Transcript: Steve Bhaerman/Swami Beyondananda. Dubrovnik 01 & 02. Jun 07 2007

Thom was at the Dubrovnik Conference: Transforming Culture: From Empire to Global Community Dubrovnik, Croatia, broadcasting live from the studios of Radio Dubrovnik, Croatian Radio, and comedian Steve Bhaerman was with him in the studio.

Thom Hartmann talks with Steve Bhaerman, 7 June 2007

Thom was at the Dubrovnik Conference: Transforming Culture: From Empire to Global Community Dubrovnik, Croatia, broadcasting live from the studios of Radio Dubrovnik, Croatian Radio, and comedian Steve Bhaerman was with him in the studio.

Steve Bhaerman is an internationally-known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 18 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and has been described both as “comedy disguised as wisdom” and “wisdom disguised as comedy.”

[Thom]: And sitting here in the studio with me Swami Beyonananda, also known as Steven Bhaerman. Hey, Steve.

[Steve]: Well, how are you doing? It's amazing to be here, and be there at the same time.

[Thom]: Yes, we're everywhere, we're everywhere! Steve is sort of a co-host of the conference. You've been introducing folks as well as doing your Swami what would you call it?

[Steve]: Ah, you can call it schtick, you can call it...

[Thom]: I didn't know if that was an insult or not.

[Steve]: No, its ok, I take insults very well. It's schtick, it's comedy, it's cosmic comedy, it's uncommentary. it's sort of like your own commentary.

[Thom]: There you go, there you go. And a lot of interesting things going on. I'm curious about your thoughts on George Bush and Vladimir Putin. I'm assuming you've been following this in the news, this, this, you know what I'm talking about.

[Steve]: No, you know, in fact, we've been in Europe. News, we've been news free for about a week. We've been news free.

[Thom]: Oh, you have? Well, let me fill you in, then.

[Steve]: Fill me in, fill me in, yeah.

[Thom]: Bush, of course, starts out by going, "Well, we don't think that Russia's becoming very democratic, and we're all worried about that, and we're going to put missiles in Czechoslovakia, by the way and point them at wherever we happen to point them, you know". And Putin says, "You're not putting missiles in my back yard".

[Steve]: You're not Putin' them here.

[Thom]: Yeah, so Putin is basically doing, is taking the position that John Kennedy took during the Cuban missile crisis. You know, "what, you're going to put missiles a hundred miles from my back door?" And Bush is going "Yeah, it's going to be fine, we're buddies".

[Steve]: Amazing, just amazing. Well, you know, there's kind of a disfunction at the junction going on right now.

[Thom]: Yeah, yeah.

[Steve]: We're getting to see that play out.

[Thom]: And what Bush, I think, doesn't realize, is that Vladimir Putin is a very serious guy; a professional killer, a man who actually brags about the fact that he can and has killed people with his bare hands. He's a martial arts expert, former head of the KGB. I mean, and George thinks he's just another frat boy.

[Steve]: Yeah, exactly. Mano a mano with Putin would be very interesting.

[Thom]: Yeah, it's, and watching, what's particularly interesting is watching the news here in the hotel, watching BBC and CNN International, and CNN International's so completely different than any other form of CNN that you ever see. It's actually news.

[Steve]: Well you know the joke is, and it's not really a joke, is that the difference between America now and the Soviet Union during the era of the Soviet Union was that people in Russia knew that Pravda wasn't telling them the truth.

[Thom]: Yeah. In fact there's an old joke; Pravda means news and Isvestia means truth, or else it's the other way around, I forget. Those are the two main news sources. And the saying used to be, 'there's no pravda in Isvestia

and no isvestia in Pravda.

[Steve]: Yeah, exactly.

[Thom]: And so, you know, there it goes, and on it continues. So, anyhow, here we are, we're broadcasting live from Dubrovnik, Croatia. We are having a problem, I don't know if it's the right word, but we're not connected to the Internet, so our normal ability to drop into the chat room and say hi, Sue Nethercott is here with us who runs the chat room, she's not able to get in, I'm not able to get in. Our ability to connect with the software in New York that allows us to put callers on the air is not working. But we can still put folks on the air; we're just going to have to do it through New York and Alex and Lauren and excuse me, Chris and Lauren in New York will be telling us, you know, who's where, and what, probably during the breaks, and things like that. So, the show today is going to be a little more on the fly than normal.

[Steve]: You know, it's great that you, yourself, are a multinational right now.

[Thom]: Yeah. How's that?

