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Friday, July 29, 2011

The Corporatocracy Systematically Destroying the American Middle Class

My Budget 360

The Corporatocracy Systematically Destroying the American Middle Class: In 40 Years the Corporatocracy has Shifted Americans from a Sustainable Middle Class to a Perpetual Cycle of Debt Serfdom.

The biggest scam of the century is making a full conclusion with this deep recession. What made America the envy of the entire world, a strong and vibrant middle class, is being quickly dismantled so the new order of corporate raiders can siphon off life support from the productive economy. Nothing highlights this grand robbery more so than the current situation of our country. For eight straight months foreclosure filings have hit 300,000 or more yet banks on Wall Street are gearing up for record yearend bonuses for a job well done. The average American is seeing the culmination of 40 years of systematic leeching by the corporatocracy that culminated in the largest transfer of wealth in modern history. A bloodless coup that cemented the true nature of our current economic system.

People wonder why I focus so much on the middle class of America. This is what has been the fundamental difference between our country and other economic systems. A vibrant middle class that provided adequate housing, a decent education, and a road to sustainable wealth. This was built on the backs of a productive economy. But over the last 40 years we have seen much of the true wealth shift to Wall Street and the financial sector and that has largely eroded the value of what it means to be middle class. The new system is designed for the few and by the few. The new financial regulation being touted as the most sweeping since the Great Depression is woefully weak. Yet this is merely a reflection of the power of the corporatocracy. We really have the best government money can buy.

Critics always point to the rising household wages since the 1970s. Yet there is a big problem with this argument since this has occurred with the growth of the two income household:


*Source: Elizabeth Warren

If we factor out men from the data, the average American male is now making $800 less in inflation adjusted terms than his counterpart in 1970. So even though income for households has gone up the data is misleading. Americans now have a harder time keeping the pillars of middle class life intact. If we had to sum it up it would probably be:

-A good home to raise a family

-Access to a good education

-Quality healthcare

-A decent retirement

The above is still accessible but it has become harder to maintain. A solid pension and healthcare used to be provided to workers by companies. That is now gone. Income is only one side of the equation of course. Where do people now spend their money? If we look at the data closely Americans now spend less in clothing, food, and appliances than their 1970s comparison group. This has much to do with cheap goods from abroad and more competition globally. So this is good right? It is but these are more of the smaller line item purchases that Americans make. The biggest purchases include housing and this is a cost that has gone up exponentially:


Housing has gone up 100% in terms of cost for the typical family. Health insurance is now up 103%. Childcare, a more daily need for two income households, has gone up as well since Americans many times need two incomes merely to break into the more elusive middle class. The items that have fallen are largely adjustable and elastic substitutes. For example, you can have macaroni and cheese instead of a steak. Everyone needs shelter whether they buy or rent.

The gigantic housing bubble has only pushed the tide out further to reveal the disappearing middle class. If we break down the data further from a study examining the middle class we find that fixed costs are now through the roof. What is more troubling is that even with two incomes, the ability to sustain a middle class lifestyle has actually gone backwards:


Source: Rortybomb

There is also more volatility on income security. Wall Street and the corporatocracy are running the biggest hypocrisy show in the world. Middle class families are having to adjust to the new economic reality by filing for bankruptcies, losing homes in foreclosure, and getting gouged with credit cards. Yet banks and Wall Street have not cut back and have gone the opposite direction by giving out record bonuses to their small circle of cronies. The bailouts were a large protection of the entrenched corporatocracy.

The biggest scam of the century revolves around the massive growth in debt. Let us chart this back to the 1970s:


The U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve disconnected the U.S. dollar from any semblance of reality back in the 1970s. Since that time, Americans have been put into a sleepwalking state where they were drunk on debt induced spending while slowly and surely our manufacturing base was removed from the country. The above chart hit a climax when household debt actually surpassed annual GDP in this decade. In other words, we spent way more than we earned and nothing that operates under that system can survive for any length of time.

This has infuriated many since they thought they were part of the new economy but in reality, they were merely treading water until Wall Street and the banks had to hunker down and protect their small inner circle. Why else is the stock market up 60 percent since the March lows? Let us look at some data since March and see how well Americans have been doing:

March 2009 unemployment rate: 8.5%

December 2009 unemployment rate: 10%


The unemployment rate shot up from 8.5% to 10% in this time and consumer credit has been contracting at a record pace. At the same time, banking profits are going sky high. Take a look at some of the big banking names:


The corporatocracy seems to be doing well in this climate even though the middle class American lifestyle is being dismantled piece by painful piece. Not only is this happening but Americans now have a new line item and that is to fund the bail outs. This is happening through more clandestine channels like destroying the value of the U.S. dollar by printing inordinate amounts of money so banks can keep on giving record bonuses. The financial sector is a blood sucking vampire that is draining the real economy of its life. Why do we even need it at the current size? All mortgages are now backed by the U.S. government through the GSEs or FHA insured loans. Credit card debt and access is shrinking. Banks have curtailed lending to small business. What is the financial sector doing to justify their current profits? Pure and simple speculation on the taxpayer dime. This isn’t capitalism as Adam Smith envisioned. This is a system called a corporatocracy where the main goal is protecting the too big to fail and allowing everyone else to fail.

