*edit, February 9, 2013 – I corrected a few typos and corrected some muddled narrative. It wasn’t a lot. But I was careless.
I popped onto The Pirate Bay last night and was greeted by a funny picture of poor Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, above, wearing a Santa Claus hat. Next to his picture was a message to us users of TPB to give him a thought and perhaps send him a gift or letter as he sits (still, I presume) in a Swedish jail. I have a lot to say about corporatocracy. So do others, although they don’t always use the term or think much about what they know. Is Sweden independent and its government of and by and for (and responsive to) the Swedish people? Or to powerful American special interests such as the MPAA and the RIAA? The definition of corporatocracy is governments of and by and for corporations. The people are cut out, whatever elected talking heads and CEOs say. And corporatocracy governments are big on the evils of socialism, which they do eagerly and effectively. And they are against all forms of lawlessness and terrorism, which turns out to be what they are best at. When we bail out criminal banks, that’s socialism. When the rich use their resources to fund think tanks while they use their bought and paid for politicians to defund other think tanks whose work the people might benefit from, that’s socialism.
And the rich don’t work in isolation. There may be rugged individuals among the rich, but they aren’t stupid – totally. They work together to maintain their rickety economic system in which they, the minority, are the masters and we are their slaves. The system is rickety and can come down on everyone’s head at any moment (thanks to deregulation mainly), but it’s a system in which they dominate. Rather than acting as equals in a safe, intact system in which everyone contributes fairly and everyone benefits, macho elites like things the way they are. That’s not how it has to be. But that is how they have decided they like things. They have ‘chosen’ to believe in inequality. I am sure that they tell themselves that there will be no serious consequences to their behavior. I’m not so sure they believe it.
Gottfrid, and his supporters and admirers, are facing a powerful foe. They see him, but they don’t quite grasp his full nature and full power. And bravado, which sees them essentially pumping their fists into the air and shouting “We will prevail! It’s evolution!” won’t work. Indeed, That’s like tossing a steak to a lion and saying “Take that!” The lion likes it. The corporatocracy likes a fight, especially when it feels it has far greater muscle than its enemies.
Steal This Film, at the bottom of this post, was good. I am on the side of the characters who are trying to be reasonable and speak truth to the powerful forces that are swiping at innovators like Gottfrid. But this is about much more than whether myopic, special, uncaring interests will get their way and halt innovation in and evolution of internet technology or be halted. The same forces that are about to tighten, not loosen, their grip on the internet are behind the destruction of our liveable earth. They are behind the continuing assault on civil society that has already robbed people, everywhere, of governments. That has been accomplished via a gradual ramping up of laws that strip citizens of rights while giving the state’s instruments of force (security organizations and police) more power, which will be needed to deal with the abused people who, increasingly, will respond to that abuse. Increased police power, which includes militarization of police (making them more like soldiers), isn’t being done to protect citizens from threats, let alone shadowy threats (M in James Bond, lol), although that is what the people – through corporate owned media – are told. Noam Chomsky long ago explained how national security ideology was used to both pacify the public and trick it into accepting enormous spending in this one, destructive, area of the economy. And who benefits?
Americans – and Canadians and others in developed industrial societies – watched as free trade deals sent jobs to low wage countries, as states became ‘right to work’ states (‘right to freeload’ states as one Democratic representative noted in the course of fighting the most recent addition to the roster of rtw states, namely Michigan), as agencies intended to protect them were defunded and mismanaged, leaving them with poison in their water and denatured food, fracked landscapes, unprotected waterways, unprotected citizens facing deregulated banks and their shady practices, and a healthcare system and health insurance industry making them sick and so on. The Right, including captured governments, engineers a revenue shortfall and then, audaciously, tells the victims, the citizens (yes, many whom are suckers for supporting that abuse), that the problem is a social spending problem and the solution is more tax cuts for corporations and the rich and more freedom (free trade deals) for corporations and austerity for the abused people. Take note that governments can create jobs. If we put people to work maintaining our country’s infrastructure, we’d have quite a few jobs just in that one area. Between what captured governments are not doing, by ignoring opportunities to employ Canadians and eschewing the pursuit of full employment policies generally, and what they are doing by shovelling out tax cuts (and public revenue generating assets) to corporations and the rich, there can only be the good life for the minority of parasites who make up the symbolic 1%. The rest of us get austerity, the safety-net shredded country that politicians didn’t promise when they wanted our votes, but which they gave us once they were elected. Social spending would mean things like a real (dedicated) unemployment fund for workers, a regulatory system that would make the country safer (food, drinking water, the environment, workplace health & safety, etc), jobs and the revenue that would come from workers, and businesses, paying taxes. And ‘everyone’ would benefit. You can have a win win situation – in which the rich are not eradicated but only less rich so that no one is in poverty. It’s only the bad intentions of those with power, and the stupidity of the rest of us, that keep that from happening.
