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Posts Tagged ‘anti-corporatism’

Fuck the five right-wing corporate quislings on the Supreme Court, fuck the Democratic party leadership (sometimes), fuck bankers, fuck greedy, elitist, power-hungry old men everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shocked. Being quite liberal and giving support to the Democratic party is a Hamlet-esque experience. To be a Democrat, or just to acknowledge that I am consistently voting for people who will over-think and betray all of our core principles? It was tragicomically plain in those last weeks that Ms. Coakley would lose. I’m not proud of being aware of that or anything. It’s depressing. I don’t have a PhD; why do the people who do fail to have any grasp of reality? I think back to the primaries. Obama and Clinton, two pretty conservative Democrats who had different rhetorical styles. Obama is elected, and many people are shocked and disappointed that the progressive agenda is not being enacted.  But why? It was depressingly obvious. Neither of the presidential candidates was going to really enact a progressive agenda. I mean, they didn’t even really get specific about that. They said “Change” and criticized Republicans which, unfortunately, was actually shocking. Shocking because Democrats don’t like to actually point out who got us into all these disasters. We have to “move forward”. Which is probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. You take quizzes and study in school and take a test at the end of term to prove you’ve learned something. You don’t just “move forward” at the end of every class and try to put it behind you. You hold onto it! You absorb it! That’s what, you know, fucking life is all about. You have a memory. Use it. Jesus Christ.

And of course the present make-up of the Supreme Court made it clear they would go into a grotesque swoon as they crooned about how like, wealthy concepts are people or something. I know, I don’t get it. When I read about it as a young(er) lass in the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, I was like: Oh, well, that’s stupid, um, ideas and institutions only have power because people imbue them with meaning, and if we don’t, oh, they fall apart. They have no reality except that which we bestow upon them. But the Supreme Court has been right-wing for a long time. And this decision will have all kinds of horribly disastrous results that I’m in no mood to even consider.

What I don’t understand, in the midst of all my “fucks” and “I could run the DNC better than Tim Kaine (though not as well as Howard Dean, that’s for sure!)” is: why? I don’t get it. Are they just technocrats at the end of the day? Are they really just thoughtless, lacking in imagination, overly cautious and unable to see outside their bubble? Are they mad, are they power-hungry? Just to make clear, I’m talking about the Democrats. The Republicans, I have no fucking idea what they are doing.*(aside below!)

I really don’t understand it. I can predict what consequences will come from certain actions, but I really am unable to understand what motivates some people. Is power, is greed really so alluring? Why is a few million dollars never enough? What creates an emptiness in people that they are willing to step all over everyone else? Fear of death? Original sin? A biologically built-in impulse to struggle and succeed? Then why isn’t everyone like that? I finished Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem today. I’ve been reading about it at length for so many years, I figured it was high time to read the thing itself. And what I got out of it is that there are just some questions so big, and the answers too paltry and meager. Evil can be banal. Massive, enormous crimes are committed by “sheer thoughtlessness”. It’s mind-blowing. We’ll sacrifice our Earth to the economy. We’ll sacrifice our democracy to an outrageous, deliberate misinterpretation of the Bill of Rights. Reprehensible. Atrocious. Or, as I said before: Fuck.

*As an aside (Aside!), a friend told me about some enormous changes they were undergoing. I was doing my best to be very supportive, when deep into it I started getting a little nervous. Very gently I said: “I don’t want to be rude, and I want to be completely supportive, but a quick question… are you going to become a Republican?” To be fair I (mostly) said this because I love my friend, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings by ranting about politics. My friend burst into laughter and cried, “No way, now that would be crazy!” And we had a good, long laugh. Because some things are too insane to contemplate.

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This essay at Daily Kos (courtesy of Digby) that came out over a week ago is exactly how I feel about the rule of neo-conservatism and its disasterous consequences. For example:

Here’s the thing about the naughts: there was nothing magic about the numbers. It wasn’t because of a double-zero in the middle of the dates that we launched an invasion that’s cost the lives of thousands of Americans, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and a trillion dollars plus out of the pocketbooks of taxpayers. We launched into that still unresolved idiocy because of bad policy based on the conservative philosophy of smash things first, think never. We went there because of a extreme version of American exceptionalism, one that views America as above the the rules of law and exempt from questions of morality. A view that says not only if the president does it, it’s not a crime, but that if America does it, it can’t be wrong.

It wasn’t the decade that caused the economy to come down in tatters. It was a conservative approach to the marketplace that views government as the enemy, greed as the only acceptable motivation, and the only solution for disasters brought on by a lack of regulation as still less regulation.

It wasn’t the calendar that brought down the banks, or American manufacturing, or American’s influence around the world. It wasn’t the date that added torture to the list of growth industries while erasing our budget surplus.

