Saturday, September 25, 2010

Corporations in the U.S. and in Mexico an Inverted Totalitarianism: Devour, Prey, Seduce

They are mammoth carnivores, dark power brokers, and, as proven time and again, without tough governing, they devour the earth, seduce public officials, and prey on human greed. They can hold everyone in their crushing jaws, smash innovation in one sweep of their tails, and pack off entire nations back in time some 66 million years as hostage for the release of Tyrannosaurus Rex herds, reaping chaos.

Corporations are beneficial forms of business. They provide almost equal investment opportunities for everyone—although without equal decision information—and they sometimes even create "economies of scale" by delivering useful products most efficiently at low, competitive prices. By leveraging capital, they are able to build products otherwise unimaginable, like Adobe software, Boeing aircraft, Apple Computers, and then others like BP, Goldman Sachs investments, AIG insurance, Merrill Lynch investments, or Enron energy.

They are giant businesses. Without regulatory limits, they wield monstrous power. In the U.S., as in Mexico and in other countries, they have become stronger than the government; their money can overrule environmental laws, influence and even control our public officials and judiciary. They prey on our most treasured democratic institutions and values. The patrician owners, leaders of corporations, have their own self-interests and agendas, and they rarely set a priority to improve the greater good of society.

On the other hand, government's job is to balance the competitive markets so that they comply with the needs of society in general such as clean environment, health, or whatever the majority of citizens set as social goals. Today this balancing is not working. And it's a problem we need to fix in our current system of government.

The stewards of industry always spread a certain ideology to protect their interests. Consider the privately owned Koch Industries, valued in the billions, the Koch brothers own patented processes, mostly by inheritance, to convert oil into gasoline; you can guess why they lobby against any awareness of global warming. (1)

The captains of industry believe in magic. They have become the tribal high priests of our culture, while our enfeebled democracy fails to set boundaries and rules to develop our society in general. One of the most glaring ideas that corporate elitists hold close to their hearts is that a "free market"—one that is uninhibited by government policy—always corrects itself to the most efficient conditions. This notion about a "free market" arose from something Adam Smith said way back in the 18th century in terms of "the invisible hand" that guides markets to correct themselves as they satisfy the needs of individuals.

Meanwhile, the neoliberal corporatists ignore that they are neither concerned nor equipped to solve larger economic and social problems. The more contemporary, post-WWII economists, like John M. Keynes, emphasized that government must play a crucial role in markets in order to point industries toward the optimal levels of wealth, the greatest good of society, and away from abuses of power. American has miserably butchered its social development, while nurturing rampant consumerism for individuals and predatory corporatism. Right-wing activists, like the middle-class Tea Baggers, are woefully misguided and unwittingly only abusing themselves.

Corporate managers are generally not wise, altruistic saints looking for the best possible benefits for society at large. No. Their job is to keep their firms competitive and increase profits and stock values by any means. Today, one of the popular methods includes "investing" obscene sums of money in lobbying to slacken labor laws, taxes, and the bridles of government regulations. And as individuals, corporate managers do not possess the will or the power to make rational decisions for an entire society's best interests. They work for their own self-interests to own more preferred shares and to promote their careers, salaries, and bonuses. As they sip martinis at their exclusive country clubs, they joke about the stupidity of middle-class Tea Baggers.

Today's military and economic crises reflect many others in U.S. history. In the 1920s bankers and investors raised speculation into a feeding frenzy of greed leading to a Wall Street bubble, burst, and Great Depression in the 1930s. Likewise, the delusional bubble years of Reagan/Bush led to the same false gods of free-wheeling corporations taking power over the balancing controls of government oversight.

Reagan's empty speeches about "no government is best government" are still praised as great oratory by the wealthy, who benefit from it. The empty discourse continues even after all the hypermedia has crashed down around the ankles of the middle-class workers, who now pay for the excesses of the wealthy and their sycophant policy makers. America's history of bubble-and-bust business cycles allows no one to plead ignorance. No one can act surprised, least of all the well-heeled financial wizards responsible for the premeditated busts for profits.

American politics repeatedly shows the world that brain-dead incompetence is tolerated, the more its consequences are colossal and costly to working-class families.
The dazzling myth in today's America is that the U.S. government is empowered to direct the economy for the benefit of all people since the government is--theoretically--for and by the people.

"They argued perhaps naively, that in a democracy, the people were sovereign and government was, by definition on their side. The sovereign people were entitled to use governmental power and resources to redress the inequalities created by the economy of capitalism." (2)

FDR's New Deal supported this conviction and "a wide range of regulatory agencies were created, the Social Security program and a minimum wage law were established, unions were legitimated along with the rights to bargain collectively." (3)

Since the 1950s, the U.S. government has become weaker than corporate power. Its democratic processes no longer serve the interests of its citizens. During the 80s, Reaganomics (a.k.a. neoliberal economic policy) weakened and dismantled most of FDR's New Deal, "socialist" policies, which resulted in less equality. From the time of Reaganomics to the present, government policies distributed 200 times more wealth to the top 1 percent of the population, back to the robber barons—a return to the Gilded Age—while the middle class' income barely increased, if at all.(4)

During the 90s, Clinton continued this neoliberal trend. While looking to gain support from the Wall Street investment banks like Goldman Sachs, he hired Robert Rubin for help, which resulted in Rubinomics—the overturn of the regulatory Glass Steagall Act, thus enabling free-wheeling banking to run off the tracks by 2008. Banks like Goldman Sachs only used this major catastrophe first to fleece the middle class and then to take its tax-paid bail-out as the spoils of a corporate coup d'état.

"Rubin has been held in awe by the American political elite for nearly 20 years despite having f**ked up virtually every project he ever got his hands on. He went from running GoldmanSachs (1990-1992) to the Clinton White House (1993-1999) to Citigroup (1999-2009), leaving behind a trail of historic gaffes that somehow boosted his stature every step of the way." (5)

Recent crises show us how both Republicans and Democrats sing the same hymns in order to garner financial and political support from corporate lords. Does America now have a single party like, say, China or Cuba? If not, at least the differences are now little more than staged soap-opera dramas to maintain the American myth that voters have a choice—one between the neoliberal or the neoliberal policies—and that America is still a functional democracy, home of the free and the brave.

"Why has capitalism become so triumphant and democracy so enfeebled? Are the two trends connected? What, if anything, can be done to strengthen democracy?" (6)

The U.S. government is weak. It cannot control its own military-industrial complex, which has grown its own power base by lobbying, despite what citizens might vote to stop the endless wars and colonial occupations, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Andrew Bracevich points out in his book, Washington Rules, the American empire has become an unbearable burden, almost impossible to shake off our shoulders.

"The global military presence is ostensibly essential to the defense of American freedom even in places where the actual threat to American freedom is oblique or imaginary. Americans take all this for granted and so are blind to its significance. Like corruption or hypocrisy, this national security consensus has long since become part of the wallpaper of national life, attracting attention only when some especially maladroit escapade comes to light. So, too, with the Washington rules: It's only when something especially egregious occurs—most commonly a botched war—that members of the public take notice, and even then only briefly."(7)

Business leaders almost all sing from the same hymn book of fixed-ideas. Since before the Gilded Age, they have always used their power to lobby against government regulations, except for the few who dare heresy, only to risk their careers. "But Shiller's views conflicted with conventional thinking in a more profound way."(8)
The "smart" economists sing in harmony in order to keep their cushy jobs, they advocate economic policies beneficial for corporate agendas. No. This is not a conspiracy, it's just business as we know it in America.

The ideology has become a religion in America. Many public officials, economists, and industrialists have joined "the Family"—an elitist social prayer group—which cleverly brought God into their ruthless business ideology, where any means justifies their profits. In their world of elitist religion, the idea of the "invisible hand" is not government intervention, but it is God's providence, God's invisible hand guiding His chosen leaders, and to hell with Christ's middle-class morality; theirs is a new world order of "Christ plus nothing." For them, Christ is a God-chosen leader just as Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, or Hitler.

"James A. Farrell or Henry Ford, commanding Pinkertons and the police; in Seattle, it was Dave Beck, Teamster, who owned the law, "Beck was living evidence that God's invisible hand blessed the ruthless as much as or more than those whom he considered the deserving." (9)

The wheels have fallen off American democracy. The vast majority of corporations, like religions, are not organized in any profit-sharing, democratic process. Quite the contrary, corporations "manage personnel" much more strictly than churches "shepherd their flock," and neither organization asks their participants to vote on issues.

