Corporate Subversion of Democracy

You elected those politicians to represent you. Are they, or are they perhaps colluding to enrich themselves by creating a corporate state or, even worse, a fascist state? One of the best clues to this shadowy operation is government facilitation of corporate corruption.

No one, and certainly no government, is perfect, so “perfection”–e.g., the absence of corruption in government–may be a nice ideal but is hardly a realistic standard for daily performance. Therefore, it is perhaps a bit unfair to condemn a government for exhibiting corruption. A more realistic standard for daily performance would be this:

Does the government facilitate or combat corruption in its own ranks and among the broader corporate elite?

That standard is one that separates good governance, i.e., government for the people, from bad governance, i.e., government for the elite. That standard also directly addresses the more particular issue of whether or not a government is moving toward corporatism, i.e., the enrichment of corporate elites at the expense of the society as a whole. That standard also exposes rising fascism, a particularly pernicious form of corporatism.

In this context, consider the recent remarks of muckraking journalist Matt Taibi about Bank of America:

This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests….
Conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it’s received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support, most of it doled out by the Obama administration.

Liberals should also be outraged. The goal of liberalism is to take care of those who need it, not to feed obese welfare queens. As a liberal, I can testify that government bailouts of rich, corrupt banks violates the ideals of liberals; conservatives can speak to their own values.

Taibi explains:

Conservatives believe that a commitment to free market principles and limited government will lead us out of our economic troubles, but Bank of America represents the opposite dynamic: a company that is kept protected from the judgments of the free market, and forces the state to expand to take on its debts.

Feeding the greed of “too big to fail” corporate welfare queens has become a major financial drain on the U.S. economy; the unemployed and those defrauded out of their mortgages are paying for this. Beyond the financial cost to society of corrupt corporations lies the specter of corporatist or outright fascist subversion of democracy. If the citizens are so generous that they choose to provide welfare to billionaire CEOs, so be it. My concern is far more with the political implications. To put it briefly, the more the regime becomes the financial partner of corrupt corporate leaders, the greater will be their tendency to collude to undermine citizen oversight of their misbehavior, which will inevitably lead to a police state, i.e., a corporatist dictatorship.

It is important to note that the issue of whether or not the government is colluding with the corporate elite to defraud society is a separate issue from government creation of healthy conditions for business. Smoothly running, productive corporations can be useful social tools as long as the government understands that its purpose is to protect the larger interests of society. The string of economic crises (S&L, Latin defaults, Asian tiger collapse, Long-Term Capital Management’s collapse) culminating (so far) in the 2008 Financial Crisis–all caused by out-of-control corporate greed facilitated by complicit regulators–does not prove that capitalism is an unacceptable form of government; it does, however, pretty conclusively prove that capitalism in the absence of strict government regulation backed up by energetic popular oversight is suicidal

Now every human with a brain can see that capitalism is a very hot torch; without great care, it will burn you, but socialism–albeit better in theory as, by definition, a system to protect “society” rather than “capital”–has its own problems, which are perhaps best described in Solzhenitsyn’s brilliant chapter “The Law As a Child” in Gulag Archipelago, where the collapse of Soviet socialism into communist dictatorship in the absence of a rule of law that would provide regulation over government) is exposed. The fundamental issue is not “capitalism vs. socialism” but whether or not the population has the education, commitment, and capability to keep watch over the elite.

If (a big condition) the citizenry is sufficiently awake to defend itself, the standard approach of a government trying to establish a corporatist dictatorship is to whip up national security fears, wave the bloody flag, and terrify the population into bowing down before a “great leader” who promises to “protect” them. That is the point at which corporatism transforms into fascism, and one of the clearest initial clues that this process has been launched by an elitist regime is government facilitation of corporate corruption.
“Corruption!” is an easy charge to make; is it fair?

  • Bank overdraft scam: BoA settled a court case accusing it of running a bank overdraft scam for $400 million. That may well have been a tiny portion of the total amount stolen from depositors, but even for BoA, $400M would presumably constitute a line item in their budget. Would they have paid such a fine if they were innocent?
  • Mortgage fraud: Three years after the “2008 Financial Attack on the One Percent,” the Federal Government is finally bringing legal charges against BoA for mortgage fraud. BoA has already paid a cool $22M to avoid complicity for defrauding…soldiers!!! That is called “corporate patriotism.” (Corporations, you recall, are now “persons,” so one should presume that they could be expected to be patriotic just like the rest of us “persons,” but of course personhood for corporations only pertains at their convenience.)
  • Selling elections. Even the Supreme Court, last defense of the Constitution, has joined the game, twisting the Constitution in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to allow corporations to buy elections. When campaign time on TV is made free and passed out fairly, then we will know that the government is protecting democracy rather than promoting a corporate state.

