Any Corruption Quickly Becomes All Corruption

I see an inevitable course of corruption.

When a society allows corruption in its management, it necessarily drives out the non-corrupt because the corrupt have an advantage. Over time only corruption remains. The US is there. There is no “government” managing things and rule of law is fading fast. Society is not managed except as allowed by interests. Literally nothing is done for the benefit of the public unless powerful interests will benefit. The US is now a collection of competing interests with the public irrelevant, public interests ignored.

The UK is getting there fast. The corrupt government won’t have an election even as the people overwhelmingly want them out.

But Wait, There’s More

Interests compete for power over society’s resources. Ultimately the largest and most corrupt use the power of size – or violence – to drive the others out. Ultimately you end up with a central corrupt power that controls all for its own benefit. Putin is that. Kim Jun Un is that. Trump wants to be.

That is, if society tolerates corruption.

What Happened To Us?

Beginning in the 1970s a well-funded PR campaign convinced people to accept policies handing society’s seed corn and governance to the wealthy. It was called “neoliberalism.” People were told government is bad. They were told business & the wealthy were better at managing society. This campaign has been ongoing since.

Reagan & Thatcher were swept into power. The implemented “shock doctrine” tactics to transform their economies away from benefitting the public toward benefitting the wealthiest. Public assets were privatized – turned over to the wealthy. Investment in infrastructure, education, research & social betterment (society’s seed corn) was cut, and continued to be cut. Government protections of the public and the environment (“regulations”) were removed.

Taxes on the wealthy and their corporations were also dramatically cut, eventually resulting in massive inequality and division.

The political influence of massive wealth dramatically increased. Now governments are only able to operate if wealthy interests allow it.

And here we are.

UK “Conservatives” Killing the NHS for Private Profit

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Living With The NHS.

I live in the UK now. The “conservative” UK government is engaged in a pay-for-play operation to destroy then privatize the National Health Service (NHS) so big companies can make the kind of profits they make in the United States. (Expert tip for beginners: “Pay-for-play” is the definition of “conservative” policies, Every. Single. Time.)

The government is currently run by the Conservative Party, called “Tories”. They have been playing the standard “conservative” game for almost 15 years: cut taxes for the rich & their corporations, then complain about “deficits” and cut the things government does to make people’s lives better. Eventually things collapse, and public assets can be privatized so the wealthy get the return instead of the pubic. Here the cutting game is called “austerity” – cutting the budget of everything, every year. Things are so bad now in the UK that every single thing is breaking down.

The NHS in particular is in crisis. There are HUGE waiting lists for everything, even in emergency rooms. Facilities are not maintained – not even painted. There are 8,858 vacancies for doctors. The doctors and other workers in the system are not paid much, many are giving up and leaving. The conservatives running the government are doing what they can to keep the NHS from hiring new healthcare workers, including banning health care worker immigrants from bringing their families to the UK.

They previously had promised to address the shortage by increasing the number of places at medical schools from 7,500 to 15,000 and to target more new doctors to areas that need them the most.

And Then This

That was then. In today’s news, Government U-turn on plans to double number of medical students in England,

But a leaked letter written jointly by health minister Andrew Stephenson and the minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, to the independent regulator the Office for Students, says they will fund only 350 additional places for trainee doctors in 2025-26. This is less than a quarter of the annual number widely anticipated and there is no guarantee that even that level of resource will be repeated.

350 places, not 7,500. No guarantee on even the 350. So with this crisis at the NHS and this huge shortage of doctors the conservatives are cutting back the number of doctors to be trained.

And there it is.

Humans And Atrocities

People are people everywhere.

The US has its dark past. Slavery. Genocide of Native Americans. CIA coups overthrowing democracies. Invasions. Etc.

But there’s nothing special about the US and its various apartheids, genocides and atrocities. Right now it’s Israel, moving from apartheid to genocide. We all know the history of European colonialism, Germany’s genocide, the Balkans… There’s China and Tibet ad the Uyghurs. Look at Rwanda … it’s everywhere.

