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 stock buy-backs, art and property selling for record amounts, and billions “invested” in silicon valley vaporware, you see this in action.

The tendency to monopoly power is built into capitalism. 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. Study international trade agreements if you want to see how 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.

Part of the corporate capture of government involves the rich buying politicians. They always came cheap. 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.

This consolidation of capital under capitalism 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 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 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. 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.

Is this country racist? Are the media? A Reply to David Simon

I think the question of whether the establishment media is racist is directly tied to whether “the country” is racist. If it was explored deeply enough, it would illuminate quite a few fundamental truths of this big confused country. There are so many aspects to these topics, that many books could be (and have been) written about them, so it will be difficult to limit this discussion to a few tweets. Maybe I’ll write on it for a bit, extract some tweets, and then give you a link to it.

Racism has been a significant element in american media from the beginning. From omission to gross caricatures, from mischaracterization to enforcing and re-enforcing stereotypes, to outright lies. When you include the entertainment industry, the racism goes off the charts. Donald Bogle is a great source for this. In news media, the list is just as long and damaging. There are endless historical examples of papers actively promoting slavery, and when they couldn’t promote slavery, they promoted racism. Yes, even in the north. When they couldn’t actively promote racism, they became more subtle, but the effects were often the same. For an indication of how far the media had come by 1967, I would cite the Kerner Report. By ’68 I would just cite reality. For a more contemporary view, just look at what the establishment media tried to do to Ferguson. It was so bad, so quickly, that the protesters stopped talking to CNN. Of course, they didn’t really ever want to talk to Fox, for obvious reasons, and the other major sources didn’t come out looking much better. And that was just the protest. The way the media reported on Mike Brown (and every other victim of police violence) was sickening and reprehensible, and yes, racist. Could I open up a paper or roll you a clip of that very kind of reporting this year? Of course.

You say most reporters aren’t racist, but somehow, when they’re reporting for the establishment media it often comes out racist. In Ferguson, Don Lemon would be a perfect example of how this happens. Another aspect of racism is that, more often than not, no reporting gets done when there is not a crisis or some event that could be presented as something a white audience could perceive as negative. When is black and brown life acknowledged at all when it’s not sports, entertainment, or a so-called riot? Omission of black and brown life in general may actually be the starkest comment on the racism of this country and its media. And why am I using these terms? Because black, brown, white, red, etc., are how this country has divided people, and it is how a racist system encourages and forces us to identify. Racism is the air we breathe.

Does all of this have to be “fed inorganically by media elites”? Of course not. I think Herman and Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” explains perfectly how this happens as a function of propaganda. You could say racism is part of the propaganda and/or that racism in the media functions in the same way propaganda does. That would be another discussion, but certainly germane to this one.

From wikipedia:

“Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, proposes that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication.[1] The title of the book, Manufacturing Consent, derives from the phrase “the manufacture of consent,” employed in the book Public Opinion (1922), by Walter Lippmann…”

As I generally agree with this analysis (the analysis is the book), I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement that, “Overall, in fact, I think media elites are a force for pluralism, which is why they are so resented and blamed by the right.”

I think the right (a designation I will comment on shortly) came up with “the liberal media” as a propaganda tool and many people who identify as right-wing believed it much more than than the cynical creators of the phrase. I think it worked better than they ever could have imagined. It is a smoke-screen – or maybe more accurately, smoke and mirrors. That is, it is the perfect tool of misdirection while performing your magic trick of moving everything to the right. You create an enemy while you actually benefit from that enemy. In other words, it keeps the discourse within certain bounds and forces people to the right – and forces people who identify as liberal into a defensive posture.

So, getting to that rightward turn brings us to your obama point. The election of obama was extraordinary by every measure. I believe obama was elected in a time of crisis, and that crisis occurred after america had been collectively traumatized by bush the second and his goons. While a record number of voters turned out the first time for obama, only about half of the people eligible to vote do so at any given time – and actually fewer most of the time. Not only are many people of color disenfranchised, but the majority of all people who could vote in this country choose not to. This leads to another discussion, so I will try not to digress too much. That being said, I don’t discount that obama is perceived as black and was elected twice. He is white. Well, he is just as much white as he is black – but we call him black because, as I said above, racism is the air we breathe. It goes back to the “blood quantum” and “one drop” rule, methods of determining the “race” of an individual, which of course had legal and social consequences.

