Born Under Punches: Ryan Social Security Ideas Trace To Brutal Military Dictatorship
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 09:02:57 AM EST
[image, right: Gen. Augusto Pinochet (bottom) and fellow Chilean military officers whose 1973 coup launched a dictatorship that pioneered both a pension privatization approach favored by Paul Ryan, and also cutting-edge torture techniques later used at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq]
"The victims were humiliated, threatened, and beaten; exposed to extreme cold, to heat and the sun until they became dehydrated; to thirst, hunger, sleep deprivation; they were submerged in water mixed with sewage to the point of asphyxiation; electric shocks were applied to the most sensitive parts of their bodies; they were sexually humiliated, if not raped by men and animals, or forced to witness the rape and torture of their loved ones."

-- From the Valech Commission Report, on torture under the regime of Augusto Pinochet

While the Republican Party and its wealthy plutocrat backers have been accused of waging an elitist virtual war against the American majority, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have financial and ideological ties to rich Latin American elites who have waged real wars against average citizens in their countries.

The anti-democratic ethos of today's GOP, displayed in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's apparent contempt for 47% of U.S. citizens, is reflected in the origins of Mitt Romney's private equity firm Bain Capital, which was founded with money from Central American financiers linked to government-backed death squads in El Salvador. Paul Ryan's budgetary ideas have a similarly dark origin, in the paradigmatic case of what author Naomi Klein has dubbed "The Shock Doctrine".

In August 2012, Republican political consultant Roger Stone made the accusation that the billionaire libertarian Koch Brothers had bought Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate, by offering to kick in $100 million more for "independent expenditures" in the 2012 presidential election.

While the charge may never be substantiated, Paul Ryan is one of the few elected officials allowed into the inner sanctum of the Koch brothers and their fellow libertarian big money donor circle.

It is also the case that Paul Ryan's Social Security privatization ideas closely track Koch Brother schemes promoted from the Koch-funded libertarian Cato Institute since 1980, over three decades ago - before Ryan had even hit puberty. Cato's website currently features the ringing endorsement of Paul Ryan,

"Ryan is an articulate defender of free enterprise, and he consistently argues not just for the practical advantages of smaller government but also about the moral imperative to cut... if the next administration is Republican, and if it decides it wants to push major reforms, Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to lead the charge."

In 2005 Congressman Paul Ryan led a failed Republican legislative push for a Social Security privatization plan that also later popped up in Ryan's 2010 "Roadmap For America's Future". This centerpiece of Ryan's budgetary vision traces back to a vicious war on the poor and middle class that was waged over three decades ago by a South American police state.  

The conceptual basis of Ryan's Social Security privatization approach was hatched as the Piñera plan that was implemented under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

The Pinochet regime honed many of the techniques later used at the Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq, was known to dispose of its unwanted citizens by throwing them out helicopters into the sea, and ran a transnational terrorism syndicate that murdered thousands and has been accused of a 1976 car bombing assassination in Washington D.C.

While the Piñera plan sought to eliminate wealth redistribution under the old pre-Pinochet Chilean pension system - by jump-starting a new pension system under which Chileans began investing in private sector pension accounts - by 2006, by broad Chilean public consensus, the original Piñera Plan was considered to be a failure and in 2008 it was substantially modified by new legislation.

A report on the Chilean pension reform from the U.S. Social Security Administration explained, "The cornerstone of the new law sets up a basic universal pension as a supplement to the individual accounts system." As the the New York Times described in an April 2008 story, Chile's new law was a dramatic move away from radical libertarian privatization:    

"Chile is undertaking its biggest overhaul ever of its pioneering private pension system, adding sweeping public payouts for the low-income elderly.

The new $2 billion-a-year program will expand public pensions to groups left out by private pensions - the poor and self-employed, homewives, street vendors and farmers who saved little for retirement - granting about a quarter of the nation's work force public pensions by 2012."

Even as political pressure to overhaul the Chilean pension system was building, in 2005 under the George W. Bush Administration Paul Ryan spearheaded an attempt to pass legislation that would have imposed a modified version of the Piñera Plan on Americans.

A Long-Expected Birthday Party  

On February 2, 2005, at a Washington, D.C. celebration of the 100th anniversary of libertarian guru Ayn Rand's birthday, held by the Rand-devoted Atlas Society, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan declared his fealty to the guiding principles of Rand, founder of a cultic school of thought known as Objectivism, which holds up selfishness as the highest moral virtue.

Ryan was introduced by Atlas Society Director of Advocacy Ed Hudgins, who told the audience of Ayn Rand admirers,

"He is best known for his efforts in the fight to reform Social Security by allowing the expanded use of individual retirement accounts. Now, I don't know whether you [Ryan] use the 'privatization' word. We here have no problem with that [Ryan overheard laughing] but sometimes you have to do a little bit of a soft sell up there, because many members of Congress are not quite as as far-thinking as Congressman Ryan."

In his speech to the Atlas Society Ryan confessed to the assembled true believers, "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." Then he addressed his 2005 attempt to pass legislation privatizing Social Security.

In Ayn Rand's view, the paramount good is individualism, the paramount evil collectivism. Ryan told his audience,

"The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism... when you look at the fight that we're in here in Capital Hill, it's a tough fight... there is no more fight that is more obvious between the differences of these two conflicts than Social Security. Social Security right now is a collectivist system, it's a welfare transfer system."

Moments later, as he declared, "what's important is if we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing social security", Ryan could be heard laughing while the Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins, also laughing, interjected, "personalizing".

After the mirthful outburst, Ryan continued, "personalizing social security," (to laughter and applause, this time from the audience,) "think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist."

