Corporate consolidation by brand

Corporate consolidation by brand

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This picture is but a drop in the ocean of corporate consolidation. When you read about an increase of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) it is usually an indication that rich people (using the corporations they own and the politicians they buy) have just stolen a great deal of money from you, legally (because the rich/corporations write the laws) and/or illegally (because they break the laws they don’t write). The past decade or so has been (yet another) one of these times.

The consolidation of money/power has surpassed that of the Gilded Age. Inequality has never been greater in human history. The rich have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. When you see things like stock buy-backs, art and property selling for record amounts, billions “invested” in silicon valley vaporware and apps that “innovate “by essentially enslaving working people, you see this in action.

The tendency to monopoly power is built into capitalism. Some apologists for capitalism will say that is why we need good regulation, but another tendency built into the logic of capitalism is profit at any (so-called “external”) cost. That means there will be a constant effort to destroy regulatory bodies or “capture” them. The u.s. government is now one big object lesson in that process. Because the rich/corporations make the laws, control money and the state, they also make “policy” or “laws” that funnel more to the top – and that means they are making us poorer and more vulnerable. International trade agreements work exactly the same way. Capitalism, in the form of corporate control, does the job of crafting regulatory bodies and agreements that make corporations richer and poison, immiserate, and kill the rest of us.

Another easily seen part of the corporate capture of government involves the rich buying politicians. They always came cheap and because of the just explicated processes, there are no constraints on campaign contributions either. Oh, and corporations have more rights than people – and corporations are legally people. But one of the most popular legal bribes comes in the form of the paid speech. Not coincidentally, it’s usually the first thing a president or any high government official does as soon as they leave office. They can’t wait to get to the payoff trough. Often it’s a speech to goldman sachs or an oil company, but only the high profile politicians get the $200,000/speech payoffs. The rest can usually be purchased with petty cash. Of course, a million here and million there is petty cash to corporations.

All of this contributes to the further consolidation of capital (which obviously increases inequality) and has led us to multiple crises coming together at once – and the creation of new crises as well. Voting will not get us out of it. Liberal tinkering around the edges will not save us. Getting radical (changing the system at the root) is the only way forward. We will have to do it by organizing ourselves, unifying, and creating another system that is not based on the exploitation of the earth and everything living on it. Socialism or barbarism was once offered as a pithy way to describe the choice. We can argue about what to label a new way of living and structuring life on planet earth, but it can’t be the neoliberal corporate capitalist system we have now, and we all have to be involved in organizing ourselves and unifying to become a force powerful enough to challenge the capitalists ruining the chance for continued human life on this planet.

Whatever group or organization you join (or start), work to make it as (small d) democratic as possible and work toward making connections with other groups. When groups can come together and unify internationally, we will have the beginning of a chance to challenge the power of the capitalist class. It sounds fantastical and crazy – and as things exist today, it seems impossible – but it is the only way to get off the path that leads directly to mass extinction. The choice seemed obvious when it was phrased as socialism or barbarism. That was another time. And because “we” chose barbarism (and capitalists made war against socialism), now the choice is socialism or the extinction of the human species. Again, if you don’t like the word socialism, call it something else, or think of something else. The point is that we all have to act, together, as one. We start by joining with others to help struggling people. Not as a charity, but in shared struggle. That is the way forward. As you help others – with others – you will help yourself, in ways you can’t even imagine.

“…more & more individuals & groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance & incarceration.” – Giroux

“What has emerged in this new historical conjuncture is an intensification of the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance and incarceration.”
– Henry A. Giroux

Educate yourself about the TPP with Bill Moyers, Yves Smith, and Dean Baker

If enacted, these laws will be an end-run around existing laws and institutions created to protect us.  Their goal is to continue the transfer of our rights as citizens to transnational corporations, eliminating regulations and “opening markets.”  As they simultaneously oppress and steal from us, they will have removed all legal mechanisms for us to fight back.  It is an obvious threat to activism of any kind and a major worldwide threat to all working people and our environment.

