Empire Building US-Style

Apologies of an Economic Hitman

Directed by Stelios Kouloglou (2008)

Film Review

This is a very intriguing Greek documentary about John Perkins, author of the 2004 book Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In the film, Perkins summarizes his recruitment by the NSA to work as an “economic hitman.” Despite his close affiliation to US intelligence, he was technically under the employ of a private engineering company called Charles T Main Inc. It was his role to approach third world presidents with bribes to accept World Bank loans for massive infrastructure projects – which were usually built by major US companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton.

This was done with the deliberate intention of saddling the third world countries with debt they couldn’t repay. Their only option would be to seek refinancing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which usually demanded they slash public services and open up their resources to further exploitation by Wall Street interests .

As Perkins describes it, this was the strategy of choice (as opposed to direct military intervention) for expanding US empire between 1945-2000. Any third world leader who refused to play ball was openly threatened with assassination. The first step in dealing with a recalcitrant leader was to send in the “jackals,” CIA officers and contractors who would try to instigate a military coup. If this failed, US intelligence would send in an assassination team. If this also failed, they would fall back on military invasion and occupation (always a last resort).

The film zeroes in on the assassination (via plane crash) of Ecuadorian president Jaime Roldós Aguilera and Panamanian president Omar Torrijos in 1981. It also provides interesting background to the US invasion of Iraq, following Saddam Hussein’s rejection of a massive Bechtel oil pipeline project.

I was previously unaware of the CIA effort to instigate a military coup against Saddam in 1996. The CIA discarded the option of assassinating him because he had too many doubles. Even his own bodyguards never knew if they were guarding the real Saddam.

Shredding the Constitution: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State

Robert Greenwald (2015)

Film Review

War on Whistleblowers details the cases of four US whistleblowers who experienced severe government retaliation after exposing systematic wrongdoing to journalists.

The men profiled are marine Franz Gaye, who broke the story about the Pentagon refusal to replace Humvees with much safer MRAPs in the US occupation of Iraq; NSA senior executive Thomas Drake, who first blew the whistle on illegal NSA mass surveillance; Lockheed-Martin engineer Michael DeKort, who broke the story that Lockheed was supplying the Coast Guard with substandard boats and radios that weren’t waterproof; and Department of Justice lawyer Jim Risen, who first exposed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps.

Their stories are interspersed with commentary by iconic whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden (via Internet linkup), as well as the handful of journalists who have been brave enough to publish evidence of government corruption and criminality and members of the Project on Government Oversight and the Project for Government Accountability.

Each of the four whistleblowers went up his workplace chain of command in his agency and exhausted every option for addressing the problem internally. Each was fully aware of the potential consequences of their actions of going to the press. Yet after much soul searching, they saw whistle blowing as a preferable alternative than to colluding in their superiors’ criminality.

Paying the Price

Only Gaye was allowed to resume his career as an active duty marine. DeKort had his Lockheed position cancelled and was blackballed from further work in the defense industry. In addition to losing their jobs, both Drake and Risen experienced financial ruin, spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting felony charges the Obama Justice Department brought against them. Drake was charged under the Espionage Act, even though the information he shared with the Baltimore Sun was unclassified.

After seven years of persecution by the Justice Department, Drake eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor: excessive use of a computer without authorization. The charges against Risen were dropped after four years of legal battles.

The Distinction Between Leaking and Whistle Blowing

The film makes the clear distinction between leaking and whistleblowing. High level Obama administration officials constantly leak classified information to the press with no legal consequences.

Despite his campaign promises to make government more transparent and accountable, Obama has significantly increased government secrecy, as well as prosecuting more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

According to Snowden, the President’s purpose isn’t to make Americans more secure. It’s to protect government agencies and politicians from embarrassment a criminal prosecution.

His crackdown on whistleblowers is also a fundamental violation of the First Amendment. The whole intent of freedom of speech and the press is to ensure citizens’ right to criticize their government without being punished.