"Personalizing", it was clear, was a thinly veiled code word for "privatizing" and later,
during a question-and-answer period, the specific model for that project became clear: it was privatization under the vicious, bloody Latin American military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

As the Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins told the audience, with Paul Ryan enthusiastically interjecting,

"By the way, I just want to add real quickly, and I know the Congressman has I'm sure said this.  [General Augusto Pinochet's Secretary of Labor and Social Security] José Piñera, who helped privatize Social Security in Chile, who also was by the way an Ayn Rand fan--José points out the moral revolution that occurs with privatization, that is, people in Chile, you know, who thought of themselves as Marxist suddenly feel that they are owners of property [Ryan "Yeah"] and, you know, they literally get up and they start reading the Chilean equivalent of the Wall Street Journal [Ryan interjects, "That's right"]."

After his talk, during a question-and-answer period, Ryan coached the libertarian audience on how they could best lobby Congress in favor of the 2005 legislative effort, which failed after meeting stiff Democratic Party opposition, to begin privatizing social security along the lines of José Piñera's Chilean Model.  

The Chilean Model

There was more to the "moral revolution", that Ed Hudgins and Paul Ryan agreed had followed in the wake of pension privatization in Chile, than petite bourgeoisie pension fund investors reading their Chilean "Wall Street Journals".

In 1970, Chilean physicist and politician Salvador Allende, a professed marxist, won Chile's presidency in a close three-way race. Recently declassified documents reveal a massive campaign of economic sabotage was soon initiated at the command of U.S. president Richard Nixon, who ordered his operatives to "make the [Chilean] economy scream". By 1973, amidst economic disruption and growing public protest, the Chilean military took action.  

On September 11, 1973, in an U.S.-encouraged military coup, Chilean Air Force warplanes began bombing and strafing the National Palace, Allende's governmental headquarters; amidst a firefight, as coup forces moved in, president Allende committed suicide to avoid capture.

A military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet - who considered himself to be guided by the hand of God, commenced; over the course of his regime thousands of Chileans suspected of socialist or leftist leanings were rounded up and executed.

And, in over 1,000 secret detention facilities across the country, tens of thousands of men, women, and children (by some scholarly estimates between 1.5 and 3 percent of Chile's population) were subjected by authorities to brutal beatings, sexual abuses (sometimes involving animals), electroshock, psychological torture, and even medical torture, in a pattern that foreshadowed abuses at the American-run prison at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq. It was especially hard on women; years later, a governmental commission would report that female prisoners were routinely, repeatedly, raped*.  

Meanwhile, American-trained economists, dominated by the privatization-obsessed "Chicago School" moved in. In Chile after the 1973 coup, the nation would become a forced libertarian experiment, imposed at gunpoint, in neo-liberal, free-market privatization. Leading the charge was José Piñera, now Co-chairman of the Project on Social Security Choice at the Libertarian Cato Institute.

The "Chilean model" has been showcased so aggressively by libertarian economists and think tanks such as the Cato Institute, as a shining example of privatization, that it's difficult to find analysis even mildly critical of the torture regime-backed experiment amidst the copious pro-privatization propaganda that populates Internet searches on the subject.

And José Piñera  - who has built an international career advising governments, such as South Korea, on how to privatize their pension systems - vigorously denies the documented extent of the the shocking human rights abuses that went on in Chile while he treated the nation as a personal privatization laboratory.

In an article posted since 2005 on his website, Piñera claimed that General Pinochet's bloody coup - which is now acknowledged to have begun with a mass execution of Chileans held at Santiago's national sports stadium - was necessary because President Allende had violated the Chilean constitution, and because, alleges Piñera, socialist and communist factions backing Allende were planning a campaign of political violence.

In a 2005 Mother Jones story, writer Barbara T. Dreyfuss adds, 'In another piece, he [Piñera] claims that "there was not a systematic policy of eliminating political opponents. Most of the casualties were people using violence to oppose the new government." '

But Piñera's desperate public relations bid was overwhelmed by horrific facts that emerged as Chile sought to wrestle with its dark, recent past  In 2003, Chilean President Patricio Aylwin established Chile's National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, to investigate and document the Pinochet regime's human rights abuses and, in November 2004, the Valech Commission released its first 1200-page report, which stated that during the Pinochet regime,

"[torture was] used as a tool for political control through suffering. Irrespective of any possible direct or indirect participation in acts that could be construed as illegal, the State resorted to torture during the entire period of the military regime. Torture sought to instill fear, to force people to submit, to obtain information, to destroy an individual's capacity for moral, physical, psychological, and political resistance and opposition to the military regime. In order to "soften people up"--according to the torturers' slang--they used different forms of torture.... The victims were humiliated, threatened, and beaten; exposed to extreme cold, to heat and the sun until they became dehydrated; to thirst, hunger, sleep deprivation; they were submerged in water mixed with sewage to the point of asphyxiation; electric shocks were applied to the most sensitive parts of their bodies; they were sexually humiliated, if not raped by men and animals, or forced to witness the rape and torture of their loved ones."

Also in 2004, the government of Chile officially announced a policy of paying reparations to victims of the Pinochet regime and a Chilean judge indicted Pinochet for crimes that included murder and kidnapping.

A February 7, 2007 Harvard Crimson story, Torture Under Pinochet, covered more of the horrific details:

The [Chilean governmental] Report of the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture was commissioned in 2003 to create the most comprehensive list possible of those who were imprisoned and tortured for political reasons during the military dictatorship from September 1973 to March 1990...

...The Commission took testimony from 35,868 individuals who were tortured or imprisoned improperly. Of those, 27,255 were verified and included. An unknown number of victims did not come forward to give testimony. Scholars estimate that the real number is between 150,000 and 300,000 victims.

94 per cent of the verified testimonies include incidents of torture. The short list of methods includes repeated kicking or hitting, intentional physical scarring, forcing victims to maintain certain positions, electric shocks to sensitive areas, threats, mock execution, humiliation, forced nudity, sexual assault, witnessing the torture or execution of others, forced Russian roulette, asphyxiation, and imprisonment in inhumane conditions. There are many individuals with permanently distorted limbs or other disfigurations...

