Monday, October 18, 2010

The GOP Drive To Reinstitute Feudalism Gathers Steam


I've been to India more than most Americans. I drove there from Europe in 1969 and spent a couple years on the subcontinent. I've been back four times since. I like the place. I'm certain, though, that I wouldn't like to live there-- not even if I was Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India Asia and fourth-richest in the world, who just built himself a billion dollar 27-story skyscraper... as a home. Well, it's not really just for himself. He'll be sharing it with his wife and three children-- and a few hundred servants. It has three helicopter pads on the roof too-- despite complaints from the Indian Navy and environmental commissions. And the land it was built on was expropriated from... yes, the Currimhboy Orphanage Trust. In India, they have an easy way-- like here-- of getting around those things. Crude people call it bribery; the Ambani family is notorious for pulling governmental strings.

My last visit to India-- just Delhi this time-- was three years ago. I was struck by two parallel worlds vaguely occupying some space in common but... just barely. Arriving in Bangkok after a week in Delhi, I posted about the little invisible people:
I guess they're so small because they don't eat any protein-- or much of anything-- and neither did their parents, grandparents or ancestors. I'm not in India anymore; I'm in Thailand. You don't see much of that kind of grinding, horrific poverty in Bangkok. Nor do you see the levels of garish displays of conspicuous consumption like you see in Delhi. You see some and you do see some people in appalling poverty. But it isn't anything like the extremes you see in India. In Delhi wherever I went on the streets there were always clusters of small, very dark, very skinny people. They're everywhere, but no one seems to notice. There are hundreds of millions of them-- more of them in India than the entire population of the United States! And no one seems to notice them. They don't own anything but the rags on their backs and I've never been able to figure out how they exist. The begging can't possibly support them, even if every tourist and every trendy call center-walla gives (far from the case; no one notices them).

I didn't cry the whole time I was in India. It was simply too horrible to fathom. Families laying in the filth and dust with stray dogs night after night, wrapped in their rags, bundled around a little fire burning garbage. Delhi's cold. I've being seeing it since I started coming to India in 1969. It's just unfathomable. Has anyone cared about these millions and millions of people since a right-wing religious fanatic assassinated their champion, Mahatma Gandhi 60 years ago?

Mr. Ambani's ostentatious new manse is in the middle of the city with the world's most horrific expanse of slums. Conservatives-- no matter in India or America or anywhere-- get angry, hysterical and murderous should anyone point out that "freedom" means more than just the freedom to be the richest man in the world or have three heliports on the roof. The Ambani family-- infamous for being India's worst tax evaders and for shady business practices-- is the world's second-richest, after the Waltons, owners of WalMart and Arkansas.

Look, I'm not saying all the Ambanis-- Mukesh inherited his wealth, of course-- and all the Waltons should be lined up against walls and summarily shot. Even criminals on their level, bringing misery to untold millions, deserve a fair, speedy trial for the crimes before being... well, before being put in a position where their out-of-control rapaciousness can no longer wreak havoc on society. When Mukesh's father-- the ruthless crook who built the family empire-- died in 2002, Time wrote of the "noir version" of his biography:
In the 1980s, allegations were raised in Parliament and in newspapers that Ambani was a master manipulator and that he received favors from politicians, cajoled officials to interpret the rules his way, brought down endless audits and inspections on his rivals, and reputedly had the power even to make or break governments. In 1985, leaders of opposition political parties signed a letter urging a thorough legislative probe into Reliance over "massive and ingenious schemes and methods adopted by the company in gross contempt of public policies and statutory laws... Ambani's tactics continued to raise concerns after 1991 when liberalizing reforms began to kick in. Reliance nearly suffered a disastrous collapse in investor confidence in 1995, when the Bombay Stock Exchange raised questions over share duplications and other accounting anomalies that appeared to disadvantage minority shareholders. The company subsequently pleaded guilty to technical breaches and clerical errors but no intent to defraud was found. Confidence was ultimately restored and the share price rebounded.

Back to freedom. Never doubt the rich will fight to the death-- yours-- to enforce their definition of it on society. It's what the November election is all about, and it explains why the corporate backers of the GOP and the huge influx of foreign money seeking to make the U.S. weaker is being deployed-- by the Chamber of Commerce-- against progressive champions of working families like Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold, and Raul Grijalva. Right-wing hucksters like Pat Toomey (PA), Ron Johnson (WI), Marco Rubio (FL), Roy Blunt (MO), Dino Rossi (WA), Carly Fiorina (CA), Ken Buck (CO), John Raese (WV), Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Linda McMahon (CT) may be less likely to drool on themselves during a debate than the likes of Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell (DE), Rand Paul (KY), Sharron Angle (NV) or Joe Miller (AK), but they're probably even more dangerous. True believers in the rightist approach to law-of-the-jungle "freedom," these are the people who want to end protections for seniors, consumers, workers... you know, stuff like Social Security, the minimum wage, Wall Street regulations, Medicare, public education... just about everything that makes up "the commons" we were talking about yesterday. In fact, let's go back to where we left off in Thom Hartmann's stupendous book Threshold:
One of the reasons that nothing is being done, even though most Americans are concerned about global warming and favor some sort of caps on carbon emissions, want a Social Security system strong enough it can help them retire, and are supportive of national single-payer health care, is that corporate interests have largely taken over our government [and, ironically, have completely taken over the faux populist "movement," the Tea Party, as well].

...Many nations believe that their mineral or energy wealth is part of the commons-- the reason why Mexico, Venezuela, and many other nations of the world lay claim [on behalf of their citizens] to all of their oil for the national purse, rather than allowing individuals or corporations to extract and "own" it. In the United States, about half of all power companies are community-owned, as are most water and sewage systems, making them part of the commons, but power, water, and sewage systems are rapidly being privatized to give corporations monopoly power over these "necessary" services. In this country, the only real consensus on the commons has been our roads, police, fire, and the air we breathe-- and now governments are selling off roads (and in some communities even police and fire have been partially or entirely privatized), and our air has been under assault since we began extensively burning coal (1820s) and oil (1870s) to power industry and meet the needs of householders.

...Let's be blunt. The real agenda of the new conservatives is nothing less than the destruction of democracy in the United States of America. And feudalism is one of their weapons.

Their rallying cry is that government is the enemy, and thus must be "drowned in a bathtub." In that, they've mistaken our government for the former Soviet Union, or confused Ayn Rand's fictional and disintegrating America with the real thing.

The government of the United States is us. It was designed to be a government of, by, and for We the People. Its not an enemy to be destroyed; it's a means by which we administer and preserve the commons that we collectively own.

The Ambani family and the Walton family may see it as their enemy and something that curtails their freedom-- to exploit the commons for themselves-- but the enemy isn't us. The enemy is the Ambanis and Waltons. Shipping well-paying jobs overseas may be just what the doctor ordered according to well-mannered trained chimpanzees and dedicated servants of the American oligarchy, whether Tom Freidman or Rob Portman, but to the millions of American families devastated and destroyed because the bottom line-- and bonus pools-- for a few mighty corporations expands when middle-class jobs are sent to low-wage cesspools, it is nothing short of a catastrophe that the Freidmans and Portmans see as something the invisible little people-- our own-- will just have to contend with as best they can. Here's a corporate media propaganda film featuring well-known American corporate shills disguised as journalists on the glories of outsourcing:

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At 5:09 AM, Anonymous Mark Scarbrough said...

I've got nothing to add but "amen, brother." An exceptionally good post--among so many on this blog.


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