition and Open Source Ecology movements.
Part 5, the Future, heavily promotes Jeremy Rifkin’s views on the role of the Internet and mass connectivity in solving mankind’s most pressing problems. I tend to agree with Ronald Wright’s analysis (in A Short History of Progress) that humanity’s eagerness to rush into new technologies has tended to create more problems than it solves.
That being said the film ends on an extremely positive note by scrolling the web addresses of scores of social change movements for viewers to explore.
In laying out the sordid history of the US prison industrial complex, Exile Nation helps us understand how the US came to have the largest prison population in the world, far exceeding that of China, which has over four times as many people.
A significant proportion of US inmates are African Americans and Hispanics locked up for “victimless” drug offenses. At present 500,000 of American’s 2.3 million prison population is inside for using heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Thirty thousand are there for cannabis possession.
The documentary intersperses commentary by “experts” (cops, judges, sociologists, psychiatrists, defense attorneys, jail monitors, medical marijuana activists and prison rights advocates) with those of ex-offenders.
The US Invents Mass Incarceration
Crime rates in the US first reached a high point in 1830, largely due to high levels of alcohol abuse. The US would be the first country in the modern era to introduce mass incarceration as punishment for law breaking. The Pennsylvania Quakers believed that locking people up would force them to “repent” – the origin of the word penitentiary. The experiment failed. Studies consistently show that imprisoning convicts neither rehabilitates them nor discourages them from re-offending.
Nixon’s War on Drugs
Nineteenth century crime rates slowly declined, plateauing during the Civil War era. From then on, they remained constant until the 1970s, when Nixon declared the first war on drugs. His primary target was the immense social movements of the late sixties and early seventies. Nixon couldn’t constitutionally punish hippies for opposing the Vietnam War nor African Americans for demanding the right to vote. Instead he targeted their behavior, ie the widespread use of marijuana, LSD and cocaine that accompanied these movements.
In doing so, Nixon deliberately ignored the recommendation of a 1972 bipartisan commission that recommended that marijuana use be criminalized.
Reagan’s War on Drugs
The prison industrial complex received a second major boost in 1984, when Reagan declared a second war on drugs. Unlike Nixon, who envisioned drug arrests as a form of social control, Reagan used the drug war (particularly against crack, a new bargain basement form of cocaine) to demonize African Americans and win votes from white blue collar workers.
The Mainstream Media Revolts
The media turned against the drug war and prison industrial complex in the 1990s, with Ted Koppel producing several excellent documentaries highlighting the drawbacks of mass incarceration. The resulting shift in public opinion would lead the federal government and many states to begin downsizing their prison populations. Sadly 9-11 and the War on Terror interrupted this process.
A high point for me were the interviews with medical marijuana activists describing the history of their movement (leading to the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes in 23 states sates).
I also really liked the sections on the medical use of MDMA (ecstasy) in treating post traumatic disorder and the psychedelic ibogaine in treating heroin addiction.
My friend Sajjad Shaukat has given me permission to re-publish an excerpt of his recent article in Veterans Today about predictions he made in his 2005 book US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power. The book, which I reviewed last year, lays out Sajjad’s theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an “invisible balance of power.” The latter performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.
The Veterans Today article calls attention to numerous predictions his book made which have come true. Among other predictions, Sajjad forecast the Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, increasing sectarian violence in other Muslim countries, US/NATO attacks on new Muslim countries, increasing state terrorism by western countries and increasing global economic instability.
He raises a good point in his first paragraph. The US clearly isn’t winning the war on terror. All the evidence would suggest the “terrorists” are winning.
Global War on Terror: Pakistani Author’s Future Assessments Proved True
By Sajjad Shaukat
Given the prolonged US-led global war on terror, some media analysts are forecasting the defeat of the United States and its allies, pointing to the acceleration of terror-attacks in volatile countries, financial crises and the heavy cost of endless American war. But no one talks about the future assessments Pakistani author Sajjad Shaukat made in his book, US vs Islamic, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations, which was published in 2005.
In his research-based book, while taking this new style conflict as an interaction between the “group terrorism” led by Al-Qaeda or Islamic militants and state terrorism by the US, Shaukat points out that Muslim militants have been checking the hegemony of the sole super power.
Part 4 of Counter-intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations
“Necrophilous” is Part 4 of a five part documentary by Scott Noble called Counter-Intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations.
In Part 4, filmmaker Scott Noble examines the sadistic fixation of the National Security State with death, pain and permanent injury of individuals and groups whose democratic yearnings conflict with the financial interests of US corporations. He likens this fixation to the psychopathology that motivates serial killers.
Necophilous is defined as having an abnormal fascination with death and the dead. Part 4 begins by examining the decision, in 1945, to drop two atomic bombs on Japan.
A nuclear bomb deliberately targets civilians, a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Truman’s claim that nuking Japan spared GIs the bloodshed of a land invasions turns out to be completely bogus.
He already knew the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering. In fact Secretary of War Henry Stimson was afraid the Japanese would surrender before the US got the chance to deploy atomic weapons – which were mainly intended to terrorize the Soviet Union.
The School of the Americas
Exhibit two is the School of the Americas (SOA), founded in 1946 at Fort Benning Georgia. More than 60,000 soldiers and police from US client states have trained in counter-insurgency techniques (aka state terrorism) at SOA. The use of deaths squads who disappear and assassinate pesky intellectuals, educators, labor leaders and human rights advocates figures prominently in the SOA curriculum.
The CIA-installed Guatemalan dictatorship first used it in the 1950s. After the CIA itself used it during Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, it would be replicated by US-backed regimes of terror throughout Latin America. The same “men in black” reappeared in Bush’s campaign to terrorize Afghans and Iraqis who resisted US occupation.