For women, it was an especially violent experience. The commission reports that nearly every female prisoner was the victim of repeated rape. The perpetration of this crime took many forms, from military men raping women themselves to the use of foreign objects on victims. Numerous women (and men) report spiders or live rats being implanted into their orifices. One woman wrote, "I was raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats. They forced me to have sex with my father and brother who were also detained. I also had to listen to my father and brother being tortured." Her experiences were mirrored by those of many other women who told their stories to the commission.

But the crimes of the Pinochet regime were not limited to the sort of horrific domestic human rights abuses chronicled in the over 27,000 confirmed cases of imprisonment and torture documented in the Valech Commission report; as described in a 2005 story by Peter Kornblah, writing for The Nation, on December 13, 2004, at a press conference, Chilean judge Juan Guzmán,

"announced that he had ordered Pinochet placed under house arrest and indicted for nine disappearances and one murder relating to Operation Condor--a Chilean-led consortium of secret police agencies that conducted hundreds of acts of state-sponsored terrorism in the Southern Cone and around the world in the mid- and late 1970s. Gasps echoed through the hall, then a ripple of applause, and then the sound of shrieks and tears as those who had lost husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, during Pinochet's seventeen-year regime reacted."

Within a few years of the initial coup, Pinochet's Chile had launched a United States-assisted transnational terrorism syndicate, operating across Latin America's Southern Cone but with operations on other continents as well, known as Operation Condor.

Under Condor, citizens from countries in South America's Central Cone region were abducted, secretly imprisoned, tortured, and murdered or "disappeared" - sometimes by pushing the drugged victims out of planes and helicopters into the ocean. Condor's reach extended even into the domestic United States. The program has been credited with the notorious 1976 car bombing assassination, in Washington D.C.'s Sheridan Circle, of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier.

According to an Operation Condor internal document archive discovered in the early 1990s, by its own accounting the terrorism syndicate, secretly backed by the United States, may have murdered an many as 50,000 people, "disappeared" 30,000, and imprisoned 400,000 others.  

The Piñera Plan

As described in his bio at the website of the Koch brothers-funded Cato Institute, José Piñera "is co-chairman of Cato's Project on Social Security Choice and Founder and President of the International Center for Pension Reform. Formerly Chile's Secretary of Labor and Social Security."

Noisily touted by Cato as the architect of Chile's "successful" pension reform, Piñera has for over a decade and a half been in the forefront of the Koch brothers-backed project of eliminating (privatizing) the American Social Security system. In 2005, under the presidential administration of George W. Bush, Congressman Paul Ryan led a failed push in Congress to legislate a Piñera privatization scheme. According to a 2005 Mother Jones story, that scheme,

"may have had its start on a yacht off the Italian island of Elba in June 1997. As the vessel cruised the Tyrrhenian Sea, José Piñera, once the labor minister for Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, told another passenger--a close friend of Bush's--how he had taken Chile's equivalent of Social Security private. Two months later, Piñera got an invitation to the Texas governor's mansion, where he dined with Bush and Ed Crane, founder and president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C. Afterward, says Crane, they retired to the library for further discussion about privatization."

1997 was the year that José Piñera, backed by the Koch brothers, began ramping up a push for privatizing the U.S. social security system. In a December 17, 1997 Investor's Business Daily op-ed (reprinted at the Cato Institute website, Piñera aired the subject, before a sympathetic audience,

"America's Social Security system will go bust in 2010. As political leaders scramble to save it, they've overlooked an obvious free-market solution that works. They need only look at Chile.

Pay-as-you-go social security systems destroy the link between contributions and benefits, between effort and reward... That's why pay-as-you-go plans are going bankrupt all over the world.

Chile faced that problem in the late '70s. As secretary of labor and social security, I could have postponed the crisis by playing at the edges, increasing payroll taxes a little and slashing benefits a little. But instead of making some cosmetic adjustments, I decided to undertake a structural reform that would solve the problem once and for all...

Could something like this be done in the U.S.? People have said it's utopian and that nobody in the establishment would support privatization, but I believe the situation is changing."

Privatization under Pinochet entailed much more than the Chilean pension system. The first task following the Pinochet coup (besides wholesale imprisonment, execution, and torture of perceived opponents of the regime) was, according to Mother Jones' Barbara T. Dreyfuss, labor reform: "Piñera drafted a major labor law that--while touted as finally granting Chile's repressed workers legal rights--severely restricted organizing, striking, and wage negotiating".

Piñera was only one of a gaggle of neo-liberal laissez-faire American-trained economists who descended upon Chile, to turn the nation into a vast experiment in radical privatization.

In 1975, Milton Friedman went to Chile to advise the Pinochet government on "shock treatment" to right the Chilean economy and, as NYU Latin American History professor Greg Grandin, author of Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, describes,

"A month after Friedman's visit, the Chilean junta announced that inflation would be stopped "at any cost." The regime cut government spending twenty-seven percent, practically shuttered the national mint, and set fire to bundles of escudos. The state divested from the banking system and deregulated finance, including interest rates. It slashed import tariffs, freed prices on over 2000 products, and removed restrictions against foreign investments. Pinochet pulled Chile out of a number of alliances with neighboring countries intended to promote regional industrialization, turning his country into a gateway for the introduction of cheap goods into Latin America. Tens of thousands of public workers lost their jobs as the government auctioned off, in what amounted to a spectacular transfer of wealth to the private sector, over four hundred state industries. Multinationals were not only granted the right to repatriate one hundred percent of their profits, but were given guaranteed exchange rates to help them do so. In order to build investor confidence, the escudo was fixed to the dollar. Within four years, nearly thirty percent of all property expropriated not just under Allende but under a previous Alliance for Progress land reform was returned to previous owners. New laws treated labor like any other "free" commodity, sweeping away four decades of progressive union legislation. Health care was privatized, as was the public pension fund."

