The Dumbest Idea in the World”: Corporate America’s False — and Dangerous — Ideology of Shareholder Value
The Corporate Bully Whose Front Groups, Willful Distortions and Hate-Mongering Has Poisoned U.S. Politics : Meet Richard Berman By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, November 24, 2013 … Dr. Evil is Richard Berman, a Washington-based lawyer-turned-hitman for Big Food who pioneered and still deploys many of the most intentionally deceptive, inflammatory and anti-democratic tactics used in corporate propaganda campaigns today. For nearly four decades, Berman’s attacks have tried to smear, discredit and destroy public-interest causes and groups by a toxic brew of industry front groups, distortion-filled attacks, ridicule and bullying to stoke prejudice and hatred as a means of turning the public’s attention and regulators away from his paymasters’ business practices…Can one man really be held responsible for large slices of any era’s excesses, especially in a city as dominated by opportunists as Washington, D.C.? The answer is yes, there are people who are emblematic of political eras. Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president,” evading  criticism that stuck. Lee Atwater was the dark political operator who revived  the GOP’s racist attack machinery for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. In Berman’s case, there is a decades-long record of gleefully  taking fights into the gutter….Why would Berman and his backers go after a group like the Humane Society of the U.S… their warnings and advocacy threaten how Big Food—the corporate-dominated food and beverage industry paying Berman—makes its fortune….In May, the Boston Globe’s deputy Washington bureau chief Michael Kranish  wrote a magazine-length report  on Washington’s “industry of distortion,”…Berman boasted about winning on emotion—not truth. “Emotional understanding is very different; it stays with you,” Berman said. “Intellectual understanding is a fact and facts trump other facts. When I understand something in my gut, you’ve got me in a very different way.” … “We should attack their credibility using ridicule and humor; not for what they’ve said but for who they are.” Now 70, he has used front groups and exaggerated facts flung with a disregard for public consequences for decades…With little legal recourse, Berman’s targets have worked with the media to try to expose his dark tactics….But these more civil tactics—seeking IRS review, being upbraided in the mainstream media—don’t derail a street fighter who enjoys bullying…If anything, Washington’s political culture has been embracing  Berman’s thuggery. October’s federal government shutdown, the ongoing Obamacare and budget wars, and the routine vilification of critics are all signs of increasingly poisoned politics…Berman described himself as a fighter for corporations in an era dominated by do-gooders. “Businesses themselves don’t find it convenient to take on causes that might seem politically incorrect,” he said. “And I am not afraid to do that.” Berman says he isn’t in interested in policy debates and position papers, but gut punches that people will remember…His staff goes through government reports, activist press releases, policy papers and books by anyone who might stand in the way of unfettered corporate profits. They take aim by seizing on small points…and blow up that trifle to smear a reputation, organization or agenda…The methodology is twisting the truth, exaggerating facts that are totally acceptable to make them sound corrupt, and fanning cliches or prejudice to evoke emotional reactions that take the public’s eye away from real scrutiny of, or accountability for, his clients’ exploitive business practices…Berman’s sponsors reveals why he has had a four-decade run as a corporate hit man. With the backing of tobacco, booze and then Big Food, he has created industry front groups, kept his sponsors’ identities largely hidden, developed a political playbook based on smears, distortions and hate-mongering, and seen the campaign and lobbying profession embrace his poisonous and destructive methodology. America’s political culture has become uglier and more hate-filled in recent decades, and Richard Berman has played a singular roll in that descent into the gutter.
Corporate Elites Are Witnessing a Growing Wave of Resistance to the ‘Walmartization’ of Our Economy By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, AlterNet, November 29, 2013 - The struggle of working Americans took center stage as Black Friday protests covered the country. The struggle for wages that do not leave families impoverished is one that affects us all and highlights the unfair economy created by a class war waged by the wealthy for decades. The ‘Walmartization’ of the US economy has created a downward spiral in wages and destroyed small businesses and communities while heightening the wealth divide that is at the root of so many problems. The war on working people is a war on all but the wealthiest Americans. The people are fighting back and the elites recognize it. We have seen how aggressive they are in how they responded to Occupy and other protest movements. Thousands of Americans have been arrested exercising their Right to Assembly…Noam Chomsky writes in his new book, Occupy: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, that the “business class” is always engaged in class warfare. They continually act to protect their interests, wealth and power. The class war manifests itself in every aspect of our lives from the attack on our public institutions and civil liberties to climate change and the global race to the bottom and racially unfair police enforcement and mass incarceration. It defines our foreign policy including trade agreements rigged for big business and wars for resources, cheap labor and the positioning of American Empire…Henry Giroux recently spoke with Bill Moyers about his book Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism. Giroux said, “The real changes are going to come in creating movements that are longstanding, that are organized, that basically take questions of governance and policy seriously and begin to spread out and become international.” An area in which this is happening to a great extent is in global trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) will meet in Bali, Indonesia on December 3. Ever since the Seattle protests in 1999, the WTO has been unable to move forward on their agenda. This week WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo announced  they were unable to move forward once again. U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke expressed “great sadness,” while we applauded the failure of corporate trade. Activists and small countries being bullied should be wary, this could be a negotiating ploy and they need to continue to fight back. We are on the cusp of a new era of fair trade instead of rigged corporate trade. Our tasks are to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is reaching completion and the new Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TAFTA) from being signed into law and then go on the offense to demand a trade process that is inclusive, democratic and transparent…Workers and Communities