* “Why Idle No More Resonated With Canadians,” by Maude Barlow and Ken Georgetti
* John R. MacArthur discusses his book, “The Selling Of Free Trade – NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy,” with Bill Moyers
* “The Meat Industry Now Consumes Four-Fifths of All Antibiotics,” by Tom Philpott
Free trade deals, like the Trans Pacific Partnership now in the works, robs citizens of any say in how their societies work. (Public Citizen is astonished that Canada would even consider attaching itself to the TTP – which Canada doesn’t even get to negotiate actually – after being subjected to so many investor-state lawsuits.) That was the plan. The Trilateralists, back in the early 70s, identified a “crisis of democracy” and set about using its considerable clout to redesign governments in developed countries so as to make them stronger but within a weaker democratic framework, so that citizens movements would have less influence on policy and the investment needs of transnationals could be properly taken care of. They succeeded wonderfully. You can vote for corporatocracy-approved politicians in election rituals, during which time politicians say all sorts of nice, civilized things to voters, but that doesn’t get you government of and by and for the people, simply because it can’t. Free trade deals, with sections like ‘national treatment’ and ‘state-investor’ rules means that corporations can sue governments for imagined lost profits when governments try to regulate, for example, in the interests of public safety, such as the Liberal government of Canada, under Jean Chretien did, shortly after the signing of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Virginia based Ethyl Corporation wanted to sell a gasoline additive, MMT, into the Canadian market, but it was bad for our health. It’s a neurotoxin or was suspected of being such. (What do we know about it now? I don’t know.) Chretien, no friend of the people, had his government ban the additive – It didn’t cost him anything, he thought – but then changed his mind once Ethyl decided to use the free trade rules allowing it to sue our government, which it did to the tune of $347 million. The Canadian government could have at least fought it out in court, but decided not to let Canadians see how much sovereignty their government really had when gentler pushing by corporations came to greater shoving. We ended up paying Ethyl Corporation $19 million dollars to go away. And Ethyl didn’t. We had to still take the poison for another six years. Gas companies and the Canadian government didn’t really care. Car companies (somehow) finally put the kibosh on Ethyl’s crap. It was costing them money. Ethyl’s poison gummed up car engines.
Successive free trade deals have taken more and more sovereignty from nations, crippling governments (not individual politicians, who go along with this). That leaves the people out (of decision making and the ability to protect themselves and flourish), as intended. We must take what we get from the profit motivated crowd that thinks nothing of feeding us denatured, or worse, food, products that don’t last (because of built-in obsolescence), forms of transportation that require stealing countries in order to get at their oil so that our gasoline powered vehicles can wreck carnage on roads everywhere while contributing to global warming that capitalists and their political partners have shown no interest in halting. Now corporations are making a bid to drop the ‘as promised’ feature that attached to their investor-state scams. When a corporation wanted to make an easy buck and sue a government for imagined lost profits when that government bans it’ product, because the product is bad somehow, the corporation was able to lean on a “promise doctrine.” The promise doctrine simply said that the product was as promised and gave a government less excuse to shut out the corporation. Now, A corporation is attacking that! Eli Lilly wants to soak Canadian taxpayers with it’ scammy investor-state lawsuit over a nasty drug called Strattera arguing that it doesn’t matter whether or not the drug is as promised! Imagine what will follow if Eli Lilly wins this fight?
