Before XX century Continental Europe has had many right-wing movements, though none with the organization
and numbers of corporatism variants. Corporatism is a distinctively different ideology for right wing
forces. Until the twentieth century, continental right-wing parties usually simply rejected democratic
principles and institutions and preferred monarchies (e.g. France, 1814-48) or authoritarian despotism
(e.g. Bonapartism, 1799-1814 and 1851-70).
In corporatist regimes, which are often one party states (although two parry system with "the
first after the post" rule can work as well or even better) this limitation of political representation of folk outside narrow caste of
elite is preserved, and any attempt to challenge the elite is skillfully and forcefully (sometimes
even brutally) suppressed. Brainwashing of population with particular corporatist ideology is
rampant (Mussolini Italy, Hitler Germany). Interests of ordinary people are suppressed
in favor of interests of corporations and are taken into account only if they channeled with
corporatist structures, such as large corporations (which actually are dominant political players),
(emasulated) trade unions, military, and political party or parties. Outside of them there is
no legitimate political representation. Each "corporation" is represented by tiny strata of
corporate elite, which like mosaic form this society elite.
All economic power and political power belongs to the corporations, whatever this term means. Power
of multinational corporation lead existing postwar democracy regimes to becoming an empty shells. Corporations
became not only powerful lobbyists and owners of most senators and representatives via contributions
to the election complain, but major insider players in the political establishment. Look at Goldman
Sachs as an example of merger of corporation and Washington establishment. Alumni of the corporation
essentially dominates Treasury department. This is something that no economic or political theory
advocates in any way but this is the central reality of the USA today. As well as most other countries.
Confrontation of interests of large multinational and states is presented as "state vs market"
large multinationas are as far from the concept of free market as state. That ideological trick weakens
the position of state. In other words neoliberalism transforms classic corporatism in "neocorporatism".
As a political ideology and practice Corporatism initially appeared on historical scene in the form
of Italian fascism and later various Continental fascist regimes (Germany, Spain, Portugal). Later
Latin American regimes of the first half of the twentieth century joins that movement.
In the 60's it got a second breath with the rise to power (via a coup d'état ) of military industrial
complex (the moment of violent coup d'état, the assassination of JFK in November 1963, more then 50
years ago is widely considered to be a switch of power to "deep state" ). Later it was transformed
in casino capitalism, a neoliberal flavor of corporatism.
The key question here is how to cope with the new brave world in which democracy is dead and ordinary
Classic corporatism was an extreme-right political movement, ideology, and the corresponding form
of government of a dictatorial type. Defining characteristics of which were:
The most typical features of the historical corporatism was its strong appeal to a frustrated middle
class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened
by the pressure from lower social groups. As such it was by-and-large a militant middle-class
movement, much like Tea party today expresses "the rage of white middle class" which is losing its economic
position in the USA.
You can add to this list all US presidents since Ronald Reagan, as well as Russian presidents Gorbachov,
Yeltsin and Putin.
After a setback caused by WWII, corporatism reemerged in 70th the modified form of
neoliberalism in Great Britain, the USA and other countries.
The USA model of neoliberalism has some idiosyncratic features due to the fact that the USA is the most
powerful neoliberal state. It is often called
Casino Capitalism due to its deification
of "free markets" (and by extension stock markets) as the key instrument of achieving fast development
and social harmony (which in reality is a smoke screen for achieving a free reign of transnational corporations).
Like communism formally propels proletarians as the new dominant social class under socialism (while
in reality the dominant class is
promotes entrepreneurs and "creative class" (which paradoxically include financial oligarchy, one of
the worst performer in creativity among entrepreneurs, if we discount devising criminal schemes of enrichment).
The extreme manifestation of this ideology is Ayn Rand
and her Objectivism Cult. Again, in reality the key players in neoliberalism regime are transnational
corporations, which, especially financial corporations, acquired enormous political power (see
Quiet coup) and put themselves above the law, much like military in the occupied country.
In an economic sense, neoliberalism, communism (or bolshevism as implemented in the USSR and China)
and fascism are closely related
and can be considered to be just different flavors of the same social system. In all these
systems, corporate power is primary, but level of state control is higher under fascism and is highest
under bolshevism. In both cases state is used as a means to eliminate the conflict between
the owners of capital represented by management and labor represented by unions by suppression of labor
The Website PublicEye.org has offered a reward for anyone who can find the original source:
Despite unknown origin of the quote what it states is pretty accurate. For example, the 1983 copy
of the American Heritage Dictionary's definition of fascism was very similar to the misattributed quote:
Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt in an April 29, 1938 message to Congress warned that the growth of private
power could lead to fascism:
Modern, post WWII corporatism is associated with the term National Security State and the term
Military-Industrial Complex introduced
by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the Nation (Eisenhower initially wrote
"military-industrial-congressional complex", the term which is of course more technically correct,
but, of course, politically unacceptable):
It is public interest to understand the extent to which the National Security State has become a
status quo in many countries. People need to understand what's at stake when such extraordinary surveillance
capabilities are technically available and are affecting practically every aspect of our
lives. Because so much money are at stake this becomes a a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is
impossible to stop, as it continues to justify itself by saying we have to have America secure and we
have to keep people feeling safe. In this situation a pathological incentive develops to react of every
failure as a justification for even more surveillance.
While the corporatist state tend to assume authoritarian forms which are -- like European fascist
regimes -- highly bureaucratized and "statist", variant with pseudo-democratic cosmetics are also
possible. One of such variants is so called Inverted
Totalitarism. The latter replaces direct repression of opposing social forces with indirect,
but no less effective measures based on ostracism. Still there is difference between authoritarian
and totalitarian regimes: Authoritarian regime deprives you the right to speak, while totalitarian regime
goes one step further -- it deprives you the right to remain silent. Anyone who does not express support
for the course adopted by the local elite, is subjected to harassment, if not legal prosecution and
loss of of work.
Modern neoliberal variant of corporatism has complex links with international capital which differentiates
it from classic fascists states with their national supremacy ideologies. That does not exclude
a trend of substituting "racial supremacy" with "cultural supremacy" which is very well demonstrated
in American Exceptionalism
As such it was prevalent in Catholic countries, but in no way it was limited to them. The key
idea is to create an alternative to socialism, which helps to eliminate social protest, while preserving
private property and private corporations with their owners. Corporatism is not a unified phenomenon
and shows significant variety of implementations. We can talk about
Still the fundamental feature of corporate ideology was/is the neo-Christian notion of moral
transformation of the society. To quote
In the last half of the 19th century people of the working class in Europe were beginning to show
interest in the ideas of socialism and syndicalism. Some members of the intelligentsia, particularly
the Catholic intelligentsia, decided to formulate an alternative to socialism which would emphasize
social justice without the radical solution of the abolition of private property. The result was called
Corporatism, the attempted merge of corporate power and the state power.
Corporatism has been particularly significant in the countries with strong Catholicism traditions
such as Latin countries of Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy and France). Germany also has significant
catholic population which was the core of the NSDP. The connection between Catholicism and the Continental
corporatism movements is most obvious in the various Christian Democrat parties (where for ‘Christian’
we can read ‘Roman Catholic’). In USA corporatism initially got fertile ground in states with significant
Catholic population like Wisconsin (senator McCartney represented Wisconsin in the US senate). However,
its influence goes much wider.
Depending of which elements are stressed and which are somewhat tempered or subdued, we can
distinguish among at least five different forms of corporatism:
Is essence, like communism before corporatism (both in its neoliberal and fascist forms) is a
secular religion," which the key idea of salvation as the blind pursuit of self-interest. It is
led by an ideology of "corporatism," which has deformed the American ideal of a life worth living into
one devoid of a concept of the common public good
The most analyzed flavor of corporatism is its extreme form -- fascism. In 2002, Laurence W. Britt's
analyzed seven fascist regimes in order to find the common elements that mark them as fascist: Nazi
Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile,
and Suharto's Indonesia (Fascism
Anyone?) He found 14 common characteristics (some of them are reprinted with some changes below
based on later work by
Umberto Eco (1995))
In the 1980th in the USA corporatism was transformed into a very specific form of "free market capitalism"
(aka Neoliberalism) with a set of pseudoscience theories
("greed is good") that create "chosen" people, which in a fuzzy way mirror of Hitler theories of superiority
of Arian race in economic terms (replace the Arian race with the financial and technocratic elite
;-). In reality like any corporatism it has nothing common with free market (it is socialism for rich,
which is as far from free market as one can get). Large financial players were subsidized (and rescued)
by state. It is the same merger of state power and corporations as classic corporatism with more
prominent role of financial oligarchy in the mix and globalization as key component.
Corruption of government and putting economic elite above the law is an immanent feature of
corporatist regimes and it became a prominent feature of the US capitalism (and a real problem) immediately
after Reagan (Saving and Loan crisis was the first act of this drama) and
pervasive under Clinton & Bush administration during which all "socialist" elements of "New Deal"
(government regulation of private sector) were completely dismantled.
Outside the USA corporatist regimes, especially in Latin America, often became direct clients of
international corporation and first of all based in the USA. Military coup d'etat that often
brings such regime to power is often supported or even directly financed by USA or its allies (1953
Iranian coup d'état and Pinochet coup d'état in Chile are two classic, textbook examples here).
Recently coup d'état was replaced by more subtle form of overthrow of legitimate (or semi-legitimate)
government (especially those that can be considered "resource nationalists" like government of Russia,
Libya, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine) called Color revolutions.
This is a fundamental difference in which corporatism (especially in its most criminogenic,
Neoliberalism form) can to be distinguished from state
capitalism, despite the fact that policies has many similarities. Many analysts assert that
China is one of the main examples of state capitalism in the 21st century. Bremmer describes state capitalism
the following way (We're
All State Capitalists Now - By Niall Ferguson Foreign Policy):
Since the Cold War ended, U.S. politics has seen a series of insurgent candidacies. Pat Buchanan
prefigured Trump in the Republican contests of 1992 and 1996. Ralph Nader challenged the Clinton
wing of the Democratic Party from the outside in 2000. Ron Paul vexed establishment Republicans John
McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012. And this year, Trump was not the only candidate to confound
his party's elite: Bernie Sanders harried Hillary Clinton right up to the Democratic convention.
What do these insurgents have in common? All have called into question the interventionist
consensus in foreign policy. All have opposed large-scale free-trade agreements. (The libertarian
Paul favors unilateral free trade: by his lights, treaties like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
are not free trade at all but international regulatory pacts.) And while no one would mistake Ralph
Nader's or Ron Paul's views on immigration for Pat Buchanan's or Donald Trump's, Nader and Paul have
registered their own dissents from the approach to immigration that prevails in Washington.
Sanders has been more in line with his party's orthodoxy on that issue. But that didn't save him
from being attacked by Clinton backers for having an insufficiently nonwhite base of support. Once
again, what might have appeared to be a class conflict-in this case between a democratic socialist
and an elite liberal with ties to high finance-could be explained away as really about race.
Race, like religion, is a real factor in how people vote. Its relevance to elite politics, however,
is less clear. Something else has to account for why the establishment in both parties almost
uniformly favors one approach to war, trade, and immigration, while outsider candidates as dissimilar
as Buchanan, Nader, Paul, and Trump, and to a lesser extent Sanders, depart from the consensus.
The insurgents clearly do not represent a single class: they appeal to eclectic interests
and groups. The foe they have all faced down, however-the bipartisan establishment-does resemble
a class in its striking unity of outlook and interest. So what is this class, effectively the ruling
class of the country?
Some critics on the right have identified it with the "managerial" class described by James Burnham
in his 1941 book The Managerial Revolution . But it bears a stronger resemblance to what what
others have called "the New Class." In fact, the interests of this New Class of college-educated
"verbalists" are antithetical to those of the industrial managers that Burnham described. Understanding
the relationship between these two often conflated concepts provides insight into politics today,
which can be seen as a clash between managerial and New Class elites.
The archetypal model of class conflict, the one associated with Karl Marx, pits capitalists
against workers-or, at an earlier stage, capitalists against the landed nobility. The capitalists'
victory over the nobility was inevitable, and so too, Marx believed, was the coming triumph of the
workers over the capitalists.
Over the next century, however, history did not follow the script. By 1992, the Soviet Union was
gone, Communist China had embarked on market reforms, and Western Europe was turning away from democratic
socialism. There was no need to predict the future; mankind had achieved its destiny, a universal
order of [neo]liberal democracy. Marx had it backwards: capitalism was the end of history.
But was the truth as simple as that? Long before the collapse of the USSR, many former communists
-- some of whom remained socialists, while others joined the right-thought not. The Soviet Union
had never been a workers' state at all, they argued, but was run by a class of apparatchiks such
as Marx had never imagined.
Among the first to advance this argument was James Burnham, a professor of philosophy at New York
University who became a leading Trotskyist thinker. As he broke with Trotsky and began moving toward
the right, Burnham recognized affinities between the Soviet mode of organization-in which much
real power lay in the hands of the commissars who controlled industry and the bureaucratic organs
of the state-and the corporatism that characterized fascist states. Even the U.S., under the New
Deal and with ongoing changes to the balance between ownership and management in the private sector,
seemed to be moving in the same direction.
Burnham called this the "managerial revolution." The managers of industry and technically trained
government officials did not own the means of production, like the capitalists of old. But they did
control the means of production, thanks to their expertise and administrative prowess.
The rise of this managerial class would have far-reaching consequences, he predicted. Burnham
wrote in his 1943 book, The Machiavellians : "that the managers may function, the economic
and political structure must be modified, as it is now being modified, so as to rest no longer on
private ownership and small-scale nationalist sovereignty, but primarily upon state control of the
economy, and continental or vast regional world political organization." Burnham pointed to Nazi
Germany, imperial Japan-which became a "continental" power by annexing Korea and Manchuria-and the
Soviet Union as examples.
The defeat of the Axis powers did not halt the progress of the managerial revolution. Far from
it: not only did the Soviets retain their form of managerialism, but the West increasingly adopted
a managerial corporatism of its own, marked by cooperation between big business and big government:
high-tech industrial crony capitalism, of the sort that characterizes the military-industrial complex
to this day. (Not for nothing was Burnham a great advocate of America's developing a supersonic transport
of its own to compete with the French-British Concorde.)
America's managerial class was personified by Robert S. McNamara, the former Ford Motor Company
executive who was secretary of defense under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. In a 1966 story
for National Review , "Why Do They Hate Robert Strange McNamara?" Burnham answered the question
in class terms: "McNamara is attacked by the Left because the Left has a blanket hatred of the system
of business enterprise; he is criticized by the Right because the Right harks back, in nostalgia
if not in practice, to outmoded forms of business enterprise."
McNamara the managerial technocrat was too business-oriented for a left that still dreamed of
bringing the workers to power. But the modern form of industrial organization he represented was
not traditionally capitalist enough for conservatives who were at heart 19th-century classical liberals.
National Review readers responded to Burnham's paean to McNamara with a mixture of incomprehension
and indignation. It was a sign that even readers familiar with Burnham-he appeared in every issue
of the magazine-did not always follow what he was saying. The popular right wanted concepts that
were helpful in labeling enemies, and Burnham was confusing matters by talking about changes in the
organization of government and industry that did not line up with anyone's value judgements.
More polemically useful was a different concept popularized by neoconservatives in the following
decade: the "New Class." "This 'new class' is not easily defined but may be vaguely described,"
Irving Kristol wrote in a 1975 essay for the Wall Street Journal :
It consists of a goodly proportion of those college-educated people whose skills and vocations
proliferate in a 'post-industrial society' (to use Daniel Bell's convenient term). We are talking
about scientists, teachers, and educational administrators, journalists and others in the communication
industries, psychologists, social workers, those lawyers and doctors who make their careers in
the expanding public sector, city planners, the staffs of the larger foundations, the upper levels
of the government bureaucracy, and so on.
"Members of the new class do not 'control' the media," he continued, "they are the media-just
as they are our educational system, our public health and welfare system, and much else."
Burnham, writing in National Review in 1978, drew a sharp contrast between this concept
and his own ideas:
I have felt that this 'new class' is, so far, rather thin gruel. Intellectuals, verbalists,
media types, etc. are conspicuous actors these days, certainly; they make a lot of noise, get
a lot of attention, and some of them make a lot of money. But, after all, they are a harum-scarum
crowd, and deflate even more quickly than they puff up. On TV they can out-talk any of the managers
of ITT, GM, or IBM, or the administration-managers of the great government bureaus and agencies,
but, honestly, you're not going to take that as a power test. Who hires and fires whom?
Burnham suffered a stroke later that year. Although he lived until 1987, his career as a writer
was over. His last years coincided with another great transformation of business and government.
It began in the Carter administration, with moves to deregulate transportation and telecommunications.
This partial unwinding of the managerial revolution accelerated under Ronald Reagan. Regulatory and
welfare-state reforms, even privatization of formerly nationalized industries, also took off in the
UK and Western Europe. All this did not, however, amount to a restoration of the old capitalism or
anything resembling laissez-faire.
The "[neo]liberal democracy" that triumphed at "the end of history"-to use Francis Fukuyama's
words-was not the managerial capitalism of the mid-20th century, either. It was instead the New Class's
form of capitalism, one that could be embraced by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as readily as by any
Republican or Thatcherite.
Irving Kristol had already noted in the 1970s that "this new class is not merely liberal but truly
'libertarian' in its approach to all areas of life-except economics. It celebrates individual liberty
of speech and expression and action to an unprecedented degree, so that at times it seems almost
anarchistic in its conception of the good life."
He was right about the New Class's "anything goes" mentality, but he was only partly correct about
its attitude toward economics. The young elite tended to scorn the bourgeois character of the old
capitalism, and to them managerial figures like McNamara were evil incarnate. But they had to get
by-and they aspired to rule.
Burnham had observed that the New Class did not have the means-either money or manpower-to
wield power the way the managers or the capitalists of old did. It had to borrow power from other
classes. Discovering where the New Class gets it is as easy as following the money, which leads straight
to the finance sector-practically to the doorstep of Goldman Sachs. Jerry Rubin's journey from Yippie
to yuppie was the paradigm of a generation.
Part of the tale can be told in a favorable light. New Left activists like Carl Oglesby fought
the spiritual aridity and murderous militarism of what they called "corporate liberalism"-Burnham's
managerialism-while sincere young libertarians attacked the regulatory state and seeded technological
entrepreneurship. Yet the New Class as a whole is less like Carl Oglesby or Karl Hess than like
Hillary Clinton, who arguably embodies it as perfectly as McNamara did the managerial class.
Even the New Class's support for deregulation-to the advantage of its allies on Wall Street-was
no sign of consistent commitment to free-market principles. On the contrary, the New Class favors
new kinds of crony finance capitalism, even as it opposes the protectionism that would benefit hard
industry and managerial interests. The individual-mandate feature of Obamacare and Romneycare
is a prime example of New Class cronyism: government compels individuals to buy a supposedly private
product or service.
The alliance between finance and the New Class accounts for the disposition of power in America
today. The New Class has also enlisted another invaluable ally: the managerial classes of East Asia.
Trade with China-the modern managerial state par excellence-helps keep American industry weak relative
to finance and the service economy's verbalist-dominated sectors. America's class war, like many
others, is not in the end a contest between up and down. It's a fight between rival elites: in this
case, between the declining managerial elite and the triumphant (for now) New Class and financial
The New Class plays a priestly role in its alliance with finance, absolving Wall Street for the
sin of making money in exchange for plenty of that money to keep the New Class in power. In command
of foreign policy, the New Class gets to pursue humanitarian ideological projects-to experiment on
the world. It gets to evangelize by the sword. And with trade policy, it gets to suppress its class
rival, the managerial elite, at home. Through trade pacts and mass immigration the financial elite,
meanwhile, gets to maximize its returns without regard for borders or citizenship. The erosion of
other nations' sovereignty that accompanies American hegemony helps toward that end too-though our
wars are more ideological than interest-driven.
So we come to an historic moment. Instead of an election pitting another Bush against another
Clinton, we have a race that poses stark alternatives: a choice not only between candidates but between
classes-not only between administrations but between regimes.
Donald Trump is not of the managerial class himself. But by embracing managerial interests-industrial
protection and, yes, "big government"-and combining them with nationalistic identity politics, he
has built a force that has potential to threaten the bipartisan establishment, even if he goes down
to defeat in November.
The New Class, after all, lacks a popular base as well as money of its own, and just as it
relies on Wall Street to underwrite its power, it depends on its competing brands of identity politics
to co-opt popular support. For the center-left establishment, minority voters supply the electoral
muscle. Religion and the culture war have served the same purpose for the establishment's center-right
faction. Trump showed that at least one of these sides could be beaten on its own turf-and it seems
conceivable that if Bernie Sanders had been black, he might have similarly beaten Clinton, without
having to make concessions to New Class tastes.
The New Class establishment of both parties may be seriously misjudging what is happening here.
Far from being the last gasp of the demographically doomed-old, racially isolated white people, as
Gallup's analysis says-Trump's insurgency may be the prototype of an aggressive new politics, of
either left or right, that could restore the managerial elite to power.
This is not something that conservatives-or libertarians who admire the old capitalism rather
than New Class's simulacrum-might welcome. But the only way that some entrenched policies may change
is with a change of the class in power.
Daniel McCarthy is the editor of The American Conservative .
Johann , says:
September 7, 2016 at 10:02 am
The New Class is parasitic and will drive the country to its final third world resting place,
Dan Phillips , says:
September 7, 2016 at 11:32 am
Excellent analysis. What is important about the Trump phenomenon is not every individual issue,
it's the potentially revolutionary nature of the phenomenon. The opposition gets this. That's
why they are hysterical about Trump. The conservative box checkers do not.
g , says:
September 7, 2016 at 11:51 am
"Donald Trump is not of the managerial class himself. But by embracing managerial interests-industrial
protection and, yes, "big government"-and combining them with nationalistic identity politics,
he has built a force that has potential to threaten the bipartisan establishment, even if he goes
down to defeat in November."
Richard Terrace , says:
September 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm
My question is, if Trump is not himself of the managerial class, in fact, could be considered
one of the original new class members, how would he govern? What explains his conversion from
the new class to the managerial class; is he merely taking advantage of an opportunity or is there
some other explanation?
I'm genuinely confused by the role you ascribe to the 'managerial class' here. Going back to Berle
and Means ('The Modern Corporation and Private Property') the managerial class emerged when management
was split from ownership in mid C20th capitalism. Managers focused on growth, not profits for
shareholders. The Shareholder revolution of the 1980s destroyed the managerial class, and destroyed
their unwieldy corporations.
JonF , says:
September 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm
You seem to be identifying the managerial class with a kind of cultural opposition to the values
of [neo]liberal capitalism. And instead of identifying the 'new class' with the new owner-managers
of shareholder-driven firms, you identify them by their superficial cultural effects.
This raises a deeper problem in how you talk about class in this piece. Marx taught that
you identify classes by their structural role in the system of production. I'm at a loss to see
how either of the 'classes' you mention here relate to the system of production. Does the
'new class' of journalists, academics, etc. actually own anything? If not, what is the point of
ascribing to them immense economic power?
I would agree that there is a new class of capitalists in America. But they are well known people
like Sheldon Adelson, the Kochs, Linda McMahon, the Waltons, Rick Scott the pharmaceutical entrepreneur,
Mitt Romney, Mark Zuckerberg, and many many hedge fund gazillionaires. These people represent
the resurgence of a family-based, dynastic capitalism that is utterly different from the managerial
variety that prevailed in mid-century.
If there is a current competitor to international corporate capitalism, it is old-fashioned
dynastic family capitalism. Not Managerialism.
There is no "new class". That's simply a derogatory trope of the Right. The [neo]liberal elite–
educated, cosmopolitan and possessed of sufficient wealth to be influential in political affairs
and claims to power grounded in moral stances– have a long pedigree in both Western and non-Western
lands. They were the Scribal Class in the ancient world, the Mandarins of China, and the Clergy
in the Middle Ages. This class for a time was eclipsed in the early modern period as first royal
authority became dominant, followed by the power of the Capitalist class (the latter has never
really faded of course). But their reemergence in the late 20th century is not a new or unique
Kurt Gayle , says:
September 7, 2016 at 2:03 pm
In a year in which "trash Trump" and "trash Trump's supporters" are tricks-to-be-turned for more
than 90% of mainstream journalists and other media hacks, it's good to see Daniel McCarthy buck
the "trash trend" and write a serious, honest analysis of the class forces that are colliding
during this election cycle.
lee , says:
September 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm
Two thumbs way up for McCarthy, although his fine effort cannot save the reputation of those
establishment whores who call themselves journalists. Nothing can save them. They have earned
the universality with which Americans hold them in contempt.
In 1976 when Gallup began asking about "the honesty and ethical standards" of various professions
only 33% of Americans rated journalists "very high or high."
By last December that "high or very high" rating for journalists had fallen to just 27%.
It is certain that by Election Day 2016 the American public's opinion of journalists will have
fallen even further.
An article on the ruling elite that neglects to mention this ? . . .
david helveticka , says:
September 7, 2016 at 3:24 pm
Most of your argument is confusing. The change I see is from a production economy to a finance
economy. Wall Street rules, really. Basically the stock market used to be a place where working
folk invested their money for retirement, mostly through pensions from unions and corporations.
Now it's become a gambling casino, with the "house"-or the big banks-putting it's finger on the
roulette wheel. They changed the compensation package of CEO's, so they can rake in huge executive
compensation–mostly through stock options-to basically close down everything from manufacturing
to customer service, and ship it off to contract manufacturers and outside services in oligarchical
countries like mainland China and India.
Sheree , says:
September 7, 2016 at 6:16 pm
I don't know what exactly you mean about the "new class", basically its the finance industry
against everyone else.
One thing you right-wingers always get wrong, is on Karl Marx he was really attacking the money-changers,
the finance speculators, the banks. Back in the day, so-called "capitalists" like Henry Ford or
George Eastman or Thomas Edison always complained about the access to financing through the big
money finance capitalists.
Don't overlook the economic value of intellectual property rights (patents, in particular) in
the economic equation.
Commenter Man , says:
September 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm
A big chunk of the 21st century economy is generated due to the intellectual property developed
and owned by the New Class and its business enterprises.
The economic value of ideas and intellectual property rights is somewhat implied in McCarthy's
explanation of the New Class, but I didn't see an explicit mention (perhaps I overlooked it).
I think the consideration of intellectual property rights and the value generated by IP might
help to clarify the economic power of the New Class for those who feel the analysis isn't quite
complete or on target.
I'm not saying that IP only provides value to the New Class. We can find examples of IP throughout
the economy, at all levels. It's just that the tech and financial sectors seem to focus more on
(and benefit from) IP ownership, licensing, and the information captured through use of digital
"What do these insurgents have in common? All have called into question the interventionist consensus
in foreign policy."
Wayne Lusvardi , says:
September 7, 2016 at 10:37 pm
But today we have this:
Trump pledges big US
military expansion . Trump doesn't appear to have any coherent policy, he just says whatever
seems to be useful at that particular moment.
[New] Class better describes the Never Trumpers. Mostly I have found them to be those involved
in knowledge occupations (conservative think tanks, hedge fund managers, etc.) who have a pecuniary
interest in maintaining the Global Economy as opposed to the Virtuous Intergenerational Economy
that preceded. Many are dependent on funding sources for their livelihoods that are connected
to the Globalized Economy and financial markets.
jack , says:
September 7, 2016 at 11:13 pm
"mobilize working-class voters against the establishment in both parties. " = workers of the
Wayne Lusvardi , says:
September 7, 2016 at 11:33 pm
maybe Trump could use that
Being white is not the defining characteristic of Trumpers because it if was then how come there
are many white working class voters for Hillary? The divide in the working class comes from being
a member of a union or a member of the private non-unionized working class.
Mitzy Moon , says:
September 8, 2016 at 12:32 am
Where the real class divide shows up is in those who are members of the Knowledge Class that
made their living based on the old Virtuous Economy where the elderly saved money in banks and
the banks, in turn, lent that money out to young families to buy houses, cars, and start businesses.
The Virtuous Economy has been replaced by the Global Economy based on diverting money to the stock
market to fund global enterprises and prop up government pension funds.
The local bankers, realtors, private contractors, small savers and small business persons and
others that depended on the Virtuous Economy lost out to the global bankers, stock investors,
pension fund managers, union contractors and intellectuals that propounded rationales for the
global economy as superior to the Virtuous Economy.
Where the class conflict between the Working and Knowledge Classes begins is where the
Knowledge Class almost unilaterally decided to shift to a global economy, at the expense of the
Working Class, and to the self-benefit of the Knowledge Class. Those who designed the Global Economy
like Larry Summers of Harvard did not invite private or public labor to help design the new Globalist
Economy. The Working Class lost out big time in job losses and getting stuck with subprime home
loans that busted their marriages and created bankruptcies and foreclosures. The Knowledge Class
was mostly unscathed by this class-based economic divide.
Beginning in the 50's and 60's, baby boomers were warned in school and cultural media that "a
college diploma would become what a high school diploma is today." An extraordinary cohort of
Americans took this advice seriously, creating the smartest and most successful generation in
history. But millions did not heed that advice, cynically buoyed by Republicans who – knowing
that college educated people vote largely Democrat – launched a financial and cultural war on
college education. The result is what you see now: millions of people unprepared for modern employment;
meanwhile we have to import millions of college-educated Asians and Indians to do the work there
aren't enough Americans to do.
Joe , says:
September 8, 2016 at 1:25 am
Have to say, this seems like an attempt to put things into boxes that don't quite fit.
Emil Mottola , says:
September 8, 2016 at 2:15 am
Trump's distinguishing ideology, which separates him from the current elite, is something
he has summed up many times – nationalism vs. Globalism.
The core of it is that the government no longer serves the people. In the United States, that
is kind of a bad thing, you know? Like the EU in the UK, the people, who fought very hard for
self-government, are seeing it undermined by the erosion of the nation state in favor of international
beaurocracy run by elites and the well connected.
Both this article and many comments on it show considerable confusion, and ideological opinion
all over the map. What is happening I think is that the world is changing –due to globalism, technology,
and the sheer huge numbers of people on the planet. As a result some of the rigid trenches of
thought as well as class alignments are breaking down.
EliteCommInc. , says:
September 8, 2016 at 3:29 am
In America we no longer have capitalism, of either the 19th century industrial or 20th century
managerial varieties. Money and big money is still important of course, but it is increasingly
both aligned with and in turn controlled by the government. The financial industry, the new
tech giants, the health insurance industry are now almost indistinguishable from the government
ruling elite. The old left–represented by Sanders–rails against this as big money coopting government,
even while conservatives are exasperated by the unholy cabal of big business and big government
in cohoots in the "progressive" remake of America. Both are right in a sense.
The hyperconcentration of power in Washington and a few tributary locations like Wall Street
and Silicon Valley, elite academia and the media–call that the New Class if you like–means that
most of America–Main Street, the flyover country has been left behind. Trump instinctively – brilliantly
in some ways – tapped into the resentment that this hyperconcentration of wealth and government
power has led to. That is why it cuts across right and left. The elites want to characterize this
resentment as backwards and "racist," but there is also something very American from Jefferson
to Jackson to Teddy Roosevelt that revolts against being lectured to and controlled by their would-be
The alienation of those left out is real and based on real erosion of the middle class
and American dream under both parties' elites. The potentially revolutionary capabilities of a
political movement that could unite right and left in restoring some equilibrium and opportunities
to those left out is tremendous, but yet to be realized by either major party. The party that
can harness these folks – who are after all the majority of Americans – will have a ruling coalition
for decades. If neither party can productively harness this budding movement, we are headed for
disarray, civil unrest, and potentially the dissolution of the USA.
I have one condition about which, Mr. Trump would lose my support - if he flinches on immigration,
I will have to bow out.
Wayne Lusvardi , says:
September 8, 2016 at 5:36 am
I just don't buy the contentions about color here. He has made definitive moves to ensure that
he intends to fight for US citizens regardless of color. This nonsense about white racism, more
bigotry in reality, doesn't pan out. The Republican party has been comprised of mostly whites
since forever and nearly all white sine the late 1960's. Anyone attempting to make hay out of
what has been the reality for than 40 years is really making the reverse pander. Of course most
of those who have issues with blacks and tend to be more expressive about it, are in the Republican
party. But so what. Black Republicans would look at you askance, should you attempt this FYI.
It's a so what. The reason you joining a party is not because the people in it like you, that
is really beside the point. Both Sec Rice and General Powell, are keenly aware of who's what it
and that is the supposed educated elite. They are not members of the party because it is composed
of some pure untainted membership. But because they and many blacks align themselves with the
ideas of the party, or what the party used to believe, anyway.
It's the issues not their skin color that matters. And blacks who cleave to the democrats
despite being sold down the tubes on issues, well, for whatever reason, they just have thinner
skin and the mistaken idea that the democrats deliver – thanks to Pres. Johnson. But what Pres.
Johnson delivered democrats made a mockery of immediately as they stripped it of its intent and
used for their own liberal ends.
I remain convinced that if blacks wanted progress all they need do is swamp the Republican
party as constituents and confront whatever they thought was nonsense as constituents as they
move on policy issues. Goodness democrats have embraced the lighter tones despite having most
black support. That is why the democrats are importing so many from other state run countries.
They could ignore blacks altogether. Sen Barbara Jordan and her deep voiced rebuke would do them
all some good.
Let's face it - we are not going to remove the deeply rooted impact of skin color, once part
of the legal frame of the country for a quarter of the nations populous. What Republicans should
stop doing is pretending, that everything concerning skin color is the figment of black imagination.
I am not budging an inch on the Daughters of the American Revolution, a perfect example of the
kind of peculiar treatment of the majority, even to those who fought for Independence and their
I think that there are thousands and thousands of educated (degreed)people who now realize
what a mess the educational and social services system has become because of our immigration policy.
The impact on social services here in Ca is no joke. In the face of mounting deficits, the laxity
of Ca has now come back to haunt them. The pressure to increase taxes weighed against the loss
of manual or hard labor to immigrants legal and otherwise is unmistakable here. There's debate
about rsstroom etiquette in the midst of serious financial issues - that's a joke. So this idea
of dismissing people with degrees as being opposed to Mr. Trump is deeply overplayed and misunderstood.
If there is a class war, it's not because of Mr. Trump, those decks were stacked in his favor
long before the election cycle.
"But millions did not heed that advice, cynically buoyed by Republicans who–knowing that college
educated people vote largely Democrat–launched a financial and cultural war on college education.
The result is what . . . employment; meanwhile we have to import millions of college-educated
Asians and Indians to do the work there aren't enough Americans to do."
Nope. Republicans are notorious for pushing education on everything and everybody. It's a signature
of hard work, self reliance, self motivation and responsibility. The shift that has been tragic
is that conservatives and Republicans either by a shove or by choice abandoned the fields by which
we turn out most future generations - elementary, HS and college education. Especially in HS,
millions of students are fed a daily diet of liberal though unchecked by any opposing ideas. And
that is become the staple for college education - as it cannot be stated just how tragic this
has become for the nation. There are lots of issues to moan about concerning the Us, but there
is far more to embrace or at the very least keep the moaning in its proper context. No, conservatives
and Republicans did engage in discouraging an education.
And there will always be a need for more people without degrees than with them. even people
with degrees are now getting hit even in the elite walls of WS finance. I think I posted an article
by John Maulden about the growing tensions resulting fro the shift in the way trading is conducting.
I can build a computer from scratch, that's a technical skill, but the days of building computers
by hand went as fast it came. The accusation that the population should all be trained accountants,
book keepers, managers, data processors, programmers etc. Is nice, but hardly very realistic (despite
my taking liberties with your exact phrasing). A degree is not going to stop a company from selling
and moving its production to China, Mexico or Vietnam - would that were true. In fact, even high
end degree positions are being outsourced, medicine, law, data processing, programming . . .
How about the changes in economy that have forced businesses to completely disappear. We will
never know how many businesses were lost in the 2007/2008 financial mess. Recovery doesn't exist
until the country's growth is robust enough to put people back to work full time in a manner that
enables them to sustain themselves and family.
That income gap is real and its telling.
even if I bought the Karl Marx assessment. His solutions were anything but a limited assault
on financial sector oligarchs and wizards. And in practice it has been an unmitigated disaster
with virtually not a single long term national benefit. It's very nature has been destructive,
not only to infrastructure, but literally the lifeblood of the people it was intended to rescue.
Let's see if I can help Dreher clear up some confusion in his article. James Burnham's "Managerial
Class" and the "New Class" are overlapping and not exclusive. By the Managerial Class Burnham
meant both the executive and managers in the private sector and the Bureaucrats and functionaries
in the public sector.
William Burns , says:
September 8, 2016 at 5:45 am
There are two middle classes in the US: the old Business Class and the New Knowledge Class.
A manager would be in the Business Class and a Bureaucrat in the New Class.
The rise of managers was a "revolution" because of the rise of modernization which meant
the increasing mechanization, industrialization, formalization and rationalization (efficiency)
of society. Burnham's concern about the rise of the managerial revolution was misplaced; what
he should have focused on was modernization.
The New Class were those in the mostly government and nonprofit sectors that depended on knowledge
for their livelihood without it being coupled to any physical labor: teachers, intellectuals,
social workers and psychiatrists, lawyers, media types, hedge fund managers, real estate appraisers,
financial advisors, architects, engineers, etc. The New Knowledge Class has only risen since the
New Deal created a permanent white collar, non-business class.
The Working Class are those who are employed for wages in manual work in an industry producing
something tangible (houses, cars, computers, etc.). The Working Class can also have managers,
sometimes called supervisors. And the Working Class is comprised mainly of two groups: unionized
workers and private sector non-unionized workers. When we talk about the Working Class we typically
are referring to the latter.
The Trumpsters should not be distinguished as being a racial group or class (white) because
there are many white people who support Clinton. About 95% of Blacks vote Democratic in the US.
Nowhere near that ratio of Whites are supporting Trump. So Trumps' support should not be stereotyped
The number one concern to Trumpsters is that they reflect the previous intergenerational economy
where the elderly lent money to the young to buy homes, cars and start small businesses. The Global
bankers have shifted money into the stock market because 0.25% per year interest rates in a bank
isn't making any money at all when money inflation runs at 1% to 2% (theft). This has been replaced
by a Global Economy that depends on financial bubbles and arbitraging of funds.
How are the elites supporting Trump different from the elites supporting financier par excellence
EliteCommInc. , says:
September 8, 2016 at 6:23 am
"The old left–represented by Sanders–rails against this as big money coopting government,
even while conservatives are exasperated by the unholy cabal of big business and big government
in cohoots in the "progressive" remake of America. Both are right in a sense."
Joe F , says:
September 8, 2016 at 11:11 am
Why other couching this. Ten years ago if some Hollywood exec had said, no same sex marriage,
no production company in your town, the town would have shrugged. Today before shrugging, the
city clerk is checking the account balance. When the governors of Michigan, and Arizona bent down
in me culpa's on related issue, because business interests piped in, it was an indication that
the game had seriously changed. Some 3 – 5% of the population facing no real opposition has
decided that that their private lives needed public endorsement and have proceeded to upend the
entire social order - the game has shifted in ways I am not sure most of the public fully grasps
Same sex weddings in US military chapels - the concept still turns my stomach. Advocates control
the megaphones, I don't think they control the minds of the public, despite having convinced a
good many people that those who have chosen this expression are under some manner of assault –
that demands a legal change - intelligent well educated, supposedly astute minded people actually
believe it. Even the Republican nominee believes it.
I love Barbara Streisand, but if the election means she moves to Canada, well, so be it. Take
your "drag queens" impersonators wit you. I enjoy Mr. and Mrs Pitt, I think have a social moral
core but really? with millions of kids future at stake, endorsing a terminal dynamic as if it
will save society's ills - Hollywood doesn't even pretend to behave royally much less embody the
sensitivities of the same.
There is a lot to challenge about supporting Mr. Trump. He did support killing children in
the womb and that is tragic. Unless he has stood before his maker and made this right, he will
have to answer for that. But no more than a trove of Republicans who supported killing children
in the womb and then came to their senses. I guess of there is one thing he and I agree on, it's
As for big budget military, it seems a waste, but if we are going to waste money, better it
be for our own citizens. His Achilles heel here is his intentions as to ISIS/ISIL. I think it's
the big drain getting ready to suck him into the abyss of intervention creep.
Missile defense just doesn't work. The tests are rigged and as Israel discovered, it's a hit
and miss game with low probability of success, but it makes for great propaganda.
I am supposed to be outraged by a football player stance on abusive government. While the democratic
nominee is turning over every deck chair she find, leaving hundreds of thousands of children homeless
- let me guess, on the bright side, George Clooney cheers the prospect of more democratic voters.
If Mr. Trumps only achievements are building a wall, over hauling immigration policy and expanding
the size of the military. He will be well on his way to getting ranked one of the US most successful
I never understood why an analysis needs to lard in every conceivable historical reference and
simply assume its relevance, when there are so many non constant facts and circumstances.
There has always been and will always be class conflict, even if it falls short of a war. Simply
examining recent past circumstances, the wealthy class has been whooping up on all other classes.
This is not to suggest any sort of remedy, but simply to observe that income disparity over the
past 30 years has substantially benefitted on sector of class and political power remains in their
hands today. To think that there will never be class conflict is to side with a Marxian fantasy
of egalitarianism, which will never come to pass. Winners and losers may change positions, but
the underlying conflict will always remain.
JonF , says:
September 8, 2016 at 1:32 pm
Fabian , says:
September 8, 2016 at 3:35 pm
State governments have been kowtowing to big business interests for a good long while.
Nothing new under the sun there. Back in the 80s when GM was deciding where to site their factory
for the new Saturn car line, they issued an edict stating they would only consider states that
had mandatory seat belt use laws, and the states in the running fell all over each to enact those.
The split on Trump is first by race (obviously), then be gender (also somewhat obviously),
and then by education. Even among self-declared conservatives it's the college educated who tend
to oppose him. This is a lot broader than simply losing some "new" Knowledge Class, unless all
college educated people are put in that grouping. In fact he is on track to lose among college
educated whites, something no GOP candidate has suffered since the days of FDR and WWII.
People don't really care for the actions of the elite but they care for the consequences of
these actions. During the 1960's, per capita GDP growth was around 3.5%. Today it stands at 0,49%.
If you take into account inflation, it's negative. Add to this the skewed repartition of said
growth and it's intuitive that many people feel the pain; whom doesn't move forward, goes backwards.
Gilly.El , says:
September 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm
People couldn't care for mass immigration, nation building or the emergence of China if
their personal situation was not impacted. But now, they begin to feel the results of these actions.
I have a simple philosophy regarding American politics that shows who is made of what, and
we don't have to go through all the philosophizing in this article: Anyone who believes in same
sex marriage has been brainwashed and is un-American and unreliable. Anyone who puts Israeli interests
above America's is un-American.
September 8, 2016 at 5:04 pm
EliteComic beat me to the punch. I was disappointed that Ross Perot, who won over 20% of the popular
vote twice, and was briefly in the lead in early 1992, wasn't mentioned in this article.
JonF , says:
September 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm
Re: Anyone who believes in same sex marriage has been brainwashed and is un-American and unreliable.
Anyone who puts Israeli interests above America's is un-American.
David Helveticka , says:
September 8, 2016 at 6:12 pm
The first has nothing whatsoever to do with American citizenship. It's just a political
issue– on which, yes, reasonable people can differ. However no American citizen should put the
interests of any other country ahead of our own, except in a situation where the US was itself
up to no good and deserved its comeuppance. And then the interest is not that of any particular
nation, but of justice being done period.
A lot of this "New Class" stuff is just confusing mis-mash of this and that theory. Basically,
America changed when the US dollar replace gold as the medium of exchange in the world economy.
Remember when we called it the PETRO-DOLLAR. As long as the Saudis only accepted the US dollar
as the medium of exchange for oil, then the American government could export it's inflation and
deficit spending. Budget deficits and trade deficits are intrinsically related. It allowed America
to become a nation of consumers instead of a nation of producers.
Jim Houghton , says:
September 8, 2016 at 6:56 pm
Who really cares about the federal debt. REally? We can print dollars, exchange these worthless
dollars with China for hard goods, and then China lends the dollars back to us, to pay for our
government. Get it?
It's really a form of classic IMPERIALISM. To maintain this system, we've got the US military
and we prop up the corrupt dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya
Yeah, you can talk about the "new class", the corruption of the banking system by the idiotic
"libertarian" or "free market utopianism" of the Gingrich Congress, the transformation of American
corporations to international corporations, and on and on. But it's the US dollar as reserve currency
that has allowed it all to happen. God help us, if it ends, we'll be crippled.
And damn the utopianism of you "libertarians" you're worse then Marxists when it comes to ideology
Ronald Reagan confounded the GOP party elite, too. They - rightly - considered him an intellectual
EliteCommInc. , says:
September 8, 2016 at 9:20 pm
"State governments have been kowtowing to big business interests for a good long while. Nothing
new under the sun there. Back in the 80s when GM was deciding where to site their factory for
the new Saturn car line, they issued an edict stating they would only consider states that had
mandatory seat belt use laws, and the states in the running fell all over each to enact those."
cecelia , says:
September 9, 2016 at 1:34 am
Ah, not it's policy on some measure able effect. The seatbelt law was debate across the country.
The data indicated that it did in fact save lives. And it's impact was universal applicable to
every man women or child that got into a vehicle.
That was not a private bedroom issue. Of course businesses have advocated policy. K street
is not a K-street minus that reality. But GM did not demand having relations in parked cars be
legalized or else.
You are taking my apples and and calling them seatbelts - false comparison on multiple levels,
all to get me to acknowledge that businesses have influence. It what they have chosen to have
influence on -
That is another matter.
I do not think the issue of class is relevant here – whether it be new classes or old classes.
