Volatility

August 30, 2010

The Internet and Its Two Kinds of Monopoly

 

The whole net neutrality issue boils down to racketeering. How can the public interest co-exist with rackets, is this even possible? We know it’s not possible. Net neutrality and equitable broadband access wouldn’t even be issues, let alone bitter bones of contention, if the publicly built Internet infrastructure remained a public utility as it legitimately must be. Only a rogue government’s illegitimate alienation of this public property created this monopoly mess in the first place.
 
Thus we’ve been driven into this impasse where horizontal integration has throttled all competition among Internet providers. Contrary to the lies of the rackets and government, in most parts of the country the customer for Internet access has two options, tops: the phone company and the cable company. (Let the “libertarian” spew his let-them-eat-cake lies about taking one’s business elsewhere or starting one’s own company on this one.)
 
So as we approach the FCC’s upcoming meeting where it’s expected to announce (or fail to announce, thereby caving in) net neutrality regulations, we must remember that underlying all the obfuscations and lies are two simple, moral facts.
 
1. We the people paid for and built the pipes. They belong to us. What subsequent investment the telecom rackets have undertaken has been heavily subsidized by the public. We continue to pay for it all. So why were the pipes privatized at all? Simple gangsterism, corporatism, with the veneer of neoliberal ideology. (Neoliberalism is nothing but ideologically dressed-up gangsterism.)
 
So the real debate here must be over the scope of the restitution required.
 
2. Beyond the legitimate ownership of the pipes, we know that oligopolies in any necessary sector are contrary to the public interest as well as to textbook capitalism. So anyone who claims fidelity to either of those must support the breakup of such monopolies. Therefore the very existence of the telecom rackets is odious and shouldn’t be conceded. By definition they are not “stakeholders” (to use the enemy’s own ideologically loaded term), from any public interest or even capitalist point of view. Whatever they argue is on its face invalid.
 
So the real debate here should be over the scope of the anti-trust action required.
 
Meanwhile, the fact that what are obviously communications providers who should therefore always have been regulated under Title I of the Communications Act were able to scam their way into Title II “information” classification by cobbling together some rump e-mail and similar services nobody cared about in signing up for access, proves that vertical integration is also at least a major political threat, before it becomes an economic one.
 
But we can see both threats in the monopoly antics of Intel, whose latest gambit is to gobble up Infineon’s wireless outfit. (This is also a commentary on how the consensus seems to be that wireless is the real future of the Internet, not fixed line. Therefore this acquisition seems to be on the same wavelength as the Google-Verizon deal to gut net neutrality for wireless. Everyone who has the muscle is staking a monopoly claim on this pre-enclosed frontier.)
 
We see the level of “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” and “competition” involved here:
 

Intel’s own efforts to build a wireless chip business through its Atom processors have faltered, analysts say. Intel has deals with LG and Nokia to provide wireless chips. Mr. Otellini has been seeking ways to get into this market and diversify the company beyond PC chips.

 
Unable to innovate or compete, Intel uses congealed wealth to buy, i.e. destroy, the competition.
 
What might our heroic public servants do about this?
 

Intel expects the deal to close in the first quarter of next year, pending regulatory approvals…..

Intel has also faced antitrust scrutiny in its primary chip business. This month, it reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to resolve regulators’ complaints that the company had thwarted the efforts of competitors like Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia.

Under that settlement, Intel agreed to refrain from a variety of business practices in an effort to resolve accusations of anticompetitive behavior in the market for computer processor and graphics chips.

 
We see indeed how much this brush with the law has deterred them. But of course the “reformists” will continue to call for better, sleeker, shinier “regulation”, looking for that magic formula which will get the gangsters to behave.
 
The same which has worked so well with the finance gangsters, agriculture gangsters, oil gangsters (BP sure has cleaned up its act over the years, hasn’t it?), and which they all assure us will work so well with the health insurance gangsters.
 
Yes, if we do get a good announcement from the FCC, I’m sure everyone will play nice from then on. The “Third Way” will be sufficient, and we can all go home.

August 29, 2010

Kleptodicy and the NYT’s New Public Editor

Filed under: Mainstream Media — Tags: , — Russ @ 7:52 am

 

Scold, scourge, wreaker of cold justice: apparently, that’s what’s expected of the public editor.

 
With those words the NYT’s new Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, kicks off his tenure. If only it were so.
 
He describes an introductory interview with an NYT reporter, his own nervousness over everyone demanding to know, “Why would you want this job?” It is hard to understand why Brisbane’s predecessors wanted it. So far the job has been mostly to go through the motions of pretending to impose accountability, mostly in the eyes of organized conservatives, while pretending the paper’s real class war agenda doesn’t exist.
 
The pro-bank ideology of the business page and the paper’s general war-mongering propaganda, both of which dominate the alleged reportage, seldom comes under the “public editor’s” purview. Clark Hoyt was far more comfortable joining in with the NYT’s campaign to destroy ACORN than he ever would have been of forced to deal with the paper’s reportage of the Peterson/Obama assault on Social Security and democracy.
 

The public editor is a radical concept.

 
Um, no, it’s a self-evident, common sense concept among people of good will. It’s radical only among criminals.
 
If I were the one asking the questions my first would be:
 
Do you believe the core job of a journalist is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, as Murrow put it?
 
Brisbane’s own statement of principle, such as it is, doesn’t inspire confidence:
 

And, so you know, I do bring certain articles of belief to this.

I believe a news organization needs to be aggressive. When caution trumps ambition, something dies.

I believe there is no conspiracy. Neither Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. nor Bill Keller is the Wizard of Oz, dictating an agenda from behind a screen. Rather, The Times comes together like parallel computing: many lines simultaneously flowing through a filter, hitting the driveway and flashing on a screen. It is very messy.

I believe that journalists should leave their political views at the door when they report and edit the news. I’m a registered Democrat who voted for Barack Obama and then Scott Brown, so, as you can see, I have already left my views at the door!

 
Those sure are peculiar “articles of belief”. Notice the total lack of any proclaimed principle. It’s purely process, purely instrumental. “Aggressive” – on behalf of what? “Ambition” to do what?
 
The very fact of this lacuna here implies what really fills it: The NYT’s mission is to preserve, and do what it can to intensify and entrench, the corporatist status quo. This is its ambition, and it is aggressive in the service of this ambition.
 
As for the “conspiracy theory” strawman, obviously once the whole cadre’s been selected for a certain ideology and even more for a certain temperament and mindset, there’s little need for a Keller to still play the Wizard of Oz. In the same way, Dimon and Blankfein probably don’t need to micromanage everything Keller, or Obama, does. (Although all those phone calls with Geithner are ambiguous evidence. Is Geithner really such a pathetic tool that he needs such constant guidance, or maybe emotional validation?)
 
Of course I do accept that execution at the NYT is often sloppy, which contrary to Brisbane’s assertion is not evidence of the absence of agenda, but only of incompetence in execution.
 
Brisbane’s disclosure about his voting habits, if true, is questionable. He seems to think it should be impressive that he’s a registered Dem who voted for Obama and then for the Republican in a pseudo-critical Senate race. (The criticality being bogus because the “60 vote” meme is fraudulent in every way; nobody with a simple majority ever needed more than 51 vote for anything, and once the Dems had their mythical 60 votes it served mainly to embarrass them, since they still had no intention of passing reform legislation.)
 