The average American has every right to be furious at what is occurring. The next generation might have it worse than the last. Not since the Great Depression has this occurred. Some might say that this was destined to happen. That is the storyline the corporatocracy would want you to believe so popular anger can be quelled. Yet this was a deliberate stealing from the American people. Many of these Wall Street elites have no allegiance to the country. They put money in secured tax havens in other countries and hide their money in multiple places avoiding taxes from a country that allows them to run their scam. They have allegiance to only one and that is money. They don’t care about the productive economy of the U.S. Lobbying with their fleet of lawyers is simply another business expense. And here we are, 40 years later with a disappearing middle class, booming financial stocks, millions of foreclosures, and weak financial regulation. Nothing can be clearer than where the power has shifted.

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Black Ops for Major U.S. Banks and Corporations

Black Ops for Major U.S. Banks and Corporations

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Corporate Education Act Becomes Law

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

The Corporate Education Act Becomes Law

Republican lawmakers were ecstatic today to announce passage of the Corporate Education Act (CEA). The President expressed his support for the Act because the Republican sides of both the House and the Senate had backed it, and that meant it was certainly good enough for Obama. Democrats went along with the Act because they didn’t want to lose the potential financial support of the corporations that would benefit from the CEA.

The first order of business after the passage of the CEA will be to close all of the existing “liberal arts” colleges in the country. As Senator Boner pointed out, the whole concept of “liberal” is passé, and “art” has nothing to do with good job performance. Instead, the CEA will ensure that all education is geared towards employment with America’s leading corporations, and graduates will have been properly trained and groomed to serve these corporate interests. He chuckled at the thought that “liberal arts” ever had the backing of any patriotic citizens.

The government is determined to set priorities for corporate involvement in educating America’s students: Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop and other major military contractors will, of course, have the first shot at the top students, teaching courses that will assist them in weapons development and military research. There will be a strong emphasis on science and mathematics, and courses of questionable utility, such as English, literature, history, philosophy and education, will be placed on a back burner.

The next range of businesses to receive students, after the military contractors, and their assistants at the Pentagon, will be the Wall Street financiers. Their particular expertise, at teaching students how to squeeze the maximum profits out of American citizens without actually producing anything of value, is seen as a specialized form of economics, and one necessitating Wall Street’s leadership. Of course, hedge fund brokers, mortgage speculators and other financial advisors will work closely with corporations such as Goldman Sachs to ensure that every aspect of U.S. business will receive their quota of graduating students.

After the corporations mentioned above, the next in line will be the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, and other institutions that have made a profit during the last 6 years in the face of America’s failing economy. It was felt that anyone who could make a profit in the current political environment deserved unlimited support.

The CEA was drafted so as to provide public funding for the education that students will receive in order to work for the corporations that will run the academic senates of the universities. After all, private corporations should not be burdened with the need to pay for the education of students who will work for them in later life. Since an educated work force is a prerequisite to the success of any corporation, it is obvious that the public should bear the burden of making sure the CEA functions efficiently.

Democratic leaders explained that several concerns will be met through passage of the CEA: It will get rid of those students who cannot compete in the corporate environment, and will therefore likely become a financial burden on the society. Scholarships will also be unnecessary, since students will be assured jobs at the corporations that sponsored and educated them, and the initial costs of their education will be borne by the public. Finally, by making sure that all future graduates will be assured employment with one of the corporations that run the system, the public will save billions of dollars by not having to educate worthless, stupid youth, who can’t compete in the corporate world.

Because most children don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and certainly, under the older system, had no idea where they would find employment, the Congress determined that it was a waste of time and money to teach such children until they were older, and had a better sense of direction. By obviating the need for special education, scholarship programs, or “affirmative action,” the Congress was able to drastically lower the amount of funds and resources needed for what used to constitute widespread, wasteful education.

The teaching workforce will also be affected positively. Since the corporations and businesses who will train and educate the students are in the best position to know what courses and curriculum will best suit their needs, the kind of wasted efforts on language skills, history, philosophy and other abstract, impractical classes that characterized the old university systems, can be modified to delete such unwarranted “luxuries.”

Another positive impact that the CEA will have is to end those pesky teacher’s unions, and support systems that existed under the old educational system. Since the targeted corporations will determine teachers and curriculum, most teachers will already be covered by corporate employment contracts, and therefore no other superfluous union-type of structure will be necessary, or desirable.

When Hillary Clinton heard of the CEA, she was extremely pleased, and promised to bring the same formula to the State Department, as a means of streamlining the educational system, and getting rid of the “dead weight” that existed pre-Obama.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law. Read other articles by Luke, or visit Luke's website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Regulators, industry cozy up at conferences


Regulators, industry cozy up at conferences

Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler gestures during remarks to a conference hosted by GFI Group, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, in Washington. | AP Photo
Regulators like CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler frequently keynote industry conferences. | AP Photo Close

Want to talk to a Dodd-Frank rule writer? Try Las Vegas.