At first, the results of this "shock treatment" were disastrous - "GNP plummeted thirteen percent, industrial production fell 28 percent, and purchasing power collapsed to forty percent of its 1970 level. One national business after another went bankrupt. Unemployment soared", recounts Grandin.

In 1978, the economy had begun to grow again, in a three-year bubble fueled by by foreign investment. At the height of the bubble in 1981, Chile adopted Jose Piñera's new pension reform scheme that, according to Barbara Dreyfuss,

"required all new workers to sign up for private pension accounts and offered financial incentives for those in the public retirement system to switch.

The transition was expensive and funded by slashing government programs, selling off state-owned industries, selling bonds to the new pension funds, and raising taxes."

Driving the new growth was a speculative bubble, especially in the newly-deregulated banking sector, driven by massive influx of foreign investment. In 1982, the economy collapsed again. As Greg Grandin describes,

"The crisis forced the state, dusting off laws still on the books from the Allende period, to take over nearly seventy percent of the banking system and reimpose controls on finance, industry, prices and wages. Turning to the IMF for a bailout, Pinochet extended a public guarantee to repay foreign creditors and banks. "

Milton Friedman was far from the only libertarian-leaning economist smitten by the "Chilean model". As Greg Grandin details, the arch-libertarian economist Friedrich Von Hayek, whose 1944 book Road To Serfdom claimed that government central planning led to tyranny and enslavement of the common man, was impressed by Pinochet's methods:

[Hayek] visited Pinochet's Chile a number of times. He was so impressed that he held a meeting of his famed Société Mont Pélérin there. He even recommended Chile to Thatcher as a model to complete her free-market revolution. The Prime Minister, at the nadir of Chile's 1982 financial collapse, agreed that Chile represented a "remarkable success" but believed that Britain's "democratic institutions and the need for a high degree of consent" make "some of the measures" taken by Pinochet "quite unacceptable." "

Despite the Chilean economic collapse, rich libertarian American social engineers, apparently untroubled by the admiration evinced by top libertarian thinkers such as Hayek for savage autocratic regimes, were laying policy groundwork to bring Jose Piñera's Chilean "miracle" to the United States.

Paul Ryan's social security ideas have followed a strategy put forth in 1983 by the Cato Institute (originally founded in 1974 as the Charles Koch Foundation) which advised those who wanted to eliminate social security to think like communist revolutionaries, and neutralize the political opposition; social security privatization schemes would only be politically viable if they grandfathered in retirees already receiving benefits and working adults close to retirement age.  

In an article (PDF file of article) published in the Fall 1983 issue of The Cato Journal, 'Achieving a "Leninist" Strategy', Cato members Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis, positing that government programs like Social Security were as doomed in the same manner as Marx and Lenin believed that capitalism as doomed - inevitably fated to collapse under its own inherent contradictions - wrote,

"as we contemplate basic reforms of the Social Security system, we would do well to draw a few lesson from the Leninist strategy... if we are to achieve basic changes in the system, we must first prepare the political ground... we must recognize that there is a firm coalition behind the current Social Security system... before Social Security can be reformed, we must begin to divide this coalition and cast doubt on the picture of reality it presents to the general public."

In a subsection titled Calming Existing Beneficiaries, Butler and Germanis wrote, "The sine qua non of any successful Social Security reform strategy must be an assurance to those already retired or nearing retirement that their benefits will be paid in full."

That strategy, of calming existing beneficiaries by guaranteeing (grandfathering) their benefits has been a major component of Social Security privatization schemes from Jose Piñera's Chilean plan up to present plans, such as Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan's budget "roadmap".

Indeed, Paul Ryan's proposed four-decade budget plan, "The Path To Prosperity", bears a certain overall resemblance to the radical experiment in government privatization in Chile under Pinochet as well -- while it cuts government much more slowly than the Pinochet approach, Ryan's draconian budget plan all-but annihilates non-defense government spending: the 'compassionate' slow road to radical libertarian government under which every citizen, even the poorest, becomes a venture capitalist who can bootstrap out of poverty through the miracle of the marketplace.

Devil in the details

To be fair, as a pension system approach the Piñera plan does not require the sort of mass executions, torture, and police-state levels of repression that came with the original plan in Chile. Many democracies have since adopted, without bloodshed, variants of Piñera's approach. But at the minimum, Piñera-style approaches do require political honesty. Here's why:

In short, there is no free lunch. The current American social security system is what is known as a "paygo" system: money gets paid in, from employed workers, and it goes out, to retirees.

For advocates of radical, laissez-faire privatization under the sway of Ayn Rand's ideas, such as Piñera and the Chicago School, Paygo systems are anathema, to begin with, because they are moderately redistributive and do not tap the investment potential of the free market.

Piñera's plan set up private investment accounts for Chileans, under a limited number of investment portfolio options. That dramatically reduced the amount of money flowing into Chile's grandfathered "paygo" system. To make up the difference, Chile's government held a massive fire sale of government assets, and dramatically cut all government expenses.

In short, Pinochet's Chile opted to take the national and governmental financial hit that the Piñera plan required all at once, whereas the Ryan social security plan, which would by the fourth decade cut government spending by 90%, would stretch out the financial hit over four decades.

History has shown that, while the Piñera approach can be quite viable, it works best in countries with a broad political consensus and a relatively even level of income distribution -- both of which the United States currently lack.

There's another interesting point too - the original Piñera plan, and the accompanying attempt at radical libertarian economic privatization, didn't work out too well in Chile.

Ironically, privatized pension fund systems tend to cost much more, in administrative overhead, than government-run paygo systems, and the government-approved private pension funds under the Piñera Plan tended to take a substantial bite of investor's money.

