Tag Archives: Financial Elite

Koch-Funded Economist Wants “Less Democracy”

Professor of Capitalism

By Ben Norton
March 28, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Dr. Garett Jones is wary of democracy. He is Associate Professor of Economics and BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center, “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas,” at George Mason University, you see. He wants “less democracy.” He, like so many of his academic colleagues, writes scholarly articles in prestigious economics journals, extolling the virtues of moralless, unmitigated greed and absolute plutocratic tyranny. And it just so happens that that inconvenient “democracy” thing is an “inefficient” burden on the path toward a society based on these principles.

In “10% Less Democracy: How Less Voting Could Mean Better Governance,” a 24 February 2015 presentation at George Mason University’s Center for Study of Public Choice, Jones bemoans the “anti-market bias” inherent in democracy. He laments that protectionism is “encouraged by voters,” and that, “around the world, looming elections mean less labor market liberalization.” Jones also is distraught that elected electricity commissioners “shift costs to the … industrial sector.” The burden should always be on the worker, naturally.

A good macroeconomist maintains “skepticism toward maximum democracy,” the professor says, as “less democratic monetary policy” leads to “lower, more stable inflation, with no apparent change in the unemployment rate or real GDP growth.” He cites Alan Blinder, a former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Princeton professor of economics who served on President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, who candidly admits that “events since 1997 have pushed me more and more toward the conclusion that society would indeed be better off if politicians confined themselves to broad decisions about tax policy and left the details to a group of technocrats analogous to the Fed’s Board of Governors.” This is the kind of thing economists say to each other behind closed doors: Democracy is bad, and society would be much better if ruled under the silicon fist of a technocratic oligarchy.

Prof. Jones also draws from the work of Jennifer Hochschild, a professor of government and African and African-American studies at Harvard University, who argues that “expansions of the suffrage bring in, on average, people who are less politically informed or less broadly educated than those already eligible to vote.” Those who take this view to its “logical” conclusion are compelled, by this “logic,” to deduce that more democracy is bad. (Uncoincidentally, this is the very same argument chauvinists and white supremacists used to oppose voting rights for women and black Americans, paving the way for rigged literacy tests.)

Jones concludes his presentation suggesting we have more appointed, rather than elected, political leaders. He quotes Jason Brennan, Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and Thomas Jefferson. The former, in a fit of illogic verging on the embarrassing, insists “Citizens have a right that any political power held over them should be exercised by competent people in a competent way. Universal suffrage violates this right.”

The latter Founding Father—who himself, fittingly, opposed democracy for fear that democratic forms of political organization would necessarily lead to attempts to create democratic forms of economic organization, or, in other words, anti-capitalist uprisings (as were seen in incidents like Shay’s Rebellions, which, as historian Howard Zinn reminds us, inspired the anti-democratic slave-owning architects of the US to create “a strong central government” in order to “suppress working class rebellions, to suppress slave rebellions, to protect settlers and expansionists who move into Indian territory”)—chimed that “our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction.” Who exactly is to be responsible for this “instruction”? Why, the propertied ruling class, of course.

Bourgeois Philosophy Says the Bourgeoisie Should Rule

Garett Jones, an economist from a Koch Brothers-funded college, advocates what he calls “epistocracy,” that is to say, a euphemism for a technocratic capitalist dystopia in which decisions are made by the “knowledgeable” (in other words, the educated; in other, other words, the rich; in other, other, other words, the bourgeoisie).

The criteria by which the “knowledge” on which his ideal society is based is measured are of course conveniently absent from Prof. Jones’ social blueprint. Presumably because he does not value all knowledges.