There are essentially two classes – those who win given whatever the current economic arrangements
are or those who lose given those same arrangements. People who think they are losing support
Trump versus people who think they are winning support Clinton. The polls demonstrates this –
Trump supporters feel a great deal more anxiety about the future and are more inclined to think
everything is falling apart whereas Clinton supporters tend to see things as being okay and are
optimistic about the future. The Vox work also shows this pervasive sense that life will not be
good for their children and grandchildren as a characteristic of Trump supporters.
Clint , says:
September 9, 2016 at 5:47 pm
The real shift I think is in the actual coalitions that are political parties. Both the GOP
and the Dems have been coalitions – political parties usually are. Primary areas of agreement
with secondary areas of disagreement. Those coalitions no longer work. The Dems can be seen as
a coalition of the liberal knowledge types – who are winners in this economy and the worker types
who are often losers now in this economy. The GOP also is a coalition of globalist corporatist
business types (winners) with workers (losers) who they attracted in part because of culture wars
and the Dixiecrats becoming GOPers. The needs of these two groups in both parties no longer overlap.
The crisis is more apparent in the GOP because well – Trump. If Sanders had won the nomination
for the Dems (and he got close) then their same crisis would be more apparent. The Dems can hold
their creaky coalition together because Trump went into the fevered swamps of the alt. right.
I think this is even more obvious in the UK where you have a Labor Party that allegedly represents
the interests of working people but includes the cosmopolitan knowledge types. The cosmopolitans
are big on the usual identity politics, unlimited immigration and staying in the EU. They benefit
from the current economic arrangement. But the workers in the Labor party have been hammered by
the current economic arrangements and voted in droves to get out of the EU and limit immigration.
It seems pretty obvious that there is no longer a coalition to sustain the Labor Party. Same with
Tories – some in the party love the EU,immigration, globalization while others voted out of the
EU, want immigration restricted and support localism. The crisis is about the inability of either
party to sustain its coalitions. Those in the Tory party who are leavers should be in a political
party with the old Labor working class while the Tory cosmopolitans should be in a party with
the Labor cosmopolitans. The current coalitions not being in synch is the political problem –
not new classes etc.
Here in the US the southern Dixiecrats who went to the GOP and are losers in this economy might
find a better coalition with the black, Latino and white workers who are still in the Dem party.
But as in the UK ideological culture wars have become more prominent and hence the coalitions
are no longer economically based. If people recognized that politics can only address the economic
issues and they aligned themselves accordingly – the membership of the parties would radically
So forget about class and think coalitions.
The Clinton Class mocks The Country Class: Bill Clinton, "We all know how her opponent's done
real well down in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Because the coal people don't like any of
us anymore." "They blame the president when the sun doesn't come up in the morning now,"
someguy , says:
September 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm
Collin, this is straight ridiculous.
Rick , says:
September 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm
"Trump's voters were most strongly characterized by their "racial isolation": they live in
places with little ethnic diversity. "
During the primaries whites in more diverse areas voted Trump. The only real exception was
West Virginia. Utah, Wyoming, Iowa? All voted for Cruz and "muh values".
In white enclaves like Paul Ryans district, which is 91%, whites are able to signal against
white identity without having to face the consequences.
Craig , says:
September 13, 2016 at 10:11 am
"All three major African, Hispanic, & Asian-American overwhelming support HRC in the election."
That doesn't mean they actually support Hillary's policies and position. What do they really
know about either? These demographics simply vote overwhelmingly Democrat no matter who is on
the ticket. If Alfred E. Newman were the candidate, this particular data point would look just
"On the contrary, the New Class favors new kinds of crony finance capitalism, even as it opposes
the protectionism that would benefit hard industry and managerial interests."
This doesn't ring true. Hard industry, and the managers that run it had no problem with moving
jobs and factories overseas in pursuit of cheaper labor. Plus, it solved their Union issues. I
feel like the divide is between large corporations, with dilute ownership and professional managers
who nominally serve the interests of stock fund managers, while greatly enriching themselves versus
a multitude of smaller, locally owned businesses whose owners were also concerned with the health
of the local communities in which they lived.
The financial elites are a consequence of consolidation in the banking and finance industry,
where we now have 4 or 5 large institutions versus a multitude of local and regional banks that
were locally focused.
21, 2015 by Yves Smith
Lambert found a short article by Richard Cook that I've embedded at the end of the post. I strongly
urge you to read it in full. It discusses how complex systems are prone to catastrophic failure,
how that possibility is held at bay through a combination of redundancies and ongoing vigilance,
but how, due to the impractical cost of keeping all possible points of failure fully (and even identifying
them all) protected, complex systems "always run in degraded mode". Think of the human body. No one
is in perfect health. At a minimum, people are growing cancers all the time, virtually all of which
recede for reasons not well understood.
The article contends that failures therefore are not the result of single causes. As Clive points
This is really a profound observation – things rarely fail in an out-the-blue, unimaginable,
catastrophic way. Very often just such as in the MIT article the fault or faults in the system
are tolerated. But if they get incrementally worse, then the ad-hoc fixes become the risk (i.e.
the real risk isn't the original fault condition, but the application of the fixes).
documents how a problem of core instability was a snag, but the disaster was caused by what was
done to try to fix it. The plant operators kept applying the fix in ever more extreme does until
the bloody thing blew up.
But I wonder about the validity of one of the hidden assumptions of this article. There is a lack
of agency in terms of who is responsible for the care and feeding of complex systems (the article
eventually identifies "practitioners" but even then, that's comfortably vague). The assumption is
that the parties who have influence and responsibility want to preserve the system, and have incentives
to do at least an adequate job of that.
There are reasons to doubt that now. Economics has promoted ways of looking at commercial entities
that encourage "practitioners" to compromise on safety measures. Mainstream economics has as a core
belief that economies have a propensity to equilibrium, and that equilibrium is at full employment.
That assumption has served as a wide-spread justification for encouraging businesses and governments
to curtail or end pro-stability measures like regulation as unnecessary costs.
To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize activity
for efficiency. But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed
and can only run one race.
Highly efficient systems also are more likely to suffer from what Richard Bookstaber called "tight
coupling." A tightly coupled system in one in which events occur in a sequence that cannot be interrupted.
A way to re-characterize a tightly coupled system is a complex system that has been in part reoptimized
for efficiency, maybe by accident, maybe at a local level. That strips out some of the redundancies
that serve as safeties to prevent positive feedback loops from having things spin out of control.
To use Bookstaber's nomenclature, as opposed to this paper's, in a tightly coupled system, measures
to reduce risk directly make things worse. You need to reduce the tight coupling first.
A second way that the economic thinking has arguably increased the propensity of complex systems
of all sorts to fail is by encouraging people to see themselves as atomized agents operating in markets.
And that's not just an ideology; it's reflected in low attachment to institutions of all sorts, ranging
from local communities to employers (yes, employers may insist on all sorts of extreme shows of fealty,
but they are ready to throw anyone in the dust bin at a moment's notice). The reality of weak institutional
attachments and the societal inculcation of selfish viewpoints means that more and more people regard
complex systems as vehicles for personal advancement. And if they see those relationships as short-term
or unstable, they don't have much reason to invest in helping to preserving the soundness of that
entity. Hence the attitude called "IBY/YBG" ("I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone") appears to be becoming
I've left comments open because I'd very much enjoy getting reader reactions to this article.
August 21, 2015 at 6:35 am
So many ideas….
Mike Davis argues that in the case of Los Angeles, the key to understanding the city's dysfunction
is in the idea of sunk capital – every major investment leads to further investments (no matter
how dumb or large) to protect the value of past investments.
Tainter argues that the energy cost (defined broadly) of maintaining the dysfunction eventually
overwhelms the ability of the system to generate surpluses to meet the rising needs of maintenance.
Goldsworthy has argued powerfully and persuasively that the Roman Empire in the West was done
in by a combination of shrinking revenue base and the subordination of all systemic needs to the
needs of individual emperors to stay in power and therefore stay alive. Their answer was endlessly
subdividing power and authority below them and using massive bribes to the bureaucrats and the
military to try to keep them loyal.
In each case, some elite individual or grouping sees throwing good money after bad as necessary
to keeping their power and their positions. Our current sclerotic system seems to fit this description
August 21, 2015 at 8:15 am
August 22, 2015 at 4:39 am
I immediately thought of Tainter's "The Complex of Complex Cultures" when I starting reading
this. One point that Tainter made is that collapse is not all bad. He presents evidence that the
average well being of people in Italy was probably higher in the sixth century than in the fifth
century as the Western Roman Empire died. Somewhat like death being necessary for biological evolution
collapse may be the only solution to the problem of excessive complexity.
August 21, 2015 at 9:19 am
Tainter insists culture has nothing to do with collapse, and therefore refuses to consider
it, but he then acknowledges that the elites in some societies were able to pull them out of a
collapse trajectory. And from the inside, it sure as hell looks like culture, as in a big decay
in what is considered to be acceptable conduct by our leaders, and what interests they should
be serving (historically, at least the appearance of the greater good, now unabashedly their own
ends) sure looks to be playing a big, and arguably the defining role, in the rapid rise of open
corruption and related social and political dysfunction.
August 21, 2015 at 7:44 am
That also sounds like the EU and even Greece's extreme actions to stay in the EU.
August 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm
Then I'll add my two cents: you've left out that when systems scale linearly, the amount of
complexity, and points for failure, and therefore instability, that they contain scale exponentially–that
is according to the analysis of James Rickards, and supported by the work of people like Joseph
Tainter and Jared Diamond.
Ever complex problem that arises in a complex system is fixed with an even more complex "solution"
which requires ever more energy to maintain, and eventually the inevitably growing complexity
of the system causes the complex system to collapse in on itself. This process requires no malignant
agency by humans, only time.
August 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm
Sounds a lot like JMG and catabolic collapse.
August 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm
Well, he got his stuff from somewhere too.
August 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm
There are no linear systems. They are all non-linear because the include a random, non-linear
element – people.
August 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm
Long before there were people the Earth's eco-system was highly complex and highly unstable.
August 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm
The presumption that fixes increase complexity may be incorrect.
Fixes should include awareness of complexity.
That was the beauty of Freedom Club by Kaczinsky, T.
Maybe call the larger entity "meta-stable?" Astro and geo inputs seem to have been big perturbers.
Lots of genera were around a very long time before naked apes set off on their romp. But then
folks, even these hot, increasingly dry days, brag on their ability to anticipate, and profit
from, and even cause, with enough leverage, de- stability. Good thing the macrocosms of our frail,
violent, kindly, destructive bodies are blessed with the mechanisms of homeostasis.
Too bad our "higher" functions are not similarly gifted… But that's what we get to chat about,
here and in similar meta-spaces…
August 21, 2015 at 7:52 am
Agree, positive density of ideas, thoughts and implications.
I wonder if the reason that humans don't appreciate the failure of complex systems is that
(a) complex systems are constantly trying to correct, or cure as in your cancer example, themselves
all the time until they can't at which point they collapse, (b) that things, like cancer leading
to death, are not commonly viewed as a complex system failure when in fact that is what it is.
Thus, while on a certain scale we do experience complex system failure on one level on a daily
basis because we don't interpret it as such, and given that we are hardwired for pattern recognition,
we don't address complex systems in the right ways.
This, to my mind, has to be extended to the environment and the likely disaster we are currently
trying to instigate. While the system is collapsing at one level, massive species extinctions,
while we have experienced record temperatures, while the experts keep warning us, etc., most people
to date have experienced climate change as an inconvenience - not the early stages of systemwide
Civilization collapses have been regular, albeit spaced out, occurrences. We seem to think
we are immune to them happening again. Yet, it isn't hard to list the near catastrophic system
failures that have occurred or are currently occurring (famines, financial markets, genocides,
And, in most systems that relate to humans with an emphasis on short term gain how does one
address system failures?
August 21, 2015 at 9:21 am
would be a GREAT category heading though it's perhaps a little close to "Imperial Collapse"
August 21, 2015 at 9:52 am
To paraphrase President Bill Clinton, who I would argue was one of the major inputs that caused
the catastrophic failure of our banking system (through the repeal of Glass-Steagall), it all
depends on what the definition of WE is.
August 21, 2015 at 10:12 pm
And all that just a 21st century version of "apres moi le deluge", which sounds very likely
to be the case.
August 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm
JT – just go to the Archdruid site. They link it regularly, I suppose for this purpose.
August 21, 2015 at 8:42 am
Civilizational collapse is extremely common in history when one takes a long term view.
I'm not sure though that I would describe it as having that much "regularity" and while internal
factors are no doubt often important external factors like the Mongol Onslaught are also important.
It's usually very hard to know exactly what happened since historical documentation tends to disappear
in periods of collapse. In the case of Mycenae the archaeological evidence indicates a near total
population decline of 99% in less than a hundred years together with an enormous cultural decline
but we don't know what caused it.
As for long term considerations the further one tries to project into the future the more uncertain
such projections become so that long term planning far into the future is not likely to be evolutionarily
stable. Because much more information is available about present conditions than future conditions
organisms are probably selected much more to optimize for the short term rather than for the largely
unpredicatble long term.
August 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm
…it's not in question. Evolution is about responding to the immediate environment. Producing
survivable offspring (which requires finding a niche). If the environment changes (Climate?) faster
than the production of survivable offspring then extinction (for that specie) ensues.
Now, Homo sapien is supposedly "different" in some respects, but I don't think so.
August 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm
I agree. There's nothing uniquely special about our species. Of course species can often respond
to gradual change by migration. The really dangerous things are global catastrophes such as the
asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous or whatever happened at the Permian-Triassic boundary
(gamma ray burst maybe?).
August 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm
Interesting that you sit there and type on a world-spanning network batting around ideas from
five thousand years ago, or yesterday, and then use your fingers to type that the human species
Do you really think humans are unable to think about the future, like a bear hibernating, or
perhaps the human mind, and its offspring, human culture and history, can't see ahead?
Why is "Learn the past, or repeat it!" such a popular saying, then?
August 21, 2015 at 9:24 am
The Iron Law of Institutions (agents act in ways that benefit themselves in the context
of the institution [system], regardless of the effect those actions have on the larger system)
would seem to mitigate against any attempts to correct our many, quickly failing complex social
and technological systems.
August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am
This would tend to imply that attempts to organize large scale social structures is temporary
at best, and largely futile. I agree. The real key is to embrace and ride the wave as it crests
and callapses so its possible to manage the fall–not to try to stand against so you get knocked
down and drowned. Focus your efforts on something useful instead of wasting them on a hopeless,
and worthless, cause.
August 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm
Civilization is obviously highly unstabe. However it should remembered that even Neolithic
cultures are almost all less than 10,000 years old. So there has been little time for evolutionary
adaptations to living in complex cultures (although there is evidence that the last 10,000 years
has seen very rapid genetic changes in human populations). If civilization can continue indefinitely
which of course is not very clear then it would be expected that evolutionary selection would
produce humans much better adapted to living in complex cultures so they might become more stable
in the distant future. At present mean time to collapse is probably a few hundred years.
August 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm
But perhaps you're not contemplating that too much individual freedom can destabilize society.
Is that a part of your vast psychohistorical equation?
August 21, 2015 at 10:34 am
Well said, but something I find intriguing is that the author isn't talking so much about civilizational
collapse. The focus is more on various subsystems of civilization (transportation, energy, healthcare,
These individual components are not inherently particularly dangerous (at a systemic/civilizational
level). They have been made that way by purposeful public policy choices, from allowing enormous
compensation packages in healthcare to dismantling our passenger rail system to subsidizing fossil
fuel energy over wind and solar to creating tax incentives that distort community development.
These things are not done for efficiency. They are done to promote inequality, to allow connected
insiders and technocratic gatekeepers to expropriate the productive wealth of society. Complexity
isn't a byproduct; it is the mechanism of the looting. If MDs in hospital management made similar
wages as home health aides, then how would they get rich off the labor of others? And if they
couldn't get rich, what would be the point of managing the hospital in the first place? They're
not actually trying to provide quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.
It is that cumulative concentration of wealth and power over time which is ultimately destabilizing,
producing accepted social norms and customs that lead to fragility in the face of both expected
and unexpected shocks. This fragility comes from all sorts of specific consequences of that inequality,
from secrecy to group think to brain drain to two-tiered justice to ignoring incompetence and
negligence to protecting incumbents necessary to maintain such an unnatural order.
August 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm
I tend to agree with your point of view.
The problem arises with any societal order over time in that corrosive elements in the
form of corruptive behavior (not principle based) by decision makers are institutionalized. I
may not like Trump as a person but the fact that he seems to unravel and shake the present arrangement
and serves as an indicator that the people begin to realize what game is being played, makes me
like him in that specific function. There may be some truth in Thomas Jefferson's quote:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure." Those presently benefiting greatly from the present arrangement are
fighting with all means to retain their position, whether successfully or not, we will see.
August 22, 2015 at 2:18 am
Well said, washunate. I think an argument could be run that outside economic areas, the has
been a drive to de-complexity.
Non economic institutions, bodies which exist for non market/profit reasons are or have been either
hollowed out, or co-opted to market purposes. Charities as vast engines of self enrichment for
a chain of insiders. Community groups, defunded, or shriveled to an appendix by "market forces".
The list goes on…and on.
Reducing the "not-market" to the status of sliced-white-bread makes us all the more dependant
on the machinated complexities of "the market"….god help us….
August 21, 2015 at 8:00 am
Joseph Tainter's thesis, set out in "The Collapse of Complex Societies" is simple: as a civilization
ages its use of energy becomes less efficient and more costly, until the Law of Diminishing Returns
kicks in, generates its own momentum and the system grinds to a halt. Perhaps this article describes
a late stage of that process. However, it is worth noting that, for the societies Tainter studied,
the process was ineluctable. Not so for our society: we have the ability -- and the opportunity
-- to switch energy sources.
August 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm
In my grandmother's youth, they did not burn wood for nothing. Splitting wood was hard work
that required calories.
Today, we heat up our patios at night with gas heaters… The amount of economic activity based
on burning energy not related to survival is astounding.
A huge percentage of our GDP is based on economies of scale and economic efficiencies but are
completely disconnected from environmental efficiencies.
This total loss is control between nature and our lifestyles will be our waterloo .
August 21, 2015 at 8:20 am
An interesting article as usual, but here is another take.
Indeed, sometimes complex systems can collapse under the weight of their own complexity (Think:
credit default swaps). But sometimes there is a single simple thing that is crushing the system,
and the complexity is a desperate attempt to patch things up that is eventually destroyed by brute
Consider a forced population explosion: the people are multiplied exponentially. This reduces
per capita physical resources, tends to reduce per-capita capital, and limits the amount of time
available to adapt: a rapidly growing population puts an economy on a treadmill that gets faster
and faster and steeper and steeper until it takes superhuman effort just to maintain the status
quo. There is a reason why, for societies without an open frontier, essentially no nation has
ever become prosperous with out first moderating the fertility rate.
However, you can adapt. New technologies can be developed. New regulations written to coordinate
an ever more complex system. Instead of just pumping water from a reservoir, you need networks
of desalinization plants – with their own vast networks of power plants and maintenance supply
chains – and recycling plans, and monitors and laws governing water use, and more efficient appliances,
As an extreme, consider how much effort and complexity it takes to keep a single person alive
in the space station.
That's why in California cars need to be emissions tested, but in Alabama they don't – and
the air is cleaner in Alabama. More people needs more controls and more exotic technology and
Eventually the whole thing starts to fall apart. But to blame complexity itself, is possibly
missing the point.
August 21, 2015 at 8:30 am
No system is ever 'the'.
August 21, 2015 at 11:28 am
Two words, Steve: Soviet Union.
It's gone now. But we're rebuilding it, bigger and better.
August 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm
If, of course, bigger is better.
Facts not in evidence.
August 21, 2015 at 8:40 am
"But because system operations are never trouble free, human practitioner adaptations
to changing conditions actually create safety from moment to moment. These adaptations often
amount to just the selection of a well-rehearsed routine from a store of available responses;
sometimes, however, the adaptations are novel combinations or de novo creations of new approaches."
This may just be a rationalization, on my part, for having devoted so much time to historical
studies– but it seems to me that historians help civilizations prevent collapse, by preserving
for them the largest possible "store of available responses."
August 21, 2015 at 8:41 am
Thanks for posting this very interesting piece! As you know, I am a fan Bookstaber's concept
of tight coupling. Interestingly, Bookstaber (2007) does not reference Cook's significant work
on complex systems.
Before reading this article, I considered the most preventable accidents involve a sequence
of events uninterrupted by human intelligence. This needs to be modified by Cook's points 8, 9.
10 and 12.
In using the aircraft landing in the New York river as an example of interrupting a sequence
of events, the inevitable accident occurred but no lives were lost. Thus the human intervention
was made possible by the unknowable probability of coupling the cause with a possible alternative
landing site. A number of aircraft accidents involve failed attempts to find a possible landing
site, even though Cook's point #12 was in play.
Thanks for the post!!!!!
August 21, 2015 at 8:47 am
A possible issue with or a misunderstanding of #7. Catastrophic failure can be made up of small
failures that tend to follow a critical path or multiple critical paths. While a single point
of origin for catastrophic failure may rarely if ever occur in a complex system, it is possible
and likely in such a system to have collections of small failures that occur or tend to occur
in specific sequences of order. Population explosion (as TG points out) would be a good
example of a failure in a complex social system that is part of a critical path to catastrophic
Such sequences, characterized by orders of precedence, are more likely in tightly coupled systems
(which as Yves points out can be any system pushed to the max). The point is, they can be identified
and isolated at least in situations where a complex system is not being misused or pushed to it's
limits or created due to human corruption where such sequences of likelihood may be viewed or
baked into the system (such as by propaganda->ideology) as features and not bugs.
August 21, 2015 at 8:53 am
I agree completely that maximum efficiency comes with horrible costs. When hospitals are staffed
so that people are normally busy every minute, patients routinely suffer more as often no one
has time to treat them like a human being, and when things deviate from the routine, people have
injuries and deaths. Same is true in other contexts.
August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am
Agreed, but that's not caused by efficiency. That's caused by inequality. Healthcare has huge
dispariaties in wages and working conditions. The point of keeping things tightly staffed is to
allow big bucks for the top doctors and administrators.
susan the other
August 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm
Yes. When one efficiency conflicts with and destroys another efficiency. Eq. Your mother juggled
a job and a family and ran around in turbo mode but she dropped everything when her kids were
in trouble. That is an example of an efficiency that can juggle contradictions and still not fail.
August 21, 2015 at 11:38 am
Might this nurse observe that in hospitals, there isn't and can't be a "routine" to deviate
from, no matter how fondly "managers" wish to try to make it and how happy they may be to take
advantage of the decent, empathic impulses of many nurses and/or the need to work to eat of those
that are just doing a job. Hence the kindly (sic) practice of "calling nurses off" or sending
them home if "the census is down," which always runs aground against a sudden influx of billable
bodies or medical crises that the residual staff is expected to just somehow cope with caring
for or at least processing, until the idiot frictions in the staffing machinery add a few more
person-hours of labor to the mix. The larger the institution, the greater the magnitude and impact
(pain, and dead or sicker patients and staff too) of the "excursions from the norm."
It's all about the ruling decisions on what are deemed (as valued by where the money goes)
appropriate outcomes of the micro-political economy… In the absence of an organizing principle
that values decency and stability and sustainability rather than upward wealth transfer.
August 21, 2015 at 8:54 am
I'll join the choir recommending Tainter as a critical source for anybody interested in this
IBG/YBG is a new concept for me, with at least one famous antecedent. "Après moi, le déluge."
August 21, 2015 at 9:17 am
The author presents the best-case scenario for complex systems: one in which the practitioners
involved are actually concerned with maintaining system integrity. However, as Yves points out,
that is far from being case in many of our most complex systems.
For instance, the Silvertip pipeline spill near Billings, MT a few years ago may indeed have
been a case of multiple causes leading to unforeseen/unforeseeable failure of an oil pipeline
as it crossed the Yellowstone river. However, the failure was made immeasurably worse due
to the fact that Exxon had failed to supply that pump-station with a safety manual, so when the
alarms started going off the guy in the station had to call around to a bunch of people to figure
out what was going on. So while it's possible that the failure would have occurred no matter what,
the failure of the management to implement even the most basic of safety procedures made the failure
much worse than it otherwise would have been.
And this is a point that the oil company apologists are all too keen to obscure. The argument
gets trotted out with some regularity that because these oil/gas transmission systems are so complex,
some accidents and mishaps are bound to occur. This is true–but it is also true that the incentives
of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as
the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often
conflict with the interests of system stability and safety.
Complex systems have their own built-in instabilities, as the author points out; but we've
added a system of un-accountability and irresponsibility on top of our complex systems which ensures
that failures will occur more often and with greater fall-out than the best-case scenario imagined
by the author.
August 21, 2015 at 9:42 am
As Yves pointed out, there is a lack of agency in the article. A corrupt society will tend
to generate corrupt systems just as it tends to generate corrupt technology and corrupt ideology.
For instance, we get lots of little cars driving themselves about, profitably to the ideology
of consumption, but also with an invisible thumb of control, rather than a useful system of public
transportation. We get "abstenence only" population explosion because "groath" rather than any
rational assessment of obvious future catastrophe.
August 21, 2015 at 10:06 am
Right on. The primary issue of our time is a failure of management. Complexity is an excuse
more often than an explanatory variable.
August 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm
August 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm
Am I the only hearing 9″Nails, March of the Pigs…
Aug. 21, 2015 1:54 a.m. ET
A Carlyle Group LP hedge fund that anticipated a sudden currency-policy shift in China
gained roughly $100 million in two days last week, a sign of how some bearish bets on
the world's second-largest economy are starting to pay off.
oink oink is the sound of system fail
August 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm
A very important principle:
All systems have a failure rate, including people. We don't get to live in a world where we
don't need to lock our doors and banks don't need vaults. (If you find it, be sure to radio back.)
The article is about how we deal with that failure rate. Pointing out that there are failures
misses the point.
August 21, 2015 at 5:05 pm
. . .but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there
will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining
the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system
stability and safety.
How true. A Chinese city exploded. Talk about a black swan. I wonder what the next disaster
August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am
After a skimmy read of the post and reading James' lead-off comment re emperors (Brooklin Bridge
comment re misuse is somewhat resonant) it seems to me that a distinguishing feature of systems
is not being addressed and therefore being treated as though it's irrelevant.
What about the mandate for a system to have an overarching, empowered regulatory agent, one
that could presumably learn from the reflections contained in this post? In much of what is posted
here at NC writers give due emphasis to the absence/failure of a range of regulatory functions
relevant to this stage of capitalism. These run from SEC corruption to the uncontrolled movement
of massive amount of questionably valuable value in off the books transactions between banks,
hedge funds etc. This system intentionally has a deliberately weakened control/monitoring function,
ideologically rationalized as freedom but practically justified as maximizing accumulation possibilities
for the powerful. It is self-lobotomizing, a condition exacerbated by national economic territories
(to some degree). I'm not going to now jump up with 3 cheers for socialism as capable of resolving
problems posed by capitalism. But, to stay closer to the level of abstraction of the article,
doesn't the distinction between distributed opacity + unregulated concentrations of power vs.
transparency + some kind of central governing authority matter? Maybe my Enlightenment hubris
is riding high after the morning coffee, but this is a kind of self-awareness that assumes its
range is limited, even as it posits that limit. Hegel was all over this, which isn't to say he
resolved the conundrum, but it's not even identified here.
August 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm
Think of Trump as the pimple finally coming to a head: he's making the greed so obvious, and
pissing off so many people that some useful regulation might occur.
Another thought about world social collapse: if such a thing is likely, (and I'm sure the PTB
know if it is, judging from the reports from the Pentagon about how Global Warming being a national
security concern) wouldn't it be a good idea to have a huge ability to overpower the rest of the
We might be the only nation that survives as a nation, and we might actually have an Empire
of the World, previously unattainable. Maybe SkyNet is really USANet. It wouldn't require any
real change in the national majority of creepy grabby people.
August 21, 2015 at 9:43 am
Government bureaucrats and politicians pursue their own interests just as businessmen do. Pollution
was much worst in the non-capitalist Soviet Union, East Germany and Eastern Europe than it was
in the Capitalist West. Chernobyl happened under socialism not capitalism. The present system
in China, although not exactly "socialism", certainly involves a massively powerful govenment
but a glance at the current news shows that massive governmental power does not necessarily prevent
accidents. The agency problem is not unique to or worse in capitalism than in other systems.
August 21, 2015 at 9:51 am
I'd throw in the theory of cognitive dissonance as an integral part of the failure of complex
systems. (Example Tarvis and Aronon's recent book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by me))
We are more apt to justify bad decisions, with bizarre stories, than to accept our own errors
(or mistakes of people important to us). It explains (but doesn't make it easier to accept) the
complete disconnect between accepted facts and fanciful justifications people use to support their
August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am
I think this one suffers "Metaphysical Foo Foo Syndrome" MFFS. That means use of words to reference
realities that are inherently ill-defined and often unobservable leading to untestable theories
and deeply personal approaches to epistemological reasoning.
just what is a 'complex system"? A system implies a boundary - there are things part of the
system and things outside the system. That's a hard concept to identify - just where the system
ends and something else begins. So when 'the system' breaks down, it's hard to tell with any degree
of testable objectivity whether the breakdown resulted from "the system" or from something outside
the system and the rest was just "an accident that could have happened to anybody'"
maybe the idea is; '"if something breaks down at the worst possible time and in a way that
fkks everything up, then it must have been a complex system". But it could also have been a simple
system that ran into bad luck. Consider your toilet. Maybe you put too much toilet paper in it,
and it clogged. Then it overflowed and ran out into your hallway with your shit everywhere. Then
you realized you had an expensive Chinese rug on the floor. oh no! That was bad. you were gonna
put tthat rug away as soon as you had a chance to admire it unrolled. Why did you do that? Big
fckk up. But it wasn't a complex system. It was just one of those things.
susan the other
August 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm
thanks for that, I think…
August 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm
Actually, it was a system too complex for this individual. S(He) became convinced the plumbing
would work as it had previously. But doo to poor maintenance, too much paper, or a stiff BM the
"system" didn't work properly. There must have been opportunity to notice something anomalous,
but appropriate oversight wasn't applied.
August 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm
You mean the BM was too tightly coupled?
August 21, 2015 at 4:22 pm
It coould happen to anybody after enough pizza and red wine
people weren't meant to be efficient. paper towels and duct tape can somettmes help
This ocurred to me: The entire 1960s music revolution would't have happened if anybody had
to be efficient about hanging out and jamming. You really have to lay around and do nothing if
you want to achieve great things. You need many opportunities to fail and learn before the genius
flies. That's why tightly coupled systems are self-defeating. Because they wipe too many people
out before they've had a chance to figure out the universe.
August 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm
Excellent example of tight coupling: Toilet -> Floor -> Hallway -> $$$ Rug
Fix: Apply Break coupling procedure #1: Shut toilet door.
Then: Procedure #2 Jam inexpensive old towels in gap at the bottom.
As with all such measures this buys the most important thing of all – time. In this case to
get the $$$Rug out of the way.
IIRC one of Bookstaber's points was that that, in the extreme, tight coupling allows problems
to propagate through the system so fast and so widely that we have no chance to mitigate before
they escalate to disaster.
August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am
To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize
activity for efficiency.
I think that's an interesting framework. I would say effeciency is achieving the goal in the
most effective manner possible. Perhaps that's measured in energy, perhaps labor, perhaps currency
units, but whatever the unit of measure, you are minimizing that input cost.
What our economics and business thinking (and most importantly, political thinking) has primarily
been doing, I would say, is not optimizing for efficiency. Rather, they are changing the goal
being optimized. The will to power has replaced efficiency as the actual outcome.
Unchecked theft, looting, predation, is not efficient. Complexity and its associated
secrecy is used to hide the inefficiency, to justify and promote that which would not otherwise
stand scrutiny in the light of day.
August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am
What nonsense. All around us 'complex systems' (airliners, pipelines, coal mines, space stations,
etc.) have become steadily LESS prone to failure/disaster over the decades. We are near the stage
where the only remaining danger in air travel is human error. We will soon see driverless cars
& trucks, and you can be sure accident rates will decline as the human element is taken out of
August 21, 2015 at 12:23 pm
see fukushima, lithium batteries spontaneously catching fire, financial engineering leading
to collapse unless vast energy is invested in them to re stabilize…Driverless cars and trucks
are not that soon, tech buddies say ten years I say malarkey based on several points made in the
article, while as brooklyn bridge points out public transit languishes, and washunate points out
that trains and other more efficient means of locomotion are starved while more complex methods
have more energy thrown at them which could be better applied elsewhere. I think you're missing
the point by saying look at all our complex systems, they work fine and then you ramble off a
list of things with high failure potential and say look they haven't broken yet, while things
that have broken and don't support your view are left out. By this mechanism safety protocols
are eroded (that accident you keep avoiding hasn't happened, which means you're being too cautious
so your efficiency can be enhanced by not worrying about it until it happens then you can fix
it but as pointed out above tightly coupled systems can't react fast enough at which point we
all have to hear the whocoodanode justification…)
susan the other
August 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm
And the new points of failure will be what?
susan the other
August 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm
So here's a question. What is the failure heirarchy. And why don't those crucial nodes of failsafe
protect the system. Could it be that we don't know what they are?
August 22, 2015 at 8:09 am
While 90% of people were producing food a few decades ago, I think a large percentage will
be producing energy in a few decades… right now we are still propping up our golf courses and
avoiding investing in pipelines and refineries. We are still exploiting the assets of the 50s
and 60s to live our hyper material lives. Those investments are what gave us a few decades of
Now everyone wants government to spend on infra without even knowing what needs to go and what
needs to stay. Maybe half of Californians need to get out of there and forget about building more
infra there… just a thought.
America still has a frontier ethos… how in the world can the right investments in infra be
made with a collection of such values?
We're going to get city after city imploding. More workers producing energy and less leisure
over the next few decades. That's what breakdown is going to look like.
August 22, 2015 at 8:22 am
Flying might get safer and safer while we get more and more cities imploding.
Just like statues on Easter Island were getting increasingly elaborate as trees were disappearing.
August 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm
What you say is true, but only if you have a sufficient number of failures to learn from. A
lot of planes had to crash for air travel to be as safe as it is today.
August 21, 2015 at 10:19 am
I am surprised to see no reference to John Gall's
General Systematics in
this discussion, an entire study of systems and how they misbehave. I tend to read it from the
standpoint of managing a complex IT infrastructure, but his work starts from human systems (organizations).
The work is organized around aphorisms - Systems tend to oppose their own proper function
- The real world is what it is reported to the system - but one or two from this paper should
be added to that repertoire. Point 7 seems especially important. From Gall, I have come to especially
appreciate the Fail-Safe Theorem: "when a Fail-Safe system fails, it fails by failing to fail
August 21, 2015 at 10:32 am
Instead of writing something long and rambling about complex systems being aggregates of smaller,
discrete systems, each depending on a functioning and accurate information processing/feedback
(not IT) system to maintain its coherence; and upon equally well functioning feedback systems
between the parts and the whole - instead of that I'll quote a poem.
" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; "
-Yates, "The Second Coming"
August 21, 2015 at 10:46 am
erm… make that "Yeats", as in W.B.
August 21, 2015 at 11:03 am
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
August 21, 2015 at 7:38 pm
IIRC in Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters" there's a different version:
Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so, ad infinitum.
Since the story is about humans being parasitized and controlled by alien "slugs" that sit
on their backs, and the slugs in turn being destroyed by an epidemic disease started by the surviving
humans, the verse has a macabre appropriateness.
August 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm
Original reply got eaten, so I hope not double post. Robert A. Heinlein's (and others?) version:
Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so ad infinitum!
August 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm
The order Siphonoptera….
August 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm
"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"
I can't leave that poem without its ending – especially as it becomes ever more relevant.
August 21, 2015 at 11:02 am
Terrific post- just the sort of thing that has made me a NC fan for years.
I'm a bit surprised that the commentators ( thus far ) have not referred to the Financial Crisis
of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession as being an excellent example of Cook's failure analysis.
Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera's
All The Devils Are Here www.amazon.com/All-Devils-Are-Here-Financial/dp/159184438X/
describes beautifully how the erosion of the protective mechanisms in the U.S. financial system,
no single one of which would have of itself been deadly in its absence ( Cook's Point 3 ) combined
to produce the Perfect Storm.
It brought to mind Garett Hardin's The Tragedy Of The Commons
. While the explosive growth of debt ( and therefore risk ) obviously jeopardized the entire system,
it was very much within the narrow self interest of individual players to keep the growth ( and
therefore the danger ) increasing.
August 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm
Bingo. Failure of the culture to properly train its members. Not so much a lack of morality
as a failure to point out that when the temple falls, it falls on Samson.
The next big fix is to use the US military to wall off our entire country, maybe include Canada
(language is important in alliances) during the Interregnum.
Why is no one mentioning the Foundation Trilogy and Hari Seldon here?
August 21, 2015 at 11:29 am
My only personal experience with the crash of a complex, tightly-coupled system was the crash
of the trading floor of a very big stock exchange in the early part of this century. The developers
were in the computer room, telling the operators NOT to roll back to the previous release, and
the operators ignored them and did so anyway. Crash!
In Claus Jensen's fascinating account of the Challenger disaster, NO DOWNLINK, he describes
how the managers overrode the engineers' warnings not to fly under existing weather conditions.
We all know the result.
Human error was the final cause in both cases.
Now we are undergoing the terrible phenomenon of global warming, which everybody but Republicans,
candidates and elected, seems to understand is real and catastrophic. The Republicans have a majority
in Congress, and refuse–for ideological and monetary reasons–to admit that the problem exists.
I think this is another unfolding disaster that we can ascribe to human error.
August 21, 2015 at 5:17 pm
"Human error" needs unpacking here. In this discussion, it's become a Deus ex Humanitas. Humans
do what they do because their cultural experiences impel them to do so. Human plus culture is
not the same as human. That's why capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society.
August 21, 2015 at 5:52 pm
" capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society "
Very true, not nearly so widely realized as it should be, and the Irony of Ironies .
August 21, 2015 at 11:48 am
But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can
only run one race.
Another problem with obsessing about (productive or technical) efficiency is that it usually
means a narrow focus on the most measured or measurable inputs and outputs, to the detriment of
less measurable but no less important aspects. Wages are easier to measure than the costs of turnover,
including changes in morale, loss of knowledge and skill, and regard for the organization vs.
regard for the individual. You want low cost fish? Well, it might be caught by slaves. Squeeze
the measurable margins, and the hidden margins will move.
August 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm
You hint at a couple fallacies.
1) Measuring what is easy instead of what is important.
2) Measuring many things and then optimizing all of them optimizes the whole.
Then, have some linear thinker try to optimize those in a complex system (like any organization
involving humans) with multiple hidden and delayed feedback loops, and the result will certainly
be unexpected. Whether for good or ill is going to be fairly unpredictable unless someone has
actually looked for the feedback loops.
August 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm
It's nice to see well spelled out a couple of intuitions I've had for a long time. For example,
that we are going in the wrong direction when we try to streamline instead of following the path
of biology: redundancies, "dirtiness" and, of course, the king of mechanisms, negative feedback
(am I wrong in thinking that the main failure of finance, as opposed to economy, is that it has
inbuilt positive feedback instead of negative?). And yes, my professional experience has taught
me that when things go really wrong it was never just one mistake, it is a cluster of those.
August 22, 2015 at 3:52 am
Yes, as you hint here, and I would make forcefully explicit: COMPLEX vs NOT-COMPLEX is a false
dichotomy that is misleading from the start.
We ourselves, and all the organisms we must interact with in order to stay alive, are individually
among the most complex systems that we know of. And the interactions of all of us that add up
to Gaia are yet more complex. And still it moves.
Natural selection built the necessary stability features into our bodily complexity. We even
have a word for it: homeostasis. Based on negative feedback loops that can keep the balancing
act going. And our bodies are vastly more complex than our societies.
Society's problem right now is not complexity per se, but the exploitation of complexity
by system components that want to hog the resources and to hell with the whole, quite exactly
parallel to the behavior of cancer cells in our bodies when regulatory systems fail.
In our society's case, it is the intelligent teamwork of the stupidly selfish that has destroyed
the regulatory systems. Instead of negative feedback keeping deviations from optimum within tolerable
limits, we now have positive feedback so obvious it is trite: the rich get richer.
We not only don't need to de-complexify, we don't dare to. We really need to foster the intelligent
teamwork that our society is capable of, or we will fail to survive challenges like climate change
and the need to sensibly control the population. The alternative is to let natural selection do
the job for us, using the old reliable four horsemen.
We are unlikely to change our own evolved selfishness, and probably shouldn't. But we need
to control the monsters that we have created within our society. These monsters have all the selfishness
of a human at his worst, plus several natural large advantages, including size, longevity, and
the ability to metamorphose and regenerate. And as powerful as they already were, they have recently
been granted all the legal rights of human citizens, without appropriate negative feedback controls.
Everyone here will already know what I'm talking about, so I'll stop.
August 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm
Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.
Actually I believe F1 has rules regarding the number of changes that can be made to a car during
the season. This is typically four or five changes (replacements or rebuilds), so a F1 car has
to be able to run more than one race or otherwise face penalties.
August 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm
Yes, F-1 allows four power planets per-season it has been up dated lately to 5. There isn't
anything in the air or ground as complex as a F-1 car power planet. The cars are feeding 30 or
more engineers at the track and back home normal in England millions of bit of info per second
and no micro-soft is not used but very complex programs watching every system in the car. A pit
stop in F-1 is 2.7 seconds anything above 3.5 and your not trying hard enough.
Honda who pride themselves in Engineering has struggled in power planet design this year and
admit they have but have put more engineers on the case. The beginning of this Tech engine design
the big teams hired over 100 more engineers to solve the problems. Ferrari throw out the first
design and did a total rebuild and it working.
This is how the world of F-1 has moved into other designs, long but a fun read.
I'm sure those in F-1 system designs would look at stories like this and would come to the
conclusion that these nice people are the gate keepers and not the future. Yes, I'm a long time
fan of F-1. Then again what do I know.
The sad thing in F-1 the gate keepers are the owners CVC.
August 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm
Interesting comment! One has to wonder why every complex system can't be treated as the be-all.
Damn the torpedos. Spare no expense! Maybe if we just admitted we are all doing absolutely nothing
but going around in a big circle at an ever increasing speed, we could get a near perfect complex
system to help us along.
August 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm
If the human race were as important as auto racing, maybe. But we know that's not true ;->
August 21, 2015 at 5:51 pm
In the link it's the humans of McLaren that make all the decisions on the car and the race
on hand. The link is about humans working together either in real race time or designing out problems
created by others.
August 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm
Globalization factors in maximizing the impact of Murphy's Law:
- Meltdown potential of a globalized 'too big to fail' financial system associated with trade
imbalances and international capital flows, and boom and bust impact of volatile "hot money".
- Environmental damage associated with inefficiency of excessive long long supply chains
seeking cheap commodities and dirty polluting manufacturing zones.
- Military vulnerability of same long tightly coupled 'just in time" supply chains across
vast oceans, war zones, choke points that are very easy to attack and nearly impossible to
- Consumer product safety threat of manufacturing somewhere offshore out of sight out of
mind outside the jurisdiction of the domestic regulatory system.
- Geographic concentration and contagion of risk of all kinds – fragile pattern of horizontal
integration – manufacturing in China, finance in New York and London, industrialized mono culture
agriculture lacking biodiversity (Iowa feeds the world). If all the bulbs on the Christmas
tree are wired in series, it takes only one to fail and they all go out.
Globalization is not a weather event, not a thermodynamic process of atoms and molecules, not
a principle of Newtonian physics, not water running downhill, but a hyper aggressive top down
policy agenda by power hungry politicians and reckless bean counter economists. An agenda hell
bent on creating a tightly coupled globally integrated unstable house of cards with a proven capacity
for catastrophic (trade) imbalance, global financial meltdown, contagion of bad debt, susceptibility
to physical threats of all kinds.
August 21, 2015 at 1:23 pm
Any complex system contains non-linear feedback. Management presumes it is their skill that
keeps the system working over some limited range, where the behavior approximates linear. Outside
those limits, the system can fail catastrophically. What is perceived as operating or management
skill is either because the system is kept in "safe" limits, or just happenstance. See chaos theory.
Operators or engineers controlling or modifying the system are providing feedback. Feedback
can push the system past "safe" limits. Once past safe limits, the system can fail catastrophically
Such failure happen very quickly, and are always "a surprise".
August 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm
All complex system contain non-linear feedback, and all appear manageable over a small rage
of operation, under specific conditions.
These are the systems' safe working limits, and sometimes the limits are known, but in many
case the safe working limits are unknown (See Stock Markets).
All systems with non-linear feedback can and will fail, catastrophically.
All predicted by Chaos Theory. Best mathematical filed applicable to the real world of systems.
So I'll repeat. All complex system will fail when operating outside safe limits, change in
the system, management induced and stimulus induced, can and will redefine those limits, with
We hope and pray system will remain within safe limits, but greed and complacency lead us humans
to test those limits (loosen the controls), or enable greater levels of feedback (increase volumes
of transactions). See Crash of 2007, following repeal of Glass-Stegal, etc.
August 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm
It's Ronnie Ray Gun. He redefined it as, "Safe for me but not for thee." Who says you can't
isolate the root?
August 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm
Ronnie Ray Gun was the classic example of a Manager.
Where one can only say: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do"
August 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm
Three quite different thoughts:
First, I don't think the use of "practitioner" is an evasion of agency. Instead, it reflects
the very high level of generality inherent in systems theory. The pitfall is that generality is
very close to vagueness. However, the piece does contain an argument against the importance of
agency; it argues that the system is more important than the individual practitioners, that since
catastrophic failures have multiple causes, individual agency is unimportant. That might not apply
to practitioners with overall responsibility or who intentionally wrecked the system; there's
a naive assumption that everyone's doing their best. I think the author would argue that control
fraud is also a system failure, that there are supposed to be safeguards against malicious operators.