The following excerpt is from Public Citizen’s article (posted by Ben Beachy) titled “U.S. Corporations Launch Wave of NAFTA Attacks on Canada’s Energy, Fracking, and Medicines Policies”:
“Eli Lilly’s attack does not just target Canada’s particular treatment of Strattera, but the country’s entire basis for determining patent validity (the “promise doctrine”—that a drug patent will be honored so long as promises regarding the drug’s efficacy are also honored). As such, the outcome of the case is particularly critical, as a loss for Canada could expose the country to a slew of investor-state attacks from other drug companies with invalidated, promise-breaking patents eager to follow Eli Lilly’s lead. Indeed, Eli Lilly mentioned in its notice another invalidated patent for an anti-schizophrenia drug named Zyprexa, which Canadian courts have similarly determined to fall short of promised benefits. Eli Lilly may be considering a second NAFTA investor-state case over that drug.
“In addition, there are rumors that Pfizer may be considering launching its own investor-state case against Canada over, yes, Viagra. Canada’s Supreme Court has invalidated the Viagra patent on the basis that Pfizer failed to disclose its active ingredient, thereby allowing generic firms to begin competing with Pfizer in production of the erectile dysfunction drug. While this suit has less to do with Canada’s “promise doctrine,” Pfizer could similarly seek to undermine the patent criteria of Canada’s highest courts by turning to a NAFTA-created private tribunal to demand taxpayer compensation.”
As for the TPP, consider this blurb from the folks at OpenMedia.ca:
Right now, a group of 600 industry lobbyist “advisors” and un-elected government trade representatives are scheming behind closed doors to craft an international agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Why the secrecy? We know from leaked documents that the TPP includes what amounts to an Internet trap that would:
1. Criminalize some of your everyday use of the Internet,
2. Force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards, and
3. Give media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use, remove online content—including entire websites and even terminate your access to the Internet.
4. Create a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.
The TPP’s Internet trap is secretive, extreme, and it could criminalize your daily use of the Internet. We deserve to know what will be blocked, what we and our families will be fined for.
OpenMedia’s Steve Anderson had an interesting, and disturbing, experience when he attended TPP meetings recently. You can read his entire report on the OpenMedia.ca website. It’s titled “Report back: Inside the TPP’s Internet Trap.” Consider:
Before it began
My TPP experience didn’t start out well. Before the meetings began, I received a confidentiality agreement accidentally sent to me from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It’s likely the agreement was meant for industry lobbyists.
Law professor Michael Geist and others took this document to indicate that the Canadian government was setting up a secret insider consultancy group. It appeared that this group would be granted a level of access and input into Canada’s part of the TPP negotiations greater than that afforded to citizens, public interest experts, or web businesses.
When inside the TPP meeting area, I asked a Canadian official about these lobbyist insiders. He denied that there was such a group, leaving an unanswered question: For whom was the confidentiality agreement intended?
Once the negotiations started, I arrived at the TPP meeting space only to find out that “stakeholders” such as myself had been barred from the premises—we were only allowed near the meeting space on the one designated “stakeholder” day….
The excuse that we receive for all the secrecy is that honest negotiations can’t happen in public. This is worst excuse in the history of bad excuses. The secrecy is very clearly meant to keep us in the dark until it’s too late—U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk even said in a moment of candor that they were keeping the TPP secret to avoid similar public outcry to that which halted the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA)…
Meeting with a TPP negotiator
Fortunately, I did get the opportunity to speak with one of Canada’s negotiators at length. I let them know that the TPP process is illegitimate, and that until we know the threats are gone, there will be political costs for the government – especially for the Trade Minister, MP Ed Fast…
Non-answers from the stakeholder briefing
I took the opportunity to ask Canada’s chief negotiator, Kirsten Hillman, if she would overwrite democratically-enacted legislation with new Internet regulations negotiated in secret through the TPP.
I made sure to remind her that Canada’s copyright bill, C-11, was passed a matter of months ago after nearly ten full years of contentious debate. I also noted that aside from a few issues (many Canadians believe that C-11 still requires new exceptions to digital locks), there is a general consensus amongst the business community, creators, public interest groups, and citizens that, on the whole, this legislation represents a balance.
Her reply sidestepped the question.
“I guess I should take that as a ‘no,’” I said.
She sat there without reply. The audience of mostly lobbyists, and TPP bureaucrats let out a chuckle.
Ha, ha. Poor, foolish, naive democrat. And if you get to speak, No one important has to listen to you.