Knowledge is a social construct, shaped by political-economic ideology. Kant famously conceived of philosophy as the critique of knowledge. Foucault devoted a good chunk of his corpus, in his “archaeologies,” to the study of the change and development of human knowledge. He divided human history into a series of periods in which a particular kind of knowledge, what some might call an epistemological “Zeitgeist,” took precedence. Even epistemology, the philosophical inquiry in what he know and how we know it, is based on particular values, presuppositions, principles. These are what Fouacult called the “epistemes,” or “discursive formations” that stand as the hallmarks of particular historical phases. It is to the enunciation and elaboration of these ideas, in an historiographic framework, that his 1966 opus The Order of Things and 1969 The Archaeology of Knowledge, among others, are devoted.

Jones’ conception of knowledge carries none of these subtleties whatsoever. It is a value-laden, thoroughly bourgeois one. It is a colonial system in which the knowledges of those outside the capitalist, white supremacist, Eurocentric ideological paradigm are wholly devalued, in which utmost precedence is bestowed upon the non-empirically substantiated conjectures of the classical liberal intelligentsia of the so-called “Enlightenment”—those who perverted science and disguised “bourgeois relations” as “inviolable natural laws,” to quote Marx.

Unsurprisingly, Jones is by no means a marginal economist. Nor is he in any way anomalous in his field. In fact, he is highly regarded, and his dark Weltanschauung is representative and reflective of his fellow academic ilk. He serves as Associate Editor for the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, Co-Editor of Econ Journal Watch, an Co-Host of the Adam Smith Reading Group.

On his university website, the professor notes he has “worked on Capitol Hill,” in order to help the neoliberal US government more blissfully further ingratiate itself in neoliberalism. He served on the US Congress Joint Economic Committee in the summer of 2004, where he remarks he drafted “policy papers on Social Security ‘reform’ [read: gutting] and other economic issues.”

He also indicates that he “speak[s] on policy topics regularly in the media and in the Washington, DC, area,” and has appeared in C-Span’s Washington Journal, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fox Business, the New York Times, and more.

Nay, Jones is in many ways metonymic of the entire capitalist system he so faithfully admires. What makes Jones different from his economic ecclesiastical brethren is simply the fact that he has the chutzpah to openly say what so many other bourgeois economists are thinking deep-down.

Among Jones’ other gems of research are articles about how “the presence of American troops typically led to higher economic growth in host countries during the second half of the 20th century,” which he hopes “encourage others to look more closely at the micro-level institutional mechanisms whereby a U.S. troop presence can improve long-run economic performance,” to “better explain the positive relationship between military deployments and the wealth of nations.”

Jones also has done extensive work in IQ studies—a field full of unapologetic racists who claim that (pseudo)science convincingly “proves” that white people are “smarter” than black people and Latinxs and that men are “smarter” than women (just as eugenics “proved” that Europeans were superior). His support for epistocracy is doubtless rooted in this fetishization of “knowledge” with the supposedly “objective” metric of IQ.

One wonders if the neoliberal economist also secretly thinks that black people, Latinxs, women, and poor people should not vote, as, were they to not do so, and were the “knowledgeable” rich white men to decide who should run society, inflation would supposedly be lower, the economy would allegedly run more smoothly, politics would purportedly be more “efficient.” If so, he might have chutzpah, but not enough to openly make such preposterous remarks.

The fact that IQ and class are inextricably linked is conveniently absent from this discussion. When one takes even the scantest of looks at the large body of scientific research on the subject, one will see that epistocracy is quite simply rule by the rich. As professor Bruce Charlton writes in the Times Higher Education, the “existence of substantial class differences in average IQ seems to be uncontroversial and widely accepted for many decades among those who have studied the scientific literature. And IQ is highly predictive of a wide range of positive outcomes in terms of educational duration and attainment, attained income levels, and social status.”

Or, as Dr. Charlton writes elsewhere, the “basic facts on Class and IQ are straightforward and have been known for about 100 years: higher Social Classes have significantly higher average IQ than lower Social Classes. For me to say this is simply to report the overwhelming consensus of many decades of published scientific research literature.”