Bill Black would probably agree. (Note that I dropped off the high level of generality to a particular
Second, this appears to defy the truism from ecology that more complex systems are more stable.
I think that's because ecologies generally are not tightly coupled. There are not only many parts
but many pathways (and no "practitioners"). So "coupling" is a key concept not much dealt with
in the article. It's about HUMAN systems, even though the concept should apply more widely than
Third, Yves mentioned the economists' use of "equilibrium." This keeps coming up; the way the
word is used seems to me to badly need definition. It comes from chemistry, where it's used to
calculate the production from a reaction. The ideal case is a closed system: for instance, the
production of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen in a closed pressure chamber. You can calculate
the proportion of ammonia produced from the temperature and pressure of the vessel. It's a fairly
fast reaction, so time isn't a big factor.
The Earth is not a closed system, nor are economies. Life is driven by the flow of energy from
the Sun (and various other factors, like the steady rain of material from space). In open systems,
"equilibrium" is a constantly moving target. In principle, you could calculate the results at
any given condition , given long enough for the many reactions to finish. It's as if the potential
equilibrium drives the process (actually, the inputs do).
Not only is the target moving, but the whole system is chaotic in the sense that it's highly
dependent on variables we can't really measure, like people, so the outcomes aren't actually predictable.
That doesn't really mean you can't use the concept of equilibrium, but it has to be used very
carefully. Unfortunately, most economists are pretty ignorant of physical science, so ignorant
they insistently defy the laws of thermodynamics ("groaf"), so there's a lot of magical thinking
going on. It's really ideology, so the misuse of "equilibrium" is just one aspect of the system
August 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm
"equilibrium…from chemistry, where it's used to calculate the production from a reaction"
That is certainly a definition in one scientific field.
There is another definition from physics.
When all the forces that act upon an object are balanced, then the object is said to
be in a state of equilibrium.
However objects on a table are considered in equilibrium, until one considers an earthquake.
The condition for an equilibrium need to be carefully defined, and there are few cases, if
any, of equilibrium "under all conditions."
August 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm
Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out, dear Physicist.
August 21, 2015 at 10:19 pm
Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out
This is only a subset.
August 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm
I avoided physics, being not so very mathematical, so learned the chemistry version – but I
do think it's the one the economists are thinking of.
What I neglected to say: it's an analogy, hence potentially useful but never literally true
– especially since there's no actual stopping point, like your table.
August 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm
There is much simpler way to look at it, in terms of natural cycles, because the alternative
is that at the other extreme, a happy medium is also a flatline on the big heart monitor. So the
bigger it builds, the more tension and pressure accumulates. The issue then becomes as to how
to leverage the consequences. As they say, a crisis should never be wasted. At its heart, there
are two issues, economic overuse of resources and a financial medium in which the rent extraction
has overwhelmed its benefits. These actually serve as some sort of balance, in that we are in
the process of an economic heart attack, due to the clogging of this monetary circulation system,
that will seriously slow economic momentum.
The need then is to reformulate how these relationships function, in order to direct and locate
our economic activities within the planetary resources. One idea to take into consideration being
that money functions as a social contract, though we treat it as a commodity. So recognizing it
is not property to be collected, rather contracts exchanged, then there wouldn't be the logic
of basing the entire economy around the creation and accumulation of notational value, to the
detriment of actual value. Treating money as a public utility seems like socialism, but it is
just an understanding of how it functions. Like a voucher system, simply creating excess notes
to keep everyone happy is really, really stupid, big picture wise.
Obviously some parts of the system need more than others, but not simply for ego gratification.
Like a truck needs more road than a car, but an expensive car only needs as much road as an economy
car. The brain needs more blood than the feet, but it doesn't want the feet rotting off due to
poor circulation either.
So basically, yes, complex systems are finite, but we need to recognize and address the particular
issues of the system in question.
August 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Perhaps in a too-quick scan of the comments, I overlooked any mention of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's
book, Antifragile. If so, my apologies. If not, it's a serious omission from this discussion.
Local to Oakland
August 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm
Thank you for this.
I first wondered about something related to this theme when I first heard about just in time
sourcing of inventory. (Now also staff.) I wondered then whether this was possible because we
(middle and upper class US citizens) had been shielded from war and other catastrophic events.
We can plan based on everything going right because most of us don't know in our gut that things
can always go wrong.
I'm genX, but 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were born during or just after WWI. Their generation
built for redundancy, safety, stability. Our generation, well. We take risks and I'm not sure
the decision makers have a clue that any of it can bite them.
August 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm
The just-in-time supply of components for manufacturing was described in Barry Lynn's book
"Cornered" and identified as creating extreme fragility in the American production system. There
have already been natural disasters that shutdown American automobile production in our recent
Everything going right wasn't part of the thinking that went into just-in-time parts. Everything
going right - long enough - to steal away market share on price-point was the thinking. Decision
makers don't worry about any of this biting them. Passing the blame down and golden parachutes
August 21, 2015 at 7:44 pm
This is really a very good paper. My direct comments are:
point 2: yes. provided the safety shields are not discarded for bad reasons like expedience
or ignorance or avarice. See Glass-Steagall Act, for example.
point 4: yes. true of all dynamic systems.
point 7: 'root cause' is not the same as 'key factors'. ( And here the doctor's sensitivity
to malpractice suits may be guiding his language.) It is important to determine key factors in
order to devise better safety shields for the system. Think airplane black boxes and the 1932
Pecora Commission after the 1929 stock market crash.
August 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm
It's easy, complexity became too complex. And I can't read the small print. We are devolving
into a world of happy people with gardens full of flowers that they live in on their cell phones.
August 22, 2015 at 5:22 am
There are a number of counter-examples; engineered and natural systems with a high degree of
complexity that are inherently stable and fault-tolerant, nonetheless.
1. Subsumption architecture is a method of controlling robots, invented by Rodney
Brooks in the 1980s. This scheme is modeled on the way the nervous systems of animals work. In
particular, the parts of the robot exist in a hierarchy of subsystems, e.g., foot, leg, torso,
etc. Each of these subsystems is autonomously controlled. Each of the subsystems can override
the autonomous control of its constituent subsystems. So, the leg controller can directly control
the leg muscle, and can override the foot subsystem. This method of control was remarkably successful
at producing walking robots which were not sensitive to unevenness of the surface. In other words,
the were not brittle in the sense of Dr. Cook. Of course, subsumption architecture is not a panacea.
But it is a demonstrated way to produce very complex engineered systems consisting of many interacting
parts that are very stable.
2. The inverted pendulum Suppose you wanted to build a device to balance a pencil
on its point. You could imagine a sensor to detect the angle of the pencil, an actuator to move
the balance point, and a controller to link the two in a feedback loop. Indeed, this is, very
roughly, how a Segway remains upright. However, there is a simpler way to do it, without a sensor
or a feedback controller. It turns out that if your device just moves the balance point sinusoidaly
(e.g., in a small circle) and if the size of the circle and the rate are within certain ranges,
then the pencil will be stable. This is a well-known consequence of the Mathieu equation. The
lesson here is that stability (i.e., safety) can be inherent in systems for subtle reasons that
defy a straightforward fault/response feedback.
3. Emergent behavior of swarms Large numbers of very simple agents interacting with
one another can sometimes exhibit complex, even "intelligent" behavior. Ants are a good example.
Each ant has only simple behavior. However, the entire ant colony can act in complex and effective
ways that would be hard to predict from the individual ant behaviors. A typical ant colony is
highly resistant to disturbances in spite of the primitiveness of its constituent ants.
4. Another example is the mammalian immune system that uses negative selection as
one mechanism to avoid attacking the organism itself. Immature B cells are generated in large
numbers at random, each one with receptors for specifically configured antigens. During maturation,
if they encounter a matching antigen (likely a protein of the organism) then the B cell either
dies, or is inactivated. At maturity, what is left is a highly redundant cohort of B cells that
only recognize (and neutralize) foreign antigens.
Well, these are just a few examples of systems that exhibit stability (or fault-tolerance)
that defies the kind of Cartesian analysis in Dr. Cook's article.
August 22, 2015 at 11:42 am
Glass-Steagall Act: interactions between unrelated functionality is something to be avoided.
Auto recall: honking the horn could stall the engine by shorting out the ignition system. Simple
fix is is a bit of insulation.
ADA software language: Former DOD standard for large scale safety critical software development:
encapsulation, data hiding, strong typing of data, minimization of dependencies between parts
to minimize impact of fixes and changes. Has safety critical software gone the way of the Glass-Steagall
Act? Now it is buffer overflows, security holes, and internet protocol in hardware control "critical
infrastructure" that can blow things up.
"...Metadata revealing the personal associations
and interests of ordinary Internet users is still being intercepted and monitored on a scale
unprecedented in history: As you read this online, the United States government makes a note."
"...A democracy cannot abandon it's responsibility to consider the rights and freedom of it's
citizens as the highest purpose of law. When an agency assumes to protect with secrets and monitor
the very people it has been paid and entrusted, to protect, the contract with the public is broken.
Mass surveillance is a tool of the totalitarian state and does not belong in a free society, it's
effectiveness is not the issue."
"...Privacy is something that is often ignored, treated as a right but without having true
value. The true value is only appreciated when it has gone.
The surveillance society has not gone away, indeed, it will only progress as technology becomes more
adapt at tracking us, detecting the softest of footprints, both in the real world and online.
However, at least we're talking about it now."
"... Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is
no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say."
MOSCOW - TWO years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel
room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security
Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that
followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments
had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong.
Within days, the United States government responded by bringing charges against me under World
War I-era espionage laws. The journalists were advised by lawyers that they risked arrest or
subpoena if they returned to the United States. Politicians raced to condemn our efforts as
un-American, even treasonous.
Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at
risk for nothing - that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the
Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong.
Two years on, the difference is profound. In a single month, the N.S.A.'s invasive
call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White
House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single
terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its
disclosure has now ordered it terminated.
This is the power of an informed public.
Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic
victory for the rights of every citizen, but it is only the latest product of a change in global
awareness. Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal
and imposed new restrictions on future activities. The United Nations declared mass surveillance
an unambiguous violation of human rights. In Latin America, the efforts of citizens in Brazil led
to the Marco Civil, an Internet Bill of Rights. Recognizing the critical role of informed
citizens in correcting the excesses of government, the Council of Europe called for new laws to
Beyond the frontiers of law, progress has come even more quickly. Technologists have worked
tirelessly to re-engineer the security of the devices that surround us, along with the language
of the Internet itself. Secret flaws in critical infrastructure that had been exploited by
governments to facilitate mass surveillance have been detected and corrected. Basic technical
safeguards such as encryption - once considered esoteric and unnecessary - are now enabled by
default in the products of pioneering companies like Apple, ensuring that even if your phone is
stolen, your private life remains private. Such structural technological changes can ensure
access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage
of anti-privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia.
Though we have come a long way, the right to privacy - the foundation of the freedoms
enshrined in the United States Bill of Rights - remains under threat. Some of the world's most
popular online services have been enlisted as partners in the N.S.A.'s mass surveillance
programs, and technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work
against their customers rather than for them. Billions of cellphone location records are still
being intercepted without regard for the guilt or innocence of those affected. We have learned
that our government intentionally weakens the fundamental security of the Internet with "back
doors" that transform private lives into open books. Metadata revealing the personal associations
and interests of ordinary Internet users is still being intercepted and monitored on a scale
unprecedented in history: As you read this online, the United States government makes a note.
Spymasters in Australia, Canada and France have exploited recent tragedies to seek intrusive
new powers despite evidence such programs would not have prevented attacks. Prime Minister David
Cameron of Britain recently mused, "Do we want to allow a means of communication between people
which we cannot read?" He soon found his answer, proclaiming that "for too long, we have been a
passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: As long as you obey the law, we will leave
At the turning of the millennium, few imagined that citizens of developed democracies would
soon be required to defend the concept of an open society against their own leaders.
Yet the balance of power is beginning to shift. We are witnessing the emergence of a
post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first
time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from
reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change
in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that
the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.
Edward J. Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and National Security Agency
contractor, is a director of the
Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Dan Whittet, New England
A democracy cannot abandon it's responsibility to consider the rights and freedom of
it's citizens as the highest purpose of law. When an agency assumes to protect with secrets
and monitor the very people it has been paid and entrusted, to protect, the contract with the
public is broken. Mass surveillance is a tool of the totalitarian state and does not belong in
a free society, it's effectiveness is not the issue.
Greg Day, New Zealand
Privacy is something that is often ignored, treated as a right but without having true
value. The true value is only appreciated when it has gone.
The surveillance society has not gone away, indeed, it will only progress as technology
becomes more adapt at tracking us, detecting the softest of footprints, both in the real world
and online. However, at least we're talking about it now.
I'm not sure how the US views you Edward, but I at least consider you have done a service to
humanity. Thank you.
MCS, New York 18 hours ago
Mr. Snowden, you've been called a man without a country. But you're more accurately a man
without a generation. Your generation who voluntarily live their lives tapping senseless bits
of information about their self inflated lives onto apps for the world to own. All this while
people go to war, people suffer, innocent people are killed, fundamental human dignities are
abused. Yet, hardly a blip of a response at all from this anti-activist generation. It is the
generation of people in their 40's and 50's that are demanding change.
The Facebook generation aren't socially nor politically active. They're self absorbed group
of anti-intellects in a race to the bottom. In fact, I find it hypocritical that anyone from
that generation should be outraged over government intrusion when a mass of them are
positively hooked on social media, posting every excruciatingly boring detail of their lives,
details that seem to know no boundaries.
We have a growing problem on our hand, a divide not only between haves and have nots, but
secular and religious societies respectively. The admirable beliefs you stand by, beliefs that
changed the course of your life, don't offer an answer to what to do about a multiplying
population of angry extremists raised in countries that guarantee no freedoms at all for its
citizens. They will exploit our demands for privacy to cause great harm one day. A balance in
your theories, not extreme suspicion of government is what's needed here.
Anne Hills, Portland, Maine 14 hours ago
I'd argue that Snowden's best quote is: "Arguing that you don't care about the right to
privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free
speech because you have nothing to say."
I feel that the NRA has perhaps been the most effective organization in history at convincing
their members that a "slippery slope" is to be feared above all things, and that the loss of
even the smallest gun rights for the most worthwhile of reasons, is in fact unacceptable.
We need their kind of effectiveness in spreading understanding to all Americans who don't get
it yet - that there is in fact a dangerous slippery slope when fundamental freedoms are truly
lost. Your right to private letters, private conversations is not about hiding criminal acts,
it's about preventing people in positions of authority from being able to manipulate you or
the person you would elect or the person you have already elected. An all-knowing government
has historically been oppressive. Why oh why do people fail to see that it could happen to us?
It's the "it happens to others but not me" mentality.
Thank you so very much Mr. Snowden. Unless President Obama is being threatened by the NSA not
to, let's hope that he will pardon Mr. Snowden. I can't think of anyone in American history
more deserving due to service to his countrymen.
Arthur Layton, Mattapoisett, MA 18 hours ago
The idea that we can live private lives is absurd. If you use a cell phone, someone knows
where you are (or have been) and records who you called. If you use a credit card, there is a
permanent record of the date, time and location of your purchase. And video cameras are
everywhere, from bank lobbies to grocery store, gas stations and office buildings.
If you want privacy today, stop using your cell phone. Pay cash for your purchases,
"unregister" to vote and don't renew your driver's license.
...Politicians and editors look for opportunities to step up its campaign for the accession to
NATO, and in the spring of 2016, the parliament is expected to approve a host-country agreements
that make it easier for NATO to with Swedish permission to use our territory as a base for
military activities, "including the attack", "in peace, emergencies, crisis and conflict or
Everything appears to be – and sold – as a speedy response to Russian aggression. Sweden and
other countries are prepared after the end of the cold war in the belief that European peace was
secured. But the president saw in our kindness as a weakness and took the opportunity to obtain
tear up a security order that has prevailed for decades.
The story goes is repeated again and again every day in our media. Vladimir Putin, with the
annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine have shown "that he does not
respect the European order that had been in place since the second world war and statutes that
borders cannot be changed by force", writes, for example, the Daily News, in an editorial on
Such an argument is a deliberate memory gap. MSM presstitutes push the button "forget" and
suddenly a decade of war in the former Yugoslavia erased from the public consciousness.
We can argue about reasons and circumstances of intervention, but it is undeniable that the
USA, NATO and EU countries intervened using military force to redraw the map of the Balkans. The
leadership in Moscow has thus set a precedent to cite. Putin reiterates at the conflicts with
Georgia and Ukraine, word-for-word the reasons the western powers claimed for the bombing of
Serbia and the recognition of cessation of Kosovo.
But the right to put himself above the principles of the inviolability of borders and
non-interference in other countries ' internal affairs is in our official propaganda worldview a
privilege reserved for the "international community", which is in reality the United States and
its entourage of small and medium-sized European satellites. International law applies to all
other states, but not for the United States, NATO and the EU.
NATO expanded in 1999 their mutual defense obligations to include global dangers
such as terrorism and the "disruption of the flow of vital resources", and in 2003, the EU
adopted its first security strategy, inspired by the Bush doctrine on the right to preventive war
against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction: "With the new threats the first line of
defense will often be abroad ... We need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early,
rapid, and when necessary, robust intervention."
It was the doctrine of the first line of defense – not the dreams of peace, who guided the
Swedish defense military industrial complex. Territorial defense was abandoned at the end of the
1990s, literally send to the junkyard. What was left was prestigious military projects in
industry and the individual units of professional soldiers trained for NATO operations in foreign
countries. The restructuring was led by a consulting firm from the united states, closely tied to
the Pentagon, the NSA and the CIA. The armed forces would prepare for "global action -
especially in the continents of the world in which Sweden has a vital economic and/or political
interests," the consultants wrote in a secret report.
"Sweden's role as a regional power in the Baltic sea changed from neutrality to leadership",
was said. Now for some reason "koalitionskrigföring and Sweden's ability to operate in
collaboration with organizations such as NATO ... get a new and greater significance". This was
written in 1998, long before the war in Ukraine.
When the U.S. interest in the Arctic and the north flank, now rising to the fore the plans.
Sweden becomes a bridgehead in the quest to penetrate back to Russia. Gotland will again be
anchored, Russian submarines tops the news and B-52 bombers taking over the sky.
The major powers have never hesitated to tramp the UN-principles, but with the doctrine of the
preventive intervention there is nothing left of the respect of all the member states'
sovereignty. If NATO considers itself have the right to place a first line of defense in
Afghanistan or Libya, then does not Russia the same rights in Ukraine?
The Russian leadership will see in the western privilege for preemptive interventions a
precedent. Europe is sinking into a black hole that draws misfortune of countries and people.
Several politicians, editors, and the military now proclaim that that we should jump in, leave
the last of the neutrality and comply with NATO going directly into the black hole. Multiyear
efforts of dragging the country into the the alliance, shall result in the membership.
We should do the opposite. Pull us out. Keep us away. Say yes to the exclusion.
It reduces the risk that our own government or the foreign power will drag us into the war.
But not only that. Swedish neutrality is also an opening for the people in eastern Europe who are
looking for a rescue out of the tug-of-war between the Russian oil and gas barons, domestic
oligarchs and western financial oligarchs.
Being outside zone of US protectorate, we can jointly deal with the social issues.
More can be read about the NATO mutual försvarsförpliktelser in "The Alliance's Strategic
Concept, Approved by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North
Atlantic Council in Washington, D. C., 990424".
The text was written in 1998 is available in the "SAIC: Perspective Study Dominant? Awareness
2020", Final Report, September 2, 1998, For The Swedish High Command, p. 5, 7
Submitted by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,
"If we're training cops as soldiers, giving them equipment like soldiers, dressing them up
as soldiers, when are they going to pick up the mentality
of soldiers? If you look at the police department, their creed is to protect and to serve.
A soldier's mission is to engage his enemy in close combat and kill him. Do we want police officers
to have that mentality? Of course not."
- Arthur Rizer, former civilian police officer and member
of the military
Talk about poor timing. Then again, perhaps it's brilliant timing.
Only now-after the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense
have passed off
billions of dollars worth of military equipment to local police forces, after police agencies
trained in the fine art of war, after SWAT team raids have swelled in number to more than 80,000
a year, after it has become second nature for
local police to look and act like soldiers, after communities have become
acclimated to the presence of militarized
police patrolling their streets, after Americans have been taught compliance at the end of a
police gun or taser, after lower income neighborhoods have been
transformed into war zones, after hundreds if not thousands of unarmed Americans have lost their
lives at the hands of police who shoot first and ask questions later, after a
whole generation of young Americans has learned to march in lockstep with the government's dictates-only
now does President Obama lift a hand to
limit the number
of military weapons being passed along to local police departments.
Not all, mind you, just some.
Talk about too little, too late.
Months after the
White House defended a federal program that distributed $18 billion worth of military equipment to
local police, Obama has announced that he will ban the federal government from providing local
police departments with tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade
launchers, camouflage uniforms and large-caliber firearms.
Obama also indicated that less heavy-duty equipment (armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot
gear and specialized firearms and ammunition) will reportedly be
subject to more regulations such as local government approval, and police being required to undergo
more training and collect data on the equipment's use. Perhaps hoping to sweeten the deal, the Obama
administration is also offering $163 million in taxpayer-funded grants to "incentivize
police departments to adopt the report's recommendations."
While this is a grossly overdue first step of sorts, it is nevertheless a first step from
an administration that has been
complicit in accelerating the transformation of America's police forces into extensions of the military.
Indeed, as investigative journalist Radley Balko points out, while the Obama administration
has said all the right things about the need to scale back on a battlefield mindset, it has
all the wrong things to perpetuate the problem:
- distributed equipment designed for use on the battlefield to local police departments,
- provided private grants to communities to incentivize SWAT team raids,
- redefined "community policing" to reflect aggressive police tactics and funding a nationwide
COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program that has contributed to dramatic rise in SWAT
- encouraged the distribution of DHS anti-terror grants and the growth of "contractors that
now cater to police agencies looking to cash DHS checks in exchange for battle-grade gear,"
- ramped up the use of military-style raids to crack down on immigration laws and target "medical
marijuana growers, shops, and dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug,"
- defended as "reasonable" aggressive, militaristic police tactics in cases where police raided
a guitar shop in defense of an obscure environmental law, raided a home looking for a woman who
had defaulted on her student loans, and terrorized young children during a raid on the wrong house
based on a mistaken license plate,
- and ushered in an era of outright highway robbery in which asset forfeiture laws have been
used to swindle Americans out of cash, cars, houses, or other property that government agents
can "accuse" of being connected to a crime.
It remains to be seen whether this overture on Obama's part, coming in the midst of heightened
tensions between the nation's police forces and the populace they're supposed to protect, opens the
door to actual reform or is merely a political gambit to appease the masses all the while further
the populace to life in a police state.
Certainly, on its face, it does nothing to ease the misery of the police state that has been foisted
upon us. In fact, Obama's belated gesture of concern does little to roll back the
deadly menace of overzealous police agencies corrupted by money, power and institutional immunity.
And it certainly fails to recognize the
terrible toll that has been inflicted on our communities, our fragile ecosystem of a democracy,
and our freedoms as a result of the government's determination to bring the war home.
young black man guilty of nothing more than running away from brutish police officers be any
safer in the wake of Obama's edict? It's unlikely.
old man reaching for his cane have a lesser chance of being shot? It's doubtful.
Will the little
girl asleep under her princess blanket live to see adulthood when a SWAT team crashes through
her door? I wouldn't count on it.
It's a safe bet that our little worlds will be no safer following Obama's pronouncement and the
release of his
"Task Force on 21st Century Policing" report. In fact, there is a very good chance that life
in the American police state will become even more perilous.
Among the report's 50-page list of recommendations is a call for more police officer boots on
the ground, training for police "on the importance of de-escalation of force," and "positive
non-enforcement activities" in high-crime communities to promote trust in the police such as
sending an ice cream truck across the city.
Curiously, nowhere in the entire 120-page report is there a mention of the Fourth Amendment, which demands
that the government respect citizen privacy and bodily integrity. The Constitution is referenced
once, in the Appendix, in relation to Obama's authority as president. And while the word "constitutional"
is used 15 times within the body of the report, its use provides little assurance that the Obama
administration actually understands the clear prohibitions against government overreach as enshrined
in the U.S. Constitution.
For instance, in the section of the report on the use of technology and social media, the report
notes: "Though all constitutional guidelines must be maintained in the performance of law enforcement
duties, the legal framework
(warrants, etc.) should continue to protect law enforcement access to data obtained from cell
phones, social media, GPS, and other sources, allowing officers to detect, prevent, or respond to
Translation: as I document in my book
America: The War on the American People, the new face of policing in America is
about to shift from waging its war on the American people using primarily the weapons of the battlefield
to the evermore-sophisticated technology of the battlefield where government surveillance of our
everyday activities will be even more invasive.
This emphasis on technology, surveillance and social media is nothing new. In much the same way
the federal government used taxpayer-funded grants to "gift" local police agencies with military
weapons and equipment, it is also funding the distribution of technology aimed at making it easier
for police to monitor, track and spy on Americans. For instance, license plate readers, stingray
devices and fusion centers are all
funded by grants from the DHS.
Funding for drones at the state and local levels also comes from the federal government, which
in turn accesses the data acquired by the drones for its own uses.
If you're noticing a pattern here, it is one in which the federal government is not merely transforming
local police agencies into extensions of itself but is in fact federalizing them, turning them into
a national police force that answers not to "we the people" but to the Commander in Chief. Yet the
American police force is not supposed to be a branch of the military, nor is it a private security
force for the reigning political faction. It is supposed to be an aggregation of the countless local
civilian units that exist for a sole purpose: to serve and protect the citizens of each and every
So where does that leave us?
There's certainly no harm in embarking on a
on the dangers of militarized police, but if that's all it amounts to-words that sound good on paper
and in the press but do little to actually respect our rights and restore our freedoms-then we're
just playing at politics with no intention of actually bringing about reform.
Despite the Obama Administration's lofty claims of wanting to "ensure that
public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence
of justice," this is the reality we must contend with right now:
Americans still have no real protection against police abuse. Americans
still have no right to self-defense in the face of SWAT teams mistakenly crashing through
our doors, or police officers who
shoot faster than they can reason. Americans are still
no longer innocent until
proven guilty. Americans still don't have a right to private property.
Americans are still
powerless in the face of militarized police.
Americans still don't have a
Americans still don't have a right to the
expectation of privacy.
Americans are still being acclimated to a police
state through the steady use and sight of military drills domestically, a heavy militarized police
presence in public places and in the schools, and a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign aimed
at reassuring the public that the police are our "friends." And to top it all off, Americans
still can't rely on the courts, Congress or the White House to mete out justice when
our rights are violated by police.
To sum it all up: the problems we're grappling with have been building
for more than 40 years. They're not going to go away overnight, and they certainly will
not be resolved by a report that instructs the police to simply adopt different tactics to accomplish
the same results-i.e., maintain the government's power, control and wealth at all costs.
This is the sad reality of life in the American police state.
There is a lot to praise in the powerful ruling issued by a three-judge federal appeals panel
in New York on Thursday, which held that the government's vast, continuing and, until recently,
secret sweep of Americans' phone records is illegal.
But perhaps the most important message the unanimous decision sends is a simple one: Congress
could not have intended to approve a program whose true scope almost no one outside the National
Security Agency fully comprehended - that is, until Edward Snowden leaked its details to the
In the nearly two years since those revelations shocked America and started a heated debate on
the proper balance of privacy and national security, the N.S.A., which conducts the data sweeps,
has defended its actions by contending that Congress knew exactly what it was doing when it
reauthorized the Patriot Act in 2010 and 2011, after the collection program had begun.
At issue before the appeals panel was Section 215 of the act, which permits the government to
collect information that is "relevant" to terrorism investigations. But the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court, at the urging of the N.S.A., has interpreted "relevant" so broadly that it
gives the government essentially unlimited power to collect all phone and other types of data.
In fighting this lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union immediately after the
Snowden leaks, the government argued that Congress was apparently fine with this alarmingly broad
The problem, as Judge Gerard Lynch of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rightly pointed out in
his 97-page opinion, is that "it is a far stretch to say that Congress was aware" of what the
intelligence court was doing. To the contrary, Judge Lynch wrote, "knowledge of the program was
intentionally kept to a minimum, both within Congress and among the public," and there was "no
opportunity for broad discussion" about whether the court's interpretation was correct. Allowing
the government to define "relevant" so loosely, he said, "would be an unprecedented contraction
of the privacy expectations of all Americans."
It is particularly galling that the government cannot even point to evidence that any terrorist
attack has been thwarted by the collection of all this data. But even if it could, the panel
said, "we would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and
expressed in unmistakable language."
For too long that debate did not happen, nor could it, since the intelligence court operated in
near-total secrecy. Now, thanks to Mr. Snowden (who still lives in exile in Russia), the debate
is well underway, and not a moment too soon, since Congress is debating reauthorization of
Section 215, which is scheduled to expire on June 1.
Bipartisan bills in both houses would amend the law to cut back on domestic phone-data sweeps,
but they do not address bulk collection of overseas calls, which could include information about
Americans, and they do not establish an advocate to represent the public's interest before the
Without such an advocate, Judge Robert Sack wrote in a concurring opinion, the court "may be
subject to the understandable suspicion that, hearing only from the government, it is likely to
be strongly inclined to rule for the government."
Unfortunately, even modest reforms face resistance from top Republicans, including the Senate
majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who on Thursday called for the law to be renewed without
change. In doing so, they ignored a ruling that is the most important rebuke yet of the
government's abuses under that law.
ScottW, is a trusted commenter Chapel Hill, NC 1 hour ago
We must never forget the government lied to us about spying on Americans before Snowden
blew the whistle. Director of Intel James Clapper admitted he lied to the People when he
testified under oath the NSA was not collecting data from American's calls. When he lied,
Congress knew it, the President knew it and Clapper knew it.
Snowden exposed the lie and the government immediately indicted him while Obama expressed
support for Clapper who lied to the public.
Why should we ever trust what the government tells us about surveillance programs? Why is
James Clapper still receiving a taxpayer's check after lying to us? Why doesn't Pres. Obama
get it -- you don't lie and get away with it?
Oh yah, Pres. Obama knew he was lying when he testified and was hoping he could get away with
Thank you Mr. Snowden for exposing the lies perpetrated on the public. In a just World,
Clapper would be indicted and you would be welcomed home as a Patriot. But as you know first
hand, we don't live in a just world.
Thank you Mr. Snowden for exposing the liars for who they are.
RC, is a trusted commenter MN 2 hours ago
Good editorial; the unconstitutional surveillance of all domestic communications, not just
phone records, should now be addressed.
Holding the politicians who authorize and support unconstitutional surveillance accountable
might help to end the massive wasting of taxpayer dollars on these inefficient activities,
which diverts funds from more productive programs that would benefit the security of our
... ... ..
The term "fascism" was initially defined as a local phenomenon - the regime of Italian dictator
Benito Mussolini. Later, the term changed its meaning and has become synonymous with Nazism (national
socialism) of the Third Reich. During 1950-1990-Western political science began to call fascism any
repressive regime and introduced the term "totalitarianism". This was done in order to combine Nazism
and communism, those two social phenomenon were ideologically polar and has had a different social
base despite using similar cruel methods.--[ I do not see much difference
in enslavement via Gulag with ensavement via decration of undermench -- NNB] In
one case, the the driving force was large industrialists and the middle class, in another - mostly
the urban poor and part of intelligencia, especially Jewish intelligencia.
The theory of binary totalitarianism has no serious scientific status. The term "fascism" has
now been returned to its historical meaning. It is a synonym of racism and all of its varieties -
crops-racism (the idea of cultural superiority), the social racism (the idea of social inequality
as the nature of this division of people into masters and slaves), etc.
Usually researchers try to distill the signs of fascism. For example, the Italian philosopher
Umberto Eco counted 14. But this approach only blurs the subject. The myth of superiority is a key
symptom. The rest is optional. Additional definitions are generated by the desire to "attach" to
fascism more than that.
For example, "nationalism". Normal people are proud of their nation and its culture, but do not
seek to destroy other peoples. This is the difference between nationalism and Nazism.
Or "traditionalism". If fascism were based in the traditions of the peoples, then some nations
would have dwelt for centuries in the fascist state of fever. Tradition is the enemy of the "voice
of blood", and there is no logic of exclusion of other people in traditions, while fascism lives
this logic . Not coincidentally, he is associated with the Protestant line in Christianity and its
idea of "chosen for salvation". Apart from the idea of exclusiveness, fascism is born with the spirit
of renewal, the destruction of the weak and "unnecessary" for the sake of winning power, novelty
and rationality. I repeat: tradition is the main enemy of fascism.
The idea of a strong state accompanies fascism, but does not define it. The Olympics of 1936,
"Olympia" by Leni Riefenstahl are symbols of a strong statehood. But Hitler's fascism was not
defined by the Olympics, but by the Nuremberg racial laws, summary execution of Slavs, Jews and Gypsies,
the plans of the colonization of the Eastern territories.
Yes, the war of 1941-1945 was the war between two authoritarian States, but only from the German
side it was an ethnic war. There were no intentions to carry out the genocide of "inferior Aryans"
in minds of Soviet soldiers or Joseph Stalin.
In Europe in recent decades, it was fashionable to talk about fascism as "a reaction to Bolshevism".
Indeed, the growing influence of leftist ideas in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century
caused activation of right-wing forces. But the roots of fascism are more ancient then Marxist and
Bolshevik. Fascism arose as a justification for colonial expansion. Hitler didn't invent anything
new. He just moved to the center of Europe bloody colonialist methods of the British, the French,
the Spaniards, and made the destruction of people fast and technically perfect: gas chambers, mass
graves. In a way fascism is application of colonial methods to the part of population of the country,
internal colonization so to speak.
The regime of the 1930-ies in Germany is the legitimate child of the European liberal capitalism.
But this conclusion is seriously injures European sense of identity. That's why this statement is a strict
taboo in the West --[not really, the hypothesis of intrinsic connection
of fascism with European (colonial) culture are pretty common --NNB]. But the truth
eventually comes out. Authors from European left now more frequently touch this connection and try
to develop this hypothesis.
Today we are witnessing a return to archaization of neoliberal society and slide of neoliberalism
into "new barbarism." Hence the reasoning of the European politicians about Ukraine as an "Outpost
of civilization". However, the assertion that Russia "does not meet democratic standards", those
days unlikely will deceive anyone. Euphemisms is a product of distortion of the language, not political
reality. This phrase marks Russia as a "defective" state, inhabited by "inferior" people - "watniks",
"colorado bugs". Neo-fascist model within the framework of liberalism is often built by shifting the boundaries
of tolerance. To some people tolerance applies, to other - no. The protection of the rights of one
group in this case means the destruction of the rights of another.
Political myth about the deep opposition between liberalism and Nazism have always refuted by
independent historians. Today this myth is completely discredited.
There are obvious interplay and close relationship between the two ideas - fascist and liberal
- obviously. They both go back to the idea of natural selection, transferred to human society. In
other words, the strongest must survive at the expense of the weakest. this doctrine is often called
"Social Darwinism". Indeed, the principle of "preservation of the fittest races", transposed into
social sciences, resulted in the adoption of the Nuremberg laws designed to protect the "purity of
race and blood" - the "law of the citizen of the Reich" and "Law on the protection of German blood
and German honor."
The return of fascism is a symptom of a certain historical tendencies. To such radical measures
economic elites resort only for the postponement of the final world crisis. But in the end it is
fascism that might again bring Western societies to the wedge of collapse.
The US elite does not like the message and thus is ready to kill the messenger... See
Snowden interview with Katrina van den Heuvel and Stephen F Cohen at the
Nation. Another interesting idea is the in the quote of Bruce Wilder: " classification as a mechanism for broadcasting information is exactly
right, and a revelation, at least to me."
article in the new issue of The National Interest looking at various liberal critiques
of Snowden and Greenwald, and finding them wanting. CT readers will have seen some of the arguments
in earlier form; I think that they're stronger when they are joined together (and certainly they
should be better written; it's nice to have the time to write a proper essay). I don't imagine that
the various people whom I take on will be happy, but they shouldn't be; they're guilty of some quite
wretched writing and thinking. More than anything else, like
dismayed at the current low quality of mainstream liberal thinking. A politician wishes for her adversaries
to be stupid, that they will make blunders. An intellectual wishes for her adversaries to be brilliant,
that they will find the holes in her own arguments and oblige her to remedy them. I aspire towards
the latter, not the former, but I'm not getting my wish.
Over the last fifteen months, the columns and op-ed pages of the New York Times and the Washington
Post have bulged with the compressed flatulence of commentators intent on dismissing warnings
about encroachments on civil liberties. Indeed, in recent months soi-disant liberal intellectuals
such as Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley have employed the Edward Snowden affair
to mount a fresh series of attacks. They claim that Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and those associated
with them neither respect democracy nor understand political responsibility.
These claims rest on willful misreading, quote clipping and the systematic evasion of crucial
questions. Yet their problems go deeper than sloppy practice and shoddy logic.
Rich Puchalsky 10.27.14 at 11:03 pm
"Yet this does not disconcert much of the liberal media elite. Many writers who used
to focus on bashing Bush for his transgressions now direct their energies against those who
are sounding alarms about the pervasiveness of the national-security state."
It's not just the elite. I can't wait for the Lawyers, Guns, and Money get-out-the-vote
drive. We'll have to see whether the slogan is "Vote, Stupid Purity Trolls" or "The Lesser
Evil Commands". Maybe just two-tone signs labeling their target voters "Dope" and "Deranged".
Dr. Hilarius 10.27.14 at 11:44 pm
An excellent analysis and summation.
Any defense of the national security state requires the proponent to show, at a minimum, that
the present apparatus is competent at its task. Having lived through Vietnam, the Gulf Wars,
Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention many smaller governmental adventures) I see no evidence
of competence. Instead, it's repetitive failures of analysis and imagination no matter how
much raw intelligence is gathered.
Nor is there any evidence that existing oversight mechanisms function as intended. Recent
revelations about the CIA spying on the Senate should be enough to dispel the idea that
leakers have no role to play.
Kinsley is particularly loathsome. His position is little more than "your betters know best"
and that the state's critics are guttersnipes needing to be kicked to the curb. Kinsley
doesn't need a coherent position, his goal is to be a spokesman for the better sorts, nothing
Collin Street 10.27.14 at 11:53 pm
Any defense of the national security state requires the proponent to show, at a minimum,
that the present apparatus is competent at its task
Dunning-Kruger, innit. There are actually pretty good reasons to believe that strategic
intelligence-gathering is pretty much pointless (because your strategic limitations and
abilities by-definition permeate your society and are thus clearly visible through open
sources), so you'd expect in that case that the only people who'd support secret strategic
intelligence-gathering would be people who don't have a fucking clue.
[specifically, I suspect that secret strategic intelligence gathering is particularly
attractive to people who lack the ability to discern people's motivations and ability through
normal face-to-face channels and the like…
… which is to say people with empathy problems. Which is something that crops up in other
contexts and may help explain certain political tendencies intelligence agencies tend to
Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 12:03 am
This sentence is false and a willful distortion mixing legality and politics to elide the
basic fact that the Justice Department has not prosecuted anyone who did not break the law:
The continued efforts of U.S. prosecutors to redefine the politics of leaking so as to
indict journalists as well as their sources suggest that Greenwald had every right to be
worried and angry.
Meanwhile, ever since Mark Felt blew the whistle on a psychopath and the result was the
deification of Bob Woodward, the American elite has been utterly confused about the role of
journalism in a democracy.
That your essay mixes Professor Wilentz with the father of #Slatepitch, and an archetypical
"even the liberal New Republic…" journalist as if they all had the same job description is
part and parcel of this ongoing inability to separate the job of selling newspapers from the
job of public intellectual.
Glenn Greenwald is a "journalist" crank who is simply not in a category that overlaps with
Daniel Ellsberg. Snowden is in the same category as Ellsberg, and Packer is right to note that
he does not compare particularly well. But then Packer's analysis failed to explain why
Snowden needed the judgment and gravitas of Ellsburg. And it was a side point in any case,
because Packer's actual thesis was the sublimely stupid point that only "objective" journalism
can be trusted to do leaks right.
The other unfortunate confusion I see in the essay is the mixing of domestic and foreign
policy. There is not a single thing about the New Deal that informs opinion about Edward
Snowden. Nothing. What does regulating poultry production have to do with killing Iraqis? What
does the Civilian Conservation Core have to do with drone strikes in Pakistan? The Four
Freedom speech was a pivot from domestic to foreign policy given in 1941. Freedom from Want
was the New Deal. Freedom of Speech was about the looming conflict with fascism, not domestic
Both confusions–the failure to recognize journalists as pawns selling newspapers and the
failure to understand that foreign policy and liberalism do not have to be linked–result when
the blind spots of the press and the academy overlap. In areas where journalists and the
academy provide checks and balances to each other they tend to do well. Edward Snowden
represents the apex of the overlap between academic and journalistic obsessions, and so no one
is there to say: "Hey, the top freedom concerns of journalists and professors are not
synonymous with freedom writ large or with liberalism.
Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 12:48 am
Liked the piece, even though we probably come down differently on some of the merits.
I wonder if the explanation isn't simpler. A number of what you term "national security
liberals" have served in government and held clearances. Many of them - and here I
include myself - took seriously that obligation. And so there's a certain degree of innate
discomfort with the whole business of leaks, let alone those that don't seem narrowly
tailored. Wikileaks was not. Snowden's leaks included par-for-the-course foreign-intelligence
gathering (and this sets aside his escape to Hong Kong and subsequent decision to accept
asylum from the Russia Federation).
I recognize that there's a larger argument that you've made about how the
trans-nationalization of intelligence gathering - centered on the US - changes the moral
equation for some of these considerations. I don't want to debate that claim here. The
point is that you can be a civil-liberties liberal, believe that some of the disclosures have
served the public interest, and still feel deeply discomforted with the cast of characters.
Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 1:07 am
"still feel deeply discomforted with the cast of characters"
We need better leakers - leakers who honor their promises not to reveal inside information.
Leakers who don't leak.
Not like that unsavory character, Daniel Ellsberg, who I hear had to see a psychiatrist.
Barry 10.28.14 at 1:09 am
" Indeed, in recent months soi-disant liberal intellectuals such as Sean Wilentz, George
Packer and Michael Kinsley …"
Kinsley is a hack who occasionally coins a good term. At 'Even the Liberal' New Republic,
he was a biddable wh*re for a vile man, Peretz. At Slate, he took the same attitude,
preferring snark to truth, and built it into the foundations.
Packer is not an intellectual, either. He's a cheerleader for war who has just enough give-a-sh*t
to right a book explaining the problems, long after it was clear to others that things had
I don't know much about Sean Wilentz, except that he's a long time 'cultural editor' at 'Even
the Liberal' New Republic under Peretz, which is a strike against him. Heck, it's two strikes.
BTW, after Watergate, the press did know its role in democracy – the elites are really
against it. IIRC, Whatshername the owner of the WaPo actually praised 'responsible
journalism' not too long afterwards.
Sev 10.28.14 at 1:58 am
#4 From a different era, the NYT story on use of Nazis by US spy agencies:
"In Connecticut, the C.I.A. used an ex-Nazi guard to study Soviet-bloc postage stamps for
A certain skepticism, at least, than and now, seem fully justified.
Matt 10.28.14 at 2:48 am
I don't think that even the most transparent, democratic, public decision making process
among American citizens can legitimately decide that German or Indian citizens cannot have
privacy. If in Bizarro World that makes me illiberal, then I will be illiberal.
Losing the capability to conduct mass electronic surveillance is akin to losing the
capability to make nerve gas or weaponized anthrax spores. It's a good thing no matter who
loses the capability, or how loudly hawks cry about the looming Atrocity Gap with rival
powers. It would be a better world if Russia and China also suffered massive, embarrassing
leaks about their surveillance systems akin to the Snowden leaks. But a world where there's
only embarrassing leaks about the USA and allies is better than a world with no leaks at all.
Better yet, the same technical and legal adaptations that can make spying by the USA more
difficult will also make Americans safer against spying efforts originating from China and
Russia. It's upsides all the way down.
John Quiggin 10.28.14 at 2:57 am
""I can see C as justified but not decamping to Hong Kong and Russia.""
Again, given the fact that the "right" people are immune from prosecution for any crimes they
commit in the course of politics (other than sexual indiscretations and individual, as opposed
to corporate, financial wrongdoing) this seems like a pretty hypocritical distinction. Those
involved in torture, from the actual waterboarders up to Bush and Cheney, don't have to think
about fleeing the US – indeed, the only (small) risk they face is in travelling to a
jurisdiction where the rule of law applies to them.
For the wrong people on the other hand, there are no reliable legal protections at all. On
recent precedent they could be declared "enemy combatants", held incommunicado, tortured and,
at least arguably, executed by military courts. This would require a reversal of stated policy
by the Obama Administration, but that's a pretty weak barrier.
bad Jim 10.28.14 at 4:31 am
It's far from clear that the massive expansion of surveillance has actually been of any
use. The West hasn't faced any strategic threats since the end of the Cold War, and even the
Soviet threat was almost certainly less than we feared. Someone once remarked of the
intelligence-gathering efforts of that era, "It's difficult to discover the intentions of a
state which doesn't know its own intentions."
