Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NASA in Disbelief over Rate of Melting Ice in Greenland

( climate change is a myth...myth this!--jef)

'Not a Mistake': Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July

The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right.
An estimated 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12.

Scientists say there has been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.

The ice melted so fast that scientists at NASA first thought it was a computer error or some other malfunction.

For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations, according to a statement released along with satellite images on Tuesday.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Son Nghiem of NASA's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.
But after conferring with colleagues, Nghiem's disbelief turned to shock.

"I think it's fair to say that this is unprecedented," Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Guardian.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea level rise.

"The Greenland ice sheet is a vast area with a varied history of change. This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story," said Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager in Washington. "Satellite observations are helping us understand how events like these may relate to one another as well as to the broader climate system."

Even the area around Summit Station in central Greenland, which at 2 miles above sea level is near the highest point of the ice sheet, showed signs of melting. Such pronounced melting at Summit and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889, according to ice cores analyzed by Kaitlin Keegan at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Summit confirmed air temperatures hovered above or within a degree of freezing for several hours July 11-12.

"Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time," says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. "But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome."

NSA Whistleblowers: NSA Spying on 'the Entire Country'

Former NSA employees Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and William Binney warn of widespread gov't surveillance

The National Security Agency (NSA) has created a "pernicious, persistent and permanent" database since 9/11 and is spying on "the entire country" according to NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and William Binney.

Drake, Wiebe and Binney made the comments speaking on Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer on Current TV on Monday.

Drake said the widespread domestic spying was due to a “key decision made shortly after 9/11 which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance,” putting touted efforts at national security above all else, including constitutional rights.

Referring to an NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah which will hold communications collected by the agency, Binney said, "That facility alone can probably hold somewhere close to a hundred years’ worth of the communications of the world.” Binney continues, “Once you accumulate that kind of data — they’re accumulating against everybody — [it's] resident in programs that can pull it together in timelines and things like that and let them see into your life.”

Binney said the NSA was developing automated algorithms that would allow the NSA to easily sort through everyone's data. "Everybody will be a part of this," he stated.

Asked by Spitzer if anyone at the NSA worried of 4th amendment implications and raised questions, Wiebe said, "No."

The three whistleblowers are providing evidence in a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the NSA.

"For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We're extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program."

"The NSA warrantless surveillance programs have been the subject of widespread reporting and debate for more than six years now. They are just not a secret," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Yet the government keeps making the same 'state secrets' claims again and again. It's time for Americans to have their day in court and for a judge to rule on the legality of this massive surveillance."
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In April, William Binney gave his first television interview after resigning from the National Security Agency to Democracy Now!:

Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance

IPAA Wording Virtually the Same as SOPA

With very few differences.

Read the full text of IPAA here (pdf).

The Fed Audit

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."

Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. "No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president," Sanders said.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse.  In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed's emergency lending programs.

In another disturbing finding, the GAO said that on Sept. 19, 2008, William Dudley, who is now the New York Fed president, was granted a waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time AIG and GE were given bailout funds.  One reason the Fed did not make Dudley sell his holdings, according to the audit, was that it might have created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

To Sanders, the conclusion is simple. "No one who works for a firm receiving direct financial assistance from the Fed should be allowed to sit on the Fed's board of directors or be employed by the Fed," he said.

The investigation also revealed that the Fed outsourced most of its emergency lending programs to private contractors, many of which also were recipients of extremely low-interest and then-secret loans.

The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their emergency lending programs to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.  The same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Altogether some two-thirds of the contracts that the Fed awarded to manage its emergency lending programs were no-bid contracts. Morgan Stanley was given the largest no-bid contract worth $108.4 million to help manage the Fed bailout of AIG.

A more detailed GAO investigation into potential conflicts of interest at the Fed is due on Oct. 18, but Sanders said one thing already is abundantly clear. "The Federal Reserve must be reformed to serve the needs of working families, not just CEOs on Wall Street."

To read the GAO report, click here.

There Are 100 Million Jobless Working Age Americans

The unemployment crisis in America is much worse than you are being told. 

Did you know that there are 100 million working age Americans that do not get up in the morning and go to work?  No wonder why it seems like there are so many people that do not have jobs!  According to the federal government, there are 12.6 million working age Americans that are considered to be "officially" unemployed, but there are another 87.8 million working age Americans that are not working either.

The federal government considers those Americans to be "not in the labor force" so they are not included in the unemployment rate.  In fact, this is one of the key ways that the government manipulates the unemployment numbers.  The previous Bush administrations and Obama's administration would have us believe that the unemployment rate is going down and that since the start of the last recession about as many Americans have left the labor force as we saw during the entire decades of the 1980s and 1990s combined.  Of course that is a bunch of nonsense, but that is what the government would have us believe.  The truth is that the percentage of working age Americans that are employed is just about the same right now as it was two years ago.  It was incredibly difficult to get a job back then and it is incredibly difficult to get a job right now.  So don't believe the hype that things are getting much better.  If you still do have a good job, you might want to hold on to it tightly, because there is not much hope that things are going to improve significantly any time soon.

The first chart that I have posted below shows the total number of "officially" unemployed workers in America.  According to the Federal Reserve, that number is currently 12,673,000. 
This chart makes it look like the employment picture in America is getting significantly better...

But if you dig deeper into the numbers you quickly see that this is not true.  A lot of those workers that were formerly classified as "unemployed" have now been moved into the "not in labor force" category.  Since the start of the last recession, the number of Americans not in the labor force has risen by more than 8 million according to the Obama administration.  The total number of working age Americans not in the labor force now stands at 87,897,000...

So when you add 12,673,000 and 87,897,000, you get a total of 100,570,000 working age Americans that do not have jobs.

Yes, there are certainly millions of working age Americans that do not have jobs and that do not want jobs.

But you have to be delusional to believe that there are nearly 88 million working age Americans that do not have jobs and that do not want jobs.

The Obama administration tells us that the labor force participation rate is now the lowest it has been since 1984.  But back then, a very large percentage of women were staying home and raising families.  The percentage of stay at home mothers has declined steadily since then.

So the truth is that the employment statistics that we are being fed are not portraying an accurate picture of what is really going on.

As a CNN article recently explained, there are millions of Americans that say that they would like to have a job even though they have not been "actively" looking for one in the past four weeks.  If those people were included in the unemployment rate, it would immediately shoot up to around 11 percent...
About six million people claim they want a job, even though they haven't looked for one in the last four weeks. If they were to all start applying for work again, the unemployment rate would suddenly shoot up above 11%.
If you want a much more accurate picture of what is really happening to the employment situation in America, the key is to look at the employment to population ratio.  As I have written about previously, the percentage of working age Americans that have jobs is not increasing.

Let's take a look at the employment to population ratio for the last six years for the month of March...

March 2007: 63.3%
March 2008: 62.7%
March 2009: 59.9%
March 2010: 58.5%
March 2011: 58.5%
March 2012: 58.5%

The percentage of the working age population that had jobs fell rapidly during the recession and it has stayed very low since then.

When anyone in government tells you that "America is going back to work" s/he is lying to you.

The cold, hard reality of the matter is that there are millions of hard working Americans that have been sitting at home for years hoping that a new job will come along.

Back in 2007, approximately 10 percent of all unemployed Americans had been out of work for one year or longer.

Today, that figure is above 30 percent.

The average duration of unemployment in the United States today is about three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.

And according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the number of announced job cuts is actually rising again....
Also, announced jobs cuts rose 7.1% in April, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, to 40,599 — and up 11.2% from last April — another bit of evidence that the jobs market isn’t doing well.
Economic conditions in the United States have been steadily getting worse for quite a while, but that is not the only reason for our employment problems.

There are two other trends that I want to briefly mention.

1) A lot of jobs that used to be very labor intensive are now being replaced by technology.  Thanks to robotics, automation and computers, a lot of big companies simply do not need as many workers these days.  Those are jobs that are never going to come back.

2) As labor has become a global commodity, millions upon millions of U.S. jobs have been sent overseas.  Today, you are not just competing for a job with your neighbors.  You are also competing with workers on the other side of the globe.  Unfortunately, it is legal to pay slave labor wages in many of those countries.  By sending our jobs out of the country, big corporations can also avoid a whole host of rules, regulations, taxes and benefit payments that they would be facing if they hired American workers.

So U.S. workers are at a massive competitive disadvantage.  Why should a big corporation pay 10 or 20 times more for an American worker when they can pad their profits by exploiting cheap foreign labor?

The sad truth is that the value that the marketplace puts on the labor of the average American worker is continually decreasing.

This is making it much more difficult to find a job and it is keeping wages down.

In the old days, pretty much any man that was a hard worker and that really wanted a good job could go out and get one.

But now all of that has changed.  Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

And sadly, the vast majority of the jobs that are being lost are good jobs.  As I wrote about the other day, 95 percent of the jobs lost during the recession were middle class jobs.

So how are middle class families making it these days?

Many of them are going into tremendous amounts of debt.  As a recent CNN article detailed, the average debt load being carried by those of us in the bottom 95 percent of all income earners has risen dramatically over the past several decades....
In 1983, the bottom 95% had 62 cents of debt for every dollar they earned, according to research by two International Monetary Fund economists. But by 2007, the ratio had soared to $1.48 of debt for every $1 in earnings.
Unfortunately, many American families are absolutely maxed out at this point.  According to one recent survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are currently paying their bills late.

