Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Rollout of Authoritarian Capitalism

This will not be an easy post to write. It's hard to talk about these things without sounding a bit paranoid. Nevertheless, I think it's important to remark on some of the recent events that have taken place, since they seem to tie in so well with one of the main subjects of this blog.

A few months ago I introduced the concept of Authoritarian Capitalism. My point was that the authoritarian measures that came to be associated with fascism and communism in the twentieth century will increasingly be adopted by capitalism in the twenty-first. Some of those characteristics include:

1. Mass incarceration of the citizenry.
2. Massive surveillance of the citizenry.
3. The criminalization of dissent.
4. Elimination of undesirables.
5. Miliization of police, martial law, suspension of habeus corpus, and indefinite detention without trial (the '"gulag principle").
6. Marginalization of popular elections (vote fraud, preselected candidates, appointed rather than elected leaders, etc.)

In addition, authoritarian capitalism has these unique characteristics:

7. Selling-off of public assets and a hollowing out of the state.
8. Labor without pay or benefits and forced labor.
9. Elimination of all taxes on capital income, relocation of all taxes onto labor.
10. Elimination of social safety net (health care for children, food programs, unemployment insurance, pensions, etc.) - "we can't afford it".

I've gone on record (and am going on record again), as saying that we'll be seeing more and more of a heading to that sort of future over the years ahead. The reason is simple: as globalized corporate capitalism fails, and the wealth of the citizenry is looted and pillaged by a plutocratic rentier elite, there will inevitably be resistance as the standard of living for the general public falls. In order to keep the public from demanding a fairer system or wealth redistribution, increasingly harsh measures will need to be deployed to keep the citizenry in line.

I'm convinced that behind closed doors, our political and corporate class knows something they're not telling us. They know growth has come to a halt due to energy scarcity, material limits, and pollution. they know that global warming will wreak havoc on the climate, causing massive disruption (even as many 'officially' claim it does not exist). They know that there will never be enough jobs created to keep up with population growth or the billions of workers in the global economy, and that many who lose their jobs will never be hired again. The know that people will become increasingly frustrated at a political system which fails to offer solutions, and become resentlful of the fact that a small wealthy elite becomes richer and more ostentatious every year. People will become frustrated that the fabulous lives they see on TV to sell them things will be unattainable for the majority. Already, surveys show that most people believe that their children will be worse of then they are.

So are we headed down that road? As for the suppression of dissent, I don't think I need to point out the vicious crackdowns of Occupy movements all over the country. These crackdowns seem to have been centrally coordinated by mayors around the country in concert with the Department of Homeland Security.

In my own state, the governor has proposed a law that would charge protestors for the costs of protesting, clearly an attempt to stifle dissent.

And only weeks after a brutal and concentrated crackdown on dissent in America, Congress is passing the National Defense Authorization Act with bipartisan support and almost no media coverage. the ACLU issued an alert concerning some of the bill's provisions:
The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.
The measure passed, and amendments to mitigate the most egregious provisions were defeated:
WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial -- prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.

The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.

"I'm very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate's most conservative members.

Paul's top complaint is that a terrorism suspect would get just one hearing where the military could assert that the person is a suspected terrorist -- and then they could be locked up for life, without ever formally being charged. The only safety valve is a waiver from the secretary of defense.

"It's not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist," Paul said, echoing the views of the American Civil Liberties Union. "That's part of what due process is -- deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it's important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken."

Democrats who were also concerned about liberties compared the military policing of Americans to the detention of Americans in internment camps during World War II.

"Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who offered another amendment -- which has not yet gotten a vote -- that she said would correct the problem. "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."

Backers of military detention of Americans -- a measure crafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) -- came out swinging against Udall's amendment on the Senate floor earlier Tuesday.

"The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?" Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

"They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer," Graham said. "They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaeda and what they were going to do to all of us."
Additional coverage is here:

And the fact this has received essentially no coverage in the mainstream media (there were a few mentions on MSNBC from what I hear) tells you what yuo need to know about the media's role in all this.

