Tag Archive: Plutocracy

Jul 04 2015

The Declaration of Political Independence

(My apologies to Thomas Jefferson)

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the citizen long guaranteed by our Constitution, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to that separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created equal, and that the People of the United States of America are endowed not only with certain unalienable rights, but also with certain rights and liberties given to them by the Founding Fathers via the Constitution of the country adopted at the birth of these United States, as well as via laws passed throughout the past 239 years. That to secure these rights and liberties, the Government has been instituted among people, deriving their power from the consent of the governed, and that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it.

Mar 24 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 3.24.15

I have 4 things for your perusal this morning.

First, on the FISA Court:

To Protect Our Privacy, Make the FISA Court Act Like a Real Court

The expiration of key surveillance authorities this spring will force Congress to grapple with the sprawling spying activities exposed by Edward Snowden. Defenders of the status quo sound a familiar refrain: The National Security Agency’s programs are lawful and already subject to robust oversight. After all, they have been blessed not just by Congress but by the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.

When it comes to the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, however, the FISA court is not acting like a court at all. Originally created to provide a check on the executive branch, the court today behaves more like an adjunct to the intelligence establishment, giving its blanket blessing to mammoth covert programs. The court’s changed role undermines its constitutional underpinnings and raises questions about its ability to exercise meaningful oversight.

Jump!

Oct 23 2012

Plutocracy: “The Remains of the Old USA”

Plutocrats Want to Own Your Vote

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winsap

The new Gilded Age is roaring down on us — an un-caged tiger on a rampage. Walk out to the street in front of our office here in Manhattan, look to the right and you can see the symbol of it: a fancy new skyscraper going up two blocks away. When finished, this high rise among high rises will tower a thousand feet, the tallest residential building in the city.

The New York Times has dubbed it “the global billionaires’ club” — and for good reason. At least of two of the apartments are under contract for more than $90 million each. Others, more modest, range in price from $45 million to more than $50 million. The mega-rich have been buying these places “looking for a place to stash their cash,” a realtor from Sotheby’s explained to the Times. “A lot of what is happening,” she said, “… is about wealth preservation.”

Simultaneously, the powers-that-be have just awarded Donald Trump the right to run a golf course in the Bronx, which taxpayers are spending at least $97 million to build — what “amounts to a public subsidy,” says the indignant city comptroller, “for a luxury golf course.” Good grief — a handout to the plutocrat’s plutocrat.

This, in a city where economic inequality rivals that of a third-world country. Of America’s 25 largest cities, New York is now the most unequal. The median income for the bottom 20 percent last year was less than $9,000, while the top one percent of New Yorkers has an average annual income of $2.2 million. [..]

It’s snowballing. Timeshare king David Siegel of Westgate Resorts reportedly has threatened to fire employees if Barack Obama is re-elected and Arthur Allen, who runs ASG Software Solutions, emailed his employees, “If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.”

Back in the first the Gilded Age, in the 19th century, bosses in company towns lined up their workers and marched them to vote as a bloc. Now, the Gilded Age is back , with a vengeance. Welcome to the plutocracy — the remains of the ol’ USA.

Oct 23 2012

Bill Moyers: Power & Privileges of the One Percent

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor of Rolling Stone, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, joined Bill Moyers for a discussion on how the super wealthy use their increasing wealth to fund political candidates who will serve their interests.

Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why? Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform. [..]

“We have this community of rich people who genuinely believe that they are the wealth creators and they should get every advantage and break,” Taibbi tells Bill. “Whereas everybody else is a parasite and they’re living off of them”

Freeland adds, “You know, 2008 is not so long ago, and already, the anti-regulation chorus is so strong. How dare they have the gall to actually argue that too much regulation of American financial services is what is killing the economy?”

Ms. Freeland also penned an interesting article at Huffington Post on the problems of plutocrats in the late nineteenth century and how it compares with today’s plutocracy problem:

Henry George is the most famous American popular economist you’ve never heard of, a 19th century cross between Michael Lewis, Howard Dean and Ron Paul. Progress and Poverty, George’s most important book, sold three million copies and was translated into German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Hebrew and Mandarin. During his lifetime, George was probably the third best-known American, eclipsed only by Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. He was admired by the foreign luminaries of the age, too — Leo Tolstoy, Sun-Yat Sen and Albert Einstein, who wrote that “men like Henry George are unfortunately rare. One cannot image a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice.” George Bernard Shaw described his own thinking about the political economy as a continuation of the ideas of George, whom he had once heard deliver a speech. [..]