Don’t forget the naughts, because this decade, no matter what anyone on the right might say, was conservatism on trial. You want less taxes? You got less taxes. You want less regulation? You got less regulation. Open markets? Wide open. An illusuion of security in place of rights? Hey, presto. Think we should privatize war by handing unlimited power given to military contractors so they can kick butt and take names? Kiddo, we passed out boots and pencils by the thousands. Everything, everything, that ever showed up on a drooled-over right wing wish list got implemented — with a side order of Freedom Fries.

They will try to disown it, and God knows if I was responsible for this mess I’d be disowning it, too. But the truth is that the conservatives got everything they wanted in the decade just past, everything that they’ve claimed for forty years would make America “great again”. They didn’t fart around with any “red dog Republicans.” They rolled over their moderates and implemented a conservative dream.

What did we get for it? We got an economy in ruins, a government in massive debt, unending war, and the repudiation of the world. There’s no doubt that Republicans want you to forget the last decade, because if you remember… if you remember when you went down to the water hole and were jumped by every lunacy that ever emerged from the wet dreams of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney, well, it’s not likely that you’d give them a chance to do it again.

And they will. Given half a chance — less than half — they’ll do it again, only worse. Because that’s the way conservatism works. Remember when the only answer to every economic problem was “cut taxes?” We have a surplus. Good, let’s cut taxes. We have a deficit. Hey, cut taxes even more! That little motto was unchanging even when was clear that the tax cuts were increasing the burden on everyone but a wealthy few. That’s just a subset of the great conservative battle whine which is now and forever “we didn’t go far enough.” If deregulation led to a crash, it’s because we didn’t deregulate enough. If the wars aren’t won, it’s because we haven’t started enough wars. If there are people still clinging to their rights, it’s because we haven’t done enough to make them afraid.

Forget the naughts, and you’ll forget that conservatives had another chance to prove all their ideas, and that their ideas utterly and completely failed. Again.

I started this decade as a 16-year old girl. I cried on the night of the Supreme Court’s decision to make George W. Bush president that December. My teachers said this was a “historic moment,” but what they meant by historic they didn’t say. This was probably because all those decent middle-class minds didn’t think to question the rhetoric of the right-wing, and said such silly things like “both parties are basically the same”. I wept watching that man accept his undemocratic victory and wrote an impassioned op-ed for my silly high school newspaper. The differences between the two men were enormous, as even a child like myself could tell I knew in a few years our nation would be at war, that the poor would get poorer while the wealthy laughed all the way to their gated communities, that our environmental catastrophe would continue to be unaddressed. No one listened to “radicals” like me or to all the journalists and politicians who refused to be silenced. Funny, I thought of myself as simply honest and unpersuaded by emotional rhetoric which asked me to buy in to a philosophy which thought a certain group of people and businesses could do no wrong. Trickle-down and American exceptionalism and deregulation and corporatism were bullshit then, and they’re bullshit now. Just let no one forget that this ideology had a chance for a long time and it led to nothing but failure. Their mouthpieces on the right and in the center and even a few on the left (Geithner! You! Bad boy!) are liars and they are wrong, and everyone who knows better has to make sure the facts are heard.

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It’s unbelievable that the banking and credit card industries get away with the things they do. Well, wait. Let me calm down. It’s actually not unbelievable at all. Our government has shown so little interest in doing their job that it’s just the way things are these days.

Citimortgage no longer allows credit cards to be used for mortgage payments.

There’s so much wrong with this. Let me swallow my anger and try to put this in a larger context.

The world is in the midst of an economic crisis (among others). America’s financial crisis is tied in to a) the deregulation of the banks b) deregulation of credit card companies c) the housing crisis, which is bound up with both of the former, and D) the health care crisis. These things have happened very predictably, as the result of a number of actions taken together.

After the New Deal, a number of wealthy Americans spent a long time figuring out how to go back to the good old days, when small numbers of people could make vasts amount of money with no oversight or thought of social responsibilities. Since the New Deal was so popular, it took some time. Milton Friedman was a voice in the wilderness  (an insane voice) of a society which had realized that government could actually do good. But he was persistent, and there were all sorts of people ready to listen to a man like Milton. Most importantly, those listeners had money and influence. It took a long time, but deregulation became a golden word.

I remember sitting in my seventh grade history class and hearing the word “deregulation.” I didn’t know what it meant, but my instructor spoke glowingly of how “deregulation” would save us all. I recall a few years later some of Maryland’s companies (PEPCO and BG&E) were deregulated. Many of our teachers told us how wonderful this was, how our parents would pay less money and it would be great for the economy, or something like that. All that regulation was “socialist”, and business was more trustworthy and efficient than government. It was very vague. I came home and asked my mother what was deregulation. She got one of those faces she gets where it seems like she accidentally ate something really vile, but really she is disgusted. I got an earful of the evils of deregulation. But my desire to not think poorly of teachers I liked, and my eternal love of being the devil’s advocate, meant I argued with her a little while. Poorly. She threw up her hands and told me to wait and see. Since my Mom is nearly always right about social issues, a large part of me expected she would, unfortunately, be proven right.