Counter-intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations

counter-intelligence

Part 1 The Company (aka the CIA)

Counter-intelligence is a five-part documentary examining the history, structure and function of America’s National Security State. The latter is a secretive, quasi-legal bureaucracy whose primary purpose is to enforce the will of the wealthy elite without interference by elected representatives. Laying out the series like a college course, filmmaker Scott Noble reveals the mechanism by which this invisible shadow government exercises near total control over US foreign and domestic policy. Part 1 discusses the CIA, the Joint Services Operation Command and the NSA

Noble defines “black operations” as illegal clandestine operations that are carried out without Congressional oversight or accountability. The National Security Act President Harry Truman signed in 1947 made covert operations the responsibility of the Central Intelligence Group, which wouldn’t become part of the CIA until the 1950s. .

Truman appointed a number of Wall Street bankers and lawyers to run covert operations. Their foreign trade experience (especially with fascist countries) supposedly made them “experts” in foreign relations. Traditionally top CIA officials have been recruited from the children of Wall Street elites at Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League universities.

Yale’s secretive Skull and Bones society has been a particularly fertile ground for recruiting CIA officers. The requirement for new Skull and Bones members to commit an illegal act (usually grave robbing) prepares them for the illegal covert operations they will carry out for the CIA.

Plausible Deniability

“The Company” emphasizes the role of private foundations and contractors (mercenaries) in concealing  the CIA’s role in assassinations, foreign coups and drug trafficking. The CIA funded the 2002 against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez by funneling millions of dollars through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This made it possible for the Bush administration to deny they played any role whatsoever in the coup.

Unlimited Budgets

A major feature of the National Security State is the total absence of oversight or accountability to any elected branch of government. Budgets are virtually unlimited, and there is no requirement for agencies that engage in black operations to report how they spend their funding.

The Joint Services Operation Command (JSOC) is a prime example. The JSOC, which technically falls under Pentagon, receives even less oversight than the CIA. JSOC has a 75 billion dollar budget and employs 200,000 covert operatives, many of them mercenaries. Noble believes the JSOC is a major culprit in trillions that have gone missing from the Pentagon budget.

Owing to its total lack of oversight or accountability, the JSOC is free to contract with a scumbag company like DynCorps, despite their collaboration with the Serbian mafia in sex trafficking – or the sex parties, involving little boys, they throw for Afghan officials.

The National Security Administration (NSA) enjoys even less fiscal accountability. The NSA, which has more operatives than the CIA and FBI combined (40,000), had an $11.6 billion budget in 2012. It also has its own film festival, ski club and yacht club.

CIA Domestic Spying

Noble concludes by touching on the CIA’s repeated and ongoing violation of the federal law prohibiting them from engaging in domestic covert operations. He briefly discusses Operation Chaos (a 1967-73 covert operation against anti-Vietnam war and civil rights activists), MK-Ultra (a 1957-73 project involving mind control experimentation on unwitting Americans) and Operation Mockingbird (a 1950-ongoing operation in which the CIA “recruits” journalists to present the Company in a favorable light).

Counter-intelligence: Shining a Light on Black OperationsScott Noble
Metanoia Films (2013)
Also posted at Veterans Today

Is the President Being Blackmailed?

surveillance

 Whistleblower Reveals NSA Spied on Obama Before 2004

In 2005, NSA whistleblower Russ Tice exposed illegal and unconstitutional NSA involvement in widespread surveillance against lawmakers, the Supreme Court and the American public. In the video below, he reveals the NSA was spying on Barack Obama long before his 2004 election to the senate.

Back in 2005, the corporate media dismissed Tice’s allegations, based on NSA assertions he was mentally ill and a liar. Now, based on Edward Snowden’s momentous disclosures, he feels 75% of his claims have been vindicated. He promises there are even more shocking disclosures to come.

