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X-ray of lung cancer
There’s a scene near the beginning of the 1975 movie, Rollerball, in which fans of the brutal sport are instructed to rise for “our corporate anthem”—an anthem that turns out to be the darkly compelling Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It’s an evocative moment, one that tells us much about the culture of the world we’re peeking into. This is not a happy place.

There’s a reason that corporate states, ones in which corporations participate heavily in the role of government, litter dystopian fiction.

First, it’s because we’re all too aware of the gross imbalance of power between corporations and individuals in any capitalist society. Corporations may have been created to provide a protective envelope for investment risk, but they easily accrue privileges and abilities that position them well outside that original intent.

Second, it's because we've already had experience with what happens at the end of the corporatism road. Somewhere, not too far out of sight, is that land where the trains run on time, but in which government acts primarily as a pooled resource to protect the interests of corporate power against that of individuals.  

In very few scenarios does corporate statism seem like an inviting vacation spot for anyone not enjoying the scene from a corner office.

These days corporations are largely unchecked by organized labor and—not at all coincidental to their status as electoral super-citizens—are increasingly unburdened by regulation. Between the wide-open political power opened through the gates of Citizens United, and the dead-hand-at-the-tiller intentional neglect provided by Congress, the soil for rising corporatism has rarely been richer.

And what’s taken root in that soil is something that we used to call a “bank.”

Come inside for a closer look.

In 1913, when the Federal Reserve Act created the basics of the modern banking system, a lack of adequate regulations allowed banks to exploit the new system. Banks could draw from the plentiful funds available through the reserve, and then use this low-cost river of cash to both promote high-risk ventures and pad their own profits with less than reputable instruments. It created a huge weakness in the banking system, a weakness that was masked for many years by an expanding bubble of speculation. The banks drew from the Reserve well so frequently to fund their own growth, that by 1929 the then-current regulations meant that the Federal Reserve was essentially tapped out. Not surprisingly, soon after that limit was reached, the whole strained edifice came tumbling down.

In 1933, after the bubble had popped and thousands of financial institutions had collapsed, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act. Glass-Steagall was intended to restrict the activities of banks, specifically to prevent banks from becoming entangled in the kind of investment vehicles that had led to widespread failures. It was also intended to prevent banks from generating inherent conflicts between their own profits and those of clients.  

The theory behind these regulations was that banks should be centered around providing loans to finance the production and sale of goods. Because banks that made their profits through loans were directly dependent on the success of their customers, they were forced to be prudent in their lending, yet they couldn't make money without lending money. The result was intended to be institutions that were cautious, but not too cautious, and institutions with little incentive to work against the needs of those paying back the loans.

But gradually, decade by decade, the strictures against banks drawing revenues from other sources were weakened. In the name of "competitiveness," banks were given more and more leeway in their dealings with other fiscal institutions. Finally, in 1999, Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which stripped the last of the old protections away. And then some.

Glass-Steagall had held the US fiscal sector in a stable configuration for more than sixty years. With the limits removed, it didn't take twenty years for the banks to bring down the economy a second time. This time, they had practice. They managed it in seven.

Some of those associated with Gramm-Leach-Bliley, including many of the Congressmen who voted for it and President Clinton who signed it, have since claimed ignorance of the effects of the bill. The same can't be said of Phil Gramm. Gramm's actions and  motives in passing this bill, which I detailed in 2008, were just another not at all subtle step in a career built on destroying regulatory institutions for fun and profit. Mostly profit. He cut a tornado-like swath through the economy that left an unmatched level of damage, and made him the most admired financial figure on the right. Oh, and he moved directly from the Senate to a comfy position at UBS AG where be became very, very wealthy.

