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The Humping-Dog Factor ---

 
bydoing
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User ID: 75157
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04/12/2006 01:25 PM
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The Humping-Dog Factor ---
The Humping-Dog Factor

Why America feels more socialist
than capitalist

by Claire Wolfe

You go to work and you're choked by PC speech codes, obnoxious nannying of your personal behavior, total surveillance, and pee-in-a-bottle drug-war tactics. You go shopping and stores and credit-card companies gather astonishing amounts of private information about you and sell it to the FBI or the Pentagon among others. Stagger into the emergency room, sick and desperate, and the hospital forces you to sign an “agreement” giving them permission to rape your privacy – under the federal government's rules and for the government's benefit.

You go into a “private” bank or a “private” mailbox service and they demand a raft of government requirements from you. When you don't like the way one megacorporation treats you, you take your business elsewhere – only to discover that every other company in the increasingly heavily regulated field treats you identically.

And then they tell you this is what it's like to be a part of the greatest economic system ever devised by the human race. This is capitalism. This is the economic system of the free.

Horsefeathers.

If this is “capitalism,” then the Patriot Act and the Real ID driver's license are “freedom.”

If this is “capitalism,” then the Patriot Act and the Real ID driver's license are “freedom.”

This isn't capitalism or even a close relative of it. Some call it “corporatism” which writer Robert Locke defines as socialism for the bourgeoisie. Some prefer the term “economic fascism.” Whatever you call it, it's a system in which mega-government and mega-business are locked together more tightly than a pair of humping dogs. Large corporations get the profits; governments gain both control and powerful partners; true entrepreneurial businesses and individuals get the shaft.

Whatever you call it, it's a system in which mega-government and mega-business are locked together more tightly than a pair of humping dogs.

Because you and I expect capitalism or a reasonable facsimile thereof, we're often buffaloed by the reality we smack into. People tell us (or often we tell ourselves), “Well, if you don't like the way one vendor treats you, take your business elsewhere.” Or “Your employer has a right to impose arbitrary rules because, after all, a business is private property. If you don't like your workplace, find a better one.”

In a genuinely capitalist system – where businesses stand or fall on their own merits that would be true. By “voting with our feet” we'd have the power to force high-handed businesses to treat us with more respect.

With megacorps and highly regulated businesses, though, the old rules of capitalist economics don't apply. But the old rules of authoritarian regimes do.

The humping-dog factor in the workplace

Where will you encounter the following forms of oppression, for instance? In a Soviet-style control state? Or in a typical American megacorporate workplace?

You're spied on, everywhere you turn. Your email transmissions and Web surfing habits are monitored. Surveillance cameras are omnipresent. You must increasingly submit to fingerprinting, iris scans, criminal background checks, credit checks, and other forms of personal probing. You have no privacy and no expectation of any.

Security becomes an obsession, enforced by many stupid rules that do nothing to improve real security.

Mindless loyalty is stressed above honest criticism. But loyalty is a one-way street. You are expected to be loyal to the powers that be, but those powers consider you entirely disposable.

Propaganda reigns. The more the powers that be talk about “empowerment,” the less power you actually have. The more they talk about respecting diversity, the more they demand conformity. The more they praise free enterprise, the more they rely on regulations and subsidies to curb the competition. Those who prate most vigorously about the value of “teamwork” or “freedom” invariably expect their own ideas to be followed without argument.

Decisions from the top can be as out of touch with reality as a Stalinist five-year plan.

Groupthink rules. You dare not openly challenge the prevailing “values,” whatever they may be.

People feel helpless to change their situation within the system. Many resort to monkeywrenching, stealing, lying, tricksterish stratagems – and in extreme cases, even violence – to take back some illusion of personal power.

You may be punished for simply speaking the truth to a superior.

You're totally disarmed and forbidden to protect yourself.

Not just a few criminal suspects, but everybody has to pee in a bottle to prove they're not using drugs. Anybody can be fired at will for illegal drug use even if it has zero effect on job performance.

You're not allowed to smoke – and you might lose your job even if you smoke only in your own home, on your own time.

Nannies fuss over your health as if you were a child. But it's not because anyone cares about you as an individual. It's because you're a “resource,” an “asset” and your health affects aggregate statistics.