Does the Catholic Church ask its members to vote on abortion, gay marriage or preemptive war? Pat Robertson asks his congregates for donations, but does he ask his congregation permission to buy a personal jet? Does the CEO of XE ask his employees what mercenary contracts to take on? And yet these are the primary types of organizations to which a large number of Americans voluntarily, and perhaps unwittingly, adhere as if they prefer living as automatons with prescribed moral and behavioral codes that provide simply a veneer of ethical professionalism. Middle-class working families seldom find the time to consider how our democracy hobbles along while industrialists devour any economic equality. Castaneda describes how inequity cripples democracy in Mexico. It directly applies to the U.S.:

"Economic mistakes, political abuses, and the dramatic increase of inequality in what was already one of the world's most unjust societies might not have been entirely avoided through democratic rule and authentic accountability, but they were absolutely inevitable in the absence of representative democracy." (10)

Corporate advertising creates a society with freedom to consume. Many business theorists, like the blundering and famous Milton Friedman, found this "free market" ideology to be highly appealing material for bestselling books. Friedman promoted the fetish of a market enabling consumers a "freedom of choice." This became especially attractive for most captains of industry looking to increase profits by any means, advertising and popularizing unbridled commerce.

At the same time, despite or because of this ideology of "consumer freedom," an eerie conformity—Babbittry—in how people think develops as we Americans behave as consumers more in line with marketing research rather than as citizens with individual critical thinking. Consumerism destroys communities where each individual competes to outdo the other. The alienation leaves people lonely and craving for some source of fulfillment. Drugs, alcohol, shopping or religion become the options in a mass market without any other culture than to work and to consume.

This surreal society, made up of androids, driven by purchase power, reveals itself now more than ever as some corporations in many industries crash after devouring their own food chain.

Many of the Wall Street bankers are terrorists. Al Qaeda's financial investors made millions by "going short" on stock purchases in U.S. airlines before 9/11, because they knew that, after the attack, the value of the shares would plummet. Following the example of the Islamic terrorists, our own investment bankers "went short," investing in the failure of the very same bad mortgage and credit card loans they sold to working families. Many Goldman Sachs employees probably attend mass or synagogue at least once a week, people drinking from our mainstream founts of moral courage and spiritual strength. Nevertheless, they contrive clever methods to fleece the consumers of America's spectacular, neon-lit disposable society—the middle-class workers jostling to buy stuff, living for celebrity bling, driving guzzling SUVs manufactured by an industrial dinosaur.

"The upper classes in this country raped this country. You f**ked people. You built a castle to rip people off. Not once in all these years have I come across a person inside a big Wall Street firm who was having a crisis of conscience. Nobody ever said "This is wrong'." (11)

The American aristocracy sets the rules, not the democratic system. A cabal of elitist economic advisors, like Rubin mentioned above, usually set policies of immense public consequences and more often than not, we--the general citizenry are hardly given a voice in the decision process or, if we do as in the 2008 elections for Obama, our voices were ignored as the campaign promises slipped on the occupation of Afghanistan or the futile 2009 surge in Iraq, and on the promise to raise the minimum wage, or on the mediocre healthcare reform, or the closure of Guantanamo.

In the recent financial catastrophe on Wall Street, policy makers made status quo assumptions, a blind faith in their ideology, and yet, despite their colossal blunders, they still remain in public office with their erroneous policies about free markets, torture, preemptive invasions, endless war, and wire tapping.

"Indeed, major actors such as Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner [Robin's pals] still are in leadership positions, with their past conduct receiving remarkably little criticism despite their having helped design the policies that precipitated the meltdown." (12)

Money trumps reality. Policy makers, like the ones named above, work in government or in think tanks or universities, which are often heavily influenced by the corporations that sponsor their jobs and research. This corporate influence has increased over the decades as corporations pay tax deductible "donations" to organizations and thus find a strong voice in how research findings are presented or not. Consider U.C. Berkeley's findings on how "new microbes" are eating up the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico and then look at BP's $500 million donations to the same research center. Consider the millions of dollars BP spent on lobbying to both Republicans and to Democrats, and then consider how the White House now fails to pressure BP to pay a high premium for the damages. Consider also how the Supreme Court recently overturned Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, enabling corporations unlimited and direct campaigning for political candidates.

"Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury." (13)

In his book, Democracy Incorporated, Wolin describes how these important institutions from think tanks, universities, and news media as well as the government were taken over or suppressed, and brought into a central control to create a total center of power, a totalitarian state, like Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Stalinist Russia, which monopolized the power in order to restructure society.

Wolin considers how a new form of totalitarianism can arise in a superpower, which loses its sense of limits and morphs into an empire out of touch with reality. It's a country where civil rights, due-process of law, and habeas corpus are revoked and imprisonment and torture are sanctioned. It's a place where a vice president can publically boast of supporting this torture and "new world order." Government intelligence agencies produce fictional reports, as happened in W's administration, in order to please the president, who, in turn, pleases corporations, like Big Oil, by attempting to occupy the world's second largest oil reserve. In order to obtain more financial sponsorship, politicians, news media, universities, and think tanks provide corporations with the news and information they want the public to hear.

"Inverted totalitarianism, in contrast, while exploiting the authority and resources of the state, gains its dynamic by combining with other forms of power, such as evangelical religions, and most notably by encouraging a symbiotic relationship between traditional government and the system of "private' governance represented by the modern business corporation. The result is not a system of codetermination by equal partners who retain their distinctive identities but rather a system that represents the political coming-of-age of corporate power." (14)

Take the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA was signed by George Bush, Sr. in 1992 and put into effect in 1994 by Bill Clinton, making it a bipartisan agreement. It encapsulates many of the false assumptions that the prominent, and, unfortunately, influential policy makers of the last fifty years—from Volker to Greenspan and on to Bernanke—have blindly advocated while advising stately politicians.

Policy makers created NAFTA based on erroneous ideology. The "free trade" part of NAFTA reflects the old hymn that free markets do godly miracles when left to their own entrepreneurial devices. Years later, Canada might boast as a winner relatively speaking, if there was one. Although U.S. businesses justified the agreement as a means to become more competitive by reducing labor costs, even though America lost millions of middle-class jobs, devalued wages, and increased inequality. Meanwhile, other industrialized countries like Japan keep their own citizens employed by innovating and by responding to market demands, instead of the short-term profits gained momentarily by short-term labor cuts for which American management is infamous. Consider the innovative electric car, the Nissan Leaf, compared to the now extinct Tyrannosaurus Rex, GM's Hummer.

Mexico lost the most from NAFTA. Mexico's American-trained economists expected that the agreement would boost manufacturing and economic growth by setting up the maquiladoras. Many peasants moved from their farms to the U.S. factories in border towns and worked with hardly any labor laws to protect their interests only to see that the U.S. firms decided to outsource their work to countries where wages were even lower at the time in India and China. Consequently, many Mexican peasants lost their jobs and they could not return to their peasant farmlands because the U.S. farms began exporting to Mexico large quantities of agricultural products at even lower, subsidized prices.

Castenada describes the affects of NAFTA and how Mexico already resembles an "inverted totalitarian" state:

"And this would happen, they warned, not in a nation magically propelled toward the First World by irresponsible headlines or high-level trade agreements, but in a country as firmly anchored as ever in the Third World, a country consisting of several segregated nations, plagued by injustice and inequality, authoritarianism and corruption, poverty and marginalization. The Chiapas uprising became a symbol of that crisis—which was not, however, confined to Chiapas." (15)

NAFTA motivates peasants to cross the border. The next job opportunity for most any blue collar Mexican worker is to cross the border for jobs paying less than minimum wage or to stay in Mexico to take a job in the only rising industry—the drug cartels that manufacture and traffic illegal drugs. The drug cartels operate much like any large corporation, except that their products are illegal, which attracts entrepreneurs only slightly more ruthless than the leaders at such businesses as XE, Halliburton, BP, or Goldman Sachs.

From Castenada's description, in Mexico, there are few regulations for the large corporations. It is a dream paradise model for many of the American neoliberal elitists. If they visited Mexico they would find that the government even provides guarantees for many monopolies such as Carlos Slim, who became one of the richest men in the world by acquiring almost all—94 percent—of the telephone companies in Mexico. With proper "arrangements" made with the public officials, many billionaire monopolists thrive in Mexican industries. One company owns 70 percent of the tortillas/cornmeal market, another controls Telmex telecommunications, there is the now state-owned Pemex oil, and only two corporations hold 80 percent of all pharmaceuticals, and on and on. Better yet, for the wealthy, even religion holds a monopoly by the Catholic Church keeps the Great Unwashed gullible and submissive to the providence of God's will. Those in power stay in power and garner larger and larger pieces of the pie.

Meanwhile taxes on these monopolies and oligarchies are extremely low compared to income taxes on the dwindling middle class. Almost half the population—more than 102 million—lives in poverty. The rich continue to gain more wealth while the peasants sink deeper into poverty. (16)
NAFTA did serve at least one benefit for Mexico. With the free trade, it is easier to export drugs into the U.S., making it the most lucrative industry, second only to the rapidly depleting oil business. As the drug business increases in value, the Mexican government takes greater pieces of the profits in the form of bribes or "la plaza," in which the drug lords pay government officials not to intervene in the commerce, while legitimate corporations pay a tribute—called lobbyist contributions in the U.S.—to gain favors.