Human civilization is barely able to contain the underlying hatreds and violence. Certain types of people take advantage of this by inciting, stoking the hatreds to get what they want because they don’t care about the consequences to others. The current formula in the Western world is to use immigrants as the “other” to demonize. “Invasion” is the word the right is using to “other” immigrants now in the US, UK and EU. Hatred was mostly directed against Muslims for a while but now it is pretty much any immigrants. (If you think desperate, terrified people fleeing violence, extreme inequality and the climate crisis are the enemy you’d better realize that’s quite possibly you in a few years.)

Civilization doesn’t continue without leadership willing to fight that. And you can’t get and keep that kind of leadership if your system is open to corruption. This is because if corruption is enabled then the bad actors drive out the good ones who can’t compete because they won’t be corrupt. (That’s why progressives don’t win here.)

I’m not optimistic about the future.

Ignore ALL The Words

Ignore all the words. That’s just stuff said to hide what’s happening.

Just look at what is being done. That is the only truth now.

More than 2 million Palestinians are being bombed without mercy. They are being starved and treated as less than human. Their homes, hospitals, schools, etc are being destroyed to keep them from being able to return. It’s happening right there in front of us.

The billionaires around the world are growing ever more wealthy, and are using that wealth to create an unbreakable system to keep things that way. Societal systems (democracy, information, rule of law etc) that enabled people to take care of each other are being destroyed. The rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.

The climate crisis is right in front of our noses, but the polluters control the levels of societal power. They will do what they can to keep themselves on top. They don’t care what happens to the rest of us or to the future.

Ignore all the words. All of them. We live in a propaganda bath designed to keep us from acting on what we see happening to us.

COP28

COP28 stands for the 28th year of the “Conference of Parties” to climate change. THIS COP called for a transition away from use of fossil fuels in its final report.

It took 28 YEARS before a climate conference said that burning fossil fuels and allowing the resulting carbon pollution to be dumped into the air was a problem!

What does that tell you?

(Hint: It tells you that fossil fuel companies have been able to use their vast resources to influence and control governments around the world.)

How The Bribery And Corruption Work

When we allow “public service” top be a path to wealth we end up with self-dealing “public servants” who are in it entirely for their own careers/enrichment and not even a little bit concerned with the public interest. The influencers know that, and use it.

Jack Abramoff was one such influencer. He was a Republican “lobbyist” who was actually prosecuted for corruption, back when occasionally people were prosecuted for that. This from a 60 MINUTES episode, Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist’s playbook, explained how it works:

Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Tell them they can do really well after leaving government, and “We owned them.”

Biden, like Obama and the Clintons, made a fortune in “speaking fees” after leaving “public service.” That is just bribery, normalized. No one is invited to “speak” after public service if they rub the right people the wrong way and everyone currently IN “public service” knows that.

From Corruption: “Take The Gold Or Take The Lead”

Take The Gold Or Take The Lead

Our system has become corrupted and everyone knows what I mean. Everyone understands that government officials who “play ball” can get a huge paycheck after leaving government if they help certain big businesses while serving in government. The Nation explains, in When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452 Percent Raise (On Average), Secret deals, bribery and “buying” members of Congress are commonplace in today’s government. (See also: Tauzin, Billy.) (And: Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law.)

Neil Barofsky was Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the preface to his book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, Barofsky explained that people in government are given two choices, “the gold or the lead.” From the NY Times review, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Mr. Barofsky, wearing an unseasonal wool suit at odds with a “Washington-appropriate wardrobe,” is poised to let the hostess seat them at a front table of her choosing, but Mr. Allison insists on a private table in the rear. Then he gets down to business.