We seem to have been surprised by recent developments in the Middle East and by Russian
actions in Crimea and Ukraine; more to the point, it's not necessarily clear how we can or
should respond. It may be that the massive apparatus in place is unable to acquire the
information we desire. It's not clear that better information would actually be useful.
dsquared 10.28.14 at 4:53 am
I always thought it would be instructive to compare the views of the "national security
liberals" with a test case. What, for example, do they have to say about the other North
American government which operates a grisly system of unregulated political prisons in the
island of Cuba, but tries to portray itself as progressive because of its (admittedly
excellent) record of providing healthcare to the poor?
William Timberman 10.28.14 at 5:34 am
I think one point could be made a little more explicitly. Beginning in the late
Thirties, without a great deal of serious concern for the possible consequences, the machinery
of the social welfare state in the U.S., such as it was, was gradually repurposed to serve the
national security state, and from 1947 or so to the present, the pace of that repurposing has
rarely slackened. One can argue about how much of it was attributable to intent, and how
much to circumstance, how much or how little bad faith it took to complete the conversion, but
there's little doubt that it's now largely over and done with, and that the consequences are
there to see for anyone who cares to look.
George Packer may think that the national security state is a perfectly admirable creation,
but if so, I'd question whether or not he's really a liberal. By any definition of liberalism
I'm aware of, it's odd liberal indeed who doesn't think Edward Snowden ought to be trusted
with sensitive information, but doesn't at all mind leaving it in the custody of Keith
maidhc 10.28.14 at 8:03 am
The CIA produced the Pentagon Papers under orders from LBJ. They produced a document
blaming everything on the stupid politicians while the CIA was always right. Unfortunately no
one could read it because it was secret. Hence it was leaked to the New York Times.
Woodward and Bernstein had intelligence backgrounds. The Washington Post was known to have
close CIA ties. Everyone involved in Watergate was tied to the CIA and the Bay of Pigs.
Nixon was taken down from the right.
If you look at those Cold War days, almost everything that was considered to be highly secret,
the world would have been better off if it had been public knowledge. Major policy decisions
on both sides were based on false information provided by intelligence services.
That is not to say that things that happened back in those days are unimportant now. The
career of Stepan Bandera, for example, is tied in very closely with today's headlines.
J Thomas 10.28.14 at 8:43 am
#12 Watson Ladd
I can easily imagine bribing Putin's butler to be an easy and effective way to get good
information on both of those, and I can imagine that doing so openly would be catastrophic.
Whyever would you expect Putin's butler to know either of those?
But I find this plausible - Putin's butler goes to the secret police and tells them he's had
an offer. They say "OK, take the money and tell them this:" and they give him a cover story to
tell the spies.
Continuing the story, a top general's batman does the same thing, but the secret police do not
coordinate well enough and he gets a different cover story.
Another top general's mistress does it and gets a third cover story to tell. The stories do
not add up at all.
So then somebody in the CIA looks at all the conflicting data, and MAKES UP a story which
makes sense, concentrating on estimates of capabilities, and estimates about what choices are
likely based on internal politics etc.
The report reaches various people in the military with a need-to-know, who discount it and who
make their mostly-mundane decisions about preparation on the basis of
path-of-least-resistance. The report may even reach the President, who also discounts it.
Furthermore, plenty of information that isn't strategic in nature can be very useful.
Knowing that in event of war, your fighter planes can outmatch theirs, is useful.
How would you find that out, except by testing it for real with their real pilots with real
training, etc? Base it on the performance claims by US manufacturers versus the potential
enemy's manufacturing claims?
So is knowing that they are planning to invade a country, or are actively
collaborating with terrorist organizations.
The USA makes plans to invade other countries *all the time*. Often we publicly
threaten to invade them for a year or more ahead of time, while we slowly build up supply
dumps in nearby areas. It usually isn't hard to tell whether a nation is ready to invade some
particular other nation. The hard part is predicting whether or when they actually do it.
Chances are, they don't know themselves and nobody in the world can accurately predict that
until shortly before it happens.
The USA and Israel actively cooperate with terrorist organizations *all the time*.
It doesn't mean that much. Except we can use it for propaganda. "Our enemies actively
collaborate with terrorist organizations! Our secret intelligence organizations have proof,
but we can't show it to you because that would compromise our sources. Trust us."
Very little of this is likely to be reported openly, particularly from dictatorships.
Or from the USA. Or from anybody, really. We all like our surprises.
J Thomas 10.28.14 at 8:57 am
#19 Daniel Nexon
As I suggested above, albeit perhaps opaquely, it is perfectly possible to say "I can
see C as potentially justified, but not D… G" and to say "I can see C as justified but not
decamping to Hong Kong and Russia."* These strike me as categorically distinct arguments
from "Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange aren't the 'right sort of people," even if those
advancing that claim invoke some of the same warrants.
I don't understand this sort of claim. Normally, US citizens have basicly no
information about what our expensive secret-creating organizations do. The basic argument is
"Trust us. We're doing good, but it would be catastrophic if you knew.".
Now we have a more-or-less-random samples from Snowden and Manning. So my questions about
their personal character center around two themes:
1. Did they release false data, created by the US government to make cover stories to hide the
real stuff that the US government does not want us to know?
2. Did they release false data, created by some foreign government and intended to discredit
the US government?
3. Are there important discrepancies between them, that might indicate that at least one of
them was doctored?
Apart from those, why are we talking about Snowden or Manning or Greenwald, instead of what
we've found out about our government?
Barry 10.28.14 at 12:04 pm
Tony Lynch 10.28.14 at 4:30 am
"The persoanl animosity towards GG from, presumably, people with no personal relationship to
GG, is weird. Whence this incessant personalism – not only from Kinsley et. al., but from
those who claim more genuine liberal and left convictions? Why does it seem important to
approach things by venting this personal animosity?"
Here are my thoughts:
1). Most of these elite journalists are leakers of classified information, and guilty of
serious felonies. However, they are lapdogs of the establishment, and comparable more to
Pravda than a free press. They don't like unauthorized leaks.
2). All three liberals mentioned eat a lot of right-wing sh*t, for actual liberals. Again,
they are lapdogs, who occasionally criticize, but in a limited fashion. Heck, Kinsley
played Buchanon's poodle on TV show. They therefore don't like people who actually oppose
the establishment, moreso because it shows them up as the frauds that they are.
lvlld 10.28.14 at 1:17 pm
MacNamara (politician) ordered his staff (Office of the Secretary of Defense) to carry out the
study (they got some material from the CIA and State), out of a concern that the whole thing
might be a huge mistake on the part of US policymakers – politicians and otherwise – from
World World 2 on down. That was July, 1967. He resigned a few months later, the report was
completed in late 1968.
Dan Ellsberg (Rand, ex-OSD) was involved in producing it, and was dismayed by the scale of the
official deceptions and thought that yes, this was probably material in the public interest.
He leaked it to the Times and the Post, the latter of which's decision to publish on June 18,
1971 was not made in consultation with its city beat reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob
Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 2:15 pm
So the following points are uncontroverted:
- Glenn Greenwald is a clown, but this fact has nothing to do with anything.
- Edward Snowden is a bit dim on how the world works, and this has had consequences good
bad and otherwise.
- When white elites are forced to consider the criminal justice system they are
shocked, shocked to find that prosecutors are arbitrary and vindictive assholes.
- Our vocabulary of politics is hopelessly confused to the point where a political
science professor will assert that a fellow professor's support for the New Deal is in
conflict with his position on the NSA.
- Elites insist on confusing the motives and morality of leakers with the motives and
morality of journalists.
J Thomas 10.28.14 at 2:16 pm
#13 Andrew F
He claimed that the CIA might hire Chinese gangsters to murder him, or journalists associated
with him, among other things. So to say that he has a "teenager's conspiratorial view of the
world" is not to speak without some justification.
This minor point deserves some thought.
Do you have more access to CIA secrets than Snowden did?
If not, why do you believe that your understanding of what the CIA might do is better informed
than his was?
Layman 10.28.14 at 2:23 pm
"I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn't
that how we're supposed to judge people? "
Why judge him at all, in the context of discussing his revelations and what they mean for
civil liberties? It's perfectly clear that some people choose to judge Snowden in order to
dismiss those revelations. Isn't that the point of the OP? Do you agree that your personal
distaste for Snowden is irrelevant to the larger question? And that people who seek to
distract from that larger question by focusing on Snowden's character are engaged in hackery?
Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 3:51 pm
Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 3:57 pm
Dan Nexon @ 47
The apparatus of surveillance and the system of classification are both parts of a vast system
of secrecy - aspects of the architecture of the secret state, the deep state.
I've had a security clearance, and so have some personal acquaintance with the system of
classification and what is classified, why it is classified and so on, as well as experience
with the effect classification has on people, their behavior and administration. I see people
sometimes elaborate the claim that, of course the state must have the capacity to keep some
information confidential, which is undoubtedly true, but sidesteps the central issue, which
is, what does the system of classification do? what does the secrecy of the deep state do?
What is the function of the system of classification?
From my personal acquaintance, I do not think it can be said that its function is to keep
secrets. Real secrets are rarely classified. Information is classified so that it can be
communicated, and in the present system operated by the U.S. military and intelligence
establishment, broadcast. I suppose, without knowing as an historic fact, that the system of
classification originated during WWII as a means to distribute information on a need-to-know
basis, but that's not what goes on now. The compartmentalization that the term,
classification, implies, is largely absent. That Manning or Snowden could obtain and release
the sheer volume of documents that they did - not the particular content of any of them -
is the first and capital revelation concerning what the system is, and is not. The system
is not keeping confidential information confidential, nor is it keeping secrets; it is
The very idea that a system that broadcasts information in a way that allows someone at the
level of a Manning or Snowden to accumulate vast numbers of documents has kept any secrets
from the secret services of China or Russia is, on its face, absurd. The system revealed by
the simple fact of the nature of Snowden's and Manning's breaches is not capable of keeping
secrets. Snowden was a contractor at a peripheral location, Manning a soldier of very low
This comment thread is just as disgusting as the comment threads elsewhere,
so I'll direct people to what I think is one of the best articles on all
William Timberman 10.28.14 at 4:00 pm
Bruce Wilder @ 72
Fox News for apparatchiks. Brilliant, especially since
not even Keith Alexander in his
specially-equipped war room had any idea how many apparatchiks there
were, nor where they were, nor what they were up to when his panopticon was
looking the other way.
Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 4:02 pm
Rich Puchalsky : If only the government could tell us the real story! Then we'd know
that they aren't lying.
The system of classification is a system of censorship. It creates a system of privileged
access to information that permits highly-placed officials to strategically leak information
as a means to manipulate the political system.
It doesn't keep secrets from the enemies of democracy abroad; it creates enemies of democracy
at home, placing them in the highest reaches of government.
J Thomas 10.28.14 at 4:14 pm
"I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn't
that how we're supposed to judge people? "
Why judge him at all, in the context of discussing his revelations and what they mean for
Judging Snowden is a very serious matter for everybody who has a security clearance.
If you have a clearance, then you have to consider whether or not you ought to do the same
thing. On the one hand you swore an oath not to. You would be breaking your word. And you can
expect to be punished severely.
On the other hand, there are the things you know about, that have destroyed American
democracy. Do you have an obligation to the public? But then, you probably know that it's
already too late and nothing can be done.
What should you do? In that context, deciding just how wrong Snowden was, is vitally
It's perfectly clear that some people choose to judge Snowden in order to dismiss those
Well sure, of course. If it's their job to patch things up, they have to use whatever handle
But apart from the hacks, every single honest person who has a security clearance has to
somehow find a way to justify that he has not done what Snowden did. If Snowden did it
incompetently, he might have an obligation to do it better. Or maybe his obligation instead is
to the power structure and not to the people.
Likely by now there is better technology in place to catch people who try to reveal secrets.
We can't know how many people have tried to reveal secrets since Snowden, who have failed and
Layman 10.28.14 at 4:15 pm
Bruce Wilder @ 72
Bravo! This view of classification as a mechanism for broadcasting information is exactly
right, and a revelation, at least to me.
[Apr 03, 2015] Random findings
Personal details of world leaders accidentally revealed by G20 organisers Guardian. Schadenfreude
Tor reportedly hires Verizon's PR firm to fight back against Pando's reporting Yasha Levine,
Before leak, NSA mulled ending phone program Associated Press (furzy mouse)
NSA Tried to Roll Out Its Automated Query Program Between Debates about Killing It Marcy Wheeler
Obama's Intelligence Oversight Board a Corporate Lot PEU Report
Steve Sailer links to
this unsettling essay by former career Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, who says the
"deep state" - the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment - is a far greater threat
to liberty than you think. The partisan rancor and gridlock in Washington conceals a more
fundamental and pervasive agreement. Excerpts:Excerpts:
These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend
to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt
ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government
somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi's regime in Libya, and, when the instability
created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention
there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air
traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million
to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least
to the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access
to that country's intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed
due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period
of time, the government spent
$1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth
structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a
yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined.
A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every
single trace of your electronic life.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania
Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent
patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state
whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial
cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in
the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an "establishment." All complex
societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation.
In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the
Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution
is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched.
Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine
enough that it is only the Deep State's protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that
allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.
Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is
not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is
Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as
a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status
quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own
best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. On
March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following: "I am concerned that the size of some of
these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when
we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will
have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy." This, from the
chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically
abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes.
It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies,
if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second
career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice - certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried
The corridor between Manhattan and Washington is a well trodden highway for the personalities
we have all gotten to know in the period since the massive deregulation of Wall Street: Robert Rubin,
Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and many others. Not all the traffic involves
persons connected with the purely financial operations of the government: In 2013, General David
joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity
firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance.
General Petraeus' expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however,
is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do
not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident
senior fellow at theBelfer
Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred
bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy.
Lofgren goes on to say that Silicon Valley is a node of the Deep State too, and that despite the
protestations of its chieftains against NSA spying, it's a vital part of the Deep State's apparatus.
The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on
terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic
social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and
its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening
sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to "live upon its principal
till ruin stared it in the face."
Read the whole thing.
Steve Sailer says that
the Shallow State is a complement to the Deep State. The Shallow State is, I think, another name
what the Neoreactionaries call "The Cathedral," defined thus:
The Cathedral - The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive
ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term
by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents
a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers
have enumerated the
platform of Progressivism as women's suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic
election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional
sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature
of Progressivism is that "you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that's
left is to work out the details." Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging
10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.
You don't have to agree with the Neoreactionaries on what they condemn - women's suffrage? desegregation?
labor laws? really?? - to acknowledge that they're onto something about the sacred consensus that all
Right-Thinking People share. I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading
up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically,
I'd be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the
Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy here, not at
all. I'm only thinking back to how it seemed so obvious to me in 2002 that we should go to war with
Iraq, so perfectly clear that the only people who opposed it were fools or villains. The same consensus
has emerged around same-sex marriage. I know how overwhelmingly the news media have believed this for
some time, such that many American journalists simply cannot conceive that anyone against same-sex marriage
is anything other than a fool or a villain. Again, this isn't a conspiracy; it's in the nature of the
Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist
Irving L. Janis called "groupthink," the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views
of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized
by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries.
Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in
the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing
move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they
work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man
to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of
it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life
is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol
dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it's 11:00 in the evening
and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience
that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary
of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least
noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one's consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: "You
number of terrorist groups we are fighting is
classified?" No wonder so few people
are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless
one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of
one's surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn't know all that
I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.
When all you know is the people who surround you in your professional class bubble and your social
circles, you can think the whole world agrees with you, or should. It's probably not a coincidence that
the American media elite live, work, and socialize in New York and Washington, the two cities that were
attacked on 9/11, and whose elites - political, military, financial - were so genuinely traumatized
by the events.
Anyway, that's just a small part of it, about how the elite media manufacture consent. Here's a final
quote, one from
the Moyers interview with Lofgren:
BILL MOYERS: If, as you write, the ideology of the Deep State is not democrat
or republican, not left or right, what is it?
MIKE LOFGREN: It's an ideology. I just don't think we've named it. It's a kind
of corporatism. Now, the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend
to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security
or financial matters. But they hold a very deep ideology of the Washington consensus at home, which
is deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. And they believe in American
exceptionalism abroad, which is boots on the ground everywhere, it's our right to meddle everywhere
in the world. And the result of that is perpetual war.
This can't last. We'd better hope it can't last. And we'd better hope it unwinds peacefully.
I, for one, remain glad that so many of us Americans are armed. When the Deep State collapses - and
it will one day - it's not going to be a happy time.
Questions to the room: Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable? That is, could you foresee
a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only
survive, but succeed? Or is it impossible for the Deep State to allow such a figure to thrive? Or is
the Deep State, like the Soviet system Gorbachev failed to reform, too entrenched and too far gone to
reform itself? If so, what then?
Authored by Ben Tanosborn,
For years, Winston
Churchill's famous quote, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government
except all the others that have been tried," has served as Americans' last word in
any political discussion which requires validation of the US government, no matter how corrupt or
flawed in its behavior, as the best in the planet, comparatively or by default. Never mind
the meaning that Mr. Churchill had intended back in 1947, or how the international political panorama
has changed during the past seven decades.
These remarks were made by Britain's prime minister before the House of Commons a few months
before there was a changing of the guards in the "Anglo-Saxon Empire" as the Brits gave
away their colonial hegemony in favor of the super-influential economic and military power represented
by the United States. And that was symbolically marked by Britain's relinquishing
its mandate in Palestine, and the creation of Israel.
Such reference to democracy in the quote, explicitly defining it as a "government by the people,"
basically applied to Britain and the United States at the close of World War II; but such
condition has deteriorated in the US to the point where the "common people" no longer have a say
as to how the nation is run, either directly or through politicians elected with financial support
provided by special interests, undoubtedly expecting their loyalty-vote. Yet, while
this un-democratization period in our system of government was happening, there were many nations
that were adopting a true code of democracy, their citizens having a greater say as to how their
countries are governed. Recognizing such occurrence, however, is a seditious sin for an American
mind still poisoned by the culture of exceptionalism and false pride in which it has been brainwashed.
And that's where our empire, or sphere of influence, stands these days… fighting the
windmills of the world, giants that we see menacing "American interests," and doing it under the
banner of "for democracy and human rights." Such lofty empire aims appear to rationalize
an obscene military budget almost twice as large as those of Russia, China, India and United Kingdom
combined! Americans, representing less than 5 percent of the world's population, are footing
a military bill almost twice as large as that expended by half of the world's population.
If that isn't imperialistic and obscene, it's difficult to image what other societal behavior could
be more detrimental to peace and harmony in this global village where we all try to co-exist.
Empires and global powers of the past most often resorted to deposing of antagonistic foreign
rulers by invading their countries and installing amicable/subservient puppet rulers. The
United States and the United Kingdom, perhaps trying to find refuge, or an excuse, in their democratic
tradition, have resorted to regime change "manipulations" to deal with adversary governments-nations.
[Bush43's Iraq invasion stands as a critical exception by a mongrel government: half-criminal (Dick
Cheney-as mentor), and half-moronic (George W. Bush-as mentee).]
Regime change has served the United States well throughout much of the Americas from time immemorial;
an endless litany of dictators attesting to shameless in-your-face puppetry… manipulations taking
the form of sheer military force, or the fear of such force; bribery of those in power, or about
to attain power – usually via military coup; or the promise of help from the Giant of the North
(US) in improving economic growth, education and health. Kennedy's 1961 Alliance for Progress
proved to be more political-PR than an honest, effective effort to help the people in Latin America…
such program becoming stale and passé in Washington by decade's end; the focus shifting in a feverish
attempt to counter the efforts by Castro's Cuba to awaken the revolutionary spirit of sister republics
in Central and South America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua…).
After almost two centuries of political and economic meddling in Latin America under
the Monroe Doctrine (1823) banner, much of it involving regime change, the US is
finally coming to terms with the reality that its influence has not just waned but disappeared.
Not just in nations which may have adopted socialist politics, but other nations as well.
US' recent attempt to get other regional republics to label Venezuela (Maduro's leftist government)
as a security threat not only met with opposition from the twelve-country Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR) but has brought in the end of an era. It's now highly unlikely that secretive
efforts by the CIA to effect regime change in Latin America will find support; certainly not the
support it had in the past.
To Washington's despair, similar results, if for other reasons, are happening throughout
North Africa and the extended Middle East; certainly not the results the US had hoped for or anticipated
from the revolutionary wave in the Arab Spring, now entering its fifth year. It is
no longer the flow of oil that keeps Washington committed to a very strong presence in the Middle
East. It is America's Siamese relationship with Israel.
But if regime change is no longer an effective weapon for the US in Latin America or the Middle
East, the hope is still high that it might work in Eastern Europe, as America keeps corralling
Russian defenses to within a holler of American missilery. Ukraine's year-old regime
change is possibly the last hurrah in US-instigated regime changes… and it is still too early to
determine its success; the US counting on its front-line European NATO partners to absorb the recoil
in terms of both the economy and a confrontational status now replacing prior smooth relations.
Somehow it is difficult to envision an outcome taking place in Ukraine which would allow
the United States a foothold at the very doorsteps of Russia; something totally as inconceivable
as if China or Russia were contemplating establishing military bases in Mexico or any part of Central
America or the Caribbean.
The era of using regime change as a weapon of mass deception may have already ended for
the United States of America… and hopefully for the entire world.
Mon, 03/23/2015 - 22:46 |
America has always lied itself
to war - few believe US lies now. Obama almost lied his way to a war with Syria about sarin:
Lies: An Abbreviated History of U.S. Presidents Leading Us to War
8. Vietnam (Kennedy, Johnson, 1964) -- Lies: Johnson said Vietnam attacked
our ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in August, 1964.Truth: The US didn't want to lose the southeast
Asia region, and its oil and sea lanes, to China. This "attack" was convenient. Kennedy initiated
the first major increase in US troops (over 500).
9. Gulf War (G.H.W. Bush, 1991) -- Lies: To defend Kuwait from Iraq. Truth:
Saddam was a threat to Israel, and we wanted his oil and land for bases.
10. Balkans (Clinton, 1999) -- Lies: Prevent Serb killing of Bosnians. Truth:
Get the Chinese out of Eastern Europe (remember the "accidental" bombing of their embassy in Belgrade?)
so they could not get control of the oil in the Caspian region and Eastward. Control land
for bases such as our huge Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and for the proposed Trans-Balkan Oil pipeline
from the Caspian Sea area to the Albanian port of Valona on the Adriatic Sea.
11. Afghan (G.W. Bush, 2001) -- Lies: The Taliban were hiding Osama. Truth:
To build a gas/oil pipeline from Turkmenistan and other northern 'xxstan' countries to a warm water
(all year) port in the Arabian Sea near Karachi (same reason the Russians were there), plus land
12. Iraq (G.W. Bush, 2003) -- Lies: Stop use of WMDs -- whoops, bring Democracy,
or whatever.Truth: Oil, defense of Israel, land for permanent bases (we were kicked out of Saudi
Arabia) to manage the greater Middle East, restore oil sales in USD (Saddam had changed to Euros)
Lies and Consequences in Our Past 15 Wars
Even articles like this erroneously
refer to the US as a democracy. WTF. The programming runs deep.
"A republic...if you can keep it."
Very poorly written article.
Better to say that Andy Jackson was about the last bad ass to fight of the banksters and die a natural
death, then Salmon Chase and his buddies passed the legal tender laws, and shortly thereafter (or
possibly before) London dispatched the Fabian socialists with their patient gradualism. We
were firmly back under the yoke of London banking cartel come 1913. And you are correct, a
republic is an EXTREMELY limited form of democracy (not truly akin to traditional 51% takes it democratic
concepts at all). The elected leader's function was supposed to be to guard the principles
of the Constitution and the limited Republic, and history will remember that, despite this cruft
of an article.
In the eyes of many who founded this nation, it was only a stepping stone to a global government,
the new Rome - but the new Rome will be the UN with a global bank, and the multinational corporations
holding court, and then the end come.
Then again, I may be wrong.
What passes for gvt is silly
these days, we are a legend in our own minds.
"Governments would become political
Like in the Middle East? And you will counter by saying that people are forced to live
under those governments and, yet, thousands are freely going there from around the world to join
Otherwise, such a system would work right up until one government church decided there wasn't
enough room in the area for competitors (probably within a year, maybe six months). Let the
political/religious tribal wars begin.
Bankers couldn't be banksters without government.
Maybe it's the monopoly of force thingy you don't understand.
After Israeli elections and Ukrainian coup d'état the key question is "to what extent [...] the
contemporary right [is] linked to classical fascism". And the picture is complex.
As one reviewer of the book
Fascism and Neofascism Critical Writings on the Radical Right in Europe noted "contrary to
common perception, the Nazi movement was not repressive towards sex. In fact, it sneered at
Christian morality much the same way that modern libertines and leftists do, and favored both
premarital and extramarital sex. Attempts were made to discredit the Catholic Church by accusing
priests in general of being homosexuals (sound familiar?). Much as modern feminists and other
humanists, the Nazis accused Christianity of having a dislike for the human body and for showing
disrespect towards women. This was supposed to be a carryover of "the Oriental attitude towards
women." Similarly hate toward particular ethnic or racial group was never absolute: Among Nazi Germany
fascist brass there were notable number of Jews. Also Italian fascism was quite different from
German as well as the level of Social Darwinism adopted.
Neofascism movement share with classic fascism the belief in the
necessary of hierarchical (authoritarian) world with the dominant and subordinate groups, as well as
ethos of masculine violence. It is deeply rooted in European culture with and as Adorno noted
that "totality" is a mode of domination that lies implicit in the Enlightenment drive to
de-mythologize the world. In this sense "totalitarism" in not unique to fascism and communism but
also is inherent in "consumer capitalism", which, as such, represent a potent background for
emerging neofascist groups and movements. Fascist myths were the means of constituting
identity and as such not tat different form mass advertizing . That also entails deep similarities
of Hollywood and Nazi films. At the same time, new radical right movement and groups are
clearly distinct from fascist of the past. While fascism emerged partially as a reaction to
brutalities and injustices of WWI, new radical right is in large part the result of unease with the
neoliberalism. Several members of Western European far right groups fight in Donbass with Donbass
militia as they consider Kiev junta to be Washington puppets promoting its globalization agenda.
At the same time several members of white supremacist groups fight with Kiev junta para-military
formations (death squads) which openly brandish Nazi symbols.
Neofascist movements are using "invented historical context" or myths as a
powerful means for making sense of human differences and organizing societies. Nationalism, based on
however fictive consent of national identity, is powerful mean of organizing the society along of
axis of domination and subordination, inclusion and exclusion. Racism and nationalism while not the
same things are closely linked together. In a sense any political system that operate on the base of
nationality of race is a neofascism in its essence. that includes Israel and Baltic states. In
this sense neither the USA nor Russia can be classified as neofascist regimes became they do not
adhere to the concept of "ingenious nationality" or white race supremacy. That does not exclude
existence of groups that adhere to this mythology.
It is extremely interesting those football fans, skinheads and hooligans, who
often utilized the gesture of rebellition against the society to trigger predictable outrage against
the general population were mobilized during EuroMaydan events. Behaviors once deemed antisocial and
vandalistic were harnessed in the service of the nationalist discourse and the they served as a part
of storm troopers for the coup of February 22, 2014. Ultimately like in Serbia before unruly
football hooligans were recruited into paramilitary formations that played important role in civil
was in Donbass (like Serbia paramilitary formation in wars of Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo) and
committed the most horrendous crimes against civil population. .
Ukrainian events definitely correlated with disillusionment of the
neoliberalism in specific form of crony capitalism of Yanukovich regime. In a way
marginalization of extreme right from 1945 to 1991 was more exception the a rule Western societies,
especially European, tend to generate powerful extreme right movements. In a few states
neofascist have chances of coming to power (Ukraine is actually is not a good example as events here
were externally driven).
Panopticonman on May 1, 2004
Whose Reich Is It Anyway?
The Marquis de Morés, returning to 1890s Paris after his cattle ranching venture in North Dakota
failed, recruited a gang of men from the Parisian cattle yards as muscle for his "national
socialism" project -- a term Paxton credits Morés' contemporary Maurice Barres, a French
nationalist author, with coining. Morés' project was potent and prophetic: his national socialism
was a mixture of anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism. He clothed his men in what must have been the
first fascist uniform in Europe -- ten-gallon hats and cowboy garb, frontier clothes he'd taken a
shine to in the American West. (Author Paxton suggests the first ever fascist get-up was the KKKs
white sheet and pointy hat). Morés killed a French Jewish officer in a duel during the Dreyfus
affair and later was killed in the Sahara by his guides during his quest to unite France to Islam
Morés had earlier proclaimed: "Life is valuable only through action. So much the worse
if the action is mortal."
Here assembled together are all of the elements of what Paxton would classify as first stage
fascism: "the creation of a movement." Most fascist movements stall in this first stage he notes
-- think, for instance, of the skinheads, the American Nazi Party and Posse Comitatus.
other stages are
- the rooting of the movement in the political system;
- the seizure of power;
- the exercise of power; and
- the duration of power, during which the regime chooses either
radicalization or entropy.
He notes that although each stage
"is a prerequisite for the next,
nothing requires a fascist movement to complete all of them, or even to move in only one
direction. The five stages permit plausible comparison between movements and regimes at
equivalent degrees of development. It helps us see that fascism, far from static, was a
succession of processes and choices: seeking a following, forming alliances, bidding for power,
then exercising it. That is why the conceptual tools that illuminate one stage may not
necessarily work equally well for others." pg. 23.
Paxton also tentatively offers a definition of fascism, but only after tracing the rise of
various movements from their beginnings in the 19th century through the present day. Other
historians and philosophers, he suggests, have written brilliantly on fascism, but have failed to
recognize that their analyses apply to only one stage or another. He also notes that often
definitions of fascism are based on fascist writings; he maintains that fascist writings while
valuable were often written as justification for the seizure of power, or the attempted seizure,
and that what fascists actually did and do is more critical to understanding these movements.
Indeed, the language of fascism has changed little since the days of the Marquis De Mores.
He hesitates in offering both his definition and his analytical stages, saying that he knows by
doing so he risks falling into the nominalism of the "bestiary." He demonstrates that this is a
common failing of definitions of fascism which are often incomplete or muddled as they typically
describe only one or two typically late stages.
Other historians, for instance, split fascism
into Nazism or Italian fascism, avoiding the problem of understanding their common elements by
concentrating on their differences, insisting that they are incommensurable. Finally in the last
pages, Paxton offers up this fairly comprehensive and useful definition:
"Fascism may be defined
as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline,
humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a
mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective
collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive
violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external
Paxton is particularly strong in showing how the circumstances in post WWI Germany and
Italy -- the demobilized mobs of young soldiers, sent to war by elites who had no conception of
the destruction and suffering they had unleashed upon the younger generation -- were ripe for
fascism's appeals. For many, liberalism, conservatism and socialism all seemed equally
complicit in the crack-up of Europe in the Great War. Fascism, rising from the ashes, employed
the socialistic tools of mass marches, the military techniques of terror learned in the war, and
as they gained power, the new tools of mass communication and propaganda developed in the US
Fascists also reacted astutely to public discomfort toward the mass migrations from
southern and eastern Europe coming in the wake of political and economic distress in those
regions, using that fear to increase their power through scapegoating and its attendant rhetoric
Fascism is both charged and blurry word these days, used by both the left and the right to
assail their critics and enemies.
The Nazi remains the evildoer par excellence in popular and
political culture, invoked for a thrill of fear or the disciplinary scare or emotional
incitement. In this masterful synthesis of writings in politics, history, philosophy and
sociology, Paxton untangles the vast literature fascism has generated, establishes some essential
ground rules for coming to grips with its many expressions, stages, and manifestations, and
clears a space for further, better focused research.
Although academic in its orientation, it is
well and clearly written. Finally, for the reader who is not familiar with modern European
history, it is a very useful and informative text as it takes into its scope by necessity much of
European and American history over the past one hundred years. Absolutely required reading.
Mar 17, 2015 |
However, a group of Harvard professors depicted a much more grim Orwellian world, AFP reported on
"Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible... How we conventionally think of privacy
is dead," said Margo Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University.
Sophia Roosth, a Harvard's genetics researcher, said: "It's not whether this is going to happen,
it's already happening... We live in a surveillance state today."
Depicting a terrifying world, where mosquito-sized robots fly around stealing samples of people's
DNA, she said, "We are at the dawn of the age of genetic McCarthyism," referring to "witch-hunts"
during Second Red Scare in the 1950s in America.
Goedelite Kurt 5 hours ago
Just like 50 years ago people couldn't always afford a tv but now everyone does. The expensive today
Take 50 from 2015: 1965. I was 33yo then. As I recall, that was just about the high point of the middle-class
in the US, before the inflation caused by the US aggression in southeast Asia hit us. Almost everyone
who had a job - and unemployment was low - could afford a TV. Not only could they afford it, but I
believe it offered viewers far better entertainment and journalism. I don't own a TV today, because
mainstream TV news is untrustworthy.
Eric Blair 18.02 17:48
Eric Schmidt is not even close on this call. Go back and reread what he said about:
"so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with
that you won't even sense it, it will be part of your presence all the time," he explained.
"Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that,
you are interacting with the things going on in the room."
No one will be able to afford this technical world that he is describing, and which in some
degree is coming, but not to every man.
The system is headed to a cashless system where you will be compelled to trade the time in your
life to multinational corporations, that will offer you something on the line of "Employee
Purchasing Compacts" in lieu of compensation, which enable you to select a list of corporations
that are bundled, with fixed prices, for the duration of your term contract. This is how you will
be compensated and enslaved to the plutocracy.
You will be able to select from categories that include food, clothing, automobiles,
electronics, goods and services. You will be locked into term contracts for the benefit of the
corporations and controlled supply and demand.
This is what is being heralded as "Austerity". Each man and woman will only be able to purchase
those things which they can afford. So, Schmidt is way off on this one~
The internet will disappear but the net (NSA) will remain.
0040 14.02 21:50
I think the Harvard guys have it right. The computer, Internet, and cell phone age has done
nothing positive for humanity. With the worlds economic and political systems all being
neo-liberal and capitalistic, these devices are used to manipulate people for profits and taxes of
a sort and on a scale not possible without them. It also puts all a countries infrastructure and
resources into the hands of the few.
ronbc (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
Powerful, damning, and more than a little sad, November 27, 2014
This review is from: The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress (Kindle Edition)
At the beginning of "The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress," Chris Hedges
suggests that he is no longer really a journalist - now, he's more of a minister, trying to lead
his flock down the paths of righteousness. It's in this spirit that Hedges, a Harvard divinity
grad before he gave up organized religion, titles one of his essays "War Is Sin."
Hedges's tone is a mixture of anguish and anger, and his acerbic prose takes no prisoners.
His style may be unattractive, even unsettling, but I can find no fault with his main arguments.
His is a voice of truth in a wilderness of spin, and I wish that it weren't so.
Here's his assessment of Barack Obama, the candidate of change who became the president of
the status quo:
"The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately
... It steals from the U.S. Treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not
give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or "extraordinary rendition,"
restore habeas corpus, or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will
not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street, or end our relationship
with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce
useless and costly weapons systems."
It's hard to disagree with this appraisal, and Obama is just one of the targets in Hedges's
sights. Obama doesn't get anything close to the most space in the book - that "honour" is reserved
for the government of Israel and its oppression of the Arab peoples of Palestine.
Hedges calls himself a socialist, a term that has quickly become almost quaint, tinged with
a flavour of musty and archaic rationalism. He writes that "we must articulate and stand behind
a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working
men and women."
Hedges is a journalist, and it's in this context that he blasts the mainstream media for retreating
from their moral responsibility to tell the truth into their present stance as "recorders" of
scripted and spun events. Hedges expresses his disdain for the bankrupt "objectivity" ethic of
the press with a vehemence that is typical of his prose: "The tragedy is that the moral void of
the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the protofascists who feed on
"The corporate forces that destroyed the country wil use the information systems they control
to mask their culpability. The old game of blaming the weak and the marginal, a staple of despotic
regimes, will empower the dark undercurrents of sadism and violence in American society and deflect
attention from the corporate vampires who have drained the blood of the country."
In an echo of his previous book "The Death of the Liberal Class," Hedges describes liberals,
and specifically the Democratic Party which is their political home, as a spent force that "prefers
comfort to confrontation. "
Hedges writes: "It will not challenge the decaying structures of the corporate state. It is
intolerant within its ranks of those who do. It clings pathetically to the carcass of the Obama
presidency. It has been exposed as a dead force in American politics."
What, if anything, can be done? Hedges is not hopeful, but he is clear about the nature of
"If the hegemony of the corporate state is not soon broken, we will descend into a technologically
enhanced age of barbarism."
Hedges cites Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in Hedges's version of the typical postcolonialist
indictment of the Enlightenment. This is a most appropriate citation, for in The World As It Is,
it is very clear that Chris Hedges, for one, has seen "the horror."
The horror for Hedges is the reality of war. That he has been changed, and forever scarred,
by his years as a war correspondent is clear in his scorn for the official memorials to the honoured
"War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. The hushed voices, the well-tended
grass, the flapping of the flags allow us to ignore how and why our young died. They hide the
futility and waste of war. "
Hedges's compulsion to cut through the glorification and the censorship and instead to write
the truth keeps him writing.
He may have little hope for himself, as the rage and bitterness with which he writes make clear,
yet, as he says in the dedication, he must seek the solutions to our problems, for it is his three
children "whose joy and laughter save me from despair and for whom I must always hope."
The term "Martial Law" is thrown around with reckless disregard. "Is America under
martial law?" is a question that is often discussed in the Independent Media.
Martial law occurs when the prevailing regime feels threatened by the message being offered by the
loyal opposition. When normal means of censorship and marginalization fail, despotic regimes resort
to martial law with all intended brutality of a violent crackdown on all of those being perceived as
Seventeen Martial Law Characteristics
Most experts agree that hard core martial contains the following 17 essential elements:
1-Mass roundup and/or execution of political dissidents
2-Dusk to dawn curfews
3-Rationing of essential resources
4-The seizing of personal assets such as food and water
5-Control over all food and water
6-The prohibition of weapons of any kind including guns, knives or chemicals which can be turned
7-The confiscation of property, homes and businesses
8-Arrests without due process
9-Massive "papers please" checkpoints with intrusive searches
11-Forced conscription into various labor camps and even into the military
12-Outlawing of free speech
13-The installation of massive surveillance programs and the establishment of snitch programs
14-The total control or elimination of religion
15-Control of the media
16-Executions without due process of law
17-Total suspension of the Constitution
Just how many of these intrusive government policies are in place in the following video?
Even Chicago police is kept by Guardian to higher standard then Kiev junta.
The Chicago police department has promised for more than a century to eliminate torture from its
interrogation rooms. For more than a century, the
Chicago police department
has failed to deliver on that promise.
The latest shameful episode is the tale of Richard Zuley, a police officer who brought the tactics
he learned in Chicago to Guantánamo Bay and back again,
as reported by The Guardian.
Sadly, there is a precedent for Zuley.
For example, in
a 2000 case
that resulted in a successful federal civil rights lawsuit, a Latino teenager was held for four
days chained to a wall in an interrogation room, where he was not only questioned repeatedly, but
denied bathroom access and left to soil himself. During the boy's civil rights trial, officers could
only prove that they fed him once during the four days. The teen eventually confessed to a murder
he did not commit. After he spent just a few weeks in jail, another suspect was arrested with the
murder weapon and confessed shortly after his arrest. How many others locked up have not been so
Most infamously, there is highly decorated Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge who, during his
23-year tenure on the force from 1970 to 1993,
used the techniques he learned from interrogating the Vietcong as a military policeman in Vietnam
on black suspects in Chicago. These techniques included Russian roulette with pistols and shotguns,
burning suspects on radiators, suffocation with typewriter covers, beatings with phone books and
electric shocks to the ears, nose, fingers, and testicles.
Burge was a fast-rising and well-respected officer who operated with impunity; neither his colleagues
nor his supervisors blew the whistle. Neither did prosecutors or officials in the Cook County State's
Attorney's Office. Instead, Burge was accorded hero status – until community activists, public interest
one lonely journalist at the city's weekly exposed his horrid behavior what it really was: unacceptable.
Once public pressure mounted – and only then – Burge was finally fired in 1993, accused of torturing
confessions out of what is believed to be
more than 100 African American men. He was not, however, without his defenders: at the time of
his firing, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, the largest union representing officers, attempted
a float honoring Burge in the Chicago's St Patrick's Day parade. And it wasn't until 2006 that
a special prosecutor was appointed to examine Burge's record and determine if a criminal case could
be brought against him. (Only a perjury charge stuck.)
The relationship between communities of color in Chicago and the Chicago Police Department hasn't
recovered from Burge's abuses. Residents remain wary, while the police remain largely unapologetic.
Today, the Chicago Police Department's tactics –
known as "touchless torture" – are less horrific but still abusive.
These new methods focus more on sensory deprivation and isolation to wear down a suspect – sometimes
with the same result: false confessions. Because these methods do not leave marks, it is much harder
for judges and juries to understand just how coercive they are.
A series of US supreme court cases over the last century have codified the rights that are supposed
to protect suspects under our system. Sadly, those rights still mean next to nothing in Chicago interrogation
rooms, which still bear too much resemblance to those in Guantánamo – and those from the now-distant
past of Vietnam.
The way forward requires reform on a system's level – not at an individual case level. The use
of these types of tactics is not a bad apple issue, but rather about a rotten-to-the-core system
that turns a blind eye to massive civil rights violations because the system benefits from those
civil rights violations. About 90% of all criminal cases in America result in a plea bargain, which
makes any given confession so much more powerful than it would normally be and thus that more desirable
to obtain. Sadly prosecutors who have a constitutional obligation to be a check on coercive police
practices fail in their obligations in America because there is an institutional incentive for them
to ignore civil rights violations and push for plea bargains using the coerced confessions.
Any meaningful reform starts with educating juries about the coerciveness of the interrogation
room and the tactics used to extract confessions; after that, judges must live up to their responsibilities
and deny plea bargains in case in which the only evidence is a confession. While hardly a cure-all,
these two massive reforms of legal procedure could help remove the institutional incentives for those
working for the system to obtain and use coerced confessions.
lostalien -> ExcaliburDefender 21 Feb 2015 09:55
The problem is most people can't afford to lawyer up, and the public defenders are over worked
and don't always have clients best interest at heart. Our sytem of justice is for the rich.
ExcaliburDefender -> mfloydhall 20 Feb 2015 16:44
mfloydhall, you wrote "......... who are the likely perps."
Just want to understand a bit more about the use of the word 'PERP'. See a few that use it
often, generally by those in support of police activities.
The only time I hear the word 'PERP' is on tv. Have never heard police use it when interviewed
on events, nor I have heard actual police officers ever use this word when communicating with
the public. Did use to work in a city ed/trauma unit, had loads of interaction with city police,
'PERP' was never uttered.
Just curious if you would care to comment.
Williamthewriter 20 Feb 2015 13:04
What goes for Chicago also goes for most American cities. Beating confessions out of suspects
has throughout our history been just as much an art form in America as it was in Stalin's Russia
and Hitler's Germany. The violence is only the most visual aspect of a corrupt system that has
had the police often working in tandem with organized crime and running protection and kickback
schemes of their own, not to mention the sexual favors expected from prostitutes if they wished
to remain in business.
The two NYPD officers who were recently found guilty of moonlighting as hit-men for the mob
is only the tip of the iceberg. Has anyone forgotten how America's Cop - Bernie Kerik - the right
hand man of America's Mayor was convicted of corruption and sent to prison for four years not
long after his name was put forward by his powerful friends to be the first head of Homeland Security?
The recent disrespect shown to the elected mayor of NYC or daring to criticize the police tactics
that resulted in the death of Mr. Garner shows both how powerful and how perverse the police in
this nation are.
imipak -> mfloydhall 20 Feb 2015 07:50
No, you want a police force that works, that's trusted, that does its job.
In the end, it's about real risk, not imagined risk. You can do nothing about fantasies. Real
risk goes down when real criminals are caught and when real trust is high. Real risk goes up when
real criminals are left on the streets and the innocent are tortured.
Real risk is the real concern of real businesses and real families.
imipak -> James Girod 20 Feb 2015 07:46
Ah, but Darth Vader helped people cross the road safely.
imipak -> mfloydhall 20 Feb 2015 07:45
People can want all they like. Democracy doesn't extend to voting on police tactics and can
never be extended to voting on what tactics work.
Harsh tactics are a fail. Unequivocally. They can never succeed. They are doomed, as are all
citizens under such a regime. Who the hell cares if the citizens want harsh? It's worse than no
police at all. If you want to live in real gangster time, don't go asking city hall for the gangsters.
It's not their job.
Give each city a referendum - mature, responsible, effective policing at cost, or no policing
at all. No other options. If a city chooses the latter, order a compulsory evacuation of all medical
staff and emergency services, seal the roads and rerun the referendum 6 months later. If they
still say no, you've got those extra staff for places that want them. The city shouldn't get what
the city doesn't want or need.
Police tactics should be tightly regulated, with clear and distinct consequences for failure.
If a cop is shown to have been involved in torture, all cases that cop was involved in are
tainted and all convictions unsafe and unsatisfactory. No exceptions. It is better to let ten
guilty people go free than to allow one innocent person to be convicted.
If a police unit is shown to have tolerated any corruption in its ranks, shut it down and fire
the lot. No exceptions, no excuses.
To go along with that, confessions and eyewitness testimony do not belong in a court room.
Evidence or bust.
Police divisions should pay out of pocket for wrongful convictions, at mean wage rates for
white collar work. They should be on fixed budgets and fixed wages, no bonuses for clean-up rates
just severe penalties for fraud and incompetence.
Police are not paramilitary units. They should not be equipt as such or trained as such. They
maintain peace, not war.
Training should reflect the expected high standards - and they should be very high standards
indeed - with pay and conditions reflecting the fact that it takes the best to be the best.