The reference, by Steven to his audience, to political costs to a minister who might decide to cater to special interests rather than responsibly address the issues might seem reasonable, but I think that avoiding bravado is called for here more than suggesting to beastly creatures that one of them may end up as dinner to the rest.
Here’s the thing. What good is having the freedom to communicate, and being clever and a good communicator, if those who own the internet and governments and lawmakers and the state’s police and security organizations decide that they don’t like what you’re saying and don’t see how letting you communicate, effectively, profits them in any way?
Incidentally, I did take a few minutes to write Gottfrid a letter. Here’s what I wrote. I won’t be able to send it off right away because of the Christmas holiday:
Gottfrid: December 24, 2012
Hello from a Canadian in Toronto! Too much of this nonsense of throwing people into jail for nothing is happening. But then, Those are the times we are living in. It’s a time of darkness. Perverse law & order governments, working together (like socialists!), are making life miserable for the majority, not all whom are righteous mind you. The Right believes in inequality. Macho capitalists get a kick out of surviving by taking the means of survival from others. Primarily, They rob us of money. It’s a money system we have. Money means life. Literal survival depends on food which isn’t free. Survival in other respects, emotionally and mentally, also costs money. Books cost money. Entertainment costs money. I don’t believe in money myself. I think that when you boil it all down, money exists so that some can have more of it, and more of what it can buy, than others.
But I am not an extremist. If people want capitalism, then fine. The thing is, At one time, we had capitalism that was much better at working for everyone. That was back when the class warfare of modern times, which started with a kickstart from the powerful Trilateral Commission (bemoaning a “crisis of democracy”), hadn’t ramped up. (And there has never been a pure capitalism.) Anyway, I don’t believe you can derive perfect social systems from imperfect humans. On the other hand, I do believe that no matter how rickety the social system is, When all those who live under it have love and when no one has bad intentions and no one, or group, seeks to benefit by exploiting others, then you can have a good outcome. I’m sure there are poor families out there, living in ramshackle homes with leaky roofs and broken parts, where the members all love each other and look after each other. Today’s brand of capitalist is not like a poor, but loving, householder. He is a neoliberal (corporatist, fascist), a believer in inequality and darkness. Imperialism, state and religious, is just fine. His paradigm, or organizing principle, is ‘riches for the strongest’, a contradiction in terms actually, ‘if’ we were in fact designed to care about each other rather than play king of the hill.
The capitalists’ motto is: ‘Take what you get, whether you like it or not and even if it hurts you’. The capitalists’ model is: ‘Dominate, Dictate, Take’.
Is it any wonder you’re where you are? You have embarked upon a project that neoliberals can’t support, for it involves attacking their model. If there’s one thing capitalists do well, it’s socialism. They know how to collectively problem solve and collectively build. But they believe in inequality and they need a group to kick around and so they believe in socialism, but only for themselves. The rest of us can have free trade and capitalism and all kinds of rules and regulations, as long as we keep to our roles as consumers, workers and mere spectators of the political sphere. Capitalists will rally to the defense of capitalists. So when you come to their attention, because you have enabled sharing and giving that is perceived by pirate (tax evading) capitalists as potentially interfering with their scammy operations, given the stamp of approval by their corrupt political partners (governments in a corporatocracy are ‘captured’ and take their marching orders from powerful special interests and corporations), then you will suddenly find yourself a victim of a resource-rich Right that won’t be slowed down by rules, written or unwritten.
The people see law and order as conducing to social harmony, which, especially if you’re a parent, you desire. The Right sees law and order as a way to control people. First, Get everyone to agree to the rules (taxes, for example) about how society will operate. Then, Strategically break those rules, for that places you in a position of dominance in society. From a position of dominance you can then persuade by force. You can guarantee (economic and other) outcomes and survive the monstrous, social safety net-shredded neoliberal order you and those like you have created, fed and now must hide from along with the rest of us. Except that when you have resources, you can take the money and run. And grab ours along the way. You are more able to get away from the mindless beast you worship. – Until the liveable earth you’ve also attacked dies.
That’s enough from me. I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I can’t tell you Merry Christmas! And how the hell could you have one anyway?! But, You’ve helped to make a lot of miserable people like myself happier. Thank you!! Good luck!
[name hidden], aka Arby or Arrby