If your goal is to live a middle class lifestyle, you need to realize that the entire way that the game is being played is changing.

In the old days, you could start out with a company as a young person and stay with that company until you retired.  If you worked hard and you were loyal, there was a really good chance that the company would recognize that and be loyal to you too.

These days, most companies are absolutely heartless when it comes to their workers.  The good job that you have today could be gone tomorrow.  Workers are increasingly being viewed as "liabilities", and there is a good chance that the moment you become "expendable" to your company you will be kicked out on the street.

That is one reason why  people should consider starting their own businesses.  Working for someone else, security can be taken away at any moment. 

Unfortunately, tougher economic times are coming and things are not going to be easy.  It will be imperative to work harder than ever, to stay flexible, and to never, ever give up.


Since the monthly jobs numbers were released on Friday I thought I would update this article to reflect the latest figures.

The federal government has announced that the unemployment rate has declined to 8.1 percent.

That certainly sounds like good news.

But knowing better, I immediately went and checked how the employment to population ratio had changed.

Well, it turns out that the employment to population ratio has fallen once again.

That means that a smaller percentage of working age Americans had jobs in April than in March.

The following are the figures for the past three months....

February 2012: 58.6%

March 2012: 58.5%

April 2012: 58.4%

If the percentage of people that have jobs is going down, then how can they claim that things are getting better?

The following are the two Federal Reserve charts posted above after they have been updated with the new numbers.  These charts are very revealing.

1) There are now 12,500,000 workers that are "officially" considered to be unemployed...

2) There are now 88,419,000 Americans that are considered to be "not in the labor force".  Please note that this number rose by 522,000 in just a single month!....

12,500,000 unemployed workers plus 88,419,000 Americans that are "not in the labor force" equals 100,919,000 working age Americans that do not have jobs.

That number continues to climb at a very rapid pace.

100 Million Poor People In America And 39 Other Facts About Poverty

July 25, 2012

Every single day more Americans fall into poverty. This should deeply alarm you no matter what political party you belong to and no matter what your personal economic philosophy is.

Right now, approximately 100 million Americans are either "poor" or "near poor".  For a lot of people "poverty" can be a nebulous concept, so let's define it.  The poverty level as defined by the federal government in 2010 was $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four.  Could you take care of a family of four on less than $2000 a month?

Millions upon millions of families are experiencing a tremendous amount of pain in this economy, and no matter what "solutions" we think are correct, the reality is that we all should have compassion on them.  Sadly, things are about to get even worse.  The next major economic downturn is rapidly approaching, and when it hits the statistics posted below are going to look even more horrendous.

When it comes to poverty, most Americans immediately want to get into debates about tax rates and wealth redistribution and things like that.

But the truth is that they are missing the main point.

The way we slice up the pie is not going to solve our problems, because the pie is constantly getting smaller.

Our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted, the U.S. dollar is slowly losing its status as the reserve currency of the world and we are steadily getting poorer as a nation.

Don't be fooled by the government statistics that show a very small amount of "economic growth".  Those figures do not account for inflation.

After accounting for inflation, our economic growth has actually been negative all the way back into the middle of the last decade.

According to numbers compiled by John Williams of, our "real GDP" has continually been negative since 2005.

So that means we are getting poorer as a nation.

Meanwhile, we have been piling up astounding amounts of debt.

40 years ago the total amount of debt in the United States (government, business and consumer) was less than 2 trillion dollars.

Today it is nearly 55 trillion dollars.

So we have a massive problem.

Our economic pie is shrinking and millions of Americans have been falling out of the middle class.  Meanwhile, we have been piling up staggering amounts of debt in order to maintain our vastly inflated standard of living.  As our economic problems get even worse, those trends are going to accelerate even more.

So don't look down on the poor.  You might be joining them a lot sooner than you might think.

The following are 40 facts about poverty in America that will blow your mind....

#1 In the United States today, somewhere around 100 million Americans are considered to be either "poor" or "near poor".

#2 It is being projected that when the final numbers come out later this year that the U.S. poverty rate will be the highest that it has been in almost 50 years.

#3 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be either "low income" or impoverished.

#4 Today, one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.

#5 According to the Wall Street Journal, 49.1 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives financial benefits from the government.  Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

#6 It is projected that about half of all American adults will spend at least some time living below the poverty line before they turn 65.

#7 Today, there are approximately 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#8 During 2010, 2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty.  That was the largest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

#9 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of "very poor" rose in 300 out of the 360 largest metropolitan areas during 2010.

#10 Since Barack Obama became president, the number of Americans living in poverty has risen by 6 million and the number of Americans on food stamps has risen by 14 million.

#11 Right now, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#12 It is projected that half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years of age.

#13 The poverty rate for children living in the United States is 22 percent, although when the new numbers are released in the fall that number is expected to go even higher.

#14 One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars a year.

#15 Households that are led by a single mother have a 31.6% poverty rate.

#16 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

#17 According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4 percent of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1 percent of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6 percent of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6 percent of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#18 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#19 Child homelessness in the United States has risen by 33 percent since 2007.

#20 There are 314 counties in the United States where at least 30% of the children are facing food insecurity.

#21 More than 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.

#22 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7 percent) than has ever been measured before.

#23 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.

#24 A lot of younger Americans have found that they cannot make it on their own in this economy.  Today, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents.

#25 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#26 Amazingly, the wealthiest 1 percent of all Americans own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.

#27 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#28 At this point, the poorest 50% of all Americans now control just 2.5% of all of the wealth in this country.

#29 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#30 Right now, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#31 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.

#32  In 1970, 65 percent of all Americans lived in "middle class neighborhoods".  By 2007, only 44 percent of all Americans lived in "middle class neighborhoods".

#33 Federal housing assistance outlays increased by a whopping 42 percent between 2006 and 2010.

#34 Approximately 50 million Americans do not have any health insurance at all right now.

#35 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, approximately one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

#36 It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#37 Back in 1990, the federal government accounted for 32 percent of all health care spending in America.  Today, that figure is up to 45 percent and it is projected to surpass 50 percent very shortly.

#38 Overall, the amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has risen by 32 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House.

#39 It was recently reported that 1.5 million American families live on less than two dollars a day (before counting government benefits).

#40 The unemployment rate in the U.S. has been above 8 percent for 40 months in a row, and 42 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least half a year. (Though that's the bogus govt rate, the real unemployment rate is about 22%--see the previous article to see how badly the govt. distorts employment numbers.--jef)
Recently, I wrote a long article about why there will never be enough jobs in the United States ever again.

That means that a whole lot of Americans are not going to be able to take care of themselves.
As our economy gets even worse, there is going to be a tremendous need for more love, compassion and generosity all over the country.

Don't be afraid to lend a helping hand, because someday you may need one yourself.

Senate Votes to End Tax Breaks for Rich

The Senate on Wednesday voted 51 to 48 to extend tax cuts for most working Americans and end Bush-era tax breaks in 2013 for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples earning at least $250,000. "With a $16 trillion national debt and a $1 trillion deficit, we cannot continue to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires," Sen. Bernie Sanders said after the vote. "This is a step forward in ending the Bush-era tax breaks for the rich and asking the wealthiest Americans, who are doing phenomenally well, to do their fair share to bring down deficits. I hope our Republican friends in the House can overcome their support for tax breaks for the wealthy and support this common-sense approach to cutting deficits."

The proposal tax cuts that the Senate are worth $1,600 to the average family.

The bill also extends other tax provisions critical to the middle class - the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit - that help families afford college, cover their bills and provide for their children.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit helps middle-class families afford college by covering up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition.

The Child Tax Credit provides hard-working families with $1,000 worth of tax relief for each child under age 17.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable credit that offers assistance to working individuals and families who earned less than $49,078 in 2011.

More than a pick

Prisons as Growth Industry

Ever visit a major prison? The vast majority of Americans have not, despite our country having by far a higher incarceration rate per capita than China or Iran. Out of sight is out of mind.

Imagine the benefits of the average taxpayer touring a prison. The lucrative prison-industrial complex would definitely not like public exposure of their daily operations.

Prison CEOs have no problem with a full house of non-violent inmates caught with possession of some street drugs (not alcohol or tobacco). Our horrendous confinement system cannot change when it clings to perverse practices such as cruel, costly, arbitrary, mentally destructive solitary confinement (again, the highest in the world, see: Corporate profits drive the prison system’s insanity.

Indeed, for the giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), times are booming. CCA builds their prisons or buys or leases public prisons from financially strapped governments. Barron’s financial weekly can always be expected to give us the Wall Street perspective. In a recent article titled “Ready to Bust Out,” writer Jonathan R. Laing is bullish on CCA stock. He thinks it could double to more than $50 a share if the company were to convert to a real estate investment trust (REIT).

Mr. Laing writes that CCA has cost advantages over the public-prison sector, paying lower non-union wages and using more automated technology. Besides, the company is a tough bargainer when it buys or operates public prisons. One CCA condition is that the facility must have 1,000 beds, can’t be more than 25 years old, and get this, “the contract must guarantee a 90 percent occupancy rate.” A guarantee backed by taxpayers no less, unless, that is, the clause works to put more prisoners in jail for longer sentences.

The Barron’s article adds that CCA is counting on “the old standby of recidivism to keep prison head counts growing, filling its empty beds.” To the impoverished rural communities where these prisons are located, it’s about needed jobs.