The drug industry overwhelms the Mexican government. Once the drug industry rose into the billions of dollars, the government became weaker, less able to control its own army because the drug lords now earn more money, and able to bribe public officials and law enforcement at all levels, they conduct their business as a true "free market," one without any civil authority, much less regulations, and the competition between the cartels rages to all-out civil war, where drug dealers use all types of violence imaginable--kidnapping, rape, murder, torture, beheadings—to gain market share over the competitors. Since January, 2007, 29,000 people have been killed in drug-related activity. (17) The growing drug violence boosts the U.S. weapons industry, which conducts business without much oversight.

When a country is unable to protect its own citizens' interests, it is a failed state. The Mexican government is too weak to corral the violence and lobbyist money—bribes—to influence public officials, and unable to protect the regular citizens; it is a failed state. Now officials in the Mexican army partner with certain cartels in order to obtain a substantial part of the profits. For the time being, the Mexican army provides favors for the Sinaloa cartel and against the Juarez cartel.

Like all countries, Mexico's history is unique. If it ever had a functional democracy, it was only during brief and unusual moments. Since it transitioned from a monarchy to a pseudo-democracy, it has always been an "inverted totalitarian state," where the elite reign over the lower classes, and where the public officials serve their fellow elites, the barons of industry. If the U.S. continues on its current trend toward a system in which the Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of corporations instead of the citizens, we, too, will reap all the benefits of pseudo-democracy as in Mexico, where lobbyist money speaks louder than votes.

Mexico operates with a truly free market. The government hardly intervenes except to help well-paying organizations. Its religious culture keeps the lower classes submissive and more interested in the next life than this one here and now. It's an ideal business environment for the American neoliberal elitists.

(1) Mayer, Jane, "Covert Operations," The New Yorker, August 30, 2010
(2) Wolin, Sheldon, Democracy Incorporated, Princeton University Press, 2010, Kindle edition. Preface.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Wilkinson, Richard and Pickett, Kate, The Spirit Level, Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010 and at The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
(5) Taibbi, Matt, "Obama's Big Sellout," Rolling Stone Magazine, Dec. 10, 2009.
(6) Reich, Robert, Supercaptialism, New York: Vintage, 2008, page 5.
(7) Bracevich, Andrew, Washington Rules,
(8) Smith, Ives, Econned, New York: PalgraveMcMillan, 2010, pg. 19.
(9) Sharlet, Jeff, The Family, New York: Harper Perennial, 2008, pg. 100.
(10)Castaneda, JorgeG.The Mexican Shock, New York: The New Press, 1995, pg. 34.
(11) Lewis, Michael, The Big Short, New York, W.W. Norton Co., 2010, pg. 197.
(12) Smith, Econned, Ibid., pg. 43.
(13) Hedges, Chris, Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction, Truthdig (blog), January 25, 2010.
(14) Wolin, Democracy Incorporated, Kindle edition.
(15) Castaneda, The Mexican Shock, Ibid., pg. 80.
(16) Llana, Sara, "Calderon's Challenge: Confronting Monopolies," Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 23, 2007
(17) "Mexico under Siege," Los Angeles Times online

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rapture of Charlatans

The overwhelming readership of the Left Behind series of novels by Lahaye and Jenkins reveals to what extent our “exceptional” American culture cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. A huge swath of the American public has gone out and bought these and other similar escapist novels by the millions. Many Americans seek to escape reality by drugs or by religious fantasies or both.

It may well be a sign that many of us have died morally, spiritually, and intellectually. No other culture of industrialized countries is so hoodwinked by the vagaries of born-again evangelical cults.

Eventually, we Americans will have to wake from our state of self-indulged juvenility. Delusional interpretations of the Book of Revelation, which John wrote as an allegory of his spite for the Imperial Romans, who imprisoned him, has turned into public policy about the most crucial areas of civilization’s survival on earth: nuclear arms and global warming.

We Americans love to avoid the real issues and, instead, focus on sensational gossip about celebrity stories, which pass for news and information. Today’s middle-class Tea Party members participate in mass delusions as they support the despotic right-wing agenda, in the hope that, yes, they too can become multi-millionaires simply by sounding like the wealthy corporatists who, in turn, deteriorate the middle class’s own standard of living. In reality, the original Bostonian Tea Party members of 1773 committed acts of terrorism against the British imperial despotism—taxation without representation.

As the corporatist, neoliberal, economic policies have undermined American ideals and institutions, our government has weakened to the point of losing its ability to bridle the corporations that impoverish our economy and destroy our environment. Many Americans prefer to cling to fantasies that God will snatch us up from this harsh reality and take us to a Disney World in the sky.

In times of despair and turmoil, many Americans have turned to demagogues, like G.W. Bush, who gave lip service to shallow notions of Christian faith, and charlatans like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, or Joel Osteen who entertain us with reassuring wet-dreams of Christ coming down to enable us with wealth and prosperity or to swoop up only those among us who care less about our community and our own political interests so long as we get right with God.

These demagogues—like W —an American president who took a nation to war on the pretext that “God told me what to do”—they have led the gullible middle-class crowds throughout American history to destroy the very American ideals that enable us to become educated, wise, critically astute, and free citizens of a functional democracy, and not enslaved in the stupor of delusions and religious superstitions.

The word “rapture” appears only once in the Book of Revelation, yet, in America, it has taken on a life of its own, far from the actual text written by John. Without critical thinking, without a culture of literate, thinking people, we are doomed to enslave ourselves to the fear stirred up by charlatans, who sell us one version or another of one “sacred text” or another and keep us locked up in the shackles of fear that we might be left behind unless we conform to some televangelist conniver.

Now at the end of the war in Iraq, we have to dig our way out of the hole in which the evangelical, born-again Christians and neoconservatives buried us all. In wagging the preemptive invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the policies that W’s administration established only undermined America’s Constitution and its values, from the justice system to national defense.

“When it came to constitutional checks and balances, to the powers of the executive branch, lines had been crossed, fundamental principles violated, putting at risk precisely what made America so special. Dick Cheney had led Donald Rumsfeld and the neocons in creating a separate, shadow national security apparatus to create a disinformation pipeline putting forth its own wished-for reality as a mechanism to start the war.” (1)

The neoconservative, born-again Christians take liberties to invent a reality when it is needed to carry out Armageddon type actions, but creating a reality in order to justify the death of thousands of people and wasting trillions of dollars is nothing less than lying. Lying on a national scale like this equates to criminal fraud and deception.

How did W succeed in misleading the American people only to establish radical, extremist policies that bankrolled our economy and destroyed thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives? W explained why he pursued the policies of radical extremists, “There is a higher father that I appeal to.”

During W’s presidency, the neoconservatives and the right-wing Christians teamed up to manipulate the wishful thinking of an America that no longer knows the difference between TV drama and reality. There are two worlds in America, the fantasy view of right-wing religious fundamentalists who spin their own reality and act on it without considering the consequences even when engaging in war, and the pragmatic, humanists who work from rational sets of known facts as a basis for public policy that serves the greatest good of all citizens, including the poor and the middle class, not just the wealthy.

“Hitler, to the Family [a secretive fundamentalist Christian organization in which many right-wing power brokers participate], is no more real than Attila the Hun as drafted by business gurus who promise unstoppable “leadership” techniques drawn from history’s killers;” (2)

In the hindsight of the W administration, the most dangerous threat from extreme fundamentalists arises not from the Islamists, but the neoconservative, fundamentalist Christians. W’s administration has proven this.

(1) Craig Unger, The Fall of the House of Bush, (Simon & Schuster, 2007) pg. 14.
(2) Jeff Sharlet, The Family, (Harper Perennial, 2008) pg. 3.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mexico: God Is Murdered Somewhere between the Chihuahua Desert and El Paso

A drug lord tied him to the back bumper of his old Ford pickup and dragged him across the rugged desert terrain until nothing remained of his carcass.

After struggling for generations to improve their lot, many Mexicanos have stopped praying. Instead, they are selling drugs to the wealthy gringos in el norte. Meanwhile the Mexican government keeps a choke hold on the middle class in order to enrich the ruling class and use a clever public relations machine to conceal their mafia-type operations from the rest of the world.

Operating from Ojinaga, a remote desert pueblo, Pablo Acosta developed the first multimillion-dollar exporting business from the harshest desert in Mexico. As a teenager in 1958, Pablo Acosta saw his father gunned down in the street in a small Texas town for no particular reason. Pablo learned early about toughness. Although his father was illiterate, he taught Pablo about business, how higher business risks often yielded higher profit margins. After his father’s abrupt death, caused by a bullet between his eyes, Pablo began to apply his business savvy to a fledgling drug business during the 1960s.

“Pablo Acosta would later tell how his father and Macario Vazques, the most
famous of candelilla [desert plants used to make wax] smugglers, once shot it
out with forestales [government forest rangers who often robbed peasants] in the
mountains above the river village of Santa Elena.”(1)
Smuggling has a long tradition in the Mexican border towns since before the Revolution of 1910, when guns were brought from the north to fight the authoritarian, almost fascist, government.

