Apr 07 2010
I’ve focused a lot on the history of how big business overtook the Democrats and America. I do so because I think it’s critically important to know how we got in this situation so we can know how to get out.
This piece by Chris Hedges draws light on a different story of the war on us that I was completely oblivious to. I love it when that happens.
How the Corporations Broke Ralph Nader and America, Too
By Chris Hedges
Ralph Nader’s descent from being one of the most respected and powerful men in the country to being a pariah illustrates the totality of the corporate coup. Nader’s marginalization was not accidental. It was orchestrated to thwart the legislation that Nader and his allies-who once consisted of many in the Democratic Party-enacted to prevent corporate abuse, fraud and control. He was targeted to be destroyed. And by the time he was shut out of the political process with the election of Ronald Reagan, the government was in the hands of corporations. Nader’s fate mirrors our own.
“The press discovered citizen investigators around the mid-1960s,” Nader told me when we spoke a few days ago. “I was one of them. I would go down with the press releases, the findings, the story suggestions and the internal documents and give it to a variety of reporters. I would go to Congress and generate hearings. Oftentimes I would be the lead witness. What was interesting was the novelty; the press gravitates to novelty. They achieved great things. There was collaboration. We provided the newsworthy material. They covered it. The legislation passed. Regulations were issued. Lives were saved. Other civic movements began to flower.”
Nader was singled out for destruction, as Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan point out in their engaging documentary movie on Nader, “An Unreasonable Man.” General Motors had him followed in an attempt to blackmail him. It sent an attractive woman to his neighborhood Safeway supermarket in a bid to meet him while he was shopping and then seduce him; the attempt failed, and GM, when exposed, had to issue a public apology.
Mar 28 2010
Actually, the title is misleading. This story is about far more than the Democratic party’s acquiescence to corporate servitude. It is about the rise of neofascism in America, the conquering of our government through subversive means, and how Big Business got together and changed this country to their liking.
Below is an excerpt from the best book ever written on how money influences politics – Dollars and Votes by Dan Clawson, Alan Neustadtl and Mark Weller. This excerpt specifically, however, is the fascinating and largely unknown story of how, after a series of setbacks in the 60s, Big Business decided to band together and destroy “liberalism”. The America that we see today, neoliberal, pro-corporate, anti-regulation, and generally hostile to anything resembling liberal or progressive government interventionism – is the direct product of the campaign begun so many years ago and which culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan.
Dollars and Votes
How Business Campaign Contributions Subvert Democracy
THE IDEOLOGICAL MOBILIZATION OF THE 1970s
In most elections the vast majority of corporations pursue an access (or pragmatic) strategy. But in the I980 election a large number were ideological, risk-taking, conservatives. To understand the changing corporate mood we need to go back at least to the early I960s. During the I960s, a series of social movements challenged many aspects of the established order. Blacks undertook the first major movement, first in the South and then in the North. Urban riots, Malcolm X, and the Black Panther party demonstrated that this opposition could become militant and threatening. Strong student and antiwar movements put thousands of people in the streets and took over buildings. Young men resisted the draft or deserted the military. In the late I960s and early I970s, the women’s and environmentalist movements grew rapidly. Although most of these challenges to authority did not focus primarily on corporations, corporations increasingly felt their impact, both in worker rebellions and in demands for increased social responsibility. The host of “public interest” organizations initiated or influenced by Ralph Nader constituted what was, in some ways, the mildest and most mainstream social movement. But it was also the movement that most specifically, in arguing for more regulation of business, targeted corporate practices.