Tice states that the Washington Post informed the NSA two weeks before Snowden went public that they had a leak, necessitating Snowden’s urgent flight from Hawaii to Hong Kong.

He also reveals that NSA was already spying on Obama and his family and staff long even before he ran for the US senate. He hypothesizes the NSA may be blackmailing the President, just as former FBI director J Edgar Hoover used his extensive files on Kennedy’s sex life to blackmail John F Kennedy.

According to Tice, this may explain why Obama has reversed himself on so many of his campaign promises, especially those related to the restoration of constitutional civil liberties.

Former intelligence insider Wayne Madsen and other pundits have speculated that Obama is being blackmailed over gay sexual activity in his past.

photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

An NSA-approved Guide to Revolution

Activists who advocate for violent revolution don’t advertise their views on the Internet for obvious reasons. That being said, Storm Clouds Gathering treads a really fine line with their recent. Revolution: An Instruction Manual. They don’t exactly advocate using violence to dismantle corporate fascism. But they don’t really condemn it, either. Instead they argue from perspective that revolutions are mainly won by psychological means and it makes most sense to attack the state where they are weakest.

The filmmakers are totally non-ideological in their approach to dismantling capitalism. In fact, they begin with the assertion that any revolution with a an inflexible pre-ordained view of the desired outcome is doomed to failure.

They then share a general overview of their own vision – a loose confederation of self-governing communities similar to the Iroquois Federation. This was the model for the Articles of Confederation, which was the founding document of the United States of America before the bankers and mercantalists used the Constitution to strip the 13 original states of their power.

Audience Participation Required

The film is interactive and requires audience participation. In fact, it stops at 1:47 minutes until the viewer answers “yes” or “no” whether they believe the system can be reformed. If they click “yes” the video ends. I clicked “no.”

The strategy the filmmakers lay out for dismantling the corporate state involves removing, one by one, what they identify as the three “pillars of power”:

  1. Control of the “public mind,” as it concerns patriotism and nationalistic beliefs, such as freedom, democracy and terrorism.
  2. Control of money and finance through money creation, taxation and inflation.
  3. A state monopoly on violence to compel obedience through fear.

How They Got Past the NSA Censors

The film finishes quite abruptly by recommending people read three books on revolution, including Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy. This was an extremely wise choice, as this is the training manual the State Department and CIA-linked foundations widely distributed to activists engaged in the “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.

I have written at length about the CIA role in financing the nonviolent movement, as well as nonviolent guru Gene Sharp’s historic links with the Pentagon, State Department, and US intelligence.

Thierry Meysson, editor of Voltaire Net, was the first to go public (in 2005) with Sharp’s longstanding links to the military-intelligence complex.* The only weakness of Meysson’s original article is his failure to cite his references. I researched the sources and confirmed each of his original assertions for a 2012 Daily Censored article entitled The CIA and Nonviolent Resistance.

Also see How the CIA Promotes Nonviolence, The CIA Role in the Arab Spring and How Nonviolence Protects the State

*In 2002, Meysson’s The Big Lie was also the first to expose US intelligence involvement in 9-11.

Obama’s Privatization Agenda

obama

Guest post by Steven Miller

(This is the 3rd of 6 guest posts in which Miller describes how Obama is re-engineering society on behalf of the ruling elite.)

Part III – Obama’s Privatization Agenda

From Obama’s State of the Union Address:

So, tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.”  (9)

This statement is a call for privatization that follows the speculative agenda described previously. Supposedly “to save taxpayer’s money”, the President offers corporations ownership of the public infrastructure that was formerly built by and for the public. Infrastructure includes roads and bridges, also schools and universities, the electrical grid, water and sewers, parks and ports, airports and dams. Obama even proposes to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA –  see Republicans Veer Towards Socialism), Roosevelt’s signature project that electrified the South. His plans open the door to the full seizure and privatization of public resources as corporate private property. What was originally built for free public access will increasingly be available only to those who can afford the fees.

