Bush as Corporate Socialist
The Bush regime has determined that its friends in the pharmaceuticals industry need even more protection and assistance than they already have. To give those corporations that additional buffer from reality and public service, the Bush boys have decided that Big Government is better than individual initiative.
"The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices. The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In court papers, the Justice Department acknowledges that this position reflects a "change in governmental policy ... Allowing consumers to sue manufacturers would "undermine public health" and interfere with federal regulation of drugs and devices, by encouraging "lay judges and juries to second-guess" experts at the F.D.A., the government said."Here we see the basic contradictions of capitalism exposed. The myth that is peddled is that free enterprise is the nirvana of all capitalists. The truth is that modern capitalism cannot survive without the protections it orders governments to grant it. What we have, in fact, is a socialized economy where the corporations play the role of, and receive the benefits of, individuals in classic socialism. So, another individual right -- the right to sue corporations -- is sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and management paychecks.
In addition, with this decision the role of government is increased and the role of the individual is reduced. "Trust us," says Big Brother. "We know better than you." Doesn't that contradict basic conservative philosophy? Bush sounds like a wimpering liberal, for God's sake! Where are the conservatives on this socialising President?
Rope, Metal, Wood and Water
More Unequal Than Ever
A few days ago, I wrote about the actions of corporation managements skewing the reward system so badly that massive inequality has been the result. Researchers noted that:
"Because of the inequality in the United States, even though our per-capita income is higher than many countries, our low-income families are not better off than those in other places where per-capita income is lower."Two recent reports seem to bear out this analysis. In the first, the IRS reports that, for the first time since the Second World War, overall incomes declined for two consecutive years (2001 and 2002).
"[G]ross income reported to the agency fell 5.1 percent to $6.0 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, down from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average income fell even more, by 5.7 percent, and adjusted for inflation the decline was 9.2 percent."And yet, on the very same day it was reported that average salaries for CEOs had risen 15% last year, after an average increase of 9.5% in 2002. And, of course, the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the raise:
"n comparing 2002 and 2003 compensation, the survey studied more than 1,400 chief executives who occupied their posts in both years ... Among the 372 companies in the survey that are listed on the Standard Poor's 500-stock index, median compensation for chief executives rose 22.2 percent. Of the 1,059 remaining chief executives, the median increase was 13.1 percent. Taken together, the increase was 15 percent."As the researchers say in their report:
"With statistics such as these, it would appear that any chance of reining in executive compensation has disappeared."And still the wealthy bitch about their lot in life. For example, I was fascinated to read today that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge may resign in the winter because he is having trouble putting two kids through college on his paltry $175,700 a year salary. Maybe he could get some household tips from ordinary people in, say, West Virginia, where average family incomes barely break $30,000; or even some families in the "wealthiest" State of Maryland where average family incomes are just over $50,000. Maybe then, he'd shut up and realise just how fortunate he is.
Tall Tales # 576
Death of the Brave
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the sorry state of the American protectorate of Afghanistan. George Bush may declare it a major success, but anyone with half a brain agrees the situation is perilous, to say the least. As if further proof were required, even the brave folks at Medecins Sans Frontiers have abandoned the country.
"After having worked nearly without interruption alongside the most vulnerable Afghan people since 1980, it is with outrage and bitterness that we take the decision to abandon them," Marine Buissonnière, MSF's secretary general, said in a statement. "But we simply cannot sacrifice the security of our volunteers while warring parties seek to target and kill humanitarian workers. Ultimately, it is the sick and destitute that suffer."Five of MSF's workers were targeted and killed recently.
"The five MSF workers, who had been in a clearly marked vehicle, were shot dead in the north-western province of Badghis on June 2. Their car was found riddled with bullets and embedded with shrapnel from a grenade. MSF said government officials had presented it with credible evidence that local commanders carried out the attack, but added that the government had neither arrested those believed responsible nor publicly called for their arrest. "The Americans claim that their puppet Karzai controls the country. If so, he is responsible for the deaths and the failure to prosecute the killers. If he isn't in control, then Bush is shown to be a liar once again.
Myths and The Missus
My interest in the conventions is less than compelling. I heard someone on TV say that America loves to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on meaningless spectacles, "it is part of who we are." Bread and circuses, indeed.
Anyway, I had been reading a lot about Barack Obama, already being groomed, I suspect, to contest the nomination in 2012 with John Edwards. He gave the keynote speech tonight and I was interested enough to watch. It was a good speech, a very good speech, actually, and the Democrats ate it up.
I hate to quibble on the boy's big night, but I was disappoined that, on occasion, he simply peddled trash. I had hoped that, with his multicultural background, he might be able to speak broader truths. Instead, his speech fed into many of those myths that Americans like to believe about themselves, but which are simply false and which are, frankly, insulting to the rest of the world. In particular, after detailing his parents' stories in Kenya and Hawaii, and tracing his own educational and political story, he claimed that:
"I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible." [emphasis added]Utter bullshit!