Like the violent fights against a tyrannical regime, smuggling also represents one of the links between the popular Villa-Zapata Revolution (1910) and the growing drug industry that first began by selling cactus moonshine, sotol and mescal to Americans during Prohibition in the U.S. The drug business picked up in the 1960s.
“For him [Regela, an FBI agent] the investigative experience became the thrill of traveling backwards in time. Smugglers wearing sombreros and crisscross bandoleers studded with high-caliber cartridges used tactics their forefathers had employed even long before the Mexican Revolution to evade detection.” (2)
The revolution of 1910, like its predecessors, aimed at transforming Mexico’s charade of a democracy into a government for the people, where the regular Mexican citizen might have a chance on an equal economic playing field with the generations of landed Spanish aristocrats, and where peasants might obtain a small parcel of land to cultivate a viable living standard, almost like a middle class.

That never happened. The status quo, elite class picked apart the revolution and then reinforced its authoritarian regime once again and to this day. In place of the failed revolution, peasants, like Pablo Acosta, found a new marketplace, where they have a chance at a middle-class, if not higher, standard of living—despite the risks.

For peasants, ambitious to improve their situation, drug trafficking has become the surest work that pays the mortgage, nice cars, and education for their many children. It’s the Mexican dream. Running drugs north is the ticket to success and, if a guy plays his cards right, he can move up in the organization. It’s the fast track, like earning an MBA or a JD in the U.S., more risky but more lucrative.

Guys like Pablo Acosta hitched their wagons to this gravy train. The more cut-throat and aggressive drug runners learned to branch out, develop their own operations, and, most importantly, earn enough money to dominate la plaza, the marketplace.

¿Quién està manejando la plaza? Who is in charge of the marketplace? To Mexican drug traffickers, this expression takes on special meaning. Who pays the government authorities the license to operate, to kill competitors, and to control a territory?

The protection money goes up the ladder, with percentages shaved off at each level up the chain of command until it reaches the highest levels, including the Mexican presidency, judiciary, police, and military.(3) The more a trafficker pays, the more he gains in territory and latitude to operate. A drug lord like Acosta, a Padrino or Godfather, can dominate an entire state like Chihuahua or Sinoloa, as reported by journalists, who risk their lives to reveal the dangerous secrets.

Contrary to reports in the mass media, the Mexican government has always been complicit in helping certain entrepreneurs to develop strongholds in their marketplaces. Even monopolies like Slim Helu’s telephone business is supported by a government guarantee, so long as the officials are handsomely bribed. Likewise, Mexican government officials all the way to the presidency receive bribes to protect certain entrepreneurs in the lucrative drug industry, as we see in daily news reports ( ) exposing the government support for the powerful Sinoloa cartel.

“The story of Mexico is a predictable story of absolute power corroding absolutely. It is the story of awesome accumulations of wealth by a miniscule fraction of Mexican society derived through the advantages of power, through the systematic plundering of the wealth of its own people and through the exploitation of weaknesses in the United States. It is the story of a deliberate orchestrating of drug trafficking to flood those neighbors with drugs, for gain but also to satisfy a twisted thirst for vengeance. It is the story of the resulting impoverishment of a potentially great nation whose people are forced out of desperation to flee, bringing about one of the greatest migrations in North American history.” (4)
From its Spanish colonial origins, the Mexican government has grown over centuries into the regime it is today. It is not a democracy for and by the people. It is an extreme right-wing government, holding power by an iron fist. Except for rare anomalies, the presidents are selected among the ruling class and then passed through an electoral charade. Opponents to the selected presidents are not allowed to win the election. The process is fixed one way or another to make this happen. The proof of this lies in scandals that occur during elections, when ballot counting is fixed by various methods or where campaign funds are overwhelmingly stacked against the opposition.

An Evil Use of Branding and Marketing
The word “corruption” does not apply because the government operates by systematic self-enrichment of a dominating ruling class. “Corruption” implies some criminal exception to an otherwise principled government serving the interests of the general public. On the contrary, Mexico’s regime operates in secret from the general public and especially the United States. A clever use of branding, marketing, and public relations strategies, applied in Machiavellian tactics, enables the authorities to maintain a veneer of a disciplined and ethical system, while in reality the plutocracy, unaccountable to anyone, has always profited from operations like the harvesting of candelilla a century ago to supplying cocaine today. Drug trafficking operations in Mexico are now a billion-dollar business and offer so much profit that those in power cannot reject the drug trade as unethical or illegal. It is so attractive to everyone, it is unstoppable.

Today the government—the judicial system, the police, the military, and even the executive branch—participates in trafficking to further its ambition to garner wealth for the ruling class. Over centuries of rule, the Mexican government has developed a steadfast power arrangement in which a tiny group grabs the wealth at the cost of the rest of the population.

The Mexican government corrupts its own people by reaching down to the ambitious peasant classes and enabling and even sponsoring organized crime. Traffickers like Pablo Acosta or Amando Carrillo Fuentes, men from peasant backgrounds, did not buy and intimidate their way into power over la plaza. Rather, the government officials, from the local police all the way up to the president, allowed them to do what they do; they were encouraged, almost employed, to generate wealth for the men in positions of powerful authority, men who normally should protect and serve their country’s citizens. The Mexican government, under veils of secrecy and under-the-table deals, has refined its ability to tap into the ambitions and energies of individuals of lower classes and to channel them to increase the gains of their more educated and powerful masters in authority. When drug lords and others like them reach the end of their dangerous and glorious careers, the same system that sponsored them, now moves to kill them or jail them, and seize whatever wealth they may have accumulated.

Mexican officials and their civil servants fighting the war on drugs are part of a clever illusion, a public relations campaign. They call the media to witness and document how they ceremoniously burn marijuana stalks as a great stride in the battle against crime, but only after they have harvested the lucrative tips of the plants. When staging cocaine burnings, it is almost always corn starch, while the real coke is already sold to a favored cartel. They will seldom ever genuinely cooperate with U.S. drug enforcement officials beyond a mere charade of professionalism.

In one report to the next, from books like Drug Lord by Poppa (5) to Murder City by Bowden(6), Mexican officials vehemently deny any complaint or accusation of involvement. As proof of their commitment to fighting the war on drugs, they will pick out an ineffective drug runner to sacrifice in the name of the law and their own reputation. To hell with the drug-addicted victims in Mexico and much less in the U.S. Business continues, and it is good.

Like centuries before, today’s Mexico is a country of illusions, where public relations and marketed perceptions are tools in maintaining the status quo.

The GOP’s Use of Branding and Marketing
Just as Mexico’s ruling class covers its tracks through the drug industry by staging drug busts and jailing unreliable traffickers, so too, the ruling class in the U.S. creates the illusion that its political party, the GOP, advocates policies to improve the standard of living for the American middle class. The GOP greatly outperforms the Democratic Party by using consistent and harmonized talking points.

The GOP claims to stand for Christian beliefs and good, old-fashioned American traditions:
  • It wants to reduce taxes and maintain fiscal responsibility—even though the last Republican president drove up historical deficits.

  • It wants to reduce government power and size in order to enable the middle class worker to obtain a higher standard of living, even though weak governmental regulation of big business can ruin the economy for the middle class as we have seen recently.

  • It wants to give more freedom to big business to create a stronger economy—leading to a further reduction in industry regulations, an increase in economic disasters, and an even more inequitable distribution of wealth.

  • It seeks to create a unified Christian culture and society based on wholesome values, even though an overwhelming number of recent ethical scandals arise from conservatives such as Catholic and other Christian fundamentalists.

  • It promotes solid Christian morality as a means to take away individual rights such as women’s choice about abortion and other individual liberties.
As if in a choir, members of the GOP consistently repeat these points of communications through all channels of media to such an extent that a large portion of the middle class voters actually come to believe in these policies, even though they have little to do with supporting the middle class. The GOP has created a propaganda machine so dominating that most Americans believe that any government intervention in the economy is socialism and thus intolerably evil.

The GOP need look no further than south of the border to see their talking points in action. The Mexican ruling class has always maintained the policies that the GOP in the U.S. advocates. Both the right-wing in Mexico and in the U.S. seek to increase power for businesses and to weaken government, which only intensifies the distribution of wealth away from the middle class and into the hands of the wealthy. The policies have made Mexico third-world country it is today.

“Mexicans,” he explains, “know the army is a bunch of brutes. But what is going on now is a coup d’etat by the army. The president is illegitimate. The army has installed itself. They have become the government….The president has his hands tied, and he has tied them.”(7)
Except for a few periods, Mexico’s right-wing plutocracy has succeeded to maintain its status quo since the Spanish conquered the native Indians centuries ago. In the U.S., the right-wing ruling class has also maintained its power to a lesser extent, especially during the period after WWII, when a middle class began to prosper from the industrial expansion.

But this is changing. The standard of living for middle-class families has dropped drastically since the 1960s.