Traveling to glitzy locales to meet with regulators responsible for ironing out the details of the new financial regulation law has been a tactic for bankers and traders hoping to persuade regulators to keep bank capital requirements low, to lessen position limits on trading derivatives and to shield commodity-buying businesses from new swap rules — the next targets on the banking industry’s hit list.

Attendance at conferences put on for participants in commodities markets has shot up this year, a leader in the commodities world said, as regulators zigzag across the country on their agencies’ dime giving speeches on key rules and mingling with attendees over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

“There’s absolutely no question that the industry groups have more access [to regulators], partly because they put on more events,” said Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program at U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group.

Many observers said the conference mingling is just business as usual, even a necessary part of the regulation process, but consumer advocates fear the chummy relationship between the regulators and industry puts the interests of the Average Joe at a significant disadvantage since there are no beach-side conferences for the upside-down mortgage holder or the bruised-401(k) retiree.

“The sheer number of opportunities and the sheer level of outreach that can be funded by the industry can lead to a situation where the regulators spend most of the time paying attention to input of the regulated industries,” said Marcus Stanley from Americans for Financial Reform.

For key regulators, like those from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trade Commission, conferences are an opportunity to talk about the rules they’re considering. Since Dodd-Frank passed last year, CFTC regulators have traveled to at least 30 conferences sponsored by trade groups in places like Tokyo and Boca Raton, Fla., according to a review by POLITICO.

Industry groups said the conferences are just part of how work gets done in the regulatory world.

Speakers such as CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler frequently keynote the events, speaking on topics such as commodities clearinghouses, regulating swaps dealers and reducing interconnectedness between financial institutions — all key areas the industry hopes to influence.

“They speak, but they also sit and listen to other panels, and they learn,” said John Damgard, president of the Futures Industry Association, a trade organization for businesses in the commodities market.

“We’ve seen a much larger audience. In Boca, we’ve seen a lot of people who were involved historically in the [over-the-counter] world.” Damgard said. “There’s an awful lot of angst across the spectrum. It’s important to get this right, not just get it done on time.”

Rules made by the CFTC will regulate how the private sector can trade security-backed swaps, the financial instruments sold in a Wild West market that economists blame for the financial crash of 2008. As regulators look to commodities exchanges as a model for regulating these swaps, industry insiders have voiced concerns.

One proposed rule would set position limits, controlling how big a share of commodities markets an individual or financial institution can hold at one time. Many traders don’t see the rule as viable in a global commodities market and want to ensure regulators see their point of view.

“Position limits are not a part of the solution to make sure that markets aren’t manipulated outside the United States,” Damgard said.

What’s more, they point out that these markets include many products besides swaps bought to insure the now infamous mortgage-backed securities.

Damgard, who was the assistant secretary of Agriculture when the CFTC was created in 1974 under the Ford administration and has run the Futures Industry Association since 1982, knows the rule-makers and brought his board together with regulators in a meeting in late June.

“I think I’m the Jack Valenti of trade associations,” Damgard said of his long history at FIA.

Bart Chilton, an outspoken CFTC commissioner, addressed position limits rules at an annual FIA conference, at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, a sprawling hotel with five themed guest areas. Speaking on a panel, Chilton cited study after study that supported position limits.

“As regulators, our job is to ensure that prices are fair, and that’s what I’ll be looking at as we proceed to review our proposed rules on speculative position limits and bona fide hedging,” Chilton told attendees.

Congressional leaders built a lengthy rule-making process into Dodd-Frank, and travel has always been a way for rule-makers to connect with the industries they regulate.

“Regulators have a responsibility to keep the entities they regulate informed of their progress implementing this new law,” Sean Oblack, spokesperson for the Senate Banking Committee, said. “At the same time, it is imperative that these agencies act as responsible stewards of their budgets and make wise decisions with their expenditures.”

Washington observers say the exchange at conferences is healthy.

“It’s actually not a bad thing to have people who have to interact with each other formally have an opportunity to get to know each other,” said Norm Ornstein, a longtime government observer and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. “The fact that that might involve a trip to Las Vegas or Orlando doesn’t trouble me very much.”

Ornstein also told POLITICO there’s nothing improper about a weekend in Vegas, since a regulator can’t expect anonymity out on the strip.

“I’ll tell ya, if you have a regulator [acting badly], you can’t be sure that it’s staying in Vegas,” Ornstein said. “It would be the height of stupidity to behave in a reckless way.”

Bill Black, a former bank regulator, said conferences are not of concern unless the hosts are paying, which a spokesperson from the SEC said is forbidden. Travel records from the CFTC indicate that no trade groups have paid for regulator travel since Dodd-Frank passed.

The CFTC’s Chilton did not accept money from the organizers of the 12th Annual Supply Summit Conference, hosted by the Oil Price Information Service in the Palazzo at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Organizers charged between $12,999 and $13,999 for an exhibitor to claim the display at the conference cocktail reception, which included a cash bar and lobster corn dogs with tarragon aioli for hors d’oeuvres.