I'm sure I could seek out a bunch of stories from a bunch of countries to contradict that "only in America" myth. But I don't have to go that far. Here in British Columbia, we had a poor boy from India, an immigrant to Canada, become our Premier (similar to but far more powerful than a State Governor). Ujjal Dosanj left provincial politics and is now a senior Cabinet Minister in the Canadian Federal government. According to Mr. Obama, this can't possibly happen because this isn't America. Odd that, eh?
I was also disappointed that, for political effect, he contradicted himself. While building the American myth, he proclaimed proudly that in America
"you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential."And yet, just a few sentences later, while making a political point against Bush, he told the story of a young woman from East St. Louis who
"has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college."Which is it, my man?
But he looked good and sounded good, and he can only get better with experience. If he wins his senatorial contest in Illinois, I'm sure he'll be a real player. He is also, through his father, a genuine African-American.
Even more so is Theresa Heinz Kerry who was actually born in Africa, in Mozambique; her first political experience being with the anti-apartheid movement in southern Africa.
As these things go, I liked her speech. It seemed untutored somehow, with a basically flat delivery and the occasional slip of the tongue. But she spoke very well of herself, of "outspokenness" as a gender issue, and about her husband.
She'll be an interesting First Lady, I'm sure.
Divergent Paths on Marijuana
While the Empire fights its futile War on Some Drugs -- a War which is bankrupting many counties and States who have to house the vast numbers of marijuana prisoners -- Canada continues to base its cannabis poilicy on the reality that marijuana is ever more popular with voters. While the Empire continues to treat its adults as naughty children, Canada will move toward decriminalization, recognizing that adults should have the right to enjoy themselves in any way that harms no-one else.
"Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced [last] Wednesday that his government will reintroduce a bill that would make possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana a ticketable offense with no criminal record."At about the same time, Stats Canada released the latest figures on cannabis use:
"In 1989, Stats Canada found, 6.5% of Canadians over age 15 admitted using cannabis within the previous year; by 2002, that number had risen to 12.2%, or some three million Canadians. About 10 million Canadians, or one-third of the population, have used marijuana at some point in their lives."I suspect that this figure is way too low for Vancouver where we now have several cannabis cafes, and that beautiful sweet smell is common in many neighbourhoods.
The Canadian decriminilization bill still contains obnoxious penalties for growing the weed. However, with the results of the last election giving the Liberal Party only a minority position in Parliament, it is possible that the left of centre New Democratic Party could demand even more reform in exchange for its support. We can but hope.
Unfortortunaely, in Europe, there is a chance that progress toward individual freedom may go into reverse.
"A European Union (EU) working group on drug policy has issued a draft resolution identifying marijuana as European drug problem number one and recommending, among other things, that governments move to censor or criminalize Internet sites that provide information on cannabis cultivation or promote its use. "Dumb, dumb, dumb! Luckily, there seems to be little expectation that such a recommendation will be followed through on. But still, as a leading drug reform group says:
"Perhaps everyone has forgotten about this already, but the main trend behind this resolution will not go away if we just sit and pray."I read somewhere the other day that increased border security has stalled a lot of shipments of BC bud flowing into the States. This in turn has caused a glut in Vancouver with significant and welcome local price cuts as a result. So, the War on Some Terror hasn't been a total loss!
On the off-chance that I am not the last person to hear about it, I want to help publicize Freecycle.org.
Freecycle is a linked set of local groups (using Yahoo groups) that pass on useful items for free. You have something that you no longer need? Post it to your local freecycle group and someone else may be looking for it. There are three rules: no spam, no politics, and every item must be absolutely free with no catches. The buyer collects. This is eBay without the money! This strikes at the very heart of the disposable buy-the-latest-model consumerist capitalism we live under.
I've seen garden plants, computers, appliances, rugs, wool, books, records, beds, chests, and many other items recycled in this way just this month in Vancouver! There are now 1,105 cities involved with more than 270,000 users. A simple and wonderful idea.
I would like to extend the idea to the bartering of services, to expand the mutual aid marketplace. I do your taxes, you paint my garage; I clean your apartment once a week for three months in exchange for your skill in fixing the plumbing in my bathroom. You get the idea. It would be part of the enormous underground economy but, once again, with no money involved. Perhaps there is such a group already. If so, I'll find it. If not, I'll start it myself. I'll let you know.