The years have passed, I’ve waited and seen. I feel pity for my poor teacher and the millions of other Americans who have trusted their politicians to work for the public interest. Why not? Some politicians once did such things, and created social security, unemployment benefits, welfare. But then there were those who are motivated by greed and power. These people used the changing social roles and structure of the 1960s to appeal to people’s base prejudices. It was very successful. They spent decades and decades chipping away at the outer bits of the New Deal, and then they came to its heart. They have blocked the good things government can do at every turn, and have undone the good things government has done in the past.

Obviously, government is neither good or bad in and of itself. It’s what government is used to do. Government can either be used to take care of all the people, or it can be used to take care of some of the people, or it can be used to protect a very few from everyone else. Over the past few decades it has been used to protect the wealthy, even from themselves (the Wall Street bailouts). Government is being used in the hands of the wealthy as a sort of class warfare: the very rich against everyone else.

There are consequences to living in a for-profit, me-first world. The consequences are catastrophic when nearly all of the elites use their money and power to enrich and protect themselves. Normal, well-meaning people like those teachers and classmates believed what the right-wingers and conservative Democrats told them. They believed deregulation was going to make things better. Now people like them are in danger of losing their homes, and Citimortgage has no desire to help them.

Let me be very clear. Paying your mortgage off with a credit card is not good. It adds to your financial debt, it is using illusory wealthy to repay a real loan. You are converting low-interest debt to high-interest debt. It is not a long-term solution.

But let me be clear about something else. We are in a unique financial crisis. Unique in the fact that common sense has flown out the door. Or, conversely, reason is being used to justify all sorts of shitty things. Of course paying off your mortgage with a credit card is not healthy financially. But you know what else is bad? Losing your home, having to go through a foreclosure. What is going to happen to a family where the breadwinner is unemployed for a few weeks or months? What if they have used up their savings, and their unemployment benefits are not enough?  What about people who have worked hard their whole lives but owe $200,000 because they sent their children to college? What about people who put their savings in 401ks because they were told that was the economically smart thing to do, and then lost everything? What about people who don’t take vacations, who buy used cars, who don’t eat out or go shopping, who do everything they can to not live beyond their means, but can’t help falling behind because the cost of living has skyrocketed over the past 30 years and real wages have not? What if, for just one or two months, they need to rely on paying off the mortgage with the credit card? Things may improve later for them, but it doesn’t matter. All the surrounding circumstances don’t matter, and they can’t count on a government bailout. No taxpayer funds for them to soften the blow, no month or two of borrowing to get by. This is because we live in a world increasingly oriented to serve the wealthy, where government and corporations feel no desire to respond to the desperate needs of others.

Citimortgage does not mention their new policy on their website, of course. You have to go to pay your mortgage with them, and find out there is no longer an option for credit card payment. You have to call them up, and their customer service people won’t know what’s going on. You have to ask to talk to a manager, and they’ll tell you it was a quiet change made two months ago without a lot of publicity. You’ll be put on hold, and no one will talk to you. They’ll ignore you, because they can.

This is happening to real people. Good people who have paid their bills their whole life, people who have worked hard and played by the rules. Unfortunately, the people at the top aren’t interested. So people will lose their homes, because in the midst of a financial crisis it’s more important to protect the banks and credit card companies than to protect the people who have nothing to fall back upon.

Companies like CitiBank , Morgan Stanley, AIG and the rest of Wall Street are responsible for this situation. Companies which are not interested in protecting people who gave them their money and trust. Companies which used their vast wealth to persuade elected officials to deregulate, to take away the burdensome laws which bound them to some meager semblance of social responsibility. Companies which are made up of people, people who don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing. People who have somehow lost all connection to social responsibility to their fellow human beings. People who hide behind their companies, who justify their actions because they only work for the System, but they are not the System. People who point to everything around them and say they can’t help it.

But they can help it. They can choose to fight those policies. Those who make these rules can choose to stop looking out only for themselves. Those who make our laws can risk the media attack machine and try to bring common decency back to our government. The rest of us, we who don’t make the laws or the rules, have to keep speaking out against such greed, to keep siding with the egg, and never the wall. It bears repeating:

Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg…

….What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically….

…We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong – and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

That is all I have to say to you.”