[Steve]: Well, you're in Dubrovnik, you've got New York, you normally have somebody in England who's doing the chat room.

[Thom]: Yeah, although she's here, yeah. And Louise is here with me too, and we're having a fine old time. It's fascinating, and the other news of the day, this, there's an article over on the Daily Kos and there's a link to it off the Think Progress, the Center for American Progress's blog, is the discovery of Karl Rove's playbook. I think this is really fascinating. That going back some twenty years or so ago, there was this plan to politicize the federal government during the Nixon administration and to basically take the civil service apparatus and

turn it into a party apparatus for the Republican Party, and it was never successfully executed. and it's what Karl Rove has been doing. And blow by blow and it's really, really quite startling. Next week when we get back into the States and I have access to all the documents and everything, I wanna share with you all more of the detail of it, because I think this is frankly, I think this is one of the biggest and most startling stories that we have come across this month, and something that's, you know, really worthy of getting into some more detail about.

So, the conference here, and Steve, your role in the conference, your thoughts on the conference? Last night we heard from a historian, an historian, a local guy, he's actually educated in the United States; MA and Ph.D. from Columbia as I recall, or Princeton, or something like that. [Ivo Banac].

[Steve]: And he teaches at Yale as a matter of fact, and commutes.

[Thom]: Yeah.

[Steve]: He's in the parliament here and he commutes to teach at Yale.

[Thom]: Yeah, interesting, a member of the Croatian parliament. And he was talking, I mean, he started with the history in the 12th century up through today but this whole concept of one of the things I thought was most interesting was one of the questions that was asked of him was, 'how is the transition from communism to capitalism going here?' Because prior to 1991 or 1990, prior to the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the various, the five or six states here that make, made up Yugoslavia that now are independent states were operating in this kind of old Marxist fashion where, now, they had a variation of it, here that Tito imposed in the 1950s that was different than most of the other soviet states where they had what they called public property in addition to state property and private property. There was this third category of public property which in theory sounded very nice, but in practice didn't work particularly well. And somebody asked him, 'you know, how did the transition from a state run economy, or a demand economy, yeah, a state run economy -- the state owning the means of production and supply and distribution -- to a more laissez-faire capitalist economy happen, how did it work out?'

And he said it was very poorly done, actually. He said that the only state of all the former soviet states that did it more poorly was Russia. And the reason why was because, in some of the countries, in many of the countries, what they did was they took all the state enterprises and they said, 'OK, what's the value of all these state enterprises?' let's say it's a billion dollars. And let's say there's a hundred million people, so that's $10 per person. So everybody gets a coupon worth $10, and, or, you know, get's a coupon, gets 50 coupons worth $10, or whatever the devisor is, and in other words, everybody gets their share of what the state owns. And they can sell it, they can convert it into stock, they can use it to buy private land, they can do whatever, but basically the state becomes the peoples'. Whereas in Croatia and in Russia, it was handled more in a quick auction fashion where good buddies of the political structure were able to go to the banks which were run by the local good buddies of the political structure, and borrow money that didn't exist, you know, in other words they just borrow against assets that they didn't have, in order to buy the assets from the state that they could then sell to multinational corporations or to other good buddies of theirs and then pay back the loans. And so you ended up with an oligarchy.

[Steve]: Well, that sounds like Texas after the S&L scandal.

[Thom]: Yeah, you know, actually...

[Steve]: I lived in Texas right around that time, and if you were an insider, you got property at a steal that you could turn around at a huge profit, sort of like some people around 1929.

[Thom]: Yeah. Those who actually made out around 1929. Yeah, Joe Kennedy, Gloria Swanson used to tell me stories about Joe Kennedy, who she ultimately rather disliked strongly, shall we say. But yeah, and a number of people made out very well during the great depression, and so anyhow, interesting to see how these transitions occur and how things are being played out and the hope for a more democratic and egalitarian society. And it seems to be moving in that direction here.

Anyhow, it's the Thom Hartmann radio program here on Air America radio. We're broadcasting live today from Dubrovnik Croatia at the Praxis Peace Conference, and we'll be having a few people drop by...


[Thom]: We're broadcasting live from Dubrovnik Croatia, the Praxis Peace Conference and Swami Beyondananda, also known as Steve Bhaerman, with us. Steve, you had some observations you wanted to share.