The most obvious effect of Gramm's legislation was to enable the emergence of the modern investment bank, a hybrid institution that still carried the word “bank” in its name, but whose purpose had little to do with pre-Gramm institutions. These new creations spewed out an ascending series of imaginative fiscal instruments that within a few short years created theoretical wealth more than twenty times that present in the entire real-world economy. Nearly all that wealth came from allowing banks to act directly against the best interests of their traditional clients under the old rules. In fact, Gramm's final act on the congressional stage left banks in a position where they could actively profit more from the downfall of their clients than they ever had in promoting growth. It opened the door for a devastating array of counter-intuitive derivative instruments that rewarded failure, and created the pseudo-wealth of the credit default swap economy (an instrument made possible by changes to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, authored by... Phil Gramm).

By allowing banks, investment firms, and insurance companies to merge into fiscal mega-entities, the new law created opportunities for creating wealth through knowingly murdering the economy. The new banks eagerly took up the knives.

We didn't stumble into a fiscal meltdown. We weren't even pushed. We were driven there gleefully, by investment banks that knew full well they could profit at every stage of the collapse. That's the state we're still in today.

But the perverse incentives created under Gramm-Leach-Bliley don’t end with simply breaking down the barriers between banks and investment institutions. They didn't even end at turning a fiscal apocalypse into a profitable affair. In the land of post-Gramm, every form of destruction is both a source of profit and a buying opportunity.

That’s because the new law didn't simply allow banks to merge with other fiscal institutions. It also allowed them to merge, marry, and swallow whole other assets. What kind of assets? Well anything that “is complementary for a financial activity.” What does that mean? Once again, most of those around at the time can only shrug. Even Leach and Bliley don't have a definition to match that phrase. Gramm did, and does. He's the one who inserted those words into the earliest drafts of the bill and made sure they stayed in place to the end.

Since then, the meaning behind the language has become more clear. "Complementary for a financial activity" means anything. Anything at all. Gramm-Leach-Bliley not only gave the new banks an incentive for destruction through fiscal instruments, it gave them the ability to buy up the pieces—on their own terms, at their own rates. It let them move into industry after industry, and particularly into the production and shipment of basic commodities, displacing all those poor old clients in passing.

Imagine if your loan was held by an institution whose incentive was not to collect the interest from your payments, but to make you fail in those payments. Imagine that they could gain more from your failure than your payment, and at the same time pick up your business almost as an afterthought. Stop imagining. We’re already there. The incentives enshrined under Gramm-Leach-Bliley turn banks from the supporters of growth, into the consumers.

Since 1999, and even more so since 2008, investment banks have moved away from being banks. They've become owners of oil fields and tankers, coal mines and distributors, power generators, gold and silver, iron, copper, seaports, airports. … It’s as if the game board of enterprise had been tipped on its side, and all the little tokens are sliding—slowly at first, but with increasing speed—into the maw of creatures with names like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

The astounding thing is … it’s not astounding at all. It’s the predictable outcome of a law designed for just this purpose. It’s the opening notes of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor."

Matt Taibbi famously described Goldman as a “vampire squid,” inserting it’s high-suction orifice into every source of potential profit. Awful as that sounds, the truth is that it’s too nice. Goldman, like the other mega-entities fostered by Gramm-Leach-Bliley, is a cancer eating at the heart of capitalism. Without regulation, the magic hand is quickly—quickly—ushering the system toward an end game, toward a situation where “monopoly” is far too mild a term.

Right now, there's absolutely nothing standing in their way. Nothing is likely to get in their way.

Why? Because while we often speak as if capitalism and democracy go hand in hand, the truth is that relationship is far from friendly. The truth is there is a basic incompatibility between a system dedicated to the idea of holding all men equal, and a system whose purpose is to show they are not. From the beginning of the United States, proponents of capitalism feared the exercise of democracy. They always feared that citizens would act to restrict the wealth and power of the elite. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Just as Gramm-Leach-Bliley signaled the end of the idea that banks should act as agents to promote responsible growth, Citizens United made clear that corporations are free to act to promote their own power through the system without limit and without reprisal.