It’s of course discreditable that somebody so allegedly experienced and intelligent, who allegedly cares about the public interest, would still be supporting either kleptocratic party. (It’s another version of the theodicy question, which clearly has no valid answer. Brisbane must either lack intelligence, or else he actually doesn’t care about the people but only the elites. The same applies to all who call themselves Democrats or support them. What should we call it -“kleptodicy”?)
 
Here’s a suggestion for Brisbane, if he really wanted to be this public interest ombudsman. He could start with today’s spotlight editorial on Obama’s feckless economic policy.
 

First, he needs to keep driving home that he is committed to addressing the deficit…

 
It’s of course a lie that from the point of view of the non-rich the deficit as such is any problem at all, let alone “the first”, most pressing problem.
 
On the contrary the overwhelming weight of practical experience as well as theory prove that in a Depression the government should spend as long as such spending is directly for the people’s well-being. Getting money into the people’s hands, where it will then be productively spent, is the only practical and moral measure, if one truly wants to avert the worst of an economic downturn, if one truly wants the public good. (By contrast corporate welfare spending like the Bailout, the permanent war, Pentagon budgets, Big Ag subsidies, etc. do nothing to help the people or reinvigorate economic circulation. These are just ratholes where potentially productive wealth goes to die. Typically, it’s precisely this kind of spending which is “off the table” for Obama’s deficit terrorist commission.)
 
But just like the rest of the MSM, just like the business and political elites in whose service the MSM plays its stenographer role, the NYT systematically engages in deficit terrorism. This is because it does not want the people’s well-being, it does not want productive circulation of money, it does not want to avert the Depression.
 
On the contrary it wants the further unproductive concentration of wealth. It wants to help the gangster elite further loot the people. It wants the Depression to come in slowly, its harshness proceeding at just the right pace such that the people feel helpless before inexorable fate, but not so fast that they lash out in hopeless desperation. (Again, this is no “conspiracy theory”, there’s no need for a master wirepuller; the whole cadre by training and temperament is on board with the project, and once you accept the premise the strategy and tactics are obvious enough that an ideological version of the invisible hand goes to work. The messiness in the execution is simply the difference between best practice and the competence to carry it out.)
 
Deficit terrorism is meant to directly afford new looting opportunities, to misdirect the people’s attention from real problems toward fake scapegoats and fraudulent “solutions” (to the people’s credit, they seem to be rejecting the propaganda of Obama’s Social Security privatization campaign), and to shred what little is left of any kind of socioeconomic stability and sense of security.
 
The NYT, as an aggressive practitioner of deficit terrrorsim, is a conscious traitor against the people. As I said, experience and proven theory both prove every word of it to be a Big Lie. So will the new ombudsman make this his main project, and really act as a Public Editor? Or will he pack his columns with controversies over the social gossip blogs, the way Hoyt loved to do? Will he, like his predecessors, act as the “public editor”? I know what I expect from a guy who votes for Obama and Scott Brown and who talks in the sociopathic way of the above quote about unprincipled ambition and aggression.

August 25, 2010

Food For Thought: We Can Have Food And Thought, Or Else Neither

 

The salmonella egg scare is just the latest outbreak of corporate food-borne illness. I’m sure it won’t be the last or anywhere near the worst, in spite of the purported food safety bill now moving through the Senate to join the predatory bill the House already passed last year.
 
It’s already clear that even given corporate food production, the egg outbreak could have been prevented with the simple expedient of vaccination. Britain instituted this ten years ago and saw salmonella incidence plummet.
 
But of course our corporate-captured FDA decreed that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence” to take this measure. That’s a basic difference between Europe and the corporatized US: Over there they still recognize the precautionary principle, which is really just common sense. Where there’s any question, as there always is with any new development in industrial agriculture, the burden of proof must be on the technological or organizational “innovator” to prove his practice is safe, not on those who wish to take precautions to prove that it’s unsafe (which usually can’t be done until it’s too late).
 
So here we are again. One of the criminals responsible is a familiar name from previous outbreaks, worker abuse, accusations of rape, and endless incidents of contempt for the most basic rules of food safety, Jack DeCoster and his company, Wright County Farms. This guy’s record really is something to see. Sometimes real Mwa-ha-ha type evil finds room to gratify itself under the fig leaf of “business”. That’s an example of the FDA’s forbearance in action, and for whom it sees itself as working.
 
That seems unlikely to change under the food bill. I’ve written before about the House bill from last year (for example here and here), which systematically seeks to destroy small food producers by imposing a one-size-fits-all regime upon them. This regime is calculated to be a mere nuisance to the industrial producers while posing severe financial and logistical hardship on smaller producers. Small-scale producers obviously cannot cause large-scale outbreaks. Only factory farming (CAFOs are in fact unregulated bioweapons labs) and corporate distribution systems can do that. And they have been doing it, as every year brings more severe outbreaks. The swine flu may have originated at a Smithfield factory farm in Mexico*. It’s only a matter of time before a massively lethal pandemic originates at a CAFO.
 
But for the criminals in Congress the idea was to use these very corporate-caused outbreaks as the pretext to pass pro-monopoly food bills. This is exactly what happened with HR 2749. The Senate bill was originally crafted in the same disaster capitalist way.
 
[*These bills also seek to tighten the stranglehold of globalization over food, surrendering our food sovereignty completely to anti-sovereign syndicates like the WTO. Let’s recall globalization arch-cadre Paul Krugman’s celebration of CAFOs themselves.]
 
In committee there were several modifications to the Senate bill:
 
  • The amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pertaining to farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle product from several farms.  It will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.  Included within the purview of the amendment are exemptions or flexibilities with respect to requirements within S. 510 for food safety preventative control plans and FDA on-farm inspections.
  • The amendments sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation.  The Bennet language pertains to both the preventative control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill.  FDA is instructed to provide flexibility for small processors including on-farm processing, to minimize the burden of compliance with regulations, and to minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate foods.  FDA will also be prohibited from requiring farms and other food facilities to hire consultants to write food safety plans or to identify, implement, certify or audit those plans. With respect to produce standards, FDA will also be given the discretion to develop rules for categories of foods or for mixtures of foods rather than necessarily needing to have a separate rule for each specific commodity or to regulate specific crops if the real food safety issue involved mixtures only.
  • The amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers.  The training projects will prioritize small and mid-scale farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food processors and wholesalers.  The program will be administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.  As is the case for all of the provisions in S. 510, funding for the bill and for this competitive grants program will happen through the annual agriculture appropriations bill process.
  • The effort championed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against “animal encroachment” of farms is also in the manager’s package.  It will require FDA to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife and wildlife habitat on farms.
  • An amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to amend the traceability and recordkeeping section of the bill that will exempt food that is direct marketed from farmers to consumers or to grocery stores and exempt food that has labeling that preserves the identity of the farm that produced the food.  The amendment also prevents FDA from requiring any farm from needing to keep records beyond the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm, except in the case of farms that co-mingle product from multiple farms, in which case they must also keep records one step back as well as one step forward. 