[Steve]: Yeah, one of the things we've been talking about at the conference, of course, is how culture effects politics, and it seems to me that we are now in a culture of division and separation which the powers that be in power seem to enjoy, because if we can be polarized into the red tribe and the blue tribe, then we, it keeps us from communicating with one another and we also don't really know what's true. I call it privatized truth, and we were talking about Karl Rove earlier and it seems that the interest of those folks is to really make sure that people don't know what's true. So when you don't know what's true, then anything could be true or nothing could be true and so everything is in question, and so when there are people who do have integrity and they're in politics, which is not a contradiction in terms necessarily, people tend to just expect they're going to be corrupt, they're going to be cynical about that, and so when there's actually real goodness,

it's hard for us to discern that.

[Thom]: And therefore?

[Steve]: And therefore, we are basically kept in the dark and we don't get to trust our own instincts. We're inundated with so much information, misinformation, distracting information, that we end up, and particularly when there's fear involved, as we, one of the speakers at the conference was talking about what happens when we are given fearful messages, and we go out of our fore brain into our hind brain, into our fight-or-flight mechanism and it actually makes us less intelligent.

[Thom]: Yeah, yeah, and the whole thing of fear as an instrument as power, I thought that was, it's interesting that people hear; we're commenting about how George Bush has been using fear as an instrument of power back in the United States, and how relatively horrified people in Europe are by that. It's interesting.

In fact, Mike in Los Angeles has some thoughts on Vlad Putin and George W. Bush. Hey, Mike. Thanks for calling. What's up?

[Mike]: Yeah, you were talking about in Washington we have a concentration of power in the realm of financial capital of lobbyists. The missile systems in the United States and throughout the world are another illustration of the concentration of power usurping the so-called public interest, and Putin is showing that the president is either dishonest or confessing his total ignorance on national, international security issues and terrorism with his so-called 'we need these missiles' because they are impotent to future threats, whether it be from Islamic jihad, or the so-called Iranians handing them over to terrorists, how are all these new missiles going to protect us from that?

[Thom]: Right.

[Mike]: So, you know, Putin makes an outstanding argument that Bush is just completely egalitarian. He's going to rule by terror.

[Thom]: Yeah, it seems that way, and there has been, you know, 'yes, we're going to put missiles here, and they might kind of point in the direction of Russia, and we're going to use those missiles to stop guys with box cutters from hijacking our airplanes'.

[Mike]: Russia's right, It's the biggest joke of the year, and the other point is that Bush says that Russia is, needs more time for capitalism to develop in their country, but what we're seeing in Russia right now is capitalism in its most advanced state, with no regulation. That's why they're such a basket case.

[Thom]: Yeah.

[Mike]: There's no coordination or anything. It's a rogue system; not that the Russians are, but their system is.

[Thom]: Yeah, it's laissez-faire capitalism run amuck, and it's actually, you know, what scholars of capitalism pretty much have predicted. Mike, thanks for the call.

[Mike]: Thank you.

[Thom]: Well said.

And you're nodding, Steve.

[Steve]: Well yeah, I mean, it seems that what we call capitalism has kind of deteriorated into 'lowest common dominator', so to speak.

[Thom]: Yeah.

[Steve]: Yeah, whoever owns, when you combine the power of power and the power of money, which is what's happened in this country, which is why as you say in your book "Screwed", why there is a diminishing middle class and we're essentially being re-colonized.

[Thom]: Yeah. This is where we need some new terms. I mean, I am really fond of the phrase, 'free enterprise'. I think that, you know, we should somehow figure out a way. You know, it's like Karl Marx brought a new lexicon, you know, and others over time have brought a new lexicon, but somehow capitalism seems sacrosanct. Like, 'you can't attack capitalism', and the fact of the matter is, that raw capitalism, naked capitalism, laissez-faire capitalism is ultimately, and always has been demonstrated to be a force of plutocracy and aristocracy and yet at the same time, regulated capitalism works, and works frankly quite well. I mean, it's built a reasonably good society in the United States.

You look at the European countries, particularly the northern European countries, it's working very, very well in Sweden, for example, in Norway and other Scandinavian countries. And so, but that distinction, it's a really tough one to make, you know. How do you explain the difference between these things to people when you're trying to? And so, maybe we, I've always thought that just, you know, referring to regulated capitalism as free enterprise. which is frankly what Teddy Roosevelt did; Teddy Roosevelt used to refer to free enterprise all the time.

And then his distant cousin Franklin came along and said, free enterprise has become unfair enterprise; too free. And, which was an interesting take beyond the take. But so anyhow,

it's 27 minutes past the hour. Thom Hartmann here with you, broadcasting live from Dubrovnik, Croatia. David Korten, Frances Moore Lappé, Swami Beyondananda, Steve Bhaerman, whole bunch of us here. We'll be right back.

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