(High expectations cuts both ways. If you're going to demand high levels of integrity, a civil
attitude and competence in the field, expect to pay for it. These things aren't free to acquire
and aren't cheap to maintain. Ammunition is cheap. You get what you pay for, so pay for what you
want to get.)
AlexeiK 20 Feb 2015 01:43
More generally, juries need to be given instructions dealing with a range of issues that well-meaning
but unprepared citizens are likely to get wrong. New Jersey, for example, now requires juries
to be instructed on eyewitness identification.
Any meaningful reform starts with educating juries about the coerciveness of the interrogation
room and the tactics used to extract confessions; after that, judges must live up to their
responsibilities and deny plea bargains in case in which the only evidence is a confession.
There are already proposals to require that interrogations be videotaped, but it is extremely
important that juries watch these tapes in their entirety. If a cop keeps a suspect chained to
a radiator for hours and then the suspect "confesses" and the jury only gets to see a three-minute
clip of the confession, it just won't do. But that's what happened in the Adrian Thomas case in
NY (the man was eventually acquitted in a retrial).
consciouslyinformed 19 Feb 2015 16:17
Spencer Ackerman's piece, about Lathierial Boyd, which included a video, about three minutes
in length, left me holding back sobs, as I listened to his account, of how he was set up by this
cop, for a bogus indictment against Lathierial, for an eighty-two year sentence, of which, he
served twenty-three years. He was innocent! It is appalling. It needs to have this cop, along
with every other who have taken away the lives of our black brothers and sisters, in prison for
the rest of their miserable lives.
elaine layabout 19 Feb 2015 15:29
Chicago residents have shelled out nearly half a BILLION dollars over the past decade, spending
$84.6 million last year alone, to "compensate" the victims of police abuse. Those monies, however,
do nothing to address the costs of citizens being afraid to seek help from or cooperate with police.
Meanwhile, the City closes schools in the most victimized neighborhoods, cuts services for
all, and our unrepaired, weather-ravaged streets look like they've been hit by cluster bombs.
(But don't fret, tourists! The bulk of our infrastructure revenue goes to keeping corporate-centric
Downtown, toney Lincoln Park, and the museum campus that we riffraff cannot afford to enjoy looking
Perhaps it's time that City and PD decision makers foot this bill, as well as the criminal
cops. Then maybe these horrible practices will come to an end and we can begin to make this city
liveable for all, not just the wealthy and well-connected.
Tags: Corporatism :
January 11, 2015 |
About 20 protesters made their way onto the property of the former vice president's Virginia
home, where they protested the 14th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
Activists from the anti-war group CODEPINK and Witness Against Torture, many of them wearing military-issued
orange jumpsuits, broke through an iron gate surrounding the former vice president's sprawling property
in McLean, Virginia, and demonstrated on his front porch.
Fairfax County Police soon arrived on the scene and escorted the protesters, some of them chanting
"arrest Dick Cheney," off the property.
Two protesters who refused to leave the premises were arrested on trespassing charges, police
spokesman Roger Henriquez said, Reuters reported.
Police identified the pair as Tighe Barry, 57, and Eve Tetaz, 83, both from the Washington DC
area. The two face misdemeanor charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said.
The demonstrators carried signs that read: "Torturer lives here" and "Stop torture now" and "Close
Earlier, the group staged a demonstration outside the home of CIA Director John Brennan, who also
lives in McLean, Virginia. None of the activists were arrested in that protest.
The protests come one month after the Senate Intelligence Committee released its so-called "torture
report" that revealed how the CIA allegedly misled the White House and Congress over the brutality
of its "enhanced interrogation techniques" –a military euphemism for torture.
Cheney expressed no remorse over the cruel accounts of torture techniques performed by the CIA
at various foreign "black sites" as described in the Senate Intelligence Committee's lengthy investigation.
"I'd do it again in a minute," Cheney told Meet the Press's Chuck Todd last month.
This was not the first time Cheney took to the airwaves to express his support of the controversial
methods in gaining intelligence, as well as his wish to keep Gitmo open for business.
When Barack Obama attempted in the early days of his presidency to close Guantanamo, as he had
pledged to do on the campaign trail, Cheney was suddenly ubiquitous on the news channels, demanding
that Gitmo remain open and the prisoners – many of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing – appear before
a secret military tribunal as opposed to a civil trial on US territory.
Cheney, despite basement ratings in opinion polls when he exited office, eventually got his way
and today 127 detainees are still held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- READ MORE: Dick Cheney should be in prison, not on 'Meet the Press' - Greenwald
- READ MORE: 'I'd do it again!' Cheney defends CIA torture, calls interrogators heroes
In this interview he talks about why he signed the petition, the NSA's spying program, and offers
some words of advice to the 9/11 Truth movement on how to pursue justice through official channels.
William Binney is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National
Security Agency (NSA) who, after more than 30 years of service, resigned in 2001 and became a whistleblower
exposing the NSA's unconstitutional programs. He is also a recent signatory of AE911Truth's petition
calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and WTC 7 on 9/11.
In this interview he talks about why he signed the petition, the NSA's spying program, and offers
some words of advice to the 9/11 Truth movement on how to pursue justice through official channels.
Neoliberal regime is a brand of corporatism. And terror against opponents is a feature of corporatism
as asocial system. So nothing very surprising here. "The war on terror had now reduced governance
in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant
to combat." ... "Neoliberalism has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are
viewed as entertainment or deserving of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes
a matter of expediency, and militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships."
The maiming and breaking of bodies and the forms of unimaginable pain inflicted by the Bush administration
on so-called "enemy combatants" was no longer seen in violation of either international human rights
or a constitutional commitment to democratic ideals. The war on terror had now reduced governance
in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant
to combat. In the aftermath of 9/11, under the leadership of Bush and his close neoconservative
band of merry criminal advisors, justice took a leave of absence and the "gloves came off."
As Mark Danner states, "the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least,
condemned torture to a country that practised it."
But it did more. Under the Bush-Cheney reign of power, torture was embraced in unprecedented ways
through a no holds-barred approach to the war on terror that suggested the administration's need
to exhibit a kind of ethical and psychic hardening-a hyper-masculine, emotional callousness that
expressed itself in a warped militaristic mind-set fueled by a high testosterone quotient. State
secrecy and war crimes now became the only tributes now paid to democracy.
... ... ...
Waterboarding, which has been condemned by democracies all over the world, consists of the individual
being "bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's
feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied
to the cloth in a controlled manner [and] produces the perception of 'suffocation and incipient panic.'"
The highly detailed, amoral nature in which these abuses were first defined and endorsed by lawyers
from the Office of Legal Council was not only chilling but also reminiscent of the harsh and ethically
deprived instrumentalism used by those technicians of death in criminal states such as Nazi Germany.
Andy Worthington suggests that there is more than a hint of brutalization and dehumanization in
the language used by the OLC's Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Steven G. Bradbury, who
wrote a detailed memo recommending:
"nudity, dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation"-now revealed explicitly as not just keeping
a prisoner awake, but hanging him, naked except for a diaper, by a chain attached to shackles
around his wrists-[as,] essentially, techniques that produce insignificant and transient discomfort.
We are, for example, breezily told that caloric intake "will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day,"
and are encouraged to compare this enforced starvation with "several commercial weight-loss programs
in the United States which involve similar or even greater reductions in calorific intake" … and
when it comes to waterboarding, Bradbury clinically confirms that it can be used 12 times a day
over five days in a period of a month-a total of 60 times for a technique that is so horrible
that one application is supposed to have even the most hardened terrorist literally gagging to
... ... ...
In spite of the appalling evidence presented by the report, members s of the old Bush crowd, including
former Vice-President Cheney, former CIA directors, George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, and an
endless number of prominent Republican Party politicians are still defending their use of torture
or, as they euphemistically contend, "enhanced interrogation techniques." The psychopathic undercurrent
and the authoritarian impulse of such reactions finds its most instructive expression in former Bush
communications chief Nicolle Wallace who while appearing on the "Morning Joe" show screeched in response
to the revelations of the Senate Intelligence report "I don't care what we did." As Elias Isquith,
a writer for Salon, contends, as "grotesque as that was, though, the really scary part was
[the implication that] waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual assault is part
of what makes 'America 'great.'"
Wallace's comments are more than morally repugnant. Wallace embodies the stance of so many other
war criminals who were either indifferent to the massive suffering and deaths they caused or actually
took pride in their actions. They are the bureaucrats whose thoughtlessness and moral depravity Hannah
Arendt identified as the rear guard of totalitarianism.
Illegal legalities, moral depravity, and mad violence are now wrapped in the vocabulary of Orwellian
doublethink. For instance, the rhetorical gymnastics used by the torture squad are designed to
make the American public believe that if you refer to torture by some seemingly innocuous name then
the pain and suffering it causes will suddenly disappear. The latter represents not just the
discourse of magical thinking but a refusal to recognize that "If cruelty is the worst thing that
humans do to each other, torture [is] the most extreme expression of human cruelty."
These apostles of torture are politicians who thrive in some sick zone of political and social abandonment,
and who unapologetically further acts of barbarism, fear, willful lies, and moral depravity. They
are the new totalitarians who hate democracy, embrace a punishing state, and believe that politics
is mostly an extension of war. They are the thoughtless gangsters reminiscent of the monsters who
made fascism possible at another time in history. For them, torture is an instrument of fear; one
sordid strategy and element in a war on terror that attempts to expand governmental power and put
into play a vast (il)legal and repressive apparatus that expands the field of violence and the technologies,
knowledge, and institutions central to fighting the all-encompassing war on terror. Americans now
live under a government in which the doctrine of permanent warfare is legitimated through a state
of emergency deeply rooted in a mass psychology of violence and culture of cruelty that are essential
to transforming a government of laws into a regime of lawlessness.
... ... ...
There is another story to be told about another kind of torture, one that is more capacious and
seemingly more abstract but just as deadly in its destruction of human life, justice, and democracy.
This is a mode of torture that resembles the "mind virus" mentioned in the Senate report, one that
induces fear, paralysis, and produces the toxic formative culture that characterizes the reign of
neoliberalism. Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of instrumental rationality
have created a new kind of social formation and social order in which it becomes difficult to form
communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. Neoliberalism
has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are viewed as entertainment or deserving
of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes a matter of expediency, and
militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships.
Under the reign of neoliberalism, politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of
social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological metrics
of political zombies. The key word here is atomization and it is the curse of both neoliberal societies
and democracy itself. A radical democracy demands a notion of educated hope capable of energizing
a generation of young people and others who connect the torture state to the violence and criminality
of an economic system that celebrates its own depravities. It demands a social movement unwilling
to abide by technological fixes or cheap reforms. It demands a new politics for which the word revolution
means going to the root of the problem and addressing it non-violently with dignity, civic courage,
and the refusal to accept a future that mimics the present. Torture is not just a matter of policy,
it is a deadening mindset, a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis, a war crime, an
element of the spectacle of violence, and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship
in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting
Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are
Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and
War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is
This is a particularly despicable and illuminating look into how the CIA treated its officers
who were carrying out torture techniques. After a detainee, Gul Rahman, was chained, nearly naked,
to a concrete floor for an extended time and then froze to to death, no officer on-site nor at the
CIA was disciplined – let alone prosecuted. In fact, the CIA officer in charge of the detention site
was recommended to receive a bonus of $2,500 for his "consistently superior work". Five pages earlier
in the report, we are told that this particular CIA officer was already known for dishonesty and
lack of judgment when he was sent on his first overseas assignment to head this detention site. Eleven
years and one page in the report later, the CIA acknowledged it "erred" in not holding anyone accountable
for Rahman's death.
When a government agency disregards human life so recklessly – and even considers rewarding those
on the payroll who do the same – how is it possible to believe the United States can maintain the
illusion of being a human rights champion? President Obama and Congress must ensure accountability
– including prosecutions, as well as reparations for victims – and not just for torture but enforced
disappearances and other human rights violations that leave the US in serious violation of its international
legal obligations. -Steven W Hawkins, executive director, Amnesty International USA
gottliebvera, 11 Dec 2014 05:01
The 'beacon on the hill' has gone dark. Always preaching from the pulpit of hypocrisy, always
admonishing, always threatening...and look at them. 'Exceptional' by NO means.
Janice Mitich, 11 Dec 2014 02:08
When you condone the use of torture on any person or class of people, you have taken a dangerous
step that will not prevent the state from using torture on you. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution
says that the accused person "shall not be compelled to testify against himself" thus exercising
the right not to be tortured into a confession of something they may or may not have done. The
8th Amendment says that the state cannot impose excessive bail or fines, nor impose cruel or unusual
punishment which includes torture. Torture cannot be used to force a person to testify against
himself prior to trial, nor can he be tortured after being found guilty in order to name any co-conspirators---(This
is what was done in the Salem Witch Trials.)
Just as monarch, tyrants, of old, who believed they had the right to do whatever they pleased
ie: Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Mao, to name a few, Bush and Cheney created a special class of human
beings to whom they could do anything they wanted and the right to purge them from the earth.
This is a dangerous step on the slippery slope down into hell where the people are powerless and
rulers are absolute.
I don't think that any of you want that. I hope you will reconsider your decision and decide
that torturing prisoners is in violation of our Constitution no matter what "appealing" reason
is given for that action.
Using the term "Enhanced" interrogation is a term that turns my stomach. One generally uses
the word 'enhanced' to make something better or more pleasing, or more beautiful. Leave it to
the Government to coin a term in such a way as to make you think it is a positive and rightful
thing to do.
That's like naming a cancerous tumor as "enhanced cell growth." or a nuclear bomb an "enhanced
demolition device," or an amputation of one's foot as an "enhanced pedicure.
Arcane, 10 Dec 2014 16:58
The Americans have finally fessed up to what we already suspected, namely that their spooks
were out of control and engaging in torture, murder and human rights violations without any purpose
other than an ultra-right-wing addiction to the use of violence.
The British are now looking into their own sordid and sorry involvement in this disgraceful
chapter in recent history. However, we have heard nothing from the Australian government as to
what role - if any - their spooks played in this same set of events. There were at least two Australians
held in the Guantanamo Bay prison. One of them, David Hicks, claims he was tortured and that the
Australian government knew that this was taking place but did nothing.
There needs to be a criminal trial of the CIA contractors and other officials who carried out
these crimes. If found guilty they need to be spend a lot of time in prison. Perhaps Guantanamo
Camp X-Ray might be the best option. The criminal investigation and subsequent trials need to
include the government leaders at the time, G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair
and of course John Howard and Alexander Downer.
james | Dec 9, 2014 12:34:00 PM |
feinsteins logic runs this way 'there were a few bad apples in the cia'.
IhaveLittleToAdd | Dec 9, 2014 12:57:09 PM | 4
was there any accountability? answer - nada. "Speaking to the New York Times, Cheney called
the interrogation tactics "absolutely, totally justified," contrary to the committee's findings."
will there ever be? no.. without the accountablity - the usa is essentially a tip pot dictatorship
run by the military complex..
i am surprised they released this.. usually they file it under 'top secret' or 'state secrets'
and people don't hear about it for another 50 years.. that is the way the folks in the land of
the brave and free usually roll.
The low level people did it and are unnamed. The high level people ordered them to do it, openly
brag about it, but are not prosecutable. Obama won't push it for fear that the next administrataion
will get all high and mighty about his drone campaign, NSA overreach, or whatever. Congress won't
because they either knew about it, or should have known about it. Not too mention the CIA probably,
and rightfully, scares the bajeebies out of them.
Yul | Dec 9, 2014 12:57:16 PM | 5
Signals Inteligence got a shout out in the WaPo coverage. Look, torturing is really bad and
we're not going to do that now that we can stare at you through your iphone camera. Then again
we have these cool drones that save the judicial branch loads of time.
They have redacted the countries or so called Black Sites but we know that some "democratic" European
countries, new members or prospective members of the EU are there - Poland, Lithuania, Romania,
Kosovo , Bosnia, Macedonia and Italy ( the CIA judged in absentia )
To encourage governments to clandestinely host CIA detention sites, or to increase support
for existing sites, the CIA provided millions of dollars in cash payments to foreign government
Rick | Dec 9, 2014 2:21:59 PM | 6
...say anything to stop the pain...?
Peter Kropoykin gave an account a "no pain" torture,
AN attempt was made to kill Rsar Alexander mid-1800s. The pepetrtor was kept awake/denied sleep.
After 1-2 weeks, he had the appearance of a lump of jelly, in which condition he was carted to
the gallows and hung.
Pain, then, must include physical and mental and even other psychological forces such as attack
on the spiritual nature of the life force.
Rick from long ago.
WG | Dec 9, 2014 3:07:18 PM | 7
I believe the WH / CIA even redacted the pseudonyms used to identify the individuals involved
within the report. You can't even get an idea of the number of individuals involved by seeing
how often their fake names come up.
Also a few years ago the CIA destroyed all videotaped record of the actual torture sessions,
ignoring orders expressly stating they needed to keep the material.
james | Dec 9, 2014 3:49:01 PM | 8
wg - but they will go after bradley manning, snowden or anyone else who is brave enough to
show these same culpits.. shooting the messenger is all the usa knows how to do at this point..
jfl | Dec 9, 2014 3:50:02 PM | 9
The CIA is evil incarnate and needs to be disbanded. Barack Obama is under the thumb of the
CIA. All subsequent presidents will be as well, now that the criminal operation has wrapped its
tentacles so completely around the office.
The CIA wages war all the time, tells no one what it is doing, and has done so since its founding.
There are two parts to the CIA, on paper : intelligence gathering and criminal actions. The first
is just a fake cover for the other, the 'i' in CIA. The second, the CA, is the black heart of
the organization, its raison d'être, and the hole in Uncle Sam's arm where all the money goes.
I don't know how it can come about but the CIA, the NSA must be 'put down'. Both are incompatible
with democracy and antithetic to the rule of law. They are making over the USA in their image.
If they cannot be eliminated it will be sad testimony to the transformation's ultimate realization.
Martin Finnucane | Dec 9, 2014 5:32:58 PM |
I am half way through reading
The Half Has Never Been Told. It occurs to me that violence against captives - i.e., torture
- is central to the history of the U.S. The glorification of the captor, and the demonization
of the captive, is similarly a central part of the experience of being a white American.
@13 - How ridiculous. "Hey guys, I know you're referencing a 1600 page CIA torture report,
but here's a YouTube link!"
I mean, we know you're a complete shill but jeez. Have
The Rise of German Imperialism and the Phony "Russian Threat"
Posted by: guest77 | Dec 9, 2014 7:07:53 PM |
"CIA are amateurs."
Any organization with a $14 Billion a year budget making good money
in drug sales other illicit activities deserve at least to be called "professionals".
The fact is, no one on this planet has killed like the CIA. Since the end of the Second
World War, the United States has killed at least 10 million people - men, women, children
- through sanctions, military activity, or sponsored bloodbaths. The CIA can claim at
least 1 million of those themselves (if not two). Hardly "amateurs" in any sense.
The CIA organized massacres in Indonesia took anywhere between 500k-800k lives alone.
People ought to listen to real CIA agents like
and Phil Agee
to know what bloody deeds the CIA gets up to. Not some goofy, minimum wage internet lackey
Posted by: guest77 | Dec 9, 2014 7:17:46 PM |
16With respect, I disagree with our host's interpretation of this news.
This Senate document of 6.000 pages, released into the public record, is greatly significance.
I am surprised it was released. It must create a cumulative impact as time passes; and
I believe that one reason for the disclosure, from the nod that Senator Feinstein gave
it, as chairman of the intelligence committee , is in one respect to defend the Senate
from the overreach of the CIA. And let's remember that the Agency challenged the Senate's
authority not long ago,--going so far as to hack the Senate's computers,--in order to
remove evidence which Senate staff had gathered, in pursuit of this investigation of
torture. For very practical political reasons they could not capitulate, or succumb to
the threat, and the meaning of such a sinister act carried out by an intelligence agency,
which by law is subordinate to Senate authority.
Clearly, to not publish this document, would be to admit that the Senate had been
cowed into silence by the very spooks who had committed a felony against that chamber,
a higher, constitutional authority.
I believe the consequences of having conceded and enumerated and identified the practice
of torture, and placing this document in the public record, will have gathering repercussions.
Because of the diligent and praiseworthy efforts of the alternative press, done years
ago, these crimes cannot in the fullness of time, be fobbed off as a rogue activity inside
an intelligence community--as happened with the Iran-Contra affair--when Reagan was in
the White House.
On the contrary, the chain of responsibility goes straight to the legal minds (and
we know who they are) in G. W. Bush's Justice Department, who characterized these particular
war crimes as instruments legally permissible. And we have the statements of President
Bush and Vice-President Cheney, which are fully incriminating, and would likely convince
any fair-minded jury of their guilt, on the occasion of their trial.
None of us can say with any certainty, that the former President and Vice-President
will ever have to face their day in court; but the release of this Senate document, as
it details the sordid facts about a disgraceful series of crimes, must cast a mighty
long shadow over the remaining years of Bush and Cheney. The same shadow lingers upon
the loathsome attorneys who facilitated their heinous crimes.
May the sleep of these men be discomforted, and their dreams made unpleasant, because
of the prolonged legal shadow, or possibly because of the tireless determination of prosecutors.
Copeland | Dec 9, 2014
9:20:46 PM |
Invictus has the real
rabbit hole... and has for years.
After destroying video
evidence, CIA's Rodriguez slams Senate torture report
Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 9, 2014 9:21:15 PM |
@17 copeland. thanks for sharing your perspective which is very insightful. i would include
the push pull of dems verses republicans as well.. i really enjoyed reading your post
from december 1st on your website as well. thanks.
Posted by: james
| Dec 9, 2014 9:41:24 PM |
19Copeland @17: Today's release was the highly-redacted and yet still damning 500-page
Executive Summary of the full 6,000 page report. I hadn't heard that there were plans
to release the full document, but I could be wrong. What I would give to see these war
criminals brought to trial and convicted. No high hopes.
Posted by: catlady | Dec 9, 2014 10:16:55 PM |
20The torture is far more widespread then is generally discussed. I heard law professor
Scott Horton state in an interview once that thousands of people have been tortured to
death by the U.S. That is not the picture we are usually given. We need to be clear about
the scope of what is taking place. I hope this report will do this.
Posted by: Edward | Dec 9, 2014 10:27:45 PM |
21in re 13
Still pushin' that one I see.
Here are some real pros. An Elderly Man Murdered at Ukrainian Checkpoint
for Refusing to Shout "Glory to Ukraine!" in Glinka in the Starobeshevo district,
near the Russian Border. "A monument to the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War was destroyed.
A resident of the neighboring village, an elderly man took some tools to repair the monument."
Stopped at a Banderaist checkpoint, he refused to shout "Glory to the Ukraine." Beaten
to the ground, he we shot several times.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 9, 2014 10:50:41 PM |
22From b's outline...
"The report is also limited to the CIA and does not include
the military which, as we know, also used torture and killed people in "interrogations".
The U.S. is bound by law to prosecute all of them from top to bottom but it is unlikely
Only one person from the CIA went to prison over the torture program. This not for committing
torture but for revealing it."
 &  tend to expose the International Criminal Court as a fake judicial panel
every bit as corrupt, prejudiced and subservient to Power as the US judicial system.
At least the ICC's name confirms that it is inhabited by Criminals eager to do what they're
told, to whomsoever they're told to do it (by US/UK and the rest of the Incredible Shrinking
pseudo International Community).
 tells us everything we need to know about what and who Yankee Justice is designed
Copeland | Dec 9, 2014 9:20:46 PM @ 17 makes some very good points. This is going
to resonate in all kinds of inconvenient ways. If nothing else it will wake up millions
more people worldwide to the fact that if you're not anti-American, the day is fast approaching
when you're going to need a VERY GOOD EXCUSE.
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 9, 2014 10:50:43 PM |
2312 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU READ THE TORTURE REPORT
Posted by: easy e | Dec 9, 2014 10:52:13 PM |
Thanks james for your kind words.
I don't know for a fact about the 6,000 pages; but I would be astounded if the body
of the report, in redacted form, is not released. I don't see them going to the expense,
time, and trouble, to bottle up the body of the research. What is astonishing to me is
the tone that certain CIA spokesmen have taken with the Senate. How arrogant and highhanded
these fellows have become. There are strong indications, and a good case to be made,
that this Agency is guilty of tampering with evidence, destroying video evidence of torture,
and stealing evidence or deleting files from the Senate's computers. As an educated guess,
I would think the Senate would be wise make the whole document available to the public.
For their own peace of mind and security.
I hope this turns out to be the case.
Copeland | Dec 9, 2014
11:10:30 PM |
25On the topic --
I've heard a lot of whining from the Right side of the aisle in public
life about "this will endanger our people everywhere" and decrying the release of the
Doesn't the other side already know what's been done to them? Isn't the whole
point of trying suppress or downplay it strictly for domestic consumption?
It's appalling. What we used to condone with distaste on the down-low by our foreign
lackeys and collaborators we now proudly boast of as evidence of our "toughness" or our
Copeland @ 17--
I hope you're right. One would have thought that the cumulative effect of decades
of military and foreign policy debacles would have sunk in, as well. But I fear this
will find it's way down MiniTrue's "memory hole," like Iran/Contra, the Iraq War, Syria....
Well, in fairness, drowned out by the latest celebrity gossip.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 9, 2014 11:12:58 PM |
26The DOJ has already said they won't be pursuing charges against individuals named in
the report. And has been stated before, we many never know the true scope of these crimes.
This is the real difference between America and other countries. Other places never reveal
the ways they abuse their prisoners, nor do they punish them. The USA has these things
revealed, THEN refuse to punish anyone.
Posted by: Almand | Dec 9, 2014 11:16:57 PM |
27Copeland @ 25
I think you're onto something about the institutional struggle.
We might see how that struggle plays out soon. The "intelligence community" is already
pushing back, saying, "oh no we got good intel." Cynic that I am, I wonder how long it
will be before CIA assets in the Fourth Estate start dropping bad stuff about members
of the Senate. When they do, it will be interesting to see R's v. D's on the hit list.
I would expect some of the Senate to put up a valiant rearguard action, but this war
might have been lost with hysterical over-reaction to Sept. 11. Which Barry Choom has
only intensified, really, with drones and loose talk about Russian "expansionism."
Again, I wouldn't mind be wrong on this one.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 9, 2014 11:24:58 PM |
I also fear that it's only a matter of time before the CIA pushes back against
the Senate, and generally goes on the offensive. The Intel Community and the mainstream
media have historically had a more or less cozy relationship (including Hollywood). It
will certainly be interesting to see how this power struggle plays out.
Posted by: Almand | Dec 9, 2014 11:39:18 PM |
29Almand @ 29 --
Hollywood -- wasn't "24" just torture-porn? And what was that recent
feature-length wet kiss to dark side of the dark sites, with the conflicted-yet-resolute
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 9, 2014 11:48:52 PM |
30This torture was permitted, with a wink and a nod, from the very top, to the very bottom.
IMO, anyone who thinks differently is delusional. A few bad apples, oh please!
Posted by: ben | Dec 9, 2014 11:55:19 PM |
31And still worse: From Penny
Posted by: ben | Dec 10, 2014 12:36:31 AM |
Ugh, it's disconcerting the amount of hack work propaganda gets churned out
every year. I could be pessimistic and say the seventies was really the beginning of
the end and blame Warren Beatty and Reds for putting the last nail in the coffin, but
that would be sentimental. You're right it goes back a ways- I like the story of Dulles
and Animal Farm:
"The trade press reported that de Rochemont financed Animal Farm with the frozen British
box-office receipts from his racial 'passing' drama Lost Boundaries; in fact, Animal
Farm was almost entirely underwritten by the CIA. De Rochemont hired Halas and Batchelor
(they were less expensive and, given their experience making wartime propaganda cartoons,
politically more reliable than American animators) in late 1951; well before that, his
'investors' had furnished him with detailed dissections of his team's proposed treatment.
Animal Farm was scheduled for completion in spring 1953, but the ambitious production,
which made use of full cell animation, was delayed for more than a year, in part because
of extensive discussion and continual revisions. Among other things, the investors pushed
for a more aggressively 'political' voice-over narration and were concerned that Snowball
(the pig who figures as Trotsky) would be perceived by audiences as too sympathetic.
Most problematic, however, was Orwell's pessimistic ending, in which the pigs become
indistinguishable from their human former masters. No matter how often the movie's screenplay
was altered, it always concluded with a successful farmyard uprising in which the oppressed
animals overthrew the dictatorial pigs. The Animal Farm project had been initiated when
Harry Truman was president; Dwight Eisenhower took office in January 1953, with John
Foster Dulles as his secretary of state and Allen Dulles heading the CIA. Leab notes
that Animal Farm's mandated ending complemented the new Dulles policy, which – abandoning
Truman's aim of containing Communism – planned a 'roll back', at least in Eastern Europe.
As one of the script's many advisors put it, Animal Farm's ending should be one where
the animals 'get mad, ask for help from the outside, which they get, and which results
in their (the Russian people) with the help of the free nations overthrowing their oppressors'."
Posted by: Nana2007 | Dec 10, 2014 12:56:38 AM |
33On more than one level, and for more than one reason, the Senate committee's release
of this report about past torture, permitted and encouraged by the Bush Jr, crowd, is
the right thing to do. The Senate not only drew a line against the CIA, after it invaded
the private deliberations and was bold enough to go rifling through Senate files, and
deleting some files.
Along with rufus m., I feel there is danger if the political dirty work is taken up
in the media. But the report, if it is fully released, works powerfully for the Senate,
and is more of a counteraction politically, than it is a holding action; and it is not
a sign of weakness by any means. The Senate has plenty of strong legal minds, and it
can bypass Obama's Justice Dept. and broaden its investigations, in the event of any
similar assault against it.
Yet I have some suspicion that the branch at Langley that jerked around with a powerful
institution like the Senate, in the way they did, would never do this on their own, without
the guarantee that someone in higher authority has their back. In fact, if CIA doubles
down on the belligerence and bluster, that would tend to arouse more suspicion of a hidden
Copeland | Dec 10,
2014 2:11:32 AM |
34The CIA spied upon the comittee (headed by Diane Feinstein) that composed this report.
This angered Feinstein and made her more determined to publish the report.
Posted by: Willy2 | Dec 10, 2014 3:03:49 AM |
35A commentator on CNN yesterday, while admitting that the whole story was unsavory, still
had to add, that the report in itself was another sign of the United States greatness.
Why? Well, "Putin would never allow such a thing"!
Posted by: Bert | Dec 10, 2014 3:38:19 AM |
36@16 I thought this is what you guys have been doing here for the last half year. I post
HRW, AI and OSCE reports on Donbass - you respond with rogue translations of some Russian
Also it's interesting to see you seriously discussing an US Senate report while you
have rejected any reports by US administration in the past as "CIA sponsored" etc. Why
this torture report is reliable, but previous reports calling for military support for
Ukraine were not reliable?
By the way, as we're on the topic of arms: Russian arms delivery for Boko Haram
was just arrested in Nigeria.
Posted by: Ulster | Dec 10, 2014 4:02:34 AM |
37Consulting psychologists were paid 80 of an 180m contract to train torturers. I wonder
how many other programs in the 'black budget' are likewise inflated 100x.
Posted by: Crest | Dec 10, 2014 4:20:47 AM |
The 6000 pages wont be released to public, its just the shorter censured version
that have been released.
Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 10, 2014 4:21:33 AM |
39I just don't get it. NeoLiberal Capitalism IS 'torture'.
Banksters create synthetic debt out of thin air, and charge all of us egregious usury
for the use of it, while the Fat Cats roll their gambling losses into public Treasury
bailouts. Everything flows from that heinous crime: the win-or-die competitive rat race,
the vicious street life, the 90,000,000 jobless or homeless 'disappeared', the -$18 TRILLION
perpetual debt, the $4 TRILLION phony Oil Crusades, massively bloated $3.4 TRILLION Mil.Gov.Sci.Edu
rice bowl Fed bureaucracy, even the unregulated 501(c)3 tax-dodge 'rice tent' charity
(sic) fraud to take care of 'poor victims', making their CEOs rich with 30% APR 'micro-loans'.
Capitalism is raping 998 people to give 2 people a life of ease: the Ricos, and their
Pols. Born naked, die naked, immersed in a life-long electronic swamp of lies and disinformation.
'You Deserve a Break Today'. Which leg do you want to limp on?
I mean, what else do you expect? Tea and crumpets at 4PM? Jebeezus!
This is what our world would've been like if the Nazis had won. It just took a few
years longer than they planned to return to the Reign of the
Posted by: ChipNikh | Dec 10, 2014 5:48:36 AM |
40If America is still torturing, which I don't dispute by the way, then why didn't China
detain and arrest Obama during his recent visit since he is a Human Rights abuser and
therefore a criminal? Is China not committed to Human Rights? Is China afraid? Or does
China not give a shit about Human Rights?
Cold N. Holefield
| Dec 10, 2014 6:49:14 AM |
A commentator on CNN yesterday, while admitting that the whole story was unsavory,
still had to add, that the report in itself was another sign of the United States greatness.
Why? Well, "Putin would never allow such a thing"!
Ha! It is absurd. There is no
greatness in being only marginally more humane than a psychopathic, sadistic megalomaniac
like Putin who is hell-bent on nuking the planet.
Cold N. Holefield
| Dec 10, 2014 6:52:30 AM |
Sick isn't it? Yes, human experimentation is what's not mentioned in all the
newsiness? The Human experimentation aspect of the torture program- which was alluded
to as early as 2009- Doctors monitoring how the torture was affecting the innocent humans-
studying it. In hopes of what? It's simply MKULTRA/DELTA etc continued on- That horror
show never went away.
What is sickening is the way this is being spun no doubt with the assistance of the
usual PR firms?
The US is a good guy for releasing this and does so at great risk (another terror
attack 9/11 9/11 9/11) but since we are just so great we have to make the sacrifice,
though we could be the victims yet again- Sickening stuff really
Penny | Dec 10,
2014 7:09:29 AM |
43Cold N H @ 42
You know the US has "already nuked the planet" right?
Speaking of sadistic megalomania?
Penny | Dec 10,
2014 7:11:22 AM |
' Clearly, to not publish this document, would be to admit that the Senate had
been cowed into silence by the very spooks who had committed a felony against that chamber,
a higher, constitutional authority. '
Have they published the report? I don't think so. I think they redacted 90% of the
report and then re-redacted that again. And that's what everyone is reading.
There is no evidence of anyone's culpability here. It's the usual 15 minutes of 'oh,
how horrible' ... and then its over.
If the senate were 'heroic' ... even if they were just still warm ... one of them,
the poseur Udall for instance ... would have dumped the full report into the Congressional
Record. That's not even original. Mike Gravel did it 43 years ago.
No, the problem is that doing so ... looking out for the nation's interest instead
of his own ... would have disappeared the pot of gold on the other side of the revolving
There are no men and women among the American political class ... have you had a look
at the video of Sahra Wagenknecht
reading Ms. Merkel
the riot act in the German Parliament that was posted in thread 30? Nothing like
that in America, just slugs and trails of slime.
I want to be hopeful as much as you do, Copeland. But hope in the American political
class is misplaced. My hope is in the poor people of Ferguson, Detroit, of all the cities
who have slipped and fallen once too often in the slime, and are working to regain control
of their lives themselves.
jfl | Dec 10,
2014 7:23:43 AM |
45The most glaring example of the utter incompetence of the CIA can be seen in the people
that it contracted to develop its "enhanced interrogation" techniques.
Because I would have thought it obvious - a no-brainer - that if you wanted to know
how to "interrogate" then you would bring in people who.... do interrogations for a living.
You know, get in police officers to tell them the Secret of The Good Cop / Bad Cop
Or ask the Customs Service to come over and explain how their "interviews" allows
them to separate the wheat from the chaff at airports and seaports all around the Good
You'd contract those guys, because those guys actually do this for a living.
But, no, those weren't the guys the CIA paid $millions for.
The CIA actually contracted in guys Who Had Never Actually Interrogated Anyone For
The CIA engaged psychiatrists who taught the US Military how to WITHSTAND torture.
Think about that: these are the guys who were going around saying: Torture doesn't
work, and I'm here to teach you why.
Those were the guys that the CIA paid untold $millions to teach the CIA how Torture
Works when - in reality - all the CIA was proving is that Money Talks.
Posted by: Johnboy | Dec 10, 2014 7:41:42 AM |
46If those countries where torture takes place
attract public dissatisfaction/opposition against things such as torture,
then why is it that we never hear about such public dissatisfaction/opposition.
( i know, its a bit of a rhetorical question because there is no actual public oppsition.
whatever opposition you do see is only there for "show" purposes mainly)
Dont countries such as Italy,Canada,Germany,Greece etc have such a thing called Democracy,thru
which people can voice their opposition.
Or have these countries "privatised" their political systems to unnamed private foreigners.
Is "Democracy,", "Rule of law", due process, accountability etc all dead?
After all Greeks,Romans and others were the inventors of these things.
( i only refer to actions done on behalf of foreign organisations such as CIA, US Government,
and any other foreign organisation, i suppose that torture that takes place on behalf
of your own Government would be perfectly legitimate, sadly)
Posted by: chris m | Dec 10, 2014 7:42:42 AM |
We are talking about western populations here, same western populations that
is getting fooled on Iraq, Syria, Russia, Iran, Palestine etcetera.
Western populations are hopelessly brainwashed today.
Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 10, 2014 8:19:34 AM |
There is no greatness in being only marginally more humane than a psychopathic, sadistic
megalomaniac like Putin who is hell-bent on nuking the planet.
Crock of shit.
Posted by: MRW | Dec 10, 2014 8:29:06 AM |
"The most glaring example of the utter incompetence of the CIA can be
seen in the people that it contracted to develop its "enhanced interrogation" techniques"
I'm calling complete bullbiscuits on the incompetence meme (and will be at my blog
in a new post)
People have got to stop promoting this meme. It's utterly ridiculous.
The CIA contracted these people because it was politically expedient.
Gave them a "deniability" card that could be played to promote incompetence as an example
and also to enrich their compatriots.
That is not incompetent. It is in fact very competent and very evil!
Penny | Dec 10,
2014 8:59:26 AM |
I can see your angle, it was important that the report was released in light of the tampering
by the CIA.
But, we will never know to what degree the CIA tampering led to an untoward censorship
either. Similar to the "rectal re-hydration" being viewed as a way to leverage total
control over the prisoner, wasn't the hacking of senate computers a way for the CIA to
exert total control? They have perfected the panopticon concept. Who knows, maybe the
report initially was going to name names, or the redaction pen wasn't going to be used
The hacking was such a flagrant and egregious violation of any sense of the law, you
almost wonder if they wanted to get caught in order to send the message. Similarly, torture
itself doesn't have the desired effect unless the outside world knows you are using it.
The people in custody are already off the battlefield and on their way to becoming innocuous
non-persons, the object is to make someone considering joining a cause to consider it
a bit harder. I would argue this was the point of the hacking. The intended effect seems
to have manifested itself in a report that acts more of as a tonic than a disinfectant.
Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | Dec 10, 2014 9:04:45 AM |
51Off topic BUT GOOD NEWS
09:01 Wednesday 10 December 2014
The Dail (Irish Parliament) last night voted in favour of the government recognising
the State of Palestine based on its 1967 borders - before Israeli occupation. The Senate
has already voted for it
All parties in the Dail supported the Sinn Fein motion during Private Members time in
The government parties backed the motion saying that they were in favour of a two state
solution for Israel and Palestine.
Labour's Jed Nash said that passing the motion was an important step in what will be
a long process for Palestinian Statehood:
Last month the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said Ireland might recognise
a Palestinian state if it helped to advance the peace process in the Middle East.
Currently eight EU states recognise Palestine as a state, with Sweden the most recent
to adopt the stance and the first to do so while an EU member state.
There is widespread recognition of Palestine as a state across Asia, Africa and South
America, but far less within the EU and North America.
Jewish opposition has already started
Posted by: Boindub | Dec 10, 2014 11:02:57 AM |
Posted by: KMF | Dec 10, 2014 11:25:45 AM |
53Here's an interview with ex-US Military Attorney, Major Dan Mori on the ABC.net.au program,
The Drum. Major Dan was appointed by the US Military to defend David Hicks against trumped
up charges related to the Fake War on Terror. Hicks' plight was made infinitely worse
by PM John Dubya Howard, cock-sucking coward, liar, cur, and the only non-Jew ever to
be awarded the B'nai B'rith Gold Medal (+ $1,000,000) for services to "Israel", who refused
to tell G Dubya Bush to return Hicks to Oz (because the "crimes" Hicks was accused of
were NOT crimes in Australia).
Howard refused and Hicks eventually appeared before a Yankee Kangaroo Court, aka Military
Tribunal where he was plea-blackmailed into accepting a sentence of two years plus time-served.
And then returned to Oz to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Australian custody.
Major Dan was a harsh critic of the US Military Tribunal system from the outset (prior
to the trial), and is, without a shadow of doubt, a Man Among Men. Not at all like the
indignant little girly-boys such as Obama, Tony Abbott, Sarkozy, Cameron, Wm Hague and
Tony Bliar who plague and litter the Western political landscape.
Anyhow, here's a 6 minute interview with Major Dan who, after his departure from the
US Military, migrated to Oz with his family and wrote a book about his experiences with
the US Military Injustice System called In The Company of Cowards.
The most stunning revelation in the interview is a reference to the fact that the
torture report points out that of 119 detainees studied during its compilation, the committee
1. 26 of the victims were completely innocent of any 'wrong-doing' and should never have
2. The Report understates the number of detainees studied to less than 100.
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 10, 2014 11:34:37 AM |
54While You're Being Distracted With The MSM Torture Narrative, The 1,618 page 2015 NDAA
Will Be Voted on in the Senate ...
Oh, and on torture, don't forget the boiled bodies in the old USSR.
Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 10, 2014 3:06:05 PM |
55every time I
Posted by: slothrop | Dec 10, 2014 3:19:10 PM |
56Every time I post here, I bitch. But, this is spot on, b.
I wonder how much Germany
assisted in "extraordinary renditions"?
Posted by: slothrop | Dec 10, 2014 3:23:25 PM |
Posted by: ben | Dec 10, 2014 3:29:10 PM |
58The map of all the countries who were complicit – actively or passively – with CIA's
torture program includes most of the countries who speak loudest and most sanctimoniously
about human rights. Add to this all the other countries (Russia, China, India, South
American countries, …. ) who also use torture in some form, and I come to the conclusion
that there is not a single country today where some form of torture (physical as well
as mental) is not at least tolerated under some specific conditions.
ktwop | Dec 10, 2014 4:03:49
59Well gracious of you not to bitch for a welcome change sloth, but isn't your second sentence
a bit of a subtle bitch? I suspect the original Nazis that the US imported/rescued after
WWII had a lot to do with it but give the Germany of today, including b but excluding
Merkel, a break will you.
Actually it is good to hear from you again sloth. Your input
can be valuable when you're not "bitching".
Posted by: juannie | Dec 10, 2014 4:10:18 PM |
60ben @ 58
I have my second part up so come over and check it out
and tell me what you think- definite human experimentation went on
Penny | Dec 10,
2014 6:30:05 PM |
Brazil 'Building the politics of memory': An Interview with Paulo Abrao
[W]e are building politics of memory, which are more and more capable of understanding
the types of repression that were used against the victims of the dictatorship. There
are also now several Brazilian states and municipalities that are creating spaces
for memory and for the creation of understanding and knowledge. The truth is that
before we lived in a country that was dominated by an ethic of the forgotten and today
we have another environment, where the country is valuing our memory and the past.
A short while ago, we head from all of the principle Brazilian newspapers, which
published fairly strong and insistent editorials from the perspective that we should
not look to the past and that we should only and exclusively look toward the future.
They said that eventually, any excerise into the past would imply a rupture with our
democracy, and would put at risk the current public institutions and freedoms. The
simple affirmation of these ideas is in itself a representation of the frailty of
our democracy. And now we have a new environment.
The same American Criminals In Action responsible for so much terrorism, torture, and
death in this milennium were responsible for much of the same in Latin America ... worldwide
... in the last.
We need to build a politics of memory here in the USA, where forgetfulness in institurionalized.
The Criminal In Action In Chief here directly mouthed himself what was left to the MSM
in Brazil ... "that we should not look to the past and that we should only and exclusively
look toward the future."
We cannot understand the present without knowing the past nor can we have any control
of our future without understanding the present as it is perfected. There is no time
but the present, created by the past and in turn creating the future, and there is nobody
here but ourselves to create it. We North Americans are certainly near the end of the
line when it comes to understanding our past, and so our present, and so to deliberately
affecting our future.
jfl | Dec 10, 2014 6:30:06 PM |
62in re 37
FYI, the latest details. Curiously, the page linked to says nothing about
Boko Haram. Only that a Russian-owned plane with arms bound for Chad has been detained
on 6 Dec. Russia has supplied weapons to the gov't. since at least 2001, according to
Wikipedia (see army of chad and the foreign operators of t-55 tanks), so why would this
be at all suspicious?
The latest report, 8 Dec.
Nigerian govt. releases Chad-bound Russian plane detained in Kano in Premium Times
(online since 2011, so no doubt right up there with TNR, I'm sure) states that the cargo
aboard the plane, chartered by the French military, was being redeployed within the region
by French peacekeepers. The aircraft made an unscheduled landing in Nigeria due to what
the article describes as "technical problems." Local security in Kano, in the north,
apparently has a history of detaining aircraft.
This is the third time since 2009 that planes loaded with arms would be arrested in
Kano, our correspondent says.
The detained planes were later released after investigations.
The destination of the latest aircraft has however raised concerns amid increasing
worries in Nigeria over Chad's alleged role in the Boko Haram insurgency plaguing
This bit at the tail of the pc. is all I see about Boko Haram.
Ponder if you would, my fellow Barflies what this might mean about the intent and
honesty of our distinguished poster, who thoughtfully provided the link on the 10th.