That combination is a malignancy driving deep into the system.  We don't have centuries to resolve this. We don't have decades.

Listen, you can hear the orchestra tuning up. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise …
 

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not saying I'm a Marxist per se, but (14+ / 0-)

    the situation we find ourselves in, and that you so succinctly summarize, fits pretty well within Marx's theory on the evolution of economics and capitalism.

    We certainly do live in interesting, if scary, times.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:17:30 PM PDT

  •  Wow. You are a compelling writer. (33+ / 0-)
    We didn't stumble into a fiscal meltdown. We weren't even pushed. We were driven there gleefully, by investment banks that knew full well they could profit at every stage of the collapse.
    ::
    Just as Gramm-Leach-Bliley signaled the end of the idea that banks should act as agents to promote responsible growth, Citizens United made clear that corporations are free to act to promote their own power through the system without limit and without reprisal.

    That combination is a malignancy driving deep into the system.  We don't have centuries to resolve this. We don't have decades.

    It struck me that this piece is a manifesto.

    And, not because it is a call to arms, but because it is, more likely, a eulogy.

  •  Excuse me. I was looking for the DKos Front Page (19+ / 0-)

    but found this instead. A very pleasant surprise.

    And so well put. Although Gramm was the engineer of the Real Economy-killing, let's not forget that his devices were endorsed by both Chambers and the White House.

    Which leads me to wonder: Which Democrats in 2014, and which likely candidates for the White House in 2016 will act to reverse this situation.

    "Situation" being a little too weak a word, as, noted in the essay, it isn't so much the Banks in a situation as the entire Real Economy and the 300 million or so who depend upon it -- from crops through paper clips through commodities through... name it  -- which has a situation. A very very dangerous one.

    PS: Oh, and Republicans suck, and are stupid, and crazy, and ludicrous. So is the Corporate Media. So there! (Just to make the post truly Front Page worthy.)


    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:26:04 PM PDT

    •  This is what drives me crazy. (6+ / 0-)

      We look to the dems to get us out of this and the thing is-they're complicit in the whole scheme.  Some of the shit that my own senator(Schumer) has done- just amazes me.  And we are so deep in this, and the propaganda is so effective, that there literally seems no way out of it.

      If you look to the next 20 years the economy just seems to be on the brink and everyone is scrambling for a place in a lifeboat.  Wall Streeters and politicians first.  While they may not laugh at how they've dismantled the United States, they certainly are looking to take care of Number One.  

      Inevitably, we will have another Revolution, and lots of people will be ready to dust off the Guillotine.  Not many will sympathize with the plight of the aristocrats.

      •  So who are the aristocrats? (0+ / 0-)

        I see no revolution at hand.  They have successfully pitted so many groups against so many others that there simply isn't any one group or group of groups large enough to do squat.  We laugh at the right as if they're dying yet we see little chance at taking back the house and seem to be hoping to hold on to the senate.  And our number one, beating them all at the polls, candidate for the White House is the wife of one THE schmucks who created this mess (because being president was all about him).

        So, who are your definition of the aristocrats?

        America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, uh...um...and if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

        by Back In Blue on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:06:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, I'm talking about both Repubs and Dems. (0+ / 0-)

          The backlash will not discriminate any more than in any revolution.  Mass insanity is a tsunami that stops for nothing.  And it usually drags down as many innocent as guilty.

          Remember the Cultural Inquisition in China, the death in Russia after the revolution?  Angry mobs want blood, and they usually don't care about where it comes from.

    •  Which Democrats? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse

      Probably none. Of course Bernie Sanders isn't a Democrat so he's your best bet.

      •  I have news: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justsayjoe

        Bernie Sanders was on the radio 10 min. ago. NPR. In his own words he may run for president as a Democrat or an Independent. He said this discussion about the economy and the banks has been neglected by other presidential contenders.

        He also made clear that he will not run a third party split which could hand the win to Rs. He sounds very solid and determined to make sure things don't get swept under the rug.