Unite Against Walmart…We can think of no other corporation that has caused as much damage to the working class, communities and the overall economy as Walmart. Poverty wages, destruction of local business and the obscene wealth divide are at the door of the largest retailer in the nation. The six Walton heirs have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent  of Americans. Walmart is the largest private employer in the world and has extensive supply lines but its unethical business practices are driving the world economy in the wrong direction. The Walton family wealth has come at a tremendous price for the rest of us. They’ve gained this wealth by squashing worker rights, lowering wages and draining our local tax dollars, and they show no signs of changing course. After the disastrous collapse of the factory in Bangladesh which killed over 1,000 workers, many companies signed on to a new accord to prevent it from happening again. Walmart, along with GAP, refuses to sign  the accord. Walmart could easily provide a living wage. A recent study by Demos shows it would even be in their best interest to do so because it would stimulate the whole economy. And there are signs that Walmart is feeling the heat. The CEO, Michael Duke, announced this week that he will step down. And Walmart hired a public relations firm to smear Walmart protesters. Our sense is that this effort will backfire as it shows the desperation of this Goliath that will fall to mobilized Davids. In fact, Walmart is not the only corporation that mistreats its workers; it’s just the largest one. Here is a list of ten American companies  that pay the least. In addition to Walmart employees, other workers are fighting for a living wage. Fast food workers and those who make supplies  for the fast food restaurants have also been holding strikes and rallies. Airport workers from Seattle to Minneapolis to New York  are organizing for higher pay and winning in the case of Seattle…Persistence and Solidarity are Key Ingredients…A Cultural Transformation…We are in a war that reaches into every aspect of our lives. Giroux describes it as “a war on the mind. The war on what it means to be able to dissent, the war on the possibility of alternative visions.” He goes on to say that we are in “A war on the possibility of an education that enables people to think critically, a war on cultural apparatuses that entertain by simply engaging in this spectacle of violence….”In addition to building a global movement, Giroux calls for a cultural transformation. We need to find places where people can connect to talk about the world they want to create and then strategize about how to make it a reality. We need to move outside of the constraints inherent in our current economic structure and use our collective wisdom and power to build new systems based on values that lift up communities and heal the planet. The cultural transformation begins with dispelling myths and facing the truth…We see people doing creative resistance that reflects these values on a daily basis and report on much of it at Popular Resistance . There is so much going on that we cannot cover it all, and we know the potential is even greater. Connect with people in your community. One person suggested forming a Popular Resistance meet-up and others are joining struggles for workers, the environment, youth, to end war, end police abuse and so much more. There is room for you in this movement. When you get involved, you will find that your frustration at the mis-direction of our country lessens because you will see that you are not alone. Many are working for the transformation we know we need with persistence and in solidarity. This article is produced by PopularResistance.org  in conjunction with AlterNet. It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter  reviewing the activities of the resistance movement. Sign up for the daily news digest of Popular Resistance, here.
The Source of Corporate Power by Robert C. Koehler, CommonDreams.org, January 28, 2010 …landmark Supreme Court decision marking some sort of culmination in the long corporate trek to personhood…The 5-4 decision in the long-awaited Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case overturns restrictions on corporate spending to influence election results, giving entities with millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars at their disposal unlimited license to electioneer for the candidate with the friendliest attitude toward their interests.
The tendency of money and power is to concentrate, of course. The big trick, from a human perspective, is to make sure our core values remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we concentrate power. Democracy is the great mechanism for doing so…the wakeup message in this nakedly cynical ruling by the Roberts Court, with its slim (but sufficient) right-wing majority, is that the concept of democracy is mortally wounded…
This is an “activist” judicial decision, that is to say, a decision that serves a prior agenda, with any principles cited (e.g., the sanctity of free speech) sheer window dressing in service to a larger, and covert, cause…could have been decided on narrow grounds. The court chose instead to expand the scope of the case, making it into a challenge of existing laws that regulate corporate election spending…
I see little hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hemorrhage urgent inanities directly into its consciousness for 18 hours a day. This gullibility is the source of corporate power. Democracy can only thrive where people think for themselves.
How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy by Tom Stites, Unitarian Universalist World magazine, March 2003
How corporations became ‘persons’ By Tom Stites, UUA World, May/June 2003 5.1.03
We Are in the Midst of Defeating the Largest Corporate Trade Agreement in History By Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, AlterNet, November 15, 2013 …We need to know the truth in order to participate in the great debates that shape our futures…the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will provide extraordinary patent protections and internet restrictions designed to further enrich the wealthy while the race to the bottom accelerates. A confluence of events this week has weakened the chances of the TPP’s survival… Opposition to the TPP continues to build…We are in a historic moment of people vs. the corporations. We are in the midst of defeating the largest trade agreement in history….information he released to Wikileaks and other media outlets revealed the cooperation between private and government security agencies and methods used to stifle dissent, including monitoring the Occupy movement, as well as their strategies for defeating movements…the truth destroys corrupt power….We live in a time of crisis, but also in a time of opportunity…Knowledge is essential for popular power. … there is a “rise in worldwide populist activism…Every day we see that more people are embracing their power and joining the popular resistance so feared by the elites. People are making our own history; setting the world on a new course. Much work is needed to begin the world anew, each must do what they can. Join us.