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Democracy For The Southern Adirondack/Tricounty Area
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Tricounty DFA Update: Meeting Report, Inconvenient Truth, More
Hello Everyone!

First, a Happy Hanukkah to all! May this year's Festival Of Lights be a celebration of liberation for all.

1. Meeting Report
2. Gore, Inconvenient Truth In News
3. Campaign money, Gillibrand Assignment, More
4. Kucinich To Run Again
5. Why we are losing In Iraq
6. Pinochet and America
7. Last Friday Film Fest Of Year

1. Meeting Report

We held our final Democracy For Greater Glens Falls Area meeting of 2006 last Wednesday at the Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe. We had a discussion of the momentous year we had, and talked a bit about 2007.

Drew Monthie proposed we discuss and draft a resolution in January urging Rep.-Elect Gillibrand and the new Congress to restore the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed during the Reagan administration. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to give equal time to all sides of a discussion, especially if someone was attacked. (It would pretty much put an end to Fox News.) The Telecommunications Bill of 1996 made the situation even worse. So we will be taking that up.

Common Cause also has a petition to the FCC on media consolidation, which is a closely related issue:

After discussion, we watched Al Gore's new movie An Inconvenient Truth, which everyone who has seen it agrees is an extraordinary motion picture, alarming, informing, and moving.

State Senate candidate Tim Merrick will also be making an appearance at our next meeting January 3rd. It will be great to see Tim again.

2. Gore, Inconvenient Truth In News

An Inconvenient Truth, which is about the Global Warming Crisis, is a film every American should see. (We may show it again. Let me know if you are interested.) Al Gore has been warning the world for many years the danger we are facing. Iraq, globalization, the economy, in the long run they are distant seconds to Global Warming as a threat to our future.

Obviously, people are mentioning Gore as a presidential candidate more and more. But he may well win another race first-- for Oscar for Best Picture. It's a real possibility:
Having seen An Inconvenient Truth, I would vote for it for Best Picture, too.

Since we are on the subject of Gore, there is also a terrific interview with in in GQ:

He is incredibly blunt, especially on 9/11. "It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, “Well, you’ve covered your ass.” And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!"

Gore has only grown in the last eight years.

3. Campaign money, Gillibrand Assignment, More

There have been articles on Rep.-Elect Gillibrand. One on fundraising. Gillibrand did an astonishing job of raising money, $2.4 million. I read last summer that one congressional candidate, who subsequently lost, made 15,000-- that's right-- 15,000 fundraising phone calls. She may have, too, I would not be surprised if it were more.

The effort it takes to raise this kind of money boggles the mind (I hope the new Congress really gets going on Clean Money Clean Elections). Hours and hours and hours every day. For more:
She was also appointed to the House Steering Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

The Times Union also covered her support for a higher minimum wage:

4. Kucinich To Run Again

Our members who worked for Dennis Kucinich in 2004 will be pleased to know he has decided to run for President again in 2008. The issue, as before, and very sadly, is still the Iraq War. Kucinich believes the US must withdraw immediately.

"Democrats were swept into power on Nov. 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq," said Kucinich, 60. "Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war."

He makes an very interesting legal case, as I noted last week. For more:

5. Why we are losing In Iraq

Want to know why we are losing in Iraq? Kucinich might point to this, from the Iraq Study Group as quoted in
"Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday."

"All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."


6. Pinochet and America

Dick sends along a terrific piece by Greg Palast, of BBC florida vote fraud expose fame. As Dick notes, "This is worth a close read. Basically, it describes the fault lines between the Right on one side and the Center--as it has been since the Great Depression-- and Left on the other side in this country."

I will paste the full piece in at the bottom, and it indeed deserves reflection.

7. Last Friday Film Fest Of Year

Finally, the Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe completes its Friday Night Progressive Film Fest for this year with an 8pm presentation of Go Tigers. According to Matt, the Festival will go on hiatus for the holidays and resume on January 12th at a new time, an half hour ealier at 7:30. This week at 8pm:

Dec 15 GO TIGERS! (2001) Kenneth A. Carlson 103 min.
In the shadow of a crumbling Norman Rockwell dreamscape, towns like Massillon, Ohio face an ongoing identity crisis and fiscal decline in the new dot com millennium. But while steel mills close and families drift away from such industrial pockets, Massillon's identity has remained intact. For whatever trouble that has besieged the town, Massillon has always had "the greatest show in high school football." In the birthplace of football and 10 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Massillon Tigers have drawn more than fifteen thousand spirited fans to every game for more than a hundred years. For ten weeks out of the year, this provincial hamlet is ground zero for one of the greatest sports traditions anywhere.

Thanks everyone! Have a great holiday season! Shalom!