Not in the package but still under serious negotiation for inclusion in the bill when it reaches the floor of the Senate is an amendment by Senator John Tester (D-MT) to exempt food facilities with under a certain annual gross sales threshold from preventative control plan requirements and to exempt farmers who primarily direct market product to consumers, stores or restaurants from the bill’s produce standards regulations.  Our expectation is this amendment will be successfully negotiated over the coming weeks and will be accepted as part of the final bill once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

We also continue to note and emphasize the additional provisions NSAC helped secure when the bill was marked up in Committee last year.  Those changes included:

  • requiring FDA and USDA coordination (including with respect to organic farming);
  • limiting recordkeeping for farmers to just the initial sale to the first purchaser of the crop; and
  • language in the produce section directing FDA to create rules that are appropriate to the scale and diversity of the farm, that take into consideration conservation and environmental standards established by other federal agencies, that do not conflict with organic certification standards, and that prioritize high risk crops.
 
As a result, some sustainable food organizations now support this version of the bill, and would presumably support a final version which was closer to the Senate bill than the House bill. [Edit: The support of the NSAC, linked here, is contingent on inclusion of the Tester amendment; cf. comment below.]
 
The fixes still seem weak. The bill still gives the government too little power over the real threat, the industrial producers, and too much over the innocuous small producer. We know how “regulation” always works out. Sure enough, even as the FDA (and other agencies; I’m not even getting into the intentionally Byzantine regulatory structure whereby one agency is responsible for the eggs while they’re still in the shell, another once they’re liquefied and processed, and those federal agencies are responsible except where they’re not and the state is….) refuses to do its public interest job where it comes to the big producers, it’s been launching aggressive raids against small producers. (In principle the bill gives the bureaucracy immense power with little restraint. The implications for civil liberties and unaccountable authoritarianism are chilling.) 
 
This shows the kleptocracy’s real intent. The goal of these police actions, and the goal of the bills in Congress, has nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with corporate and social control. Corporate food wants a total monopoly on production and distribution. The nascent relocalization movement, which is necessarily focusing on food sustainability as one of its core goals, is a threat to this elite control.
 
Even if this bill ends up having been stripped of its most overtly aggressive features, it would be foolish to think that’s not just a temporary tactical retrenchment on the part of the power structure. Although some of what’s written about these bills sounds alarmist, the language is clearly being carefully crafted to provide scope for the most far-reaching power assaults, perhaps some years down the line.
 
That’s why we who want to build new economies and polities from the soil up will have to be ready for civil disobedience and self defense. Although many don’t want to think about it in those terms, I think that’ll be a necessary element for successful relocalization. I plan to develop the idea and try to figure out a strategy when I write more about how we have to conceive and fight the health racket mandate as our Stamp Act.
 
But as we see with the corporate food bill, there are in fact many Stamp Acts. Just as in the 1760s, the plan is systematic expropriation and feudal indenture. But since we’re commencing upon the descent of the industrial age rather than its ascent, the serfdom in store for us is far more bleak, far worse even than medieval, if we don’t rouse ourselves to redeem our country, our freedom, and our humanity.

August 23, 2010

Liberal HAMP-Smokers Kicking the Habit?

 

I’m always glad to see liberals waking from their slumbers, however belatedly. Who knows, maybe some of them might turn into real activists in the struggle ahead.
 
So this time the revelatory catalyst was Steve Waldman’s report from last week’s econoblogger conclave at Treasury. Here’s the critical quote:
 

On HAMP, officials were surprisingly candid. The program has gotten a lot of bad press in terms of its Kafka-esque qualification process and its limited success in generating mortgage modifications under which families become able and willing to pay their debt. Officials pointed out that what may have been an agonizing process for individuals was a useful palliative for the system as a whole. Even if most HAMP applicants ultimately default, the program prevented an outbreak of foreclosures exactly when the system could have handled it least. There were murmurs among the bloggers of “extend and pretend”, but I don’t think that’s quite right. This was extend-and-don’t-even-bother-to-pretend. The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system”, “the economy”, and “ordinary Americans”. Treasury officials are not cruel people. I’m sure they would have preferred if the program had worked out better for homeowners as well. But they have larger concerns, and from their perspective, HAMP has helped to address those.

 
(BTW, in the post Waldman continues with his rather disgusting teenybopper fawning over those who are nothing but wretched scumbags. His tone after the first such meeting last year was the same. I really can’t fathom why anyone would admire these bureaucratic thugs or find them humanly attractive in any way. In a comment today Yves Smith tries to explain it in terms of human nature, but I’d say it’s more likely endemic to those who are or in the past have been insiders of a particular system. I’d bet if true outsiders ever had such a meeting, we’d be coldly polite at best, and in our minds just plain cold. At least Waldman admits that it’s discreditable of him, and rues it.)
 
So there followed a chorus of outraged liberals: “We’ve been had!” I won’t bother analyzing any in detail. Here’s one example, and another, and another.
 
Now, those of us who maintain an open mind (and read the econoblogs) knew this a long time ago. If I may toot my own horn for a moment, here’s me calling the HAMP a scam on exactly these grounds last December. There were plenty of others too. As with everything else, none of this is ever a secret nor does it ever require any special genius to figure out. It just requires paying attention and not maintaining stupid faith like faith in Obama and the Democrats (let alone faith in the banks; unbelievably, many still do).
 
Nor were our sources exactly obscure: To give two, McClatchy is a mainstream outlet, while The Nation is a liberal publication.
 
So why didn’t our liberals learn about the HAMP from The Nation back in December? I think the best answer is that Waldman is quoting Treasury cadres themselves affirming that the HAMP was a scam. A liberal, being a type of Right Wing Authoritarian Follower* and elitist suck-up, is congenitally unlikely to believe non-official sources on things (he’ll believe an anti-Republican allegation when a Democrat leads with it), and needless to say he won’t think things out for himself. So he wasn’t previously willing to believe housing activists or some unusual examples of real reporting, and of course he won’t believe econobloggers or radical bloggers.
 
But now that an official from the Treasury Department itself admitted the scam, it suddenly becomes a real scam, for at least some of the liberals.
 
Well, like I said I’m glad when we seem to see some progress in the education of our liberals. Of course I won’t believe anything from anyone until he takes an explicit stance renouncing the Democrats and the system once and for all.
 
[*Altemeyer himself recently came out as an RWA Follower, an Obama cultist, Bailout-believer, war-monger and what have you. Kind of ironic, if you’re familiar with his work. Who knew he was talking about himself all along? (Well, at least I didn’t. Maybe others did.)] 

August 20, 2010

Marx, Neo-Feudalism, and Peak Oil

Filed under: American Revolution, Marx, Neo-feudalism, Peak Oil — Tags: — Russ @ 7:54 am

 

Today’s American radicals seem to agree that orthodox Marxism, while retaining some excellent analytical features, is insufficient to our situation. (There’s also the question of whether or not the mention of it is tactical poison, how deep the old brainwashing runs. It’s true that in spring of 2009 this poll offered evidence of open-mindedness toward the term “socialism” and a healthy skepticism regarding “capitalism.” But that’s just one data point. At any rate, I think the tactical issue is a moot point if we agree that Marxism is an inadequate framework for concepts and action anyway. In that case, there’s no point gratuitously injecting it into the rhetorical mix.)
 