Powerful institutions paternalistically supply our most basic necessities not just money that we can spend as we see fit, but health care plans, retirement plans, fitness programs, in some cases even food, housing, transportation, etc.

Meaningless, bureaucratic busywork replaces or overburdens real productivity.

Social-engineering goals such as “diversity,” “fairness,” and politically correct speech are enforced everywhere we turn.

Attempts at reforming the rules become rule-ridden themselves.

Your employer serves as a tax collector and tax-law enforcer. [See endnote]

Where will you find all of the above acts of patronizing control? Why, in both government and in typical megacorps, of course. But the megacorp offers you less in the way of due process.

Where will you find all of the above acts of patronizing control? Why, in both government and in typical megacorps, of course. But the megacorp offers you less in the way of due process.

Do you feel a little unfree? If so, you're not alone. The gospel of corporatism is spreading around the nation and the globe with predictable consequences.

The humping-dog factor and the death of freedom

Who would you expect to ban the words “freedom” and “democracy?” How about banning “demonstration,” “democratic movement,” and “Taiwan independence?” The dreadfully oppressive Chinese government, perhaps? No. Microsoft did it – and is doing it as we speak. Whenever anyone attempts to post such “undesirable” terms on any web site that might be accessed through Microsoft's Chinese web portal, the “capitalistic” American software giant orders: “Please delete the forbidden speech from this item.”

Who would you expect to ban the words “freedom” and “democracy?” Microsoft did it.

And who do you suppose turned over the email records of a dissident Chinese journalist to the oppressive government of Beijing, getting the poor man sent to prison for 10 years merely for forwarding a memo warning that the 15th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre might lead to dissent and “social destabilization?” No, it wasn't the FBI or the CIA. It wasn't the Department of Homeland Security. It was Yahoo!, another Internet portal (founded, ironically, by a Chinese-American)

When Wal-Mart decided to improve its battered image as an exploiter and community destroyer, did it turn to the usual PR or advertising agencies? Did it survey customers or offer to improve customer or employee policies? No, the most mega of megacorps thinks like a government. It set up a political-style war-room, launched into heavy lobbying mode, and even hired Michael Deaver, a top image advisor to Ronald Reagan. Customers and workers be damned. Wal-Mart knows that what counts is good government relations.

But regulation enables the “government of the people” to control big business on behalf of the little guy, right? Hardly. Regulation is often an elaborate game, with government bureaucrats and corporate managers on the same team. Examples abound. California “protects” its entire coastline against development – which stops private homeowners and small businesses from building; but large hotel and resort builders can afford to jump through the hoops and loopholes. New York City regulates development so stringently that individuals and small construction companies can no longer bother. Those who can afford the best lobbyists and have the most money for buying their way through the regulatory process win.

By falsely ruling that corporations are literal individuals – not mere corporate bodies authorized to function as individuals for limited purposes and limited times – the U.S. government has given incomparable legal power to “individuals” that are immortal, immune from legal responsibility, and wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of medieval lords. Actual individuals are dwarfed by these faux individuals in terms of political contributions, equality in the justice system, and personal power. (For more on this I recommend Thom Hartmann's well-researched book Unequal Protection.)

Businesses that are “too big to fail” are supported endlessly by tax dollars, in a system that is the opposite of capitalism's survival of the fittest. This also leads to more unfreedom. If airlines, for instance, had to please their passengers more than their subsidizers and regulators, would they meekly tolerate brutal “security” grope-a-thons and secret no-fly lists?

Businesses increasingly act as the federal government's spy services. Stunned by the way the FBI gathered dossiers on politically active Americans in the 1960s, Congress forbade the gathering of Stasi-style files on non-criminals. But today, the FBI, the Pentagon, and the dozens of federal “security” agencies don't have to worry about breaking the law. They just go to “capitalistic” companies like ChoicePoint and buy up commercial records on us that may run for dozens of pages and reveal everything from our subscriptions to radical magazines to our sexual kinks.

Businesses also aggressively market surveillance tech to governments. Red-light cameras. Biometric scanners. GPS-tracking systems. RFID-enabled building-access systems. In many cases, the nominally “private” firms even persuade police agencies of the need for spy systems that they never knew they needed or wanted. These nominally “private” firms subsist largely on taxpayers' money while selling technology to enable governments to take comprehensive control over those very same hapless taxpayers.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Kelo decision, ruled that local governments could take private property for private development. Not just for roads, schools, or other traditional public uses. In other words, a mega-corp's desire to build a hotel or resort trumps your right to own your own home. (Fortunately, the grassroots and legislative backlash against the Kelo decision has been impressive.)