Since the financial Meltdown of 2008, the federal government has been “nationalizing” the levers of control of society in the interests of the capitalist class. The Bailout began with the proclamation that “banks are now agents of the government”. It is moot to discuss whether the banks took over the government or the government took over the banks. They are merging together. Mussolini, the theoretician of fascism, held that fascism was the merger of the corporations and the state.

Obama quickly intervened in Detroit to reorganize the auto industry, though he refuses to intervene today to protect the city government or pensions. The federal government is reorganizing both public education and health care. The NSA revelations show that the federal government has also nationalized everyone’s information.

Since 2001, the Department of Homeland Security, financed at an average of some $30 billion a year, has privatized many government functions and outsourced a huge number of police activities to corporations. As Occupy demonstrated to all, DHS has virtually federalized the police.

It is important to understand the state and its powers. The state – including the army, the courts and the police – is distinct from the government. The government collects taxes and decides how to spend public money. This is essentially the administration of things. The state’s role is guaranteed by the rule of law to use coercion and force to protect the property of the ruling class and to guarantee its rule. Hence the state is principally about the control of people. This distinction is fundamental to understanding the maneuvers and powers of capitalism today.

No longer under public accountability or control, the state apparatus today plays a major role in engineering how society will be transformed for the ruling class. Just as in other periods of US history, the state operates to implement the policies of the dominant block of capitalists. Currently this means the state will use its powers of force to facilitate the privatization of everything tangible.

References and Resources

9)  www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2013

To be continued.

photo credit: SS&SS via photopin cc

***

Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

Originally posted at Daily Censored

Talk About Testicularity

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger testifying in front of the British Home Affairs Committee about his decision to publish Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA files. When one member accuses him of committing a criminal offense, Rusbridger makes utter mincemeat out of him:

Here is a partial transcript of the testimony published in the December 3 Guardian

[starts at 22:00 minutes on the tape]

Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?

Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.

Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.

Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.

Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58A of the Terrorism Act, 2000?

Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.

Ellis: Now 58,000 documents were sent or communicated by you – as editor-in-chief of the Guardian you caused them to be communicated, and they contained a wealth of information. It was effectively an IT-sharing platform between the United States and the United Kingdom intelligence services wasn’t it?

Rusbridger: I’ll leave you to express those words.

Ellis: So you decline to answer that. Very well. But that was information which contained a wealth of data, protected data, that was both secret and even top secret under the protective classifications of this country.

Rusbridger: They were secret documents.

Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?

Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.

Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?

Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?

Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.

[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]

Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.

Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?

Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland  [CUT OFF]

I know I promised to post an excerpt from my new novel A Rebel Comes of Age, but this was too good and I couldn’t resist.

The Phone Company That Said No to NSA

nacchio-10-22click on image to enlarge

Former US West CEO Released from Prison

Former US West CEO Joseph Nacchio was released from prison last week after completing a four year insider trading sentence. He still claims the NSA framed him on the insider trading charges – after he refused to participate in their illegal phone surveillance program in 2001. US West was the only major telecommunication program that refused to spy on its customers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Nacchio feels vindicated by Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about NSA spying on Americans’ phone and email communications.

Nacchio was convicted of selling US West stock based on inside information about the company’s deteriorating financial health. He denies this, claiming he believed US West’s lucrative contracts with the federal government would continue. Instead his refusal to cooperate with the NSA resulted in the wholesale cancellation of  government contracts.

Nacchio had evidence supporting this claim. However the judge ruled it was classified and prevented his defense team from presenting it. The redacted NSA files were only made public after the former CEO was convicted and sentenced. However Harper’s and others have always supported Nacchio’s contention that he was prosecuted in retaliation for saying “no” to the NSA.

Whether or not Vlaccio is guilty of insider trading (all the legal arguments are summarized at Race to the Bottom), the most illuminating information in the redacted files is that the NSA was pressuring US West to spy on customers in February 2001. This was a good seven months before the 9-11 attacks, the supposed justification for curtailing Americans’ civil liberties.