        A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

        by onionjim on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 03:52:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sadly, I fear none (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      onionjim

      will succeed, though a few may try (Elizabeth Warren?).  

      Which leads me to wonder: Which Democrats in 2014, and which likely candidates for the White House in 2016 will act to reverse this situation.
      Unfortunately, it is not just the banks and insurance companies that are enriching their "investors" by sucking us dry.

      I think we are getting confused by the supposedly benign face of the corporate googols and faceplants.  Do these media/squids care one bit about democracy?  When push comes to shove, who do they serve, who do they care about?  Why are they hiding behind the cloud of big data, like an invisibility cloak that allows all kinds of activity to go unnoticed?

      Dark days ahead.

      •  I think it's all an illusion (0+ / 0-)

        The locus of power in the world is no longer the nation-state, but the corporation, and governments exist to promote the corporate agenda.

        I'm not sure how far back this balance of power goes. Certainly much of our 19th and 20th century foreign policy has been dictated by the interests of the United Fruit Company, the oil and rubber companies. What else has the CIA been about, going back to its formation 80 years ago?

        And our Constitution was designed to protect property - particularly human property in the form of slavery - and even the amendment that ended slavery for individuals kept it legal to enslave prisoners. It's why we have never welcomed true revolutions, beginning with Haiti shortly after our own.

        What else do the words "national interest" mean?

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:36:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  democracy was supposed to be (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ramara

          a rejection of the intertwined corporate/government interests of the sovereign.

          •  Democracy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rat racer, jjellin

            for white men of property. Wealth was land under the monarchy, and a continuation of this is what Jefferson envisioned - his idea was an agrarian economy with limited democracy - almost a Platonic meritocracy.

            But the industrial revolution changed all this.

            What was really rejected by our founding fathers was the idea of the divine right of kings - the union of God and government. The idea of government getting its power from the people was radical. The anti-establishment clause was really revolutionary. Corporations were temporary, and were often the way towns were governed. Things like the Dutch West India Company which sent out trappers and explorers to the new world - not the Dutch king.

            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

            by ramara on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 10:35:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  very well put (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara

              thank you

            •  "A nation of yeoman farmers" (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mark Sumner, ramara

              was Jefferson's expression for his vision of America.  The key here is not that everyone is actually a farmer - some would be "mechanics" (artisans), others engaged in small commercial enterprises.  There would be a rough equality and wide distribution of wealth - or rather, productive power. True liberty required "competence" (sometimes called "self-supply") - the ability, through one's own toil with one's own tools, to provide a basic living for self and family.  A wage-laborer was not considered to be in possession of liberty, because he was literally dependent on another to supply the necessities of life.  Working "at wages" was ordinarily seen - even up to Lincoln's time (Lincoln speaks of it in a number of speeches) - as a way-station on the way to obtaining "competence" for one's self - i.e. secure possession of productive power.

              But the industrial revolution changed all this.
              That is exactly correct, though not the whole story.  But the industrial revolution turned a nation of small farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers - the majority of whom possessed competence - into a nation of wage earners, in which the productive power was - and still is - concentrated in the hands of a very few.
              •  But there were servants (0+ / 0-)

                who were not free at all, either through slavery or indenture. This is the problem Jefferson's ideal ignores. His vision includes laborers not paid for their labor.

                Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                by ramara on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 11:53:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This is true, of course (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara

                  though I think it is beside the point I was making.  In case you are interested, Edmund Morgan's book American Slavery, American Freedom develops the actual connections between the existence of slavery and the colonial (southern) ideal of freedom in great detail.  But slavery was not a necessary part of the free republic imagined by Jefferson - nor was he the only person who viewed it thus: many who opposed slavery and were not slave owners identified republican liberty with widest possible distribution of productive property: Franklin, Noah Webster, occasionally Madison - not to mention the Massachusetts farmers of "Shays' Rebellion", to name a few. So I guess Jefferson may have been a hypocrite - but he was no fool.