Capitalism Is Anti-Democratic

Capitalists often claim that socialism is the “opposite” of democracy. Equating socialism with oppressive bureaucratic tolitarianism (a descriptor that applies equally well to the contemporary’s US’ neoliberal capitalist system, one might add) is one of their oldest reactionary tricks in the book. As with so many things reactionaries say, nevertheless, this is not just completely false; it is in fact the antithesis of what is true. Dr. Jones—like right-“libertarian” apostle Ayn Rand, who wholly abhorred democracy—shows capitalists’ true colors.

Rand, the idol of so many an economist and US politician today, described democracy as “a social system in which one’s work, one’s property, one’s mind, and one’s life are at the mercy of any gang that may muster the vote of a majority at any moment for any purpose.” “Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom,” she screeched.

This is the extreme, concentrated anti-democratic strand at the heart of capitalism. There is no denying it. Some have simply tried to cover it up, with a thin layer of the soot that is left of the scorched remains of the working class. Others, like Jones, are more brazen. The opinions of the “unknowledgeable” masses who may be offended by such “scientific” observations appear to be of little consequence.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s enormously popular leftist grassroots party Podemosin a February 2015 interview on Democracy Now, insisted that “If we don’t have democratic control of economy, we don’t have democracy. It’s impossible to separate economy and democracy.”

Iglesias is right. There is no democracy without democratic control of the economy—i.e., socialism. A system of private control of capital—i.e., capitalism—is nothing but the tyranny of the propertied.

Liberal capitalist “democracy” is only a “democracy” insofar as it gives the masses a minuscule spectrum (e.g., the two factions of the Business Party in the US, the Democrats and Republicans) within which to request minor changes—preponderantly mere cosmetic ones—to the capitalist political-economic system that rules over them without the slightest of regards for their consent. And it does this while simultaneously robbing them, exploiting them, pillaging the surplus value of their labor, and of the labor of workers in colonized and/or occupied nations in the periphery upon which “their” economy thrives, as does a leech on a host, or “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Ben Norton is a freelance writer and journalist. His website can be found at http://BenNorton.com/.

 

The Entitled Get More Brazen by the Day

Are We Witnessing the Dawn of Feudalism 2.0?

By Murray Dobbin
March 1, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Powell River, British Columbia.

InequalityEvery so often a cluster of news stories combine to become more than the simple sum of their parts. In the last few weeks, stories have emerged that reinforce the argument made by some academics and commentators suggesting that the West, including Canada, is beginning to devolve into a kind of new feudalism.

First up the revelations, leaked by an insider, that Swiss banking giant HSBC actively facilitates gross tax evasion on the part of the world’s wealthy and also launders billions in drug money.

Second, we have been provided a window on the heart-stopping corruption and moral turpitude of (at least some of) the global political elite through revelations that former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Gaston André Strauss-Kahn (I’m not making that up), the same guy accused of raping a New York hotel maid who settled out of court — is now charged with “aggravated pimping” for providing prostitutes for sex orgies. This is the man who was once destined to be the French Socialist Party’s presidential candidate.

Then there was the story of NBC rock star “news” anchor Brian Williams lying about his war experience (the helicopter story) in the beginning weeks of the Iraq war. This lie, while pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things, does allow us to shine some light on the role of these talking hair-dos in the new feudal order.

How does all this relate to neo-feudalism?  There is no single definition of feudalism or its 2.0 version but there are some characteristics common to most. Wikipedia has this helpful explanation of neo-feudalism: “… a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy and public life reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility.”

Ah, yes, the nobility. That would pretty much describe the principals in the three stories that managed to break through the “let’s-make-everyone-stupid” machine that is today’s mass media.

The HSBC story certainly reinforces one key component of neo-feudalism: unequal rights and legal protections for ordinary people and the super-privileged. The story on HSBC was leaked to selected media around the world (including the CBC). The story has been front-page news in Britain ever since it was first revealed, with opposition politicians and citizens alike calling for criminal prosecution.