 Image credit: Indict Dick Cheney

Originally published at Veterans Today

The NSA is the Tip of the Iceberg

barcode

Guest post by Steven Miller and Satish Musunuru

(Part 5 of a five-part post on the corporatization of Internet surveillance.)

The capitalist class deliberately distorts the class nature of the state. This is a scientific question, not an ideological one. Government is the administration of public money and resources in the name of society. The state is different. It is made up of the police, the courts and jails, the army, et al, and of course, the NSA. The capitalist class loves to present the state as a body that somehow stands above society, neutral to class interests, reigning with wisdom. One thing we have learned from Occupy, however, is that the police always seem to defend the corporations. They are hardly neutral. For both government and the state, law is simply the will of the ruling class, written down.

The purpose of the state is to defend the relations of production that are organized and imposed by the ruling class. Thus the state is a function of the relations of production, not the other way around. However, once established, it plays a formative role in organizing the relations of production for the class that rules the state.

In capitalism’s Industrial Era, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI collected dossiers on every politician, movement and individual that might pose a threat to state control. Today digital technology leads inexorably to the Surveillance State, actually only a small part of the entire state apparatus.

The US state has many manifestations: the military industrial complex, the media industrial complex that organizes the world’s most sophisticated propaganda war 24/7, the prison industrial complex, the corporate state, the surveillance state, the Migra, the militarized police we all saw at Occupies, open violations of the Constitution, the Department of Homeland Security, private prisons, secret ops, drones, extraordinary rendition, torture at every level, and so much more. Then of course we have the army, equipped with the world’s largest military budget, armed with some serious hardware, including the world’s largest supply of nuclear weapons. Corporations are inseparable from this. As they merge with the state, corporations today are rapidly developing police powers.

Social movements can sometimes reform the government, but state power does not permit you to reform the state. The idea that somehow the state will sit by passively while workers organize socialism is simply a fantasy. The state is programmed to intervene whenever the relations of production are threatened. Here and there, in relatively small-scale cases – Mondragon workers, for example, Kerala in India, Cuba, Nicaragua at one phase, etc – the nuisance is such that the state chooses not to intervene – but these are few and far between. The job of the state is to identify threats to capitalist control and move on them.

In the US today, the NSA works at one level; at another level, Homeland Security outsources police functions to corporations through contracts for profit. It’s budget for doing this has averaged over $30 billion a year since 2001. During Occupy, across the country, DHS has established “fusion centers”, often in corporations or banks, where police gathered surveillance and advised corporate leaders. Domain Centers (Oakland is the second, after New York City) are required for every port in the country.

The state’s response to the NSA scandal has been to go on a marketing campaign: “Resistance is Futile! We’ve got things coming at you that you can’t even imagine, way beyond Darth Vader!” This is a point worth considering. How can the American people possibly fight this?

The most basic step is to understand that things don’t have to be this way. Code can be changed and architectures can be re-designed. This is really an aspect of the tremendous battle of ideas that is breaking out in society. Every living system on Earth is in decline, except corporations. Corporations can be abolished by popular will if people are on the same accord, just as private property in slavery was abolished 150 years ago. These are historic times.

The American people have a long revolutionary history, but little recent experience with the process. Thus we don’t recognize the critical importance of these essential first steps of the battle that are appearing today. The future world will either be all corporate or all public. We can decide.

Here is how one of America’s great revolutionaries – John Adams, an outstanding exponent of capitalism – explained the process:

The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease?

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced (emphasis added). The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations….

The people of America had been educated in an habitual affection for England, as their mother country; and while they thought her a kind and tender parent, (erroneously enough, however, for she never was such a mother,) no affection could be more sincere. But when they found her a cruel bedlam, willing like Lady Macbeth, to “dash their brains out,” it is no wonder if their filial affections ceased, and were changed into indignation and horror.