“Most American families are worse off today than they were three decades ago. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 destroyed the value of their homes, undermined their savings, and too often left them without jobs. But even before the Great Recession began, most Americans had gained little from the economic expansion that began almost three decades before. Today, the Great Recession notwithstanding, the U.S. economy is far larger than it was in 1980. But where has all the wealth gone? Mostly to the very top. The latest data shows that by 2007, America’s top 1 percent of earners received 23 percent of the nation’s total income—almost triple their 8 percent share in 1980.”(8)
This economic trend is eroding much of the American middle class. It continues increasing numbers of families will no longer find the means to assure their children’s health and education. This deteriorates our society in general and can destroy our democracy and economy, whose strength depends on critical thinking skills for all citizens. Reducing government means reducing social infrastructure, and leads to the dumbing down of America to the level of a Sarah-Palin culture of ignorance and greed.

By eliminating the social infrastructure that a democratic government is designed to maintain for and by the general population, the right-wing in the U.S., particularly organizations like the Heritage Foundation, has carefully dismantled Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, and Johnson’s Great Society. These initiatives, and others like them, were created to allow all American citizens access to opportunities to improve their living standard and to level economic barriers restricting access to education and healthcare.

Many of today’s right-wing organizations have their roots in the Christian Fellowship movement, also known as The Family, which took hold initially in the 1930s and grew in strength as it indoctrinated the wealthy as well as powerful politicians, including G. W. Bush.(9) The Family can trace its origins to even older American conservative organizations, including the KKK and Opus Dei, among others.(10) Like the twisted operations of the powerful mafia-style plutocracy that permeates the Mexican ruling class and government, a nefarious religious movement has now begun to seize control over the American government, including all its branches—the executive, Congress, the Supreme Court—and even several state governments.

The Fellowship, like any church, interpretes the Bible and its prophets in ways suited for their own goals. The Family’s agenda focuses on gaining power by furthering the ambitions of many right-wing politicians. Since Jesus is an extremely popular, charismatic prophet, the Family uses Christ as a branding icon, a logo. It helps immensely in gaining votes. A large part of the American population follows most any agenda that includes an association with Jesus. The Family uses Jesus as a branding strategy just as McDonald’s uses the clown Ronald McDonald, although the Family’s political policies and agenda stray far from the ideals of love, peace, and equality that Jesus preached. The Family sees Jesus as a powerful, charismatic leader who captured a following of gullible masses just like other great men of history, including Genghis Khan and Mussolini.

“Look at Hitler,” he [Doug Cole, a leader of the Family] said, “Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, bin Laden.” The Family possessed a weapon those leaders lacked: the “total Jesus” of a brotherhood in Christ.
A quote from Genghis Khan sums up much of the Family’s fascist mission, especially in light of the neoconservative, preemptive invasion of Iraq:

“The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
(1)Drug Lord by Terrence E. Poppa, 1998, at 22.

(2)Id. at 222.

(3)Id. at 44.

(4)Id. at 336.


(6)Murder City by Charles Bowden, 2010.

(7)Id at 204.

(8)The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2009; Forward by R. B. Reich, at v.

(9) The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet (2009)

(10)The “Christian” Mafia by Wayne Madsen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mexico: What Do Third-world Countries Share with the U.S.?

Now it’s official. General McChrystal has been placed in the pantheon of American icons, sanctified next to the likes of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne. He now aligns with the many American gods that are manufactured as fast as a Big Mac or an Egg McMuffin. Heroes like these are not human. They only play the image of what America wants them to be, but mostly they reflect the self-delusion of the American culture, a bubble where we are morally superior, smarter, and therefore richer.

This month The Atlantic magazine published an article, “Man Versus Afghanistan,” elevating General McChrystal to the heights of a Julius Caesar, the man who determines the course of history and who can rebuild Afghanistan into a democracy as prosperous as many imagine America to be, or as Rome was before it crumbled into history’s dust.

Kaplan describes General McChrystal as a man who “has never submitted to fate” (p. 26). With such a job title for McChrystal, we might believe that he can also leap over tall buildings in a single bound. As our newly anointed Superman, the general sleeps four hours a night, runs eight miles, and eats one meal a day. McChrystal is America: the country no longer conceives new ideas because its vision is blurred by lack of sleep; the country can only run mechanically one foot in front of the other because it no longer innovates; the country eats its daily meal devoid of taste and nutrition.

In his story about General McChrystal, Kaplan takes the predictable and enjoyable job of describing the apparent virtues of the general whose “physical regimen…itself expresses an unyielding, almost cultic determination.”

By attempting to create a cult hero of McChrystal—the Army of One—Kaplan enjoys the easy road of fantasy and fanaticism while the rest of us scratch our heads and ponder. Why the hell did the Bush administration spend trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives to invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, nor had WMDs, nor harbored terrorists until after U.S. troops invaded. Despite this, Kaplan boldly states his preference for imperial war—“The 2003 invasion of Iraq, to which I subscribed,…”—as he bizarrely twists this invasion into “Balkan antecedents.”

Yet we wonder. Now that the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, almost ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than one million civilian lives, when are we finished? What’s the goal? What results do we expect? When the U.S. leaves Iraq and Afghanistan, will these countries be stable? What’s to stop them from simply returning to despotic, theocratic regimes?

Kaplan doesn’t consider any of these questions. Not once does he mention America’s dependence on oil and, consequently, its dire need to occupy much of the Middle East to ensure a stable supply. Instead Kaplan bloviates about how the most powerful military in the world can overcome fate thanks to the likes of General McChrystal who lacks sleep. Kaplan ignores the atrocities by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who now brags on mass media how he authorized the same sort of torture as Afghan and Mexican authorities use for power and plunder.

Kaplan describes a few characteristics of Afghanistan, which we find also in Mexico and other third-world countries, such as, “the country is so decentralized,…it is extraordinary complex, with different tribal and sectarian reality in each district.”

Likewise, Mexico’s history and current situation reveal how it has always plodded along with a weak central government. Each region in Mexico has always had its autonomous leaders (caciques), which, as in Afghanistan, have become drug lords reaping billions of dollars in the drug trade. As these drug lords gain wealth, they carry more power than their federal governments. The large profits of such unrestrained businesses are able to usurp governmental authority. This has happened in both Afghanistan and in Mexico. Whether they sell opiates, cocaine, or oil, the successful businessmen ply their power to increase their wealth and to impose their own politics, usually fundamentalism to the point of fascism, and ignore the freedom and development of the less privileged classes. The scenario resembles the U.S. Republican agenda.

Kaplan writes, “McChrystal believes that the ‘ideological piece’ of al-Qaeda is ‘truly scary’: that a new brand of totalitarianism—al-Qaeda the franchise—is running amok and motivating small secretive groups around the world, and that victory in Afghanistan is necessary to deliver a ‘huge moral defeat’ to it” (p. 62).

Clearly as we invade and occupy foreign countries in order to control their resources, the more they will resist. Instead of fighting for reliable oil supplies, America must do what it does best: innovate and create renewable sources of energy.

If certain bellicose Americans were so concerned about moral defeats or moral responsibilities to carry the imperial burden and set the world straight, why didn’t the Bush administration invade the dictatorship of North Korea or China, or any other unjust government? Like many other neoconservative knuckle draggers, Kaplan refuses to state the crass and simple truth that the U.S. occupies Iraq and Afghanistan in order to secure stable oil supplies and, above all, to keep our enemies from taking control of the vast wealth the petroleum reserves represent. Making this clear to the otherwise beguiled, American middle class would only shatter America’s moral self-image, albeit mostly self-delusional.

If the U.S. were so altruistically concerned about saving other countries from dysfunctional governments, why not invade Mexico? Instead, under the Merida Initiative, we continue to pour billions of dollars ineffectively into the Mexican government, which morally defeats the U.S. because the Mexican government takes bribes from the various drug lords and explicitly supports the Sinaloa cartel over the others. As Mexico slips over the edge of complete anarchy and unbridled capitalism, the U.S. blindly funnels money without oversight as to how it is used.

Just as the U.S. props up a corrupt and crumbling Mexico, so too, it supports the Karzai government in Afghanistan, a mere racketeer operation. As Kaplan quotes, “’Afghanistan was a cakewalk in 2001 and 2002,’ says Sarah Chayes, former special adviser to McChrystal’s headquarters. ‘We started out with a country that hated the Taliban and by 2009 were driving people back into the arms of the Taliban. That’s not fate. That’s poor policy’” (p. 64).

The U.S. merely empowered the mujahedeen commanders to transform into gangster-oligarchs and drug lords under the American-supported Karzai. So long as the U.S. occupies Afghanistan, the people will enlist and fortify al-Qaeda and the Taliban as a form of resistance to protect their country. That’s exactly what Americans would do if they were invaded.

In the midst of all-out war between competing drug businesses in Mexico, the U.S. Homeland Security Department can only sit on its hands as billions of dollars of illegal drugs cross the border along with hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens while millions of dollars of weapons are exported to support the Mexican chaos. Among the illegal aliens crossing the southern border, how many are al-Qaeda operatives carrying various types of WMDs? Let’s ask Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.

