October 15, 2009

Disaster Capitalism Institutionalized


So the bank hearings are on, and from day one it’s clear that the goal is to pretend to seek reform, really gut it, and as much as possible extend the predatory opportunities for the banks and every other kind of criminal.
Barney Frank is emerging as one of the ultimate criminals of our age. His up-front solicitude for the rackets is even more brazen than it was a year ago when he was Bush’s point man in the House for the bailouts. He has already declared that he rejects any measure which would place the rackets in an “untenable position” regarding their ability to extract extreme rents out of their extortion activities. Thus the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency has already been gutted in principle.
On Wednesday Frank went further to declare that he wouldn’t tolerate anything which might even be “unsettling” in the eyes of the Big Banks. The day’s main action centered on proposed derivatives regulation. This notion was already a joke, but yesterday it turned into deranged farce as Frank orchestrated an orgy of exemptions.
Even with health care it wasn’t this clear this quickly that there is zero intention of seeking reform here. That every word of it is a LIE. That they will only entrench and, where possible, compound their crimes. Frank has now said, explicitly, many times, that his one and only priority and wish is to defend the prerogatives of financial monopolies.
The Obama administration supports every aspect of this betrayal. It crippled derivatives regulation in its inception and already caved in on the CFPA. 
And the assault on the CFPA continues. Having already defanged the CFPA, stripped it of everything which would tend to make crime “untenable”, the rackets are now moving to the offensive. Their chosen water carrier, Democrat Melissa Bean, introduced an amendment which would have the neutered CFPA pre-empt the sometimes more aggressive state regulation. Thus we see the continuation of Bush’s assault on federalism on behalf of corporate rackets.
If this succeeds, we’ll again have what started as the promise of “reform” hijacked and turned into a further assault on the people.
This is exactly parallel to what we’ve seen play out with health care. The basic plan is the same: Claim you’re going to seek reform, use misdirection (the idea of the public option, the idea of the CFPA), make secret deals with the rackets, in Congress have the already weakened proposals be utterly castrated and then turned into anti-public weapons, try to pass as reactionary and predatory a bill as possible.
Thus we went through: public option (itself always meant to be only a distraction from single-payer, to be dropped afterward) – trigger – exchanges – co-ops – trigger again – opt-out – now trigger again, every step of the way the increasingly desperate attempt of Obama and his fellow right-wing Democrats to maintain the corporatist integrity of the bill against the nasty incursion of the public interest in the form of a strong public plan. (Which was never supposed to have still been part of the debate toward the end. Only grass-roots activism, against Obama’s fierce opposition, has kept it there.)
Thus with health care the goal is to use a mandate to round up a conscript market for the insurance racket, who have already proclaimed that they’ll use that position to tremendously raise their rates. Why wouldn’t they? They’d have the power and they always have the intention.
(Something similar played out in House climate change legislation, where the ACES bill was hijacked to grandfather in the vast emissions of industrial agriculture, to forbid the EPA to use indirect land use emissions calculations (to take into account the deforestation caused by biofuel production), and strip the EPA of its already-existing regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. So a weaker bill is being used to drive out an existing, theoretically stronger law.)
Just so that it’s not all about big corporations, we see the same fascist aggression at every level. Everywhere anything that was meant to try to improve our lives is turned into a weapon. Hybrid cars are, in my prognostication, an inadequate solution to energy, environmental, and social problems. The problem is the personal car itself, not just that it’s powered by gasoline. But hybrids still represent an attempt to lessen some of the problems.
An ancillary benefit is how quiet they are. Noise pollution is one of the worst curses of our age, one of the things which contradicts the term “civilization”. So if nothing else hybrids modestly help with this, no?
No. While it’s true that quiet cars represent a hazard to people who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, any concerns here are miniscule compared to the social benefit of less noise. But a pro-noise lobby has managed to put the issue on the table, in response the industry has floated the idea of artificially adding noise to the car’s function, and guess what happens next?
According to the NYT, they want to seize the opportunity to launch a further noise assault. Given a peaceful space and the alleged need to fill that space with minimally functional sound, they’re of course going to pander to all the worst elements of vanity and aggression. Your hybrid can be customized, loud, violent! You can be the driving the social equivalent of a Hummer and still be eco-friendly!