                  •  No, Jefferson was no fool (0+ / 0-)

                    I like your definition of liberty as the widest distribution of productive property. Thanks for that.

                    And of course, that is still true. When we speak of inequality we are speaking of narrow distribution, where small businesses are swallowed by mega-businesses.

                    I've enjoyed this discussion. Thanks.

                    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                    by ramara on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 10:29:37 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Agree on the shifting locus of power (0+ / 0-)

          But not quite a "done deal" yet.

          The locus of power in the world is no longer the nation-state, but the corporation, and governments exist to promote the corporate agenda.
          Nation states, I would judge, were still firmly in power through the mid-twentieth century, else there could have been no "New Deal" (or its correlatives in Europe, Japan, and other industrialized nations) - perhaps even through the 1960s (try to imagine civil rights without Federal power and action).

          As for the Constitution: it did (and does) protect property. But that is not the end-all of its intent, as the Preamble suggests:

          ...in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity....
          •  should we not then judge (0+ / 0-)

            corporations according to how well they "promote the general welfare," and not just as expressions of the "Blessings of Liberty" for their "selves" (aka profits & salaries).  Private enterprise must have some redeeming social value that can be evaluated as a contribution to the greater good.  Companies that harvest the web-trails of gazillions of users to feed the information pools and algorithms of hedge funds  ought to be held to account for the ways in which they have cultivated extremes in wealthy inequality, which harms society as a whole.

            •  Absolutely, yes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jjellin

              You may already be aware that corporations once WERE judged (created and dissolved) on the basis of how well they promoted the general welfare. After these limitations of the Early Republic were undermined and destroyed by industrialization in the Gilded age, the idea of limiting corporate power on the basis of public welfare was again introduced into American mainstream politics, first by the Populists, then later by Theodore Roosevelt in his "New Nationalism" program:

              Combinations in industry are the result of an imperative economic law which cannot be repealed by political legislation. The effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed. The way out lies, not in attempting to prevent such combinations, but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare….
              The real question, I think, is: why did these restraints fail in the past; and how can we reform the system so as to prevent their failure in the future?
    •  We Missed Our Opportunity (0+ / 0-)

      When Hank Paulson came to congress hat in hand for Goldman Sachs with a 3 page bill essentially saying "Give Me Everything", congress should have put forth the condition only upon full repeal of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

      What a missed opportunity...  Now we're stuck with a decade plus of stagnant wages and several more decades of clawing and scraping table scraps masquerading as regulations (Dodd-Frank) to get our financial house back in order.

  •  Things that are unsustainable tend not to continue (17+ / 0-)

    The last Wall Street crisis only strengthened the hands of the thieves who are in charge of the banks.  The next one will come along much faster that it otherwise might have, thanks to the administration's complete failure to change anything fundamental in the economy.

    These crises, manufactured to make it easier for the thieves to keep taking, will at one point produce a political counter-reaction.  What it will look like, whether the thieves can coopt it, and where it will go are not easily predicted.  But the rotten husk of our "democracy" will either be renewed or thrown out when they don't need it anymore.  

    We have always been at war with al Qaeda.

    by Dallasdoc on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:27:26 PM PDT

  •  The Bach Toccata and Fugue is actually the intro (8+ / 0-)

    … to the film Rollerball.

    Here's a YouTube link to the Houston corporate anthem, as performed by the English organist Simon Preston.

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

    by lotlizard on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:30:16 PM PDT

    •  I was 15 when the film came out... (8+ / 0-)

      and honestly all I can remember thinking at the time was a big yes to all the implied kinky sex and boy, we should totally have a Rollerball team. I was charged up by the pseudo-samurai antics of the Tokyo team, and more intent on the idea of being towed by a bike than the political underpinnings of the tale.

