Category: Corruption

Chris Hedges warns of the illusion of freedom

| August 14, 2016 | Reply

Chris Hedges sizes things up. I wish I could disagree with him.

No vote we cast will alter the configurations of the corporate state. The wars will go on. Our national resources will continue to be diverted to militarism. The corporate fleecing of the country will get worse. Poor people of color will still be gunned down by militarized police in our streets. The eradication of our civil liberties will accelerate. The economic misery inflicted on over half the population will expand. Our environment will be ruthlessly exploited by fossil fuel and animal agriculture corporations and we will careen toward ecological collapse. We are “free” only as long as we play our assigned parts. Once we call out power for what it is, once we assert our rights and resist, the chimera of freedom will vanish. The iron fist of the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history will assert itself with a terrifying fury.

The powerful web of interlocking corporate entities is beyond our control. Our priorities are not corporate priorities. The corporate state, whose sole aim is exploitation and imperial expansion for increased profit, sinks money into research and development of weapons and state surveillance systems while it starves technologies that address global warming and renewable energy. Universities are awash in defense money but cannot find funds for environmental studies. Our bridges, roads and levees are crumbling from neglect. Our schools are overcrowded, decaying and being transformed into for-profit vocational centers. Our elderly and poor are abandoned and impoverished. Young men and women are crippled by unemployment or underemployment and debt peonage. Our for-profit health care drives the sick into bankruptcy. Our wages are being suppressed and the power of government to regulate corporations is dramatically diminished by a triad of new trade agreements—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement. Government utilities and services, with the implementation of the Trade in Services Agreement, will see whole departments and services, from education to the Postal Service, dismantled and privatized. Our manufacturing jobs, sent overseas, are not coming back. And a corporate media ignores the decay to perpetuate the fiction of a functioning democracy, a reviving economy and a glorious empire.

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John Oliver warns us that the death of newspapers makes us all far more vulnerable to political corruption

| August 9, 2016 | Reply

Here is yet another excellent video by John Oliver. This issue of the defunding of responsible newspaper reporting, and the lack of investigative journalism effects you and me every day. The answer, I believe is public funding of legitimate media, because it is a common good that can no longer sustain itself. Oliver’s ending video is a very sharp sword. We are living in dangerous times where no one is babysitting most of those in power at all levels of government. We can’t have a democracy without the Fourth Estate. We are rapidly approaching the time when we won’t have a Fourth Estate, merely a shell of what it used to be. This is an extremely complex and serious issue. Thank you, John Oliver for given it the spotlight. Please share.

For more on this loss of serious reporting, consider the writings of Robert McChesney and John Nichols, including Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.

I spoke with John Nichols a few years ago about the loss of reporters:

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Why Wikileaks is critical to Democracy

| August 6, 2016 | Reply

JULIAN ASSANGE:

Well, WikiLeaks has become the rebel library of Alexandria. It is the single most significant collection of information that doesn’t exist elsewhere, in a searchable, accessible, citable form, about how modern institutions actually behave. And it’s gone on to set people free from prison, where documents have been used in their court cases; hold the CIA accountable for renditions programs; feed into election cycles, which have resulted in the termination of, in some case—or contributed to the termination of governments, in some cases, taken the heads of intelligence agencies, ministers of defense and so on. So, you know, our civilizations can only be as good as our knowledge of what our civilisation is. We can’t possibly hope to reform that which we do not understand.

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FBI continues to target journalists and their sources

| July 5, 2016 | Reply

In 1990, I was fired for being a whistle-blower by the Missouri Attorney General, who subsequently spent time in prison. Therefore, the topic of this post is an issue that speaks loudly to me. If you believe in participatory democracy, it should speak loudly to you too.

If you are wondering why there is very little investigative journalism anymore, the attached article lays out one of the big reasons. If you were a whistle-blower trying to get important information to the public regarding government corruption or wrongdoing, you can now be easily identified by government spying without any need for a search warrant and without probably cause, at the un-monitored and unlimited discretion of “law enforcement” agencies including the NSA and the FBI that have repeatedly trampled on your constitutional rights.

[More . . . ]

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Republicans and big corporations take over the Democratic Convention

| June 30, 2016 | Reply

From Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani of The Intercept:

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY’S 2012 platform pledged to “curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests.” But the 2016 convention in Philadelphia will be officially hosted by lobbyists and corporate executives, a number of whom are actively working to undermine progressive policies achieved by President Barack Obama, including health care reform and net neutrality.

Some of the members of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee, whose job is to organize the logistics and events for the convention, are hardly even Democratic Party stalwarts, given that many have donated and raised thousands of dollars for Republican presidential and congressional candidates this cycle.

The composition of the 15-member Host Committee may appear out of sync with the rhetoric of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but the reality is that the party, in the form of the Democratic National Committee, has moved decisively to embrace the lobbying industry.

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Google throwing elections?

| March 29, 2016 | Reply

Fascinating and entertaining . . .

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Post-Citizen’s United Confessions of a retiring member of the House

| January 10, 2016 | 1 Reply

“A fund-raising consultant advised that if I didn’t raise at least $10,000 a week (in pre-Citizens United dollars), I wouldn’t be back.”

There it is: the most important task for members of the house of representatives, according to this NYT article by Steve Israel. It gets even worse:

There were hours of “call time” — huddled in a cubicle, dialing donors. Sometimes double dialing and triple dialing. Whispering sweet nothings and other small talk into the phone in hopes of receiving large somethings. I’d sit next to an assistant who collated “call sheets” with donor’s names, contribution histories and other useful information. (“How’s Sheila? Your wife. Oh, Shelly? Sorry.”) . . . I’ve spent roughly 4,200 hours in call time, attended more than 1,600 fund-raisers just for my own campaign and raised nearly $20 million in increments of $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 per election cycle. And things have only become worse in the five years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which ignited an explosion of money in politics by ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections.

Title of the article: “Confessions of a Congressman.”

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How to privatize the government

| August 17, 2015 | 1 Reply
How to privatize the government

Noam Chomsky has it down to four simple steps:

defund

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Public opinion has “near-zero” impact on U.S. law.

| August 4, 2015 | Reply

Here’s the bottom line of a Princeton study, “Does the Government Represent the People?”:

Gilens & Page found that the number of Americans for or against any idea has no impact on the likelihood that Congress will make it law.

“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

One thing that does have an influence? Money. While the opinions of the bottom 90% of income earners in America have a “statistically non-significant impact,” Economic elites, business interests, and people who can afford lobbyists still carry major influence.

The study found that nearly every issue we face as a nation is caught in the grip of corruption. Industries given special attention are those who provide the most funding to politicians: Energy, Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals, Defense, Agribusiness and Finance.

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