Richard Nixon, a conservative Republican, won a narrow victory in I968 and a landslide in I972. But policy does not depend on politicians’ personal preferences, or even on electoral outcomes, so much as it does on the mobilization of power outside the electoral arena. In the I9805, that was primarily business power. At the end of the I960s, the forces with the power to shape the national agenda were a set of social movements. As a result, Nixon’s administration enacted a host of key liberal measures on the domestic front. From I969 through I972, virtually the entire American business community experienced a series of political setbacks without parallel in the postwar period. In the space of only four years, Congress enacted a significant tax-reform bill, four major environmental laws, an occupational safety and health act, and a series of additional consumer-protection statutes. The government also created a number of important new regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), investing them with broad powers over a wide range of business decisions. In contrast to the I9605, many of the regulatory laws enacted during the early I9705 were broader in scope and more ambitious in their objectives. As a result, corporations felt under attack and vulnerable. It appeared that even a conservative Republican president such as Nixon would inevitably be pushed to support more and more regulation of business and interference with the market. Top business executives meeting in I973 articulated their feeling of vulnerability: “We are fighting for our lives,” “We are fighting a delaying action.” As one said, “If we don’t take action now, we will see our own demise. We will evolve into another social democracy.”
Mar 27 2010
I’ve been saying this so much for so long, I decided to just create a picture this time. There is not lesser of two evils. It’s all a carefully orchestrated charade. Or, as depicted, a puppet show.
There will be no electoral solution. There is no “better Democrat” strategy. There will be no revolution, televised or not. The game is rigged. Checkmate.
The only way to win is to play a different game.
Here’s a clue though: almost all leftwing societies, socialists or whatever you want to call them, did not arise from building over time a strong leftwing political party. In every case they arose as a reaction to rightwing governments.
Where leftist organization plays in is being ready to seize the moment when rightwing policies bring disaster upon the people. But as we have seen with the election of Obama, they may have got us beat in that regard too. But most likely, it’s just because the disaster wasn’t disastrous enough this time.
But by far, the biggest aid to a return to “progressivism” or “social democracy”, or whatever you want to call it, was the disastrousness of George W. Bush’s presidency. And the biggest impediment is fake lefties like the Democrats. That’s the little song and dance they do. All that useful anger from the Bush years was dissipated with the “change” to Barack Obama. But the change was an illusion. This is how the puppet show works.
So you want to move the whole country left in a big way sooner? Elect Sarah Palin. Or stick with the Democrats. The puppet show won’t work forever. It’s already failing in Europe as socialists sweep elections and the people call for neoliberal heads.
In sum, the real fight is here. Not the government. Prepare the people so when the crash comes, they won’t choose a militant fascist instead of a peaceful socialist.
Mar 03 2010
Let’s begin with an essay by Chris Hedges wherein he shines a spotlight on just how pathetic the liberal left really are.
Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama
By Chris Hedges (Courtesy of Truthdig)
We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives.
Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq, close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has happened.
Jan 19 2010
Language plays a far greater role then just communication. It defines how we think. The reason you can’t remember when you were six months old is not because your brain wasn’t recording events. It’s because you had yet to develop the intellectual framework from which to retrieve the memories of those events.
That intellectual framework is known as representation – how we convert our perceptions of the the outside world into concepts and ideas in our minds. Language is the higher development of representation – when the big round thing becomes a “ball”.
Likewise, our representations of political observations not only affect our ability to communicate, but they affect how we make sense of those observations.
Jan 17 2010
There is no future in globalization. At least not the kind of globalization that we’ve seen emerge for the last 50 years.
One component of the great globalist vision was that the world would shrink with the advent of modern transportation technology – we could move our products from Baltimore to Beijing and back almost as easily, and often cheaper, then moving them from Baltimore to Cleveland. As we now know however, this vision is in direct opposition to the realities of climate change and a diminishing oil supply.
Another component of the great globalist vision was that the titans of banking and industry would have a global marketplace, unimpeded by the barriers of sovereignty, within which to operate freely. Global markets and all the world’s resources would be at their fingertips and the entire wealth of the world would be consolidated into an integrated global network.
As we can now see clearly, however, the centralization of this global network is its greatest threat. And while it has the power to bring down the economies of the world, there is no global authority to arrest that collapse.
Jan 12 2010
The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy. – Carroll Quigley
Carroll Quigley, esteemed professor of Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown, spilling the beans on his favorite subjects, the oligarchs. What he was describing in this passage was how the super wealthy saw the two party system way back in the 1920s.