Two decades into the "experiment", many retirees on the plan were discovering, to their dismay, that their privatize pension fund investments only paid half of what retirees on the grandfathered government "paygo" system were getting in retirement benefits.

Further, only about half of Chileans were covered under either system. By 2006, Chile's hybrid pension system had become so inequitable and dysfunctional that, by bipartisan Chilean political agreement, the system underwent a major overhaul, to add major subsidies for the poor.

So, the irony is that the radically laissez faire privatization scheme favored by Paul Ryan no longer even exists in Chile. In its pure libertarian form, the original Chilean pension privatization scheme, which featured no economic redistribution whatsoever, failed - at least according to Chilean popular consensus  

Moreover, implementing Chilean pension privatization was only possible under a draconian torture regime that, because of its brutal disregard for its own people and democracy, was able to make radical, disruptive structural changes to Chile's economy.

Three decades later, those changes have helped create, despite high rates of economic growth, some of the worst income inequality in South America. By some accounts, Chile has bifurcated into two nations - one rich, one poor, with two school systems.

For the past two years Chile has seen widespread protests over perceived inequality in Chile's education system, that was also partially privatized under Pinochet.


In 2008, according to a leaked Wikileaks U.S. diplomatic cable dated December 18, 2008, Paul Ryan visited Chile. The cable states, "Rep. Ryan noted he was impressed with the Chilean pension system."

"The Shock Doctrine" is extremely hard to read not only because it is a tale of so much evil triumphant all over the world, but because the triumphant evil was planned with premeditation and malice aforethought. It was planned from a handful of malevolent minds; it was not a difference of opinion on how to do good; it was and is a desire to do harm to every "life not worth living", which is most of us. The increasing insistance on positions known to be objectionable to most of us- at this point, especially women, whom such minds perceive to be weak; gay people, still partly outcast, and Muslims, frightfully easy to "other", but increasingly including more and more- bothers me. Before the Pinochet coup, the intimidating slogan, "Jakarta is coming", began appearing in red on the walls. I wonder if what we're seeing isn't, "Santiago is coming".

by Rey Mohammed on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 11:01:08 AM EST

I hadn't realized (or perhaps I simply forgot) that the coup began on September 11, 1973.  Hmmm -- where have I heard September 11 before.

I actually did a fair amount of research on Chile in 1986 for a class project when I was working on my Masters of Management a the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, I worked on a hypothetical "political risk assessment" for "foreign direct investment.  What was spooky was that, following the guidelines for assessment, Chile was a GREAT place for U.S. companies to invest because it was so "under control."  (Pinochet was still in power.)

Being a compulsive researcher, I did a lot of extra research on "The Chicago Boys" -- economists from the University of Chicago -- who advised Pinochet on "fixing" the economy (Allende had nationalized the copper mining industry, but more as a regulated monopoly).  Since my brother was, at the time, attending University of Chicago, I wangled an invite to the "Objectionists Club" -- the Ayn Rand accolytes and junkies.

Although many of my classmates to Northwestern left me cold, the Quants (for Quantitative) at U of C inhabited a far deeper level of Hell.

I think that this was the beginning of my decision, after I got my Masters, to do something that wasn't totally money-oriented, Masters of the Universe oriented, even though I was offered several very lucrative positions doing stuff like political risk assessment (some of the companies that wanted me are companies that have since been accused of serious human rights abuses in third-world countries -- so I am SO glad I dodged that bullet, because I probably would have ratted them out and been "disappeared" by some of the genuinely scary people some corporations have on retainer.  

I ended up in environmental consulting and I work with communities to help them understand environmental issues and help them weigh in on permitting and cleanup decisions and the like, which would no doubt make the Objectivists retch.

Thank you for writing this article.   I guess because my life went in a different direction, I hadn't really made the connection between the brutality of Chile, "The Chicago Boys/Ayn Rand/ Objectivists," or the serious erosion of moral and ethical behavior under the Republicans.  

by coralsea on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 08:36:51 PM EST

I got into studying the mess of U.S. involvement in Latin America in the early-mid 80s but then dropped out of political engagement for almost 2 decades. Returning to the subject, I was astounded to learn of the docs. on Condor that have since surfaced.

This was the sort of story that, I suspect, few will read. But once I started it, I was compelled to take the project through to the end. It seemed important.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:49:59 PM EST

Yes -- often when one scratches the surface or digs a bit deeper, what one finds can be pretty awful.  And the propensity for "normal" people to go "la, la, la" and figure that none of this stuff could REALLY be happening is astonishing.

I wrote an article on how competitive interests often intrude into environmental issues that came as a total shock to a lot of people (this was a sanitized article -- most of the really scary stuff was omitted because it had been settled out of court or I knew of it because of confidential communications).  The reactions were interesting.  One industry guy had me give a presentation to an industry group on it because he saw it as a major disgrace -- companies saying that they were good environmental stewards and then hiring PR firms to perpetrate dirty tricks through front groups.  

I also presented on this topic at an EPA conference.  Interestingly, some of the agency folks there just flat out said they didn't believe this could be true (while others breathlessly told me about other such incidents).  I was also "approached" by some guy who was involved in "private security" after another session I did on understanding communities and engagin stakeholders (I developed my own model initially based of the model I learned for assessing political risk for off-shore investing) who backed me into a corner and demanded to know, "Who trained you?"  I don't know why he was at the EPA conference, other than that some of the companies involved in "fracking" refer to difficult community residents and officials as "insurgents" and have been hiring former military "ops" people to "neutralize" them.

If you want to see the article, it is the second one down on www.rosehillcommunications/publications.html
It's called "Hidden Agendas:....(can never remember the rest of it).