But after a brief exposure here, and the naming of a couple of billionaires, there seems to be a distinct lack of outrage.

The Guardian covered the story and contrasted two citizens (serf and noble?): “She was a poor Scottish cleaner who confessed to benefits fraud of £25,000 and got seven months in jail. He is a wealthy property dealer whose father hid a six-figure sum from the taxman… and paid a small penalty.”

One of the most graphic features of the HSBC saga is the description of one of its services to clients. Many of these clients are hiding money from their governments’ tax departments, so avoiding a paper trail is critical. They can’t just wire $50,000 to their client’s bank account. So the bank would package used, small denomination bills in “bricks” which the client would pick up in person and then courier to their home address in the US, Britain, France — or Canada.

The amount of lost revenue stashed away in tax havens is truly staggering. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists estimates that it amounts to $7.6 trillion, and a loss to governments around the world of some $200 billion in revenue every year.

HSBC’s Swiss office accounts for $100 billion of the total deposits.

Some 1,859 Canadians hold accounts at HSBC valued at $4 billion.

Of that number, 264 have taken advantage of Revenue Canada’s voluntary disclosure program. As a result, not a single tax evader has so far been charged for the crimes they committed — stealing from the government.

I am pretty sure there is no comparable get-out-of jail-free card for the (handful of) impoverished people cheating on social assistance. As far as I am aware no one in the mainstream media has even thought of investigating this staggering double standard. That is how deeply entrenched the new normal has become.

As for Strauss-Kahn, his response to being charged is so outrageous it is worthy of Marie Antoinette. He whined: “The prosecution gives the impression of unbridled activity. There were only twelve parties in total — that is four per year over three years.” Sniff, sniff. The bothersome courts, the disrespectful media. It really is too much.

It is apparently completely beyond this sophisticated member of the French ruling elite that he did anything wrong. He testified to using “rough” sex (sound familiar CBC fans?) — stating matter-of-factly that he needed sex “with exceptional frequency.” There can be no doubt, then, that women should be expected to service his needs. It isn’t just that he hired prostitutes, it’s the brutal sex practices engaged in by Strauss-Kahn and his powerful friends that is the most disturbing.

The utter contempt for women was palpable. He referred to them as “material.” Two of the women described “beast-like” scenes. Another that she felt like “… meat in a slaughterhouse.” “A prostitute named Mounia testified that Strauss-Kahn had insisted on a particular sexual act, and proceeded with it despite her unwillingness, even though she was gesturing for him to stop: ‘I felt that he understood. I was crying, I was in pain.’”

In addition to the barbaric attitude towards women, testimony also revealed overt corruption — powerful people seeking political favour from Strauss-Kahn often hired prostitutes for him. This was while he was making a $500,000, tax-free salary for the IMF. You know the IMF — the organization that has destroyed social programs in half the countries of the world — demanding austerity in the pursuit of the moral imperative of balanced budgets.

Ah, yes, Brian Williams. What is notable about this story is that Williams has been lying for years in the service of the U.S. empire and the more he lied the more was paid and praised. This lie is actually far less egregious in terms of its damage to the body politic than any of the other ones. Pimping for George Bush, promoting the war in Iraq, accepting the grotesque lies about weapons of mass destruction — and calling the war “the cleanest war in all of military history” all the while claiming it triggered the Arab Spring movements. As Joshua Frank of CounterPunch magazine writes: “[Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw et al.] are vastly too invested in the elite they aspire to join and defend. Whatever they may have been as they came up in the craft, too much money and aggrandizement has ruined them.”

These multi-millionaire so-called journalists are the equivalent of courtiers to the super-wealthy One Per Cent — shamelessly pandering to them without a hint of embarrassment or remorse. They hob-nob with billionaires and CEOs and do their bidding as naturally as they breath the same air. And you don’t have to look far to find a similar trend here in our very own Peter Mansbridge, pal of the prime minister whose “interviews” with Harper, with not a single tough question asked, are an embarrassment to the craft of journalism.