This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”   (13)

Background and Notes

13)  John Adams to H. Niles, February 13, 1818

photo credit: paul.klintworth via photopin cc

Reposted from Daily Censored

Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

***

Satish Musunuru draws upon his training as an engineer and his experience as a professional in Silicon Valley to understand the relationship between technology and corporate capitalism and how it has brought us to the ecological and societal crisis we find ourselves in. You can email him at guruji323@hotmail.com

The Corporatization of the Internet

bill gates

Guest post by Steven Miller and Satish Musunuru

(Part 3 of a five-part series about the corporatization of Internet surveillance.)

Bill Gates Dismisses Open Source Pioneers as Communists

From the beginning, Bill Gates argued that no public discussion of who controls the Internet should even be permitted. He famously called open-source pioneers  “new modern-day sort of communists”. (6)  Bill Clinton opined that corporations were the best way to develop the Internet. Al Gore and Gates re-defined the web as the “Information Super Highway”.

Of course, we know that super highways often have tollbooths, where you pay for the privilege of driving your car. Clinton began the massive wave of privatization, of both society in general and of the Internet in particular, that flourished under George W Bush and is expanding even more with Barack Obama. Clinton’s de-regulation of Wall Street set the stage for the looting of American by Wall Street banks, the 1% and their corporate attack dogs. Rajiv C. Shah & Jay P. Kesan amply describe this in “The Privatization of the Internet’s Backbone Network” (7)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the entire electromagnetic spectrum of the atomic vibrations we use for communication. This energy spectrum is as fundamental as the sun, but it was given away to corporations for chickenfeed. This was a huge step encouraging the privatization of Nature and natural processes.

Then the insurance model, essentially the cable-TV model, was imposed on the Internet: you pay a corporation for access to something that could easily be accessible for everyone for nothing. After all it’s simply a process of how you configure the software.

This massive centralization was clearly the exact opposite to the original intent of the Internet. The few massive super-corporations that already controlled the airwaves became ever more powerful. The great Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano stated, “Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few”. (8)

The essential structure of the Internet is simply written down as code. It can be designed to benefit the public, or it can be configured to benefit private profit. Larry Lessig explains:

The architecture of the original Internet minimized the opportunity for control, and that environment of minimum control encouraged innovation…. At its birth, the Internet gave individuals great freedoms of speech and privacy.

But the story about liberty on the original Net had a sequel: what the architecture could give, it could take away. The inability to control was not fixed in nature. It was a function of the architecture. And as that architecture changed, the ability to control would change as well…. Technologies were being deployed to better monitor and control behavior, with the consequence, for better or worse, of limiting the liberty of the space. As the architecture changed, the freedom of the space would change, and change it did.” (9)

Privatization is therefore not something that just happens. It is engineered. This goes deeper. These days, people like to imagine the Internet as a vast network, spanning the globe, where gigabytes of information send pictures and blogs around the world in microseconds. However, the Internet is dwarfed by a larger, and far more sinister system of networks, the Intranet. The Intranet is the collection of corporate and military networks that are protected from the public by firewalls. These have expanded again into extranets – including collaborators from other private concerns into shielded activities. Needless to say, individuals have no access to their computers, but corporations and the NSA have access to yours.

Dan Schiller described the formative role of the Internet’s evil twin – the Intranet – back in 1999:

Corporate applications of Internet technology – intracorporate and business-to-business – comprise the true fulcrum of Internet system development. Corporate networks are the guiding hand of technical experimentation within cyberspace and comprise the leading site of its creative ferment. (emphases added)”   (10)

Fast forward to 2013 – the corporate control of digital technology today has a evolved far from the original vision of a vast global network where everything is open for everyone. We could have public servers at no cost – we have public airports and roads – but we don’t. Increasingly everything is in the Cloud, and corporations own and control the Cloud. Software components, like those Berners-Lee accessed for free, are now sold as apps. Corporations determine who can use them, for a price. Even if certain corporate products are free, it is largely because corporations stand to gain even more from the data they have about users using those products. Facebook is a good example here because while the social networking service is arguably free, the data that they collect and analyze on a daily basis is far more valuable.