-Haruki Murakami

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1.) Pretty much everything.

chris hedges

Here’s a very brief introduction in case you’re unfamiliar with him. Chris Hedges was born in 1956 and began working as a war correspondent in 1983. He constantly worked in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as Sarajevo, El Salvador, Iraq, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sudan, the Gaza Strip, Yemen, and Colombia, and that’s only the beginning. After decades of witnessing the horrors humanity is capable of he returned to America and went back to school. His writing shifted from covering the worst events in the world for papers like The New York Times to analyzing and (often) condemning the underlying system which creates such events.

He’s written some highly informative (and some very controversial) books: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, and I Don’t Believe in Atheists (a book whose name alone caused a lot of people to go apeshit). He now writes a weekly column for the online magazine Truthdig. Before talking about why I admire his thinking so much, I think a few excerpts would be a good idea.

“Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.”

-From ‘Why I Am a Socialist’ 12/29/2008

Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

-From ‘It’s Not Going to Be OK’ 2/2/2009

“Massive military spending in this country, climbing to nearly $1 trillion a year and consuming half of all discretionary spending, has a profound social cost. Bridges and levees collapse. Schools decay. Domestic manufacturing declines. Trillions in debts threaten the viability of the currency and the economy. The poor, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed are abandoned. Human suffering, including our own, is the price for victory.”

-From ‘The Disease of Permanent War’ 5/18/2009

“The consumer goods we amass, the status we seek in titles and positions, the ruthlessness we employ to advance our careers, the personal causes we champion, the money we covet and the houses we build and the cars we drive become our pathetic statements of being. They are squalid little monuments to our selves. The more we strive to amass power and possessions the more intolerant and anxious we become. Impulses and emotions, not thoughts but mass feelings, propel us forward. These impulses, carefully manipulated by a consumer society, see us intoxicated with patriotic fervor and a lust for war, a desire to vote for candidates who appeal to us emotionally or to buy this car or that brand. Politicians, advertisers, social scientists, television evangelists, the news media and the entertainment industry have learned what makes us respond. It works. None of us are immune. But when we act in their interests we are rarely acting in our own. The moral philosophies we have ignored, once a staple of a liberal arts education, are a check on the deluge. They call us toward mutual respect and self-sacrifice. They force us to confront the broad, disturbing questions about meaning and existence. And our callous refusal to heed these questions as a society allowed us to believe that unfettered capitalism and the free market were a force of nature, a decree passed down from the divine, the only route to prosperity and power. It turned out to be an idol, and like all idols it has now demanded its human sacrifice.”

-From “The False Idol of Unfettered Capitalism” 3/16/2009

I am a big fan of unpopular truths. Shouldn’t we all be? If something is true, if our logic says “this seems accurate” and yet our deeply in-grained prejudices and need to conform and be comforted jerk us away from it… still, the facts remain. Sometimes I get pretty upset after reading an article by Chris Hedges, like the most recent “The American Empire is Bankrupt.” Not exactly fun stuff. But it would be wrong to let my own discomfort get in the way of facts (or prophecies). Now, things in this country might not be as bad as he believes. It would be nice if they’re not really. But there is still a world out there where billions of people, billions, live lives of unimaginable poverty compared to my own. The things I like to believe can never happen to me have happened to them. What makes my own life so immune?

One of the most frustrating things about reading history books is how time and again a small group of people who are doing very well by their own standards are utterly convinced their way of life will last. Then it ends, and the whole process starts all over again. No one learns any lessons (as in, maybe we shouldn’t have such an unequal distribution of wealth; maybe we shouldn’t concentrate all the political power in the hands of one or two people; maybe we should stop making war; you know, the usual) and the whole cycle repeats itself. I love where I was born and sometimes I love how I’ve been able to live, but I know it’s won’t last. As it shouldn’t, because it’s based upon a rotten foundation.

The word ‘prophet’ has multiple meanings. When I use the word prophet I mean the voice in the wilderness, the Cassandra who is able to see what is coming and tries to warn people to prepare. Many prophets, like Jeremiah and Jesus, were social prophets. They looked at a deeply unjust society and tried to convince people to treat their fellow human beings with the utmost love and respect. They tried to convince people to acknowledge that there is a part in each of us that wants to possess, that wants to make things permanent and to hide from a world where ultimately everything must pass. It’s not a popular message with people who aren’t ready to hear it, so they’re usually killed as soon as someone gets around to it. Our culture has a created a media which is loud enough to drown such people out from the conversation.

Chris Hedges seems like a sort of prophet. He’s made himself live looking at what is uncomfortable and horrible, and he’s come home to ask all of us to change our lives. He wants us to not live by slogans, to care about what happens to one another and accept responsibility for that. It doesn’t always make for pleasant reading, it doesn’t stroke egos, and no one anywhere is right about absolutely everything. But his intentions are good, and his knowledge of the world greatly exceeds my own. He is a person worth listening to.

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