The TPP/TTIP are essentially neoliberalism enshrined in trade law.  The laws will be used to extract wealth, consolidate corporate power, and quell dissent. The agreement has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” Consider how much damage has been done to our country – and others – by massive corporations and financial institutions who used NAFTA to rip good jobs out of our hands, only to give them to unprotected workers in other countries, where the corporations polluted and exploited with impunity. Then the manufactured crisis of 2007-08 was unleashed on us by the same people. They have stuck the knife in, they have turned it, and now they want to finish us off and put the final nail in the coffin of anything resembling freedom or democracy.

When the global corporate elite control everything, the only thing left will be for us to consume, produce and obey.  If we have been marginalized to such an extent that we are unnecessary to that system, then the system has no place for us and asks that we not be seen, or preferably die quietly.  We aren’t far off from this now.  Millions suffering in poverty, a rapidly dwindling middle-class, the rich reaching new heights of wealth every day. They have bought the political system, they have instituted mass surveillance, militarized police forces, corporate control of almost every aspect of our lives…and that is not enough for those who constantly want more.

People who are still paying the bills, have retirement, can buy a few high tech consumer goods, help their kids out every month, maybe take a vacation now and then, somehow think they’re immune. If they think about the reality of our situation as a country (and as a world) they may despair or shrug and think, same as it ever was…but it’s not.  Things have changed. We have never had a global elite like this in the history of the world. Collectively, they have and control more wealth and power than has ever existed in history.  They cross borders with impunity, have no allegiance to any state, play entire countries off of each other, raid pension funds and government treasuries…the list is seemingly endless.  They write the laws and they make the rules.  If they can’t “outsource” your job, they are trying to replace every worker they can with a machine – and not just blue collar workers…

Even if TPP is never enacted, a variation will be – or a thousand variations, stuck into laws and trade agreements around the world.  NAFTA has had a massive impact on all of us. As clinton fast-tracked it and pressed for China’s entry into the WTO, most of us chose not to listen to the people who were trying to warn us about it.  Now, the TPP promises to be a thousand times worse. Intellectual property rights enabled pharmaceutical companies to keep poor people in need from getting access to generic drugs (and many middle-class americans), they helped monsanto make criminals of millions of farmers. Now it seems Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an aspect of existing trade agreements under the WTO, are a major focus of the TPP. Not only will they criminalize even more of the world, they will use TRIPS to clamp down on the internet and all of its users. They believe they can succeed where SOPA and PIPA failed.

Of course, the earth, our environment, is front and center in most big trade agreements written by corporations.   When a transnational corporation sees an opportunity for exploitation in a particular country, say oil drilling, but a government (and more importantly, it’s citizens) doesn’t want it to happen, that would be considered, in trade-speak, a “barrier to trade.”  We don’t know the details because all of these trade negotiations are taking place in private, but leaks from preliminary documents indicate they want to get paid – with our tax dollars – on the projected income losses from not being able to exploit a resource.  The logic is twisted and perverse.  It is the logic of capitalism.  So, not only do they want to more “efficiently” exploit more of the earth with impunity by “opening markets,” it appears they also want to be paid – by us – for doing nothing.

It’s time to be honest with ourselves and have a sense of urgency.  Whatever your situation is today, it is not static. There are dynamic changes happening and the corporations writing the TPP in secret are at the vanguard of those changes. The only true way to fight this is to realize it is part of the same neoliberal agenda that corporations and venal politicians are using to privatize education, water, steal money out of our pockets through the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) “economy,” make war, sell weapons, and displace huge populations around the world.

Many people are beginning to see the same policies enacted in different countries with the same wealthy elite benefiting and the same working people paying the price – just talk to anyone in Britain…

So, first we need to learn about what is happening and realize its profound impact.  Then we need to organize to fight a capitalism that is using neoliberal strategies to oppress and exploit the planet – and all but a few of its inhabitants.  Not only do we need to organize world wide, but we need to have a vision of what we want. I suggest we create a way of life that puts people before profits.  No time like the present…

Common sense

Common sense. It’s a double (actually triple) entendre. Brand is considered “common” in the English class system (yes, even though he is rich now) and is offering what I consider common sense political – and even spiritual – analysis. There is a third meaning as well to those familiar with Thomas Paine.