With their virtually unlimited financial resources, mega-corps use SLAPP lawsuits (the acronym stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation) solely to prevent individuals and interest groups from speaking out against corporate abuses. The corporations know it doesn't matter who's right or wrong. All they have to do is throw so much money into the threat that the hapless target is forced to retreat, unable to afford to fight back.

Federal law is increasingly tailored to the wishes of megacorps. Take the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This, and related laws governing intellectual property, were crafted, on behalf of business, by men and women with almost no understanding of digital technology. The results have been grotesque. The Recording Industry of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have used federal law to bring draconian lawsuits against hundreds, if not thousands of users of innovative peer-to-peer computer networks. The suits are often arbitrary and outrageously punitive. For example, the MPAA sued a 67-year-old man for $600,000 because his 12-year-old grandson innocently downloaded four movies to his computer.

Private prisons now lobby for more facilities and more money. The more harmless druggies get incarcerated, the better for them.

Private security companies are now often nearly indistinguishable from military services. Private contractors capture, interrogate – and reportedly torture – Afghanis and Iraqis on behalf of the U.S. government. These favored companies (employed by corporations, governments, and wealthy individuals) were allowed to roam armed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, at a time when the government was disarming poor and middle-class people who were simply trying to defend their property.

And speaking of the average citizen, the megacorp is increasingly no friend to its customers, either.

The humping-dog factor and the customer

Businesses increasingly turn over customer records to government investigators without asking for even minimal legal processes. Not a terrorist or a criminal? Think you don't have to worry? These government fishing expeditions often sweep up the records of hundreds or thousands of innocents. And a series of new Bush administration policies enables government agencies to retail files on innocent Americans endlessly and trade them freely.

Mega-corps impose rules by whim and fiat. Typically, a bank, insurance company, or software vendor imposes a non-negotiable “agreement” on you as the price of doing business. The federal government in some cases controls the wording of these “contracts of adhesion” down to the last punctuation mark. In other cases, the business simply knows it can impose whatever terms it wishes because there's no real competition.

Worse, these “contracts” increasingly force you to sign away many basic rights – such as the constitutional right to trial by jury in civil suits.

The entire radio-frequency ID (RFID) industry – with the enthusiastic support of both Wal-Mart and the Pentagon – is engaged in plans to implant tracking chips into virtually every item ever made, anywhere. Publicly, they make soothing noises saying their only aim is to “improve the supply chain.” Within their own internal documents and industry gatherings, they tell the truth: that their “supply chain” stretches everywhere and is designed to track products and users from the moment of manufacture to beyond the moment of recycling. RFID chips are Spychips, as a riveting new book by that title makes clear.

Late in 2005 Sony was caught implanting secret “rootkits” onto customers' computers via music CDs. A rootkit is a hacker's tool, used to allow remote control of your computer. This one was used to prevent anyone from making more than three copies of a Sony CD. However, this particular rootkit can also crash your system or give malicious hackers and virus writers a “hook” into your computer. To add injury to injury, the man who first discovered this covert control device, Mark Russinovich, was not free to explain how it worked – because merely saying anything that might lead to circumvention of DRM (digital rights management) technologies is in itself a violation of federal law!

At the behest of government, allegedly “private” national courier services now refuse to deliver a perfectly legal product – tobacco – to individual customers.

At UPS retail stores, you can no longer ship a package without first showing government ID. You can't open a “private” bank account or get a “private” mailbox without government ID. Thus, in an increasing number of cases, government becomes the (false) guarantor of “security” for nominally private businesses while the businesses, in turn, use government ID to build up those giant dossiers of our activities for governments and other customers.

And so it goes ...

Corporatism is beloved by business elites because it puts billions into their coffers, impressing the shareholders and enriching them personally. The state assumes much of the risk; the business gets the money then shares some of the largess with the state in the form of taxes and of course campaign contributions.