The criminal injustice system has many faults, other than an inadequate number of beds filled with convicted corporate crooks. As the Justice Roundtable (, composed of a collation of over 50 national organizations, declares, “The current punitive system depletes budgets without making society safer…The Archaic system must be reformed to be rehabilitative, just and accountable.”

How naïve! Don’t these experienced people know that first they have to change the purposes of this system? Instead of wanting more prisoners and treating them in such ways that when they get out they are too unskilled and damaged to overcome the society’s exclusionary pressures that half of them end up back in jail, they should be training these prisoners to be contributing members of society. But that’s the problem of the gigantic prison machine that thrives on returning prisoners.

The same perverse incentives apply to the self-defeating trillion-dollar war on drugs (see History has demonstrated that driving addictions into illegal undergrounds creates vicious underworld crimes. In Mexico, the so-called drug cartel is getting close to destroying local governments in many regions.

In the U.S., half a million people are behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses, the vast majority arrested for mere possession, not production or sale. That is nearly one in four of all prisoners. There are twenty million marijuana arrests every year in the U.S.!

Drug addictions are treated as crimes instead of as health problems, which we do with tobacco and alcohol addictions. Gross racial disparities persists, starting with black teenagers having to go to jail for a drug offense six times more often than a comparable white youth, both with prior clean records (

Without rehabilitation changes in prisons and changes in societal attitudes toward those who have done time, ex-prisoners will continue to have trouble getting jobs having food stamp eligibility, financial aid for college or vocational schools and even the right to vote.

In the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement, led by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights received testimony about and directly from wrongfully convicted prisoners put away in “the hole,” as solitary has been called for years. They also heard from Christopher Epps, the boss of the Mississippi prison system, one of a few states that, in the words of The New York Times, “ha(s) reduced prison violence and reaped millions in budgetary savings by steeply cutting back on solitary confinement.”

From the lethal drug wars on our city streets to the crowding out of civil cases from the federal and state dockets clogged by these drug cases, to the blocking of proven, superior ways to deal with the entire problem by innovative judges, thoughtful scholars and prominent advocacy groups, the time is ripe for change.

Right/Left convergence is emerging. Last April, for instance, David Keene, former Chair of the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, joined with the NAACP and other liberals to highlight escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on our nation’s children and poorly performing schools. Connecticut spends $40,000 a year to imprison a juvenile offender compared to less than $12,000 a year to educate a young person. Other similar convergences over hugely disparate sentencing as with crack and cocaine are forming, making both economic and humane arguments. More young black men are locked up than are in college, according to the Justice Roundtable.

Still, there hasn’t been enough reform pressure even to pass outgoing U.S. Senator Jim Webb’s legislation simply to create a National Criminal Justice Commission Act. This legislation is now stuck in Senatorial limbo.

Start up the prison tours. Have some led by articulate, former convicts who are pushing to reform our cruel, costly and ineffective prison system. It is so easy to do much better, if we want to.

The Philosophy of the Technology of the Gun

By Evan Selinger - The Atlantic Jul 23 2012
Does the old rallying cry "Guns don't kill people. People kill people" hold up to philosophical scrutiny?

flickr/United States Air Force

The tragic Colorado Batman shooting has prompted a wave of soul-searching. How do things like this happen? Over at Wired,David Dobbs gave a provocative answer in "Batman Movies Don't Kill. But They're Friendly to the Concept." I suspect Dobbs's nuanced analysis about causality and responsibility won't sit well with everyone.

Dobbs questions the role of gun culture in steering "certain unhinged or deeply a-moral people toward the sort of violence that has now become so routine that the entire thing seems scripted." But what about "normal" people? Yes, plenty of people carry guns without incident. Yes, proper gun training can go a long way. And, yes, there are significant cultural differences about how guns are used. But, perhaps overly simplistic assumptions about what technology is and who we are when we use it get in the way of us seeing how, to use Dobbs's theatrical metaphor, guns can give "stage directions."

Instrumentalist Conception of Technology

The commonsense view of technology is one that some philosophers call the instrumentalist conception. According to the instrumentalist conception, while the ends that technology can be applied to can be cognitively and morally significant, technology itself is value-neutral. Technology, in other words, is subservient to our beliefs and desires; it does not significantly constrain much less determine them. This view is famously touted in the National Rifle Association's maxim: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

"The NRA maxim 'Guns don't kill people. People kill people,' captures the widely believed idea that the appropriate source to blame for a murder is the person who pulled the gun's trigger."
To be sure, this statement is more of a slogan than well-formulated argument. But even as a shorthand expression, it captures the widely believed idea that murder is wrong and the appropriate source to blame for committing murder is the person who pulled a gun's trigger. Indeed, the NRA's proposition is not unusual; it aptly expresses the folk psychology that underlies moral and legal norms.

The main idea, here, is that guns are neither animate nor supernatural beings; they cannot use coercion or possession to make a person shoot. By contrast, murderers should be held responsible for their actions because they can resolve conflict without resorting to violence, even during moments of intense passion. Furthermore, it would be absurd to incarcerate a firearm as punishment. Unlike people, guns cannot reflect on wrongdoing or be rehabilitated.

Beyond Instrumentalism: Gun Use

Taking on the instrumentalist conception of technology, Don Ihde, a leading philosopher of technology, claims that "the human-gun relation transforms the situation from any similar situation of a human without a gun." By focusing on what it is like for a flesh-and-blood human to actually be in possession of a gun, Ihde describes "lived experience" in a manner that reveals the NRA position to be but a partial grasp of a more complex situation. By equating firearm responsibility exclusively with human choice, the NRA claim abstracts away relevant considerations about how gun possession can affect one's sense of self and agency. In order to appreciate this point, it helps to consider the fundamental materiality of guns.

In principle, guns, like every technology, can be used in different ways to accomplish different goals. Guns can be tossed around like Frisbees. They can be used to dig through dirt like shovels, or mounted on top of a fireplace mantel, as aesthetic objects. They can even be integrated into cooking practices; gangster pancakes might make a tasty Sunday morning treat.

But while all of these options remain physical possibilities, they are not likely to occur, at least not in a widespread manner with regularity. Such options are not practically viable because gun design itself embodies behavior-shaping values; its material composition indicates the preferred ends to which it "should" be used. Put in Ihde's parlance, while a gun's structure is "multistable" with respect to its possible uses across a myriad of contexts, a partially determined trajectory nevertheless constrains which possibilities are easy to pursue and which of the intermediate and difficult options are worth investing time and labor into.

"A gun's excellence simply lies in its capacity to quickly fire bullets that can reliably pierce targets."
With respect to the trajectory at issue, guns were designed for the sole purpose of accomplishing radical and life-altering action at a distance with minimal physical exertion on the part of the shooter. Since a gun's mechanisms were built for the purpose of releasing deadly projectiles outwards, it is difficult to imagine how one could realistically find utility in using a gun to pursue ends that do not require shooting bullets. For the most part, a gun's excellence simply lies in its capacity to quickly fire bullets that can reliably pierce targets. Using the butt of a gun to hammer the nail into a "Wanted" post--a common act in the old cowboy movies--is an exceptional use.

What the NRA position fails to convey, therefore, are the perceptual affordances offered by gun possession and the transformative consequences of yielding to these affordances. To someone with a gun, the world readily takes on a distinct shape. It not only offers people, animals, and things to interact with, but also potential targets. Furthermore, gun possession makes it easy to be bold, even hotheaded. Physically weak, emotionally passive, and psychologically introverted people will all be inclined to experience shifts in demeanor. Like many other technologies, Ihde argues, guns mediate the human relation to the world through a dialectic in which aspects of experience are both "amplified" and "reduced". In this case, there is a reduction in the amount and intensity of environmental features that are perceived as dangerous, and a concomitant amplification in the amount and intensity of environmental features that are perceived as calling for the subject to respond with violence.

French philosopher Bruno Latour goes far as to depict the experience of possessing a gun as one that produces a different subject: "You are different with a gun in your hand; the gun is different with you holding it. You are another subject because you hold the gun; the gun is another object because it has entered into a relationship with you." While the idea that a gun-human combination can produce a new subject may seem extreme, it is actually an experience that people (with appropriate background assumptions) typically attest to, when responding to strong architectural configurations. When walking around such prestigious colleges as Harvard and the University of Chicago, it is easy to feel that one has suddenly become smarter. Likewise, museums and sites of religious worship can induce more than a momentary inclination towards reflection; they can allow one to view artistic and spiritual matters as a contemplative being.


The Brave One

The points about guns made by Ihde and Latour are poignantly explored in the 2007 film The Brave One. Unfortunately, many critics examined the film through a humanist lens, and bounded by its conceptual limitations, offered damning reviews. Many depicted the movie as a hyperbolic revenge film. All they saw was a gun blazing Jodie Foster playing a character named Erica Bain who copes with a violent assault (that kills her fiancé and leaves her in a three week coma) by moving through one scene after another of gratuitous vigilante violence, using an illicitly acquired 9mm handgun to settle scores and punish criminals that the law cannot touch. A stir was even caused by the following so-called "liberal" remarks that Foster made during an interview:
I don't believe that any gun should be in the hand of a thinking, feeling, breathing human being. Americans are by nature filled with rage-slash-fear. And guns are a huge part of our culture. I know I'm crazy because I'm only supposed to say that in Europe. But violence corrupts absolutely.
The critics failed to grasp a point that Foster herself underscored in numerous interviews.

