Archive for Corporatocracy

“I want to stop paying tax, until everyone pays tax,” Wise told the Evening Standard. “I have actively loved paying tax, because I am a profound fucking socialist and I believe we are all in it together. But I am disgusted with HMRC. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison.”

Actor Greg Wise is married to Oscar winner Emma Thompson, reported the Guardian.

HMRC has come under fire in the HSBC scandal because of a failure to carry out a criminal investigation against the bank, which has its headquarters in the UK. While the agency found more than 1,000 tax evaders among the almost 7,000 UK clients of HSBC Suisse, only one individual has been prosecuted. About £135m has been recovered in tax, a lower figure than in other European countries.

Stuart Gulliver, the head of HSBC, has apologised in writing and again on Monday, when he said the bank’s bosses were shamed and humbled by the scandal.

How refreshing. On both sides of the Atlantic, we’re all breathless with anticipation to see pubic servants who’ve taken oaths to uphold the law do actually something about it, you know, and-justice-for-all-wise. Sent the evil bastards to prison already.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
23

Are we not Ubermen?

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Those using the Gregorian calendar count the years since the birth of Christ as Anno Domini, A.D. Bullshit is probably a lot older. But given that it’s a new millennium, maybe it’s time we started counting the years in A.B. “One of the most salient features of our culture,” as Aaron Hanlon quotes philosopher Harry Frankfurt at Salon, “is that there is so much bullshit.”

Case in point. In its obsession with turning everything on this planet into the Precious (other planets will come later), the Midas cult has turned its sights on sleep because “sleep is the enemy of capital.” Thus, sleep must be abolished. From caffeine-laced Red Bull to topical sprays to marshmallows, “perky jerky,” and military experiments with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Newsweek  looks at how we are waging the war on sleep:

For those looking to sleep less without drugs or military tech, there’s the “Uberman” sleep schedule: 20 minute naps taken every four hours. That’s just two hours of sleep in every 24 hours. Uberman is based on the theory that while humans experience two types of sleep, we only need one of those to stay alive. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage in which we dream, and it also has been shown in lab tests to be critical to survival: Rodents deprived of REM sleep die after just five weeks. Then there is non-REM sleep, which itself is broken down into four separate stages. One of those is short wave sleep (or SWS). Scientists aren’t really sure what function SWS serves, and Uberman advocates argue that it may not be critical to survival at all.

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What happens to America and its children once investment gurus decide the K-12 market is no longer the place to invest money? When education is no longer the Big Enchilada? When they dump their charter schools back on the states? Or raze them to build condos?

Those who have followed the school deform movement know that standing just behind parents expressing genuine concern for their children are investors. Millionaires and billionaires are targeting public education for the same reason banksters pimped mortgage loans. For the same reason Wall Street tried to privatize Social Security. For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks.

What is the largest portion of the budget in all 50 states?

As I wrote after the Center for Media and Democracy posted online a trove of ALEC documents:

The impulse among conservatives to privatize everything involving public expenditures – schools included – is no longer just about shrinking government, lowering their taxes and eliminating funding sources for their political competitors. Now it’s about their opportunity costs, potential profits lost to not-for-profit public-sector competitors. It’s bad enough that government “picks their pockets” to educate other people’s children. But it’s unforgivable that they’re not getting a piece of the action. Now they want to turn public education into private profits too.

But first, the “risk takers” must remove anyone that stands between them and that steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars. Teachers, and state and local boards of education, for example. The Midas cult won’t stop until it turns our daughters and our sons into gold, and maybe not then. If there is anything more addictive than wealth, it’s the power it brings.

Henry Giroux has been writing about that power for some time. He is back this week at Truthout with “Barbarians at the Gates: Authoritarianism and the Assault on Public Education.” Giroux writes:

Equality, justice and the search for truth no longer define the mission of public education. Economic policies that benefit the bankers, corporations and the financial elite result in massive inequities in wealth, income and power and increasingly determine how the US public views both public education and the needs of young people.

The shortsightedness of the investor class is as stunning as its avarice. And its fickleness. Once the Great Eye looks elsewhere, what will remain of public education and public infrastructure past generations paid for in taxes and sweat to make America a world power? Once demolished, how will we rebuild when the Midas cult inevitably moves on to its next shiny, new investment opportunity? Of these “dangerous times,” Giroux continues:

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Dec
28

2015: Imagine greater

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“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”
— Ursula Le Guin, accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, 2014 National Book Awards

So much of what bloggers write about is serendipity. Sometimes focusing fiercely on a single topic and searching out components to flesh out an idea, or else grazing the Net at random for articles that spark one, or sometimes just happening upon ideas floating around that connect in ways that say something about the zeitgeist.