In Iraq, the Resistance is Not Futile
Thanks to the ever-useful American Leftist, I was directed to this fascinating article by Scott Ritter, the former WMD inspector in Iraq. Ritter, with good claims to on-the-ground knowledge, declares that the resistance to the US occupation of Iraq was planned for long ago:
"In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's regime shifted toward an amalgam of Islamic fundamentalism, tribalism and nationalism that more accurately reflected the political reality of Iraq ... The transformation of the political dynamics inside Iraq, however, went largely unnoticed in the West. It certainly seems to have escaped the attention of the Bush administration ... Thanks to his meticulous planning and foresight, Saddam's lieutenants are now running the Iraqi resistance, including the Islamist groups ... Keep in mind that there was never a formal surrender ceremony after the U.S. took control of Baghdad. The security services of Saddam's Iraq were never disbanded; they simply melted away into the population, to be called back into service when and where they were needed."Ritter is happy to name names:
"The so-called Islamic resistance is led by none other than former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, an ardent Iraqi nationalist, a Sunni Arab and a practicing member of the Sufi brotherhood, a society of Islamic mystics. His deputy is Rafi Tilfah, who headed the Directorate of General Security (DGS), an organization that had thoroughly penetrated Iraqi society with collaborators and informants during Saddam's regime ... Tahir Habbush headed the Iraqi Intelligence Service that perfected the art of improvising explosive devices and using them to carry out assassinations. In the months prior to the U.S.-led invasion, he was ordered to blend his agents back into the Iraqi population so as to avoid detection by any occupying force."What future does this portend for Bush's Quisling regime in Baghdad?
"Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi's government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people - all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit. We will suffer a decade-long nightmare that will lead to the deaths of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. We will witness the creation of a viable and dangerous anti-American movement in Iraq that will one day watch as American troops unilaterally withdraw from Iraq every bit as ignominiously as Israel did from Lebanon."Ritter concludes his article by noting that Americans and the world will be a lot safer the quicker American troops are withdrawn and the occupation of Iraq is over. It is hard to disagree with him.
Corporate Rule = Inequality and Death
My opinion of corporations and what should be done with them is already known -- they should be "de-personed", taxed more than individuals, all shareholders should be employees, all employees should be shareholders, and the concept of "limited liability" should be tossed over the highest cliff. Everything I continue to learn makes me ever more sure of my position.
One of the world's most experienced economists and diplomats, John Kenneth Galbraith, has recently published an op-ed piece in which he states quite forcefully that American corporations -- and most especially the uncontrolled senior managers of US corporations -- are the prime movers behind US social and foreign policy.
"[C]orporate power has shaped the public purpose to its own needs. It ordains that social success is more automobiles, more television sets, a greater volume of all other consumer goods - and more lethal weaponry. Negative social effects - pollution, destruction of the landscape, the unprotected health of the citizenry, the threat of military action and death - do not count as such. The corporate appropriation of public initiative and authority is unpleasantly visible in its effect on the environment, and dangerous as regards military and foreign policy. Wars are a major threat to civilised existence, and a corporate commitment to weapons procurement and use nurtures this threat. It accords legitimacy, and even heroic virtue, to devastation and death ... As the corporate interest moves to power in what was the public sector, it serves the corporate interest. It is most clearly evident in the largest such movement, that of nominally private firms into the defence establishment. From this comes a primary influence on the military budget, on foreign policy, military commitment and, ultimately, military action. War. "If you haven't seen it already, this 49 minute documentary on the Carlyle Group is a must see, proving Galbraith's every point. [Note: the first 2 minutes are in Dutch, the rest is in English].
We know the devastation the imperial corporations have caused around the world, but what have they done for the taxpayers that supply the wherewithal for the billionaires to be billionaires in this sovietized economy? According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the people are not doing too well. In fact, they are doing worse than ever when compared to the bosses:
"The top 1 percent of families earned 9.3 percent of all income in 1980. By 2000, this income share had increased to 19.6 percent. Correspondingly, the income share of the bottom 90 percent declined from 66 percent to 53.9 percent ... From 1980 to 2000, the incomes of the upper 1 percent increased 179 percent, while those of the bottom 90 percent increased by 8 percent."The researchers conclude that:
"Because of the inequality in the United States, even though our per-capita income is higher than many countries, our low-income families are not better off than those in other places where per-capita income is lower. And even though we think of ourselves as a mobile society compared with Europe, recent research indicates that the United States has less class mobility than previously believed, nor has it changed much over the last few decades."Obviously the senior bosses of the corporations figure into the top 1 percent of families mentioned above. The ratio of bosses' pay to that of their workers is perhaps more starkly illustrative:
"In 1970, the ratio of top executive earnings to that of the average worker was 38.6 to 1. This ratio increased to 101.1 by 1980, to 222 by 1990, and to 1046 in 1999."For every one dollar a worker earns, his boss earns more than one thousand dollars. And it is these same bosses who have managed things so that oversight on their actions is essentially nil. As Galbraith says:
"Power in the modern great corporation belongs to the management. The board of directors is an amiable entity, meeting with self-approval but fully subordinate to the real power of the managers. The relationship resembles that of an honorary degree recipient to a member of a university faculty. The myths of investor authority, the ritual meetings of directors and the annual stockholder meeting persist, but no mentally viable observer of the modern corporation can escape the reality. Corporate power lies with management - a bureaucracy in control of its task and its compensation. Rewards can verge on larceny."The enemy we all face is not the occasional religious fanatic who succeeds in blowing up a bridge or even a skyscraper once every few years. No, the real enemy, the ever-present danger, is to be found in the corporate offices of America's domineering capitalists who pervert politics and the economy to their own selfish and greedy ends every single day.