Of course, nothing he’s saying is new. Many have said it before and many are saying it now, but few have the access to media Brand has, and even fewer have his following. In media terms, his audience – the audience he carries around with him if you will – far exceeds even the most popular television show’s audience on its best night. For example the finale of Breaking Bad garnered a 6.6 million audience share. As of today, Brand has 7,366,715 followers on twitter – and I think it’s safe to assume that number represents a fraction of his fans worldwide who aren’t following him on twitter.

Not only is he articulate – often eloquent – concerning our current situation as humans on a planet increasingly controlled by corporate power and the politicians they pay for, but he has every skill needed to deal with media “journalists” and all of the various and sundry lackeys of the elite who populate our popular media landscape.

Aside from being a skilled debater (he would make a joke here), he is extremely quick-witted and capable of encapsulating complex thoughts in pithy “sound-bites.” While he has many other skills perfectly suited to communicate through the media, his most important trait is his humanity. Simply put, he cares about other people and believes people generally tend toward good impulses rather than ill. Again, there are others who appear in the media who still have their humanity, but Brand can communicate it better than most. They used to call it, “the common touch.”

So, who cares? Well, I guess it depends on who you are. Most people on the left have been trying to communicate some variation of these ideas for quite a long time now, with very little success. The prominent left’s reaction to Brand’s interview with Paxton is a testament to how fractured and divisive the left has become – and an object lesson in what some lefties do with their access to the media. Of course, some of this is airing dirty laundry, but now is as good a time as any if a certain faction of what’s left of the left wants to be on board for any actual popular resistance, let alone “lead” it.

Mark Fisher discusses these issues and how Russell Brand matters in his article, “Exiting The Vampire Castle.”

On December 5th, 2013, Doug Henwood interviewed Fisher for his radio show and podcast Behind the News. Though there is a bit of academic language thrown around, I think he does a nice job of summing up the way I would. Essentially, he supports what Brand is doing in the media, rejects divisive “indentitarianism,” calls for putting class firmly in the center of left discourse, and for getting back to practicing solidarity and common cause.

I want to end here, but because we are where we are, it seems more of a whimper than a bang. These calls have been made before (though I sense more energy building behind the critique of identity politics). The truth is, we have to call out even those calls, because after a certain point, talk and theorizing will beget even more talk and theorizing if that is the bulk of left “action.” I am not diminishing the need for those things; in fact, acting and theorizing are not mutually exclusive – but we will eventually have to do the hard organizing work they did generations ago, because about half of us will have very few other options. This isn’t a static situation by any means. There will be another manufactured crisis. It will be worse than the last one. The same corporations will be responsible.

The elite have embraced Neoliberalism and are using a series of policies based on that economic philosophy to organize the entire world in their image. It is a world where everything is commodified, i.e., made into something that can be bought or sold, where everything owned by the public and everything for the public good is privatized and only exists to generate profit, where no one has privacy and everyone is a number.

While capitalists of the past may have had visions of world domination, it would be difficult even for them to conceive of how much capital has been consolidated and what those capitalists (yes, mostly in the form of corporations) have been able to do with that capital. They are utilizing a neoliberal agenda that enacts and enforces laws using politicians and global organizations to reorganize the very structure of our lives. From food and water to oil and jobs, from education to housing, our lives are being reshaped by global capital. This is the threat. This is what is happening before our eyes. They have more power and wealth than has ever existed in history and they are using it on people in the same way all over the world.

In the end, this may turn out to be their greatest weakness. If exploited and oppressed people understand the same thing being done to them is being done to their brothers and sisters around the world, they can begin to talk. When they talk, they can begin to organize, and then together we can fight the corporate power that exists only to exploit for profit. A worldwide class war perpetrated against working people demands worldwide solidarity and organizing.

Unions like the IWW with international aspirations never really achieved their goals. Now, the consolidation of capital by a relative few corporations and individuals using the same set of policies all over the world may have created the conditions for the first actual worldwide movement of people to come together and with one voice say, “basta!”