Almost all of the data and intelligence reside on the cloud, which is a fancy way of saying massive data centers spread around the world, owned by massive corporations like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft. etc. These data centers account for up to 10% of the worldwide usage of electricity.

The computers and cell phones we now use constantly reach out to the cloud for even the smallest of activities. When we speak into a cellphone and see our words appearing on the screen, what’s happening is that our voice is sent over to the cloud, where it gets converted into English language words, and then sent back to the phone. It takes only milliseconds to do this and is not easily visible to the user. The cloud stores every word we ever say to the phone at least for a period of time. Such a simple act of converting spoken words to written words can actually be done on the phone itself, if it had the program, but it has become cheaper and more advantageous for corporations to do it on the cloud.

A more recent evolution is the development of “computers” with greatly devolved capacity, really just shells of computers, with little storage and an always-on connection to the cloud. Unlike normal computers, these computers cannot function without the Internet. They are simply a window into the cloud. If you lose one of these “computers” you lose only the hardware and none of the data because everything is stored in the cloud, which is owned by these private corporations. This is cited as a convenience to consumers but, as we see with the NSA, it can be potentially dangerous to live life in the cloud. Facebook claims they own everything ever posted on their platform – photos, videos, writings, songs, you name it.

Microelectronics drives all this and is changing the nature of property. In the 16th Century most private property was in land; all of it was tangible. Today lots property is intangible, including things like software, algorithms, and ideas. But private property is still the divine right of thugs. Thanks to the Supreme Court, we understand these thugs are “corporate people”. So what kind of people are these?

The great book, The Corporation, points out that corporations exhibit characteristics of a very specific kind of person – namely psychopaths! (11)  Like psychopaths, corporations are grandiose, manipulative, both charming and deceptive, unable to feel remorse and always refuse to accept responsibility. So we happily trust all of our technology and most of our military to the tender mercies of… psychopaths. You know, nice people like Ted Bundy!

We can draw some conclusions here:

  • As long as society allows the private ownership of information technology by corporations for profit, the unlimited positive potential of technology will be deformed to guarantee that profit, short-term, regardless of the long-term destruction of society and the planet.
  • Corporations control the Surveillance State, not vice-versa.
  • Corporations control every technology as private property. The sad lessons that Global Warming is trying to tell us, the utter corporate incompetence in the abuse of antibiotics, (just two examples!) shows that corporate control is inherently incompetent and short sighted.
  • Therefore only the expansion of real public ownership and control of technology, at every level, in every branch of the economy, can release the wondrous potential of technology without abuse. The world of the very near future is going to be either all corporate, with no public, or all public, with no corporations. Which future it will be is up to us.

Background and Notes

7)  “The Privatization of the Internet’s Backbone Network” by  Rajiv C. Shah & Jay P. Kesan (http://www.governingwithcode.org/journal_articles/pdf/Backbone.pdf‎)

8) Zinn, Howard. A people’s history of the United States: 1492-present. 2003

8)  Lessig, op cit p 140

9)  Lessig, op cit, p 140

10)  Dan Schiller. Digital Capitalism. 1999, p 17

11)  Bakan. The Corporation – The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. 2004. p 56  (You can also view the fine movie of the same name – on
DVD.)

 To be continued.

photo credit: Domain Barnyard via photopin cc

Reposted from Daily Censored

Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

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Satish Musunuru draws upon his training as an engineer and his experience as a professional in Silicon Valley to understand the relationship between technology and corporate capitalism and how it has brought us to the ecological and societal crisis we find ourselves in. You can email him at guruji323@hotmail.com