Volatility

May 24, 2010

Transparency vs. Kleptocracy (BP, oil spills, Wikileaks)

 

Over the last 24 hours the oil eruptions at the Deepwater Horizon volcano seem to have been escalating. Live blogging of the event seems to have observed several new eruptions and a major deterioration of the size of the crater. Observers say this may be the result of bursts of natural gas popping out through the chronic oil flow, further dislodging the structure, opening the wound wider, enabling the flow to accelerate. It’s probably not a coincidence that BP, while denying that anything new had happened, simultaneously announced it was delaying the “top kill” operation, its latest cockamamie scheme to stanch the flow, for at least a day.
 
Looking at it from the point of view of the big picture, it’s definitely no coincidence that on the same day we learn that since the first explosion Obama has rushed to approve further environmental waivers for his Drill Baby Drill offensive in the Gulf. They’re terminally committed to these crimes and will see them through to the end. (Though it seems to me this can’t even be called disaster capitalism. At least for the moment real wealth is being destroyed across the board, even for the criminals themselves. But even then they remain committed.)
 
It’s no coincidence that even with the belated live feed, and even before the new eruptions, it’s so hard even at this late date to gauge how much oil is actually hemorrhaging. This isn’t because the technology capable of giving an accurate measure wasn’t available right from the start (it is), but because BP refused to allow reality-based measures for public consumption even though this information is public property. (The imprecise live feed we have now was grudgingly allowed only under extreme political duress.) And because Obama is just a sniveling little corporate flunkey, he has meekly obeyed whatever BP’s Hayward has demanded of him. (Of course Obama’s not unique in this; by now all establishment politicians are such flunkeys, though perhaps they’re not all such wretched bootlicks by nature and preference the way he is.)
 
For a good example of BP occupation of what’s supposedly American sovereign space, including deputization of American government personnel, see this video showing Coast Guard personnel acting as privatized thugs, openly saying they’re under BP orders to drive off reporters. This is one example of how the US government is allowing a rootless multinational corporation to simply temporarily annex at will United States territory. Apparently wherever it considers necessary to its interests, BP simply declares “we hold the power and dictate the conditions.”
 
(It sure puts the old constitutional debates about sovereignty in perspective, doesn’t it? The American Revolutionaries and Framers seem not to have contemplated private corporations who have infinite rights and zero responsibilities or restrictions. Nor did the later debates over secession encompass these rogue “persons”. That’s just a glimpse of a line of thought I’ll develop further in later posts.)
 
There are so many aspects of this disaster to compel our focus – the destruction of whole fishing and tourist industries, the environmental havoc (god only knows the reverberations – for example, I read somewhere about what a critical point the Louisiana wetlands are for vast bird migrations, headed all over the northern and southern continents; if those wetlands are destroyed, the chaotic reverb could be astronomical), the implications for oil supply and energy consumption, all the same issues of neoliberalism, corporatism, and kleptocracy we encounter at every other turn.
 
Today I’ll just stick with the transparency issue. There are many aspects of criminal dereliction on the part of government which were kept secret as long as possible. The MMS has systematically refused to regulate, but on the contrary saw its real job as to make the permitting process as frictionless as possible, while enabling the greatest flow of taxpayer money to Big Oil’s treasure hoard. It flat out refused to perform inspections. And now following the explosion Obama has done all he can to help protect BP’s secrets, like how much oil is flooding into our gulf, and how much damage it’s causing. We just saw the deputized Coast Guard doing its part.
 
It sounds like this might be a job for Wikileaks. Clearly the Obama administration would fear and hate anyone who could publicize this or any other corporate/government (kleptocratic) information. Obama and Cheney are simpatico on that. That’s why, just like all criminal governments, the Obama government fears and hates Wikileaks.
 
As Glenn Greenwald detailed in this good primer, Wikileaks has long been a bane to the Pentagon in particular, culminating in its release of the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. But all governments hate it and have been stepping up their harassment. Most recently, founder Julian Assange of Australia had his passport temporarily confiscated on the grounds of its worn and torn condition. This was obviously nothing but intimidation on the part of the Australian government. They see Wikileaks as an enemy because it released a list of websites to be banned under the new Australian censorship policy. The list, including many political sites (and now Wikileaks itself), proved that the alleged censorship target (child porn) is really nothing but a pretext for censoring purely political content, public interest and therefore anti-government.
 