I am really glad you wrote the article on Chile.  I was wondering where your expertise had come from and find it interesting that it was rather like mine -- something you had researched years ago but hadn't kept up with.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 03:43:16 PM EST

...I knew a little bit, but mainly this was new territory for me; I felt I needed to do it though, especially because I'm tracing the arc of Low Intensity Conflict ideas and practices, from the Southern Cone in the 70s/80s, then into Central Am. (where the religious right become part of the story) then across the Atlantic to East/Central Africa.

The level of hidden/obscured evil - abuse of human rights - inherent is extreme, and almost none of the real story gets into MSM or even mainline left/liberal publications.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 05:49:35 PM EST

I am unfortunately aware of some of these abuses -- primarily on the part of some business interests who are willing to do whatever they think they have to do in order to get access to natural resources.  But one hand washes the other.  You might try looking at how the two "forces" have worked together.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:14:51 PM EST
In, for example, the DR Congo it gets very complex, with endless quasi-independent militias - which often serve as proxies for governments and business interests. And lots of NGOs, some of which have, to say the least, murky agendas (Invisible Children comes to mind). And the U.S.'s Africom, which works rather closely with nations that have dismal (horrific even) human rights records (Uganda, for example).

Last year, Oxfam put out a report on how a British corporation was starting up tree farms in Northern Uganda, as part of a carbon-offset business. Oxfam reported that 20,000 people or more got evicted from their homes and lands, houses and crops burned by Ugandan police and military. Uganda retaliated by threatening to kick Oxfam out of the country.

Anyway, that was an aside - even though the DR Congo, East/Central Africa story is vastly complex, I've found a useful way of looking at it is to turn off the soundtrack produced by media, many NGOs, and governments and simply pay attention to the underlying reality that 1) human rights get trampled, lots of people get killed, entire areas get depopulated and 2) resources flow out, to the West, 3) regardless of endless rhetoric about human rights, the abuses continue.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 12:35:40 PM EST

I have to agree with your assessment.  It seems there are two modes of operating in third-world countries (or, increasingly, poor or rural parts of the U.S.): give lip service to human rights and/or the environment and make a few donations, then stripmine the hell out of everything and disappear anyone who complains, or not bother with the lip service or donations and just stripmine the hell out of everything and disappear anyone who complains.

by coralsea on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 06:20:40 PM EST
If a developer decides that he or she wants a piece of property to "make a profit off of", they are just as bad to the poor people living on that section of land.

It used to be very common in Florida to hear of families evicted from their homes and then the homes bulldozed... because of things like "mobile home park owner didn't maintain the septic system properly".  Then a rich developer was given the land and they made a killing.  In one case that I'm familiar with (and one of my professors investigated and fought against), that was the reason - people's possessions were taken from their homes and left on the side of the road, but were unguarded and the owners were not permitted to return to the area that night (and stuff was looted or destroyed).  The next day they started bulldozing everything.

The mobile homes were privately owned.  Most of the people lost everything, and only a handful managed to salvage a couple of things from what the looters left.

The city offered them something like $500 apiece and sent them on their way.

The good news on that one is that the park owner (long story, but innocent) fought the city and the land is tied up so that the developers can't touch it - it's sitting there barren and empty.

I can get the name of the mobile home park if needed, and maybe even some of the documentation backing up what I've just related.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 11:31:55 AM EST

Yes -- unfortunately, this sort of thing happens -- especially to people who are poor or of color or rural.  Some of the stuff going on with the "mountain-top-removal" mining is beyond appalling, but not that much is written on it.  I guess we can't badmouth private development without being considered "communists."

by coralsea on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 10:37:14 AM EST
has a fair amount to say about the mountaintop removal.

When I took the course, it was one of the topics discussed.

Beyond appalling is right.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 07:03:39 PM EST

Just from my survey of the problem, focusing on East/Central Africa starting around early 2009, I'm horrified but also stumped. To see such big forces (Hollywood, State Dept., CIA, military, major NGOs, on and on) complicit is these abuses is deeply disturbing. For some reason, I thought we had moved beyond such things.

Influential, wealthy people who think of themselves as good and benevolent are caught up in the machine. Occasionally, a few bits of truth slip through, in spite of all this -- but only a few, and they are almost never stitched together into a narrative that gets any traction.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 09:20:44 PM EST

Bruce -- I think you caught the jist of this with your second paragraph.  There was a time in the 1990s when I thought that, in regard to environmental protection, we had crossed a threshhold.  Companies were working with environmental advocacy groups and the EPA as well as their communities on reducing emissions and on reducing the risk of chemical accidents.  A specific EPA program, the Risk Management Program, required facilities that had chemicals that could cause harm outside their fence lines if they were released in a catastrophic accident were required to communicate about this to the public and to their local emergency responders (many facilities had never actively worked with their local fire departments, even though they stored air toxics on site).  A lot of the big industry players were content to go along with emissions reductions to combat climate change and had already spent billions to comply.

Then Bush came into office, the public utilities screeched about not wanting to comply with climate change regulations (the regulations were phased in by industrial sector, and the public utilities were up next).  So he caved, said climate change was bunk (much to the horror of those in industry who had already agreed to comply), and 9/11 happened, and the concept of communities knowing anything about chemical risk in nearby facilities all went out the window.

Since then, it has been a feeding frenzy to see who can get out of complying with as many regulations as possible -- and to heck with human health or the environment.

It's like a sickness -- and all of these "infected" people and organizations are doing any horrid thing they can to cash in.  Very, very sad and unsettling.

by coralsea on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 11:58:27 AM EST

I still have a headache today, so I messed up on the web address for the Hidden Agendas article:

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 03:45:18 PM EST

Oh, dear!  I shouldn't write posts during migraines.  It was, of course, the Objectivists club, not the Objectionist club (although I do "object" to their barfy beliefs and mentality).


by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 12:16:16 PM EST

They object to government but don't provide a reasonable or sane alternative.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:47:22 PM EST
Government by tantrum.