The moral and ethical rot at the core of these stories can be characterized quite nicely by the word pimping; HSBC for the rich and drug lords, Strauss-Kahn for other members of the political and economic elite and Williams and his ilk for well-paid complicity in the worst excesses of U.S. (and Canadian) militarism.

I’m sure there’s a good metaphor for all of this. Oh, yes, now I remember. Off with their heads.

MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca. He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca

 

Justice Department Interventions Will Not Halt Police Violence Across America

Numerous cities have been under consent decrees but brutality continues

By Abayomi Azikiwe
December 09, 2014
Global Research

 

Barack ObamaOver the last several years a number of police departments with histories of using lethal force against oppressed peoples have been subjected to civil rights investigations and consent decrees with the Justice Department. 

Nonetheless, violence by the police against the people has continued and even worsened. The recent public slayings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and others have illustrated clearly that the United States government is incapable of reining in local law-enforcement agencies.

In fact the escalation in the militarization of the police is being facilitated by the Department of Defense which is supplying lethal weapons, body gear, and armored vehicles to cities throughout the country.

When the Obama administration called for the use of cameras by police officers during a summit at the White House on Dec. 1 it was already superfluous. That same week a grand jury in New York decided not to indict even one police officer under investigation in the choking death of African American Eric Garner in Staten Island.

The killing of Eric Garner was videotaped and yet the police involved in the fatal attack–as well the emergency medical technicians who refused to provide life-saving assistance to Garner—were not indicted or disciplined by the prosecutor’s office or the City of New York. The current Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who was framed as a liberal and progressive during his campaign in 2013, appointed William J. Bratton, one of the architects of the “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” theory of policing as the chief law-enforcement commander.

Detroit Was Under Two Federal Consent Decrees for 11 Years

The City of Detroit is a clear example of the systematic failure of the Justice Department and the federal courts to eliminate police misconduct and brutality. Since the Great Migration of African Americans and the rise of the labor movement during the 20th century, the history of police suppression of the people has become well enshrined in the political fabric of the Motor City.

In July 1967 amid deteriorating conditions involving residential segregation, institutional racism and police brutality, the masses of African Americans rose up in the largest urban rebellion in the history of the U.S. up until that time. After the rebellion police repression escalated with the expansion of the tactical mobile units and eventually the dreaded decoy unit known as STRESS (Stop the Robberies Enjoy Safe Streets), which was responsible for the police killings of 33 people during 1971-73.

Beginning in 2000, amid a series of cop killings of civilians, the Justice Department Civil Rights Division began a three year investigation. In 2003, the Justice Department entered into a consent judgment with Detroit leading to 11 years of monitoring by several private firms overseen by a federal judge. These actions did not lead to an immediate decline in police violence.

The police killing of civilians continued and even intensified while the federal monitoring was taking place. Tens of millions of local tax dollars were turned over to private monitors who abused the funds without recommending the termination or prosecution of any of the officers who were carrying out these killings and other acts of brutality.

On May 16, 2010, a police raid at the wrong address resulted in the shooting death of seven-year-old Aiyana Jones on the city’s eastside. By this time the City of Detroit had been under two federal consent decrees for seven years involving the use of lethal force and the deplorable conditions existing in the lock-ups.

It was only due to public pressure that the white cop, Joseph Weekley, was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. However, after two trials there has been no conviction of Weekly who remains free and on the City of Detroit payroll.

The discharge from the consent decrees was only able to take place under emergency management and forced bankruptcy during 2014. A much talked about Board of Police Commissioners has been stripped of the limited authority that it had since its creation under the City Charter of 1974 enacted at the same time as the first African American Mayor Coleman A. Young came into office. The Commission largely served as a venue for the filing of complaints about police misconduct where virtually no disciplinary actions were taken.