Despite its market-driven name, the film is not primarily about human virtues or vices. It does not try to discern whether there is an essential experience of bravery or cowardice, and the extent to which characters in the film personify such ideals. Rather, it is an existential meditation that centers on what Foster calls a "deeper and scarier" theme. Looking beyond the explicit plot and its correlative bursts of visually disturbing depictions of violence, makes it becomes possible to recognize that the film explores the anti-essentialist thesis that people are not unified subjects, but instead are beings with fluid and re-negotiable identities. Especially in the face of trauma, people can abandon old lives and start new ones. In the case at issue, Erica goes from being a woman who lives a relatively disembodied existence -- a radio host who collects the sounds of NY city by blending into its background; a minor celebrity who refuses an offer to appear on television by suggesting that she is more of a voice than a seductive face; and a lover who, at the beginning of the film, is visually contrasted with an athletic looking, long-haired, male-nurse fiancé -- to a someone who can kill in cold blood without experiencing the quintessential physical sign of remorse, shaky hands.

By depicting Erica's metamorphosis as a shift away from disembodiment that is brought by means other than consciousness-raising or personal affirmation, The Brave One challenges the instrumental conception of technology. Erica's transformation is so explicitly and thoroughly dependent upon technological mediation that the audience is led to infer that without the gun, she would be radically debilitated by her beating; her fate would lie in becoming an apartment-bound recluse.

Reflecting on the centrality of technological mediation to the plot, Foster uses phenomenological language and tells the media that the gun "opens up a world" in which Erica is viscerally "materialized" and therein drawn to dangerous situations (e.g., late night trips to a convenience store and subway) where there is an increased likelihood of encountering violence. Since Erica enters these places because of a technologically induced desire, and not because she is deliberately seeking retribution, it may be fitting to consider the gun -as Latour might suggest, through his notion of "symmetry" -- one of the "actors" in the film.

To be sure, The Brave One is just a movie. It isn't a scientific study and it does feature a character who has come undone. But if philosophers like Ihde and Latour are right, we've got more in common with her than most are willing to admit. And this possibility ups Dobbs's already high metaphorical ante.

(thanks to my friend Bob for making me a ware of this article.--jef)

Austerity's Winners = The Corporate Class

"The corporate class" is the clear winner in the global austerity game, according to analysis from Zach Carter in the Huffington Post.

As austerity policies lead to cuts in government programs such as Medicare and public education, Carter writes that this "generates a tidy windfall for the corporate class, as government services are privatized and savings from austerity pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens."

Blueprints for austerity in the U.S. are seen in measures such as the 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which "would allow U.S. companies to permanently avoid paying U.S. taxes on overseas income, including money stashed in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands," creating a banner situation for Wall Street banks while gutting Medicare and Social Security.

Dorian Warren, a professor of political science at Columbia University and a fellow at the think tank Roosevelt Institute, says that "Austerity policies are literally a redistribution from the bottom of the income spectrum to the top." Looking at state-level impacts, Warren states, "In Wisconsin, both wealthy people and businesses got tax breaks, while middle-class and working-class employees of the state essentially got crushed."

Carter also looks at global austerity as seen in countries such as Greece and Spain, which were given bailouts by the EU with harsh austerity conditions attached to them. But the banks got the bailout while the Greek people got the austerity. "The most vulnerable populations are harmed by the bailouts, while the well-paid financial professionals who made the deals to finance Greek and Spanish deficits in the first place continue profiting handsomely," Carter writes.

This is echoed by economist James Galbraith.  "Imposing pain on Greeks is ... a blood price for the ever-repeated bailouts whose actual beneficiaries are said to be Greeks, but are in fact French and German bankers," said Galbraith.

As Wall Street Democrats join Repulican calls for more austerity, writes Carter, the corporate class has more profits to come.

Libor Fraud Systemic: Entire Economy based on Fraud says Frmr Reagan Asst SecTreas.Paul C. Roberts

The economy is based on fraud, and another bigger, much worse collapse is inevitable. Eye opening stuff.--jef

About Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy for the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.


Getting Wall Street Off of Main Street
Shrinking Wall Street
If you want to make Adam Smith, the founder of economics, and George Stigler, the Nobel Prize winning economist, spin in their graves, say the words “LIBOR scandal.”  LIBOR – London Interbank Offered Rate — is, as everyone learned this past week, the benchmark interest rate that members of the British Bankers Association collude to set. In 1776, in The Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote “[p]eople of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”  Smith would have banned the British Bankers Association altogether. But almost 250 years later, what does the Bank of England, do?  It blesses the collusion by “supervising” it.

Why would George Stigler spin in his grave?  Because to him, the LIBOR “scandal” would be nothing but regulation as usual.  It is routine for regulators to be captured by the executives of the industry they regulate, Stigler explained in his article “The Theory of Economic Regulation.”  The benefits from regulator malfeasance are concentrated on a small group of individuals–the executives of the industry–whereas the costs of such  malfeasance are diffused among tens and hundreds of millions of members of the public.   Because the executives have a huge monetary incentive to prevent the regulator from doing his or her job, they are willing to invest large amounts to get what they want.  LIBOR is just the latest example of Stigler’s theory at work.

The Bankers Association and LIBOR should never have been permitted to exist to begin with.  What did Timothy Geithner do in 2008 when, as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he discovered that to improve their profits the banks were setting the benchmark at levels that did not reflect market forces?   Here was an opportunity to ban the Bankers Association and end LIBOR, but instead Geithner wrote a private letter to the Bank of England asking it to establish “procedures designed to prevent accidental or  deliberate misreporting.”  Certainly his discretion was a good career move; it’s hard to imagine that a whistleblower could have gone on to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.

Reforms of the regulations of the financial industry fail one after the next, and bankers continue to rob their clients and to destabilize the economy. So what can be done about Wall Street?

The most remarkable thing about Wall Street is that while it flourishes, working people wither.  How can this be?  The reason for this is the near-zero-interest-rates policy of Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed.  A five year Certificate of Deposit pays now on average less than 1% a year and that has made it impossible for savers to save, except by putting their savings into stocks; this is why the prices of stocks are high.  The ones who benefit from these high prices the most are the executives, because they use these  bloated stock prices to justify their outlandish “compensation.”  As social policy, however, forcing people to buy stocks has no justification.

When individuals buy stocks it is called “investing,” but this is a misnomer, because people are not buying investment goods (e.g., machines, structures, intermediate goods, etc.).  Their trades with the people who sell them stocks are zero-sum games, not economic investments.  The correct policy would be to channel savings toward economic investment, both private and public.  In order to accomplish this, the government should take two steps.  First, it should pay on its bonds an interest rate that, after correcting for inflation, is equal to the average long term growth of real GDP per capita.  What is this rate?  In the years 2001-2010 the average rate of real growth of the economy was only .62%. But that decade saw the bursting of two bubbles, first the dot com bubble, in 2000, and then the subprime bubble, in 2007.  The real growth rate of 2% a year that existed from 1970 to 2000 is a better estimate of the long term growth rate, and the government should pay this rate (in real terms) on its bonds.  (Under this formula a five year bond that was issued in May 2009 would have paid 4% in May 2010, 5.5% in May 2011 and 3.8% in May 2012.)  In order to attract customers away from government bonds to their own CDs and bonds, banks and corporations would have to offer similar or even better terms to savers. And in order to be able to make money themselves, the banks and the corporations would have to finance investments that earn even higher returns still. Furthermore, only deposits that finance real economic investment should be insured by the government.  This will prevent banks from using regular deposits for mergers and acquisitions.  Savers and banks would, of course, be free to trade in stocks, but they would have to do so without government subsidies.

There is an additional step the government should take.  Because the trading of stocks is a zero-sum-game rather than true economic investment, the government should further discourage it by ending the tax deferment to retirement plans (401k) that “invest” in the  stock market instead of channeling that money to government bonds or certificates of deposit.

But what does all of this have to do with the regulation of Wall Street?  First, when savers are no longer forced to give their money to gambles in stocks, the share of the public that has a stake in Wall Street will be far smaller.  And when Wall Street no longer has captive clients, it will have to become more transparent and behave more honestly. Consumers will thus become the regulators.  Even a new, weaker and therefore more honest, Wall Street would still have to be regulated, and this regulation would still have the challenges that Stigler identified. But the damage from the regulatory failures that are sure to continue would be miniscule in comparison to those we have now.  Best of all, a weaker Wall Street would mean stronger investments, both private and public, lower executive “compensation,” and, as a result, as much healthier economy for the rest of us.

Three Fallacies the Super-Rich (through their media outlets) Continue to Sell

When it comes to the economy, too many Americans continue to be numbed by the soothing sounds of conservative spin in the media. Here are three of their more inventive claims:

1. Higher taxes on the rich will hurt small businesses and discourage job creators

A recent Treasury analysis found that only 2.5% of small businesses would face higher taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

As for job creation, it’s not coming from the people with money. Over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, real estate, and personal business accountsAngel investing (capital provided by affluent individuals for business start-ups) accounted for less than 1% of the investable assets of high net worth individuals in North America in 2011. The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey agreed that the very rich spend less than two percent of their money on new business startups.

The Wall Street Journal noted, in way of confirmation, that the extra wealth created by the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.”