To digress a bit more, I have personal experience of obama’s hometown and school. His school is a training ground not only for the professional class, but for the elite. What it means to be black in Hawaii is quite different than the mainland. He learned what he could in Chicago, but, well, I won’t continue. Suffice it to say, he is not now, nor has he ever been, connected to the black working class. He went from elite K-12 to elite universities, and then to elite office. Everything I just stated shows personally and in his policies – or lack thereof…

Aside from the positive symbolism (which I don’t discount), he has, on balance, been an extremely right-wing president. He has extended and doubled-down on many bush era policies, He is drilling everywhere and building new nuclear weapons to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, he oversees a drone program and has expanded (with the help of hillary) war to many countries. Obamacare is actually romneycare (a “health” program developed by right-wing think tanks) and it’s true effectiveness has yet to be proven (no cap on rates, tens of millions still uninsured, often unaffordable even with subsidies, many cases of insufficient coverage). Race to the top was an unmitigated disaster and he supports onerous testing, common core, and charter schools, which is de facto privatization. He has deported and imprisoned more undocumented refugees than any other president, and he has prosecuted more journalists and whistle-blowers than any other president. Ever. As you know, it has had a chilling effect on journalism overall. I won’t even get into how black people have fared under his watch, but I will say, they haven’t recovered the wealth that was stolen from them in the manufactured crisis – but the banks that stole it are fatter than ever. Coincidentally, they lost a lot of voting rights too, but I can’t blame him personally for that because it was a supreme court ruling. Really though, the cherry on top, the thing that trumps, if you will, everything, and reveals his true allegiances (the ones that will make him a very rich man), is that he is a passionate supporter and promoter of the TPP. The TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids. I don’t think that goes far enough, because that corporate crafted series of international laws will actually chip away at nation state’s ability to stay sovereign entities. In very clear ways, it empowers corporations to rule the world and to use the coffers of states and taxpayer money to enrich themselves.

How is any of that “incremental change in a centrist republic?” This is a neoliberal corporate oligarchy – the development of which is the “change that is provoking this reactionary anger.” Any anti-racist activism is also a response to this (and to historical racism, that is part and parcel of the present racism). Totally aside from their overt racism, the GOP began alienating their base long ago by going fully corporate to the full exclusion of all working people. As soon as it was clear they had completely turned their back on the majority of the american population, they began looking for even more extreme constituencies than, say, the evangelicals and other fundamentalists they first went to when their political future was in question. Ironically, they abandoned their old base by forwarding a bi-partisan turn toward neoliberal policies like NCLB, cutting benefits, escalation of the drug war, the creation of the prison industrial complex, and NAFTA – which did more to undermine their base (and the big D Democrats base for that matter) than anything before or since. I’m not even including the trillions spent on war and weapons that is also rubber-stamped by both parties. Of course, reagan and his thugs set much of this into motion before most of those horrors were perpetrated. The irony is that the base they alienated was ripe for tea party recruitment. The koch brothers and fox sponsored a lot of that organization, but the raw fear and rage was already there because of the GOP’s original betrayal. Of course, it’s hard to call it a betrayal because the GOP never cared much for the worker. The point is, the rise of DT is a direct consequence of that original and continuing betrayal. As I stated, this is largely the result of a bi-partisan embrace of the neoliberal project, which is an expression of the logic of capitalism: ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. That project is right wing and by it’s very nature racist because it exacerbates capitalism and all of the tactics used by capitalists to plunder and accumulate more capital. Divide and conquer through creating and exploiting difference, prey on the poor and the weak (and now what’s left of the middle class). That is the logic that is motivating every branch of government (and many governments all over the world), to say nothing of the corporations who pay for them.

As I tried to emphasize, I think we have been dragged to the right through a bi-partisan neoliberal consensus that continues unabated today. Has there been some resistance? Not much, but I hope that resistance grows and makes connections world-wide, because neoliberalism is a world-wide project. India and UK are two of many examples. The neoliberal assault on the UK is profound and totally unreported by most media. There is also a strong argument to be made that the imposition of neoliberalism in the so-called middle east and all over Africa contributed to the unrest that sparked the arab spring.