Aided by Kubark, the official CIA torture manual, the instructors at SOA are also the world’s leading experts in torture. The only purpose of torture is to induce fear and compliance in a hostile population. Despite its role in inducing false confessions, it never produces meaningful intelligence. This is confirmed by decades of research.
Total War and the War on Terror
A final form of American state terrorism is “Total War,” in which civilians are deliberately targeted for extermination.
US dedication to Total War predates the Geneva Convention that declared it a war crime. It dates back to the near total extermination of the Native Americans, followed by the mass slaughter of the Philippine population during US occupation (1898-1946), Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, Clinton’s deliberate bombing of essential Iraqi infrastructure in 1991 and the use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium against civilians during the second invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In fact the War on Terror is really a War OF Terror, aimed at expanding the US empire to include seven Middle East and North African (MENA) countries: Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.*
As Noble ably documents, plans for the American conquest of the above seven countries first crystallized in 1979 under Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. A fundamental aspect of this campaign has been covert US support for Islamic fundamentalism – the self-same “terrorists” we are fighting in the so-called War on Terror – in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.
“Necrophilous” concludes by examining evidence that 9-11 was most likely an engineered false flag operation to justify the decades-long war that would be required to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East and North Africa. The military build-up for the invasion of Afghanistan began months before the so-called “attack” on the Twin Towers.
*Retired General Wesley Clark first revealed the existence of this campaign to conquer the Middle East and North Africa during a Democracy Now interview in 2007
(The 4th of 8 posts regarding my 2002 decision to emigrate from the US to New Zealand)
It only became clear once I left the US the immense sacrifices Americans make for their cheap gasoline and consumer goods (see previous post). The most obvious is a range of domestic programs that other developed countries take for granted. These include publicly financed universal health care (in all industrialized countries except the US) and a range of education, jobs and social programs enacted under Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, which Reagan, Bush and Clinton repealed.
With a so-called war on terror on multiple fronts (I can count at least ten countries the US is at war with), federal block grants to states and cities have all been diverted to Pentagon spending. In city after city, there is no money to repair badly decrepit roads and bridges or provide adequate street lighting and policing. While dozens of clinics, libraries and homeless shelters shut their doors and teachers, cops and other state and local employees get laid off.
Sacrificing Democratic Rights and Civil Liberties
As citizens of the world’s greatest military power, Americans also make major sacrifices in terms of democratic governance and civil liberties. This, too, only became clear once I became an expatriate.
Genuine democracy is totally incompatible with military empire. If allowed some say whether to spend most of their tax dollars on weapons and war, the vast majority of Americans would respond with a resounding “no.” Civilian populations are universally repelled by the carnage of war. Women, who comprise more than fifty percent of the population, consistently oppose any military tactics that kill large numbers of civilians. Likewise taxpayers of both sexes expect to see their hard earned tax dollars spent on public programs that benefit them. Not to enrich Wall Street banksters and corporate war profiteers.
Ordinary Romans felt the same way. Which was the main reason their leaders abandoned democracy when they undertook to expand the Roman republic into an empire.
Creating a Constitution Conducive to Empire
There’s also a clear link between the growing wealth an power of banks and multinational corporations and the recent attack on democratic rights and civil liberties (the repeal of habeas corpus and legalized government spying authorized under the Patriot Act and NDAA).
This relates, in my view, to structural flaws in the US system of government that make it less democratic than other industrialized countries. These mostly relate to what the Constitutional framers referred to as “separation of powers.”
In social studies we were taught these “checks and balances” were intended to make the US government more democratic. However it’s clear from the writings of Hamilton, Madison and other constitutional framers that their real intent was to minimize the risk of a direct popular vote harming the interests of wealthy landowners and merchants.
In their writings, the founding fathers make no secret of their imperialistic ambitions (their plans to declare war on the Native Americans and Mexicans who possessed the lands west of the 13 original colonies). This military expansionsim was extremely unpopular with a mainly rural, farming population that experienced immense personal and economic hardship during the Revolutionary War.
And military expansion didn’t end when the US seized the Southwest and California from Mexico. In 1895, the US declared war on Spain to expand the empire to include Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines and other Pacific islands.
Parliamentary Democracy=One Man One Vote
Unlike the majority of industrialized countries, the US doesn’t employ a “one-man-one-vote” system of representational democracy. The only hope our Constitutional framers had of enacting their pro-business, pro-military agenda was to establish two branches of government (the Senate and Presidency) that wouldn’t be determined by direct popular vote. The idea was to block populist legislation enacted by the democratically elected House of Representatives
After 11 1/2 years experience with New Zealand’s, parliamentary democracy, I have absolutely no doubt that it’s more democratic than the US system. Under a parliamentary system, the head of the party controlling the majority of legislative seats automatically becomes chief of state. The moment the prime minister loses the majority he/she needs to pass legislation, the government collapses and a new election is called. This is in marked contrast to the US Congress. The latter has been virtually paralyzed for 30 years – while American schools and the US health care system continue to disintegrate in front of our eyes.
Another important advantage of a parliamentary democracy is the establishment of an official opposition party, which is expected to attack and embarrass the party in power. The result is vigorous and often raucous parliamentary debate, characterized by booing, cheering and outright heckling by members of the opposition parties.
Open “bipartisan consensus,” which is so heavily promoted by the US mainstream media, would be extremely unpopular in New Zealand. The majority of Kiwi voters retain a strong working class consciousness and are extremely dismissive of politicians with open ties to the corporate and business lobby.