Chilton spoke again about position limits, making good use of his casino backdrop in his speech.

“Limits are everywhere, even in a casino, but not much in the world of commodity trading — not yet,” Chilton said in his remarks. “The new Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act instructs us to place limits on the size of speculative positions in the markets we regulate. I think that’s a very good thing and something I’ve favored for some time.”

Black, who said he’s seen employees at private law firms and federal agencies alike be swayed by small gifts, said regulators must be extra careful.

“What we know is that these small things work,” Black said. “You don’t want that feeling of gratitude that is inevitable as human beings.”

But Black said conferences shouldn’t be ruled out.

“Again I don’t see that these raise that [concern] as much, but that’s why you want to be really, really, really careful,” Black said. “Absurdly careful.”

What WikiLeaks Reveal about Corporatism Dominating American Foreign Policy

July 9, 2011 at 21:55:12

What WikiLeaks Reveal about Corporatism Dominating American Foreign Policy

By Joan Brunwasser (about the author)

My guest today is progressive activist, Rania Khalek. Welcome to OpEdNews, Rania. You recently wrote 5 WikiLeaks Revelations Exposing the Rapidly Growing Corporatism Dominating American Diplomacy Abroad. Sadly, there's nothing new about corporations and government being joined at the hip. So, why did you write this article?

Obviously corporate dominance over Washington is nothing new. But, these cables give us an inside look at the inner-workings of the decisions that get made around the world. And time after time, we see that US diplomats consult with the executives of some of the largest corporations to determine how to deal with conflicts in other countries. These cables also demonstrate the disturbing trend of how our government views any threat to corporate America as a threat to the United States, which is absurd. Just because we know that corporations and US officials have merged, doesn't mean we understand the full extent to which it affects decisions that are made or the implications of those decisions.

Also, the mainstream media has been ignoring the most significant revelations exposed by these cables, which is why I feel it's essential to write about them. People need to know the level of corruption their government is involved in.

Is the press continuing to downplay the significance of the revelations because there's nothing new or because of their corporate masters?

Of everything that WikiLeaks has released, the establishment press has spent more time on reporting about Julian Assange's character and WikiLeaks as an organization, than about the substance of what has been released. This happened during the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan diaries, the US embassy cables, the Guantanamo Files, etc, all which exposed a vast amount of previously unknown instances of government corruption.

For a long time now, the establishment press has acted as an arm of the US government, most of all the Pentagon, where they parrot the "official" version of events, rather than actually covering the truth and holding those in power accountable. And for a long time now, the Pentagon has been devoted to destroying the credibility of WikiLeaks, which they view as a threat. The problem is that the press is so cozy with and dependent on the powerful government officials they are supposed to be covering -- for access, money, career advancement -- that they immediately adopted the government's perspective on WikiLeaks.

But we also have to remember that WikiLeaks has exposed many of the lies and corruption surrounding our wars. And the majority of mainstream journalists who have failed to report on anything of substance revealed by WikiLeaks, were some of the biggest cheerleaders for those wars. So of course they are eager to ignore WikiLeaks revelations, smear Assange's character, and insist that there's "nothing new" in these documents.

So, I guess that leaves it up to the independent and online journalists to educate and inform the public. Are we succeeding in breaking through this formidable barrier?

Independent media has done an incredible job at breaking through the echo chamber of the mainstream news, especially given the resources we're up against. The news and perspectives covered by independent media outlets are what got me involved in politics and journalism, so yes, we are succeeding in reaching people with news and views that are neglected in the corporate media. And WikiLeaks has forced the more mainstream outlets to report on at least some of the revelations whether they like it or not, because it's such a huge story.

That being said, there is still a long way to go, because we are up against such a powerful machine of corporately owned news mediums. And on top of the never-ending mergers of multi-billion dollar media conglomerates, the FCC's failure to enforce net neutrality poses a serious danger to the future of independent journalism, most of which is accessible online. So, reporting on the stories that never get covered is going to become an even more daunting task. For now, I think we need to remember what is at stake and people need to support independent media however they can. And reporting about the corruption exposed by WikiLeaks is the best way to demonstrate how indispensable independent media is.

I'd like to know more about how you got involved in politics and journalism. Can you talk about that a bit, Rania?

Coincidentally, I credit independent media for igniting my passion for politics, social justice, and ultimately journalism. Oddly enough, I have a degree in exercise physiology, which has no relation to politics, let alone journalism. The year I graduated from college was the same year as the 2008 presidential election. I had always been a liberal, mostly of the apathetic and uninformed variety, so in the lead up to the election, I was thrilled about Barack Obama.

I wanted to believe, like most liberals did, that Obama would change US foreign policy for the better, but the skeptic in me wasn't convinced, so I went online searching for evidence, and in my investigation I came upon Democracy Now. I remember watching Amy Goodman report the news for a week straight in absolute disbelief. I was truly shocked by the level of corruption and deceit that was being hidden from me by the corporate news. This led me to other independent outlets and where I was exposed brilliant authors and independent journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, to name just a few.