It has evolved. They have gotten much more ruthless since then. Much more clever. And the devices of their control, television, radio, academia, are much more sophisticated than they were.
The role of the two party system is to keep the lower classes equally divided against themselves.
The role of the two party system is to keep the lower classes equally divided against themselves.
That hasn’t always been the role of political parties of course. But that is their primary purpose now.
The thing to understand is that the power control group, or whatever you want to call them, needs both parties. But for different reasons.
They way they’ve been using the Republicans is to push them, and the nation, farther and farther to the right. The old Overton Window trick.
The need for the Democrats is to appease the left, keep us from rioting in the streets like we should be. Ultimately, the Plutocrats would like to eliminate the “left” altogether. But until then, we are to be managed. That’s what Barack Obama was brought in for. To give us lefties a sense of empowerment, but to also show us the error of our ways. And how all of our political demands are just not serious.
They groomed and prepped him from the beginning. They stuck a presidential label on his head before he even won the Senate. Then they packaged him, branded him, and threw him into the big leagues.
And what a success he has been. Sure, not as many lefties have fallen for his act as they had hoped. But at least all the fighting between the two camps means the left has been divided and effectively neutralized.
And, despite the Republican’s severely damaging their brand under Bush, the reconstruction is going nicely.
As I’ve said before, once you ascend to the Senate or the White House, party affiliation becomes pure facade. We’re all Republicans now could be the Senate motto. As you descend down the power tree, the more real party affiliation becomes. All the way down to the loyal plebes.
This is how the control works. Half are loyal to Red and half are loyal to Blue. Red gets inflamed over their pet culture war issues and Blue gets inflamed over their pet culture war issues. So the corporate controlled media, the Plutocrats plaything, spends it’s days inflaming and pushing buttons.
Then they mix in a bunch of horror stories about common people gone mad (never a horror story about ruling elites going mad) and voilà – you never even notice them carrying your furniture out the back door.
While we’ve been obsessing over relatively minor issues, rich people’s issues, they have transformed our country, wiped out the middle working class, and begun the process of turning most Americans into poor laborers. That is their endgame. They are in the process of changing America into a different kind of country and society. And it isn’t the country the overwhelming majority of Americans want.
They have gutted our public services. (I called the police the other day to report a dead deer in the middle of the Hwy and I couldn’t reach anyone.) They have turned us against our own democratic government. The very government that our founders fought, died, and killed for.
We have been looted. We have been robbed. The elite power crowd are nothing but thieves and murderers. As Howard Zinn said, “They will kill you.” And that’s what they are doing. Piece by piece.
If we are to stop them, we have to do it soon. We are running out of time.
Dec 15 2009
To fight or not to fight. That was the question Budhy posed last week in regards to the more venal elements at Daily Kos. To be honest, even posing the question reminds me of a Monty Python script. The city is under siege and the elders are sitting around debating whether to defend it or not. But I understand the dilemma. And there were some good points on both sides. But I believe all questions are answered best by tackling them rationally. So let me address the issue in the most rational way I know how: scientifically.
Much of my educational background is in physics and philosophy. And I want to share with you a really cool way to see human interactions, and specifically politics, through the eyes of physics. If you’re physics averse, don’t worry. There’s nothing technical here. And as you will see, it is with this understanding of the laws of nature that we can draw some light on whether or not to engage the opposition.
The first thing to understand is that there can be no change without force. This is evident in Newton’s first law of motion:
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
In other words, absent an outside force, things tend to want to stay the same. Sound familiar?
Now it may seem a mere curiosity to apply the laws of physics to human behavior. But I assure it is far more important than that. For the underlying principle that governs how things change, and are changed, applies to all things – big and small, alive or inanimate. It even governs politics.
So when you notice that people, like trains, have their own intellectual inertia and will resist changing their minds or behavior unless pressure is applied, it’s not a coincidence. This is a fundamental truth of nature. In almost all cases, whether its atomic physics or molecular biology, dramatic changes almost always occur from an outside force. Maybe that sounds familiar too.