What remains valid is the analysis of class struggle as the basic dynamic of history and especially of modern history, the extraction of surplus value as the characteristic crime of the parasite, and the overall tendency of the system towards oligopoly.
 
On the other hand Marx was wrong about how capitalism, strictly defined, was going to purge all rents and feudal vestiges. Here Marx shared in a misconception endemic to classical economists. What really happens at every point is that true competitive practices are used to vanquish residual feudalism, but then the “competitor”, the moment he becomes strong enough, switches from capitalist mode to oligopoly racketeer mode. He switches from innovation, efficiency-seeking, and customer service to lobbying, cons, bribery, extortion, and every kind of anti-competitive action. He becomes a rent seeker. He reinstates a new feudalism. And so the last 40 years have seen the great switch from the capitalist stage of economic history to the refeudalizing stage. (Of course, the entire capitalist stage was riddled with feudal remnants and neo-feudal restorations. Imperialism, globalization, and financialization have been the main stages for this. And of course natural resources have always been treated as a slave plantation, and never with the slightest semblance of rational planning.)
 
Marx and the rest of classical economics failed to see or didn’t emphasize this. On the other hand, neoclassicism has been dedicated to the Big Lie that this neo-feudal project, and the law of rent-seeking I just described, don’t exist. Chicago economics simply claims as religious dogma that this is “capitalism”, this is the “free market”. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is the core slogan of this Big Lie. The real purport of it is, “It may look to you like the finance sector and other corporate oligopolies are pure parasites who produce nothing and only destroy. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch! So if these actors exist, they have to be important producers, even if you’re having trouble seeing what they produce. If they weren’t producing, they couldn’t exist. Ipso facto.”
 
So there’s one way in which the Marxian prognostication of the unified proletariat facing the monopoly capitalist has failed to materialize. We face instead monopoly neo-feudalism, so anyone who still wants to use Marxism has to recompute.
 
Similarly, the unified industrial proletariat also looked for a while like it was cohering on schedule but then disintegrated. Much of it was offshored, and much of the rest was dispersed into the “service” and “information” economies. Meanwhile unionism, so long wrangled over as a rival of socialism, followed the organized socialist movement into decrepitude. By now there’s little organization among “the workers” at all. Structurally, they’re an atomized rabble. There was also the mid-century co-optation via the “American Dream” and “ownership society” scams, both temporarily zombified by the debt economy. Now that this debt is collapsing and this middle class is being liquidated, the American worker finds himself left alone with no protection, no organizational framework, lacking even any ideas for what such a framework could be.
 
I’ve previously commented on the parallels between the US kleptocracy today and the Ancien Regime of the 18th century. These parallels are many and profound. But one major difference, which arguably makes today’s task far more difficult, is that by the 1780s the industrial and cultural life of all of France had become physically concentrated in Paris. As Tocqueville put it, “At the outbreak of the French Revolution this initial revolution had already been completed…..Thus Paris had become the master of France and already an army was gathering which was to turn into the master of Paris.”
 
While Tocqueville here describes conditions ripe for the bourgeois revolution, the Marxist framework expected the same conditions for the eventual proletarian revolution – physical concentration of economic power. Instead, while today power is tremendously concentrated and becoming more so (that part of the Marxist prognostication is correct), it has been physically dispersed, literally all over the planet via offshoring of the proletariat itself. There’s simply no physical basis for the requisite class consciousness to develop even if this class itself really existed the way Marx had envisioned. (Ending the draft and replacing the civilian army with a corporatized mercenary army was another clever gambit of the elites. As was replacing much taxation with deficit spending. On every front the goal has been to temporarily change the citizen into a naked atom who’s not oppressed but simply neglected, so that he loses even the consciousness of being an oppressed citizen. The plan is that once the real oppression is imposed, the atom will be utterly helpless to recover any level of citizen consciousness.)
 
So what’s the real nature of our class struggle today, if we still tried to look at it from a Marxist perspective? Luckily, Marx himself provided some clues in his 1848 articles on “The Class Struggle in France”, discussing the revolution of that year.
 
Marx gives here a basic rule which we can remove from all dogmatic contexts:
 

As soon as it has risen up, a class in which the revolutionary interests of society are concentrated finds the content and the material for its revolutionary activity directly in its own situation: foes to be laid low, measures dictated by the needs of the struggle to be taken; the consequences of its own deeds drive it on.

 
He goes on to comment:
 

The struggle against capital in its developed, modern form, in its decisive aspect, the struggle of the industrial wage-worker against the industrial bourgeois, is in France a partial phenomenon, which after the February days could so much the less supply the national content of the revolution, since the struggle against capital’s secondary modes of exploitation, that of the peasant against usury and mortgages or of the petty bourgeois against the wholesale dealer, banker and manufacturer, in a word, against bankruptcy, was still hidden in the general uprising against the finance aristocracy.

 
So in light of this, what’s our “revolutionary material”? Clearly the framework of the “industrial wage-worker against the industrial bourgeois” is obsolete. Instead we have, as the dominant phenomena, the “struggle against capital’s secondary modes of exploitation”. We have “the peasant”, i.e. the small farmer and housedebtor, against usury and mortgages; and we have the “petty bourgeois”, the small businessman, against Walmartization and bankruptcy, in every sector.
 
Marx goes on to describe how, in order to preserve its position, the bourgeoisie had to ally itself with feudal elements. These elements would later come to dominate it; the user would become the used. And isn’t this what has happened with neo-feudalism today? Commentators keep saying how the non-finance capitalists are under the banksters’ thumb. Marx teaches that the bourgeoisie liquidates itself that way.
 
So that’s the real end stage we’re reaching – not proletarian revolution, but refeudalization. It was never linear progress but a peaking curve, concurrent with Peak Oil. (That’s because the industrial revolution and classical economics including Marxism are creatures of the Oil Age.)
 
So therefore we face refeudalization, this time permanent. But that doesn’t have to mean we return to the same political and socioeconomic organization as prevailed under medieval feudalism. There’s also the medieval commune and town as exemplars. We’ve learned enough from our modern political experience to apply the lesson of true federation, true cooperation, to any post-oil economy.
 
This leads back to how Marx himself would say ours is a “petty bourgeois” and “peasant” situation. We face the same assaults and assert the same demands. According to Leninist snobbery this would render us “counter-revolutionary”, the way he labeled the SRs and anarchists. But since Lenin was really seeking a different form of centralized elitist tyranny, we know that his revolutionary antagonists were the true revolutionaries, while the Bolsheviks turned out to be counter-revolutionaries themselves, once ensconced in power.
 
Bakunin turned out to be correct, about one possible version of Marxism (it must be admitted, this is the version Marx himself eventually seems to have validated). But as we see from the “revolutionary materials” passage from 1848 (let alone from earlier writings), there are in fact other possible paths of analysis and strategy.
 
So this was a contribution toward brainstorming the situation. Like I said, orthodox “Marxism” probably doesn’t have much utility going forward, but I wanted to explore one possible Marxian thread which provides a way of looking at our situation. I’m sure there are others.

August 18, 2010

Fannie and Freddie to Stay the Course (As if the Bailout allows any other)

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies — Tags: — Russ @ 2:55 am

 

Yesterday’s GSE hearing came and went with nothing special happening. There was no confirmation of earlier rumors that the system would order a mortgage rate reduction.
 