Only Mass Struggle and Revolutionary Organization Can End Police Terrorism

Other cities such as Cleveland are now under yet another of such consent decrees. Cleveland had been under federal monitoring before and even with the announcement of the new consent judgment by Attorney General Eric Holder, no police have been arrested or indicted in the recent killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a public park when he was gunned down by the police.

Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and numerous municipalities have experienced similar situations of federal involvement which have not halted the misconduct and brutality. Objectively through its policies, the White House, the Pentagon along with the courts from the federal level down to the local judicial systems, categorically defend police officers in situations related to violence against African Americans, Latinos and others.

It has only been the rebellions and mass demonstrations that have pushed the question of police violence against the people to the forefront of political discussions inside the U.S. If people had not gone out and militantly demonstrated against the blatant killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, these issues would not have even been acknowledged by the government and the corporate media.

Police agencies operating under the U.S. capitalist system function exclusively on behalf of the corporations and the repressive state. In order to eliminate police misconduct and brutality it is necessary to transform the state apparatus through the transfer of wealth from the ruling class to the workers and the oppressed.

This can only be carried out as a result of the seizure of political power by the majority within society. Decades of “reforms” through “training programs” and federal investigations have not changed the situation in the least.

A Society of Captives

By Chris Hedges
December 9, 2014
TruthDig

 

Protesters conduct a “die-in” Dec. 6 at Grand Central Station in New York City as police watch. The demonstration opposed a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. AP/John Minchillo

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to launch a pilot program in New York City to place body cameras on police officers and conduct training seminars to help them reduce their adrenaline rushes and abusive language, along with the establishment of a less stringent marijuana policy, are merely cosmetic reforms. The killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island was, after all, captured on video. These proposed reforms, like those out of Washington, D.C., fail to address the underlying cause of poverty, state-sponsored murder and the obscene explosion of mass incarceration—the rise of the corporate state and the death of our democracy. Mass acts of civil disobedience, now being carried out across the country, are the only mechanism left that offers hope for systematic legal and judicial reform. We must defy the corporate state, not work with it.

The legal system no longer functions to protect ordinary Americans. It serves our oligarchic, corporate elites. These elites have committed $26 billion in financial fraud. They loot the U.S. Treasury, escape taxation, drive down wages, break unions, pillage pension funds, gut regulation and oversight, destroy public institutions including public schools and social assistance programs, wage endless and illegal wars to swell the profits of arms merchants, and—yes—authorize police to murder unarmed black men.

Police and national intelligence and security agencies, which carry out wholesale surveillance against the population and serve as the corporate elite’s brutal enforcers, are omnipotent by intention. They are designed to impart fear, even terror, to keep the population under control. And until the courts and the legislative bodies give us back our rights—which they have no intention of doing—things will only get worse for the poor and the rest of us. We live in a post-constitutional era.

Corporations have captured every major institution, including the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, and deformed them to exclusively serve the demands of the market. They have, in the process, demolished civil society. Karl Polanyi in “The Great Transformation” warned that without heavy government regulation and oversight, unfettered and unregulated capitalism degenerates into a Mafia capitalism and a Mafia political system. A self-regulating market, Polanyi writes, turns human beings and the natural environment into commodities. This ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. The ecosystem and human beings become objects whose worth is determined solely by the market. They are exploited until exhaustion or collapse occurs. A society that no longer recognizes that the natural world and life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic value beyond monetary value, commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves. This is what we are undergoing. Literally.