Corporatism is beloved by governments because it gives them the thing they most crave: control. When committing acts of social engineering, for example, it's a lot easier for government to get the collaboration of a few dozen favor-seeking megacorps than 100,000 independent-minded mom and pop shops. And face it, elitist executives and bureaucratic managers both feel more kinship and comfort with each other than with thousands of small, scrappy, beholden-to-nobody capitalist entrepreneurs.

Corporatism is beloved of voters because it “promotes prosperity” and, they believe, is the only thing that keeps airplanes flying, farmers farming, and gas coursing through the pumps.

“Right wingers” like corporatism because it's “pro-business.” Mainstream liberals like it because subsidy and regulation allow the government to impose “socially responsible” requirements upon business.

More radical leftists claim to hate corporatism – yet they often believe the solution lies in greater, not less, government control over the economy. Thus they agitate for the very thing that caused the problem in the first place.

In the meantime, the independent citizen – that once-vaunted pillar of society – is reduced to the status of a “resource” a supply of labor and/or money. The highest we can rise in the esteem of corporatists is to the loathsome position of “consumer.”

The bitter irony is that the world's megacorporations and corporate industry groups easily have the size, power, and financial clout to defy most of the world's governments. They are nearly the only institutions with that power. If they chose to use their power for freedom – if, for instance, Microsoft defied Chinese censorship or Honda said, “You're impoverishing our employees with your taxes and we're not going to help you collect them any more” – we'd see some interesting times. But in the long run we'd also see some governments back down from their depredations.

Of course, freedom fighting isn't a corporation's job, and some would argue that any act that risks the institution's bottom line is out of line. Perhaps so. (Although the very fact that we've created huge global institutions that are expected to act without moral principles is pretty creepy in itself.)

The following activities are not a capitalistic enterprise's proper function: lobbying for privileges, accepting subsidies, destroying individual rights, conducting government-driven social-engineering experiments, collecting taxes, creating law-enforcement dossiers, or spying on the innocent public.

But by the same token, the following activities are also not a capitalistic enterprise's proper function: lobbying for privileges, accepting subsidies, destroying individual rights, conducting government-driven social-engineering experiments, collecting taxes, creating law-enforcement dossiers, or spying on the innocent public. Yet we accept all of the above behaviors from megacorps.

Thus governments and their look-alike “private” partners remain as tightly connected as two humping dogs. But we're the ones getting screwed.
-----
[endnote]
We take employer tax collection so much for granted that we no longer consider it an oddity. But it has been enormously destructive. From the moment (in World War II) when the federal government ordered businesses to start collecting the income taxes allegedly due from their employees, tax revenues – and therefore government power and control – took a giant leap. When paying his own taxes, the worker had incentive to keep more of what he earned. When the business takes the tax out before the worker ever even holds the money in his hands, he's willing to surrender much more. What he ultimately surrenders is both the money to provide for his family and a little more of his freedom with each tax-fed increase in the power of government.

[link to www.loompanics.com]
"...The Path exists, but not the traveler on it."
--Buddhist: Visuddhi-magga
Black Viper Rex

User ID: 74206
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04/12/2006 01:27 PM
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Re: The Humping-Dog Factor ---
Mmmmmm.... Mexico.
Do not believe anything I say.
bydoing (OP)

User ID: 75157
Canada
04/12/2006 01:28 PM
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Re: The Humping-Dog Factor ---
Sorry Folks

I hit the wrong button and posted this before I had a chance to trim it down to something manageable.

But it does sum up many of the sentiments I have read on GLP over the course of time.
"...The Path exists, but not the traveler on it."
--Buddhist: Visuddhi-magga
DaJavoo

User ID: 73855
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04/12/2006 01:28 PM
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Re: The Humping-Dog Factor ---
imo, the mega-corps ARE the $$$ behind the puppy pounding we're all taking up the wazoo.

The planet will be re-named Shell-Exxon-Mobil.
:DJrebelli:
bydoing (OP)

User ID: 75157
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04/12/2006 02:21 PM
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Re: The Humping-Dog Factor ---
You're right, there, DaJ.

And while the right-wing, pro capitalist and the left-wing, soft-socialist are busy facing off with each other...we all tend to miss the point that we are really fed up with the same things.

In the meantime...the beat goes on.
"...The Path exists, but not the traveler on it."
--Buddhist: Visuddhi-magga

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