Instead it was status quo all the way. Geithner affirmed the government’s commitment to reflating the mortgage bubble and keeping housing prices artificially high.
 

Rather, Mr. Geithner — and the conference after his remarks — focused largely on drafting a new and improved version of the current system, in which the government subsidizes mortgage loans made by private companies.

Mr. Geithner said continued government support was important “to make sure that Americans can borrow at reasonable interest rates to buy a house even in a downturn.” The absence of such support, Mr. Geithner said, would deepen future recessions because unsubsidized private companies would curtail lending.

 
There were the same old lies about how inflating a bubble and then using the mechanism of the GSEs to provide lower-cost mortgages represents some “progressive” outcome.
 

The administration is still considering these and other options. The choice will reflect in large part a judgment about how hard the government should try to increase homeownership. Broader guarantees create greater risks for taxpayers, but also lower interest rates, bringing ownership within reach for more families.

Shaun Donovan, the housing secretary and a host of the conference with Mr. Geithner, said that the administration remained committed to “broad access to homeownership, including options for those families who have historically been shut out of these markets.”

 
Think about the double artificiality and manipulation here: first the banks use government to inflate a bubble, and then they use it to provide market access at prices which are artificially low over the short run. (Of course, as with any heroin dealer giving away a free sample, they intend to make you pay in the end.) So it’s a double affront to reality.
 
Reality, of course, wants to and will deflate. Housing prices remain far above their historical level, far above any relation to the real economy. But the bubble is a primary rent mechanism for the banksters, and MBS generation and price support through the GSEs is a primary vector of the Bailout. So conscripted public support for the bubble (and for the zombie banks’ balance sheets) will continue via the GSEs. Geithner simply reaffirmed this. (Meanwhile, the posturing of Republicans and other alleged fiscal responsiblists is just posturing; they’re all lying when they imply they want to let housing markets discover reality-based prices. To say “let the private sector take it over”, while implying that asset prices could still be sustained this way, is imbecility. There is no private market for housing, not at anything near these bubble prices.)
 
The NYT does what it can to help with the fraud. In the very first sentence it gives a particularly deceptive version of the two-extremes-truth-in-the-middle lie:
 

The Obama administration has been barraged with ideas for reworking the government’s role in housing finance, spanning the spectrum from guaranteeing all mortgage loans to eliminating all federal subsidies for homeownership.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, speaking Tuesday at a conference to discuss the possibilities, made clear that the administration was not pondering such radical kinds of surgery as it develops a proposal it hopes to unveil in January.

 
Of course, “guaranteeing all mortgage loans”, what the piece calls a “radical” extreme, is in fact exactly what we have and what the NYT wants to help perpetuate. (All loans are either explicitly guaranteed or receive the implicit Too Big To Fail guarantee.) So now they’re reaching the realm of de jure lies of fact itself, and not just of truth.

Rackets and Relocalization, Case Study (RIAA and Copyrights)

Filed under: Internet Democracy, Reformism Can't Work, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:46 am

 

I just wanted to jot down some musings on a smaller issue, but which still seems to fall into place according to the big picture. More and more it seems every question, however small, receives its answer this way.
 
The question is whether or not the existing copyright/royalty regime for music is outdated. As the author of this post at Public Knowledge admits, you would think a site dedicated to Internet freedom, the Creative Commons and so on, would take a dim view of something so seemingly sclerotic.
 
But instead the author seems to lapse into subjectivity, removing the issue from its historical context and treating it according to absolute morality.
 

But a “balanced” copyright law needs to be fair to all parties, and it is simply unfair to performers that broadcasters commercially exploit their copyrighted works without paying.
But this position isn’t universally accepted among people who are generally correct about copyright law. For example, Mike Masnick asked,

In what world does the government make someone pay to promote someone else?

Well, in this world. In the world where we have copyright law. You don’t do a cost/benefit analysis to see if legal rights apply in a specific case. You could frame many commercial uses of music as “promotional.” If you use some band’s music in a car commercial, there’s no doubt that you’d increase their exposure. You might even increase sales of their new album. But this is totally irrelevant: at the very least, the sole right to commercially exploit a copyrighted work should belong to the copyright holder. If you’re making a movie or a commercial, you don’t get to use someone’s music for free just because you can tell a story about how “promotional” it is. Yes, in some circumstances, the copyright owner of a sound recording might even pay to have its music played on the air. Who cares? In some circumstances a band might want to pay Apple to use its music in an iPod commercial. That doesn’t mean that Apple thereby gets to use anyone’s music for free. If a band wants to let radio stations use its music for free, it can; but there’s no reason to apply that to everyone.

We can argue all day about the details of what copyright reform should be. Not everyone agrees that “commercial use” should be treated differently than other uses. Even if you accept that framework, does making a mix CD for your friends count as a “commercial” use if it might theoretically displace a sale? Should there be robust safe harbors for online service providers? These are contentious issues. But I can’t imagine that there’s serious debate about whether playing someone else’s copyrighted works in their entirely, and running commercials against them, counts as a fair use.

I’ll say it again: Unless your use fits into a limitation or exception to copyright law (fair use applies to money-making activities as well), you shouldn’t get to use other people’s music for free in your for-profit endeavors.

Moreover, it has always been unfair that performing artists get nothing when broadcasters make money off their works. The only reason they don’t is politics: the broadcast industry is very powerful and tends to get what it wants. (Internet radio stations are not as politically influential, of course, which is why they pay performance royalties when their spectrum-wasting colleagues don’t.)……………

So, you can call performance royalties a “tax” if you want to—of course, by that logic, all copyright royalties are taxes. And the RIAA and SoundExchange have so far been very stupid in the rates they charge Internet broadcasters. But the basic question at the heart of the dispute is whether the owners of copyrights in sound recordings deserve to be treated differently than the owners of copyrights in other kinds of work. They never should have been, and they shouldn’t be today.

 
(BTW, the occasion for the post is to shred one of the more absurd pieces of racketeering you’ll ever see. They want to get a law passed to force every cell phone and other kind of gadget to include an FM radio.) 
 
 
So here’s my quick reflections on the copyright issue:
 
1. This is subjectively “right”, and in a perfect world I’d agree with it. But we live in a world where rackets currently control all system money flows. We must classify ideas like this about making something more “fair” for a party subordinate to the racket as at best reformist, not transformative, and therefore as counterrevolutionary. By now, under these conditions of racketeering, “reformism” can only validate the criminal status quo. The goal has to always be to relocalize and desystematize the economy and eradicate the racket, first through evasion and subversion.
 
2. If the model going forward (and as it’s mostly been for some years now) is that obscure bands market themselves online, run off their own CDs, sell their songs online, self-promote their shows, sell CDs and posters and stuff out of the back of a car, eke out a living that way, then we don’t need the record companies for that.
 
3. And if the only way an act gets big, becomes rich and famous, is as a prefabricated corporate concoction, and the only way a large audience hears a song is directly through a TV commercial, we don’t need that either. We’re better off without it. So we don’t need the record rackets for that either.
 
4. So going forward, what benefit does the existing copyright/royalty regime have for the bands? None, only for the rackets. And we don’t need the rackets to exist at all, so we can and should obliterate all institutions and practices which are overwhelmingly to their advantage. We can maintain copyright restrictions for any for-profit use; as always, commercial “speech” must be held to the most restrictive standard. But otherwise we should relinquish the old strictures and institute a new, more open regime.
 
