Friday, June 11, 2010

Guess what? Corporations DO rule the world

The Gulf disaster, beyond the hideous truth revealed about our unwillingness to even begin to address our strung-out, monkey-on-its-back, petroleum-as-heroin, over consumptive economy; beyond the likely transformation of the Gulf of Mexico into one huge dead zone - makes it abundantly clear who is calling the shots across much of this tottering globe. David Korten called it in 1995 with the publication of his first book, "When Corporations Rule the World" (see below for excerpts from this prescient book). Fifteen years later, they do; they really do.

In his new Rolling Stone article, "The Spill, The Scandal and the President," subtitled "The inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years – and let the world's most dangerous oil company get away with murder," Tim Dickinson details how Obama's Interior Secretary Ken Salazar kept the Bush "Easy Oil" policies in place, failed to bring Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) into line, which continued to function like a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry, and ultimately give the green light to BP's deep water drilling.

Little has stemmed the tide of the corrupting influence of corporate lobbyists on the political process other the apportioning of the money along different party lines.

The BP disaster is just the the the most current "in your face" example of just how the rise of massive multi-nationals has had dire effects on our nation and on the planet itself. Whether it be AT&T's subversive campaign to end Net Neutrality, the right wing Supreme Court's decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited funds on partisan political advertising, the corporate agenda, enabled by Wall Street and facilitated media empires like Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., have become adept at manipulating "Main Street" rage to turn against the very forces that could potentially inhibit the continuing rise of unbridled corporate power.

Like the late, great George Carlin said: "That's why they call it the American Dream. You have to be asleep to believe it."

Earth's three socio-ecological classes
1.1 billion
> US$ 7,500 per capita
3.3 billion
US$ 700 - 7,500 per capita
(Living lightly)
1.1 billion
Travel by car and air

Eat high fat, high calory meat-based diets

Drink bottled water and soft drinks

Use throw-away products and discard substantial wastes

Live in spacious, climate controlled, single family residences

Maintain image conscious wardrobe

Travel by bicycle and public surface transport

Eat healthy diets of grains vegetables and some meat

Drink clean water plus some tea and coffee

Use unpackaged goods and durables and recycle wastes

Live in modest naturally ventilated residences, with extended/multiple families

Wear functional clothing

Travel by foot, maybe donkey

Eat nutritionally inadequate diets

Drink contaminated water

Use local biomass and produce negligible wastes

Live in rudimentary shelters or in the open. Usually lack secure tenure

Wear second hand clothing or scraps

Based on Alan Durning's How Much Is Enough, Worldwatch Institute.

In the quest for economic growth, free market ideology has been embraced around the world with the fervor of a fundamentalist religious faith.

Assault of the Corporate Libertarians

Proponents of corporate libertarianism regularly pay homage to Adam Smith as their intellectual patron saint... Ironically, Smith's epic work The Wealth of Nations, which was first published in 1776, presents a radical condemnation of business monopolies sustained and protected by the state.

The Betrayal Of Adam Smith

We should be more than skeptical of an economic model that calls on us to give up all loyalty to place and community, says we must give free reign to securities fraud and corporate monopolies and deny workers the right to organize, and tells the poor to run faster and faster after a train they have no chance of catching—so that a few hundred thousand people can become multi-millionaires by destroying nature and depriving others of a decent means of livelihood.

Economic Myths

Communism called for all power to the state. Market capitalism calls for all power to the market—which in a globalized economy means rule by global corporations and financial markets. Both ideologies lead to the concentration of power in distant and unaccountable institutions.

Markets are for People

So sacred have growth and free trade become in our modern culture that only rarely do we find the courage to ask why they should be given precedence over the needs of people and nature?

An Economic System Out Of Control

Needless to say, it hasn't been easy to create an economic system able to produce 358 billionaires while keeping another 1.3 billion people living in absolute deprivation. It took long and dedicated effort by legions of economists, lawyers, and politicians on the payrolls of monied interests to design and implement such a system. It required a radical altering of the dominant culture and the restructuring of many important institutions. It will take a similarly committed effort on the part of civil society to design and put in place an economic system supportive of economic justice and environmental sustainability.
A Citizen Agenda to Tame Corporate Power, Reclaim Citizen Sovereignty, and Restore Economic Sanity

Thanks to

Based on documents from

Also see:
Gangs Of America
The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy
The Corporation
Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Monday, June 07, 2010

Chris Hedges: The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

Chris Hedges posted a piece at today that I find alarming to say the least. The rise of the far Christian right wing, its influence in our military, in the halls of Congress, and the culture at large belies their numbers. While it is easy to marginalize the christofascist movement, they manage to to pack an extraordinary punch far beyond their demographics, in no small part through their opportunistic enablers like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. To wit, the recent decision of the Texas School Board to adopt "white-washed" history books and a curriculum that champions the likes of Sen. Joe McCarthy, Phyllis Schafly, and conveniently ignore Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, even Thomas Jefferson.

"Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on "biblical law," and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America. It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as "nominal Christians"—meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged."

For example, The Family, of whom most Americans have never heard, is a secretive fellowship of powerful Christian politicians that centers on a Washington, D.C., townhouse. Investigative journalist Jeff Sharlet has written extensively about the influential group in his book
The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. From the book:

"Senator Sam Brownback (R., Kansas), chair of a weekly, off -the-record meeting of religious right groups called the Values Action Team (VAT), is an active member, as is Representative Joe Pitts (R., Pennsylvania), an avuncular would-be theocrat who chairs the House version of the VAT. Others referred to as members include senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee (the powerful conservative caucus co-founded back in 1974 by another Family associate, the late senator Carl Curtis of Nebraska); Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa); James Inhofe (R., Oklahoma); Tom Coburn (R., Oklahoma); John Thune (R., South Dakota); Mike Enzi (R., Wyoming); and John Ensign, the conservative casino heir elected to the Senate from Nevada, a brightly tanned, hapless figure who uses his Family connections to graft holiness to his gambling-fortune name. Some Democrats are involved: representatives Bart Stupak and Mike Doyle, leading anti-abortion Democrats, are longtime residents of the Family's C Street House, a former convent registered as a church and used to provide Family-subsidized housing for politicians supported by the Family. A centrist occasionally stumbles into the fold, but the Family is mostly conservative. Family stalwarts in the House include Representatives Frank Wolf (R., Virginia), Zach Wamp (R., Tennessee), and Mike McIntyre, a hard right North Carolina Democrat who believes that the Ten Commandments are "the fundamental legal code for the laws of the United States" and thus ought to be on display in schools and court houses."

Hedges suggests how the failures of traditional liberalism have opened the door to this movement. The diverse comments left by readers of the piece are as interesting as the article itself. Given the influence of Christian hyper-conservatism among the brass of our armed services (I have a family member who is a high ranking officer and the religious fervor of some his colleagues whom I have met is astounding), a quiet, militaristic coup in the future, especially if we continue to wallow in economic uncertainty, and as climate change transforms global politics and security suddenly becomes no longer unthinkable.

Paranoia? Perhaps so. But I agree with Hedges; we ignore the rise of this stealthy, serpentine and very unsilent minority at our peril.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The price of oil

East Grand Terre Island, LA, June 3, 2010.
There's a bird in there somewhere.