Larry Dudley


Tinker Bell, Pinochet And The Fairy Tale Miracle Of Chile

by Greg Palast
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. (Signed copies available for the holidays at

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006
Chile’s former military dictator General Augusto

Pinochet died today at the age of 91.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Tinker Bell and General Augusto Pinochet had much in common.

All three performed magical good deeds. In the case of Pinochet, he was universally credited with the Miracle of Chile, the wildly successful experiment in free markets, privatization, de-regulation and union-free economic expansion whose laissez-faire seeds spread from Valparaiso to Virginia.

But Cinderella’s pumpkin did not really turn into a coach. The Miracle of Chile, too, was just another fairy tale. The claim that General Pinochet begat an economic powerhouse was one of those utterances whose truth rested entirely on its repetition.

Chile could boast some economic success. But that was the work of Salvador Allende - who saved his nation, miraculously, a decade after his death.

In 1973, the year General Pinochet brutally seized the government, Chile’s unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernization, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

In 1970, 20% of Chile’s population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year “President” Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile’s economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman’s trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatized the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatized 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward … into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile’s industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpah, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan’s State Department issued a report concluding, “Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management.” Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, “The Miracle of Chile.” Friedman’s sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet’s Chile was, “a showcase of what supply-side economics can do.”

It certainly was. More exactly, Chile was a showcase of de-regulation gone berserk.

The Chicago Boys persuaded the junta that removing restrictions on the nation’s banks would free them to attract foreign capital to fund industrial expansion.

Pinochet sold off the state banks - at a 40% discount from book value - and they quickly fell into the hands of two conglomerate empires controlled by speculators Javier Vial and Manuel Cruzat. From their captive banks, Vial and Cruzat siphoned cash to buy up manufacturers - then leveraged these assets with loans from foreign investors panting to get their piece of the state giveaways.

The bank’s reserves filled with hollow securities from connected enterprises. Pinochet let the good times roll for the speculators. He was persuaded that Governments should not hinder the logic of the market.

By 1982, the pyramid finance game was up. The Vial and Cruzat “Grupos” defaulted. Industry shut down, private pensions were worthless, the currency swooned. Riots and strikes by a population too hungry and desperate to fear bullets forced Pinochet to reverse course. He booted his beloved Chicago experimentalists. Reluctantly, the General restored the minimum wage and unions’ collective bargaining rights. Pinochet, who had previously decimated government ranks, authorized a program to create 500,000 jobs. In other words, Chile was pulled from depression by dull old Keynesian remedies, all Franklin Roosevelt, zero Reagan/Thatcher. New Deal tactics rescued Chile from the Panic of 1983, but the nation’s long-term recovery and growth since then is the result of - cover the children’s ears - a large dose of socialism.

To save the nation’s pension system, Pinochet nationalized banks and industry on a scale unimagined by Communist Allende. The General expropriated at will, offering little or no compensation. While most of these businesses were eventually re-privatized, the state retained ownership of one industry: copper.

For nearly a century, copper has meant Chile and Chile copper. University of Montana metals expert Dr. Janet Finn notes, “Its absurd to describe a nation as a miracle of free enterprise when the engine of the economy remains in government hands.” Copper has provided 30% to 70% of the nation’s export earnings. This is the hard currency which has built today’s Chile, the proceeds from the mines seized from Anaconda and Kennecott in 1973 - Allende’s posthumous gift to his nation.

Agribusiness is the second locomotive of Chile’s economic growth. This also is a legacy of the Allende years. According to Professor Arturo Vasquez of Georgetown University, Washington DC, Allende’s land reform, the break-up of feudal estates (which Pinochet could not fully reverse), created a new class of productive tiller-owners, along with corporate and cooperative operators, who now bring in a stream of export earnings to rival copper. “In order to have an economic miracle,” says Dr. Vasquez, “maybe you need a socialist government first to commit agrarian reform.”

So there we have it. Keynes and Marx, not Friedman, saved Chile.

But the myth of the free-market Miracle persists because it serves a quasi-religious function. Within the faith of the Reaganauts and Thatcherites, Chile provides the necessary genesis fable, the ersatz Eden from which laissez-faire dogma sprang successful and shining.

In 1998, the international finance Gang of Four - the World Bank, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Bank for Settlements - offered a $41.5 billion line of credit to Brazil. But before the agencies handed the drowning nation a life preserver, they demanded Brazil commit to swallow the economic medicine that nearly killed Chile. You know the list: fire-sale privatizations, flexible labor markets (i.e. union demolition) and deficit reduction through savage cuts in government services and social security.

In Sao Paulo, the public was assured these cruel measures would ultimately benefit the average Brazilian. What looked like financial colonialism was sold as the cure-all tested in Chile with miraculous results.

But that miracle was in fact a hoax, a fraud, a fairy tale in which everyone did not live happily ever after.


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Armed Madhouse”. Read his reports at

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