2. Individual initiative is all you need for success.

President Obama was criticized for a speech which included these words: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

‘Together’ is the word that winner-take-all conservatives seem to forget. Even the richest and arguably most successful American, Bill Gates, owes most of his good fortune to the thousands of software and hardware designers who shaped the technological industry over a half-century or more. A careful analysis of his rise shows that he had luck, networking skills, and a timely sense of opportunism, even to the point of taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own.

Gates was preceded by numerous illustrious Americans who are considered individual innovators when in fact they used their skills to build upon the work of others. On the day that Alexander Graham Bell filed for a patent for his telephone, electrical engineer Elisha Gray was filing an intent to patent a similar device. Both had built upon the work of Antonio Meucci, who didn’t have the fee to file for a patent. Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb was the culmination of almost 40 years of work by other fellow light bulb developers. Samuel Morse, Eli Whitney, the Wright brothers, and Edison had, as eloquently stated by Jared Diamond, “capable predecessors…and made their improvements at a time when society was capable of using their product.”

If anything, it’s harder than ever today to ascend through the ranks on one’s own. As summarized in the Pew research report ”Pursuing the American Dream,” only 4% of those starting out in the bottom quintile make it to the top quintile as adults, “confirming that the ‘rags-to-riches’ story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”

3. A booming stock market is good for all of us

The news reports would have us believe that happy days are here again when the stock market goes up. But as the market rises, most Americans are getting a smaller slice of the pie.

In a recent Newsweek article, author Daniel Gross gushed that “The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records.”

But the richest 10% of Americans own over 80% of the stock market. What Mr. Gross referred to as the “democratization of the stock market” is actually, as demonstrated by economist Edward Wolff, a distribution of financial wealth among just the richest 5% of Americans, those earning an average of $500,000 per year.

Thanks in good part to a meager 15% capital gains tax, the richest 400 taxpayers DOUBLED their income and nearly HALVED their tax rates in just seven years (2001-2007). So dramatic is the effect that anyone making more than $34,500 a year in salary and wages is taxed at a higher rate than an individual with millions in capital gains.

There’s yet more to the madness. The stock market has grown much faster than the GDP over the past century, which means that this special tax rate is being given to people who already own most of the unearned income that keeps expanding faster than the productiveness of real workers.

And one fading illusion: People in the highest class are people of high class.

Scientific American and Psychological Science have both reported that wealthier people are more focused on self, and have less empathy for people unlike themselves.

This sense of self-interest, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other sources, promotes wrongdoing and unethical behavior.

Can’t help but think about bankers and hedge fund managers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chris Hedges on Capitalism's "Sacrifice Zones": Communities Destroyed for Profit

Tuesday, 24 July 2012 By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company | Interview

There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places "sacrifice zones," and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.
These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed," Hedges tells Bill.

"It's the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings... And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state."

The broadcast includes a visit with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, who collaborated with Hedges on Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, an illustrated account of their travels through America's sacrifice zones. Kirkus Reviews calls it an "unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed."

A columnist for Truthdig, Hedges also describes the difference between truth and news. "The really great reporters — and I've seen them in all sorts of news organizations — are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career," Hedges says.

Exploring parts of America "that have been destroyed for quarterly profit."

Bill Moyers: Welcome. Here we are, barely halfway through the summer, and Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have stepped up their cage match, each attacking the other, throwing insults and accusations back and forth like folding chairs hurled across the wrestling ring.
Governor Romney pummels away at the economy; President Obama pummels away at Mr. Romney—when he was or wasn't at his company Bain Capital, his tax returns and his offshore accounts. All the while, as they bob and weave their way through this quadrennial competition, punching wildly, the real story of what's happening to ordinary people as capitalism runs amok is largely ignored by each of them. But not in this book "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt"—an unusual account of poverty and desolation across contemporary America. It's a collaboration between graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco, about whom more later, and my guest on this week's broadcast, Chris Hedges.

Chris Hedges: All of the true correctives to American democracy came through movements that never achieved formal political power.

Bill Moyers: This is just the latest battle cry from Hedges, who, angry at what he sees in the world, expresses his outrage in thoughtful prose that never fails to inform and provoke. As a correspondent and bureau chief for "The New York Times," he covered wars in North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East—leaving the paper after a reprimand for publicly denouncing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In such books as "War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning," his weekly column for the website "Truthdig" and freelance articles for a variety of other publications, Chris Hedges has taken his life's experience covering the brutality of combat and shaped a worldview in which morality and faith, and the importance of truth-telling, dissent and social activism take precedence, even if it means going to jail.

Welcome, Chris Hedges.

Chris Hedges: Thank you.

Bill Moyers: Tell me about Joe Sacco. He was your companion on this trip. And he was your, in effect, coauthor. Although he was sketching instead of writing.

Chris Hedges: I've known Joe since the war in Bosnia. We met when he was working on his book, "Gorazde." And I was not a reader of graphic novels. But I watched him work. And I certainly know a brilliant journalist when I see one. And he is one of the most brilliant journalists I've ever met.

He reports it out with such depth and integrity and power, and then he draws it out. And I realized that an extremely important component of this book was making visible these invisible communities, because we don't see them. They're shut out. They're frightening, they're depressing. And they're virtually off the radar screen in terms of the commercial media.

Bill Moyers: This is a tough book. It's not dispatches from Disneyworld. It paints a very stark portrait of poverty, despair, destructive behavior. What makes you think people want to read that sort of thing these days?

Chris Hedges: That wasn't a question that Joe Sacco and I ever asked. It's absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does, the violence of that system, which is portrayed in all of the places that we visited.

These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean, there are no impediments left?

Chris Hedges: There's no way to control corporate power. The system has broken down, whether it's Democrat or Republican. And because of that, we've all become commodities. Just as the natural world has become a commodity that is being exploited until it is exhausted, or it collapses.

Bill Moyers: You call them sacrifice zones.

Chris Hedges: Right.

Bill Moyers: Explain what you mean by that.

Chris Hedges: Well, they have the individuals who live within those areas have no power. The political system is bought off, the judicial system is bought off, the law enforcement system services the interests of power, they have been rendered powerless. You see that in the coal fields of Southern West Virginia.

Now here, in terms of national resources is one of the richest areas of the United States. And yet these harbor the poorest pockets of community, the poorest communities in the United States. Because those resources are extracted. And that money is not funneled back into the communities that are sitting on top of, or next to those resources.

Not only that, but they're extracted in such a way that the communities themselves are destroyed quite literally because you have not only terrible problems with erosion, as they cause when they do the mountaintop removal, they'll use these gigantic bulldozers to push off all the trees and then burn them.

And when we flew over the Appalachians, and it's a terrifying experience, because you realize only then do you realize how vast the devastation is. Just as when we were both in the war in Bosnia, you couldn't grasp the destruction of ethnic cleansing until you actually flew over Bosnia, and village after village after village had been razed and destroyed.

And the same was true in the Appalachian Mountains. And these people are poisoned. The water is poisoned, it smells, the soil is poisoned. And the people who are making tremendous profits from this don't even live in West Virginia--

Bill Moyers: You said something like, "While the laws are West Virginia are written by the coal companies, 95 percent of those coal companies--"

Chris Hedges: Right.

Bill Moyers: "--are not in West Virginia."

Chris Hedges: That's right. They no longer want to dig down for the coal, and so they're blowing the top 400 feet off of mountains poisoning the air, poisoning the soil, poisoning the water.

They use some of the largest machines on earth. These draglines, 25-stories tall that are very efficient in terms of ripping out coal seams. But by the time they left, there's just a wasteland. Nothing grows. Some of the richest soil, some of the purest water, and these are the headwaters for much of the East Coast, You are rendering the area moonscape. It becomes inhabitable. And you're destroying you know, these are the lungs of the Eastern seaboard. It's all destroyed and it's not coming back.

And that violence is visited on these communities. And you see it played out. I mean, Camden, New Jersey, which is the poorest city per capita in the United States and always, the one or two in terms of the most dangerous, it's a dead city. There's nothing left. There is no employment. Whole blocks are abandoned. The only thing functioning are open-air drug markets, of which there are about a hundred.

And you're talking third or fourth generation of people trapped in these internal colonies. They can't get out, they can't get credit. And what that does to your dignity, your self-esteem, your sense of self-worth.

BILL MOYERS I was struck by your saying Camden is "beset with the corruption and brutal police repression reminiscent of the despotic regimes that you covered as a correspondent for the New York Times in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America." You describe a city where the per capital income is $ll,967. Large swaths of the city, as Joe Sacco Shows us, are abandoned, windowless brick factories, forlorn warehouses.

Chris Hedges: At one point in the 50s, it was a huge shipyard that employed 36,000 people. Campbell's Soup was made there, RCA used to be there. But there were a variety of businesses it attracted in that great migration a lot of unskilled labor from the South, as well as immigrants from New York

Because without an education, it was a place that you could find a job. It was unionized, of course, so people had adequate wages and some protection. And then it just-- everything went down. With the flight of manufacturing overseas.

It's all gone. Nothing remains. And that's why it's such a stark example of what we've done to ourselves, without realizing that the manufacturing base of any country is absolutely vital to its health. Not only in terms of its economic, but in terms of its, you know, the cohesion of a society because it gives employment.