      In the forty years since  I don't think I've actually watched the film again, but I have played it over in my mind, drawing more of what (I hope) the film makers wanted me to take from the story.  At the same time, I'm sure I've also smeared it across the lens of my own memories, rewriting it to suit what I wanted it to mean.

      Thanks for the correction.

      •  70s Science Fiction (4+ / 0-)

        It's interesting the movie presents corporations as the destroyer of individualism, especially when compared to Ayn Rand's philosophy where capitalism is associated with selfishness.

        Every character in the film, except for the executives, are slaves.

        They may be well payed and get a nice apartment, but the realization that James Caan's Jonathan E. comes to at the end of the film is that he's just as much a "thing" to be used and sold as the female escorts that are handed out by the corporation.

        And the movie even presents the corporate-controlled society as essentially having eliminated poverty, and giving its "workers" many luxuries. But those workers have no freedom whatsoever and must do what they're told.


        One nitpick I have with the movie is that the corporations stated reason for having the game makes no sense. Rollerball is not only meant to be a "bread and circuses" distraction, but also to show the futility of the individual. But name a popular sport where there are no standout individual stars. In almost every team sport, eventually one player or another captures the favor of the fans and is well regarded for their individual accomplishments.

        •  Rollerball (1975) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard, bsmechanic
          Rollerball is not only meant to be a "bread and circuses" distraction, but also to show the futility of the individual.  But name a popular sport where there are no standout individual stars.  In almost every team sport, eventually one player or another captures the favor of the fans and is well regarded for their individual accomplishments.
          Until James Caan's Jonathan, "the awful physics of the track" ensured that no individual -- no matter how talented -- would ever have a long career.  Jonathan somehow managed to survive to super-star status, which created a problem for the corporations.

          Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

          by Caelian on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 07:06:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I saw it this week (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mark Sumner, lotlizard, bsmechanic

        It just sort of popped up on one of my free, over-the-air TV channels.  

        I'm obsessed with the futurist sci-fi of my youth, so once I saw it was there I dropped everything and locked onto Jonathan E. (James Caan's) brave journey for the next hour-plus.

        The movie suffered from lots of disjointed moments (really, did the trip to see the supercomputer in Geneva and mad scientist running it add anything to the plot)?  

        But the moments of corporate evil-doing were compelling.  The scene where John Houseman, as the CEO, persuaded a board to do in Jonathan over a teleconference seemed prescient.  It reminded me of House of Cards, something I'm binge watching these days.

        The fact that Jonathan's employer/sponsor was the "Energy Corporation" from Houston?  It was like someone had foreseen Enron.

        The Houseman CEO expressed that the whole premise of the Rollerball sport was to demonstrate the "futility of the individual."  Caan's character was aggressively defying that notion, so that's why they went after him.

        The movie was flawed, but still a very intriguing futurist work for its time.

        "And, once again, the forces of niceness and goodness have triumphed over the forces of evil and rottenness." --Maxwell Smart

        by emobile on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:00:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sir Ralph Richardson rules! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard, emobile
          ... really, did the trip to see the supercomputer in Geneva and mad scientist running it add anything to the plot?
          Maybe not, but it was one of my favorite scenes.  It anticipated the Cray 2 supercomputer which was completely immersed in non-conductive fluid for cooling.

          I think the scene added to the ambiance, just like the drunken Gatsby-inspired guests playing with the rocket pistol.

          Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

          by Caelian on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 07:13:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I first saw the film in 1980, in my early thirties (0+ / 0-)

        At a corporate education center near Brussels, ironically enough.

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

        by lotlizard on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 11:20:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "If you want a vision of the future, (6+ / 0-)

      imagine a tasseled loafer stomping on a human face... forever."
      (apologies to George Orwell

    •  I think I'm going to make that a ringtone for my (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotlizard

      work #'s.  