Independent media has helped shape my understanding of the world and has inspired me to become an active citizen, which is why I'm so passionate about journalism. Writing about underreported stories is my way of reaching out to people who are capable of waking up to reality and participate in their communities but are being deprived of that chance by the censorship and information manipulation of the corporately owned mainstream news.

I agree that knowledge is the first step. And that definitely involves circumventing the corporate media. What kind of stories have you been working on besides this WikiLeaks one?

I just wrote a piece about the militarization of local police departments, a story that is almost never mentioned in the mainstream. I also write about the economy, with a focus on stories about the consequences of the recession, unemployment, and budget cuts on average Americans and the disconnect of our mostly millionaire politicians.

Good but scary stuff, Rania. So what do you think? Are the American people going to wake up to what's really happening in time to save ourselves and the democratic institutions we hold dear?

That's a difficult question, and the answer is I don't know. I do know that it will get worse before it gets better, and things are going to change regardless of whether or not people wake up to the realities of our failing economy, catastrophe-inducing climate change, our unending wars, etc. I have no faith in the political system to fix these problems because the majority of our democratic institutions have been taken over by corporate interests. The one thing I do have faith in is people power and nonviolent civil disobedience, workers strikes, etc. Even though the media doesn't report about it, protests against budget cuts and attacks on unions are taking place every day around the country, and after watching what took place in Wisconsin earlier this year, I do believe that Americans are capable of standing up for their rights. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Thanks so much for talking with me, Rania. It was a pleasure. Keep up the good work!


Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure (more...)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Come Home America? Not Till Her Corpocracy Leaves

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Come Home America? Not Till Her Corpocracy Leaves

When I recently signed an anti-war letter to be sent to the President and to members of The Congress by Come Home America, a small coalition of concerned citizens that is managed by Kevin Zeese, attorney and political activist, I added the following comment:

I endorse this letter unequivocally. America has been the most warring nation since the end of WWII. It is time to stop this deadly habit that benefits only war profiteers.

Later, I began thinking of the research I had done over the last 10 years on America’s corpocracy and what I had written about “warfare welfare” in my new book, The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch. The purpose of this article is to share with readers some of my views and proposals in that book and some additional thoughts I had about the letter after signing it. I will start with those additional thoughts.

My overall opinion of the letter is that while it is well intentioned and has certainly garnered a large number of signatures from luminaries and just plain people like myself, it cannot possibly achieve its aim of persuading President Obama and The Congress “—to end the current illegal wars and start a national dialogue about shifting U.S. foreign policy away from dominance through military might, and toward being a member of the community of nations” (quote from the letter). The reason for my pessimism is simply that America’s endless, winless, deadly warring will never stop until America gets rid of her corpocracy, what I call the Devil’s marriage between powerful corporate interests and all three branches of government.

The corpocracy absolutely depends on America seeking and starting covert wars (e.g., CIA orchestrated coup d’états and the many ongoing shadow wars in the Greater Middle East) and very visible wars. A huge war machine and endless militarism fattens the defense industry, including beefing up its sale of arms (the U.S. is the world’s top arms seller); gives military personnel, spooks, and the likes something to do for their pay checks; opens up, protects, and expands corporations’ foreign markets and exploitation of natural resources (oil and minerals) and cheap labor; keeps the corpocracy’s politicians in office; and distracts the American public from growing socio-economic deterioration at home (e.g., soaring poverty rate, joblessness, etc., etc.).

The changes America has undergone in 235 years have been phenomenal in their nature and impact, yet one constant always remains, war. America, after all, was born in the womb of war, fought by the colonists rebelling from King George’s corpocracy. The letter I signed concluded by stating that “George Washington urged Americans to “cultivate peace and harmony with all” and to “avoid overgrown military establishments,” which are “hostile to republican liberty.” While it is true that he proposed a “proper peace establishment,” it was in name only as he then went on to explain that it would have “a regular and standing force,” “a well-regulated militia,” “arsenals of all kinds of military stores,” and “academies, one or more for the Instruction of the Art [of the] Military.” Would we have expected a different utterance from a victorious army general?

Since the King’s corpocracy there have been four “homegrown” ones. The first was during the Robber Baron’s era. Abe Lincoln said “Corporations have been enthroned—An era of corruption in high places will follow.” It did, but public outrage and Teddy Roosevelt busted this corpocracy. The second was during the Flapper Era. The Great Depression, WWII, and FDR ended it. The third was during the Cold War. The warfare industry and fear mongering politicians helped sustain it. The fourth, is the current one, begun in the 1970’s with a “corporate revolution” triggered by the “battle plan” Lewis F. Powell, soon-to-be a US Supreme Court Justice, sent to the US Chamber of Commerce, a stauncher ally no corpocracy will ever know or find.