Now, here’s another concept that is important to understand. The measure of force between two objects is proportional to the difference between the properties of those objects. In other words, the bigger the difference, the greater the force. For example, if the two cars are traveling in the same direction (not much difference), their collision wont have much force at all. But if they are traveling in opposite directions (maximum difference), their collision will have a lot of force. This shows that force, and energy itself, is relative.
In political terms, the political force between two parties depends how much their views differ. This website, for example, has very little, internal, political force compared to some place where say, socialists are put in the same arena as tea baggers. As a result, Docudharma generates relatively little change. Mostly, we are all here agreeing with each other and confirming and refining each other’s views.
Understand, I am not implying that this is not valuable. It is, especially to those out fighting on the front lines every day. It’s a nice place to come home to.
But you are not going to have much impact here. That’s just a fact. If you want to have an impact, and cause more change, you have to increase the force. And that means jumping in to the rough waters, embracing the conflict, creating pressure and friction. It means going where the action is. And guess where that could be.
Daily Kos has some serious potential for force. The reason is, in their limitless attempts to accommodate Obama’s dramatic betrayal of almost everything he appeared to stand for in the campaign, our once dedicated allies have actually embraced pretty much everything many of us (and many of them) had been fighting against for years.
Daily Kos, if you’ll remember, used to be hostile territory for the DLC, Republican-lite segment of the Democratic party. Kos himself frequently took on the Bob Shrums of the world and a consensus emerged that rejected the idea that we had to tolerate selling out the interests of ordinary Americans to achieve electoral victory.
It was a hard fought consensus that involved much conflict, and much political force. I remember back in the early days a commenter accused me of waging “class warfare” by mentioning wealth inequality. Not a “troll”. Not a plant. Just another Democrats who had been brainwashed by the corporate media.
But over time, one argument at a time, we chipped away and Daily Kos, which was quite centrist really when I arrived, slowly became pretty damn progressive. That consensus is gone now.
I can barely even recognize the place. I don’t go there often, but some of the things I have seen there horrify me. And even when the recommended list isn’t filled with cult worship and the intelligentsia’s defense of everything they despised about Bush, it is almost devoid of progressive activism. Rare are the diaries really speaking truth to power now because that power often includes the administration.
If I frame what’s happened at Daily Kos and across the progressive netroots in general as a battle in the war between the Plutocrats and the The People, I would have no choice but to call it a coup. I mean, the formally, pretty progressive Daily Kos recommended list has gone from a place where a lot of positive, progressive change took place to a propaganda front for the corporatist movement. I’m not exaggerating.
A classic example of this is the insipid diary, Let’s thank our lucky stars for big corporate law firms. Suddenly, because Obama was being criticized for appointing a corporate lawyer who represented the terrorist sponsoring Chiquita banana company, hundreds of Daily Kos members voted up this piece of propaganda.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have observed a mass abandoning of long held beliefs, all for the sake of realignment with Obama’s corporatist policies.
Lastly, does Daily Kos even matter? Some would argue that it is slipping into irrelevancy anyway and we should just ignore it. On this point I respectfully disagree. Daily Kos, for better or worse (worse I think) is like a hub for the progressive netroots. Not only does it have the most readers (among community blogs), it has the most powerful readers and contributors. A lot of power players drop by to urinate on the Daily Kos lawn. It is true Kos is slipping. But Daily Kos is the face of the Democratic netroots. And until that changes, it is the theater of operations for the fight to reform the Democratic party – or destroy it if need be.
But remember, this isn’t really about Daily Kos the website anyway. Nor is it about Docudharma. It is about the people there. Many are still good progressives. And there are a lot of people who have been mislead. Some sense that they’ve been betrayed. Some are hurt. Others are lashing out. Some are just volunteers or paid operatives who have ulterior motives. They live to attack critics. They sit there sometimes 18 hours a day waiting to attack anyone who is perceived as a threat. Some of them form email lists so they can tag team opponents and exaggerate their numbers. I caught on to that when I was there.