As in every totalitarian state, the first victims are the vulnerable, and in the United States this means poor people of color. In the name of the “war on drugs” or the necessity of enforcing immigration laws, those trapped in our urban internal colonies are effectively stripped of their rights. Police, who arrest some 13 million people a year—1.6 million of them on drug charges and half of those on marijuana counts—were empowered by the “war on drugs” to carry out random searches and sweeps with no probable cause. They take DNA samples from many whom they arrest to build a nationwide database that includes both the guilty and the innocent. And they charge each of the sampled arrestees $50 for DNA processing. They confiscate cash, cars, homes and other possessions based on allegations of illegal drug activity and use the proceeds to swell police budgets. They impose fines in poor neighborhoods for absurd offenses—riding a bicycle on a sidewalk or not having an ID—to fleece the poor or, if they cannot pay, toss them into jail. And before deporting undocumented workers the state levels fines, often in the thousands of dollars, on those being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in order to empty their pockets before they are shipped out. Prisoners locked in cages often spend decades attempting to pay off thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands, in court fines from the paltry $28 a month they earn in prison jobs; the government, to make sure it gets its money, automatically deducts a percentage each month from their prison paychecks. It is a vast extortion racket run against the poor by the corporate state, which also makes sure that the interest rates of mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit card loans are set at predatory levels.

Since 1980 the United States has constructed the world’s largest prison system, populated with 2.3 million inmates, 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Police, to keep the system filled with bodies, have had most legal constraints on their behavior removed. They serve as judge and jury on the streets of American cities. Such expansion of police powers is “a long step down the totalitarian path,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned in 1968. The police, who are often little more than predatory, armed gangs in inner-city neighborhoods, arbitrarily decide who lives, who dies and who spends years in prison. They rarely fight crime or protect the citizen. They round up human beings like cattle to meet arrest quotas, the prerequisite for receiving federal cash in the “drug war.” Because many crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The arrested are acutely aware they have no chance—97 percent of all federal cases and 94 percent of all state cases are resolved by guilty pleas rather than trials. An editorial in The New York Times said that the pressure employed by state and federal prosecutors to make defendants accept guilty pleas—an action that often includes waiving the right to appeal to a higher court—is “closer to coercion” than to bargaining. There are always police informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police. And, as we saw after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and after the killing of Garner, the word of police officers and prosecutors, whose loyalty is to the police, is law.

A Department of Defense program known as 1033, which was begun in the 1990s and which the National Defense Authorization Act allowed along with federal homeland security grants to the states, has provided $4.3 billion in military equipment to local police forces, either free or on permanent loan, the website ProPublica reported. The militarization of the police, which includes outfitting departments with heavy machine guns, ammunition magazines, night vision equipment, aircraft and armored vehicles, has effectively turned urban police, and increasingly rural police as well, into quasi-military forces of occupation. “Police conduct up to 80,000 SWAT raids a year in the US, up from 3,000 a year in the early ’80s,” reporter Hanqing Chen wrote in ProPublica. The American Civil Liberties Union, in Chen’s words, found that “almost 80 percent of SWAT team raids are linked to search warrants to investigate potential criminal suspects, not for high-stakes ‘hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.’ He went on to say, “The ACLU also noted that SWAT tactics are used disproportionately against people of color.”

The bodies of the incarcerated poor fuel our system of neo-slavery. In prisons across the country, including the one in which I teach, private corporations profit from captive prison labor. The incarcerated work eight-hour days for as little as a dollar a day. Phone companies, food companies, private prisons and a host of other corporations feed like jackals off those we hold behind bars. And the lack of employment and the collapse of education and vocational training in communities across the United States are part of the design. This design—with its built-in allure from the illegal economy, the only way for many of the poor to make a living—ensures rates of recidivism of over 60 percent. There are millions of poor people for whom this country is little more than a vast penal colony.

Lawyer Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” identifies what she calls a criminal “caste system.” This caste system controls the lives of not only the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated but also the 4.8 million people on probation or parole. Millions more people are forced into “permanent second-class citizenship” by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education and public assistance difficult or impossible, Alexander says.

