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

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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

Takeover

corporate flag

 Guest blog by Steven Miller

(The following is an brilliant essay in 6 parts about the takeover of democracy by monopoly capitalism – that includes solutions.)

Capitalism in the 21st Century is no longer based largely on profits resulting from a real  economy productive process, windfall financial gains are acquired through large scale speculative operations, without the occurrence of real economy activity, at the touch of a mouse button.”  Michel Chussodovsky

Part I – Summary

It is a statement of fact, not ideology, that a class of billionaires, principally based in finance and speculation, control the levers of society. Since the Crash of 2008, the 1% has been waging a war against society that drives the 99% further towards disaster and ruin. Their End Game is the complete privatization of everything that is today owned by the public. This process is inevitable as long as political power remains in their hands. The question is: can this system be reformed? Another is: If not, can we fight and win? If so, how? These are strategic questions.

There are decisive moments in the history of capitalism when one form of wealth, one kind of property, becomes the most lucrative. The capitalists that control this property often become the dominant sector of the capitalist class and take control of the state, dictating policy to society. Marx writes, “The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”  (1)

The ruling class – call them the 1%, call them capitalists – commonly wages war against itself to seize markets and articulate the strategic view that makes the most profit, especially for them. They call this “the free market”. It is rigged and completely stacked in favor of the billionaires.

When the most profit-making form of labor was slavery, the slave owners ran the government and the state. They were succeeded, after the Civil War, by the railroad barons, industrialists, who owned property in factories, coal, and iron. Slave production was replaced by industrial production. Human slavery was replaced by the far more productive wage-slavery. Early bankers played an enormous role in this transition. Industrial production predominated into the 1950s. It didn’t disappear, but the control of capital passed to banks, investors and finance.

Now it’s all changing again. The tools themselves, the technology, determine which sector of capitalists comes out on top. Today the most revolutionary tools are the vast array of digital, electronic and communication technologies. This revolution is transforming society in ways unforeseen just a decade ago. When Obama was elected in 2008 – the same year as the great economic Meltdown – there was no such thing as social media, no apps, no data in the cloud, no viral videos. The IPhone was only a few months old. The tools are changing fast, driven by constantly evolving hardware and software.

As you read through this essay and examine the evidence, please keep the bigger question in mind. Can this system actually be changed in some sort of meaningful way? What would it take? How do we fight and win?

The growing electronic production of almost everything demonstrates what Karl Marx was referring to when he said, “capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction.” But it was Adam Smith, not Marx, who first proved that the real source of profit is human labor.

References and Resources

 Lead quote – Michel Chussodovsky. “The Speculative Endgame: The ‘Government Shutdown’ and Debt Default’, a Multibillion Bonanza for Wall Street”, Center for Global Research

 1)  Communist Manifesto. Chapter 1

To be continued.

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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

photo credit: Adbusters Culturejammers HQ via photopin cc

Originally posted at Daily Censored

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.

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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