Mexico and Afghanistan rank among the desperate third-world countries. Both countries enjoy strong religious traditions permeate through every fiber of their cultures, if not making them outright theocracies. As God’s dark humor goes, this means that corrupt men rule in an arbitrary legal system with authoritarian misconduct. Like Afghanistan, Mexico has a weak government, unable to control its own military and police, much less the marauding drug gangs grabbing power and wealth. Such weak governments have little to offer their people and are unable to restrain the barbarous greed of unbridled businesses such as monopolies and drug cartels.

In the U.S. a central debate rages. Made wealthier than the Democrats by corporate lobbyists, the Republicans are especially eager to keep government small, even weak, and to oppose regulating the otherwise unchecked greed of big business such as the healthcare industry, Big Oil, and Wall Street bankers. These elitist groups in America argue that large corporations should have more power than government—as if businessmen volunteer selflessly for the development of society. This political ideology, known as neoliberalism, calls for the rule of a small, wealthy social class—the patricians and the ruling political nobility.

This debate rose to a new height when the majority right-wing Supreme Court justices voted to overturn two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations. The mostly extremely conservative Supreme Court ruled that the government may not regulate corporations’ spending for elections. As President Obama said, this court ruling gives “corporations more power to drown out the voices of regular Americans” in political debates where already most have lost their sense of citizenry in the face of mammoth businesses. Now more than ever before, big business can buy the votes of congressmen and senators in the form of campaign contributions and additional investments in political advertisements.

This new, highly political ruling by the Supreme Court moves the U.S. another step closer to a complete coronation of power for 10 percent of the population that owns 80 percent of the nation’s wealth. This class power and inequitable distribution of wealth represents one of the defining characteristics of third-world countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered more power to the corporations while weakening the government’s ability to check corporate greed in the best interests of society.

All over the globe, the rulers of third-world countries from Arabia to Zimbabwe squander and squelch the good will of the broader lower classes. Out of some 200 sovereign countries on the globe, more than half operate with hugely inequitable distribution of wealth, where the vast majority of people live on poverty-line income, live with hardly a chance of education, and consequently live without much self-determination. Ironically, the larger social classes at the lower end of the income ladder are the ones who bear more children who, in turn, have fewer chances of education, and less freedom and autonomy.

Often the lower classes become so beguiled by the media, especially the likes of Fox News propaganda, that they ignore their own place in society and their rights. Instead they behave as if they are part of the highest social class, supporting the political interests of right-wing patricians. Perhaps by playing the part, they sense the tingling sensation that maybe they are affiliated with the wealthy at least for a moment, even as many are paid to badger Democrat congressmen at city hall meetings or choose to participate as Tea-Baggers and White Supremacists revolting against the government instead of taking part in the political system to defend their rights as regular citizens. The same is true for the middle-class, born-again Christians who vehemently oppose abortion, demanding that the government regulate individual women’s choice. At the same time, these confused activists oppose government regulations on the very industries—such as healthcare and banking—that devour them financially.

Meanwhile, a tiny social class rules society. The elite enjoy the power and privileges of education, usually secular, and of wealth. Given this inequality, corruption, and arbitrary rule, the governments of most third-world countries are weak. These governments often lack adequate social infrastructure to provide the broader population, the lower class, with healthcare and an education unfettered by religion, which would allow them freedom to choose more clearly about life-defining decisions such as reproduction, careers, and life-style in general.

Instead as, in Mexico, most of Central and South Americas, in Afghanistan, and in most of the Middle East, religious doctrine proves to be the most available form of education, and its authoritarian rules dictate almost all aspects of individual life, rendering the lower class submissive and ignorant. This, in turn, benefits only the wealthy class.

The various policies of the Republican Party in the U.S. serve no purpose for regular Americans. The American right wing has never worked for the best interests of the middle class. Born-again Christian fundamentalists generally want the government to dictate all aspects of an individual’s personal life from abortion to sexual orientation, and at the same time, they want to reduce government regulations over corporate power. From their contradictory belief system, we discover how their goals resemble closely the same theocratic ideology prevalent in countries like Afghanistan and Mexico. The Republican agenda also includes deceiving Americans to justify invading, occupying, and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan while ignoring the simple fact that the real purpose these wars is mainly to control the world’s largest oil reserves.

Like the government in Mexico and Afghanistan, the U.S. government is weak. President Obama struggles against the overwhelming industrial power of the defense contractors pushing to sell more invasions while the Big Banks and insurance companies lobby to reduce regulation. As in Mexico and Afghanistan, the U.S. is in the grip of a right wing whose goals are to increase theocratic authority and ensure “less government.” As an icon of America, General McChrystal is fighting a war of morality which only lightly veils a war for power and plunder, while enjoying meals void of nutrition, sleepless nights that blur vision, and long runs on empty.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mexico: Sex Slavery (Part II)

As noted below (Part I), Octavio Paz emphasized how Mexico’s economic policies favor monopoly. Industry monopoly and its sister, oligopoly, enable a handful of wealthy business owners to set prices and permit control of certain goods and services to maximize their personal profits. With neoliberalism, otherwise known as Regeanomics, government hardly dares to challenge the power of certain corporations that are so overbearing that they succeed in altering every aspect of our lives, our society, and culture.

In the U.S. this situation has become blatantly clear as the oligopolistic healthcare industry does everything possible to avoid a public option that would only encourage competition in an otherwise tight-knit, ol’boy industry. America’s political leaders and pundits strongly promote the idea of free-market enterprise, although their speeches provide the rest of society with just enough hope only to ponder the American Dream and how the regular guy might achieve a comfortable spot in the sunshine. “Change you can believe in.”

Meanwhile a handful of the world’s largest insurance companies spends billions of dollars to block the public healthcare bill because it would break the oligopolistic choke hold on faceless millions of Americans. Corporations like Cigna, Aetna, WellPoint, and AHIP dominate the industry and consequently increase prices faster than in any other industry or economic trend. They pay the hooligans like Joe Lieberman—via his wife—or the automaton Harvard medical professors, like Joseph P. Newhouse, one of Cigna’s board of directors, and other paid puppets to defend the policies of market domination, stagnation, and out-right highway robbery.

Contrary to their ideals of competitive, efficient capitalism, the salesmen of neoliberalism only talk about the theories while they defend their privileged and protected position, and in doing so, they defeat the very neoliberal principles they espouse about an open, innovative, free market where buyers have choices and suppliers are forced to innovate and cut costs. Politicians and pundits for the corporations lie to the public because the insurance companies pay them to spread the gospel that government is evil, bureaucratic, and inefficient and only big corporations can manage our society and our economy.

The corporate-bought talking heads take the money and live in comfortable houses near the country club and send their children off to expensive schools where they learn corporate etiquette to insure that they land upwardly mobile jobs at powerful corporations. The picture we see in this represents how our society has devolved into a place where materialism overwhelms us while it destroys our environment, our democratic system, and our community.

A vast majority of the middle class dreams of a career in a large corporation because, in America, it’s where the greatest social benefits are offered, healthcare, retirement packages, and vacations. These are all the benefits that the government provides its citizens in European democracies. As this trend continues, American becomes less and less a democracy and more a corporatist welfare state.

The broad chasm between what the paid pundits say and what they do reminds us of the Communist propaganda about how everyone must sacrifice today for a greater, more equitable tomorrow. A free democracy is mere myth when corporations overrule the democratic processes.
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." –Thomas Jefferson, 1812
The U.S. Senate and Congress meekly kneel to the will of the corporations at the cost of the will of the people.
Democratic leaders dropped a government insurance option and the idea of expanding Medicare to younger Americans. Reid also omitted language that would have eliminated the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers -- another nonstarter for Nelson.—The Washington Post, December 20, 2009
The U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled recently on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to determine whether to overturn a 1990 ruling that had upheld the ban on direct corporate contributions (1). As the bill has recently passed, corporations can weld immense power over our democracy by paying millions of dollars in propaganda campaigns in which advertisements, as we most often seen, are not held to truthful information.

Likewise, in Mexico the government almost never steps in to regulate the large land owners, much less powerful corporations.

Nothing New about Neoliberal Economic Policies
Variations of what we currently call “neoliberalism” have always existed throughout history. Indeed, history is mostly a study of how the privileged few impose their authority by various shams and tricks to overrule the gullible populace. In the U.S. when an elected official, like Sarah Palin states in a public speech that Obama’s healthcare bill includes “death panels,” a certain part of the gullible public believes the drivel. It’s the depraved and perverted segments of fanatically money-driven Americans that allow dishonest scam artists to continue their criminal careers like Dick Cheney—the former vice president who granted no-bid billion dollar contracts to his own corporation, Haliburton.

Mexico’s history contains its share of such flimflammery in rude and violent acts. Since Cortes dropped anchor in a Yucatan bay, a class of Spanish nobles has always managed to dominate the masses of the poor and uneducated. In many ways, the Spanish monarchy and aristocracy, in cooperation with the Catholic Church, have imposed policies similar to what we call neoliberalism today. And even after Mexico established its independence from the Spanish monarchy and formed a constitutional democracy, it has still maintained a government that strongly promotes the interests of the caudillos, the wealthy few who reign over regions or industries in Mexico.