The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took The Law Back From Liberals

About the Book:

Over the last thirty years, The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies has grown from small group of disaffected conservative law students into an organization with extraordinary influence over American law and politics.  Unknown to the average citizen, this group of intellectuals managed to monopolize the selection of federal judges, take over the Department of Justice, and control legal policy in the White House.  How did this happen?  How did right wing law professors with radical ideas move their theories into the mainstream of legal thought?  How did Federalist Society members shape national policy for the “War on Terror,” reverse the Supreme Court’s direction on civil rights, chip away at a woman’s right to choose an abortion, win free speech rights for corporations to bankroll elections, and leave the United States as one of only two countries in the world that have not signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children?  How has this group garnered broad acceptance of the idea that we should interpret the Constitution according to its original eighteenth century meaning, rather than as a “living” document? This book goes behind the surface of legislative and court battles to explain how law is really made.  It’s about how ideas and ideology drive law, policy and politics.  And what both conservatives and liberals alike can learn from the rise of the Federalist Society.

Click anywhere above to read a Q&A with the authors

All fall down

Another “must read” from Sarah Kendzior. She is on the right track.

At the end of the article, she offers this: “You can organize and push for collective change…”

I think it is necessary and has to be done now. It is clear that whatever we have done and are doing isn’t enough in the face of of this corporate assault on working people and every institution in the land. The corporate elite and the politicians they buy are implementing a neoliberal agenda

( https://21stcenturytheater.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/david-harvey-and-others-explain-neoliberalism-these-are-the-ideas-that-became-policies-which-in-turn-rule-our-lives/ )

that is simultaneously creating the problem and making resistance harder than it has ever been. Corporations and the governments they buy are rapidly privatizing everything. They are “rent-seeking,” maximizing return, writing international trade laws, they are criminalizing poor and working people, stealing pensions, property – the list of crimes and venality seems to go on forever.

The “devaluation of people” Sarah writes of has roots in capitalism as well as neoliberalism. One has to understand both to know that while exploitation has always been key to capital accumulation, neoliberalism has been used to increase and systematize that exploitation. It is like a set of tools capitalists can use to extract wealth from individuals, cities, countries – in fact the entire world. In other words, yes, exploitation has always happened, but the consolidated power and wealth corporations have attained is unprecedented in world history. It is increasing. And they have what amounts to an organized plan, viz. A neoliberal agenda. It’s different this time. And we ignore it at our peril.

This is the (rarely reported) root cause of many of the revolts of the Arab Spring. Recently, in Turkey, neoliberal policies of privatization and the loss of public spaces sparked protest. Scratch the surface and you will find corporate interests and the politicians they pay for. In every English-speaking country, the neoliberal agenda has been forced on the “political process,” food, water, education – again, the list could go on for pages.

We need to understand what neoliberalism is as we organize to fight it. In the best Shakespearean manner, its greatest strength is its greatest weakness: It is a global phenomenon backed by many of the same corporate players. They are implementing the same policies all over the world, and through their oppression and repression, they are are radicalizing people world-wide.

They exist on greed – and the attendant fear that comes from knowing the consequences of their greed. That is why they are spying on all of us, why they are militarizing our police forces, why corrupt politicians shout down teachers, why the rich live behind walls and security cameras and lead lives almost totally separate from us (unless we’re waiting on them). They fear us. Because they know what they are doing is wrong.

Even now, as a small fraction of the earth’s population amasses most of its wealth on the backs of most of its people and the health of the land, they are more and more afraid. We have a small window, and when I look around the English-speaking world I know, I don’t see the urgency we need to have, I don’t see enough people making the intellectual connections or the necessary connections with each other.

People who are already activists and organizers need to organize under one banner. I humbly submit it should be one that is pro-human and anti-neoliberal. Then we need to organize the world, putting people before profit while fighting the neoliberal agenda. It may sound utopian or crazy, but I think it is eminently realistic – and I hope imminently realistic. Even if it’s not, simply accepting the path we’re on is not an option.

No time like the present.