Slippery Slope to Fascism?

Fascism in America? The most disturbing evidence of all is the refusal of major party candidates to address Ron Paul’s charge.

The most significant statement to be made in this pathetic U.S. campaign season of brainless, superficial soundbites should constitute the core of the debate until election day:

Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen. [Ron Paul as quoted by CBS News.]

With bailouts of billionaires, oil wars by leaders who oversee multi-billion-dollar sole source contracts to the companies they previously headed, laws supported by both “parties” that are steadily chipping away at Constitutional protections, a Supreme Court that magically transforms corporations into people, the careful avoidance of criminal action against corrupt corporate leaders for poisoning the environment or wrecking the economy, and a foreign policy based on military force, Representative Paul has a strong prima facia case that the U.S. is sliding down the slippery slope toward corporate control at the expense of civil liberties and democracy in combination with militarism rather than protection of society as the purpose of the state. That combination essentially constitutes the definition of fascism.

If there is a counter-argument to this prima facia case that the U.S. is slipping toward fascism, then the candidates who give credence to that counter-argument should make it. This charge is central to all we believe in. Silence = agreement.

1) Attacking the Constitution –
Illegal Wiretaps

2) Military Rule Vs. Rule of Law – 
Military Custody for Terrorists

3) Definition of Fascism –
Fascism Checklist

Force Is the Answer

The Washington-Tel Aviv Axis determined by the start of the new century that violence was the answer, regardless of the question. That determination constituted the foundation of U.S. post-9/11 foreign policy. Having “worked” in the sense that it maintained the elites in power and magnificently enriched them, it is only predictable that those same elites would apply their foreign policy answer to domestic policy questions as well. This dynamic I discussed theoretically in September, by which time it was obvious that Washington had no intention of punishing financial crime by the uber-rich but remained very unclear whether or not any Americans had sufficient spine to protest. And now in the last couple days, we have seen the clearest substantive implementation of “force is the answer” to domestic political questions, with a brutal nationwide crackdown characterized by the egregious, virtually celebratory use of force to send a clear message to the rest of the population that government is for the 1% and that democracy will not be tolerated. We elected and reelected politicians who advocated and implemented the policy of force toward foreigners, and now we are getting exactly what we deserve: the pointed end of the spear right in the face. How does it feel, America?

Sliding Toward U.S.-Iran War

Leaders, not societies, cause wars, so any evaluation of the likelihood of war should pay close attention to the nature of the leaders. Concerning the question of whether or not a war may occur between the U.S. and Iran by mistake, the nature of the leaders is of particular concern.
One of the primary factors contributing to the health and functioning of a political system is the nature of the leadership. Attitude toward skeptics, attitude toward new information, attitude toward colleagues, and attitude toward tradition on the part of leadership and opposition circles in the U.S., Iran, and Israel suggest a degree of dysfunctionality serious enough so that it could provoke a U.S.-Iranian war by mistake. The Leadership Cohesiveness chart enumerates half a dozen continua along which a political leadership can be evaluated. These “continua” or “axes” constitute a set of lens that can be used to reveal how effectively the leaders of the U.S., Iran, and Israel can be expected to manage their respective countries’ national security. Several of these axes suggest that the leadership in the U.S., Iran, and Israel will in the next few years be increasingly exclusive, dogmatic, and scornful, posing severe obstacles to any effort to reevaluate strategies, cool tempers, or search for pragmatic positive-sum solutions in a negative-sum national security environment poisoned by the fear of terrorism, the fear of aggression, and religious prejudice.


On the other hand, some politicians apparently actually do want a war between the U.S. and Iran, as suggested by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s barbaric ravings after the U.S. mid-term elections about “taking containment off the table” and “neuter[ing]” Iran.