This morning I ran across this post on Raw Story featuring Ursula Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards ceremony in November:


I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality. …

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art — the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want — and should demand — our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

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Naomi Klein contemplates the struggle between climate change and the globalization juggernaut. It is a struggle she once left to environmentalists. But having struggled with infertility and having covered the Gulf oil spill, her perspective changed. “It’s not that I got in touch with my inner Earth Mother,” Klein writes, “it’s that I started to notice that if the Earth is indeed our mother, then she is a mother facing a great many fertility challenges of her own.”

That climate change is linked to our lifestyle and our economy – and our attempts to deal with planetary warming without changing either – is the crux of Klein’s long piece in the Guardian:

“What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.”

Read: Billionaires with good intentions, flashy pronouncements, and market-driven solutions have failed to curb emissions. Much of the piece focuses on Richard Branson’s failed, but much ballyhooed efforts to apply a the same business savvy that made him rich to save the planet.

The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it’s a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender.

Post-Reagan, deregulated capitalism has long looked like something out of Mary Shelley or science-fiction films, a creature we created, but no longer control. Billionaires and their acolytes see only its benefits, but as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm says in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running, and then screaming.” Where once We the People held capitalism’s leash, now we wear the collar.

Whether it’s turning your child’s education from a shared public cost into a corporate profit center; or turning the principle of one-man, one-vote into one-dollar, one-vote; or carbon tax credits and accounting tricks for addressing rising sea levels; questioning the universal application of a business approach to any human need or problem often prompts the challenge, “Do you have something against making a profit?” A more subtle form of red-baiting, this ploy is supposed to be a conversation stopper. Yes? You’re a commie. Game over.

Maybe it’s time our billionaire problem-solvers got over themselves.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Jul
19

People At Risk, Water A Weapon

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Michigan has Rick Snyder. North Carolina has Pat McCrory. Here in Detroit for Netroots Nation, it is clear that Michigan is facing some of the same issues with GOP governance as North Carolina. The Koch brothers’ influence is palpable to these people. And where North Carolina has Art Pope, Michigan has the DeVos family.

With twenty percent of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes and flowing past our hotel, Detroit faces water privatization. It was not lost on those in Asheville that when Michigan’s governor appointed an emergency manager for Detroit — superseding local democracy and local governance — about the first public asset that went on the auction block was its water and sewer.

Sound familiar?

Over and over again this weekend, stories being told at Netroots echo what we are experiencing in North Carolina. The same destructive agenda is being acted out across the country. Other states are worse off, having enacted budgets like Gov. Sam Brownback’s in Kansas ahead of Pat McCrory’s in North Carolina. But the results will be the same in the Old North State. We are only now seeing the leading edge.

As we sit here, a panel of local activists is discussing the privatization of Detroit’s water system and Michigan’s public schools. In actions described by activist Maureen Taylor as “beyond demonic,” thousands of poor residents are having their water cut off in Detroit. Some going without running water for over a year. Mothers with children. The United Nations

It is not encouraging to see how widespread the assault is on public institutions, but it is good to know we are not alone in the fight.

At Naked Capitalism, catch this interview with Prof. Michael Hudson. Listen to the audio here.

G: What I think is really interesting as well is that we’ve seen a separation in capitalism. There is the traditional capitalism of the worker and the factory owner, but now what we’ve seen is the rise of a financial class, which is even harmful to the traditional capitalists themselves.

Prof. H: That’s right. Instead of industrial capitalism, if you look at writers from the 19th century, everybody from Marx to business school professors expected the destiny of industrial capitalism to be to bring finance out of the medieval period into the modern period. The idea was to make banks serve the industrial system. That’s what the Saint Simonians advocated in France. They were the idealists of the 19th century. They developed the idea of investment banking that the Reichsbank and the large German banks did most effectively. It’s what Japan did after WW2, simply because they didn’t have any other source of money except by their ability to create their own credit through industrial banking.

Nobody expected that finance capitalism would dominate and ultimately stifle industrial capitalism. But that’s what’s happening.

All the futurists, even socialists, were optimists about capitalism. They thought it was going to evolve naturally into socialism, with an increasing government role in the economy to provide infrastructure, including banking. Instead, you have governments being carved up. That’s what neoliberalism is. It’s really neofeudalism. It’s a dismantling of democracy in favor of a financial oligarchy, to rule by appointing proconsuls and technocrats such as you have in Italy under Monti or in Greece under Papademos. You have a rolling back of history, and of the Enlightenment. If your college curriculum, your religion and the popular press doesn’t even talk about the enlightenment and about the history of economic thought, you’re not going to realize that what’s happening is a rolling back of the last 500 years.

And based on what’s happening in North Carolina, you thought we were only rolling things back 50 years.

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Nov
16

TPP: Corporate Coup Coup Ca Choo

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Wikileaks press release this week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and its Intellectual Property provisions draft:

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states…

In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

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“This is a textbook case of how corporations attempt to influence our democracy, election after election. No. Seriously. They have a textbook.”

If we can help Boulder succeed, whose town gets helped next?

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