I wonder -- maybe it was just a scam by some local security types -- Russia, France,
the UN, perhaps financially enabled the expeditious handling of the investigation. The
article makes it clear that local authorities, in view of the nationality of the plane,
undertook the investigation.
Thanks for allowing me to wander off thread. We now return you to your regularly unscheduled
postings, already in progress.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 10, 2014 8:13:52 PM |
63To get back on topic -- Chris Floyd is an old favorite of mine, from his Moscow News
days. Here he is at
on the report.
A truncated version of the Senate investigation into the CIA's Terror War torture
regime has finally been released. Even in its limited form, it details an operation
of vile depravity, one which would plunge a civilized nation into a profound crisis
Needless to say, nothing like that is going to happen in America. Indeed, even
before the report was released, the New York Times - the standard-bearer and shaper
of "decent" liberal thought for the nation - was... demanding that we "Pardon Bush
and Those Who Tortured." This was the very first "think piece" pushed by the Times
on the morning of the report's release.
And you know, I'm a little annoyed at the Grey Lady for finally jumping the shark
after I touted it's (limited) virtues over at the TNR thread. Well, I'm sure Mrs. M has
a few good recipes for crow; she's served me up that dish before.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 10, 2014 8:49:01 PM |
64@63 rufus.. you have to give it up for number 2 bullshite artist ulster.. he runs a close
2nd to cold..
Posted by: james | Dec 10, 2014 9:01:52 PM |
65james @ 65 --
No, I'm going with our distinguished correspondent as no. 1 source of
shite. Maybe I'm being a snob, imported over domestic. It's got a more subtle bouquet.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 10, 2014 9:18:41 PM |
66for what it is worth, the black and tan should not get a Christmas bonus, his disinformation
is poorly produced and so sloppy that the very links he provides contradict his accusation.
if anyone is paying for that I would like to get into that racket as well.
Posted by: dan of steele | Dec 10, 2014 10:17:31 PM |
67actually this is yet another demonstration of murikka's greatness !
*But I came to the conclusion that America's greatness is being able to say we made a
mistake and we are going to correct it and go from there.*
Posted by: denk | Dec 11, 2014 2:01:45 AM |
68Billmon posted a great series of tweet about the parallels between the Torture Report/
Wall St. Bailouts: the curtain coming up and everyone briefly seeing the true ugliness
of the system before they try VERY hard to make us forget.
I can guarantee however that the rest of the world will not forget. I wonder what
the reaction will be next time the US tries to come down on another country for human
rights abuses? Perhaps laughter?
Posted by: Almand | Dec 11, 2014 4:39:03 AM |
69@66 rufus - fair enough.. i agree with dan of steele - he can't possibly be paid for
@69 almand.. good questions. either these human rights organizations are independent
organizations, or they are dependent on gov't or usaid type hand outs and they don't
want to bite the hand that feeds them. regardless - it is laughable at this point any
suggestion of the usa having any moral ground to stand on. we knew that beforehand, and
the cozy relationship with kiev the past year is more testimony of the wretchedness of
Posted by: james | Dec 11, 2014 2:10:46 PM |
70@james: Kiev, and also Saddam, Pinochet, the Contras, Mobuto, Bin Laden, Suharto, Marcos,
Musharaf, and all the way back to Uncle Adolf... the list goes on and on. Like you said,
it's something we all knew, and have known for a very long time but damned if it doesn't
The Guardian did a story about Amnesty and HRW did come out today demanding prosecutions.
At least they have some sense of shame, it seems.
Posted by: Almand | Dec 11, 2014 6:25:56 PM |
71jas, dan, 65, 67, 70 --
I gotta go w/our distinguished poster. CDH on occasion makes
sense (like once or twice in the Ferguson/NYC discussion) and he's got decent taste in
Pink Floyd albums. Regrettably, our faux Irishman has no such socially redeeming virtues.
But still, aren't y'all channeling your inner Grinch or Scrooge? What about Mrs. U
and all the little counties? He gets his bonus, a traditional bag of coal, perhaps, since
he is on the "naughty" list. We know he's not in the Ukraine; otherwise, that would count
as a thoughtful gift.
And besides, he's pd. to be irritating, not right.
I agree, however, that quality is not good, repertory is a bit stale & weak; see g77's
bon mot @ 15.
If I were his boss, I'd have him on a Corrective Action Program. But my guess, he's
gaming his metrics and hiding it, at least for now.
Posted by: rufus magister | Dec 11, 2014 10:25:31 PM |
The most shocking, if already completely buried, news of the day was that - in yet another confirmation
that Goldman Sachs is in charge of the New York Fed - a NY Fed staffer was colluding and leaking
confidential, material information to a 29-year-old Goldman vice president, himself a former Federal
This only happened because on the day Carmen Segarra disclosed her 47 hours of "secret Goldman
tapes" on This American Life, Goldman executives asked the former Fed staffer where he had gotten
what appeared to be confidential information from.
To nobody's surprise the answer was: The New York Fed. So as the latter, also known as the biggest
hedge fund of the western world with $2.7 trillion in AUM, is scrambling to once again prove it is
shocked, shocked, that it has become merely the latest subsidiary
of Goldman Sachs, Inc., it released the following statement explaining what "really" happened.
As soon as we learned that Goldman Sachs suspected one of its employees may have inappropriately
obtained confidential supervisory information, we alerted law enforcement authorities. We
have been working with law enforcement authorities since then. Because any public statement about
the investigation could be prejudicial to a potential future criminal case, we are unable to comment
on the specific facts that are under investigation.
As a general matter, we have detailed rules and controls protecting confidential information.
All employees with access to confidential supervisory information need to agree to safeguard that
information appropriately, and not to disclose it without the necessary approval. Employees
receive training relating to the handling and protection of confidential supervisory information
and other information security matters. Employees are informed that a violation of
these restrictions could lead to criminal prosecution.
Employees also receive ongoing ethics training and are required to do an annual certification
that they understand and will adhere to the Bank's Code of Conduct. In addition, we use
off-boarding procedures to confirm with departing employees that no confidential information may
be taken. With respect to all New York Fed staff, departing Officers may have no
official contact with the Federal Reserve System for a period of one year. In addition,
all departing New York Fed employees may not have substantive business contacts with the New York
Fed relating to any particular matter that he or she had worked on when employed by the New York
Fed. Further, with respect to employees departing from the financial institution supervision
group, if the departing employee had served as a senior supervisory officer or central point of
contact at a large and complex banking organization, that employee may not receive compensation
from the supervised organization as an employee, officer, director or consultant for a period
of one year. Finally, the New York Fed has in place technology to help identify
and prevent the forwarding of confidential information in violation of our rules.
So did this technology fail? Or is Goldman simply one of the exempted parties?
Selected Skeptical Comments
Is the NY FED trying to say that Goldman Sachs does not own shares in the New York Federal
The 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, which were established by the
Congress as the operating arms of the nation's central banking system,
are organized similarly to private corporations--possibly leading to
some confusion about "ownership." For example, the Reserve Banks issue
shares of stock to member banks. However, owning Reserve Bank stock is
quite different from owning stock in a private company. The Reserve
Banks are not operated for profit, and ownership of a certain amount of
stock is, by law, a condition of membership in the System. The stock may
not be sold, traded, or pledged as security for a loan; dividends are,
by law, 6 percent per year.
Goldman Sachs Bank USA ("GS Bank") is a New York State-chartered bank and a member
of the Federal Reserve System.
Which is why it is a complete farce and racket to have The NY Federal Reserve Bank be responsible
for regulating the member banks that own it.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has supervisory and regulatory authority
over a wide range of financial institutions, including state-chartered banks that are members
of the Federal Reserve System (state member banks), bank holding companies, thrift holding
companies and foreign banking organizations that have a branch, agency, a commercial lending
company subsidiary or a bank subsidiary in the United States...
" Finally, the New York Fed has in place technology to help identify and prevent the
forwarding of confidential information in violation of our rules. "
Fancy way of saying the NSA, eh?
It takes two to tango. Goldman wacked a couple of employees but the FED has kept all of theirs.
Apparently law enforcement led by Mr. Holder are undertaking another extensive "investigation."
Either that or they are waiting for a memo from Goldman detailing what their "investigation"
Bay of Pigs
They don't need to explain anything. The William Dudley's bio....
"Prior to joining the Bank in 2007, Mr. Dudley was a partner and managing director at Goldman,
Sachs & Company and was the firm's chief U.S. economist for a decade."
If this was a just country, by now the FBI would have an undercover operation, bug Dudley and
KHenry and obtain irrefutable evidence that would be enough to end the NY FED and put them behind
As we don't, and Goldman owns the FBI, we watch and cringe at these masters of arrogance and
"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation,
reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their
own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government
by organized mob."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Why is JP Morgan getting so much heat? Maybe because it is a massive international
Talking JPM With Sam Seder
JPM and Goldman sought and obtained manipulative powers in global commodities, even while they
were being bailed out on the back of the American people? Oh no, nothing like this could
be true, or so the shills and toadies of the moneyed interests will say. Just get the government
out of our way, and everything will be all right. The market is naturally rational and efficient,
pure and pristine. No Bank would risk its reputation by doing anything
Especially when they buy off and intimidate enforcement, write the laws, and do what they will.
I doubt that anything meaningful will be done about this. The corruption runs deep.
In corporatism the private and public elites are largely interchangeable. Different roles,
The politicians may make a good show of it, and talk harshly to their witnesses. And then
take their money, and lick their hands.
But at least we know more about what is true, and what is not.
Perhaps this may help you understand those who do not wish to remain under the power of the Banking
cartel, and may be in a better position to do something about it.
Wiseguys: Drawing Parallels Between the Mafia and Wall Street
Senate Report Criticizes Goldman and JPMorgan Over Their Roles in Commodities
By Nathaniel Popper and Peter Eavis
November 19, 2014
A two-year Senate-led investigation is throwing back the curtain on the outsize and sometimes
hidden sway that Wall Street banks have gained over the markets for essential commodities like
oil, aluminum and coal.
The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan
Chase assumed a role of such significance in the commodities markets that it became
possible for the banks to influence the prices that consumers pay while also securing
inside information about the markets that could be used by the banks' own traders
Bankers from both firms, along with other industry executives and regulators, will testify
about the allegations at hearings on Thursday and Friday.
The 400-page report, which was made public on Wednesday evening, included case studies on nine
different commodities in which banks have taken big positions, including the 100 oil tankers and
55 million barrels of oil storage that were owned by Morgan Stanley, and the 31 power plants owned
by JPMorgan at one point.
The subcommittee discussed several reasons that these commodity operations could create problems.
The potential for price manipulation and the unfair advantage that banks can gain in these markets
were among the top concerns expressed by Senator Levin and Senator John McCain, the top Republican
on the subcommittee.
But both senators also echoed previous warnings that the enormous holdings of oil, uranium
and other hazardous materials could expose the banks to significant legal liability that could,
in turn, lead to runs on the banks.
A 2012 study by the Federal Reserve, cited in the report, found that banks have not put aside
enough money and insurance to adequately prepare for the "extreme loss scenarios" involving commodities...
Read the entire article
2.1 The Rise of the Neocons
Americans regularly insist that the U.S. is the only global governing authority that underpins
the world's security and prosperity, that without it, there would be widespread chaos, economic stagnancy,
and far more frequent international warfare. The proponents of this conception emphasize the dependency
of world order on US military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological capabilities (Falk, R., 2014).
Falk mentions Michael Mandelbaum as the most passionate proponent of this position . Recently
Mandelbaum (2014) bluntly restated this argument, saying, "The United States stands alone
as the world's de facto government." Though administered from its statist headquarters in Washington,
according to its promoters, this form of world government is meta-political and unselfish, qualities
that should be appreciated by all people of good will since the U.S. is contributing to the betterment
of humanity (Kagan, R. 2006). Indeed, there was only one group on earth which claimed the right to
global governance: the US neo-conservatives.
By the mid-1970s, then
Donald Rumsfeld began
to argue that the Soviet government would be ignoring bilateral treaties and secretly building up
weapons with the intention of attacking the United States. Together with
Paul Wolfowitz he wanted
to create a much more severe view of the Soviet Union, its intentions, and views about fighting and
winning a nuclear war. When George H. W. Bush became Director of Central Intelligence
in 1976, he set up a team of sixteen outside experts who were to take an independent look at highly
classified data used by the intelligence community to assess Soviet strategic forces, commonly referred
to as Team B . Their allegations proved all wrong. The CIA director concluded
that the Team B approach set "in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes
other than estimative accuracy."
The "neo-conservative offensive" (Hamm, B., 2005, 1-18), which started in August 1971 with the
Powell Manifesto (Nace, T., 2003 ), had its first great success when Ronald Reagan came into
power und brought many of the neocon hawks with him. They had been in place before and were waiting
for their chance. Ronald Reagan was the worst informed president, an old man who napped even in meetings
of the National Security Council, and who perceived the world through the lens of Hollywood movies:
"A man of limited knowledge but deep religious beliefs and strong conservative convictions, he provided
little guidance on policy and had no interest in or grasp of detail. … Reagan's disengaged style
and lack of foreign policy experience left the door open to palace intrigue among his subordinates,
who were eager to fill the void" (Stone, O., Kuznick, P., 2013:421-4).
After the collapse of the socialist regimes the neocons lost influence while still opposing the
foreign policy establishment of the republican Bush Sr. administration as well as of that of its
democratic successor under President Clinton. Their major foreign policy concern was how to prevent
the rise of a new rival. The Defense Planning Guide, a document prepared by the then Undersecretary
for Defense Policy Paul Wolfowitz mentions: "Our most important goal is it to prevent to emergence
of a new rival, whether on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, which would represent
a threat similar to that of the former Soviet Union. This reflection governs the new regional defense
strategy and demands that we prevent every hostile power to dominate a region the resouces of which
would suffice to justify a claim to global power" .
In 1997, a group surfaced under the name of Project for a New American Century (PNAC),
a think tank based in
Washington, D.C. founded
by William Kristol and
Robert Kagan. The PNAC's
stated goal is "to promote American global leadership." Fundamental to the PNAC were the views that
"American leadership is both good for America and good for the world" and support for "a
Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity." After the faked presidential elections
of 2000 (Palast, G. 2002), its members came in numerous key administrative positions and the PNAC
exerted influence on high-level government officials in the administration of
George W. Bush and shaped
its military and
As J. Petras (2013b) writes, the restoration of "direct US imperial interventions, unhindered
by Congressional and popular opposition, was gradual in the period 1973-1990. It started to accelerate
in the 1990's and then really took off after September 11, 2001" The first military test after the
collapse of the Soviet empire was how Iraq President Saddam Hussein was lured into the Kuwait trap
in 1990. The 28 nations "coalition of the willing" was bought together, and war was waged over the
people of Iraq, a war that first was fought with murderous weapons, then with sanctions, and has
continued until this very day. On January 16, 1998, members of the PNAC, including
Paul Wolfowitz, and
Robert Zoellick drafted
an open letter to President Bill
Clinton urging him to remove
Saddam Hussein from power.
They argued that Saddam would pose a threat to the United States, its
Middle East allies, and oil
resources in the region if he succeeded in maintaining what they asserted was a stockpile of
Weapons of Mass
Destruction. The PNAC also supported the
Iraq Liberation Act
of 1998, which some have regarded as evidence that the
2003 invasion of Iraq
was a foregone conclusion (Mackay, N., 2004).
It should not be forgotten that the war against Afghanistan, too, was being planned well before
the 9/11 attacks. US officials had been in talks with the Taliban about building an oil pipeline
from the Caspian Sea to Karachi, Pakistan, via Afghanistan in order to avoid crossing Iran. In July
2001, a German diplomat was reported saying that the talks ended with the announcement from the US
side: "Either we cover you with a carpet of gold [if you comply], or we cover you with a carpet of
bombs". Even the date when bombings would begin was given as October 2001 . This had nothing
whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks, nor with Osama bin Laden (Chossudovsky, M. 2005).
Rebuilding America's Defenses (September 2000), the most widely circulated document
of the PNAC group, was developed by
Wolfowitz and Scooter
Libby, and devoted to matters
of "maintaining US pre-eminence, thwarting rival powers and shaping the global security system according
to US interests." Section V, entitled "Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force", includes the sentence:
"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be
a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor". Though not necessarily
implying that Bush administration members were complicit in those attacks, it was often been argued
that PNAC members used the events of 9/11 as the "Pearl Harbor" that they needed––that is, as an
"opportunity" to capitalize on in order to enact long-desired plans.
In a 2007 speech before the Commonwealth Club, retired General Wesley Clark cited a classified
Pentagon Memorandum of 2001 (months before the September attacks) which read that the US would attack
seven countries in the next five years, i.e. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran
in order to gain control over their natural resources, oil in the first place, and enable fabulous
profits for the arms and oil industries. "Our country was governed by a group of paranoids like Paul
Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others who wanted to destabilize the Middle East and
gain control over its resources" .
By the end of 2006, PNAC was "reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website", with "a single
employee left to wrap things up". In 2006,
Gary Schmitt, former executive
director of the PNAC, a resident scholar at the
Enterprise Institute and director of its program in Advanced Strategic Studies, stated that
PNAC had come "to a natural end." Instead, untiring neocon hawk Robert Kagan replaced it with the
Foreign Policy Initiative .
I got to thinking today about how neocon and neoliberal are becoming interchangeable terms. They
did not start out that way. My understanding is they are ways of rationalizing breaks with traditional
conservatism and liberalism. Standard conservatism was fairly isolationist. Conservatism's embrace
of the Cold War put it at odds with this tendency. This was partially resolved by accepting the
Cold War as a military necessity despite its international commitments but limiting civilian programs
like foreign aid outside this context and rejecting the concept of nation building altogether.
With the end of the Cold War conservative internationalism needed a new rationale, and this was
supplied by the neoconservatives. They advocated the adoption of conservatism's Cold War military
centered internationalism as the model for America's post-Cold War international relations. After
all, why drop a winning strategy? America had won the Cold War against a much more formidable opponent
than any left on the planet. What could go wrong?
America's ability not simply to project but its willingness to use military power was equated
with its power more generally. If America did not do this, it was weak and in decline. However, the
frequent use of military power showed that America was great and remained the world's hegemon. In
particular, the neocons focused on the Middle East. This sales pitch gained them the backing of both
supporters of Israel (because neoconservatism was unabashedly pro-Israel) and the oil companies.
The military industrial complex was also on board because the neocon agenda effectively countered
calls to reduce military spending. But neoconservatism was not just confined to these groups. It
appealed to both believers in American exceptionalism and backers of humanitarian interventions (of
which I once was one).
As neoconservatism developed, that is with Iraq and Afghanistan, the neocons even came to embrace
nation building which had always been anathema to traditional conservatism. Neocons sold this primarily
by casting nation building in military terms, the creation and training of police and security forces
in the target country.
9/11 too was critical. It vastly increased the scope of the neocon project in spawning the Global
War on Terror. It increased the stage of neocon operations to the entire planet. It effectively erased
the distinction between the use of military force against countries and individuals. Individuals
more than countries became targets for military, not police, action. And unlike traditional wars
or the Cold War itself, this one would never be over. Neoconservatism now had a permanent raison
Politically, neoconservatism has become the bipartisan foreign policy consensus. Democrats are
every bit as neocon in their views as Republicans. Only a few libertarians on the right and progressives
on the left reject it.
Neoliberalism, for its part, came about to address the concern of liberals, especially Democrats,
that they were too anti-business and too pro-union, and that this was hurting them at the polls.
It was sold to the rubiat has pragmatism.
The roots of neoliberalism are the roots of kleptocracy. Both begin under Carter. Neoliberalism
also known at various times and places as the Washington Consensus (under Clinton) and the Chicago
School is the political expression for public consumption of the kleptocratic economic philosophy,
just as libertarian and neoclassical economics (both fresh and salt water varieties) are its academic
and governmental face. The central tenets of neoliberalism are deregulation, free markets, and free
trade. If neoliberalism had a prophet or a patron saint, it was Milton Friedman.
Again just as neoconservatism and kleptocracy or bipartisan so too is neoliberalism. There really
is no daylight between Reaganism/supply side economics/trickledown on the Republican side and Clinton's
Washington Consensus or Team Obama on the other.
And just as we saw with neoconservatism, neoliberalism expanded from its core premises and effortlessly
transitioned into globalization, which can also be understood as global kleptocracy.
The distinctions between neoconservatism and neoliberalism are being increasingly lost, perhaps
because most of our political classes are practitioners of both. But initially at least neoconservatism
was focused on foreign policy and neoliberalism on domestic economic policy. As the War on Terror
expanded, however, neoconservatism came back home with the creation and expansion of the surveillance
At the same time, neoliberalism went from domestic to global, and here I am not just thinking
about neoliberal experiments, like Pinochet's Chile or post-Soviet Russia, but the financialization
of the world economy and the adoption of kleptocracy as the world economic model.
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 5:55am
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 9:18am
I'm now under the opinion that you can't talk about any of the "neo-isms" without talking
about the corporate state.
That's really the tie that binds the two things you are speaking of.
With neocons, it manifests itself through the military-industrial complex (Boeing, Raytheon,
etc.), and with neolibs it manifests itself through finance and industrial policy.
For example, you need the US gov't to bomb Iraq (Raytheon) in order to secure oil (Halliburton),
which is priced & financed in US dollars (Goldman Sachs). It's like a 3-legged stool; if you
remove one of these legs, the whole thing comes down. But each leg has two components, a
statist component and a corporate component.
The entity that enables all of this is the corporate state.
It also explains why economic/financial interests (neolib) are now considered national security
interests (neocon). The viability of the state is now tied to the viability of the corporation.
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 1:37pm
Corporate/statist (not sure "corporate" captures the looting/rentier aspect though). We see
it everywhere, for example in the revolving door.
I think the stool has more legs and is also more dynamic; more like Ikea furniture. For example,
the press is surely critical in organizing the war.
But the yin/yang of neo-lib/neo-con is nice: It's as if the neo-cons handle the kinetic aspects
(guns, torture) and the neo-libs handle the mental aspects (money, mindfuckery) but both merge
(like Negronponte being on the board of Americans Select) over time as margins fall and decorative
aspects like democratic institutions and academic freedom get stripped away. The state and the
corporation have always been tied to each other but now the ties are open and visible (for example,
fines are just a cost of doing business, a rent on open corruption.)
And then there's the concept of "human resource," that abstracts all aspects of humanity away
except those that are exploitable.
First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. --
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 8:28am
I like the term much better than Fascist, as it is 1) more accurate, 2) avoids the Godwin's
law issue, and 3) makes them sound totalitarianist.
Yes, I would agree that additional legs make sense. The media aspect is essential, as it neutralizes
the freedom of the press, without changing the constitution. It dovetails pretty well with the
notion of Inverted Totalitarianism.
I think you could also make the argument that Obama is perhaps the most ideal combination
of neolib & neocon. The two sides of him flow together so seamlessly, no one seems to notice.
But that's in part because he is so corporate.
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 3:57pm
Actually, neoliberalism is an economic term. An economic liberal in the UK and EU is for open
markets, capitalism, etc. You're right that neoliberalism comes heavily from the University of
Chicago, but it has little to do with American political liberalism.
A reading of the classical liberal economists puts some breaks on the markets, corporations,
etc. Neoliberalism goes to the illogical extremes of market theory and iirc, has some influence
from the Austrian school ... which gives up on any pretense of scientific exposition of economics
or rationality at the micro level, assuming that irrationality will magically become rational
behavior in aggregate.
Therefore, US conservatives post Eisenhower but especially post Reagan are almost certainly
economic neoliberals. Since Clinton, liberals/Democrats have been too (at least the elected ones).
You nailed neoconservative and both parties are in foreign policy since at least Clinton ... though
here lets not forget to go back as far as JFK and his extreme anti-Communism that led to all sorts
of covert operations, The Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember, the Soviets
put the missiles in Cuba because we put missiles in Turkey and they backed down from Cuba because
we agreed to remove the missiles from Turkey; Nikita was nice enough not to talk about that so
that Kennedy didn't lose face.
"Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 10:44pm
I agree that neoconservatism and neoliberalism are two facets of corporatism/kleptocracy. I
like the kinetic vs. white collar distinction.
The roots of neoliberalism go back to the 1940s and the Austrians, but in the US it really
only comes into currency with Clinton as a deliberate shift of the Democratic/liberal platform
away from labor and ordinary Americans to make it more accommodating to big business and big money.
I had never heard of neoliberalism before Bill Clinton but it is easy to see how those tendencies
were at work under Carter, but not under Johnson.
This was a rough and ready sketch. I guess I should also have mentioned PNAC or the Project
to Find a New Mission for the MIC.
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 11:49pm
I have never understood this love of Clinton that some Democrats have just as I have never
understood the attraction of Reagan for Republicans. There is no Clinton faction. There is no
Obama faction. Hillary Clinton is Obama's frigging Secretary of State. Robert Rubin and Larry
Summers, both of whom served as Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, were Obama's top financial
and economic advisors. Timothy Geithner was their protégé. Leon Panetta Obama's Director of the
CIA and current Secretary of Defense was Clinton's Director of OMB and then Chief of Staff.
The Democrats as a party are neoconservative and neoliberal as are Obama and the Clintons.
As are Republicans.
What does corporations need regulation mean? It is rather like saying that the best way to
deal with cancer is to find a cure for it. Sounds nice but there is no content to it. Worse in
the real world, the rich own the corporations, the politicians, and the regulators. So even if
you come up with good ideas for regulation they aren't going to happen.
What you are suggesting looks a whole lot another iteration of lesser evilism meets Einstein's
definition of insanity. How is it any different from any other instance of Democratic tribalism?
Perhaps it should be pointed out that the Clintons became fabulously wealthy just after Bill
left office, mostly on the strength of his speaking engagements for the financial sector that
he'd just deregulated. Both he and Hillary hew to a pretty damned neoconservative foreign policy
... with that dash of "humanitarian interventionism" that makes war palatable to liberals.
But your deeper point is that there isn't enough of a difference between Obama and Bill Clinton
to really draw a distinction, not in terms of ideology. What a theoretical Hillary Clinton presidency
would have looked like is irrelevant, because both Bill and Obama talked a lot different than
they walked. Any projection of a Hillary Clinton administration is just that and requires arguing
that it would have been different than Bill's administration and policies.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that at that level of politics, the levers of money
and power work equally well on both party's nomenklatura. They flock to it like moths to porch
That the money chose Obama over Clinton doesn't say all that much, because there's no evidence
suggesting that the money didn't like Clinton or that it would have chosen McCain over Clinton.
It's not as if Clinton's campaign was driven into the ground by lack of funds.
Regardless, that to be a Democrat i would kind of have to chose between two factions that are
utterly distasteful to me just proves that i have no business being a Democrat. And since i wouldn't
vote for either of those names, i guess i'll just stick to third parties and exit the political
tribalism loop for good.
"Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Jesse's Café Américain
"Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted
and in need of assistance. Their attitudes need correction...
Here is a recent conversation I had with a friend about the current state of the US recovery. As
an accountant with a wide range of exposures, I enjoy hearing his perspective since I no longer have
that sort of current insight into the corporate culture in America. I have years of background running
large businesses in corporations, and some forays into large scale M&A work, so I have seen quite
a bit of it. The methods rarely change, merely the guises and degrees.
Suddenly, abused and battered
wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely,
those grieving for lost loved ones, those crushed by poverty, the terminally ill, those fighting
with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those
whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their
medical bills, are to blame for their negativity.
The ideology justifies the cruelty of unfettered capitalism, shifting
the blame from the power elite to those they oppress."
Here are excerpts from his
side of the conversation with only one parenthetical comment of my own.
"I don't think we're seeing profits in a traditional sense. Instead, it appears to me that we're
watching a long, drawn out LBO'ing of America. It appears that companies are liquidating
capital and returning it as opposed to earnings spreads on revenue.
Although I do not wish to be an alarmist, I have to say that this trend of attempting to sustain
the unsustainable has gone on longer than I had previously thought possible.
It seems like we're seeing the final blow-off phase that started with the stock option
becoming the primary form of compensation for corporate talent. By drawing out the LBO, they
re-stock their options each year with a guaranteed return thanks to the Fed and their own Treasury
The problem is that you can't have systematic corporate buybacks with employment/economic
growth as they create diametrically opposite outcomes. The more work I do, the more I conclude
that the US economy has not expanded since 2006.
I was looking at mutual fund data the other day and it showed that people moved their fixed
income money into domestic equity - $185 billion in liquidated bond funds to buy $175 billion
in equity funds. This happened after the Fed announced tapering was on the table. Just like the
gold market, I suspect that "someone" forced the liquidation of bond funds and herded the money
into equity funds to keep the rally going. (I
think it is perfectly reasonable to flee bond funds at any time that interest rates
are turning higher. Bond funds often take it on the chin in such a deleveraging of a long term
interest rate trend. However, I think the whole taper thing was hyped and used by the wiseguys,
as are most things these days by our financial masters of the universe. - Jesse)
Coincidentally, corporations used half a trillion in cash flow on buybacks. It's a
liquidity game but with limitations. What's the next asset that can be liquidated or levered?
They're still working on gold but sometime soon, the price of gold will be set in the East,
where the gold resides. Agricultural commodities are being liquidated but that ensures a
drop in planting next year. Oil is too valuable on the geopolitical front to liquidate.
There are certainly winners in this economy but far more losers. At some point,
the weight of the losers acts against the winners, many of whom are levered up with confidence.
Corporations can liquidate equity capital but we all know how the LBO'd companies operated in
the 1990's. In many ways, they've gotten corporations to behave like consumers did in the
2000's, only this time they're trained to buy back their own stock. Every cycle has natural limits.
We know that corporate cash flow is no longer growing and we know that it's more expensive
to sell debt today than a year ago. We also know that the Fed sees the stock market as their
proof of success. So how does this shakeout? If corporations are a lemon, how much juice can you
squeeze out of the lemon?"
I am fairly sure that the next crisis will bring these things to a head and some sort of resolution.
But therein also lies great danger. Philosophies that have grown time can have deep roots, and when
faced with what to them is an intolerable change, can react somewhat excessively. They may even welcome
the opportunity to act excessively and decisively, at least in their own minds, as the path to
When a ruling subculture that has become accustomed to crushing and liquidating things for its
own power and pleasure, whether it is natural resources, the environment, crops, animals, land, or
social organizations, eventually runs out of things, it can become frustrated and angry in its seeming
impotence to continue on, to keep expanding.
Indirectly and somewhat benignly at first, but with a growing efficiency and determination
over time, it will begin with the weak and the defenseless, attacking and objectifying them, even
in the most petty of ways and impositions. It will turn to its critics, and then everyone who is
defined by them as 'the other.'
That is when a predatory social and economic philosophy can turn into pure fascism, and start
liquidating people. And finally it liquidates and consumes itself.
But really, no one wakes up one morning and suddenly decides, 'Today I will become a monster,
and wantonly kill innocent women and children.'
Otherwise ordinary people get to that point slowly, one convenient rationalization for their 'necessary
and expedient' behavior at a time. After all, they are the good people, they are the strong, they
are the most successful and the favored.
They are the entitled, and not these others who would seek to drain them, drag them back
down. They are the champions of progress and achievement and civilisation, the hardest working,
and the epitome of mankind.
What could possibly go wrong?
"He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He
bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and
gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them,
and then you are his."
If you are one who thinks that the above 'could not possibly happen here,' and I am sure that there
are many, you may wish to read the following vignette from modern US history. Alan Nasser,
FDR's Response to the Plot to Overthrow Him
J. H. Newman, The AntiChrist
||"A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally
and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules...
Such an economy kills. "
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Francis I
"When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to
the Bank [of the United States]...
You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out, and by the Eternal,
(bringing his fist down on the table), I will rout you out."
Corporatism by any other name, or brand...
h/t for the chart to those wild and crazy guys at GMU.
Posted by Jesse at
financial coup d'etat,
Second Bank of the United States
I think another important distinction between state capitlism and corporatism is that in state capitalism
state control corporations (like was the case in the USSR), while in corporatism corporations control
the state (like is the case in the USA).
The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized
into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest
groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement. In contrast to a market economy
which operates through competition a corporate economic works through collective bargaining. The
American president Lyndon Johnson had a favorite phrase that reflected the spirit of corporatism.
He would gather the parties to some dispute and say, "Let us reason together."
Under corporatism the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization.
The representatives of labor and management settle wage issues through collective negotiation. While
this was the theory in practice the corporatist states were largely ruled according to the dictates
of the supreme leader.
One early and important theorist of corporatism was Adam Müller, an advisor to Prince Metternich
in what is now eastern Germany and Austria. Müller propounded his views as an antidote to the twin
dangers of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez faire economics of
Adam Smith. In Germany and elsewhere there was a distinct aversion among rulers to allow markets
to function without direction or control by the state. The general culture heritage of Europe from
the medieval era was opposed to individual self-interest and the free operation of markets. Markets
and private property were acceptable only as long as social regulation took precedence over such
sinfull motivations as greed.
Coupled with the anti-market sentiments of the medieval culture there was the notion that the
rulers of the state had a vital role in promoting social justice. Thus corporatism was formulated
as a system that emphasized the positive role of the state in guaranteeing social justice and suppressing
the moral and social chaos of the population pursuing their own individual self-interests. And above
all else, as a political economic philosophy corporatism was flexible. It could tolerate private
enterprise within limits and justify major projects of the state. Corporatism has sometimes been
labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism,
but it is in fact a separate, distinctive political economic system.
Although rulers have probably operated according to the principles of corporatism from time immemorial
it was only in the early twentieth century that regimes began to identify themselves as corporatist.
The table below gives some of those explicitly corporatist regimes.
|Corporatist Regimes of
the Early Twentieth Century
|Country, Religion, Monarchy
||Miguel Primo de Rivera
In the above table several of the regimes were brutal, totalitarian dictatorships, usually labeled
fascist, but not all the regimes that had a corporatist foundation were fascist. In particular,
the Roosevelt New Deal despite its many faults could not be described as fascist. But definitely
the New Deal was corporatist.
The architect for the initial New Deal program was General Hugh Johnson. Johnson had been the
administrator of the military mobilization program for the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson during World
War I. It was felt that he did a good job of managing the economy during that period and that is
why he was given major responsibility for formulating an economic program to deal with the severe
problems of the Depression. But between the end of World War I and 1933 Hugh Johnson had become an
admirer of Mussolini's National Corporatist system in Italy and he drew upon the Italian experience
in formulating the New Deal. It should be noted that many elements of the early New Deal were later
declared unconstitutional and abandoned, but some elements such as the National Labor Relations Act
which promoted unionization of the American labor force are still in effect. One part of the New
Deal was the development of the Tennessee River Valley under the public corporation called the Tennessee
Valley Authority (TVA). Some of the New Dealer saw TVA as more than a public power enterprise. They
hoped to make TVA a model for the creation of regional political units which would replace state
governments. Their goal was not realized. The model for TVA was the river development schemes carried
out in Spain in the 1920's under the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Jose Antonio Primo de
Rivera, the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was the founder of Franco's National Syndicalism.
Corporatist regime typically promote large governmental projects such as TVA on the basis that
they are too large to be funded by private enterprise. In Brazil the Vargas regime created many public
enterprises such as in iron and steel production which it felt were needed but private enterprise
declined to create. It also created an organized labor movement that came to control those public
enterprises and turned them into overstaffed, inefficient drains on the public budget.
Although the above locates the origin of corporatism in 19th century France it roots can be traced
much further back in time. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, The Cruel Dilemmas of Development:
Twentieth Century Brazil, says,
Corporatism is based on a body of ideas that can be traced through Aristotle, Roman law, medieval
social and legal structures, and into contemporary Catholic social philosophy. These ideas are
based on the premise that man's nature can only be fulfilled within a political community.
The central core of the corporatist vision is thus not the individual but the political community
whose perfection allows the individual members to fulfill themselves and find happiness.
The state in the corporatist tradition is thus clearly interventionist and powerful.
Corporatism is collectivist; it is a different version of collectivism than socialism but it is
definitely collectivist. It places some importance on the fact that private property is not nationalized,
but the control through regulation is just as real. It is de facto nationalization without being
de jure nationalization.
Although Corporatism is not a familiar concept to the general public, most of the economies of
the world are corporatist in nature. The categories of socialist and pure market economy are virtually
empty. There are only corporatist economies of various flavors.
These flavors of corporatism include the social democratic regimes of Europe and the Americas,
but also the East Asian and Islamic fundamentalist regimes such as Taiwan, Singapore and Iran. The
Islamic socialist states such as Syria, Libya and Algeria are more corporatist than socialist, as
was Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The formerly communist regimes such as Russia and China are now clearly
corporatist in economic philosophy although not in name.
The root cancer at the core of the U.S., and indeed global economy, is cronyism and an
absence of the rule of law when it comes to oligarchs. In the U.S., this cronyism is best
described as an insidious relationship between large multi-national corporations and big government
to funnel all of the wealth and resources of the nation to themselves at the expense of everyone
else. In a genuine free market defined by heightened competition and governed by an equal application
of the rule of law to all, the 0.1% does not aggregate all of a nation's wealth. This sort of thing
happens in crony capitalism, which is basically nothing more than complete and total
insider deals to aggregate newly created money into the hands of the few. The following
profile of Washington D.C.'s so-called "boom" from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pretty much
tells you all you need to know.
* * *
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
Ever since I started writing about what is happening in the world around me, my primary theme
has been that the root cancer at the core of the U.S., and indeed global economy, is cronyism and
an absence of the rule of law when it comes to oligarchs. In the U.S., this cronyism is best described
as an insidious relationship between large multi-national corporations and big government to funnel
all of the wealth and resources of the nation to themselves at the expense of everyone else. In a
genuine free market defined by heightened competition and governed by an equal application of the
rule of law to all, the 0.1% does not aggregate all of a nation's wealth. This sort of thing only
happens in crony capitalism, which is basically nothing more than complete and total insider
deals to aggregate newly created money into the hands of the few.
The following profile of Washington D.C.'s so-called "boom" from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
pretty much tells you all you need to know. While I think the tone of the article is absurd
considering this is no "economic boom," but merely parasitic wealth extraction on a unprecedented
scale, it is still quite telling. It is no coincidence that as D.C. has grown wealthier, the nation
has become much, much poorer. Key excerpts below:
The avalanche of cash that made Washington rich in the last decade has transformed the
culture of a once staid capital and created a new wave of well-heeled insiders.
The winners in the new Washington are not just the former senators, party consiglieri and
four-star generals who have always profited from their connections. Now they are also the former
bureaucrats, accountants and staff officers for whom unimagined riches are suddenly possible.
They are the entrepreneurs attracted to the capital by its aura of prosperity and its super-educated
workforce. They are the lawyers, lobbyists and executives who work for companies that barely had
a presence in Washington before the boom.
At the same time, big companies realized that a few million spent shaping legislation
could produce windfall profits. They nearly doubled the cash they poured into the capital.
Sorry these aren't "entrepreneurs," they are parasitic opportunists.
At Cafe Joe, a greasy spoon near the National Security Agency in suburban Maryland, software
engineers with top-secret clearances merely have to look at the place mats under their fried eggs
to find federal contractors trying to entice them away from their government jobs with six-figure
salaries and stock options. The place-mat ads cost $250 a week. They are sold out through
During the past decade, the region added 21,000 households in the nation's top
1 percent. No other metro area came close.
Two forces triggered the boom.
The share of money the government spent on weapons and other hardware shrank as service
contracts nearly tripled in value. At the peak in 2010, companies based in Rep. James
Moran's congressional district in Northern Virginia reaped $43 billion in federal contracts -
roughly as much as the state of Texas.
Back in 2000, the company spent a mere $260,000 lobbying Congress, federal records show.
Its lobbyists mostly talked to lawmakers about health care: medical manufacturing issues, Medicare
reimbursement rates, privacy of health records, and congressional oversight of the Food and Drug
By the end of the decade, the company had broadened its horizons dramatically.
"Government relations" now accounted for $2.6 million - a tenfold increase. On one quarterly
disclosure report from 2010, Boston Scientific listed 35 different pieces of legislation on which
it was lobbying. They included proposals on patent reform, tax penalties for moving American jobs
abroad, tax credits for research and development, rules for transporting lithium batteries, limits
on workers' ability to form labor unions and federal regulation of certain types of financial
Government relations has become so important to the bottom line of a modern company, Becker
said, that it should be a required course at business school. The numbers suggest she's right.
Companies spent about $3.5 billion annually on lobbying at the end of the last decade,
a nearly 90 percent increase from 1999 after adjusting for inflation, political scientist Lee
Drutman notes in a forthcoming book, "The Business of America Is Lobbying."
And you wonder why the economy sucks?
Legal services also boomed, fueled by the growing complexities of federal business regulations.
The number of lawyers in the D.C. metro area increased by a third from 2000 to 2012, nearly
twice as fast as the growth rate nationwide. And those lawyers have the highest mean
salaries in the country, according to George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.
The more companies spend on influence, the lower their effective tax rates and the higher
their stock returns compared with competitors', according to recent research. A company called
Strategas has built an index to track the stock performance of the 50 companies that lobby the
most; last year, that index outperformed the rest of the market by 30 percent.
If you still are confused why the U.S. economy is completely stuck in the mud, look no further
than the parasites of Washington D.C.
October 15, 2013
In the aftermath of the reign of Nazi terror in the 1940s, the philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote:
National Socialism lives on, and even today we still do not know whether it is merely the
ghost of what was so monstrous that it lingers on after its own death, or whether it has not yet
died at all, whether the willingness to commit the unspeakable survives in people as well as in
the conditions that enclose them.1
.... ... ...
For Adorno, the conditions for fascism would more than likely crystallize into new forms. For
instance, they might be found in the economic organization of a society that renders
"the majority of people dependent upon conditions beyond their control and thus maintains them
in a state of political immaturity. If they want to live, then no other avenue remains but to
adapt, submit themselves to the given conditions."3
In part, this speaks to the role of corporate-controlled cultural apparatuses that normalize anti-democratic
ideologies and practices as well as to the paramount role of education in creating a subject for
whom politics was superfluous. For Adorno, fascism in its new guise particularly would launch
a systemic assault on the remaining conditions for democracy through the elimination of public memory,
public institutions in which people could be educated to think critically and the evisceration of
public spaces where people could learn the art of social citizenship, thoughtfulness and critical
engagement. He also believed that the residual elements of the police state would become emergent
in any new expression of fascism in which the corporate and military establishments would be poised
to take power. Adorno, like Hannah Arendt, understood that the seeds of authoritarianism lie in the
"disappearance of politics: a form of government that destroys politics, methodically eliminating
speaking and acting human beings and attacking the very humanity of first a selected group and
then all groups. In this way, totalitarianism makes people superfluous as human beings."4
The American political, cultural, and economic landscape is inhabited by the renewed return of
authoritarianism evident in the ideologies of religious and secular certainty that legitimate the
reign of economic Darwinism, the unchecked power of capital, the culture of fear and the expanding
national security state. The ghosts of fascism also are evident in what Charles Derber and Yale Magress
call elements of "the Weimer Syndrome," which include a severe and seemingly irresolvable economic
crisis, liberals and moderate parties too weak to address the intensifying political and economic
crises, the rise of far-right populist groups such as the Tea Party and white militia, and
the emergence of the Christian Right, with its racist, anti-intellectual and fundamentalist ideology.5
The underpinnings of fascism are also evident in the reign of foreign and domestic terrorism that
bears down on the so called enemies of the state (whistleblowers and nonviolent youthful protesters)
and on those abroad who challenge America's imperial mission; it is also visible in a growing pervasive
surveillance system buttressed by the belief that everyone is a potential enemy of the state and
should be rightfully subject to diverse and massive assaults on rights to privacy and assembly.6
... ... ...
During the past few decades, it has become clear that those who wield corporate, political and
financial power in the United States thrive on the misery of others. Widening inequality, environmental
destruction, growing poverty, the privatization of public goods, the attack on social provisions,
the elimination of pensions and the ongoing attacks on workers, young protesters, Muslims and immigrants
qualify as just a few of the injustices that have intensified with the rise of the corporate and
financial elite since the 1970s. None of these issues are novel, but the intensification of the attacks
and the visibility of unbridled power and arrogance of the financial, corporate and political elite
that produces these ongoing problems are new and do not bode well for the promise of a democratic
Such failings are not reducible either to the moral deficiencies and unchecked greed of both major
political parties or the rapacious power of the mega banks, hedge funds and investment houses. Those
intellectuals writing to acknowledge the current state of politics in America understand the outgrowth
of a mix of rabid racism, religious fundamentalism, civic illiteracy, class warfare and a savage
hatred of the welfare state that now grips the leadership of the Republican Party.8
The new extremists and prophets of authoritarianism are diverse, and their roots are in what Chris
Hedges calls the radical Christian right,9
Michael Lind calls the reincarnation of the old Jeffersonian-Jacksonian right10
and what Robert Parry and Andrew O'Hehir call racist zealots.11
All of these elements are present in American politics, but they are part of a new social formation
in which they share, even in their heterogeneity, a set of organizing principles, values, policies,
modes of governance and ideologies that have created a cultural formation, institutional structures,
values and policies that support a range of anti-democratic practices ranging from the militarization
of public life and acts of domestic terrorism to the destruction of the social state and all those
public spheres capable of producing critical and engaged citizens.