The post discussed the way things were in the old days. Well, in every sector we’re headed back for the old days regardless. In many ways Peak Oil dictates this, while in every way the system intends to reimpose medieval feudalism. So our method at every point should be to seek to adapt the pre-modern practice to (what should be) our mature sense of economic justice. This usually won’t mean some stellar ideal of “fairness”, but rather that in accepting natural limits and the practices afforded by those limits we strive to make them as fair as possible while 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.

August 17, 2010

Eschatology (Peak Oil vs. Techno-Class War)

 

A big part of the consumer indoctrination program the kleptocracy is using to boil the frogs is to string them along with their faith in the cult of technology.
 
Today it seems both quaint and scary that anyone still believes in “progress”. If that terms means things get “better”, then we know there’s no such thing as progress, in any area.
 
Science and technology may accomplish lots of things that people consider good, but this has been accompanied by ever greater harms. Man has become more comfortable? He’s also become more harried and overworked and stressed. Medical technology had advanced? So has killing technology. We have this information cornucopia? Yes, and its core character is creeping totalitarianism. man’s technology has empowered him to remold the earth – yes, and destroy it.
 
And by now all of these things have become weapons of class war. Even advanced medical technology is an assault on the people if it’s available only to the people’s oppressors.
 
Modern tech is the destroyer of both the environment and the human spirit. There was a time, and perhaps post-oil there will come a time, where human beings walked the earth and not rump appendages of machines marking time for their existences in the ICU.
 
What does it even mean to think anymore? Given the fact that a necessary human attainment is the capacity for real thought, if from an early age one’s every moment is smothered in a bombardment of gadgets, electronic toys, idiotic texting and cellphone jabbering, when do you ever even learn how to think in the first place, let alone have time and peace for thought? What kind of ICU zombies is this “civilization” processing?
 
Then there’s the fundamentally totalitarian inertia of technology. This inertia is endemic to it and is operative even in the absence of bad faith on the part of corporations and governments (though as we know this bad faith is almost always present as well). Look at how today’s world accepts as the norm levels of intrusiveness and domination which would have immediately triggered a revolution fifty years ago. People stupidly say, “Orwell was wrong”, when we’re really 99% of the way there. All that’s lacking is for the elites  to intentionally use the technology that way. Today everywhere we look we see this will to use “progressing”.
 
9/11 only accelerated this process, which was already well advanced. To put it a different way, if a full-blown totalitarian system would be the car driving down the road, what we have now is: The road and the car are fully built, the tank is full and the engine’s running, and Bailout America is sitting at the wheel. All that’s lacking is to put it in drive and go.
 
Which is the salient step? If you wanted to go for a drive and nothing needed existed yet, what would you consider the most important, decisive step – to build the roads and the vehicle, and procure the fuel? or simply to get in and go once all that was done? Modern technology has already done all the real work. All that’s left now is the political mopping up.
 
Any lover of freedom hates a world of omniscient databases and omnipresent surveillance. It’s odd – in America we have so many who claim to revere things like the Boston Tea Party and the Underground Railroad, even as they celebrate technology which would’ve made those things impossible.
 
Technology implies that the will to freedom itself was only a passing mood. Who still loves freedom today? it has nothing to do with material luxuries, with “consumerism” (what most Americans evidently mean when they use the word “freedom”). Most of all you have to be free within yourself. But a slave to machines is the most condemned of all slaves, for there can never be even the thought of escape.
 
The craziest and most pernicious notion of the green cornucopians is that we’re somehow going to:
 
1. Transform the West’s entire automobile fleet to plug-ins.
 
2. Do the same for the putative auto fleets of the industrializing world.
 
3. Do all this with renewables.
 
4. Do it while at the same time renewables are also maintaining the accustomed energy consumption in all other sectors, again in both the West and the industrializing world.
 
They may claim that’s a caricature, but it’s implicit in everything they say. (Which is how we know that corporate environmentalism is an astroturfing campaign. None of this can ever help the people, but is only part of elite luxury concentration. But the green cornucopians want to string people along toward the false idol of a renewable utopia. That’s their designated role according to neoliberal resource fascism.)
 
 
As for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), here’s the two main points.
 
1. The reckless rush to deploy GMOs in the ecosystem without even the slightest idea what kinds of effects they’ll have, and the assault on all attempts to impose any sort of control and prudence, is a radical repudiation of the precautionary principle. Since this is one of the absolute core principles of environmentalism, it follows that it’s impossible to be a real environmentalist and yet support GMOs, at least the way they’ve been and always will be deployed. (So that’s one of the ways to recognize a sellout corporate environmentalist – support for GMOs, along with biofuels, nukes, cap and trade.)
 
2. With GMOs, whatever stupid rhetoric we’re subject to about prosperity and liberation, it’s really about patents, profits, and power. Monsanto has openly declared its goal is world domination of the food chain. Both morally and socially this is unacceptable. If the biosphere’s genetic code, upon which all biotech work has been done, belongs to anybody it belongs to humanity as a whole and can never legitimately be enclosed. The idea of a patent on an organism is on its face invalid.
 
What’s more, the food supply must be seen as first and foremost a social property. Even beyond moral considerations there remain the considerations of sociopolitical stability and national security. These demand that the integrity of the food supply not be held hostage by sociopathic corporations, that we not be reliant upon one strain of genetically modified monocrop, and that we diversify way beyond monoculture in general.
 
 
The human world view, while recognizing no bounds to imagination, also finds its freedom in self-control and in recognizing the physical limits of reality and the tyranny limits of power, unless we would wish to see freedom destroyed forever.
 
It may be a paradox to small minds, but the eternal struggle between freedom and power’s tendency toward tyranny, the core ideological precept of the Founding Fathers, decrees that if we would maximize freedom we must in turn harness it by restraining power.
 
So far the ideology which would place no limits at all on power and wealth accumulation has had its way. But their gains become ever more marginal and ever more expensive. Energy return on investment (EROEI) gets worse and worse. That’s Peak Oil setting in.
 
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So far we’ve managed to hold off the reaction, even as the sum of our action becomes ever more monumental.
 
The potential energy being stored up is astronomical. It can’t, and it won’t, be long before that energy is rendered kinetic.
 
Do we really think we can keep it up forever? Do we really think our Tower of Babel will make it to heaven?

August 16, 2010

The Usual Suspects (Net Neutrality/Google Edition)

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 8:40 am

 

Anyone who’s written about Obama’s crimes and witnessed the anguish of his disillusioned voters is also familiar with several kinds of Obama hacks and cultists.
 
One type is the troll who says he dislikes Obama but places the blame for his crimes on anyone who voted for him. Indeed, given his sneering contempt for anyone who expresses any version of, “Obama lied to us”, this troll implicitly blames only those who have renouced him while giving his hacks and terminal cultists a free pass. Obama himself always gets a free pass.
 