Even more so in Mexico than in the U.S., a small number of huge corporations dominate the economy and the democratic processes with a heavy political and financial hand.

Monopoly and Neoliberalism
Pemex holds a monopoly on the petroleum in Mexico. As the Wall Street Journal reports on April 7, 2008, any talk of stimulating competition in the oil industry is unheard of in Mexico.
Such heresies cannot even be whispered in Mexico–though not because the Mexican people can't be convinced that there is a better way to run things. The reason is because the guardians of the status quo–politicians, suppliers and labor–would suffer if competition hit the market. Private Mexican contractors who "supply" Pemex are used to business transactions tied to political connections. If there were multiple buyers in competition with one another, those political profit margins would evaporate.
Even though Mexico’s President Calderon delivers noble speeches about breaking up monopolistic industries that dominate its economy, he continues to apply neoliberal policies by privatizing many industries—from petroleum to tortillas and telephones. By definition monopolies own markets and that means they can charge high prices without pressure to improve or innovate. They turn economies into murky swamps that move slowly to a standstill.

At any moment in their daily routine, Mexicans cannot avoid the monopolies that plague their lives. When they fill their gas tanks, they pay homage to Pemex, the only supplier of petroleum (2). When the average Mexican, Jose, makes a phone call to reserve a table at his favorite restaurant, he pays a high price to Telmex, which owns 94% of landlines, a de facto monopoly. And when Jose drives his family to the restaurant—on overpriced gasoline in his car—and then orders tortillas, he pays dearly to the main supplier of corn and flour, Roberto González Barrera, owner of the Maseca flour monopoly and Banorte bank, who controls more than 70% of the market. A desire for tacos leads to extortion, because the price of corn has risen more than 700% since NAFTA’s start in 1994. When Jose’s family watches the news about inflation on TV, their only choice for cable channels is owned by the Grupo Televisa, which controls an overwhelming part of the industry. The denim jeans that Jose wears were most likely manufactured by “Mexico's ‘Denim King,’ the textile magnate Kamel Nacif, who exercises so much power he was able to save himself from a child sex abuse case and get the whistleblower journalist, Lydia Cacho, thrown into jail, but that’s another story (3).

Mexico’s captains of industry, the business elites, enjoy a tight grip on the economy while the country sinks deeper into its original feudal state when the Spanish monarchy ruled. A few dominating corporations own the economy (4). By accumulating power with political contributions and other bribes, these corporations also control most of the government. The distribution of wealth has remained in the hands of the owners of the feudal domains—which in modern terms are the oligarchic corporations. The concentration of wealth in the barons of fiefdoms keeps competition away. Since they own their own industries, they can continue to extort the general population, reduced to peasants in an economy that increasingly resembles the landscape of the Middle Ages.

Carlos Slim Helu, the owner of Mexico’s telecommunications industry, enjoys a government-granted guaranteed monopoly, making him one of the richest men in the world with over $60 billion.

Mexico’s super-rich class includes at least twenty-four billionaires and over 85,000 millionaires, not counting the billionaires and millionaires who prosper from the drugs and sex trafficking. Much of this skewed distribution of wealth began with Mexico’s President Salinas’s privatization and NAFTA policies in the early 1990s. At the same time that a handful of billionaires emerged in Mexico, more and more of the common people fell below subsistence level. More than fifty million Mexicans live on less than $4 per day and another fifteen million live on $1 or less per day (source: CONAPO survey of 2005). In like manner, many American citizens still prefer to live in a Disneyland vision of the U.S. by denying the failures of the popular, though poorly understood Reaganomics, while the middle class sinks deeper and closer to the same situation as in Mexico.

Feudalism and Capitalism
The privileged Mexican lords of industry represent the same special interest groups we know and despise so much here in the U.S. Just as in the U.S., the Mexican government—which is right-wing regardless of its political party and imposes neoliberal policies—blocks liberal groups at every turn when they propose changes to the system for a more equitable distribution of the wealth that reduces crime and creates a more efficient and productive country. The government, in collusion with the captains of industry, crushes any such attempts to chip away at their stronghold, built up over the centuries when Mexico was a closed, one-party state—from monarchy to make-believe democracy.

The authoritarian government in Mexico has continued a centuries-old tradition to serve and to protect the wealthy few. This cozy, collusive relationship between the government and the wealthy began when the Spanish colonized Mexico. At that time the Catholic Church played a prominent role as the governing authority. The encomienda system granted Spaniards with a “trusteeship” over the common people. In exchange for spreading Catholicism, the Spaniards could tax the “blue collar people” for their labor, forcing them to work the haciendas.

As the constitutional government gradually overtook certain authoritarian roles from the Church, similar arrangements continued regarding how the privileged class dominated the common folks. One of the few opportunities left for the destitute middle class is to enter the illegal businesses such as sex and drug trafficking. As the U.S. Border Patrol reveals on its Web site, the practice of slavery has since then grown and now we see that the U.S. is one of the largest markets for sex slavery.

When confronted with these facts, economic theorists, like Milton Friedman, and other neoconservatives from Bill Crystal to Joe Lieberman and to Podhoretz, G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney—or the right-wing religious fanatics of the 700 Club like Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen—defend the neoliberal’s new world order by claiming that the spoils of the wealthy few will eventually trickle down to the masses, so long as liberal politicians do not interfere with the neoliberal policies that, ironically, only intensify the economic calamities. On the contrary, the neoconservatives promote their neoliberal economic policies by demanding a fanatical faith in the infallibility of laissez-faire and unregulated markets.

Large corporations use enormous funds in commercials and public relations to influence mainstream media. As a consequence, the entire U.S. culture is drastically influenced by emphasizing the commercial and consumer motivations in our lives.

Although the neoliberals claim that profits are the essence of democracy, people need to sense a connection to fellow citizens in order to maintain a civil responsibility. Without citizens finding respect for their community, democracy loses its foundation. Instead of citizens, people lose their connection with other people as they become preoccupied with their personal interests as consumers. The neoliberals promote consumerism by means of consumer credit, unregulated finance products, and shopping malls.

In this new world order, people lose sense of their identity. They change their beliefs by following the commercial propaganda and adopt perceptions that they are what they possess. In a culture immersed in commercials and consumer products—one that shows only a marginal resistance—we identify ourselves by our cars, clothes, and other possessions more than by our principles about freedom, democracy and other values that the neoconservatives claim to protect, while, on the contrary, they manipulate and destroy them to such an extent that regular Americans value more what we own than the principles we might be ready to defend to the death in preemptive wars.

Individuals in modern society have always struggled on a balancing line between enjoying the surface of beautiful appearances and considering the underlying reality of our lives. When commercials, like some dogma, overrule our lives, we become alienated and competitive in a struggle to obtain more products than the next guy. We become exactly what corporations want from us, consumers, not citizens of a democracy. As people identify themselves more with products they buy, it becomes easier for us to see each other as products. This makes it easier for us to take the next step by buying one of the fastest growing imports from Mexico, a sex slave.

1) (source: ).
2) (source: Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2007, ).
3) (source: The Washington Post, Sunday, April 1, 2007. )
4) (source: New York Times, June 2, 2009, ).
5) (source: ).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mexico: Sex Slavery (Part I)

Smugglers bring thousands of young women from Mexico into the U.S. and force them to provide sexual services without pay. At any given time, at least 10,000 women from Mexico provide sexual services as slaves mostly for depraved men in the U.S. who just can’t get enough.

Much like the large drug trafficking enterprises, sex trafficking cartels, like Los Lenones, represent a billion-dollar industry that caters to specific orders from American perverts with money to burn. Gangsters prey on girls who dream of going to El Norte. After a gang member cajoles the girl a bit, he gets her alone and then beats, drugs, and kidnaps her. Most of the women sold are Mexican, though hooligans smuggle women from all corners of the globe into the U.S. via Mexico because the border is wide open, the easiest route into the affluent gringo market (1).

It happens on a regular basis. Take the Los Angeles Times story of October 27, 2009. Federal officials arrested almost 700 people, including 60 suspected pimps, in a three-day crackdown on child prostitution. The youngest victim was a 10 years old Mexican girl, authorities say.

Like the drugs Mexican Mafiosos sell to their gringo neighbors, so too, the sex trade signals how impoverished Mexico’s middle class has become, if there ever was one to begin with. Kids don’t become mobsters for the love of a criminal career. Ask most any gangster why they commit horrible crimes, they’ll tell you they join a gang because it’s the family they never had. They live outside the law for the money that gives them some sense of dignity and respect. Almost all have no education, but even if they did, the Mexican economy has always been in such shambles that schooling would not necessarily improve their lot. The most seemingly logical solutions to the poverty of many are the drug and sex trades.

Slavery has been a part of Mexico’s history since at least the arrival of Cortez and continues not only as sex slavery but also as a crushing exploitation of the cheap labor from the poor and uneducated.