That particular incident is like a morality play revealing the bad intent of government, how it wants to censor all information in its own interest and the interest of corporations, and how heroic are the efforts of the few dedicated transparency activists like Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks. (Needless to say, the MSM has largely abdicated, and plays the role of stenographer for kleptocracy far more than anything else.)
 
Here’s how Assange sees his mission, according to what he told Greenwald:
 

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

 
It’s no coincidence that Assange has made Iceland one of his four “bases” and has been spending a lot of time there, given how one of the ways in which the people of Iceland are trying to fight back is their idea of turning Iceland into a transparency haven. This would be a great boon to efforts like Wikileaks and hopefully many more.
 
When we compare the magnitude of kleptocracy with such a small, threadbare yet courageous web outfit, we see the potential of Internet democracy and the decentralization of power, through the dissolving of top-down information monopolies.
 
Of course there are Internet fascists as well. The likes of Mark Zuckerburg, Scott McNealy, and Larry Ellison take brown-shirt pride in sneering at individual privacy, saying there is no such thing, and that the very idea should be under total assault. But the truth is the exact opposite. It’s power, either corporate or government, which has no right to secrecy, since all power and wealth (all sovereignty) comes from and remains the property of the people, even if it’s been temporarily stolen.
 
Stolen. That sums it up. Government is now kleptocracy. All the rationales for secrecy are clearly false. There are no longer “national security” issues. National security is meaningful only to the extent that the keeping of a secret is really necessary to defend against some level of existential threat. America isn’t under any existential threat whatsoever. The “war on terror” is a fraud on its face, since terrorism is and can be nothing more than a nuisance. It can certainly never do anywhere near as much damage as BP or Goldman Sachs, let alone Smithfield or Monsanto. It’s well known that jihad isn’t intrinsically attractive to the Muslim on the street, but that only the US’s imperial aggression itself drives this will to fight. As I’ve previously written, the Global War on Terror, really a corporate looting project, counts on riling up enough resistance to it to justify its continued existence.
 

So it’s terminologically sound to call it a war on “terror”, precisely because terror is merely a tactic of the weak trying to fight back vs. America’s pointless endless bullying aggression, while the war on terror is simply this aggression seizing upon the resistance to itself to further justify itself. As we know, the main driver of terrorism is the American presence in these countries, so the self-feeding aggression creates the very rationale used to sanctify it.

 
So it’s a lie that the security of the country itself, or even the continued existence of the power structure, depends upon secrecy. On the contrary, all top-concentrated power is soon to unravel, soon to collapse and decentralize and simplify anyway, thanks to Peak Oil and the debt collapse. Keeping Peak Oil and the real state of Wall Street’s balance sheets a secret isn’t going to save them. Maybe just delay the inevitable for a few days.
 
Soon to collapse, delaying the inevitable. That sums it up. All policy and propaganda is now intended to prop up power for its own sake. Why did the Bailout do nothing to reform the finance sector or bolster Main Street? Why is there no real finance reform bill or jobs program? Why is no one from Wall Street in prison? Because the system’s one and only priority in all things is to prop up the parasite rackets.
 
Parasite rackets. Here’s another point about secrecy. The government has been oh so solicitous about the “proprietary information” of the likes of BP, or the control of the banks’ reputational information which would be so adversely affected if we knew how much taxpayer money the Fed had shoveled out via its “facilities”, and to whom. But this is all a lie.
 
Again, Peak Oil renders moot most economic information about the exponential debt tower. But even without Peak Oil, most if not all sectors are mature by now. Finance and fossil fuels definitely are. There is no longer any “innovation” among these rackets such that we need this kind of secrecy regime. In these sectors there’s no reason for private enterprise to exist other than perhaps as a hired contractor, but never as a patent/information rentier. Indeed, their own neoclassical economic ideology says there should be full market information, and in a mature sector there’s no information which doesn’t belong in the public domain. This information does “want to be free”. It’s true that those who first promulgated that ideology were mostly thieves and totalitarians who really wanted to empower corporate information monopolies (just as the hacks of the “Efficient Market Hypothesis” could always find exceptions to justify every corporate patent or secret.)
 
But the idea is true if you turn it upside down. Bottom-up information – that of our individual private lives, as well as bona fide innovations thought up by truly independent creators and entrepreneurs – is of course private property.
 