Bill Moyers: But give me a thumbnail sketch of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Chris Hedges: Well, Pine Ridge is where it began, Western exploitation. And it was the railroad companies that did it. They wanted the land, they took the land, the government gave them the land. It either gave it to them or sold it to them very cheaply. They slaughtered the buffalo herds, they broke these people. Forcing a people that had not been part of a wage economy to become part of a wage economy, upending the traditional values.

And it really is about the maximization of profit, it really is about the commodification of everything, including human beings. And this was certainly true in the western wars.

And it's appalling. You know, the average life expectancy for a male in Pine Ridge is 48. That is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. At any one time, 60 percent of the dwellings do not have electricity or water.

Bill Moyers: You write of one tiny village, tiny village, with four liquor stores. And that dispense the equivalent of 13,500--

Chris Hedges: Right.

Bill Moyers: --cans of beer a day. And with devastating results.

Chris Hedges: Yes. And they start young and some estimates run that, you know, alcoholism is as high as 80 percent. This contributes, of course, to early death. That's in Whiteclay, Nebraska. There is no liquor that is legally sold on the reservation, itself. But Whiteclay is about two miles from Pine Ridge. And that's where people go. They call it "going south." And that's all they do, is sell liquor.

That's true everywhere. You build a kind of dependency which destroys self-efficiency. I mean, that's what the old Indian agencies were set up to do. You take away the livelihood, you take away the buffalo herds, you make it impossible to sustain yourself, and then you have lines of people waiting for lard, flour, and you know, whisky.

And that has been true in West Virginia. That's certainly true in Camden. And it is a form of disempowerment. It is a form of keeping people essentially, at a subsistence level, and yet dependent on the very structures of power that are destroying them.

Bill Moyers: One of the most forlorn portraits is in your description of Immokalee, Florida. You describe Immokalee as a town filled with desperately poor single men.

Chris Hedges: Most of them have come across the border illegally. Come up from Central America and Mexico, especially after the passage of NAFTA. Because this destroyed subsistence farms in Mexico, the big agro businesses were able to flood the Mexican market with cheap corn. Estimates run as high as three million farmers were bankrupt, and where did they go? They crossed the border into the United States and in desperate search for work. They were lured into the produce fields. And they send what money they can, usually about $100 a month home to support their wives and children.

Bill Moyers: And they make $11,000, $12,000--

Chris Hedges: At best.

Chris Hedges: It's brutal work, physically.

Bill Moyers: Yeah.

Chris Hedges: But they're also exposed to all sorts of chemicals and pesticides. And it's very hard to show the effects because as these workers age, you know, they're bent over eight, ten hours a day. So they have tremendous back problems. And by the time they're in their thirties, the crew leaders, they'll actually line up in these big parking lots at about 4:00 in the morning, the busses will come.

They just won't pick the older men. And so they become destitute. And they go back home physically broken. And it's hard to tell, you know, how poisoned they've become, because they're hard to trace. But clearly that is a big issue. They talk about rashes, respiratory, you know, not being able to breathe, coughing, it's really, you know, a frightening window into the primacy of profit over human dignity and human life.

Bill Moyers: Fit this all together for me. What does the suffering of the Native American on the Pine Ridge Reservation have to do with the unemployed coal miner in West Virginia have to do with the inner-city African American in Camden have to do with the single man working for minimum wage or less in Immokalee, Florida? What ties that all together?

Chris Hedges: Greed. It's greed over human life. And it's the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings. That's a common thread. We, in that biblical term, we forgot our neighbor. And because we forgot our neighbor in Pine Ridge, because we forgot our neighbor in Camden, in Southern West Virginia, in the produce fields, these forces have now turned on us. They went first, and we're next. And that's--

Bill Moyers: What do you mean we're next?

Chris Hedges: Well, the--

Bill Moyers: We being—

Chris Hedges: Two-thirds of this country. We are rapidly replicating that totalitarian vision of George Orwell in "1984." We have an inner sanctum, inner party of 2 percent or 3 percent, an outer party of corporate managers, of 12 percent, and the rest of us are proles. I mean--
Bill Moyers: Proles being?

Chris Hedges: Being an underclass that is hanging on by their fingertips. And this is already very far advanced. I mean, numbers, I mean, 47 million Americans depending on food stamps, six million exclusively on food stamps, one million people a year going filing for personal bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills, six million people pushed out of their houses.

Long-term unemployment or underemployment-- you know, probably being 17 to 20 percent. This is an estimate by "The L.A. Times" rather than the official nine percent. I mean, the average worker at Wal-Mart works 28 hours a week, but their wages put them below the poverty line. Which is why when you work at Wal-Mart, they'll give you applications for food stamps, so we can help as a government subsidize the family fortune of the Walton family.

It's, you know these corporations know only one word, and that's more. And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.

Bill Moyers: And you say, though, we are accomplices in our own demise. Explain that paradox. That corporations are causing this, but we are cooperating with them.

Chris Hedges: This sort of notion that the corporate value of greed is good. I mean, these deformed values have sort of seeped down within the society at large. And they're corporate values, they're not American values.

I mean, American values were effectively destroyed by Madison Avenue when, after world war one, it began to instill consumption as a kind of inner compulsion. But old values of thrift, of self-effacement, or hard work were replaced with this cult of the "self", this hedonism.

And in that sense, you know, we have become complicit, because we've accepted this as a kind of natural law. And the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it is going to ultimately trigger our demise. Not only as a culture, not only as a country, but finally as a species that exists, you know, on planet Earth.

Bill Moyers: As we came here, I pulled an article published in "Nature" magazine by a group of rather accomplished and credible scientists who have done all the technical studies they need to do, who come to the conclusion that our planet's ecosystems are careening towards an imminent, irreversible collapse. Once these things happen, planet's ecosystems as we know them, could irreversibly collapse in the proverbial blink of an eye. Connect that to what you've been reporting.

Chris Hedges: Well, because the exploitation of human beings is always accompanied by the exploitation of natural resources, without any thought given to sustainability. I mean, the amount of chemicals and pesticides that are used on the produce in Florida is just terrifying.
And that, you know, migrates from those fields directly to the shelves of our supermarkets and we're consuming it. And corporations have the kind of political clout that they can prevent any kind of investigation or control or regulation of this. And it's, again, it's all for short-term profit at long-term expense.

So the, you know, the very forces that we document in this book are the same forces that are responsible for destroying the ecosystem itself. We are watching these corporate forces, which are supranational. They have no loyalty to the nation state at all, reconfigure the global economy into a form of neo-feudalism. We are rapidly becoming an oligarchic state with an incredibly wealthy class of overlords.

Sheldon Wolin writes about this in "Democracy Incorporated" into what I would call, what he calls inverted totalitarianism, whereby it's not classical totalitarianism, it doesn't find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader, but through the anonymity of the corporate state that purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the iconography and language of American patriotism, and yet internally have seized all of the levers of power. This is what it means when lobbyists write all of our legislation, or when they stack the Supreme Court with people who serve the interests of corporations. And it's to render the citizen impotent.

Bill Moyers: And what is it, you think, led us to this point of this mind-boggling inequality, mind-boggling consumption, which obviously many of us like, or we wouldn't be participating? And the grip that money has on politics? What are the forces that got us to this?

Chris Hedges: I think it began after World War I. You know, Dwight McDonald writes about how after World War I, American society became enveloped in what he called the psychosis of permanent war, where in the name of anti-Communism, we could effectively banish anyone within the society who questioned power in a serious kind of way.

And of course, we destroyed populist and radical movements, which have always broadened democracy within American society, it's something Howard Zinn wrote quite powerfully about in "A People's History of the United States." It has been a long struggle, whether it's the abolitionist movement that fought slavery, whether it's the suffragists for women's rights, the labor movement, or the civil rights movement. And these forces have the ability to essentially destroy those movements, including labor unions, which made the middle class possible in this country. And have rendered us powerless. And--

Bill Moyers: Except for the power of the pen. You keep writing, you keep speaking, you keep agitating.

Chris Hedges: I do, but, you know, things aren't getting better. And I think, you know, like you, I come out of the seminary, and I look less on my ability to effect change and understand it more as a kind of moral responsibility to resist these forces. Which I think in theological terms are forces of death. And to fight to protect, preserve, and nurture life.

But you know, as my friend, Father Daniel Berrigan says, you know, "We're called to do the good, or at least the good insofar as we can determine it. And then we have to let it go." Faith is the belief that it goes somewhere.

Bill Moyers: So let's talk about you. You've been showing up in the news as well as well as just reporting the news, you took part in that mock trial down at Goldman Sachs.

Chris Hedges: Goldman Sachs is an institution that worships death, the forces of Thanatos, of greed, of exploitation, of destruction.

Bill Moyers: And I still remember the picture of you and the others sitting down, locking arms, and blocking the interests of the company. What was that about?

Chris Hedges: That was personal for me. Goldman Sachs runs one of the largest commodities index in the world. And I've spent 20 years in places like Africa, and I know what happens when wheat prices increase by 100 percent. Children starve. And I knew I was going to get arrested because, you know, I was, I covered the famine in Sudan and was in these huge U.N. tents and feeding stations trying to save.

And you know, the people who die in famines were usually elderly and children. The place was, I mean, everyone had tuberculosis. I have scars in my lungs from tuberculosis, which I successfully fought off. And those are sort of the whispers of the dead. All those children and others who couldn't didn't have the ability to go in front of a place like Goldman Sachs and condemn them.