Needless to say, all of these groups play an important role in the rise of the new extremism and
culture of cruelty that now characterizes American politics and has produced the partial government
shutdown and threatens economic disaster with the debt-ceiling standoff. What is new is that these
various fundamentalist registers and ideological movements have produced a coalition, a totality
that speaks to a new historical conjuncture, one that has ominous authoritarian overtones for the
present and future. There is no talk among the new extremists of imposing only an extreme Christian
religious orthodoxy on the American people or simply restoring a racial state; or for that matter
is there a singular call for primarily controlling the economy. The new counter-revolutionaries and
apostles of the Second Gilded age are more interested in imposing a mode of authoritarianism that
contains all of these elements in the interest of governing the whole of social life. This suggests
a historical conjuncture in which a number of anti-democratic forces come together to "fuse and form
a kind of configuration" - a coming together of diverse political and ideological formations into
a new totality.12
The partial government shutdown is a precondition and test run for a full coup d'état by the social
formations driving this totality. And while they may lose the heated battle over the government shutdown
and the debt ceiling, they have succeeded in executing their project and giving it some legitimacy
in the dominant media.
Hiding beneath the discourse of partisan politics as usual, the authoritarian face of the new
extremism is overlooked in the dominant media by terms such as "the opposing party," "hard-line conservatives"13
or, in the words of New York Times columnist Sam Tanenhous, the party of "a post consensus politics."14
In fact, even progressives such as Marian Wright Edelman fall into this trap in writing that "some
members of Congress are acting like children - or, more accurately, worse than children."15
In this case, the anti-democratic ideologies, practices and social formations at work in producing
the shutdown and the potential debt-ceiling crisis are not merely overlooked but incorporated into
a liberal discourse that personalizes, psychologizes or infantilizes behaviors that refuses to
acknowledge or, in fact, succumbs to totalitarian tendencies.
.... ... ...
Obama may not be responsible for the government shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis, but he can
be charged with furthering a climate of lawlessness that feeds the authoritarian culture supportive
of a range of political, economic and cultural interests. The American anti-war activist Fred Branfman
Under Mr. Obama, America is still far from being a classic police-state of course. But
no President has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police-state. This
infrastructure will clearly pose a serious danger to democratic ideals should there be more 9/11s,
and/or increased domestic unrest due to economic decline and growing inequality, and/or massive
global disruption due to climate change.23
The new extremists in the Republican Party are simply raising the bar for the authoritarian registers
and illegal legalities that have emerged under Bush and Obama in the past decade - including the
bailing out of banks guilty of the worst forms of corporate malfeasance, the refusal to prosecute
government officials who committed torture, the undermining of civil liberties with the passage of
the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the establishment of a presidential kill
list and the authorization of widespread surveillance to be used against the American people without
The current crisis has little to do with what some have called a standoff between the two major
political parties. It is has been decades in the making and is part of a much broader coup d'état
to benefit the financial elite, race baiters, war mongers and conservative ideologues such as the
right-wing billionaires, David and Charles Koch, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Americans for Prosperity, the
Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation policy hacks and other extremist individuals and organizations
that believe that democracy poses a threat to a government that should be firmly in the hands of
Wall Street and other elements of the military-industrial-surveillance-prison complex.
... ... ...
In 2004, I wrote a book titled The Terror of Neoliberalism: The New Authoritarianism
and the Eclipse of Democracy.33
What is different almost a decade later is a mode of state repression and an apparatus of symbolic
and real violence that is not only more pervasive and visible but also more unaccountable, more daunting
in its arrogance and disrespect for the most fundamental elements of justice, equality and civil
... ... ...
To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project,
[Sep 06, 2013] William Greider on the New American Caste System (and the Slow Return to Liberalism)
By David Dayen
January 27, 2011
...you can confirm the end of New Deal liberalism with the last couple years, although the
dismantling begun in the 1970s.
We have reached a pivotal moment in government and politics, and it feels like the last, groaning
spasms of New Deal liberalism. When the party of activist government, faced with an epic crisis,
will not use government's extensive powers to reverse the economic disorders and heal deepening
social deterioration, then it must be the end of the line for the governing ideology inherited
from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson.
Political events of the past two years have delivered a more profound and devastating message:
American democracy has been conclusively conquered by American capitalism. Government has
been disabled or captured by the formidable powers of private enterprise and concentrated wealth.
Self-governing rights that representative democracy conferred on citizens are now usurped
by the overbearing demands of corporate and financial interests. Collectively, the corporate sector
has its arms around both political parties, the financing of political careers, the production
of the policy agendas and propaganda of influential think tanks, and control of most major media.
That's a nice 150-word encapsulation of what has happened.
Writing in the same iconoclastic spirit he brought to Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of
Reason in the West, Canadian writer Saul offers a damning indictment of what he terms corporatism,
today's dominant ideology. While the corporatist state maintains a veneer of democracy, it squelches
opposition to dominant corporate interests by controlling elected officials through lobbying and
by using propaganda and rhetoric to obscure facts and deter communication among citizens.
Corporatism, asserts Saul, creates conformists who behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies,
not responsible citizens. Moreover, today's managerial-technocratic elite, while glorifying
free markets, technology, computers and globalization, is, in Saul's opinion, narrowly self-serving
and unable to cope with economic stagnation.
His prescriptions include eliminating private-sector financing from electoral politics, renewing
citizen participation in public affairs, massive creation of public-service jobs and a humanist education
to replace narrow specialization. His erudite, often profound analysis challenges conservatives and
liberals alike with its sweeping critique of Western culture, society and economic organization.
LeeBoy (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)
A coup d'etat in slow motion?, August 12, 2005
A key premise of the book is that a life worth living, the so-called examined life, the fully
aware life cannot take place without individuals in the society being fully conscious - or without
seeking the kind of self-knowledge that readily can be translated into action.
Saul maintains that we have a "new religion," the blind pursuit of self-interest.
It is led by an ideology of "corporatism," which has deformed the American ideal of a life worth
living into one devoid of a concept of the common public good. Through it, one of America's most
noble ideas, that of "rugged individualism" has been sullied, distorted and transformed into an
ideology of selfishness; an ideology that has so manipulated our reality that our the language
and knowledge, usually placed in the service of actions and designed to improve our way of life,
has become useless.
The corporate compartmentalization of, and distortion of public knowledge, and the accompanying
enforced conformity has so confused us and has so muted our voices that knowledge no longer has
any effect on our consciousness nor on our actions. Individual selfishness as "modeled" by
corporate self-interest has hi-jacked Western civilization as we have come to know it.
The book describes how corporatism has accomplished this feat: It has used its own ideology
of self-interest (and the promise of certainty that all ideologies promote) to render us passive
and conformist in areas that matter and non-conformist in those that do not. This new pseudo or
false individualism has the effect of immobilizing and disarming our civilization intellectually
and thus renders it unconscious.
The most important way it does this is by denying and undermining the legitimacy of the individual
as the primary unit and defender of, as well as the center of gravity of the public good.
The public good becomes deformed by, and subordinate to, and equated with the narrow pursuit of
corporate self-interests, as most often defined by the pursuit of profits and associated corporate
perks. The hedonistic model of the corporate life is projected on to society writ large as the
only life worth living.
The impetus for placing corporate interests (and the corporate model of our humanity) at center
stage in the drama of Western Civilization, seems to have come about through the misconception
that rugged individualism, democracy and our current understanding of the public good were once
defined by, depend on, and proceed directly from, the pursuit of economic interests. This is a
misconception because in actual fact exactly the reverse is true: It was notions of the public
good as defined by democracy and individualism that gave rise to economic interests, and not the
other way around.
Moreover, economic models have been so spectacularly wrong and unsuccessful, that they could
not have survived without an ideology that renders the public unconscious. Saul suggests that
even the best economic models amount to little more than passive tinkering. The fact that we have
come to rely on them -- even though we know they are seriously flawed and have little or no basis
in reality -- is compelling evidence of our lack of memory and thus, of our lack of collective
According to the author, it is the proper use of knowledge and memory that renders us conscious
(and thus by extension, also renders us human). The misuse of knowledge and memory through
corporate and technological, manipulation, specialization and compartmentalization is just a deeper
form of collective denial.
Said differently, (corporate generated) specialization creates its own illusions. When knowledge
actually becomes confused and is sufficiently narrowed, compartmentalization promotes the illusion
that knowledge is multiplied when in fact it has shrunken. It leaves the impression that more
rather than less knowledge is being created. It promotes the illusion that truth is only what
the specialist can measure; that "m (and more importantly that a managerial class is important
and necessary). Finally, it creates the illusion that the ideology, which promotes corporatism,
produces certainty (the main job of any ideology).
These illusions all have facilitated the corporate takeover of what would otherwise be seen
as, the public interest. By doing so, the legitimacy of the individual as the center of gravity
of the public good is crowded out, undermined and denied.
Thus the management elite, (with their suitcases full of money to buy off our elected representatives)
like a cancer, is let loose on society. It lives within its own insulated cocoon creating an artificially
interiorized sense of its own importance, wellbeing and its own distorted vision of civilization
as a whole. Insulated from within, the management elite is free to grow without bounds, without
accountability, and in complete disregard for the reality "out there," and always only to satisfy
and service its own selfish needs. Truth is not in the world "out there" but is in what the professionals
can measure and whatever is reported to these insulated elites. The deeper the insulated managerial
class retreats into its own interiorized illusions of reality, the more confused language becomes
and the less likely knowledge can be translated into actions that will effect the wider reality,
and thus the public good.
In its pursuit to deny the legitimacy of the public good and to replace it with corporate econometric
models of reality, Saul has traced the history of this process and gives many examples of how
it works: through media propaganda, films, ads, music, sports and style-and always through insinuations
of what is considered proper thought and ways of behaving.
One of the better examples he gives is how unemployment keeps getting redefined downward with
no relation to the reality of the labor market but mostly to suit the needs of the neo-cons (the
courtiers of the corporate elites). Or how, even as companies are losing money and are laying-off
large numbers of ordinary workers, the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites
continue to rise - often even until the very day the companies actually go bust.
Another example given is how through the process of globalization, that by the year 2020 the
U.S. will be fully reduced to a Third World country. We are told that our future standard of living
will depend entirely on globalization. Here globalization (like its companion concept, productivity)
is a synonym for pegging workers' wage rates to the lowest wages available worldwide. It is never
mentioned in such discussions that the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites
will actually rise significantly as this "mother of all least common denominators economic formulas"
is being applied to the lower end of the economic class scale. Taken to its logical conclusion,
the salary of U.S. workers will equal those of Chinese peasants by 2020; and the corporate
elites all will be filthy rich like Sam Walton. This "Wal-Martization" of America is already
well in train.
Why are we so susceptible to being manipulated by corporate generated ideology and power? Saul
gives an answer: We have an addictive weakness for large illusions that are tied to power
and that can simplify our worldview by promising emotional certainty. The examples he gives are
none other than the great religions themselves, and their spin-offs of Marxism, fascism and most
of the autocratic governments of the past, including Hitler's Third Reich.
The roads to serfdom, or to fascism or communism (or pick your own ism) all intersect at the
same ideology reference points: they begin as enforced social and political orthodoxy and conformity:
first fashion and style; then the social enforcement of ways of thinking; and then patriotism
is made into a religious-like requirement; after which rights and free speech are suppressed in
the name of national security or loyalty to the state. One-by-one laws are suspended and then
arbitrary arrests and disappearances begin; and finally the country is rendered completely passive
and unconscious - compressed into a pseudo-patriotic religious trance.
In the modern era, this progression is by now all too familiar: It leads directly to the de-legitimatization
of the citizen as the primary defender of the public good. This just as inevitably leads to handing
over power to those whose self-interests are larger than their dedication to the preservation
of the public good or even to the preservation and defense of the state itself.
The citizen then ceases to be able to determine what is, and is not real. He becomes immobilized
like a child, unable to judge what is in his own best interests -- let alone what is in the best
interest of the public good or the state. He is then forced to sing for his dinner and to dance
to the corporate tune for any sense of wellbeing or self-worth. The "public good" becomes completely
subordinate to the "corporate good."
What Saul admonishes us about is already imminently clear: that the kind of society we have
is determined by where the true source of legitimacy lies. Today legitimacy in America -- that
is its power, organization, and influence -- lies not in the vote and in stylized but impotent
public citizen participation, but in the hands of the lobbyists, the technocrats, and the anti-democratic
and anti-patriotic corporate vampires.
Saul did not need to tell us that all the serious decisions are now made in the back rooms
without consulting the people. The best "the people" can hope for (and indeed what they yearn
for) is that the decisions made over their heads will at least retain a semblance of emotional
While the corporate robber barons sneak out the back door to their off-shore tax havens (with
the nations valuables in tow), the public good has been distorted and transformed into little
more than "What I have" or into bumper sticker sized emotionalisms: the advancement of creative
design and the right to post the Ten Commandments on the court house steps, abortion and gun rights,
anti-Affirmative Action, states rights, etc. Because of its lack of consciousness, Americans have
lost the ability to conceptualize a common good larger than their own immediate individual narrowly
How do we get out of this coup d'etat in slow motion? Saul's answer is that we must change
the dynamics of the process but he gives few specifics on how this can be done. This a great and
very sobering read. Five stars.
Joyce (Bonham, Texas)
Makes the complex understandable, November 29, 2012
Saul has unusual skill in making complex entanglements understandable, colorful, and often humorous.
His satire is biting. His irony is satisfying. His writing is dense with fresh insights about
difficult subjects, so reading him is challenging at times but worth the effort. In this book,
Saul explores how the dictatorship of reason unbalanced by other human qualities (common sense,
ethics, intuition, creativity, memory) leads to the rational but antidemocratic structures of
corporatism. He lays out the historical roots of corporatist doctrines (going back to Plato) and
how they are so woven into our social fabric that they threaten the practice of democracy. He
notes how our civilization is blinded to its true character by sentiment and ideology and argues
that while Fascism was defeated in World War II, its corporatist doctrines are powerfully influencing
our society today.
For Saul, one central aspect of the corporatist doctrine is its hijacking of the term "individualism,"
defining it as self-absorption or selfishness. Both Left and Right positions are based upon
that definition. The Left agrees with the Right that individualism is selfishness, only it wants
individual rights to be equally distributed and more fair. Whereas Saul talks about individualism
"Rights are a protection from society. But only by fulfilling their obligations to society
can the individual give meaning to that protection. . . Real individualism then is the
obligation to act as a citizen."
"The very essence of corporatism is minding your own business. And the very essence of individualism
is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style
of life. It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being
persistently annoying to others as well as being stubborn and repetitive."
And further still:
"Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That
is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty, and silence are so admired and
Saul discusses the role that four economic pillars play in either accentuating or reducing
our unconscious state as citizens: (1) the marketplace, (2) technology, (3) globalization, and
(4) money markets.
Here is my summary of his lessons on these four.
- The danger of using the marketplace as our guide is that we are limiting ourselves to the
narrow and short-term interests of exclusion. If we wish to lead society we must calculate
- Business schools (following the "scientific management" Frederick Taylor brought to Harvard)
treat men and women as mechanisms to be managed along with machines. And we are lining up students
behind machines, educating them in isolation when what is really needed is to show them how
they can function together in society.
- Trade cannot in and of itself solve societal problems. The main effect of globalization
has been to shift the tax burden from large corporations onto the middle class. Adam Smith's
repeated admonition has been ignored. It is: high wages are essential to growth and prosperity.
- Money is not a value in itself. Money in money markets is not available for taxation, and
it doesn't really exist. It is pure speculation. We must see what is truly of value to society
and reward those things.
This is only a bit of the clarity Saul's book gives us as citizens about what we are dealing
with, empowering us with weaponry to overcome the Fascistic creation of corporatism.
Christopher (Seattle, Washington, USA)
A roundhouse shot at corporatist, group-think American life, March 19, 2002
"Are we truly living in a corporatist society that uses democracy as little more than a pressure
Not satisfied with hurtling the literary hand-grenade of the 1990's, "Voltaire's Bastards",
into the midst of our oblivious Western society, John Ralston Saul has now equipped his metaphorical
sniper rifle, and in his crosshairs is the 'deviant class' which has destabilized our American
dream. In "The Unconscious Civilization", Saul targets `corporatist' groups, the special interests
(both economic and social) which have lulled citizens into replacing their own thoughts with those
of factions who magically (and absurdly) claim to represent their beliefs and dreams.
"One of the difficulties faced by citizens today is making sense of what is presented
as material for public debate, but is actually no more than the formalized propaganda of interest
groups. It is very rare now in public debate to hear from someone who is not the official
voice of an organization."
Characteristic of Saul's previous work, "The Unconscious Civilization" is a firm, wind-knocking
shot to the gut. But luckily for you, your opponent is also teaching you how to fight. Hear him
shout: `Stand up, slothful citizen. Your constitution is failing.'
"The statistics of our crisis are clear and unforgiving. Yet they pass us by--in newspapers,
on television, in conversations--as if they were not reality. Or rather, as if we were unable
to convert knowledge into action."
Do you feel protected by the Internet, by the millions of voices which you feel will conglomerate
to represent you? So how's it working for you so far? Sure we have information, but what the hell
good is it doing for the spirit of our nation?
"Knowledge is more effectively used today to justify wrong being done than to prevent it.
This raises an important question about the role of freedom of speech. We have a great deal
of it. But if it has little practical effect on reality, then it is not really freedom of speech.
Without utility, speech is just decorative."
In this work, Saul scopes out the corporatist mindset, the coalescence of many minds into one
body with only one voice (corpus from Latin, meaning body), which has invaded business, politics,
and civil society alike. The result is chilling, for when we rise to speak, we find our individual
words have different meanings to each of these bodies. As a consequence, we are learning to speak
"In a corporatist society there is no serious need for traditional censorship or burning,
although there are regular cases. It is as if our language itself is responsible for our inability
to identify and act upon reality."
We may be blind to the corporatist processes, but we should be able to fairly see their results.
In politics: 38% voter turnout rates, lowest political convention viewership, the quashing of
third-party voices; in business: the plastering of disclaimers, sloganeering, and that opaque
wall of business-speak between every salesman and their customer; in civil society: the inability
to progress in conversation without soundbites, and the number of people who flat-out don't want
to talk to you.
This partition of words has not obstructed John Ralston Saul, though. An advocate of "aggressive
common sense", Saul portrays himself correctly as a classic liberal, defender and klaxon for the
citizen, neither champion nor foe of the marketplace.
"The market does not lead, balance, or encourage democracy. However, properly regulated
it is the most effective way to conduct business."
"Every important characteristic of both individualism and democracy has preceded the key
economic events of our millennium. What's more, it was these characteristics that made most
of the economic events possible, not vice-versa."
John Ralston Saul's work consists of five chapters loosely based off a series of 1995 lectures
at the University of Toronto. Like "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul here is discursive and entertaining;
each chapter is a new dive into an invigorating Arctic lake of realization. Chapter One, "The
Great Leap Backwards" launches the assault. The remaining chapters focus on reconstruction...
their titles: "From Propaganda to Language", "From Corporatism to Democracy", "From Managers and
Speculators to Growth", "From Ideology Towards Equilibrium".
Moderately mistitled (resulting in a one-point demerit in the overall review score), a
more appropriate title for this book would have been "The Corporatist Civilization". A true
attack on the `unconscious' among us would have been welcome, though Saul does meander briefly
into this realm, with a few sections that fit cozily into the overall thesis:
"Perhaps the difficulty with the psychoanalytic movement is that from the beginning it has
sent out a contradictory message: Learn to know yourself--your unconscious, the greater unconscious.
This will help you to deal with reality. On the other hand, you are in the grip of great primeval
forces--unknown and unseen--and even if you do know and see them, it is they who must dominate."
One-quarter the size of "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul this time out initiates a concise attack:
on utopias, ideology, technocracy, demagoguery, and group mentality... all of which direct the
individual to replace their view of the world with that of an `official spokesman', eerily reversing
the vector of our society towards a fascist state. An insightful read; terse, but somewhat condensed
and abstract at places. The trade-offs are more than acceptable, though. Steel yourself for a
barrage of Truth.
Lacks The Big Picture, July 3, 2000
John Ralston Saul is considered one of the great humanist essayists of this time. That is true
but he is also very much a man of our times, with both the advantages and disadvantages of the
current Weltanschauung. I bought this book after having read some rather rave reviews and had
high expectations. I can't say that I have got anything from this book that I didn't already have
or suspect. He's reinforced some of my opinions without adding to my empherical knowledge to back
them. The concept of the individual, individualism if you will, is dominant today, representing
a narrow and superficial deformation of the Western idea. Market Capitalism does not guarantee
democracy; you can have poor democracies and prosperous dictatorships. Today we are in an
unconscious process of masochistic suicide destroying the very substance of our public institutions,
institutions which were the products of decades of thought and democratic debate, all in the pursuit
of making things more `effective', more `business-like'. . . So according to Saul, and on
target IMHO, but what does this all mean? What can we draw from these intermediate conclusions?
He then goes on to describe the crisis that grips the West, which he dates from 1973. Bureaucratic
thinking and rationalization continue to manipulate our perceptions, dominate and drive our existence,
controlled by what he describes as `Corporatism'. He states,
"the corporatist movement was born in the nineteenth century as an alternative to democracy.
It proposed the legitimacy of groups over that of the individual citizen." Pp16-17
Napoleon, Hegel and Bismarck helped the process along by emphasizing rule by elites and adherence
to the state. This was all only a lead up to the great
"new all-powerful clockmaker god - the marketplace - and his archangel, technology. Trade
is the marketplace's miraculous cure for all that ails us. . . I would suggest that Marxism,
fascism and the marketplace strongly resemble each other. They are all corporatist, managerial
and hooked on technology as their own particular golden calf." Pp19-20
...Weber warned of the dangers of bureaucracy, of how capitalism mated with ever increasing
rationalization and technological innovation would become a very difficult beast to control. He
also warned against the subversion of democratic institutions by powerful non-democratic groups
with oligarchic tendencies. Saul's view on the triumph of rationalism is also, by the way, influenced
by Weber. So instead of damning Weber he should be thanking him. Here we see the tendency so common
among US (and Canadian) intellectuals today of putting the blame for their perceived crisis on
foreign thinkers (usually German or French) who have some how lead the well-intentioned, but all
too trusting North Americans astray. Alan Bloom, on the right, was guilty of the same thing in
his The Closing of the American Mind. In all, this tendency represents a mixing up of cause and
effect. If you want to look for a foreign culpret, how about the English Utilitarians who put
morally accepted self-interest and quest for profit in the service of individual gain above anything
else? An attitude that has since then been enthusisatically and uncritically accepted by the mass
of American intellectuals.
What is Saul's solution? Persistent public commitment by the citizenry can turn the tables
on corporatism. But how, given the power that Saul says the elites have to manipulate and
control all the spheres of our existence? What of their ability to define "freedom" in wholly
consumerist terms, making it a mere matter of material choice? As long as the US Constitution
allows for majority rule, the public will have the last say, but how to mobilize the public, how
to educate them as to defending their best interests when the reigns of mass communication are
in the hands of the corporatists? How do we make the interests of society take priority over the
interests of profit? The moral dilemma in all this is ignored by Saul who distrusts anyone who
even mentions it. Unable to follow Nietzsche's lead he stumbles. Nietzsche, alas a foreigner,
was also primarily a moralist. Morals are important since they shape the way that we adjust to
the struggle for our very existence in an ever more competitive world. While a sense of the spiritual
is necessary, the vast bulk of our actions, the reality we must deal with in our every day lives,
is economic due to the pervasive market system which is the very air we breathe. It is therefore
very much man-made, synthetic, something that has been grafted onto society, not a component of
it. Morals are as necessary now as when we lived in small farming communities, since it is by
working together, by accepting each others' strengths and weaknesses, by learning to control our
own impulses and irrational drives and by accepting the inate worth of each person that we insure
not only our own but the survival of our species in the coming hard winter. A, "myth-building"
exercise you say, but is it any more a myth than that of "the Market corrects itself and all we
need do is trust in it"?
Since the end of the 18th Century we in the West have lost almost every remnant of our pre-Capitalist
past. We have forgotten our entire community or social or human-to-human history, we are unable
to recall when an action did not infer some sort of self-benefit. We fail to see that the so-called
Third World is as we were two hundred years ago. It is not a question of scientific or technological
or commercial progress, in the most human sense, but of the maturing and decay of an ideological-based
Saul's main drawback is that he lacks the indepth knowledge of the numerous disciplines necessary
for this very complex subject. That and `distance' since he approaches the problem with far too
many preconceptions. A much better book in a related subject is Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation.
His history of the market economy provides much of the background necessary to illuminate our
current situation. Few if any thinkers today have the breadth of knowledge to provide the big
picture of our current post-modern situation. Men like Max Weber, who had a encyclopedic knowledge
of several wide fields of study no longer walk the earth. Still a much more refined, yet wide
view which would include a fuller understanding of social economics, history, political science,
sociology, theology and philosophy is necessary in order to get a grip on the tendencies which
are slowly eating away our society and threaten to turn us all into what Max Weber described as
"a culture of specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart".
Herbert L Calhoun
Wake up and Smell the Oil Wal-Mart Shoppers, August 10, 2005
If the doubling, in less than a year, of the price of oil for no discernable reason (with no
end in sight), and with absolutely no reaction from us or our government is not evidence that
something is terribly wrong with our collective mind. Then surely an order of magnitude increase
in the cost of medical care and prescription drugs, and the quintupling of our health insurance
(for those of us who have any), should be.
Or, one might have imagined that the juxtaposition of soaring corporate profits (in these very
same areas) with an effective reduction in "actual wages" everywhere else, would also have shaken
us from our deep collective slumber?
Or maybe the fact that we have been led into yet another war for no defensible reasons and
without either an exit strategy or a fighting plan -- a war whose justifications and rationale
keeps changing with each increased attack from the terrorists as our national debt continues to
soar -- would have shaken us out of our passivity.
While our government's response to the needs of the "rank-and-file" is increasingly non-existent,
or completely ineffectual, and the "managerial class" continues to rob us blind as they laugh
all the way to the bank; we are obsessed with the risk of breast implants, abortion rights, hanging
the Ten Commandments in the public square, reality shows (that are anything but real), Janet Jackson's
wardrobe malfunction, and how to continue to win at the game of "Democrats and Republicans (or
liberals and conservatives, or Blacks versus Whites, or males versus females, or pick your own
senseless emotional dichotomy)."
But the very best evidence yet of our lack of consciousness and proof that our society is being
thrown under the bus while we watch in horror with our eyes wide open, is when the most devastating
critique of our own slothfulness is also the sanest, most compassionate and most eloquent.
Saul in this trenchant sanity check of the society that leads the Western World realizes that
the time for vitriol and shouting has long since passed. That is why with eloquence, understated
passion and with measured but devastating logic and reason (that quality he so distrusts), he
has issued a broadside at the foundation stone of what ails our society most: Rampant and immoral
And even though in the end, his prescription for how we are to extricate ourselves from this
dilemma is unconvincing, he has laid the necessary groundwork for serious thinking to begin. If
"the people" in Western Democracies are ever to regain control of their minds, and then eventually
their societies; Saul's ideas in this small volume must inevitably be contended with.
Saul is a modern secular prophet!, March 28, 1999
You can add the name John Ralston Saul to those of Noam Chomsky, Ivan Illich, Franz Fanon (and
who else?) on your list of the key late 20th century 'global conspiracy theorists' - people who
are visionary seers/prophets who have unorthodox views and make outrageous pronouncements on this
and that, but with whom you have to broadly agree. Because they operate outside the conventions
of fixed ideologies, they're able to see the broader picture, and see more deeply into the nature
The Unconscious Civilization - the 1995 Massey Lectures - was written in an oral style by Canadian
freelance intellectual, essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul.
His thesis is disarmingly simple: in the long line of history's totalitarianisms, we can
now add undemocratic 'corporatism'.
Our society, he argues, is only superficially based on the individual and democracy.
Shiller plays a sock puppet of corporatist propaganda...
We are indeed fortunate that Dr. Robert Pangloss Shiller has shared his edifying personal story
about how to be innovative and successful through hard work and self-financing. A more straightforward
example of the psychological phenomenon of projection would be hard to find.
Phelps' observation about institutions is not a "disturbing trend" but reality. While institutions
are necessary for the efficient functioning of large industrial societies they also stifle whatever
gets in their way. America has become largely a society of institutions not citizens. It is
slightly exaggerated to say that the average citizen enjoys rights to the extent of the power
of the institution/s he or she belongs to. Individuals with wealth enjoy rights in proportion
to their wealth, an elite institution.
Too many of America's institutions, private and public, steer the country in rather the ways
that they and the wealthy did in the latter part of the 19th century when the government was much
smaller. The result is an increasingly ossified Kafkaesque society. The interests and power
of institutions makes them refractory to change no matter the toll they take on society.
The mega financial institutions are the best recent example. They (along with help from politicians
and the Fed) caused the Great Recession but have yet to be reformed. Their executives have
the power to avoid criminal prosecution even indictment e.g,, HSBC. Savings and Loan executives
were not as powerful.
Health care institutions such as medical insurance and the pharmaceutical companies blocked
reform of health care to the detriment of America. Physicians and health care organizations like
hospitals block public disclosure of their performance while fleecing patients and society.
Public and private universities like Yale have institutionalized themselves as expensive tollbooths
to employment not unlike those imposed on river traffic between 800 and 1800 on the Rhine by nobility
and the Holy Roman Empire.
Before 1980 the government more or less enforced the laws against monopolies and other illegal
combinations and collusion. This gave individuals and smaller companies with innovative ideas
and products something of a chance and created an "innovator's dilemma" for large ossified companies.
Creating economic and market space for innovators helped. Using government money to fund "incubators"
or entrepreneurs is just another way to finance R&D for large corporations who buy up the innovators.
It reinforces institutional interests and arrangements.
anne said in reply to Tom Shillock...
We are indeed fortunate that Dr. Robert Pangloss Shiller has shared his edifying personal story
about how to be innovative and successful through hard work and self-financing. A more straightforward
example of the psychological phenomenon of projection would be hard to find....
[ Projection, perfect and perfectly blinding. As for the individual-institutional tension or
conflict, that is simply copying John Kenneth Galbraith, but sadly with no particular focus that
would allow an extension of the ideas of Galbraith after all these decades since "Countervailing
I don't think it is correct to think of innovation as something done by Ayn Rand heroes. Most
innovation is small and incremental, and most of it is done by workers and/or customers. A different
kind of oil here, a different resistor there, a few minor but useful modifications to an algorithm
today, and a few suggestions for more tomorrow. But the way property laws and customs exist today,
the real innovators seldom get any financial reward for it. If they're really lucky, they get
a nod and a wink in the staff meeting while the management team takes all the credit.
Second Best :
There's too much emphasis on future innovation compared to efficiency losses caused by corporatism
blocking existing innovation.
For example consider what AT&T and Verizon have done to phone service and the internet, essentially
returning to an industry structure similar to the early days of the Ma Bell monopoly, except with
a dominant unregulated monopoloy (a duopoly only if areas are served by both) free to extract
maximum economic rent while choking off bandwidth, volume throughput and access with an underbuilt
system intentionally denied technology ungrades in many areas.
This is common in many industries in different ways, where the market power acquired may not
reach that evident in telecommunications but is still substantial. Of course the important new
version of market power since Ma Bell comes on a global scale from MNCs.
The great irony is corporations achieve overwhelming lock-in of economic power politically
in the name of innovation when in fact, they selectively trample the impact of past innovation
and block competitive new innovation at the same time.
What innovation is left for themselves is used to maximize productive efficiency for which
most gains are distributed to themselves rather than consumers and labor, through targeted administered
pricing disciplined more by market power and price discrimination than competition.
No amount of pollyanish localized new innovation is going to break through the entry barriers
going forward until legal action is used to break up the vast network of monopoly and oligopoly
power already in place.
Finally, journalists have started criticizing in earnest the leviathans of Silicon Valley, notably
Google, now the world's third-largest company in market value. The new round of discussion began
even before the revelations that the tech giants were routinely sharing our data with the National
Security Agency, or maybe merging with it. Simultaneously another set of journalists, apparently
unaware that the weather has changed, is still sneering at San Francisco, my hometown, for not lying
down and loving Silicon Valley's looming presence.
The criticism of Silicon Valley is long overdue and some of the critiques are both thoughtful
and scathing. The New Yorker, for example, has explored how start-ups are undermining the purpose
of education at Stanford University, addressed the Valley's messianic delusions and political meddling,
and considered Apple's massive tax avoidance.
The New York Times recently published an opinion piece that startled me, especially when I checked
the byline. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the fugitive in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, focused
on The New Digital Age, a book by top Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen that
to him exemplifies the melding of the technology corporation and the state.
It is, he claimed, a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism,
from two of our leading "witch doctors who construct a new idiom for United States global power in
the twenty-first century." He added, "This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State
Department and Silicon Valley."
What do the US government and Silicon Valley already have in common? Above all, they want to remain
opaque while making the rest of us entirely transparent through the capture of our data. What is
arising is simply a new form of government, involving vast entities with the reach and power of government
and little accountability to anyone.
Google, the company with the motto "Don't be evil", is rapidly becoming an empire. Not an empire
of territory, as was Rome or the Soviet Union, but an empire controlling our access to data and our
data itself. Antitrust lawsuits proliferating around the company demonstrate its quest for monopoly
control over information in the information age.
Its search engine has become indispensable for most of us, and as Google critic and media professor
Siva Vaidhyanathan puts it in his 2012 book The Googlization of Everything,
"[W]e now allow Google to determine what is important, relevant, and true on the Web and in
the world. We trust and believe that Google acts in our best interest. But we have surrendered
control over the values, methods, and processes that make sense of our information ecosystem."
And that's just the search engine. About three-quarters of a billion people use Gmail, which conveniently
gives Google access to the content of their communications (scanned in such a way that they can target
ads at you). Google tried and failed to claim proprietary control of digital versions of every book
ever published; librarians and publishers fought back on that one. As the New York Times reported
last fall, Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, summed the situation up this way:
"Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard
to authors' rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of US authors continues."
The nonprofit Consumer Watchdog wrote to the attorney general on June 12th urging him "to block
Google's just announced $1 billion acquisition of Waze, developers of a mobile mapping application,
on antitrust grounds... Google already dominates the online mapping business with Google Maps. The
Internet giant was able to muscle its way to dominance by unfairly favoring its own service ahead
of such competitors as Mapquest in its online search results. Now with the proposed Waze acquisition,
the Internet giant would remove the most viable competitor to Google Maps in the mobile space. Moreover
it will allow Google access to even more data about online activity in a way that will increase its
dominant position on the Internet."
The company seems to be cornering the online mapping business, seems in fact to be cornering so
many things that eventually they may have us cornered.
In Europe, there's an antitrust lawsuit over Google's Android phone apps. In many ways, you can
map Google's rise by the litter of antitrust lawsuits it crushed en route. By the way, Google bought
Motorola. You know it owns YouTube, right? That makes Google possessor of the second and third most
visited Websites on earth. (Facebook is first, and two more of the top six are also in Silicon Valley.)
Imagine that it's 1913 and the post office, the phone company, the public library, printing houses,
the US Geological Survey mapping operations, movie houses, and all atlases are largely controlled
by a secretive corporation unaccountable to the public. Jump a century and see that in the online
world that's more or less where we are. A New York venture capitalist wrote that Google is trying
to take over "the entire fucking Internet" and asked the question of the day: "Who will stop Google?"
The tipping point
We ask that question all the time in San Francisco, because here Google isn't just on our computers,
it's on our streets. I wrote earlier this year about "the Google bus" - the armadas of private Wi-Fi-equipped
luxury buses that run through our streets and use our public bus stops, often blocking city buses
and public transit passengers while they load or unload the employees taking the long ride down the
peninsula to their corporation of choice. Google, Apple, Facebook, and Genentech run some of the
bigger fleets, and those mostly unmarked white buses have become a symbol of the transformation of
... ... ...
Like Gandhi, only with guns
Enough minions of Silicon Valley's mighty corporations could arrive to create a monoculture. In
some parts of town, it already is the dominant culture. A guy who made a fortune in the dot-com boom
and moved to the Mission District (the partly Latino, formerly blue-collar eye of the housing hurricane)
got locals' attention recently with a blog post titled "Douchebags Like You are Ruining San Francisco".
In it, he described the churlish and sometimes predatory behavior of the very young and very wealthy
toward the elderly, the poor, and the nonwhite.
He wrote, "You're on MUNI [the city bus system] and watch a 20-something guy reluctantly give
up his seat to an elderly woman and then say loudly to his friends, 'I don't know why old people
ride MUNI. If I were old I'd just take Uber.'" Yeah, I had to look it up, too: Uber.com, a limousine
taxi service you access via a smartphone app. A friend of mine overheard a young techie in line to
buy coffee say to someone on his phone that he was working on an app that would be "like Food Not
Bombs, to distribute food, only for profit." Saying you're going to be like a group dedicated to
free food, only for profit, is about as deranged as saying you're going to be like Gandhi, only with
"An influx of techies will mean more patrons for the arts," trilled an article at the Silicon
Valley news site Pando, but as of yet those notable patrons have not made an appearance. As a local
alternative weekly reported, "The tech world in general is notoriously uncharitable: According to
the Chronicle of Philanthropy, only four of 2011's 50 most generous US donors worked in tech, despite
the fact that 13 of Forbes 50 Richest Americans in 2012 had made some or all of their fortunes in
Medici in their machinations, they are not Medici-style patrons. There is no noticeable trickle-down
in the Bay Area, no significant benevolence toward the needy or good causes or culture from the new
Instead, we get San Francisco newcomer, Facebook CEO, and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg pursuing
his own interest with ruthless disregard for life on Earth. This year, Zuckerberg formed a politically
active nonprofit, FWD.us, that sought to influence the immigration debate to make it easier for Silicon
Valley corporations to import tech workers. There has been no ideology involved, only expediency,
in how FWD.us pursued its ends. It decided to put its massive financial clout to work giving politicians
whatever they wanted in hopes that this would lead to an advantageous quid pro quo arrangement.
Toward that end, the group began running ads in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline (that will bring
particularly carbon-dirty tar sands from Canada to the US Gulf Coast) to support a Republican senator
and other ads in favor of drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to support
an Alaskan Democrat.
The takeaway message seemed to be that nothing is off limits in pursuing self-interest, and that
the actual meaning and consequences of these climate-impacting projects was not of concern at least
to that 29-year-old who's also the 25th richest person in the United States. (To give credit where
it's due: Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk, Paypal cofounder and electric car mogul, quit FWD.us.)
Zuckerberg and his Valley associates were pushing things they didn't care about and demonstrating
that they didn't care about much except what makes their corporations run and their profits rise.
Here, where the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 and many are environmentally minded, this didn't
go over well. Protests ensued at Facebook headquarters and on Facebook itself.
Rising hostility to the tech surge in San Francisco is met with fury and bewilderment by many
Silicon Valley employees. They tend to sound like Bush-era strategists dumbfounded that the Iraqis
didn't welcome their invasion with flowers.
Here's something else you should know about Silicon Valley: according to Mother Jones, 89% of
the founding teams of these companies are all male; 82% are all white (the other 18% Asian/Pacific
Islander); and women there make 49 cents to the male dollar. Silicon Valley female powerhouses like
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg get a lot of attention because they're unusual, black swans in a lake
full of white swans.
As Catherine Bracy, on whose research Mother Jones based its charts, put it, "The current research
I've seen shows that wealth creation from the tech industry is extremely unequally distributed, and
current venture capital is going overwhelmingly to a small, homogeneous elite." That's what's encroaching
on San Francisco.
... ... ...
The Armada of the .0001%
If Google represents the global menace of Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg represents its amorality,
then Oracle CEO Larry Ellison might best represent its crassness. ...
Rebecca Solnit is just winding up several months as a research fellow at Stanford Libraries
and Stanford's Bill Lane Center for the American West. Her work there will lead to a book about California
history, but her new book, out this month, is The Faraway Nearby.
Used with permission TomDispatch
Is financial oligarchy a "special interest group" as Lawrence Davidson suggests? I think it is more
of a class.
Democracy has a very positive connotation for most modern peoples. It suggests that the individual
citizens are important and that their opinions will be paid attention to by those they elect to political
office. In a modified fashion, this is true. Take, for instance, democracy in the United States.
The U.S. is not exactly a democracy of individuals whose numbers run to over 300 million. It is instead,
a democracy competing interest groups. These interest groups are made up of subsets of the
population–that is individuals who have come together based on shared interests and outlooks.
They pool their voting numbers and financial capabilities and approach the elected government bodies
as collectives. In that way they manage to exert (in the form of lobbies) much more influence
than an individual voter ever could.
There are numerous examples of such special interests. Are you a retired or older American concerned
about maintaining social security and medicare? Then join the American Association of Retired Persons
(AARP). This organization has a membership of approximately 40 million citizens. When it speaks,
the politicians in the U.S. government tend to listen. Are you a gun afficionado who fears losing
your alleged Second Amendment right to go around the neighborhood with an automatic weapon? Then
join the National Rifle Association (NRA). This organization has approximately 4.5 million members
and has successfully prevented meaningful gun control laws from being enacted. Similar special interest
groups exist on the foreign policy side of the U.S. political scene and have proved influential enough
to control American policy toward individual countries such as Cuba and Israel as well as entire
regions such as the Middle East.
Everybody is aware that unions are in free-fall. In 2013 they represent less than 7% of private
sector workers. And, while unions are still numerically dense among workers in the public sector-they
represent a third-the recent assaults on collective bargaining at the state and local levels, the
o% four year wage settlements in New York and elsewhere, and the leadership's pervasive fear
of breaking no-strike contracts and state
laws, has weakened them. In short let us begin by stipulating the crisis of Organized Labor. Rather
than dwelling on the woes, this article will address only two aspects of the crisis: some of the
historical and structural factors that have contributed to unions' demise; and what can be done to
reverse labor's outrageous fortune.
After more than a decade of steady retreat during the 1920s and early 1930s, in 1933 and 1934
the labor movement experienced a dramatic rebirth. Without the crutch of law or the state's approbation,
workers in the mines, garment shops, textile mills, North and South, truck companies, auto factories,
and the docks staged mass strikes for union recognition, against wage cuts and onerous working conditions
and in some instances against the timidity and class collaboration by the mainstream AFL unions.
Some of these struggles were conducted by or within established unions but others, particularly
in the Minneapolis and San Francisco general strikes and the Toledo Auto Lite walkout were conducted
by insurgencies against both the corporations and the old unions.
The Roosevelt administration was alarmed. The first New Deal, 1933-35, was an effort to revive
industrial production and finances by giving federal funds to banks and imposing corporatism
upon industrial relations in which labor was assigned a subordinate role. The National Industrial
Recovery Act (NIRA) set up tri-partite industry boards-business, labor and public members-to regulate
wages, prices and profits. With the exceptions of the apparel and mining industries, labor had little
leverage over board decisions. Workers' wages were often frozen, and their power to impose better
working conditions was severly limited. Radicals judged the NIRA as an American version of
industrial fascism because it paralleled the Italian example. This perception was reinforced when,
after promising to bring textile employers to the bargaining table, Roosevelt persuaded the AFL
union leaders to call off the 400,000 worker strike. He reneged on his promise and 7000 activists
were blacklisted from the industry, many of them Southern women. Roosevelt's betrayal contributed
to the tough sledding unions faced in the American South for decades.
According to historian Richard Hofstadter Roosevelt, therefore, "stumbled" into social reform.
The mass strikes prompted pro-administration Congress members to cooperate with the administration
in proposing a new form of regulation: the Wagner Act (NLRA) granted workers the right to form
unions "of their own choosing" and provided a series of procedures for determining whether and how
workers could form unions that would be recognized by law and therefore by their employers. It also
encouraged collective bargaining to resolve labor disputes. Organized Labor did not renounce the
strike weapon-indeed before final Supreme Court approval in 1937 of the new labor law Akron
rubber workers and Flint and Cleveland auto workers staged factory occupations termed sit-down strikes
rather than conventional walkouts to gain recognition, a tactic which the Supreme Court outlawed
in 1938 because workers violated the most sacred of all common laws: the sanctity of private property.
But with the notable exception of what Jeremy Brecher termed the 1946 general strike that embraced
almost all of the major production industries, the wildcat walkouts in auto in the 1950s and 1970s,
the historic 1959 116 day steel strike over the right of workers to negotiate over the introduction
of new technology, and the early 1960s strikes among teachers and other public workers for
union recognition, in private sector organizing the strike weapon mostly gave way to the Board-supervised
representation election and to arbitration to resolve labor disputes. The public workers' strike
wave of the 1960s prompted many state legislatures and the federal government to outlaw strikes
as a condition of granting union recognition. Most public employees' unions readily accepted
the deal because it brought millions of new members into the unions and strengthened collective
bargaining, a goal that had become primary for all unions since the New Deal. As a result few public
workers' unions forged their culture in the baptism of fire; during organizing campaigns one of the
main messages to workers was that there would be little risk if they joined the union.
The post-war labor movement became an ardent devotee of the union contract, especially its main
features: locked -in wages, work-rules that gave unions some power over the labor process, a series
of benefits that constituted, in effect, a private welfare state, and by limiting management's
right to fire workers arbitrarily, a degree of job security. The union contract was the most
important concrete expression of the new social contract. It signified that Labor accepted the prevailing
capitalist economic system, management's control over the production and distribution of goods
and services, and the law of labor relations in which workers rights and responsibility were
rigorously enforced by the company and the union. In this regime the union becomes a partner of capital
as well as a representative of its members, the tension between the two roles that is more or less
Labor's adaptation to legalism was a symptom of its embrace of the key elements of modern liberalism:
a new social contract with capital that provided union recognition (except in the South); steady
wage increases at least until the late 1970s; a privately-funded social wage following the
failure of national health care legislation in 1949 and the stagnation of old age (social security)
benefits, and the privatization of workers' housing. And, besides becoming a devotee of the
law and the Democratic party, Labor became a major ally of the post-war administration's permanent
war program: perpetual off-shore military and economic interventions, huge defense contracts that
some union leaders viewed in terms of full employment, and anti-communism at home and abroad.