Sarah Kendzior

From my latest at Al Jazeera English:

When survival is touted as an aspiration, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A suffering person is a person who suffers.

If you suffer in the proper way – silently, or with proclaimed fealty to institutions – then you are a hard worker “paying your dues”. If you suffer in a way that shows your pain, that breaks your silence, then you are a complainer – and you are said to deserve your fate.

But no worker deserves to suffer. To compound the suffering of material deprivation with rationalisations for its warrant is not only cruel to the individual, but gives exploiters moral license to prey.

Individuals internalise the economy’s failure, as a media chorus excoriates them over what they should have done differently. They jump to meet shifting goalposts; they express gratitude for their own mistreatment: their…

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Educate yourself about the TPP with Bill Moyers, Yves Smith, and Dean Baker

This is an end-run around left and/or liberal activism and a major threat to all working people around the world. The TPP will be used to extract wealth, consolidate corporate power, and quell dissent in the most wicked, nefarious, and brutal ways possible. The agreement has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” Consider how much damage has been done to our country – and others – by massive corporations and financial institutions who used NAFTA to rip good jobs out from under us, only to give them to unprotected workers in other countries, where the corporations polluted and exploited with impunity. Then the manufactured crisis of 2007-08 was unleashed on us by the same people. They have stuck the knife in, they have turned it, and now they want to finish us off and put the final nail in the coffin of anything resembling freedom or democracy.

The myth of the american dream has become superfluous to our global corporate elite. It is simply no longer necessary for them to continue the lies. When the myths are gone and they have crushed the last dreams, the only thing left will be for us to consume and obey. Look around. We aren’t far off. Millions suffering in poverty, a rapidly dwindling middle-class, the rich reaching new heights of wealth every day. They have bought the political system, they have instituted mass surveillance, militarized police forces, there is corporate control of every aspect of our lives…and this is not enough for those who constantly want more.

People who are still paying the bills, have retirement, and can buy a few high tech consumer goods, help their kids out every month, maybe take a vacation now and then, somehow think they’re immune. If they think about the reality of our situation as a country (and as a world) they may despair or shrug and think, same as it ever was…but it’s not. Things have changed. We have never had a global elite like this in the history of the world. They cross borders with impunity, have no allegiance to any state, play entire countries off of each other, raid pension funds and government treasuries, they write the laws and make the rules and the only use they have for us is as labor to exploit – and maybe as consumers (if they actually produce anything).

Even if TPP is never enacted, a variation will be – or a thousand variations, stuck into laws and trade agreements around the world. NAFTA has had a massive impact on all of us. Most of us chose not to listen to the people who warned us about it as Clinton fast-tracked it and pressed for China’s entry into the WTO. Now, the TPP promises to be a thousand times worse. Intellectual property rights enabled pharmaceutical companies to keep poor people in need from getting access to generic drugs, they helped monsanto make criminals of millions of farmers. Now it seems Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an aspect of existing trade agreements under the WTO, are a major focus of the TPP. Not only will they criminalize even more of the world, they will use TRIPS to clamp down on the internet and all of its users. They believe they can succeed where SOPA and PIPA failed.

Of course the earth, our environment, is front and center in most big trade agreements written by corporations. Not only do they want to more efficiently exploit more of the earth with impunity, they want to rig the system to pay them – with our tax dollars – when they see an opportunity for exploitation, say oil drilling, but a country (and it’s citizens) doesn’t want it to happen.

It’s time to be honest with ourselves and have a sense of urgency. Whatever your situation is today, it is not static. There are dynamic changes happening and the people writing the TPP in secret are at the vanguard of those changes. The only true way to fight this is to realize it is part of the same neoliberal agenda that corporations and venal politicians are using to privatize education, steal money out of our pockets through the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) “economy,” make war, sell weapons, and displace huge populations around the world.

Many people are beginning to see the same policies enacted in different countries with the same wealthy elite benefiting and the same working people paying the price. So, first we need to realize what is happening, then we need to organize to fight it. Not only do we need to organize world wide, but we need to have a vision of what we want. I suggest we create a way of life that puts people before profits. No time like the present…