Attitude Toward Skeptics. The more inclusive the attitude toward skeptics, the more likely a regime will be to give serious consideration to alternative perspectives, thus enhancing its ability to find a solution. In both Iran and Israel, an extreme right-wing regime rules with little evident interest in considering the opinions of actors outside the ruling faction. The present U.S. regime appears much more inclusive, but its policy toward Iran over the past two years has in substance closely adhered to the Neo-Con handbook for intimidating adversaries, and the recent electoral defeat appears likely to strengthen that bias. In none of these countries, does a conciliatory attitude offering the adversary genuine accommodation appear likely to gain even a fair hearing, much less become official policy.
Attitude Toward New Information.  Both stress and ideological commitment are likely to impair the receptivity of leaders to new information that challenges their belief structure. In the U.S. the heating up of the political environment resulting from the combination of unusual levels of hostility between the parties, the approach of the presidential election, and intense factionalism within the Republican Party seem likely to constitute increasingly severe obstacles to open-minded analysis, a trend that can be expected to intensify if the extremist (judging from their rhetoric) Tea Party advocates gain further power. The emergence of a moderate cross-party faction would of course alter this prognosis but currently appears unlikely. In the aftermath of the failure of the Brazilian-Turkish nuclear initiative, the domestic repression of moderates following Ahmadinejad’s reelection, the uncompromising attitude of senior clerics supporting Khamenei, the steady rise in the power of the (anti-Saddam) War Generation, and the failure of Obama to make a convincing case that his administration is ready to deal with Iran in a fair manner, it is likely to take a great deal of new information indeed to overcome Iranian distrust of the U.S. and to make a conciliatory attitude toward the U.S. politically viable in Iran. As for Israel, the rising tide of fascism appears so far to face virtually no serious, organized opposition: rising settler violence with police support; Netanyahu’s successful and publicly insulting defiance of Obama combined with Obama’s timid retreat; the collapse of the Israeli left; the weakening of Israeli democracy and strengthening of overtly racist laws all suggest a declining willingness to consider new information.
Attitude Toward Colleagues:  In all three countries, public rhetoric is enflamed and attitudes toward colleagues in other factions or parties hostile to the point of undermining domestic political stability. In both Israel and Iran, armed groups are using violence to make political points, while demonstrations are held to provoke opponents in ways reminiscent of Ireland in years past. In the U.S., be it accusations that Democrats opposing the neo-con wars were somehow unpatriotic, insulting remarks about Obama, or Tea Party attitudes toward violence as a political tool (also here on immigration and here for a general review), evidence of a breakdown in the norms of political behavior is mounting, as well. Congressional behavior in the health care debate also suggests an increasingly contemptuous attitude toward colleagues based on an assumption that winning, rather than making good policy decisions, has become the primary goal of many.
Attitude Toward Tradition:  Rising racism at the center of the Israeli regime is a clear challenge to the Israeli tradition of democracy. In Iran the post-revolutionary tradition of clerical control is being challenged by the military. In the U.S., a whole range of traditions—protection of U.S. civil liberties, non-use of nuclear arms for aggression against non-nuclear powers, “empire-lite” by persuasion rather than overt invasion—have been undermined since 9/11. In all three countries, tradition is becoming a weaker and weaker bulwark against sudden, emotional shifts in behavior.
The U.S./Israeli/Iranian Ca
To the degree that skeptics are excluded from the debate, new information is viewed with a dogmatic attitude, colleagues are treated with scorn, and traditional values are challenged, policy becomes the captive of the emotional tide of the moment. With numerous political actors in each country pouring gasoline on the fires of national security fears for a host of personal and ideological reasons, massive nontraditional military moves (Israeli threats of aggression against Iran, U.S. armada in the Persian Gulf and its huge Mideast/Central Asian archipelago of new military bases surrounding Iran, and the Iranian nuclear program), and a continuing jihadi effort to provoke civilizational confrontation, the danger of a U.S.-Iranian war by mistake seems only likely to increase in the absence of a fundamental shift in strategic thinking.

Israeli Police Shoot Member of Knesset

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Haneen Zoubi, member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) since 2009, was shot in the back by Israeli police. She was on the June international flotilla to Gaza that the Israeli military attacked and embarrassed the Israeli government by reporting that the Israeli naval vessels had fired on the flotilla before Israeli commandos were lowered from helicopters, that two of the flotilla members killed had been shot in the head (suggesting intent to kill), and that Israeli soldiers allowed passengers to bleed to death.
Details on the highly successful Jewish extremist plot to provoke violence and the support the extremists received from the Israeli police are indeed, as Stephen Lendman pointed out, “reminiscent of Kristallnacht.” For those concerned about the struggle between the forces of democracy and fascism in Israel, the shooting by police of a member of the Knesset must surely be one of the most ominous pieces of evidence.
Of course, the incident just happened, and the evidence could go either way. Israel could launch a serious investigation of its police. Israel could clamp down on rightwing extremist Jewish demonstrations in Palestine designed to provoke violence. Israel could establish and enforce new rules to maintain the right to freedom of expression with police protection for both sides rather than police attacks on liberals. Such steps would alter the balance of evidence.