Throughout this essay, as I’ve described the principle of political force, I have only referred to differences of opinion. But what we’re dealing with is far more nefarious. We’re dealing with people who will lie and distort to protect political power. They must be challenged.
I implore you to get back in the fight. Retake the rec’d list of Daily Kos. Stop letting yourselves get bullied and discouraged from participating. Daily Kos used to be the home of People Power. Now it’s just an extension of the PR arm of the Obama campaign and those who benefit from his presidency.
There can be NO CHANGE without force. Without conflict. Without resistance. Without some pain. It’s as much a law of nature as gravity.
Dec 09 2009
One of the biggest challenges in developing a political strategy is figuring out what your priorities are. For a long time I have believed that our number one priority should be campaign finance reform. Without removing the corrupting influence of money, nothing else can be accomplished. The proof of this, as if we needed it, is demonstrated by the health care reform farce.
I was able to predict back in January 2009 (actually far sooner) that the health care reform bill that would emerge from Congress would be “another scam health care plan that will not solve a single problem but will please [the Democrats] big contributor[s] in the insurance and health care sectors.” Well, I wasn’t too far off was I? It’s just the way the game is rigged. Wall Street bankers and the insurance companies (which are really the same thing) own Washington. So it wasn’t too hard to predict that meaningful health care reform, the kind that benefits most Americans, was a pipe dream.
But over the years I have begun to realize that there is another foe even greater than money in politics. It is the Public Opinion Complex. This is the many tentacled monster that reaches into the brain of society and sets its norms, shapes its world view, and determines the boundaries of acceptable thought.
Don’t read those too fast. Each is monumental in scope and significance: Sets our norms. Shapes our world view. And determines our boundaries of acceptable thought.
There is nothing more important.
“The manufacture of consent…was supposed to have died with the appearance of democracy…but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique…under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy.”
Back in the early 20th Century, the oligarchs had a problem: how could they control society while preserving the illusion of democratic self government. Obviously, the old methods of the sword would not work. They needed a more subtle form of persuasion.
The solution came in the form of new breakthroughs in the study of human psychology and the pioneering ideas of Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. Freud essentially discovered that people are not solely motivated by rational thought. More often, we are motivated by irrational, subconscious desires.
Bernays pioneered ways to utilize this understanding of human nature to manipulate the masses. But that was only the beginning. Soon, a new technology would be born that would allow the oligarchs to not only manufacture consent, but manufacture society itself. By the time television came along, it was well understood the power of propaganda. Everyone had seen how Hitler had used charisma and,
Nov 18 2009
I was going through this post I did at Daily Kos to refresh my memory on condoms. But as I read it, I was struck by how current it still seems, and relevant to everything we’ve been discussing here lately.
Sorry, But the Democrats Have Failed Again
I’m literally sick to my stomach. I have been for a few days now. I know this will be unpopular among some here. But I don’t care. I see very few facing the reality of what has happened with the stimulus package, and the historical opportunity our Democratic leaders have just thrown down the drain.
Our country is at a crossroads. The kind Roosevelt faced when he entered office in 1932. It is a time for vision, boldness, and courageous leadership. What should have happened was the Democrats put together a big, unifying vision for the future – a Rebuilding America Act.
Like Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon, this act should have inspired Americans to look forward again and see a better future through the clouds of our current crisis. It should have been both far reaching and immediate. ‘We will rebuild America and we will start now.’
It should have been almost entirely dedicated to converting and rebuilding our nations infrastructure. 800 thousand million dollars is a lot of money. We could have launched a massive plan to build high speed rail across the country. Build solar and wind farms. Build thousands of new, smaller schools to keep kids in their communities and allow parents to get involved in their children’s education.
A grand vision to mobilize millions of Americans to not just get out of our rut, but to actually create something better than we’ve known before. That’s what we could do with almost a trillion dollars.