Sunday, June 20, 2010

An American Triumvirate

Well now it's official.

The US political hidden agenda is now exposed, thanks to one unassuming little headline, probably intended to be drowned out by the World Cup vuvuzelas and the happy noise of North American Father's Day.

The headline, courtesy of CNN, also reported by Fox:

Louisiana lawmakers propose prayer to stop oil disaster

Yeah.

Politicians whose integrity has been bought out by corporate interests, yet again pushing religion on the public as a means of diverting attention from science and education, and empowering people to enjoy that nice warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment that prayer provides.

Politics, Corporate Power, Religion: the trinity is complete.

I have ranted about this before but never expected to be proven right in such blatant fashion.

The complete text of Louisiana Senate Resolution No. 145 is here.

They passed it unanimously.

CNN quotes Louisiana State Senator Robert Adley as follows:

"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,"...
"It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

Clearly.

Gee I kind of had the feeling that maybe the efforts made by mortals so far were somewhat inadequate and that perhaps improving that aspect of the response would take priority over voodoo chants sorry *prayer*.

Like maybe giving Billy Nungesser everything he's asking for, NOW.

Then, if you like, pray.

Like maybe getting Tony Hayward off his yacht in England and have him hip deep in waders in the marshland, catching oily birds.

Then pray. For the birds.

Actually, when you think about it, if "God" is all-knowing and all-powerful, why would he wait for mortals to pray for something before arranging it? Is it like some kind of dog-training thing?

Beg!
Gooood boy here's your treat.

I'd rather have a God that gives people the ability to fix their own problems, especially the man-made ones. It's bad enough we have to work around "acts of God".
In fact, people do have brains and the deep desire to explore, discover and innovate. Unfortunately, too much of this resource is wasted. Sick people can't learn, and proper health care is unavailable to millions in the United States.  Any alternatives to dysfunctional schools are equally expensive and out of reach for those of limited means.

These problems have not been solved and are far from being solved because to do so would undermine corporate interests.

The Louisiana Senators are right: there is nothing left to do but pray.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking Stock

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
--from The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, American journalist and satirist, 1911.



Whenever I hear people complain that the Evil Corporation du Jour (at the moment, BP) doesn't have a heart/soul/conscience, I think of the Scorpion and Frog parable:

The scorpion stings the frog even after it said it wouldn't, and even though it leads to both their deaths, because it's a scorpion and that's what a scorpion does.
The tragedy could have been prevented if the frog had understood the nature of the scorpion before trusting the scorpion with his life.

Preventing tragedies like oil spills is a little more complicated but the basic concept is the same.

Corporations have been around for centuries for both business and nonprofit ventures. One of the major advantages of incorporating your business it that it limits your liability:
for instance, if your business goes bankrupt, creditors can only seize the assets of the business, not your private holdings such as your house, car and bank account.

Most of the corporations that have been in the news lately are publicly-owned, that is their shares (pieces of ownership) trade on the stock market.
Shareholders share in profits when the company declares a dividend. If the business isn't doing so well and the dividend is reduced or dropped altogether, the share price will go down because people will be motivated to sell their shares before things get even worse.
If the share price goes down far enough, the company could end up virtually worthless (bankrupt).

This process, maintaining and increasing the dividend and share price, is the main motivating factor behind business decisions. Public corporations are responsible first and foremost to their shareholders.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. It is just the way it is, inevitable because of the essence of what a corporation is.

Democratic governments, on the other hand, are responsible to the people who voted them in. Just as corporations cater to shareholders, governments are meant to cater to voters. It's all about getting elected, and then re-elected.

Again, neither good nor bad. One system ideally balances the other.

HOWEVER

It doesn't really work that way anymore, particularly in the United States, because it takes a great deal of money to run an election campaign, and nowadays this great deal of money comes largely from:

corporations.

The US Supreme Court elevated the status of "corporation" to the level of "human being" way back in 1886, so this is nothing new; but just this past January that same court struck down a previous decision which limited corporate spending for political purposes. So in reality, the US government is still dependent on voters but the road between Washington and voters runs through the corporation.

And since corporations aren't really people, Supreme Court notwithstanding*, they don't have a heart nor a soul nor a conscience. Just loads and loads of money.

Now I'm not saying ban the corporations. We need them in order to have some sort of economy and way of life. It's like the polar bears: we don't want them to disappear, in fact we need them to maintain the balance of nature and the ecosystem. But if we run into one on the street (still possible in some parts of Canada) it is best to quietly get out of the bear's way. Good and evil is all in the context.

The first step to regaining some sort of balance between the common good and corporate good is for the public to understand the nature and role of corporations, then find ways to turn government attention directly to voters instead of running through the corporate middleman. And forget about "self regulating markets" - when left to themselves, markets are greedy, like the people who created them, but without a conscience because they were designed as such. People need to demand - loudly - that the government pay attention to the common good first, and only then will things begin to change.