The post-war unions were among the most reliable allies of the Cold War. Conservative
and progressive unions alike conducted a relentless purge of Communists and others who refused to
cooperate with Congressional committees and government agencies in fingering fellow radicals. The
Taft-Hartley amendments of 1947 to the Labor Relations Act not only barred Communists from holding
union office, but barred unions from conducting solidarity strikes-sympathy, secondary boycotts,
refusal of workers to handle struck goods and gave the US president the right to impose and
80 day strike prohibition when the "national interest" was involved. The CIO and many AFL unions
blasted Taft-Hartley and vowed to seek its repeal. Brave words notwithstanding, the mainstream labor
movement failed to mount a concerted campaign and after some refused to sign the requisite non-communist
affidavits, dutifully fell in line. Even Miners president John L. Lewis and former CIO president
who characterized Taft-Hartley as a "slave labor act" finally submitted to the law.
Meanwhile the CIO expelled 11 of its affiliates for alleged Communist dominations and deprived the
labor movement of many of its most militant and capable institutions and activists. The Auto, Steel,
Electrical and Machinists unions spent much of the 1950s raiding the left-wing unions.
By the mid-1950s many on the left determined that discretion was the better part of resistance; they
re-entered the mainstream unions after publicly renouncing their Communist pasts or, in some cases,
quietly quitting the CP. After the smoke cleared only the United Electrical Workers and the West
Coast Longshore unions remained independent. Eventually Longshore re-entered the AFL-CIO, but UE
has held out to this day.
Why did the unions fail to unshackle themselves from government control? One reason was that they
were comfortable with the anti-Communist restrictions. Eliminating a large fraction of the Left
protected the leadership from criticism and potential opposition. Another is that the
CIO was actively distancing itself from its own history. It no longer had a taste for direct action
but instead sought respectability and stability in labor relations. And, the progressives no less
than the business unions became devoted to electorism as a strategy rather than relying, primarily,
on organizing. Less than a decade after the enactment of Taft-Hartley, in 1955 the two
federations merged. Among its impetuses was to halt the fierce competition that marked the 20 years
since the founding of the CIO. Never mind that most CIO unions were no longer repositories of direct
action and other forms of industrial conflict. The leaders of both federations sought labor peace
and, indeed, in the midst of post-war relative prosperity, fueled, in part, by Corporate America's
domination of world markets, the ordinary processes of collective bargaining were able to register
continuous improvements in workers' living standards. And the Labor Board elections were resolved,
generally, in unions' favor. By 1953, unions represented more than a third of private sector
workers. The South, professional and technical workers, and the retail and wholesale trades posed
the greatest challenges. Of course, until the 1960s, unions were painfully weak in the public sector,
a condition that was soon to change. By the end of that decade, unions were on the way,
especially in state and local jurisdictions, and in the Post Office. But Labor's increasing
density barely disguised growing rank and file discontent. Labor-management cooperation in
auto, coal mining and steel prompted wildcat strikes and, by the mid-1970s a burgeoning rank
and file that expressed itself as opposition slates for top and many local union offices. The auto
and steel rank and file movements did not succeed at the national level , but Miners for Democracy
took union power. The established leadership was shaken ,but remained unbowed in most
instances where a rank and file mounted a challenge.
Until the late 1960s the AFL-CIO was a bastion of support for the war policies of the Kennedy-Johnson
administrations and with the exception of some important unions like the Auto Workers and the
growing public unions, were opposed to the militant civil rights movement and when not indifferent
were hostile to feminism and environmentalism. With the exception of its core support for expanding
the social wage, Organized Labor drifted to the right on most social issues, a position that alienated
many young people women, blacks and Latinos. Although it was never true that women and blacks were
not part of the labor movement, the public face of the unions was, in the main, white, male and middle-aged.
Intellectually the unions were part of the backwater of society; more to the point, when American
unions took an interest in International Labor affairs where ideas matter, they aligned with
US foreign policy which encouraged and often financed anti-communist, antirevolutionary unions in
Italy, France, Africa and Latin America.
Having been integrated into law and prevailing capitalist social relations during the New
Deal and its successors, Labor's fate was further sealed by its profound anti-radical stances during
the second social movements' upsurge of the 1960s and early 1970s. Even as US political hegemony
was under siege in many developing countries, the American century in economic terms was challenged
by the reemergence of Japan, Germany and France which became export societies on the basis of technologies
that were, for various reasons, more advanced that those practiced by US industrial corporations.
And the productivity of US industrial workers declined, largely due to shop-floor resistance.
US corporations responded in two principal ways: intense technological investments reduced the relatively
high wage force within the United States. And Northeastern and Middle Western-based industries moved
first to the American South and then to Mexico and to the countries of Southeast Asia.
Unions adapted to these changes rather than waging struggles against plant closings and the emergence
of Southeast auto, textile and metal-working factories. For example, the Auto Workers permitted
the Big Three to move South, provided they agreed to unionize them. The union's compliance was by
no means innocent. The Mid-west, especially Detroit, was a hotbed of opposition to the national leadership.
In effect, the union colluded with management to diffuse discontent. Wages were not reduced,
but since the plants were generally relocated in rural or small town areas, the chance of shop-floor
disruption was sharply reduced. And, displaced union members had the right to relocate as well.
However, other unions faced plant closings with far less bargaining power. Most relocated plants
reopened on a non-union basis but the unions were either unable or unwilling to commit to a Southern
organizing strategy that would entail a long-term presence in the communities without an immediate
chance of obtaining recognition or winning a union contract. Having failed in the immediate
post-war years to make significance organizing gains in the South, the AFL-CIO unions were
hesitant to drain their resources on Mexico, Guatamala and Southeast Asia because even the
non-union workers in the US made too much money in the wake of global competition . The apparel industries
were the first to go, but within a few decades Chinese contractors for Apple, Hewlett Packard and
other companies were employing millions of workers in the production of computers and
electronic parts. And, in textiles, whose Southern base traced to the 1920s, even the mechanization
of the industry failed to inhibit migration to China and India. By the late 1990s, the South had
been partially deindustrialized. Its economic woes became an occasion for European and Japanese auto
corporations to install "transplants", all of them non-union. The UAW's sporadic efforts to organize
Nissan and other plants have been unsuccessful. As of this writing, there are 13 transplants, among
them a huge 4000 worker Nissan assembly plant in Mississippi. The union is engaged in organizing
drive there. This time it has forsaken the hit and run pattern of Southern organizing, declaring
it will engage the community, not only the plant, on a long-term basis. Whether the lessons of the
recent past have been fully assimilated remains to be seen.
Two contrary developments in the post-war economy have almost completely missed Organized Labor's
attention. The first was linked to the technological revolution and the expansion of health care.
In technology the programming and systems analytic basis of computerization of both the industrial
and service workplaces demanded the creation of a whole new series of job categories. From less than
4% of the labor force at the close of world war two, by the 1980s they had almost tripled in size.
By the year 2013 they were just about 20% of the workforce or about 16 million. Many are wage and
salaried workers and an expanding number are so-called "contractors" who do not draw a salary but
are paid by the job and are offered no benefits. Although they are contingent workers because they
are obliged to seek new employment when the job is finished, those with high qualifications such
as computer engineers and website designers usually find new contracts. But lower down in the
ladder, in times of economic slum programmers systems analysts and middle managers have trouble
finding a job. In New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco many public high-tech employees
are union members. But with few exceptions-the Communication Workers (CWA) efforts among Microsoft
workers in Seattle, a small engineers union on the East Coast and technical workers at GM's Detroit
area Tech center-unions have made almost no efforts to organize intellectual labor in high-tech.
Perhaps the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the world today comes from the formation
of the unholy alliances between government and business. This is not a new phenomenon. It used
to be called fascism… The outward appearances of the democratic process are observed, but the
powers of the state are diverted to the benefit of private interests. –
fear what they're doing… is setting the crown for a corporate state…. And by that I mean a
rather small but very powerful circle of financial institutions… also some industrial corporations…
Too big to fail… protected by (government)… The leading banks and corporations… will have the
means to monopolize democracy."
– William Greider,
discussing the Geithner plan to address our economic crisis, in an interview with Bill
Moyers, March 27, 2009.
The United States and the other Allied Nations fought World War II against the Fascist nations
of the world, which posed a severe and imminent danger to world-wide freedom and livelihood. The
United Nations was conceived by
President Roosevelt and brought to fruition largely by the
efforts of President Truman
with an eye towards identifying future fascist threats to world freedom and imposing a barrier against
Definition of fascism
The Fascism that we fought against is often defined by its
1. Powerful and continuing nationalism; 2. Disdain for human rights; 3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats
as a unifying cause; 4. Supremacy of the military; 5. Rampant sexism; 6. Controlled mass media; 7.
Obsession with national security; 8. Interweaving of religion with government; 9. The combining of
government and corporate power (corporatism); 10. Suppression of labor; 11. Disdain for intellectuals
and the arts; 12. Obsession with crime and punishment; 13. Rampant cronyism and corruption, and;
14. Fraudulent elections.
These warning signs of fascism can be seen as combining two major groups of characteristics: corporatism
(# 9) and scapegoating alleged enemies as a unifying cause (# 3). Those two characteristics represent
the core of fascism. The other traits follow as a consequence of those core characteristics.
Nationalism (# 1) is the ultimate unifying cause that fascists aim to produce. The "nation" takes
precedence over all else, and anyone who doesn't fall in line is an "enemy" of the state. Disdain
for human rights (# 2) follows, as the "enemy" is dehumanized, thus rationalizing its brutal repression.
Disdain for intellectuals (# 11) is necessary because they are among the most likely to speak out
against the state – and they make a convenient enemy.
Corporatism requires corruption (# 13) because governments are supposed to serve their people;
therefore, when they decide to serve corporate power instead, that by definition constitutes corruption.
Suppression of labor (# 10) is necessary for the corporatist state because labor is the natural enemy
of excessive corporate power.
The connection between corporatism and scapegoating
Why the connection between the scapegoating of enemies as a unifying cause and corporatism? In
a corporatist state, the corrupt alliance between government and corporate power means that power
and wealth are concentrated among a small elite few at the top, which leads to corresponding lack
of power and wealth among the vast majority of the population, with corresponding great potential
for mass suffering. The corporatist state must find a way to convince these great masses of people
to happily accept their fate. The scapegoating of alleged enemies has been found to be one of the
best ways to do this. Item #s 4, 6, 7, 8, 12, and 14 in the warning list are just more methods that
the corporatist state uses to keep its subjects in line.
The vicious cycle of increasing corporate power
In the United States today, the deepening ties between our government and private corporate power
is bringing us dangerously close to the kind of fascism/corporatism that we fought against in World
War II. The fact that bribery of government officials, in the form of "campaign donations", is essentially
legal in our country, has opened the door to the merging of government and corporate power that defines
fascism. Corporate propaganda and monopolization of our airways has opened the door still wider.
Worse yet, it creates a vicious cycle. Corporate money is used to bribe government officials to pass
legislation favorable to their agenda, which inevitably leads to further increase in corporate wealth
and power. It has gotten to the point where a majority of our elected officials at the federal level
feel dependent upon corporate contributions to remain in office. Even many of those who may have
basically good intentions have succumbed to the need to placate corporate power. In so doing, they
prioritize the desire of a small minority of corporate elites above the needs of the vast majority
of their constituents. The bottom line is that corporations have become powerful enough to enter
into corrupt bargains with government, thereby enabling private corporations and government to mutually
enrich each other at the expense of everyone else. This is the tyranny of fascism. With that in mind,
let's consider how we got to this point:
The Rise of Corporate Tyranny in the United States
A corporation has been
The most common form of business organization, and one which is chartered by a state and given
many legal rights as an entity separate from its owners. This form of business is characterized
by the limited liability of its owners…
In 1819, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the state of New Hampshire when it attempted to revoke
the corporate charter of New Hampshire, in
Dartmouth College v. Woodward.
New Hampshire citizens were outraged by that decision, arguing that corporations are created by the
state, with the purpose of serving the public interest.
In a democracy, ALL actions of the state should be to serve the public interest. If the state
grants a charter to a corporation, it should have the right to regulate that corporation in the public
interest, in return for the privileges that it bestows upon the corporation.
The threat of corporate power at the founding of our nation
Adam Smith's "The Wealth
of Nations", published in the same year (1776) as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, expounded
on the advantages of a free market economic system, while at the same time warning of the dangers
of corporations. That seems ironic on the surface, since today's right wingers constantly push their
own version of the "free market", while using Smith as their authority.
But in reality, Smith was deeply antagonistic towards any view of so-called "free market" principles
that favored corporations – the very opposite of the stance advocated by today's right-wing movement.
This is what Smith had to say about the effect of corporate power on free markets:
It is to prevent this reduction of price, and consequently of… profit, by restraining that free
competition which would most certainly occasion it, that all corporations, and the greater part
of corporation laws, have been established… This prerogative of the crown seems to have been reserved
rather for extorting money from the subject, than for the defense of the common liberty against
such oppressive monopolies.
Corten explains that our Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution that coincided
with it were in large part a reaction against the same corporate abuses that Smith warned against
in "The Wealth of Nations":
It is noteworthy that the publication of The Wealth of Nations and the signing of the U.S. Declaration
of Independence both occurred in 1776. Each was, in its way, a revolutionary manifesto challenging
the abusive alliance of state and corporate power to establish monopolistic control of markets
and thereby capture unearned profits and inhibit local enterprise. Smith and the American colonists
shared a deep suspicion of both state and corporate power.
The conferring of corporate personhood
There is nothing in our Declaration of Independence,
nor our Constitution, nor any of the amendments to our Constitution that conferred special rights
or privileges upon corporations. Indeed, as late as 1855 the U.S. Supreme Court made perfectly clear,
Dodge v. Woolsey, that corporations have no special rights or privileges, and that they are subservient
to the American people:
That the people of the States should have released their powers over the artificial bodies (i.e.
corporations) which originate under the legislation of their representatives… is not to be assumed.
Such a surrender was not essential to any policy of the Union, nor required… Such an abandonment
could have served no other interest than that of the corporations, or individuals who might profit
by the legislative acts themselves. Combinations of classes in society, united by the bond of
a corporate spirit, for the accumulation of power, influence, or wealth… unquestionably desire
limitations upon the sovereignty of the people… But the framers of the constitution were imbued
with no desire to call into existence such combinations…
But in 1886, in an unofficial opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, before
any oral arguments took place in
the case of
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and without any explanation whatsoever,
Waite simply announced:
The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction
the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that
This offhand statement – which cannot possibly constitute an official opinion of the court, which
is always preceded by extensive research and debate – has since been considered the law of the land.
And as such it greatly increased the power of corporations against individuals by allowing them
the protections given to persons under our Constitution, even though corporations are simultaneously
showered with various powers that actual persons don't have and exempted from many of the
responsibilities and obligations that actual persons have. David Korten puts this in perspective
in his book, "When Corporations Rule
Thus corporations finally claimed the full rights enjoyed by individual citizens while being exempted
from many of the responsibilities and liabilities of citizenship.
The restraint of corporate power by FDR
Furthermore, in being guaranteed the same right to free speech as individual citizens, they
achieved, in the words of Paul Hawken, "precisely what the Bill of Rights was intended to prevent:
domination of public thought and discourse."
The subsequent claim by corporations that they have the same right as any individual to influence
the government in their own interest pits the individual citizen against the vast financial and
communications resources of the corporation and mocks the constitutional intent that all citizens
have an equal voice in the political debates surrounding important issues.
Excessive corporate power led to
vast disparities of wealth,
which in the late 19th Century became known as the
This culminated in the
Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression and the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR aggressively criticized the conditions that led to this state of affairs in his
Democratic Convention speech to the American people. In that speech he condemned the men who
were responsible for the nation's economic woes, whom he referred to as "Economic Royalists".
Out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built
upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and
securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital … the whole structure
of modern life was impressed into this royal service. There was no place among this royalty for
our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the
American system of initiative and profit.
The privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for
control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal
sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their
property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute
The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor – these
had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship.
The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set
aside for old age – other people's money – these were tools which the new economic royalty used
to dig itself in.
The abuses of power that FDR detailed in that speech provided much of the rationale for his
New Deal, which lifted tens of
millions of Americans out of poverty and created a vibrant middle class, while
taxing corporations at unprecedented levels.
The New Deal didn't just fade away after FDR's death. Instead, due to its stunning success, most
of its components lasted for decades. Largely as a result of this, we experienced for the next three
decades what Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman calls "the
greatest sustained economic boom in U.S. history". Beginning in 1947, when accurate statistics
first became available,
median family income
rose steadily (in 2005 dollars) from $22,499 in 1947 to more than double that, $47,173 in 1980.
The "Reagan Revolution" reversal of New Deal economic policy
With the advent of the Reagan
Revolution in 1981, characterized by a return to the "free market" ideology of the Gilded Age,
the route marked out by FDR was reversed. Since that time, except for a brief respite during the
latter years of the Clinton presidency, the income of American workers has been virtually stagnant,
despite large increases in American productivity which have enriched the already wealthy.
The reign of "free-market" ideology has been characterized by an ideological ban against government
intervention in economic matters to help those who most need it, which played out domestically and
internationally. William Greider, in his book, "Come
Home, America – The Rise and Fall (And Redeeming Promise) of our Country", explains how this
played out on the international stage:
The World Trade Organization enforces rules that protect capital investors and corporations, but
it has no rules protecting workers and communities, that is, people. The so-called Washington
Consensus – a stern dogma imposed on developing countries that borrow from the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund preaches that national governments must not try to protect their people
from the harsh side effects of capital and commerce. America's representative democracy, meanwhile,
is offered as the model the world should follow, despite the democratic breakdown that Americans
well know is in progress
Greider mentions globalization as another of the factors contributing to the demise of the United
States. However, he also notes that other nations are affected by globalization just as much as the
United States is, and yet other industrialized nations have much less economic inequality than the
United because they are not bounded by the inflexible right wing ideology of the so-called "free
James Galbraith, in his book, "The
Predator State", explains why globalization and free trade agreements need not cause serious
adverse effects for American workers, if only we would give up that radical "free market" ideology
that the right wingers have foisted upon us:
The populist objective is to raise American wages, create American jobs, and increase the fairness
and security of our economic system… Is there a better way to do this…? Of course there is – and
that is to do it directly. You want higher wages? Raise them. You want more and better jobs? Create
In other words, our government should work directly for the average American, not the corporatocracy
using the rationale that expansion of corporate wealth will "trickle down" to everyone.
Corporate propaganda to pervert our concept of democracy
In addition to routinely bribing government officials to promote their agenda, the corporatocracy
has bombarded the American people for several decades with incessant propaganda aimed at perverting
our concepts of the workings of democratic government, in order to gain our acquiescence in their
continuing power grabs:
Perversion of the concept of "freedom"
The concept of freedom has become perverted in our county. Freedom has been
defined as "the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints" – and that's
how most people use it. Another way of saying that is "the power to do whatever one wants to do".
As an absolute concept, it is not plausible or reasonable or even possible for a functioning
society to allow its members such powers – for a very simple reason. The freedom of the powerful
to do whatever they want tends to impinge tragically on the freedom of the vulnerable members of
society. Some men for example like to rape women. But enabling them to do that whenever they want
would impinge on the freedom of women not to be raped. The vast majority of people realize
that giving men the freedom to rape at will would be a very bad idea.
At the societal level, powerful corporations often dump vast quantities of poisons into the air,
soil, and water without having to bear the costs or other consequences of their activities. Most
Americans agree that such activities should be prohibited or otherwise strongly regulated, or that
corporations that engage in such activities should be made to bear the costs or other consequences
– in other words, that the "freedom" of corporations to pollute and ruin our environment should be
strictly controlled. Yet, corporate power in the United States has perverted the concept of "freedom"
to justify ever more unrestricted expansion of their power, with the consequent diminishment of freedom
for the vast majority of Americans.
George Lakoff discusses the nuances and frequent contradictions of the word "freedom" in great
detail in his book, "Whose
Freedom – The Battle over America's Most Important Ideal". Here is an one of many excerpts from
that book that make the point of how the freedom of the few often diminishes the freedom of the many:
The focus of (George Bush's) presidency is defending and spreading freedom. Yet, progressives
see in Bush's policies not freedom but outrages against freedom. They are indeed outrages against
the traditional American ideal of freedom… It is not the American ideal of freedom to invade countries
that don't threaten us, to torture people and defend the practice, to jail people indefinitely
without due process, and to spy on our own citizens without warrant…
Bill Moyers discussed this idea in an article titled "A
New Story for America". He notes how Ronald Reagan put our country on the road to fascism (though
he didn't use that word) by convincing many or most Americans that "big government" destroys our
freedom and that we must therefore shrink government and give business unlimited "freedom" to do
as they please. With regard to Reagan's idea of "freedom", Moyers says:
But what that… means today is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities
and the license to buy the political system right our from under everyone else, so that democracy
no longer has the ability to hold capitalism accountable for the good of the whole… It has taken
us down a terribly mistaken road toward a political order where government ends up servicing the
powerful and taking from everyone else…
The hypocrisy of the corporate version of "free market" ideology
Nor does it assure the availability of economic opportunity…
Yet it has been used to shield private power from democratic accountability, in no small part
because conservative rhetoric has succeeded in denigrating government even as conservative politicians
plunder it… But government is … often the only way we preserve our freedom from private power
and its incursions.
There is nothing "free"
about the right wing corporate version of so-called "free markets". Rather, through the amassing
of great wealth and power and the use of that wealth and power to legally bribe our elected officials,
they have stacked the deck in their favor so as to acquire monopoly control over so many aspects
of our economic and political life. As Adam Smith, whom the right wing ideologues are so fond of
quoting, says, creation of true free markets requires at a minimum the limiting of the power of corporations.
Our corporate elites are not interested in "free" markets. They are interested only in gathering
unto themselves as much wealth and power as they possibly can.
This is all part and parcel of the utterly nonsensical doctrine of "trickle down economics", which
was never supported by a shred of evidence. They want us to believe that the road to a healthy economy
is to shower the wealthy with privileges and riches, so that eventually this wealth will shower (or
trickle) down on the rest of us, by virtue of making the wealthy more productive. Well, we're still
With their control of the news media, corporate America has foisted a toxic ideology on the American
people that serves to maintain their wealth and power. When powerful banks lose money, they warn
that the taxpayers must save them, lest our economy go into a permanent tailspin. Yet when the American
people attempt to devise a health care system that will keep them financially solvent and
prevent twenty thousand deaths
each year, the corporate elite scream SOCIALISM!!
This is all part and parcel to the idea that "big government" is our biggest problem. The corporatocracy
would have us believe that any infringement of our government on the "freedom" of corporations do
whatever they please constitutes "interference" with the "free market". Bill Moyers takes us back
in history to explain how our country's greatest leaders, from Jefferson to Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt
to FDR, have used the powers of government to provide opportunity for Americans to create a decent
and better life for themselves. Thus Moyers concludes about our present state:
So it is that contrary to what we have heard rhetorically for a generation now, the individualist,
greed-driven, free-market ideology is at odds with our history and with what most Americans really
care about … Indeed, the American public is committed to a set of values that almost perfectly
contradicts the conservative agenda that has dominated politics for a generation now.
Opposing the public interest
Corporations, as creations of the state were originally required
to act in support of the public interest in return for the many favors they received from the state.
But instead, they have come to oppose the public interest, in pursuit of their own private
goals and the goals of their owners, and in the process they have cast a progressively darkening
cloud of tyranny over our country and the world. In reality it is difficult or impossible to separate
the goals of a corporation from the goals of its owners – those who exercise control over the corporation.
After all, a corporation is merely a financial tool, which can be utilized for whatever purposes
those who control it wish. Yet it is legally defined as an entity separate from its
owners. Thus those who control the corporation have a powerful tool at their disposal, while at the
same time utilizing corporate law to shield them from the liabilities that mere individuals would
incur without a corporation to hide behind.
That would be ok if the state was determined to regulate corporations in the public interest.
However, especially since the 1980s corporate propaganda has achieved a measure of success in convincing
Americans that government regulation of corporations – in the public interest or otherwise – is bad
for our economy and therefore bad for our people. Perhaps most Americans don't really believe that
absurdity. But enough do that, in combination with the power of money, the public interest has taken
a back seat to corporate "freedom".
It has long been recognized that corporations have a tendency to form monopolies, which reduce
competition and raise prices. That is why, beginning with the
law of 1890, and continuing with President Theodore Roosevelt's
trust busting efforts, the U.S. government has had a long and justified history of intervening
to prevent unfair monopolistic practices, especially with regard to services that are essential to
us, such as gas and electric utilities.
When monopolies are allowed to flourish, competition is stifled and the result is an
wealth gap and
Specific examples of monopolies leading to bad consequences include the lax regulation that led to
energy blackouts in California in 2001 and policies that allow
price gouging by oil
companies. Yet, for reasons that they've never explained, the right wing "free market" ideologues
are the first ones to allow the stifling of competition by monopolies.
Monopoly provides the financial foundation of corporate power. With rampant monopolization of
U.S. industries in recent years, competitive obstacles to the accumulation of wealth have been removed
for a select few, at the expense of almost everyone else. Barry Lynn discusses in his book, "Cornered
– The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction" – how the monopolization of so much
industry in the United States, which began under the Reagan Presidency, has led us towards a corporatist
state that has vastly limited the freedom of so many Americans:
The structural monopolization of so many systems has resulted in a set of political arrangements
similar to what we used to call corporatism. This means that our political economy is run
by a compact elite that is able to fuse the power of our public government with the power of private
corporate governments in ways that enable members of the elite not merely to offload their risk
onto us but also to determine with almost complete freedom who wins, who loses, and who pays.
Then suddenly there was Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson… using our tax money to fix his
bank and the banks of all his friends…
The bottom line: Too much freedom for the powerful impinges greatly upon the freedom of everyone
The Bush and Obama administrations and… Congress all
responded to the collapse of our financial system in most instances by accelerating consolidation…
The effects are clear… the derangement not merely of our financial systems but also of our industrial
systems and political systems. Most terrifying of all is that this consolidation of power – and
the political actions taken to achieve it – appears to have impaired our ability to comprehend
the dangers we face and to react in an organized and coherent manner.
"Too big to prosecute"
Perhaps the greatest indicator of the tyranny of corporate power in America today is the approach
that our criminal justice system takes towards corporate criminals. Our country is still suffering
from our worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, which is largely the result
of corporate irresponsibility and malfeasance. Yet not one of those responsible for this crisis has
even been prosecuted, let alone sent to jail. To the contrary, the American taxpayers have bailed
out our irresponsible financial institutions to the tune of several trillion dollars.
William Greider explains, in an article titled "How
Wall Street Crooks Get out of Jail Free":
The nation is left to face a disturbing spectacle: crime without punishment. Massive injuries
were done to millions of people by reckless bankers, and vast wealth was destroyed by elaborate
financial deceptions. Yet there are no culprits to be held responsible.
Former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman
put the problem in perspective:
People know that if they rob a bank they will go to jail… Bankers should know that if they rob
people, they will go to jail too… At the end of the day this is a test of whether we have one
justice system in this country or two. If we do not treat a Wall Street firm that defrauded investors
of millions of dollars the same way we treat someone who stole $500 from a cash register, then
how can we expect our citizens to have any faith in the rule of law?
Greider explains the system that is routinely used in the United States today to deal with corporate
criminals, and its purported rationale:
Instead of "Old Testament justice," federal prosecutors seek "authentic cooperation" from corporations
in trouble, urging them to come forward voluntarily and reveal their illegalities. In exchange,
prosecutors will offer a deal. If companies pay the fine set by the prosecutor and submit to probationary
terms for good behavior… then government will defer prosecution indefinitely or even drop it entirely.
That's a lot of sympathy of corporations, corporate employees and stockholders. Where is the comparative
sympathy for the tens of millions of other Americans who are out of work or who lost their homes?
The favored argument for the more conciliatory approach was that criminal indictment may amount
to a death sentence for a corporation. The fallout will destroy it, and the economy will lose
valuable productive capacity. The collateral consequences are unfair to employees who lose jobs
and stockholders who lose wealth.
Russell Mokhiber, longtime editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, explains the real reason
for this kid glove treatment of corporate criminals:
Over the past twenty-five years the corporate lobbies have watered down the corporate criminal
justice system and starved the prosecutorial agencies. Young prosecutors dare not overstep their
bounds for fear of jeopardizing the cash prize at the end of the rainbow – partnership in the
big corporate defense law firms after they leave public service. The result – if there are criminal
prosecutions, they now end in deferred or nonprosecution agreements – instead of guilty pleas.
Deferring prosecution was made standard practice by George W. Bush's Justice Department… During
Obama's first two years, Justice deferred action on fifty-three corporate defendants… Leading
lawyers dubbed deferred prosecution "the new normal for handling corporate misconduct".
In other words, they have more money than we do, and in today's United States, justice is for sale.
Setting the crown for a corporate state – Corporate power in perspective
us many times in the past about the dire consequences of government becoming too cozy with the
This will sound extreme to some people, but I came to it reluctantly. I fear what they're doing…
in their design is setting the crown for a corporate state…. And by that I mean a rather small
but very powerful circle of financial institutions the old Wall Street banks, famous names. But
also some industrial corporations… Too big to fail. Yes, watched closely by the Federal Reserve
and others in government, but also protected by them… The leading banks and corporations are sort
of at the trough, ahead of everybody else in Washington, they will have the means to monopolize
democracy. And I mean that literally. Some of my friends would say, hey, that already happened….
The corporate state is here…. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going
down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to
any possibility of restoring democracy.
THE CORPORATIST MODEL Grows from a close relationship between the trade union movement and social
democratic parties. Even in "pluralist" Britain, economic policy approached the corporatist model
in brokering "SOCIAL CONTRACT" between government and unions during the 1974-79 Labour administration.
Often institutionalizes a system of centralized wage bargaining: government and the "social partners"
of organized labor and business sit round a table and trash out a national incomes policy.
As a policy-making and implementation system: set of institutional arrangements that entrenches
major social groups in the overall management of the national economy and other types of public policies
Definition from Philip Schmitter and Gerhard Lehmbruch: "Corporatism is more than a particular
pattern of articulation of interests. Rather, it is an institutionalized pattern of policy-formation
in which large interest organizations cooperate with each other and with public authorities not only
in the articulation of interests, but… in the 'authoritative allocation of values' and in the implementation
of such policies".
ORIGINS: 1) Catholic Social Thought - early decades of the twentieth century, Church leaders were
concerned that the role of the church was being undermined by trade unions, and growth of modern
state apparatus; wanted to renew social organization represented by medieval craft guilds; advocated
enhanced role for self-governing interest groups (the "voluntary" sector", involved not only in the
planning but also in the provision of major social services such as health care and education) 2)
Fascist corporation was a system of totalitarian state control of society based on an intimate interpretation
of interest groups and the state. Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Salazar's Portugal. 3)
post-WW II impulse for "national unity" sense that industry and labor had to work together in order
to rebuild war-torn economies fostered tripartite (i.e., industry , labor and government) cooperation
in places such as Austria and Germany.
Features of corporatism systems:
- most of the work force is organized into a small number of powerful unions; - the business
community is dominated by a small number of powerful firms, organized in a powerful employers'
federation; - wage bargaining between unions and employers is centralized;
- state is actively involved in the economy. - interest groups are comprehensive in their representation
of particular sectors of society.
Values/behaviors (i.e political cultural prerequisites) required to make corporatism work:
- consensus on broad social values shared by state, unions and employers;
- a preference for bargained outcomes, rather than those that are either imposed or won through
Interrelated contextual factors: - a long tradition of social democratic rule; - a small, open
economy; - high expenditures on social programs and low expenditures on defense.
Table 14-1 groups countries into 3 clusters.
- BIG THREE CORPORATIST COUNTRIES (Austria, Norway and Sweden),
- a group of moderately corporatist (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland as the most
corporatist and as the less corporatist Luxembourg, Iceland and Belgium),
- and countries that are hardly corporatist at all (Britain, Ireland, USA, Canada, Portugal,
Italy, Spain, Greece, and France). NOTE: those parts of Europe that are neither Anglophone nor
form the Catholic south are likely to be at least somewhat corporatist in their policy-making
style discuss why this is the case if one of the origins is in Catholic social thought – previous
experiences with Fascism steer them away or perhaps because more solidly Catholic there are other
means of building consensus, bargaining?] . Also note: 4 of the 5 most corporatist countries –
Austria, Norway, Sweden – were the ones with strongest Social Democratic parties/cabinet control
over postwar era.
CORPORATISM IN AUSTRIA
Austria is usually taken as the classic case of a political system that is characterized by a
very high level of corporatist policy making. Austria is a "model generator".
Important role of CHAMBERS, designed to provide formal representation for the interests, respectively,
of labor, commerce, and agriculture.
Statutory position and vital role that they play in decision making. All working citizens in Austria
are obliged by law to belong to the appropriate chamber. [discuss how this is perceived from an American
point of view]
The chambers have the formal right to be consulted on and represent in a wide range of matters,
as well as to nominate members to many other public bodies.
"Peak" trade union organization, the OGB, and the League of Austrian Industrialists, the VOI.
The Chamber of Labor must also consider the "public interest". OGB is highly centralized. SOCIAL
The Chamber of Labor and the OGB are dominated by the Socialists (SPO), and the Chamber of Commerce
and Chamber of Agriculture are dominated by the conservative Austrian People's party (OVP).
Interpenetration of interest groups and parliament, and this symbiosis has been identified by
many as one of the strengths of Austrian corporatism.
Social partners traditionally have been concerned first and foremost with economic policy making
(prices and incomes). Both the negotiation and the implementation of policies on prices and incomes.
Concept of parity: strictly equal membership for representatives of business and labor in all
important policy-making bodies.
Success during the affluent 1960s and 1970s. The Austrian economy enjoyed steady growth and a
record on inflation and unemployment that was much better than the European norm.
Full-fledged corporatism is a comprehensive and deep-rooted decision-making culture rather than
just a collection of superficial solutions.
I think the reason is that the Corporatist model has become so entrenched in the mindset of the
ruling elite that they are unable to divest themselves from it.
The enormous success of Singapore's initial years of independence has gone to their heads. It
has fooled them into thinking Corporatism is the way to go, and that when the hardware is in place,
the software can be taken care of later. This inverted philosophy is the reason why Singapore has
evolved into the current state where control of the nation's wealth is placed in the hands of the
few and where the ordinary folk do not have much control over their own economic destinies. It is
also the reason why a culture of materialism has sunk in together with a sense of disempowerment
Today we have casinos causing social problems for the heartlanders. Under the government's Corporatist
model, the wealth generated for the elite by the casinos is worth these social problems.
Today, the government keeps saying that we cannot provide more social safety nets at the risk
of going down the slippery slope of becoming a welfare state. Under its own Corporatist model, the
government deems that it is better instead to invest the money into building external and foreign
Today, public services are going up in price because under the Corporatist model, it is more important
to be profitable than it is to be caring.
This study represents the first book-length treatment of the declining significance of corporatist
governance in advanced capitalist states.
Gobeyn presents the first book-length treatment of the declining significance of corporatist governance
in advanced capitalism, linking that decline to international political economic forces. He contends
that current patterns of conflict within corporatist political bargaining institutions in capitalist
states can be traced to attitudinal shifts on the part of capitalists toward corporatist institutional
arrangements. Business interests, it is argued, may no longer be viewing traditional practices of
national corporatist action as either beneficial or necessary given recent changes in domestic and
international economic environments. Recent state modifications to corporatist forms have therefore
Corporatism was originally a 19th-century doctrine which arose in reaction to the competition
and class conflict of capitalist society. In opposition to the trend towards both mass suffrage and
independent trade unionism, it promoted a form of functional representation - everyone would be organized
into vocational or industrial associations integrated with the state through representation and administration.
The contention was that if these groups (especially capital and labour) could be imbued with a sense
of mutual rights and obligations, such as presumably united the medieval estates, a stable order
based on "organic unity" could be established. Although the notion of industrial parliaments was
commonly raised in liberal democracies after WWI, the only states that explicitly adopted a corporative
form of representation were the fascist regimes of Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Vichy France
and various South American dictatorships.
In all these cases, corporatist structures were primarily a decorative façade for authoritarian
rule, state repression of independent trade unionism being the main motive and consequence. Given
this experience, corporatist ideology has not been popular in Western liberal democratic societies,
but by the 1970s it became increasingly common for social scientists to discern that certain
political arrangements had developed within these frameworks, which in operative premise and institutional
form bore some resemblance to the functional-representation notions of corporatism.
This was particularly true in many West European countries, where the central trade-union and
business federations had joined government representatives in national economic and incomes policy
planning. These arrangements helped sustain the Keynesian welfare state, in which governments sought
to stem inflationary tendencies in the economy and encourage productivity. Central to all such arrangements
was the effort to persuade unions to accept national wage-restraint policies in exchange for representation
in economic decision making.
Corporatism temporarily came to be seen by many social scientists as either a new economic system,
successor to capitalism, where the state controls and directs a highly concentrated but still privately
owned economy; or a new form of state, where the important representation, decision making and administration
take place not in the parties, parliaments and ministerial bureaucracies but in the tripartite structures
where business, labour and governments are joined; or a new form of interest-group politics, where
instead of the competitive, lobbying activities of many pressure groups, there is a monopoly of access
to the state by one group from each sector of society, with the state exercising reciprocal influence
over the groups.
While each of these scenarios captured some aspects of modern corporatist developments, they were
all too expansive and grandiose. Corporatist structures may have supplemented parliamentary forms
in certain countries, but they hardly became the centre of the liberal democratic state. They were
confined primarily to the relations among big business, organized labour and government. Above all,
corporatist arrangements do not challenge capitalism as the economic system of these societies.
Important key investment decisions, although influenced by the state partly through corporatist
structures, remained with private corporations. Indeed, far from emerging as the new dominant institutions,
corporatist structures displayed an inherent instability, reflecting the asymmetry of the relative
power of capital and labour and the tendency of trade unions to withdraw their co-operation in wage-restraint
policies when members insist that their leaders represent their demands rather than act as junior
partners in managing the modern capitalist economy. In turn, capitalist classes have shown themselves
less and less interested, for their part, in maintaining such partnerships, and this has led to corporatist
arrangements to be increasingly abandoned along with the Keynesian welfare state through the last
two decades of the 20th century.
The exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic
of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits
and spat out by fascism.
Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business and they
served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the
popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even
recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was
once asked if America would ever see fascism. His answer was, "Yes, but we will call it anti-fascism."
By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, I am
confident that we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy.
The tools necessary to protect ourselves from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the
same, I believe that North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for
what it is, and we must change course.
Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the antitrust division of the US Department of Justice
in 1939: "Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship.
Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments
and appeals to the mob ... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable
development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."
Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association: "Germany
presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935 cartelization
grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to
a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments
or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could
not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the
workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler
it would have been someone else."
I suspect that to most readers, Arnold's words are bewildering. Most people today are quite certain
that they know what fascism is. When asked to describe it, however, they will typically tell you
what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. Most people associate fascism with concentration
camps and rows of stormtroopers, yet they know nothing of the political and economic processes that
led to these horrible end results.
Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop
down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was
the end result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic.
In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic
activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast,
becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism
in Italy and Germany.
Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs
of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a very high degree of control
over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing
of patented technology. These associations were private, but were entirely legal. Neither Germany
nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally
encouraged by government.
This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamored
for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920's, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed
regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command
and control" economy that effectively replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy
and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of 18th century economist
and philosopher Adam Smith's famous dictum, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even
for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in
some contrivance to raise prices."
How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most
of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I G Farben industrial
trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation
was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests. Hitler attended to reduction of
certain taxes applicable to large businesses, while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they
related to small business.
Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living
for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's
middle class by decimating small business. Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class and they
provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously
destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.
Hitler also destroyed organized labor by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding
the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labor policy was the dream come
true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working
conditions to the employer. Compulsory (slave) labor was the crowning achievement of Nazi labor relations.
Along with millions of people, organized labor died in the concentration camps. The camps were
not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic
Hitler's untermenschen (sub-humans), largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labor
to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza. In another bitter irony, the gates over
many of the camps bore a sign that read "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work shall set you free). I do
not know if this was black humor or propaganda, but it is emblematic of the deception that lies at
the heart of fascism.
The same economic reality existed in Italy between the two world wars. In that country, nearly
all industrial activity was owned or controlled by a few corporate giants, Fiat and the Ansaldo shipping
concern being the chief examples. Land ownership in Italy was also highly concentrated and jealously
guarded. Vast tracts of farmland were owned by a few latifundisti (estate owners). The actual
farming was carried out by a landless peasantry who were locked into a role essentially the same
as that of the sharecropper of the US deep south. As in Germany, the few owners of the nation's capital
assets had immense influence over government.
As a young man, Mussolini had been a strident socialist, and he, like Hitler, used socialist language
to lure the people to fascism. Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the
people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry
specific "corporazioni", bodies composed of both labor and management representatives. The
corporazioni would resolve all labor/management disputes, and if they failed to do so, the
fascist state would intervene.
Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni,
to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with
Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian laborer to the status of peasant.
Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure
which favored the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial
businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy.
In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.
Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact
that Hitler called his party the "National Socialist Party" did not change the reactionary nature
of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious
to the US Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.
It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history. It is particularly perilous to forget
about the economic origins of fascism in our modern era of deregulation. Most Western liberal democracies
are currently held in the thrall of what some call market fundamentalism. Few nowadays question the
flawed assumption that state intervention in the marketplace is inherently bad. As in Italy and Germany
in the 1920s and 1930s, business associations clamor for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts.
The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged
consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North
American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-World War II period. (By
way of example, US census data from 1997 show that the largest four companies in the food, motor
vehicle and aerospace industries control 53.4%, 87.3% and 55.6% of their respective markets. More
than 20% of commercial banking in the US is controlled by the four largest financial institutions,
with the largest 50 controlling more than 60%.
Even these numbers underestimate the scope of concentration, since they do not account for the
myriad interconnections between firms by means of debt instruments and multiple directorships, which
further reduce the extent of competition. Actual levels of US commercial concentration have been
difficult to measure since the 1970s, when strong corporate opposition put an end to the Federal
Trade Commission's efforts to collect the necessary information.)
Fewer, larger competitors dominate all economic activity, and their political will is expressed
with the millions of dollars they spend lobbying politicians and funding policy formulation in the
many right-wing institutes that now limit public discourse to the question of how best to serve the
interests of business. The consolidation of the economy, and the resulting perversion of public policy
are themselves fascistic. I am quite certain, however, that president Bill Clinton was not
worrying about fascism when he repealed federal antitrust laws that had been enacted in the 1930's.
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is similarly unworried about fascism when it lobbies
the Canadian government to water down our Federal Competition Act. (The 1985 act regulates monopolies,
among other things, and itself represents a watering down of Canada's previous antitrust laws. It
was essentially written by industry and handed to the Brian Mulroney government to be enacted.)
At present, monopolies are regulated on purely economic grounds to ensure the efficient allocation
of goods. If we are to protect ourselves from the growing political influence of big business, then
our antitrust laws must be reconceived in a way that recognizes the political danger of monopolistic
conditions. Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.
It might be argued that North America's democratic political systems are so entrenched that we
needn't fear fascism's return. The democracies of Italy and Germany in the 1920's were in many respects
fledgling and weak. Our systems will surely react at the first whiff of dictatorship. Or will they?
This argument denies the reality that the fascist dictatorships were preceded by years of reactionary
politics, the kind of politics that are playing out today. Further, it is based on the conceit that
whatever our own governments do is democracy.
Canada still clings to a quaint, 19th century "first past the post" electoral system in which
a minority of the popular vote can and has resulted in majority control of parliament. In the US,
millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power
to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative.
Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows
our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic
systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is
also lacking today.
Our collective forgetfulness about the economic nature of fascism is also dangerous at a more
philosophical level. As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because
of the flawed notion of freedom that held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the
early twentieth century. It was the liberals of that era that clamored for unfettered personal and
economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society.
Such untrammeled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle.
In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom that is inherently
violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each
and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery
that will be suffered by others as a result.
The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the
early twentieth century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism. Just as monopoly
is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.
In the post-war period, this flawed notion of freedom has been perpetuated by the neo-liberal
school of thought. The neo-liberals denounce any regulation of the marketplace. In so doing, they
mimic the posture of big business in the pre-fascist period. Under the sway of neo-liberalism, Thatcher,
Reagan, Mulroney and George W Bush have decimated labor and exalted capital. (Currently, only 7.8%
of workers in the US private sector are unionized - about the same percentage as in the early 1900s.)
Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately
favor the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In
the result, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the
state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would
be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to
forget that he is being ripped off. The racist hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an
illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and
Neo-liberal intellectuals often recognize the need for violence to protect what they regard as
freedom. Thomas Freidman of the New York Times has written enthusiastically that "the hidden hand
of the market will never work without a hidden fist", and that "McDonald's cannot flourish without
McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the US Air Force F-15 ... ".
As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their
bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals
advocate the use of the state's military force for the sake of private gain. Their view of the state's
role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and
Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power. Neo-liberalism
is thus fertile soil for fascism to grow again into an outright threat to our democracy.
Having said that fascism is the result of a flawed notion of freedom, I respectfully suggest that
we must re-examine what we mean when we throw around the word "freedom". We must conceive of freedom
in a more enlightened way. Indeed, it was the thinkers of the Enlightenment who imagined a balanced
and civilized freedom that did not impinge upon the freedom of one's neighbor. Put in the simplest
terms, my right to life means that you must give up your freedom to kill me. This may seem terribly
obvious to decent people. Unfortunately, in our neo-liberal era, this civilized sense of freedom
has, like the dangers of fascism, been all but forgotten.
Paul Bigioni is a lawyer practicing in Markham, Ontario. He is a commentator on trade
and political issues. This article is drawn from his work on a book about the persistence of fascism.
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