The corpocracy in all of its renditions has, in effect, and over time honed to perfection a culture of war in which Americans generally expect and accept America at war. The letter writer alluded to this culture in saying that “the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned of in his final speech to the nation has become deeply embedded.” What the writer did not say is that Ike not only presided over that very complex but also authored the CIA, purportedly to stem the spread of communism but in reality to install dictators friendly to corporate America’s insatiable appetite. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, more a hawk than a statesman, is quoted as having said that “In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of maintaining great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to war psychology. There must be the portrayal of external menace.” While making such a statement seems audacious and not unlike Joseph Goebbels’ sentiments, Dulles was merely speaking the truth of the corpocracy and its modus operandi: scare the American people with fear mongering, half truths and outright lies; evoke jingoistic patriotism (“my country right or wrong”); blather about building nations and spreading democracy; and slander peace seekers as weaklings soft on the enemy.

Neither Americans subjugated to its power nor the rest of world confronted,and sometimes devastated, by it has ever seen a more powerful force than America’s corpocracy, along with its myriad allies like the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the numerous think tanks and litigation centers, the captive media, and a foreign enemy or two or three or more.

At the same time, the corpocracy’s opposition is pathetically weak and unorganized. There is nothing comparable to the massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and even if there were, they would be crushed (the Kent State killings would pale in comparison). There is no national leader of FDR’s stature or capability or viable third political party now or in the foreseeable future. The 150 or so non-governmental organizations (NGOs) opposed to the corpocracy that I researched are splintered, and I strongly doubt my ongoing petition drive aimed at uniting them will ever succeed (click here). Some of them seem to be already “corporatized,” and some, if not all the rest, are too territorial,

And more to the point here on opposition to war, the opposition is totally fractured. There are over 40 anti-war organizations in the U.S. and a smattering of them throughout the rest of the world. The oldest in the U.S. reportedly is the War Resistors League, founded in 1923. The largest in the U.S. reportedly is Peace Action, with over 100,000 members, a national network of 27 state affiliates, and over 100 chapters nationwide. Wars continue unfazed by these divided and conquered anti-war organizations. They need, says Lawrence S. Wittner, a professor of history and once a member of Peace Action’s Board, “a powerful national peace organization, with a mass membership.” Mr. Zeese’s letter hardly reflects such a powerful organization. Moreover, less than a month before he wrote about his new anti-war movement in Dissident Voice (July 6, 2011) Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis mentioned in the same outlet (June 15) yet another new anti-war movement, “A Call to Action – Oct. 6, 2011 and onward.” I do not see it mentioned in Mr. Zeese’s letter or listed among his letter’s endorsers. [It is mentioned in "The Revolution Will Not Be Deactualized," June 15. -- Eds]

If the corpocracy, let alone its warring arm, is to be ended before it ends America I am convinced it will take a unified network of NGOs, including anti-war NGOs, (let’s call the network the US Chamber of Democracy) carrying out a strategic plan of major political, legislative, judicial, and economic reforms that are backed up by a massive coalition of 20 or more segments of the populace most likely to abhor the corpocracy.

To appreciate the scope of what it would take to end the entire corpocracy I will close by listing without discussing what I think it would take just to end the warfare welfare component:

Waging War on War
Establish a Citizen’s Assembly for Peace.
Establish a Department of Peace Keeping and National Security
Establish a Peace Keeping and National Security Council.
Nationalize and reorient the defense industry.
Join the International Criminal Court.
Create a dual draft. (community vs military service).
End the propagandizing of the military and militarism.
Determine the lost opportunity costs of warfare welfare.
Impeach or prosecute officials who commit the U.S. to war on false pretenses or unconstitutionally.
Permanently ban and prosecute defense contractors who defraud the government.
Publish a detailed “name and shame” annual warfare welfare report.
Stop budget overruns in military spending.
Stop emergency and off-the-book defense budgeting and funding.
Include supplemental funding and nuclear weapon funding in the military budget.
Require open and competitive bidding on all contract bids.
Purge the GNP index of defense costs.
Prevent war profiteering.
Stop the manufacture and purchase of useless weapons.
Stop the sale anywhere abroad of arms from U.S. manufacturers.
Eliminate the privatization of the military.
Forbid military recruiting at public schools and colleges.
Eliminate college ROTC programs.

Gary Brumback is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. His forthcoming book is The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave it in the Lurch. Gary can be reached at: garybrumback@bellsouth.net and you can visit his web site at www.democracypowernow.com. Read other articles by Gary.

This article was posted on Saturday, July 9th, 2011 at 8:00am and is filed under Anti-war, Mercenaries, Military/Militarism, NGOs, Weaponry.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Jim Hightower


Friday, July 8, 2011 | Posted by Jim Hightower

They're back. Citigroup, Coca-Cola, IBM, Merck, and dozens of other major U.S. corporations are back in Washington – like hogs at the trough – demanding to be fed another tax boondoggle.

This is not the first pig-out for these oinkers. In 2005, having stashed huge profits in foreign countries and tax havens, the multinational giants came to Washington offering Congress a heck of a deal: We'll bring this money back to the U.S. and invest it here, creating beaucoup jobs, IF you give us a sweetheart tax rate on our profits of only about five percent, rather than the usual 35 percent rate.