Bill Moyers: But surely those people, as you were arrested, there were people working for Goldman Sachs looking down from the windows--

Chris Hedges: They were taking pictures--

Bill Moyers: Taking pictures, laughing. Surely you don't think they would wish that outcome in Africa or anywhere else, right?

Chris Hedges: Well, it's moral fragmentation. I mean, they blind themselves to what they do all day long, and they define themselves as good human beings by other criteria, because they're a good father or a good husband or because they go to church. But it is that human trait to engage in what I would have to describe as a system of evil. And yet, look at it as just a job.

Bill Moyers: But are we all then therefore, and I come back to this, aren't we all part of this system that in some way produces Pine Ridge, Immokalee, the coal fields, the inner-cities, and the starving children in Africa? Aren't we all who have jobs and participate in the culture and are in the economic game, aren't we all, in a way, as complicit as those people looking down on you from those windows at Goldman Sachs?

Chris Hedges: No. Because you know, the people who actually run the commodities index are very tiny, elite, and extremely wealthy group. And they're highly compensated. These people make hundreds of thousands, often millions of dollars a year. And most of us don't make that. And that personal enrichment, I think, is a powerful inducement to ignore their complicity in what is clearly a crime against other human beings.

Bill Moyers: But do you think what you did made any difference? Goldman Sachs hasn't changed.

Chris Hedges: Well, that doesn't matter. I did what I had to do. I did what I believed I should've done. And faith is a belief that it does make a difference, even if all of the empirical signs around you point otherwise. I think that fundamentally is what faith is about. And I'm not a very good Christian anymore. But I retain enough of my Christian heritage and my seminary training to still believe that.

Bill Moyers: What are you?

Chris Hedges: A, you know, a sinner.

Bill Moyers: Welcome to the clan.

Chris Hedges: You know, a doubter.

Bill Moyers: But you're driven by something. I mean, I talked to you when you wrote your first and remarkable book "War is the Force that Gives Us Meaning." I haven't seen anyone as affected in their life after their experience as a journalist as you had been. I mean, there have been others, I just don't know them. But somehow what you're doing today goes back to what you saw and did and felt and experienced in all those years you were overseas and on the frontiers of trouble.

Chris Hedges: Well, because when you spend that long on the outer reaches of empire, you understand the cruelty of empire, what Conrad calls, "The horror, the horror." And the lies that we tell ourselves about what is done in our name. Whether that's in Gaza, whether that's in Iraq, whether that's in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, El Salvador, I mean, there's a long list.
And when you come back from the outer reaches of empire, you are, and I think, you know, many combat veterans feel this who come back, you're forever alienated. And you to speak a very unpleasant truth about who we are, a truth that most people don't want to hear. And yet I think to hold that truth in and to remain silent and not to speak that truth destroys you.

That it's better to get up and speak it even as you correctly point out, you know that Goldman Sachs, you know, everyone at Goldman Sachs gets up the next morning and does it. I mean, this was also true as a war correspondent. I mean, the Serbs would kill.

They'd block all the roads into the village, we'd walk in with our satellite phones, we'd file it, we never believe they weren't going to do it again the next day. But somehow not to chronicle it, not to take the risks to report it, was to be complicit in that killing. And I think that same kind of thought goes into what's happening here.

Bill Moyers: But do you think taking sides marginalizes your journalism? I mean, when you were being arrested, and some businessman was quoted in the paper passing by and looking at those of you being carried away and said, "Bunch of idiots." He needs to hear what you, read what you say. Do you think he will once he knows you've taken sides?
Chris Hedges: Well, I think that in life we always have to take sides.

Bill Moyers: Do journalists always have to take sides?

Chris Hedges: Yes. Journalists always do take sides. You know, you've been a journalist a long time. The idea that there's something objective and impartial is just a lie. We sell it. But I can take the same set of facts-- I was a newspaper reporter for a long time, and I can spin that story one way or another. We manipulate facts. That's what we do. And I think that the really great journalists--

Bill Moyers: Not necessarily to deceive though. Some do, I know, but--

Chris Hedges: Right, but we do.

Bill Moyers: We choose the facts we want to organize--

Chris Hedges: Of course, it's selective. And it's what facts we choose, how we place, where we put the quotes. And I think the really great journalists, like the great preachers, care fundamentally about truth. And truth and news are not the same thing.

And the really great reporters, and I've seen them, you know, in all sorts of news organizations, are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career.
Bill Moyers: What do you mean truth as opposed to news?

Chris Hedges: Well, let's take the Israel occupation of Gaza. You know, if I had a dinner with any Middle East correspondent who covered Gaza, none of us would have any disagreements about the Israeli behavior in Gaza, which is a collective war crime. And yet to get up and write it and say it within American society is not a career enhancer.

Because there's a powerful Israeli lobby, and it's a lobby that I don't think represents Israel, it represents the right wing of Israel. And you know it. But, the great reporters don't care. And they're there.

But you know, large institutions like "The New York Times" attract huge numbers of careerists like any other large institutions, the Church of course, being no exception. And those are the people who are willing to take moral shortcuts to promote themselves within that institution.
And when somebody becomes a headache, even if they may agree with them, even if they may know that they are speaking a truth, and it puts their career in jeopardy-- they will push them out or silence them.

So I think that one can take sides, and Orwell becomes the kind of model for this. But one can never not tell the truth. And I've often written stories that are not particularly flattering. And there's much in this book about people in Pine Ridge or Camden, you know, that is not flattering. I mean, we're interviewing people that are drug addicts and this kind of stuff. And--

Bill Moyers: Drug dealers--

Chris Hedges: --prostitutes and--

Bill Moyers: Yeah, drug dealers--

Chris Hedges: Yeah.

Bill Moyers: --prostitutes.

Chris Hedges: So we're not, you know, the lie of omission is still a lie. But I don't think any foreign correspondent who covers war, whether it was in Bosnia or whether it was in Sarajevo can be indifferent to the tremendous human suffering before them and not want that human suffering to stop.

Bill Moyers: But there is a price, as you have said, to be paid for stepping outside of the system that enabled your name and reputation and becoming a critic of that system. I mean, what price do you think you've paid?

Chris Hedges: I don't think I paid a price, I think I would've paid a price for staying in. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. You know, I was pushed out of "The New York Times" because I was publicly denouncing the invasion of Iraq. And again, it comes down to that necessity to speak a truth, or at least the truth as far as you can discern it.

I've spent months of my life in Iraq. I knew the instrument of war. I understood in all the ways that this was going be a disaster-- including upsetting the power balance in the Middle East. It's one of the great strategic blunders of the United States, it's empowered Iran. And to remain silent would've been the price. Was it good for my career? Well, of course not.

But my career was never the point. I didn't drive down Mount Igman into Sarajevo when it was being hit with 2,000 shells a day because it was good for my career. I went there because what was happening was a crime against humanity. And as a reporter, I wanted to be there to chronicle it.

Bill Moyers: Well, you should. But, so you don't think journalism is futile?

Chris Hedges: I think journalism is essential. I think it's essential. And we're watching its destruction. You know, journalism, the power of journalism is that it is rooted in verifiable fact. You go out as a reporter, you seek to find out what is factually correct. You crosscheck it with other sources. It's sent to an editor. It's fact-checked, you put it out. That's all vanishing.
That's what we're really losing with journalism. Yes, you know, commercial journalism, there were things they wouldn't write about. You know, as Schanberg says, "The power of great newspapers like "The Times" is that at least it's stopped things from getting worse." I think that's right.

Bill Moyers: But can it make things better? I mean, do you think you can accomplish more as a dissenter, and I look up on you now, when I ask you what's your faith, I think your faith is in dissent, if I may say so. It's in "This far and no further." But do you think you can accomplish as much as a dissenter than as a journalist?

Chris Hedges: Yeah, it's not a question that I've asked. Because the question is, "What do you have to do?" I certainly knew after 15 years at "The New York Times" that running around on national television shows denouncing the war in Iraq was, as a news reporter, tantamount to career suicide. I mean, I was aware of that.

And yet, you know, as Paul Tillich writes about, you know, "Institutions are always inherently demonic, including the Church." And you cannot finally serve the interests of those institutions. That for those who seek the moral life, there will always come a time in which they have to defy even institutions they care about if they are able to retain that moral core. And in essence, what, you know, "The New York Times," or other institutions were asking is that I muzzle myself.

Bill Moyers: But all institutions do that, don't they?

Chris Hedges: All institutions do.

Bill Moyers: Intuitively or explicitly.

Chris Hedges: That's right. And I think for those of us who care about speaking, you know, the truth, you know, or if you want to call it dissent, we are going to have to accept that at one day, there's going probably mean a clash with the very institutions that have nurtured and supported us. And I have been nurtured and supported by these institutions.

Bill Moyers: But your columns, your essays, your recent book, this book, contained repeated calls for uprisings, for civil disobedience. You even say in here, quote, "Revolt is all we have. It is our only hope. It is our only hope." Unpack that from our viewers who are sitting there thinking, "What is he asking me to do? What does he mean by revolt? What's he talking about?"

Chris Hedges: Nonviolence civil disobedience. And accepting the fact that engaging in that process will mean arrest. I've lived in societies that are rent and torn by violence, and I don't want us to go there. And I think that we don't have a lot of time left. And that for those of us who care about veering off into another course, a course that's rational and sane and makes possible the perpetuation of not only the human species but the planet itself, we have to take this kind of radical action. And if we don't, then as things disintegrate and as the paralysis within the centers of power become more and more apparent, then we will fuel very frightening extremes.