What George found most mysterious about the economic consequences of the industrial revolution was that its failure to deliver economic prosperity was not uniform — instead it had created a winner-take-all society: “Some get an infinitely better and easier living, but others find it hard to get a living at all. The ‘tramp’ comes with the locomotives, and almshouses and prisons are as surely the marks of ‘material progress’ as are costly dwellings, rich warehouses and magnificent churches. Upon streets lighted with gas and patrolled by uniformed policeman, beggars wait for the passer-by, and in the shadow of college, and library, and museum, are gathering the more hideous Huns and fiercer Vandals of whom Macaulay prophesied.”

George’s diagnosis was beguilingly simple — the fruits of innovation weren’t widely shared because they were going to the landlords. This was a very American indictment of industrial capitalism: at a time when Marx was responding to Europe’s version of progress and poverty with a wholesale denunciation of private property, George was an enthusiastic supporter of industry, free trade and a limited role for government. His culprits were the rentier rich, the landowners who profited hugely from industrialization and urbanization, but did not contribute to it. [..]

America today urgently needs a 21st century Henry George — a thinker who embraces the wealth-creating power of capitalism, but squarely faces the inequity of its current manifestation. That kind of thinking is missing on the right, which is still relying on Reagan-era trickle-down economics and hopes complaints about income inequality can be silenced with accusations of class war. But the left isn’t doing much better either, preferring nostalgia for the high-wage, medium-skill manufacturing jobs of the post-war era and China-bashing to a serious and original effort to figure out how to make 21st century capitalism work for the middle class. [..]

We are living in an era of comparably tumultuous economic change. The great challenge of our time is to devise the new social and political institutions we need to make the new economy work for everyone. So far, that is a historic task neither party is taking on with enough energy, honesty or originality.

Oct 25 2011

It’s The End Of The Internet As We Know It (And Orrin Hatch Feels Fine)

Cross-posted to CandyBullets, MyLeftWing, firefly-dreaming and Docudharma

If you follow my website (CandyBullets) you’re probably well aware of the threat posed by the “IP PROTECT ACT” known more commonly as the Internet Blacklist bill. You’re may also be aware that this bill was recently halted in the Senate by the true Democrat Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) who prevented the bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate (where it would doubtless pass) however a House version will be introduced this week with help of Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — probably tomorrow. If you’re not familiar with this bill then I suggest you become acquainted (the full text of the bill may be found here.)

It was once said about the much over analyzed movie Last Tango In Paris that it was a simple movie at heart: a movie about real estate, two people who want an apartment and will do anything to get it. In a similar vane Protect IP is also simple: it is merely the latest in a long line of slovenly hand-outs to corporations at the expense of your civil rights; it would give the Government broad, censorious new powers to shut down any site merely accused of Copyright Infringement and fuck the concept of innocent until proven guilty, yes, the PROTECT IP ACT authorizes an alleged “rights holder” who decides to claim to be the victim of the “infringement” to bring an action against the owner, registrant, or Internet site “dedicated to infringement”, whether domestic or foreign, and seek a court order against the domain name registrant, owner, or the domain name. The DOJ version however can apply against ISPs, search engines, ad providers and payment processors.

Of course corporate America, what were the founding fathers thinking? Of course you must be given permission to shut down YouTube and Facebook so that no one can potentially infringe upon your Copyrights. I recall Franklin making a remark about trading liberty for safety. This bill would criminalize YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Google+, Reddit, Digg, not least this site you’re reading this at. Any other site that uses user generated content. But you know, I’m glad to know that when conservative Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and nominal liberal Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) delightfully bipartisan fascism was first shot down when they coauthored COICA (The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act) these two adorable little corporate shills decided to take our criticisms into account. This time they remembered to ban criticism. Their new “PROTECT IP ACT” retains the blacklist of websites our “Democratic” Govenrment doesn’t wanting us looking at but ads a new one that we’ll just have to take a moment to marvel at: It bans people from even being able to discuss blacklisted sites. Under the new bill, anyone “referring or linking” to a blacklisted site will be Blacklisted themselves.

Yes this “bunker-buster bluster bomb” (h/t Ron Wyden) far past simply requiring these other service providers from blocking service, this new law will require search engines to censor sites out of their index. Now please understand, “infringing websites” is in no way defined in a reasonable way — the bill is not being specific about what constitutes an infringing web sites. For example if WikiLeaks or any similar organization were merely accused of distributing copyrighted content, U.S. search engines could be served a court order to BLOCK search results pointing to Wikileaks. Requiring search engines to remove links to an entire website altogether due to an infringing page raises alarming free speech concerns regarding lawful content hosted elsewhere on the site. The fact that an injunction can be issued without notifying the allegedly, supposedly infringing website essentially destroys the entire legal “presumption of innocence”, there is no innocent until proven guilty with this bill.