This is obviously a pernicious way of viewing things. Yes, it’s true that most of Obama’s voters were evidently ignorant about his record, and most have hung on way too long in wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt long after his real nature became clear. In that sense they deserve to be “blamed”. But what purpose does this serve? The voters in a large, centralized representative “democracy” are always going to be relatively ignorant. (Once again we see the lie of “market” ideology, that all participants have all the information they need. Market fundamentalism and representative democracy are the two sides of soft corporate tyranny.) If you support this kind of pseudo-democracy, that’s the kind of voter you want. And if you reject pseudo-democracy, then it’s the system itself you reject, and the incompetence of the voter under such a system is one of the reasons you reject it. Either way you have no basis for blaming the voter. If your contention is that representative democracy necessarily disempowers the voter because of built-in information imbalances and the way special interests manipulate obscure leverage points in the system, then how can you blame the voter for the way the system intentionally renders him incompetent to carry out his duties as a citizen? The system itself has sought to destroy citizenship.
 
It would be wonderful if every individual could be reborn overnight as the heroic citizen of the civics textbooks. But that’s not reality. Citizen democracy, if it’s to arise out of an initially hostile environment and flourish, needs to be nurtured. One aspect of this is 
 
So while this troll either claims to despise Obama or holds aloof from the whole mess, his actions are objectively pro-Obama, pro-system, pro-corporate.
 
On the other hand, we can sympathize with the troll just a little bit when we encounter the idiots still high on “hopium”, still clinging desperately to the delusion that Obama means well but is somehow thwarted from carrying his good intentions to fruition. I guess here we see the terminal flat-earth liberal version of the terminal fascist 20% who still supported Bush at the end of his calamitous reign.
 
Unfortunately, both of these types seem to be endemic to all fronts on the great civil war of citizen democracy against corporate tyranny. This NYT piece on the Google-Verizon coup attempt provides examples of both.
 
The piece recapitulates how the deal would gut net neutrality. The real goal of most anti-neutrality conspiracy is to turn it into a version of the “public option”. The PO of course never existed except on paper, but the term was politicized precisely because it could be applied to anything or nothing. This was done in the expectation that process liberals would focus on the term and never consider the content or lack thereof. This expectation proved to be fully justified.
 
Today we have net neutrality, which has fully existed in concept and reality since the earliest days of the public Internet. The concept and practice have always been clear – carriers cannot discriminate among packets of information; all packets, whether sent between two megacorporations or two obscure and powerless individuals, are equal. Increasing carriage which portends congestion is to be solved by expanding capacity. Only temporary acute congestion could justify temporary, limited, specifically targeted anti-congestion discrimination.
 
That’s net neutrality as it’s always been conceived and done. But the goal today is to subvert this practice and still slap the term “net neutrality” on practices like “paid prioritization” and “managed services” which abrogate the core premise of net neutrality. Thus the Orwellian Google-Verizon deal claims to uphold “net neutrality” even as it would set up a paid VIP lane outside the public Internet, which would then sap all resources from it in favor of the VIPs. Meanwhile wireless carriage would be exempt from even the semblance of non-discrimination.
 
The new propaganda line is that net neutrality is actually a vague, ill-defined ideal no one really understands, and which needs to be clarified today in a way it wasn’t previously clear. So nearly twenty years of practice and principle have clarified nothing; it’s Year Zero, Day One on the Internet frontier, and Google says we need to start as new in asking, “what is this thing, net neutrality?” As we see, the answer they want to impose is that “Paid Discrimination = Net Neutrality”.         
 
The Google-Verizon deal is the attempt to enshrine a version of the basic plan that’s been batted about for a long time now. If the people fall for this, fall for fake “net neutrality”, they’ll lose the real thing, lose Internet democracy, which in turn would be one of the final stages of the destruction of American democracy itself.
 
While Citizens United was more of a symbolic and formal enshrinement than a significant practical change, any new Internet paradigm based on the kind of arrangement Google-Verizon attempts to enshrine would constitute a sea change in practice as well as symbol. This is therefore a far worse gambit of corporate tyranny.
 
And then it’s typical that we’d see this piece assembling the various kinds of pro-corporate talking points seeming to emanate “from outside”, “from below”, “from net neutrality supporters”.
 
First we have the trollish neutrality “supporter” Susan Crawford:
 

“I don’t fault Google and Verizon for striking a deal,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and a longtime supporter of net neutrality. “A large private company is always going to operate in its own interest, and for anyone to believe otherwise would be naïve.”

Professor Crawford, who is critical of the proposal, said the F.C.C.’s lack of action on access rules pushed Google to seek a compromise. “Google had no choice but to cooperate with the friendliest carrier it can find, which is Verizon,” she said.

 
As many times as I see it I can never understand the logic that if your enemy is acting in his own interest then you’re somehow wrong to blame him for assaulting you.
 
What does the assailant’s interest or intent have to do with anything? I view a mosquito and a corporation in the same way. Both seek (N.B., seek is philosophically the only concept we ever need, not “intend”, “want” etc.) to do us harm. Both must be smashed. From there, morally blaming a malevolent hominid seeker is a tactic of the struggle. To put it in Nietzschean terms, it’s a moral manifestation which is “necessary for life”. That’s the only measure of what we can, should, and must do.
 
So how interesting is it when the first impulse of someone who claims to support the anti-corporatist side of an issue is to defend the corporation? This is an example of that same blame-the-victim troll. Her personal opinion may be to support net neutrality, but her objective trend is to accept whatever the rackets do as the rightful way of the world. Thus we see her already identifying with the power structure and against the stupid “naive” peasants, already caving in and making her peace with the death of net neutrality. Her support for it was therefore really an accident or a whim, but she’s objectively pro-corporatist.
 
Of course the opposite impulse, from those of us who side with the democracy and the people, would be to say, “Google has built its whole brand around ‘Don’t Be Evil’, and it was therefore naive of them to think they could act in clearly evil ways and not generate outrage and protest.”
 
Sure enough, the piece gives an example of how it’s done:
 

But disappointed consumers and advocates seem to be holding Google to a different standard, in large part because of the image it created.

“If the world of business is an ugly world full of rats, they’ve managed to create a bushy tail for themselves and come across as a very, very cute rat with terms like ‘Do no evil,’ ” said Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “The downside of that is that people have expectations that they’re going to fight these quixotic battles, and the bottom line is their obligation to their shareholders.”

 
So who’s “naive”? Who one chooses to say is the most naive provides a window into one’s objective position, regardless of the whims of personal opinions on policy.
 
Obviously it is subjectively naive to believe a candidate with a neoliberal record when he promises “Change” or any corporation, even in its pre-racket stage, when it vows, “Don’t Be Evil”.
 
But like I said, this is a basic of human nature, and if we’re to have a civilization at all it has to be arranged in a way to help bring out the best of this idealism which can be prone to naivete and prevent the exploitation of it by criminals. By definition a system where top-down systematic lying and manipulation is institutionalized is neither a democracy nor a civilization at all. This is simply a monstrous power imbalance which seeks to destroy all that’s wise and good in any individual and whip up and manipulate all that’s stupid and bad in him. One would have to be a civic hero to hold up to this pressure, as a mere individual, and maintain a high level of integrity. There’s no way the mass can do so.
 
Under these conditions, the conditions of such an imbalance, anyone who in any way sides with the system and against the people (even where the merits of a particular isolated incident might warrant that, if it could ever be possible to take any incident out of context, which it could never be) is acting as an agent of tyranny, regardless of any accidental “opinions”. 
 