Indeed, just as cellphones have ring tones, “car tones” may not be far behind — an option for owners of electric vehicles to choose the sound their cars emit.
Working with Hollywood special-effects wizards, some hybrid auto companies have started tinkering in sound studios, rather than machine shops, to customize engine noises. The Fisker Karma, an $87,900 plug-in hybrid expected to go on sale next year, will emit a sound — pumped out of speakers in the bumpers — that the company founder, Henrik Fisker, describes as “a cross between a starship and a Formula One car…”

“One possibility is choosing your own noise,” said Nathalie Bauters, a spokeswoman for BMW’s Mini division, who added that such technology could be added to one of BMW’s electric vehicles in the future….

“It should be a manually operated noisemaker, a button on the steering wheel triggering a recording of your choice,” he said. “It could play ‘In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,’ or anything you like.”

It’s striking how quickly, effortlessly the dynamic runs from alleged need to frill and vanity, from low-maintenance to high-maintenance, from social to anti-social. (And how a typically an MSM article makes this transition.)
I mentioned this at such length because it’s an example of how multi-level the basic antisociality is, how the corruption of “consumerism” runs way beyond just profit-seeking (although the profiteers certainly take advantage of the opportunities it affords).
More importantly, it’s an example of the basically malevolent nature of all consumerism, including the “green” kind. I’ve written before about how green consumerism is an element of resource fascism. Here we see an example.
Everywhere we see how any attempt within this system to improve things will instead be hijacked by criminals for reactionary purposes, to make things worse.
Ours is a new world order of disorder and disaster, and “the policeman is there to preserve disorder”. Most business opportunities will be disaster capitalist opportunities, and they will do all they can to increase these opportunities. Thus we see how all activities of corporate rackets are depredations and how the government governs in order to maximize pain, hardship, struggle, impoverishment, fear, violence, and extraction for the rackets. That’s how they’re governing on health care, and that’s how they’re governing on the banks.
The evidence is incontrovertible, the case is closed: “Reform” within this system is a LIE.


  1. Great post. I guess it’s going to take a critical mass of people whose lives have been destroyed by this before anything is done. Any ideas on the percentage of people to reach a critical mass?

    Comment by Yakkis — October 15, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  2. I don’t know, though I was just reading something Bill Black wrote where he mentioned “Gresham’s dynamic”, that “bad money drives out good” and instills a social Darwinism where among professionals the good people are driven out by the criminals.

    So that got me thinking, if that’s true, then wouldn’t there exist a contingent of unemployed or underemployed people of integrity who are smart, hungry, and angry, and ready for action?

    Of course that’s assuming that such people ever existed in the first place.

    Comment by Russ — October 15, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  3. I think the numbers of those folks are already in the millions if not tens of millions.
    Two important factors seem to me to be: 1.) how aware are they of the other millions in their same shoes, 2.) how long do they think it’s going to last?
    If things are going to improve gradually and imminently, I doubt anyone will want to stick their neck out.
    So it depends in part on how pervasive the perception of decline becomes. This is a huge incentive to keep the number as positively skewed as possible.

    Comment by Yakkis — October 15, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  4. I meant to say
    “the headline economic numbers”

    Comment by Yakkis — October 15, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  5. Keeping the perception skewed – that’s just what Yves Smith was writing about at Naked Capitalism this morning:


    The goal of the MSM is to make everyone who sees the truth to think he’s wrong, think he’s alone, think nothing can be done.

    My perception is that those who want Change should spend the time of the phony recovery:

    1.Recognizing one another;

    2.Agreeing on a common line of attack on the banks and corporatism;

    3.Publicizing the message, not really expecting the public at large to listen (though trying to bring together those who do understand), but just to have the idea out there that the recovery is a sham, that all the green shoots crap is just propaganda;

    4. Then when the next, inevitable, much worse crash comes, we’d be all set explain it to the masses and organize them.

    (Next time round they’ll surely have to be ready to revolt. Given that this phony recovery is just going to be a slow slide into Depression for the masses, the next crash is going to be an absolute body blow.)

    Comment by Russ — October 16, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  6. Indeed, Mr. Frank is lower than the belly of a pregnant ant. I invite you all to my site(s) as a show of solidarity
    if nothing else.

    Comment by Edwardo — October 16, 2009 @ 11:50 pm

  7. Thanks, Edwardo. One way or another people who want to fight back against the banks are going to have to establish solidarity.

    Comment by Russ — October 17, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

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