But by definition all top-down information, all information generated out of a corporate-government nexus which is completely dependent upon the wealth and power generated by the people themselves, which is rightfully nothing but an ornament or appendage of the people’s sovereignty, all of this information belongs to the public. It came from the bottom up in the first place and is now only being recycled.
 
The explosion of the oil volcano should put everything in perspective for us. Today the very planet bleeds poison, a catastrophe tracking and magnifying the economic and political hemorrhage of the Bailout, as well as all the other leeches applied by kleptocracy.
 
One weapon we have, if we fight to deploy it, is to seize control of the information which is our rightful property, which has been rendered another object of theft. Wikileaks is one point of light, and if Iceland follows through that’s another. What we the people can do is shine our own spotlight on this stage where freedom activists like Assange try to present our information to us. We can be vigilant about the intimidation they face and try to force acknowledgment of the missionaries themselves and the dangers they face into the broader public consciousness, even in their corporate media.
 
Most of all the obligation of a citizen is to be educated and to act upon this information. Whether one judges that the right response is to go to the streets, or to vow to vote None of the Above in all federal elections, or to Move Your Money, or to get involved in relocalization and sustainability initiatives, or to become a writer or some other kind of activist oneself, any or all of these and many others, however you respond, the call of the age does demand a response.
 
There can no longer be any compromise between freedom and tyranny, between the citizen and the kleptocrat. We’re entering the End Game.

10 Comments

  1. Katie Couric’s response in that video about the Coast Guard thugging for BP is just awesome. After being told the Coast Guard is working for BP and locking out her own news organization, Katie replies with, “So how’s the turtles gettin’ along?”

    Great post, Russ. More later.

    Comment by Bloodgroove — May 24, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  2. Hi JD,

    I think they often don’t even listen to what the correspondent, interviewee or whoever is saying, since in their minds they’re just rehearsing their next question or remark.

    Comment by Russ — May 24, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  3. Russ, you are really in stride now. Great post! Keep up the solid communication!

    I repeat your call to action and urge others to become more active …

    “Most of all the obligation of a citizen is to be educated and to act upon this information. Whether one judges that the right response is to go to the streets, or to vow to vote None of the Above in all federal elections, or to Move Your Money, or to get involved in relocalization and sustainability initiatives, or to become a writer or some other kind of activist oneself, any or all of these and many others, however you respond, the call of the age does demand a response.”

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — May 24, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  4. Hey i ball, what’s up?

    Are you still abstaining from Naked Cap? (I saw somebody there under a different name who sounded like you.)

    Comment by Russ — May 24, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  5. Yes, had to throw in the towel for a while … a bit of frustration, burnout, and time and resource constraints … have to ‘mind the store’ … I’m in regroup, recompute, rebuild mode right now with a web site in the future where I can lay it all out so I won’t have to repeat myself so often …

    Thanks for asking Russ, again keep up the good work, you have really honed your right on target messages well.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — May 24, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      I know what you mean about rest and regroup. Sometimes I feel like I could use a break, like for a week or so. Maybe sometime this summer.

      You’re setting up your own web site? Sounds good. Someday I’ll have to do something like that.

      Comment by Russ — May 25, 2010 @ 5:45 am

  6. We’re in psychic accord with our most recent respective messages. As for breaks, well, I have a feeling some enforced breaks are coming our way as a result of The Grand Wobble.

    Comment by Edwardo — May 25, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    • Yes indeed. Though if we’re going to get any rest it’ll have to be before the action really picks up. :)

      Comment by Russ — May 26, 2010 @ 3:49 am

  7. [...] liberal would typically say; by now we must exalt and demand it as a sacred ideal in itself.   As I wrote before, the “secrets” of a country which faces no existential threat have no practical reason [...]

    Pingback by Afghan Sunshine (Wikileaks and Transparency vs. Corporate Tyranny) « Volatility — July 26, 2010 @ 8:00 am

  8. [...] having zero tolerance for anyone who would try to maintain racketeering and rents.   5. As always, we should recognize no top-down system rights to any monopoly of any information. Leave a [...]

    Pingback by Rackets and Relocalization, Case Study (RIAA and Copyrights) « Volatility — August 18, 2010 @ 2:46 am


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