Totalitarian systems accrue to themselves omnipotent power by first targeting and demonizing a defenseless minority. Poor African-Americans, like Muslims, have been stigmatized by elites and the mass media. The state, promising to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, demands that authorities be emancipated from the constraints of the law. Arguments like this one were used to justify the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror.” But once any segment of the population is stripped of equality before the law, as poor people of color and Muslims have been, once police are permitted under the law to become omnipotent, brutal and systematically oppressive tactics are invariably employed against the wider society. The corporate state has no intention of carrying out legal reforms to curb the omnipotence of its organs of internal security. They were made omnipotent on purpose.

Matt Taibbi in his book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” brilliantly illustrates how poverty, in essence, has become a crime. He spent time in courts where wealthy people who had committed documented fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars never had to stand trial and in city courts where the poor were called to answer for crimes that, until I read his book, I did not know existed. Standing in front of your home, he shows in one case, can be an arrestable offense.

“That’s what nobody gets, that the two approaches to justice may individually make a kind of sense, but side by side they’re a dystopia, where common city courts become factories for turning poor people into prisoners, while federal prosecutors on the white-collar beat turn into overpriced garbage men, who behind closed doors quietly dispose of the sins of the rich for a fee,” Taibbi writes. “And it’s evolved this way over time and for a thousand reasons, so that almost nobody is aware of the whole picture, the two worlds so separate that they’re barely visible to each other. The usual political descriptors like ‘unfairness’ and ‘injustice’ don’t really apply. It’s more like a breakdown into madness.”

Hannah Arendt warned that once any segment of the population is denied rights, the rule of law is destroyed. When laws do not apply equally to all they are treated as “rights and privileges.” When the state is faced with growing instability or unrest, these “privileges” are revoked. Elites who feel increasingly threatened by the wider population do not “resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police,” Arendt writes.

This is what is taking place now. The corporate state and its organs of internal security are illegitimate. We are a society of captives.

 

Soros: The European Union is a “Failed” Experiment In “International Governance”

By Steven MacMillan
November 27, 2014

 

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Is the Western elite’s brainchild – the European Union – disintegrating? Due to persistent economic problems, the rise of “popular resentment” across the continent, the political fallout after the illegal coup in Ukraine and the subsequent unpopular economic war on Russia, the EU is on the verge of crumbling.

In an interview with France 24, the hedge fund manager, billionaire and founder of the Open Society Foundation, George Soros, reveals that the European Union has failed to achieve the desires of the elite and many within Europe now see “Russia as a role model”:

“We have to recognise that the [European] Union itself, which is a noble, well-intended experiment in international governance, has failed, and has not delivered what it promised, and there is such a degree of disappointment that even Russia can offer an alternative.” (3.21 into the interview)

Soros then asserts that many in Europe – including the UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, Front National President Marine Le Pen in France, as well as “a lot of people in Germany” – find the idea of “closer cooperation with Russia rather attractive”.

Europe has been in crisis for years now and the outcome of this latest flare up with Russia could determine the future of the EU itself. In an article featured in The New York Review this month titled: Wake Up, Europe, Soros notes that since the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent austerity policies imposed by the nefarious troika, “popular resentment” and support for anti-European parties has risen:

“The European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded…. It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself… The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of.”

The elite have become increasingly fearful of popular uprisings across the West which they seek to “co-opt and channel”, as Paul Joseph Watson reported for Infowars in September. As anger continues to mount in the West at the ineptitude and immorality of government, the elite will attempt to “co-opt” organic movements and even create artificial political movements to guide and neutralize “popular passions”.

The EU: An extension of the Anglo-American Elite

The EU is the brainchild of an international elite who have been in the process of building an empire for over a century, with the EU serving as “a bold experiment in international governance and the rule of law, aimed at replacing nationalism and the use of force”. The EU is an experiment in replacing national countries with a union which is to be amalgamated with emerging sovereignty-usurping unions across the planet, including the North American Union and a possible Middle Eastern Union, into a global empire. The executive body of the EU – the European Commission – is a corporate partner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), the parallel British government which strives for global conquest.

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