“Have you thought at all about what you’ll be doing next?” Mr. Allison asks Mr. Barofsky, soon adding, “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”

“Allison was essentially threatening me with lifelong unemployment,” Mr. Barofsky concludes, and alternatively suggesting a plum government appointment some day if Mr. Barofsky would simply “change your tone.”

When Mr. Barofsky tells his deputy of the exchange, the deputy says, “It was the gold or the lead,” resorting to the lingo of their joint experience prosecuting Latin American drug kingpins in New York: Cooperate and share the riches, or don’t and get plugged.

There are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

In America now, there are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

Corruption And Consequences

Silicon Valley Bank fails…

Corruption allowed the finance industry to operate outside of sensible government oversight, even as the world has experienced the consequences of this over and over again. So here in Silicon Valley and around the world, tech employees are waiting to find out if they’ll get their paychecks or get laid off next week. The world is wondering if contagion will spread that fear. Again. (Last time, because of corruption, not one banker type was held accountable. Not one.)

Also here in Silicon Valley it is raining harder than almost ever – except for a couple weeks ago. Flooding everywhere. I mean, torrential, incredible rain pouring down right now. This is because corruption has caused governments to allow the industry causing this to keep putting more and more carbon into the air even as we all know what the consequences will be.

The news lately has been about train derailments devastating localities. This happens because corruption allows wealthy rail-owners to keep governments from making them operate safely.

Inequality is now completely out-of-control. 60% of Americans now live paycheck-to-paycheck, not even able to raise $500 to cover an emergency like a car breakdown. The government doesn’t raise the minimum wage or otherwise address this because of obvious corruption. Million upon millions are spent convincing these people to blame government for this and vote for those backed by that money, and abolish democracy. “I am your retribution.”

The Supreme Court “rules” that this is all OK. Any amount of secret money is allowed to influence elections. People trying to fix this face millions of dollars spent smearing them in LOCAL elections. This Supreme Court we have is the way it is because of corrupt money spent to put them there.

Is there a common theme here?

The Democrats Were Supposed To Protect The Working Class

This blog chronicles the collapse of democracy, so here’s a post for that.

Chris Hedges, The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It, says it’s too late,

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

[. . .]

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.

[. . .]

America will descend into a Viktor Orbán-type of authoritarianism without profound political, social and economic reform.

I agree with every word of this exceptional piece except the idea that we could have walked out of the Democratic party. Things were too broken by that point and it wouldn’t have fixed anything. And the neoliberal Dems would have fought it and killed it just like they’re fighting now to kill the progressive wing. (Nader tried to “send a message” which helped Dems to lose in 2000, and the Dems of course still never got the message and just doubled down.)

My feeling is that when the (executives and Boards of) corporations banded together to pool their money to destroy democracy – sometime in the 70s – that was it. Dems not only didn’t fight back, they took the corporate side. Lots of us credit the Powell memo and it at least reflected the broader thinking that was happening then. They eroded whatever protections we had against big money running things, and there was no turning back.

For regular people they thought the Democratic party was their protector and when the Dems took the money and bought into the neoliberal (free markets etc) scam, those voters started slipping away. Then came the 2008 crash and Obama campaigning on getting rid of NAFTA, and then he didn’t and people’s lives only got worse for 8 more years, and now they’ll vote for a Trump even now before they’ll vote for Dems.

“NAFTA” is the popular code word for all of those neoliberal policies that destroyed the “American dream” and wiped out whole regions of the country and Dems squarely get the blame from working class voters.

I was just walking and listening to this about Pennsylvania. It is very much worth a listen to hear how dead the Democratic Party is with working-class people.

Democracy’s Turning Point

My opinion is that the turning point for democracy was the years following the election of Obama, 2009-2012.

In 2008 the voters demanded change, and gave the Democrats a big majority. But Senate Democrats refused to end the filibuster. Instead, they required Republican permission to pass anything, and Republicans did not give them permission to pass anything at all.

This set the stage for the failure of the country we see today.