And finally we have the moron who says, “No amount of evidence from actions can ever convince me! I know my hero means well, and it’s a Mystery to me how he’s prevented from doing the good and forced to do the evil, but I shall keep faith!”
 

Not all believe that Google has betrayed its principles. Some longtime Silicon Valley chroniclers say they still think Google is trying to do the right thing, not only for itself, but also for the Internet as a whole.

“I would rather have a company like Google that means to do no evil and is struggling with compromises on these hard issues than a company that doesn’t see a struggle,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “Most companies don’t even see things in those terms.”

 
This kind of thing coming from a powerless Obama supporter is just pathetic and contemptible. Coming from an IT cadre it may be more calculated and tactical (i.e. more treacherous). Either way this paltry way of looking at things again abets the tyrant. Why exactly the supremely powerful and potentially populist Google would need to “compromise” with a loathed, parasitic telecom racket is left a complete mystery. Here we see idealism perverted by enabling its laziness and inertia. You believed and have been disappointed? But surely it’s simpler and easier to keep believing rather than go to the trouble of switching allegiances, let alone actually creating something to believe in out of yourself?
 
In the end that’s what every tyrant and every enabler of tyranny, including the astroturfers and even the self-astroturfed, fears the most: That the people might break free of all the lies and manipulations and build their own world, purged of all criminals.

August 13, 2010

Permanent, and Very Unnatural, Rate of Unemployment

Filed under: Globalization, Neo-feudalism, Peak Oil — Tags: — Russ @ 6:04 am

 

Although Obama’s hacks keep trying with diminishing success to claim he has any other than a corporate looting agenda, the truth keeps coming out.
 
The latest vicious example was the news that Obama’s using taxpayer money to help outsource American jobs to Asia. We’ve seen this before, for example when Obama encouraged GM to use taxpayer Bailout money to expand its operations in China. This time the written plot explicitly celebrates how the administration will help the same corporations we bailed out outsource IT jobs in order to take advantage of “lower labor costs.”
 
(The basic measure of a human being vs. an anti-human, subhuman piece of vermin is whether one’s view of people is that we constitute humanity, or whether we only comprise a “labor cost”,  just a resource to be mined, despoiled, burned up and transformed to waste, and discarded.)
 
This is clearly at the core of Obama’s idea of governance, of what the government should be doing. As I’ve said many times before, he starts and finishes with one question, “How will a policy set up opportunities for rackets to extract rents?” That’s his one and only measure of a policy’s attraction and even of its “moral” legitimacy (in the eyes of a corporatist psychopathic ideologue like himself).
 
That taxpayers are actually forced to fund their own destruction is also no doubt a source of amusement to him.
 
So that’s the context for the latest jobs report, another mileage marker on the gradual descent into Depression, as Bailout America destroyed another 131000 jobs in July. The official U3 number is at 14.6 million jobless, 9.5%. Half of these have been unemployed for longer than 6 months, the worst figure since the previous Great Depression.
 
Obama has led a propaganda charge to call this the “new normal”. Just before being driven out his adviser Christina Romer protested that there’s nothing to be accepted as “normal” about it, but rather that this is cyclical unemployment which should be rectified with countercyclical government action: real stimulus and a real jobs program. Well, she finally realizes she was in the wrong administration, if she was serious about that.
 
1.4 million Americans have been consigned to joblessness for over 99 weeks. This number of the permanent unemployed will only expand cancerously, as an intentional policy of the kleptocracy.
 
What’s the true unemployment figure, including the underemployed, the so-called “discouraged workers”, and other groups among the mugged? The most comprehensive government number, the U6, is at 16.5%, although this too is an underreporting. If we add those the system’s demoralization offensives have driven out of the job search completely, the “long-term discouraged” who were defined out of existence as unpersons in 1994, we get nearly 22%, according to Shadowstats’ Alternate Unemployment Rate. Another calculation using a more realistic figure for labor force participation than the government uses gives a U3 figure of nearly 14%. The U6 and the Shadowstats alternative would have to be adjusted upward accordingly. So we can see how the predicament is far more severe that the system wants us to know.
 
(That is, more severe from the point of view of the people. From the elites’ point of view, their feudalization project is more advanced than they’re letting on.)
 
The Bailout America regime calls the current official numbers the baseline of a “recovery”. Therefore it wants to normalize these numbers. While Obama would prefer that the U3 stay under 10% and the U6 under 20, in the end these numbers as well will be propagated as a backdrop of normal life, in the same way the Bailout, the Permanent War and the surveillance state are supposed to be. The reason permanent extreme joblessness has to be enshrined as the new normal is because the real economy is no longer slated to grow, but only to be cannibalized by the finance sector and the rest of the corporatized feudal power structure. Peak Oil means the end of growth and the end of the exponentially expanding number of jobs to be done in a “growth” economy based on fossil fuels. Just as a circle of debt and consumerism and jobs which were part of that consumer economy temporarily spiraled up and outward, so now the contraction sets in, and as debt can no longer be sustained, the people as consumers can no longer function, and therefore the people as workers are no longer viable. We the peasantry are now just cannon fodder for anything profligate with human life – wars, slave labor in the fields and mines (without fossil fuels the methods of antiquity again become relevant), or just being sequestered to starve and rot and freeze.
 
Since a jobs program would spend lootable money on the people who created it in the first place and not on the gangsters, it’s a non-starter. Instead the liquidation process will proceed and intensify in the form of rising permanent joblessness.
 
This is all of course premised on a vast crime, and everything which is alleged to be natural or inevitable about it is in fact completely artificial and the result of nothing but political choices.
 
The Big Lie has long been that full employment isn’t possible. The reality is that it’s only ever been “not possible” given the premise of capitalism itself, artificial scarcity, and in particular the premise of kleptocracy founded upon the anti-sovereign empowerment of the oligopoly finance sector and all the other oligopolies which ramify out from it. (Google was the latest outfit to officially come out as a racket and no longer an entrepreneurial competitor.) From this point of view, full employment was never desirable and therefore had to be ideologized as not possible.
 
If on the contrary our premise is that civilization should be for the benefit of the people who work to produce it on a daily basis, then obviously full guaranteed employment is not only the imperative moral decision, but the most rational, productive, and efficient way of ordering society, purged of all rents and artificial barriers to the free flow of economic energies. (Corporatism is based on artificial monopoly and scarcity.)
 
So the very concept of a “natural rate of unemployment” is meant to ideologically justify the number of able and willing producers who are being intentionally barricaded out of the economy. Marx called this the reserve army of the unemployed. Under the Oil Economy this reserve army resource could be brought into production or withheld depending upon the interest of the elites. Under Peak Oil this army becomes ever larger.
 
Corporatism was already based on artificial scarcity while the economy was well-oiled. To maintain it post-Peak means to sustain a rising level of real scarcity, to which must be added the artificial scarcity in order to maintain the social control aspect of the reserve army. This “real” scarcity is of course real only under corporatist conditions. If we systemically overthrew all the premises of growth and surplus value and consumerism and replaced them with a steady-state producer-controlled equitable-distribution economy, there would be no real scarcity, nor any artificial scarcity.
 
But what the kleptocracy seeks today is artificial scarcity on top of artificial scarcity, or a new kind of meta-scarcity.
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