The Bushites and GOP Congress enthusiastically took the bait. Sure enough, $312 billion came home... but instead of investing it in job creation, top executives and big shareholders simply put it in their pockets. Sixty percent of the boondoggle was gobbled up by only 15 of America's biggest multinationals – many of which actually shut down American plants, fired thousands of workers, and moved more of their production abroad. Merck, for example brought nearly $16 billion home in October 2005, then announced a restructuring plan the next month to close U.S. plants and cut some 3,500 jobs. You could almost hear the executives chortle and say, "Thanks, suckers."

Well, look out, for a corporate lobbying front is working with Republican House leaders to sucker us again. The group includes such superrich computer giants as Apple, Dell, Google, and Intel, pushing for what they call a "repatriation holiday." With a big stage wink, they promise to create jobs in exchange for that same, dandy, five-percent tax deal.

What gross hoggishness! State and national budgets are being slashed – and these fat greedheads are trying to scam America with a tax holiday for themselves. To fight their greed, go to www.usuncut.org.

"Companies Push For A Tax Break On Foreign Cash," The New York Times, June 20, 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Corporate Marking: A unified theory of mental pollution.

Blackspot Blog

Michel Serres

Micah White

Michel Serres, Mental Environmentalist

Photo from karavanepapou.blogspot.com

Read the French translation.

Michel Serres, an eccentric French philosopher, has written the first truly philosophical work of the mental environmentalist movement, a radical re-conception of pollution that hones the Adbusters critique. The big idea of his book, Malfeasance: Appropriation Through Pollution?, is that animals, humans included, use pollution to mark, claim, and appropriate territory through defiling it and that over time this appropriative act has evolved away from primitive pollution, urine and feces, to "hard pollution", industrial chemicals, and "soft pollution", the many forms of advertising.

"Let us define two things and clearly distinguish them from one another," Michel Serres writes, "first the hard [pollutants], and second the soft. By the first I mean on the one hand solid residues, liquid gases, emitted throughout the atmosphere by big industrial companies or gigantic garbage dumps, the shameful signature of big cities. By the second, tsunamis of writings, signs, images, and logos flooding rural, civic, public and natural spaces as well as landscapes with their advertising. Even though different in terms of energy, garbage and marks nevertheless result from the same soiling gesture, from the same intention to appropriate, and are of animal origin."

The importance of Michel Serres' contribution to mental environmentalism is that he is the first to philosophically ground mental environmentalism upon a unified theory of pollution that explains how advertisements are an extension of toxic sludge. Until now, the mental environmentalist argument has been that just as polluted rivers are a necessary byproduct of creating paper so too are polluted mindscapes a byproduct of creating consumers. While this argument is still true, and Serres makes a similar point in his book, Serres has managed to do something even more profound: he has shown why one cannot be an environmentalist without also being a mental environmentalist. In closing the gap between physical and mental toxins, Serres has closed the gap between physical and mental ecology.

"The captain who unloads waste in the high seas has never seen, or rather has never let, the countless smiles of the gods emerge; that would be too demanding, or even creative. Shitting on the world, has he ever seen its beauty before? Did he ever see his own beauty? And so, he who dirties space with billboards full of sentences and images hides the view of the surrounding landscape, kills perception, and skewers it by this theft. First the landscape then the world."

Beyond simply being a philosophical treatise, Malfeasance is a passionate rallying cry. Suddenly aware that the earth is being claimed by the soft pollution of corporations, Serres does not hide his anger. And that is the final way in which his book is a mental environmentalist work, it does not argue for acquiescence but yells for dramatic social revolution.

"It makes me suffer so much that I need to say it over and over again and proclaim it everywhere; how can we not cry with horror and disgust confronted with the wrecking of our formerly pleasant rural access roads into the cities of France? Companies fill the space now with their hideous brands, waging the same frenzied battle as the jungle species in order to appropriate the public space and attention with images and words, like animals with their screams and piss. Excluded from those outskirts, I no longer live there; they are haunted by the powerful who shit on them and occupy them with their ugliness. Old Europe, what ignorant ruling class is killing you?"

Micah White

Monday, July 4, 2011

The UN Is Aiding a Corporate Takeover of Drinking Water



The UN Is Aiding a Corporate Takeover of Drinking Water

Billions of dollars are being given out to the most ardent promoters of water privatization.

Early last month, pharmaceutical titan Merck became the latest multinational to pledge allegiance to the CEO Water Mandate, the United Nations' public-private initiative "designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices."

But there's darker data beneath that sunny marketing: The CEO Water Mandate has been heavily hammered by the Sierra Club, the Polaris Institute and more for exerting undemocratic corporate control over water resources (PDF) under the banner of the United Nations. It even won a Public Eye Award for flagrant greenwashing from the Swiss non-governmental organization Berne Declaration. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"There is no admission of problems with the Water Mandate, or the United Nations Global Compact itself" -- the strategic policy initiative committed to human rights, labor and the environment -- Blue Gold and Blue Covenant author and activist Maude Barlow, who also chairs the National Council of Canadians and Food & Water Watch, explained to AlterNet. "These initiatives continue to flourish, not least because the most powerful member states of the United Nations are fully behind them. This also means that the United Nations is not funded fully. Programs and agencies often rely on private sponsorship to function, and are often barely getting their core administrative budgets funded."