Whatever you believe about safety or the intentions of government, it's important to note that there is now absolutely nothing preventing American citizens from being seized and held indefinitely without trial or knowledge of the charges against them, as along as they are designated a "terrorist". And who defines that? The government. Is Occupy a terrorist organization? Will it be? Obama has said he intends to veto it, but I'm not enthusiastic. Even if he does, laws like this have a way of coming up again and again until they are passed, even if it is vetoed this time. John Robb comments: "Essentially, this makes it possible for the US military to take on the role and function of a secret police force." As Washington's blog notes: The United States itself is now defined as a "battlefield" in perpetuity, American citizens are potential military targets, American citizens may be infinitely detained, sent to Guantanamo or assassinated. He further notes:
...But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food...And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.
As for mass surveillance, see this: The New Cyber-Industrial Complex Spying On Us
Government authorities and the makers of these products argue that there is an urgent need for these tools – to track down criminals and terrorists, to block child pornography and computer viruses – a practice known as "lawful interception". This is big business for i2, a company based in McLean, Virginia, which sells two major products – CopLink and Analyst's Notebook – software that allows law enforcement to make sense of reams of data. Government Computer News ran a story earlier this week about the "Digital Dragnet" – extolling the benefits of data analysis.

The magazine quoted Bob Griffin, the CEO of i2: "When we started this more than ten years ago, we talked about things like information-sharing and gathering as much data as you could," Griffin said. "In those days, people would look at you like you're a green banana. Why would I want to share information? Why would I want to bring information from business licenses or hunting and fishing licenses into the policing environment?"

Police authorities are excited about the potential: Jason Scheiss, analytical services division manager at the Durham police department in North Carolina, told Government Computer News that they were hoping to expand the data-collecting to include data on water and sewage billing, visitor logs from parks and recreation facilities and correlate it with the daily jail list. "So we could say, 'Hey, look here. All of these crimes only occur when this one guy's not in jail,'" he told the magazine.

Therein lies the rub: apart from the massive violation of individual privacy, or the risk of abuse by corrupt officials, these tools could easily allow security agencies to jump to the wrong conclusion. Indeed, these tools have the potential to make computer cables as dangerous as police batons.
And see this:
In a luxury Washington, DC, hotel last month, governments from around the world gathered to discuss surveillance technology they would rather you did not know about. The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies and law enforcement. But to the media or members of the public, it is strictly off limits.

Gone are the days when mere telephone wiretaps satisfied authorities' intelligence needs. Behind the cloak of secrecy at the ISS World conference, tips are shared about the latest advanced "lawful interception" methods used to spy on citizens – computer hacking, covert bugging and GPS tracking. Smartphones, email, instant message services and free chat services such as Skype have revolutionised communication. This has been matched by the development of increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology.

Governments turn to hacking techniques for surveillance of citizens (The Guardian, UK)

A week ago, John Robb wrote on his blog:

Nearly a month ago, I half joked that the most feared/effective domestic surveillance agency in the Communist world, the Stasi, would likely be reborn in the 21st Century as a private company. So OK. It wasn't much of a joke or a prediction. Spying is already being privatized on a global scale (much of it leveraging systems built for marketing companies).

Or in other words: Oppression is just a question of money. How much do you want?

On that note, here's an excellent interactive global map showing where private intelligence companies operate and the services they provide. From Internet/phone/SMS monitoring to GPS tracking, everything you do can be captured and displayed interactively on pricey Palantir (the display/interface of choice for domestic monitoring and surveillance) display.

That link is here: Almost every government of the world is spying on its citizenry, just like the communist block did, including so-called "free" counties. It's not just America - this video looks at the extraordinary power the British government has over it's citizens:

The Crisis of Civilization: Civil Contingencies Act from thecrisisofcivilization on Vimeo.

In fact, China spends more on internal surveillance and security than it does on the military. As for unpaid and prison labor, the structures are already being put in place. China has used prison labor for years:

And both the U.S. and the U.K. have "work" programs providing free labor for corporations:

Numerous American corporations already use prison labor to make their products:

And debtor's prisons are making a comeback:

And just today, BoingBoing reports that the head of Canada's secret police has asked the government to end the ban on using information gleaned through torture:

Incidentally, BoingBoing has been on the forefront of reporting all these creeping incidents of authoritarianism and surveiilance all around the world. there are so many, I literally can't keep up. Read for yourself and see if you don't notice a trend. As for sham elections, see exhibit A: Russia.

As for mass incarceration, see this:

I could go on, but I'm tired, and I think you get the point. Repression of citizenry, so associated with communism in the twentieth century, will henceforth be part and parcel of capitalism. This will cause capitalism to lose it's age-old connection with "freedom" as it becomes more and more oppressive. It will also cause capitalism (in its current form) to lose its legitimacy as a valid economic system.

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