You know, again, which I saw in places like Central America or Bosnia. And I look at this as many ways, a kind of, a preventive action. A way to respond peacefully. A way to respond, in a Democratic fashion, to the problems in front of us before it's too late.

Bill Moyers: Bear with me as I explore this, 'cause there's a paradox at two levels. One at a conceptual level, and the other at a practical level. You write in here, "Either you join the revolt or you stand on the wrong side of history. You either obstruct through civil disobedience, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil." But in an early book, "Death of the Liberal Class," which I think is one of your best, you wrote that, "The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that, a fantasy."

Chris Hedges: I wrote that before Occupy. And I was writing out of a kind of belief that this was what was absolutely necessary and yet I saw no signs within the wider society that was happening. And then suddenly, on September 17th, Zuccotti Park appears. And mostly fueled by the young. And I was writing out of a present reality. And I didn't see Zuccotti coming. I was writing out of a kind of despair, for all of the reasons that I said.

Bill Moyers: Why did you take hope from that? Because after you'd been down there? You subsequently write that "By the end, even the most dedicated of the Occupiers in Zuccotti Park burned out."

Chris Hedges: Yeah.

Bill Moyers: "They lost control of the park. The arrival in cold weather of individual tents, along with the numerous street people with mental impairment and addictions," that you're nothing if not honest in what you write, even about those people you support, "tore apart the community. Drug use as well as assaults and altercations became common." So how is that square with what you said earlier that the Occupy Movement gave us a blueprint for how to fight back?

Chris Hedges: Because this is the trajectory of all movements. You know, it's not a linear progression upwards. And the civil rights movement is a perfect example of that. All sorts of failures, whether it's in Albany, Mississippi or anywhere else. You know, there were all sorts of moments within the civil rights movement where King wasn't even sure he was going to be able to hold it together. And what happened in Zuccotti is like what happened in 1765 when they rose up against the Stamp Act.

That became the kind of dress rehearsal for the rebellion of 1775, 1776, 1905. The uprising in Russia became again the kind of dress rehearsal. These movements, this process, it takes a very long time. I think the Occupy was movement and I was there.

I mean, I certainly understand why it imploded and its many faults and how at that size, consensus doesn't work, everything else. And yet it triggered something. It triggered a kind of understanding of systems of power. It, I think, gave people a sense of their own personal power. Once we step out into a group and articulate these injustices and these grievances to a wider public, and of course they resonated with a mainstream. I don't think it's over. I don't know how it's going to mutate and change, one never knows. But, I think that it's imperative that we keep that narrative alive by being out there because things are not getting better.

The state is not responding in a rational way to what's happening. If they really wanted to break the back of the opposition movement, rather than sort of eradicating the 18 encampments, they would've gone back and looked at Roosevelt. There would've been forgiveness of all student debt, $1 trillion, there would've been a massive jobs program targeted at those under the age of 25, and there would've been a moratorium on more closures and bank repossessions of homes.

That would've been a rational response. Instead, the state has decided to speak exclusively in the language of force and violence to try and crush this movement while people continue this dissent.

Bill Moyers: In one of your earlier books, you wrote that, quote, "We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization blink out, and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity." Do you really think that's ahead?

Chris Hedges: If there's not a radical change in the way we relate to the ecosystem that sustains life, yes. And I see, if you ask me to put my money down, I see nothing that indicates that we're preparing to make that change.

Bill Moyers: But here's another paradox then, you present us with a lot of paradoxes. You just-- you and your wife a year and a half ago had your fourth child. How can you introduce another life into so forlorn a future?

Chris Hedges: That's not an easy question to answer. I look at my youngest son, and his favorite book is "Out of the Blue," which are pictures of narwhales and porpoises and dolphins. And I think, "It is most probable that within your lifetime, every single one of those sea creatures will be dead." And in so many ways, I feel that I have to fight for them.

That even if I fail, they'll say, "You know, at least my dad tried." We've deeply betrayed this next generation on so many levels. And I can't argue finally, you know, given the empirical facts in front of us that hope is rational. And I retreat, like so many people in my book, into faith. And a belief that resistance and fighting for life is meaningful even if all of the outward signs around us deny that possibility.

Bill Moyers: That faith in human beings?

Chris Hedges: Faith in that fighting for the sanctity of life is always worth it. Because you know, if we don't fight, then we are finished. Then we signed our own death sentence. And Camus writes about this in "The Rebel," that I think resistance becomes a kind of way of protecting our own worth as an individual, our own dignity, our own self-respect. And I think resistance does always leave open the possibility of change. And if we don't resist, then we've essentially extinguished that hope.

Bill Moyers: H. L. Mencken, the celebrated iconoclast of the early part of the last century once wrote, "The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is more likely one who likes his country more than the rest of us and is those more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debouched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime, he is a good citizen, driven to despair." Is that you?

Chris Hedges: Yeah--

Bill Moyers: A good citizen driven to despair?

Chris Hedges: Yes. And a good citizen driven to despair who will not remain apathetic and passive. And, you know, in every single place that we went to, Camden, West Virginia, Pine Ridge, we found these utterly magnificent human beings. I mean, this woman Lolly in Camden, African American woman, who you know, raised her own children. And I think by the time she was done, 19 others.

Her fiancé was shot and killed, one of her little seven-year-old daughters died of an asthma attack because they didn't have the right medicine. And I said, "Lolly, how do you do it?" And she said, "I never ask why." And when you spend time in the presence of people like that, and they were everywhere you know, they understood what they were up against.

It is deeply empowering. Because not to resist, not to fight back is on a very personal level to betray these people. And when you build relationships, as over the two years Joe and I did, with figures like that, it really, you know, almost comes down to something that simplistic. You can't betray Lolly. You can't betray any of these great figures who've stood up. Because their fight is our fight. And oftentimes they've endured far, far more-- well, they have endured far, far more than I have endured or ever will endure.

Bill Moyers: The Book is, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt." Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. Thank you very much Chris for being with me.

Chris Hedges: Thanks Bill.

Bill Moyers: For all his power of expression, sometimes words fail even Chris Hedges, and a picture can say more in a single frame, well-drawn, than paragraphs of explanation. That's what makes his partnership with graphic artist Joe Sacco on their book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt," so potent and so effective. Joe Sacco has traveled all over the world, using the techniques of the comic book illustrator as a tool of journalism, telling stories with insight and humanity.

Joe Sacco: My name's Joe Sacco and I'm a comics journalist. Drawing really often provides mood and atmosphere, and writing is that sort of precision. The facts. And you can put those two things together with comics, which I think is what makes the medium very powerful.
When I'm in the field, I meet people who are really in hard situations. I'm not interested in tears. I'm not even interested in sentimentality. But I am interested in telling people's stories as well as possible who are oppressed or are poor.

Chris and I had already worked on a magazine piece about Camden and we decided we would expand that. You can read about poverty. You can read about despair. Or you can read about resignation. But to see it is really, it's eye-opening.

I didn't do that many stories in the book, maybe five or six. They all moved me quite a bit. I think the one that was sort of hit me in this way, because it was so unfamiliar to me was the woman who came out from Guatemala, the one that we call Anna in the story.

Her waiting by the phone after her husband had made the long, arduous trip so the United States. Waiting eight days, knowing he had to cross a desert where many people die. And that sort of story really touched me. Because when we think of migrant workers, we can be so dismissive of them. They're just working in a fields. Oh, you see them bent over and they're just doing their job, and you know they're getting minimum wage. And you sort of feel sorry for them in a sense.

But to get a sense of, and to actually hear an individual story like that, for some reason that just really got to me when I was drawing it.

When I was about seven years old. I started drawing stories. Because I liked forms of self-expression and that was just one I never let go of. I never really drew just for the sake of drawing. There always had to be a story to go with it.

A story can be more true if you just let it be told. It's very important for me, with my work, not to create these angelic people. You want to show people as nuts and bolts. Those are the people who seem real. With the Michael Red Cloud's story, a story about his drug dealing days, making big money, partying, having women with him at all times. Now, he wasn't necessarily pleased with how he'd lived his past life, he wasn't. But to me, the idea is just to present the complete human being. You know, he's a real person. I was moved by his story, or I saw the changes that he made through his story. And then you see the hard things in the context of his upbringing, in the context of what was around him, in the context of what he learned from people around him.

You see the commonalities between people who have nothing around them but despair. They are born into a context which simply doesn't provide them opportunities or even the thought of opportunities. To me, it's incumbent upon the journalist to go and see for himself or herself what's actually going on. Journalism to me isn't like a tennis match, where you're just watching the ball, and each side is hitting it, hitting it back and forth to each other.

At some point, you have to arrest where the ball is, and that's where truth is, you know? And like I say, truth doesn't necessarily reside in the middle. And I've always had a problem with journalists who say things like, "Well, I pissed off both sides. I must be doing something right." That is the laziest sort of phrase I've ever heard.

You know, hundreds of stories that still need to be told. I'm interested in sort of answering questions that journalism doesn't really put its finger on.

To me, it's very important to remind ourselves of the costs of what is going on in this world. The human costs.

I feel like I wouldn't be where I need to be for myself if I didn't look to those things, and I didn't face them squarely. I just feel that's who I am, and what I have to do.