Another major problem is that routinely compromised and controversial institutions like World Bank, International Monetary Fund and regional development banks in general are in control of the United Nations' biggest projects. In April, the World Bank assumed control of the United Nations Climate Conference's new $100 billion Green Fund, which is the opposite of a comforting proposition, considering the World Bank's repeatedly noxious financing of oil and coal projects.

"That gives control of billions of dollars to those who have been the most ardent promoters of water privatization," added Barlow, whose foreword for the Council of Canadians' recently damning report on private sector influence over the United Nations (PDF) argued that the planet is on the verge of a water crisis of terrifying proportions. "We're also seeing the IMF forcing indebted nations to sell off public assets, including water systems, as a condition of receiving financial support. The whole system is rigged for these corporations, and they still are losing contracts, not meeting their obligations and watching as remunicipalization moves forward in France and other core markets."

That kind of illogical corporate performance would logically lead to less control, not more. But the United Nations continues to hand over the reins to multinationals like its new cosigner Merck, which has repeatedly settled in court over everything from carcinogenic pollution to deceptive marketing. Despite the fact that the United Nations' own Joint Inspection Unit stated in a 2010 report (PDF) that the Global Compact's corporate partnerships were an unregulated mess.

"The lack of a clear and articulated mandate has resulted in blurred focus and impact," the report stated. "The absence of adequate entry criteria and an effective monitoring system to measure actual implementation of the principles by participants has drawn some criticism and reputational risk for the Organization, and the Office’s special set up has countered existing rules and procedures. Ten years after its creation, despite the intense activity carried out by the Office and the increasing resources received, results are mixed and risks unmitigated."

The report suggested that not only was a clearer mandate from Member States required to "rethink and refocus" the Compact's corporate partnerships, but that the United Nations' General Assembly must better direct the Secretary-General to delineate the Compact's overall functions "in order to prevent a situation whereby any external group or actor(s) may divert attention from the strategic goals agreed to promote interests which may damage the reputation of the United Nations." The short version? It's not working, and won't work in its current form for the foreseeable future.

But the United Nations' own advice to itself has evidently fallen mostly on deaf ears.

"Unfortunately, the United Nations appears to be embracing more and more partnerships with the corporate sector across the board," Corporate Accountability International campaign director Gigi Kellett told AlterNet. "Civil society has been raising concerns about this flawed approach for over 10 years. There are strong voices within the United Nations, including some Member states, who are questioning the partnership paradigm adopted by the UN and calling for more transparency and accountability."

But they are voices in the wilderness without the concerted support of a motivated public, as well as the usual civil society champions who make stopping this strain of corporate abuse their life's work. Power truly respects only one thing, and that is equally exercised power. And the public is fully empowered to make all the change it wants, provided it can unplug itself from distracting sex scandals and mainstream media marketing primarily designed to nurture its collective complacency.

"Corporations rely on people's tacit support and willingness to look the other way when they engage in conduct that harms people or the environment and undermines democratic governance and decision-making," Kellett said. "When people come together in coordinated fashion and withhold their support from a corporation, that relationship is turned on its head. Boycotts are one powerful way that individuals can withhold their support, but there are range of other strategies. When activists come together and raise questions about a corporation's actions and tie them to its brand and image, the resulting media exposure can greatly impact how the corporation is perceived by consumers, investors or even government regulators."

But how do you boycott a multinational that controls your water supply? Can you shame a mammoth corporation into abdicating control over a lucrative commodity that should instead be regarded as a universal human right? Talk about your Sisyphean tasks.

"Boycotts are much more difficult with water than a product like Coke," said Barlow. "There are no substitutes for water, and when these corporations are given monopoly power over water systems, boycotts are very unrealistic. Suez, Veolia and others are very concerned about their corporate image, but there is no effective means to hurt them financially except to end or block the contracts before they are signed. Boycotts have been very effective as public awareness campaigns, but citizens need to apply pressure on their governments as the first step in stopping the proliferation of voluntary initiatives."

Demanding regulation of the private sector's products -- from water and natural resource commodification to inscrutable financial instruments and beyond -- as well as the public's political electives appears to be the paramount first principle. Because the problem is getting worse and going nowhere, especially now that our dystopian climate crisis has permanently disrupted business, and existence, as usual. From escalating warming and extreme weather to destabilized nations and environments, Earth is already precariously balanced on the tipping point. And giving profit-minded corporations voluntary control over their power and procedures is a 20th century anachronism best left behind.

"We have not proven to have what it takes to deal with the climate crisis," argued Barlow, "and this is because it is all seen as a giant political and financial game, rather than the best and only chance to head off a catastrophe like we have never before imagined. Climate change is upon us, but we will never admit it fully, nor invest in stopping it, if our governments continue to represent corporate interests above others. It is up to us to challenge our states, and make sure they know we are engaged and aware."

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.