Business by tantrum, as well.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 03:27:38 PM EST

it would be helpful to know the source of those harrowing illustrations.

by Rey Mohammed on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 10:15:00 AM EST
...torture under Pinochet - I couldn't tell whether these were from an actual torture manual or from a report documenting the sorts of torture used under Pinochet.

But they did accurately depict the methods of torture used -- which, as I mentioned bear a shocking resemblance to some of the methods used at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq. That's no accident.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:55:02 PM EST

They are from La Represión en Chile: Los Hechos, by María Eugenia Rojas, Madrid: 1988.

To us, it seems impossible that anyone could do such things to other human beings. The key to that, of course, is that the torturers do not regard their victims as human beings...nor as animals, but simultaneously as subhuman and anti-human. We have already heard that talk here...the very poor, who are of no concern; the 47%, who are not to be catered to. Santiago could be nearer than we think.

by Rey Mohammed on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 07:25:03 PM EST

 La Represión Política En Chile: Los Hechos

by Rey Mohammed on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 04:17:58 AM EST

Santiago is close -- neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have decisively repudiated these amoral methods.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 09:16:47 PM EST

What really bothers me is that all of this has not even begun to show on the mainstream press.  If it wasn't for sites like this and a couple of others, I would barely be aware of a fraction of what is going on, especially in this election.  Leah Burton's list ( ), for instance, illustrates just how many of our congresscritters are dominionist, and that many of the wannabes (all Republican as far as I can tell) also are dominionist.  Yet when I've mentioned some of the well-documented issues that need to be dealt with, they've been dismissed as fake or "conspiracy-theory stuff" by some of the more highly-placed Democrats, who view the whole thing as "politics as usual, but with a bit more vitriol".  They dismiss blogs like this one with the same language as they dismiss the Birther nonsense.

I've written our local paper about it, and basically told one of the editors that if they don't report on the facts and keep trying to be "balanced" - which is always so unfairly and unethically "balanced" in favor of the Republicans, that each employee of the news media will be responsible if this election is stolen... which is where it seems to be headed (from my point of view in a dominionist-dominated area).

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 11:48:29 AM EST

I agree with you on this.  I don't know that I would really comprehend the extent of the threat--or what these folks are actually seeking to do--if I didn't have family members involved (which, of course, makes me cringe).

We have a "spirit mapper" in the neighborhood who is also just an all-around crank (she informed me that the sundial in my front garden is "satanic" because it uses a shadow to tell time.  She also has told me that my garden is "satanic" because it attracts "stinging insects."  Fortunately, she no longer comes to my door to proselytize because of some active wasp nests I have allowed to flourish near my front door.  The wasps don't bother me -- but they have also managed to repel the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, which is all to the good.) People in my neighborhood think she is JUST a crank.  They don't understand the larger ramifications.

I also find it astonishing how many people think Ayn Rand is a great pro-business conservative, and have no idea just how repellent her philosophy was.  Frankly, you have to be a sociopath to go along with her ideas.

I hope you are wrong about the election.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 12:26:08 PM EST


by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:56:47 PM EST

That lady is the type of person who would become the neighborhood snitch in a dictatorship.

by Villabolo on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 02:58:33 PM EST

I know the type really well.  Demonic sundial, indeed!  We've got young-earthers next door, but the good news is that they're pissed off at me because they learned two years plus ago that I'd taught evolution... and haven't spoken to me but once since then (and that obviously unwillingly).

(I wonder how she'd react to our black-furred kitties.)

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 06:44:30 PM EST

Or is it that the sundial looks vaguely symbolic, and is therefore threatening to those who view anything but overtly Christian symbolism as satanic ?

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 07:23:05 PM EST
My neighbor declared the sundial to be "Satanic" because in order to tell time, the fin or stick or whatever, casts a shadow (scary music plays) over the face of the sundial.  And as everyone knows, shadows are, ah, ah, -- well they aren't good, I can tell you that!

So you can see why I hide behind my wasp nests, although it doesn't stop this neighbor from occasionally sitting in my driveway and praying or invoking or something.

What is ironic is that she identified several houses on our street has possessing satanic presences, however, despite my being a Pagan (I don't advertise this), my house wasn't one of the ones identified, despite the wasps and bees and promiscuous display of prairie plants and sundial.

Bob -- the whole young earth/anti-evolution thing just drives me nuts.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:24:25 PM EST

...the modes of quasi-logic employed by the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 09:35:55 AM EST
things like that all the time around here, back when I was in the Assemblies (from preachers and the "more spiritual" people), and still heard of similar things after I'd walked and was in the Episcopal church.

They got us into a situation one time where we were coerced into going to a "Spiritual Deliverance Service" at the local AoG megachurch (about 4-5 years after we were married).  They wanted us to separate because "You have a family spirit!".  We refused and even refused to sit apart from each other, and then got up and walked out.  (We were forced to agree to attend the service, but we didn't say we'd stay for the whole thing.  The people involved - steeplejacked Episcopalians, were fit to be tied, but couldn't do a thing because of it.)  That wasn't the first time they tried to break up our marriage.  The reason?  One of those "spiritual people" had "Prophesied" that "God wants you to stay single all your life!".  (I also learned that they'd been blocking me from dating or developing relationships.)

Of course, the NAR pretty much was spawned by the Assemblies of God, and at least in this state, they're almost synonymous.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 11:15:45 AM EST


I suspect Steve Hassan would have something to say about that, and I suspect the word "cult" or "cultic" might be involved.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 09:02:15 PM EST

All of this talk about my Satanic sundial is reminding me that I will have to reset it (move the base a bit) when we go off Daylight Savings the weekend after this upcoming one.

I wouldn't want the neighborhood demons to be confused regarding the time of day.