“Slaves had the royal brand as well as their successive owners’ initials seared into their faces.”—Mexico Unconquered by John Gibler

Out of desperation large parts of the Mexican population have turned to destructive and illegal business operations in order to piece together a viable living in a brutal culture of presidential sell-outs to the wealthy and economic policies favoring the feudal lords.

“Some people claim that the only differences between the North American and ourselves are economic. That is, they are rich and we are poor, and while their legacy is Democracy, Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, ours is the counterreformation, Monopoly and Feudalism. But however influential the systems of production may be in the shaping of a culture, I refuse to believe that as soon as we have heavy industry and are free of all economic Imperialism, the differences will vanish.”—The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz.

Why is Mexico so different from its northern neighbor? This is the question that essayist Octavio Paz attempted to answer decades ago. Since Paz’s insights, many developments have widened the gap between Mexico and the U.S. Paz probably never imagined that large organized crime syndicates would generate one of the largest parts of Mexico’s economy by exporting drugs and sex slaves to gringoland’s lucrative buyers who crave exotic experiences to escape the dog-eat-dog reality they inhabit. Yet, the more we look into the apparent chasm between the two countries, the more we find similarities.

Fifty years after Paz’s observations, Mexico is still under the yoke of the Catholic Church. It is still not free of economic imperialism and hardly has any heavy industry. Its economy reflects only increases in monopolized industries. Mexico’s authoritarian theocracy has not evolved much since the Spanish conquistadors converted the Indians to Christianity at the point of a sword and established a feudal society despite a revolution or two.

Meanwhile Americans’ obsession with religious fervor often pulls the U.S. into the same elitist cesspool, as most obviously demonstrated during W’s administration when the neoconservatives had their decade of neoliberal economic policies—liberal only in the sense that a few corporations enjoy unleashed, laissez-faire freedom to dominate our society and to overrun democratic processes. This is what drove the U.S. into its current financial disaster. This is only one of many things that the U.S. shares with its southern third-world neighbor.

The U.S.’s penchant for a theocratic, authoritarian regime resembles the on-off cravings of a cocaine addiction, a hate-love thirst for a self-destructive escape from the real world. Another point that America holds in common with its southern neighbor is the perverse love affaire with neoliberal-style economics shared by its two political parties—the Democrats and Republicans. This has become especially flagrant now that Barack Obama and the Democrat-majority Senate and Congress have not found the will to impose a healthcare bill that meets the standards of other industrialized countries, including Japan and all of Europe. Compared to Europeans, Americans pay double for a less effective healthcare system. Some fifty-thousand Americans die every year because they have no access to healthcare. That’s many times more American casualties than in ten years of the so-called war against terrorism.

Nor has our two-party system been able to solve the financial meltdown. The banks do not want regulation and our government bows in submission to their request. Our government obeys the dictates of the large corporations by not reforming and regulating the financial system that remains in its current status quo of a cannibal capitalism, characteristic of both Mexico and the U.S. Millions of Americans have lost their homes and their jobs. Meanwhile, we do not want “socialism,” cry out the neoliberalists in their billion dollar propaganda machines, so to hell with consumer protections and any other kind of government oversight:
Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign adviser off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people caused the crisis in the first place. The new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle –up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.—Rolling Stone magazine, December 10, 2009, Obama’s Big Sellout, Matt Taibbi.

Obama can now be sautéed in a skillet over hell’s stove as it is ironic that our two-party system resembles the one party system in communist China while we, as voters, have a choice between neoliberal economic policies or neoliberal economic policies. Obama and other Democrat politicians campaigned to offer new alternatives to Milton Freidman’s version of the world. Once in office, though, the promise of “change you can believe in” falls into the shadows as the dominant corporations flash wads of campaign contributions to our political leaders.

Just as in Mexico, where the leaders of as many as three or four political parties are enthralled with neoliberal economics, so too, in the U.S. the leaders of the Democrat and Republican parties act as twins in their lust for the same policies that allow corporations to take over the role of government and that make politicians and the captains of industry richer at the expense of the middle class. Politicians in both Mexico and the U.S. are happy to placate the common, bovine populace with varying forms of comfortable religious spin about their moral foundations.

Counterreformation and Democracy
The Catholic Church began its crusade to hold a strong hand in all aspects of a Mexican’s life from the moment Cortes dropped anchor in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan soil, in 1518. At that time, the King of Castile held supreme power under the authority of the Church and his divine right as monarch to a special, direct, and open line with almighty God himself.

It was the same sort of monarchy against which George Washington revolted while struggling to establish a democracy in the late 1700s. Once Washington became immensely popular for his success, many early Americans hoped that he would usurp power and appoint himself king, just as his Mexican counterparts did in the early 1800s, from the priest-king Hidalgo to Iturbide and on through monarchical presidencies of Porfirio Diaz and his successors to the current President Calderon.

One of the single most distinguishing moments in America’s adoption of the Enlightenment Era arose when Washington, a deist, declined monarchy and helped to form a democracy with a legal system of checks and balances, unencumbered from any particular religion and with a state ruled by laws and not by man. This is the fundamental principle that distinguishes America from Mexico, although Americans, especially American politicians and corporatists, often slip and trip on their own foundations, and when they do jump over the laws that form America’s pillars, they pull America into Mexican traditions and into the third world.

Like capitalism, religion has little to do with democracy. Quite the contrary, it most often operates as a pseudo-fascist society in which the participants voluntarily give up substantial parts of their free will in exchange for becoming part of the group and group-think. You visit your local mosque, synagogue or church with the intention to question or change the beliefs, dogmas, rules or leadership, and most often the appointed authorities will eventually impose social sanctions, censors and stigma upon your mortal and spiritual existence until you submit your soul and your critical thinking to those anointed with the powers of God or you will be banned from the society—or worse.

In capitalist, theocratic societies like fascist Saudi Arabia, the consequences of questioning religious authority often leads to capital punishment in public places known commonly as chop-chop square where, among many other cases, a woman loses her head because she’s considered a witch for listening to music by the Beatles.

As in most of Latin America, in Mexico theocratic law has always maintained an authoritarian and pseudo-fascist hold over most of the culture and over almost every aspect of an individual’s life from contraception to birth and to death. By imposing its political authority, the Catholic Church had acquired a majority of Mexico’s land ownership, which included slavery.

“Large numbers of career men came over from Spain to take what they could get out of the newly conquered country, and although slavery was not countenanced, something which was actual slavery was introduced—the Indians came with the land, and they were used with the land.”— Zapata by John Steinbeck

During President Juarez’s administration in the late 1800s, the Catholic Church was prohibited by law from participating in politics, so strong and domineering was its hold on the country. Under President Juarez’s short political career some of the Catholic Church’s land was redistributed to the common people in a noble attempt to develop a middle class in a society where a huge gap divides the wealthy from the poor.

When Porfirio Diaz, Strong Man of Mexico, appointed himself president, he reversed most of Juarez’s short-lived policies and made sure that the land was returned to the Catholic Church and to the wealthy hacienda owners. The feudal lords, caudillos, converted the peasants into slaves again.

President Diaz continued the Mexican tradition of maintaining a strong theocratic regime while imposing right-wing economic policies, the type we now call neo-liberalism or Reaganomics, which made the captains of industry extremely wealthy by doing business in Mexico—such as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil or Morgan and Carnegie’s U.S. Steel. And now, neoliberal economics have brought America, including Mexico, to its knees and bowing to the policies and processes in which a small group of private investors profit from social services—education, healthcare, military, retirement, and housing—that government normally provides or at least regulates for the greatest gains for society in general and not just for the privileged few.

During his thirty-year dictatorship, Diaz controlled the traditional caudillos, feudal lords, to maintain authority in a system of power resembling, if not replicating, organized Mafias. Diaz created Mexico’s Gilded Age, which had first appeared in the U.S. after the Civil War and lasted until the early 1900s, leading up to the Great Depression of the 1930s. By using an alternative to neoliberal, right-wing economic policies, FDR pulled America out of the Great Depression by implementing Keynesian economics that calls on government to bridle corporate greed and power.

As one of Diaz’s “scientificos,” or economic advisors, from the U.S. explained:
The Mexican must be ruled from above because he is not fit for democracy, must be enslaved for the sake of the progress, since he would do nothing for himself or the world if not compelled by the whip.—John Kenneth Turner

As in Diaz’s time, this same neoconservative and theocratic regime continues on in Mexico to the present. Mexico’s current President Calderon, like Barack Obama, may give politically correct lip service to policies that develop the middle class, though he privatizes everything from public utilities to daycare centers, allowing business investors to increase their profits at the expense of the society.
The same can now be said about Barack Obama and the Democrat-majority Congress and Senate, which campaigned on tough regulations to bridle large corporations and on stimulating more competition in the powerful, oligopolistic healthcare industry. Meanwhile backstage of mainstream media, powerful Cigna, WellPoint, AHIP, among other insurance leviathans buy U.S. politicians with advisory salaries and campaign contributions—otherwise known in Mexico as bribes.

1) Source: U.S. Border Patrol,