To wrap this up, I don’t believe every american is racist. I don’t believe every person in the media is racist. I don’t believe every member of the elite is racist, but, we are surrounded by racism and it pervades all of our institutions. It is systemic. Do I think there has been progress from slavery to now? Of course. Do I think the relatively small gains made through civil rights movements have been undermined and contained from the beginning and significantly rolled back in the decades since – despite the election of obama? Hell yes. I tried to present some supporting arguments here, though, there are many, many, more.

In thoughtful discussion,
your,
21st Century Poet

Looking for a stellar political podcast and news site? Check out Black Agenda Report

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In the fall of 2006, Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, Margaret Kimberley and Leutisha Stills of CBC Monitor left Black Commentator, which Ford had co-founded and edited since 2002, and launched Black Agenda Report.
Check it out. Well worth your while…

 

The wisdom of Malcom X and MLK jr. (Re-post from 2014)

We are living in the middle of massive changes that will profoundly affect us all. One could look back through history and say, it was ever thus, but the world has never known concentrated power and control on this level and its consolidation continues every day. We now live in a world, as Oxfam recently described, where “[w]ealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.”

More often than not, those 85 people use the corporation as an entity to embody their wealth and power – and to make it grow. Growth has become the thing to strive for, it is the mantra of governments, the logic of capitalism, and by extension, the corporations who control the capital. Of course, we are not talking only about those 85 people. We are talking about the system of corporate capitalism we all live in. Increasingly, corporations are using the ideology of neoliberalism to operate in the world, to reshape it in their own image, to claim all rights and property for the corporation. Making private (for profit) everything belonging to the public (things we supposedly own in common) and taking all information we think should be private and putting it in the hands of corporations and the governments they control – in order to increase control and profit.

One could point to the enclosure movement and police states of the past and continue to say, plus ca change, but differences of degree will eventually lead to a difference in kind. After all, we started as single-celled bits in the ocean. In other words, we are dealing with a whole new beast. And that beast is killing many of us. If it doesn’t kill us, it is shaping every aspect of our lives.

Many americans are still in denial about the forces at play and how to engage them. Many are too ignorant to be in denial, but there are also people who understand what the struggle means and that, if we do not fight, we will eventually lose our humanity, in every sense. There are a relative few who understand the stakes of this moment in history. Some are tempted to look to leaders of struggles in the past and have a kind of nostalgia. There is no time for nostalgia. In fact nostalgia is a dangerous feeling. It distorts the past and discounts the future. If we’re going to look backward, we have to do so with clear, un-obscured eyes.

When we see without the veil of nostalgia – or more importantly, propaganda – it becomes easier to see the true struggles many of our leaders were involved in. For example, MLK and Malcolm both made their share of mistakes, but by the end of their all too short lives, they had amassed a great deal of wisdom. It’s instructive to look at where they were in their development as intellectuals and activists when they were assassinated because they had both moved straight to the core of the struggle. Of course, it’s difficult to take such a wealth of experience and distill it into a sentence or two, but if you focus on the root of the struggle, it looks something like this:

Well-organized people of all colors, classes and religions, working together in love, world-wide, for vulnerable people, and against capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Those ideas are guiding principles. They aren’t a road map, but they definitely point the way. The thing is, we actually have to understand the way forward involves all of us working together in that direction. Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, and on and on. It seems such a simple point, but everyday realities and the power of the dominant corporate culture seem to obscure it and divide us and atomize us more and more. The dominant culture has had such a corrosive effect that saying we all need to work together sounds like a platitude or cliche, but that is what every great leader ends up saying – and more importantly struggled to do.

If we study the past and work together now, we don’t have to repeat the mistakes our leaders made when they were trying to find their way and we can learn from the wisdom they finally attained. They earned that wisdom through struggle – blood, sweat, and tears. Those guiding principles are their legacy. The struggle we face is bigger than any that has gone before. We would be foolish to ignore the wisdom they handed to us.

Chris Hedges and Bob Scheer discuss Scheer’s latest book “They Know Everything About You” [Video]

Chris Hedges and Bob Scheer discuss Scheer’s latest book “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy” and end up interrogating some of the fundamental assumptions underlying their respective political beliefs.