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:31:21 PM EST

...I think that, with all the rape gaffes, it is coming to be accepted that many Republicans are truly at war against women's reproductive rights.

That amounts to, this election, a major indictment of the Thomas Frank "What's The Matter With Kansas" argument that the GOP simply manipulates the religious right to vote against its own economic interests and never delivers on "culture war" issues ; the religious right now is, to a fair extent, the GOP. Secular Republicans are going the way of the Dodo.

My point is this - if Romney and characters like Mourdock and Akin get elected this year, that will be in spite of such misogynistic positions, not because of them. These positions are politically dysfunctional. But, they do give the "base" what it wants. Frank was wrong.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 02:05:42 PM EST

They've sure motivated their opposition, and I'm glad for that.

It could be - and I hope I'm right - that their words are so far over the top that it's woke up a lot of snoozers.  I know that many of the churches believe what they've prattled... I remember the blame game spouted in the Assemblies against women when I was there (she must have asked for it... because she didn't wear a long ugly dress and she had the gall to wear makeup and be out alone after dark!), as well as having heard some of this stuff about rape even then.  

Maybe they WANT to believe it... because it means no child support (or jail time).

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 06:17:55 PM EST

I am extremely upset with white-wine dribblers, who refuse to see the seriousness of the way things are trending.

by Rey Mohammed on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:39:10 PM EST
Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones.  Came across a great twist on an old quote that describes many of the "followers:"

"When facism comes to America, it will be wrapped in layers of excess fat and carrying mis-spelled signs."

by coralsea on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 03:53:03 PM EST

I think the 'original' may not have been from Sinclair Lewis but on this case that matters not.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 09:05:09 PM EST

If I recall correctly, The Christic Institute was working on investigating the assassinations of Ronnie Moffatt and Orlando Letalier when it was shut down by Reagan's right-wing judges for coming too close to the truth on the drug ring/Contra funding scandal. Way too many criminals associated with that hornet's nest escaped any kind of justice. I wonder where Christic Institute archives are now, and what they would reveal 25 years later.

I need to go back and reread Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's "Low Intensity Conflict: War Against the Poor." It seems to me that the tactics being taught by the CIA and used in Central America in the '80's and early '90's may be providing a blueprint for what the religious right has in mind if Romney/Ryan take office.

by MLouise on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 04:50:57 PM EST
Yes, will LOC come to America? Some might argue it's already here in some form.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 05:51:23 PM EST
It was published by Orbis, which is the Maryknoll press. ISBN 0-88344-589-1, copyright 1989. We used it in Project Via Crucis for delegate training when we were doing short term accompaniment in El Salvador. And I reversed the title and subtitle. It's "War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith." I just looked on, and there are a number of booksellers that offer it, both new and used.

Nelson-Pallmeyer lived and worked in both Nicaragua and El Salvador through much of the '80's and '90's. The last time I heard, he was teaching conflict resolution at a university in Minnesota. In 2008 he ran against Al Franken in the senatorial primary election.

by MLouise on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 10:17:42 PM EST
Sometimes I feel that the importance of a book varies inversely in proportion to its popularity.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 09:37:19 AM EST
Yes, it is a small book, but was significant in the Central America solidarity movement twenty years ago. In 1992 he published another volume titled "Brave New World Order" which did an excellent job of explaining how neoliberal economics were devastating developing countries ~ again, with focus on Central America. His main thesis was that the wars had not ended, merely shifted from torture, disappearances, and assassinations to economic strangulation.

He's written several more books since then, but I've found them disappointing. They read more like collections of classroom lectures, with a lot of repetition and lack of clear structure. It takes a substantial amount of wading through chaff to get to the nourishing kernels of thought. A really good editor could have been of great assistance.

by MLouise on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 10:05:04 AM EST
while working on my M.A. (focus on poverty and race), Africa is neck-and-neck with South America for the war on the poor and the destructive effect of neoliberal thought.

It was so bad that one of my professors remarked "In every country that had a subsistence economy (aka "needs met plus some for sale or trade") and was pushed to a market economy, the people suffered and became much poorer, the environment was devastated, and only a tiny number of people became far richer!".  We had the readings (ethnographic accounts, research articles, and so on) to back that up.  Most of the countries where that happened used to export food, but now needed to import food to survive.

People in this country have expressed wonder at why the people in other countries hate neoliberalism (I've heard them - but it's been years), but they haven't experienced the fallout and suffering brought on by that horrific ideology.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 09:57:32 AM EST
Parent teasing out how evangelism can fit in to accelerate that destructive arc.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 05:15:05 PM EST

Indeed, I think that is what they have in mind for us.

by Rey Mohammed on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 07:30:36 PM EST

Here is the answer. m=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CB4QFj AA& e%2Fno-time-for-bullies-baboons-retool-their-culture.html%3Fpagew anted%3Dall%26src%3Dpm&ei=PfyJUO2TJcfhiwK38YCgCg&usg=AFQj CNFAQMJeAi0b2zC1g34krLtCMAlcCA&sig2=vQ7HAc8wMOEKsJrhJjY5hg

by Villabolo on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 11:01:04 PM EST
Can you give us something usable?

by Rey Mohammed on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 10:10:43 AM EST
Parent oons-retool-their-culture.html

It's a fascinating story, which gives some hope.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 01:51:42 PM EST

That is indeed quite interesting, and merits continued funding and research.

We've known that stress on a culture can lead to violence, but to have stress suddenly reduced and then a reaction like that - it's going to take some thinking.

Competition vs Cooperation - both drives are known in primates.  I'd also be curious to see if down the road physiological changes also start taking place.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 06:50:33 PM EST

A bit reminiscent of the monkeys on an island / magical cultural transmission story the "100th Monkey", but I think this one is grounded in rigorous empiricism rather than hype.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 07:17:44 PM EST

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