Saturday, September 15, 2007

This is the last stall

Once again, the last stall in the men's room yields blog fodder. No Bible tracts or printouts from NewsMax this time, but the August 2007 issue of "The Phyllis Schlafly Report."

Along with the conspiracy talk about NAFTA and a North American "union," there was a report on some moves in Congress to bring U.S. patent law into greater "consistency" with Europe and Japan. Schlafly paints the Democrat-sponsored and Bush administration-supported Patent Reform Act of 2007 as another pro-corporate effort by " 'world is flat' globalists" to make it easier for corporations to secure and/or violate patents and tougher on the little guys to secure and defend their intellectual property.
The common thread in the changes to be made by the new Patent bill is that they favor big companies like Microsoft and hurt individuals and small-entity inventors. (emphasis in original)
I must admit this one was below my radar and the blogs are unusually silent on it. One blogger(?) posted the same piece to John Edwards' and Barack Obama's sites raising red flags on this one as well, as did a poster on Daily Kos, joining the AFL-CIO, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the United Steelworkers. Still, the bill passed the House on September 7 (220-175), with Democrats voting 3 to 1 in favor and Republicans voting 2 to 1 against. In NC-11, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voted against the bill.

If what Schlafly wrote was accurate, then I found myself agreeing with her. The anti-corporatist tone coming from an old-line conservative like Schlafly struck me as signaling an area where conservatives and liberals can find common ground. The virtual takeover of the U.S. government by corporate money is something we all have reason to mistrust and oppose. Democracy of, by, and for those able to buy influence is no democracy at all, but something far less wholesome.

In The America Prospect this week Robert Kuttner wrote of Wall Street's partnering with the Chinese government's domestic surveillance operation:
More Like Us, or More Like Them? The New York Times' Keith Bradsher reported today in a fine piece that U.S. hedge funds are bankrolling Chinese high-tech surveillance operations. What a perfect marriage of capitalism and totalitarianism! What a perfect symbol of the weird permutations of globalization. Capitalists, of course, are famous for getting along with almost any brand of dictator. German industry coexisted nicely with Hitler and had many American business partners such as DuPont and Standard Oil, right up until the United States entered World War II. U.S corporate interests likewise had congenial relations with despotic regimes in Iran, Iraq, Cuba, the Dominican Republic -- and often influenced American foreign policy to keep these regimes propped up.

[. . .]

This globalization stuff gets curiouser and curiouser. Not so long ago, many writers were claiming that we would soon see a happy convergence, in which formerly communist nations would become more capitalist. And as they became more market-oriented, they would also become more democratic. However, recent history suggests the possibility of a rather darker convergence. Nations like China remain repressive one-party states, enabled by American multinationals. Far from creating a pro-worker communist society, the current Chinese mandarins actually help foreign capital get access to a cheap and docile workforce. Meanwhile, the western democracies become more despotic themselves, and the convergence is in the direction of a universal security state in league with global finance.
Imagine liberals and conservatives wondering, just what kind of democracy have we become anyway? Think we can put our other differences aside and work together to contain a common antidemocratic foe?

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