      The Republican party has become the politburo of capitalism. It seeks to direct the direction this country is going NO MATTER WHAT WE THE PEOPLE THINK.

      by tarminian on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:46:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Themes for further discussion (0+ / 0-)

    Even granting the entirely debatable proposition that Glass-Steagall was the linchpin keeping the banking sector from coming undone, where is the demonstration that something about the 1999 revision “brought down the economy?” At best, you’d have to say that this is a greatly contested, entirely unsettled discussion among economists. For some idea of the complexities, this article is not a bad beginning: http://en.wikipedia.org/.... In addition, the diary’s point about the growing incautiousness of bank lending ought to lead to discussion of loosened mortgage lending standards (not even mentioned here) which inflated the housing bubble, arguably the actual match that touched off the prolonged crisis.

  •  An off-topic aside: Many thanks (5+ / 0-)

    for the YouTube link.  I’d not run across Malinowski’s wonderful bar graph visualizations before.  (Now if only he’d do BWV 552.)

  •  The far right is preparing for the collapse (10+ / 0-)

    They are stockpiling guns and ammo. We on the left think they are nuts, but maybe they are like Boy Scouts: Be Prepared.

    I hope we can find a smarter solution than fighting like dogs for table scraps.

    “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:35:25 PM PDT

    •  They're Right About Much Except the Perps. nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      agoldnyc, happymisanthropy

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:01:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They're also getting together the manifesto (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rat racer

      on how to blame Obama.  
      They've already basically transferred the blame from Bush to Obama for the last one.  Fox News will surely be able to pin the next one on Obama.  
      In some ways, we should have just left them in charge after Bush.  'Cause the President will have to shoulder a lot of the blame for the next one.

    •  Which collapse are you talking about? (0+ / 0-)

      Climate?  2008 V2.0?  Scary ad oin the DKOS homepage footer?  WWIII?

      America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, uh...um...and if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

      by Back In Blue on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:12:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe you should have read the diary. (0+ / 0-)
        •  Maybe you think before you post. (0+ / 0-)

          FooW is our resident climate expert (for which I am sincerely grateful) and thought he might he something to say about that.  I am far more worried about climate change than economic collapse.  In fact the latter might have a positive effect on the former.  I thought FooW might get a laugh out of the joke.  Guess I'll never know.

          You, however, seem to be looking forward to a revolution with indiscriminate violence and mass hysteria.  Will you be leading one of the angry mobs?  

          America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, uh...um...and if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

          by Back In Blue on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 05:42:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent! Glad it is on the front page. (7+ / 0-)
    Imagine if your loan was held by an institution whose incentive was not to collect the interest from your payments, but to make you fail in those payments. Imagine that they could gain more from your failure than your payment, and at the same time pick up your business almost as an afterthought.

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:19:42 PM PDT

  •  I play Bachs Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ed Tracey, Pluto, JeffW

    How dare you.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:20:25 PM PDT

  •  Speaking of corporate anthems .... (3+ / 0-)

    ... how about the Devo Corporate Anthem - no doubt inspired by Rollerball?

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:27:33 PM PDT

  •  globalization (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, NoMoreLies

    the corporation as government is not new, but it used to be company towns:

    Marsh v. Alabama -- company town not allowed to abrogate religious free speech
    http://supreme.justia.com/...

    Pullman:

    Many workers resented their inability to buy their homes, a limitation that Pullman adamantly retained. Pullman officials conducted periodic inspections of workers’ homes to make sure they were not damaged and that the town maintained a proper public image. Moreover, rent was higher in Pullman than elsewhere; in 1893 it comprised one-third rather than the more typical one-fifth of a workers’ income. Because the majority of Pullman’s residents were immigrants, many wanted to build their own ethnic institutions and were attracted to nearby towns where this was allowed. Others dissented from Pullman’s single, generic Christian church and desired to build their own denominational churches. Last, but hardly least, many male workers objected to the absence of close-at-hand saloons and opted for living in nearby “wet” towns.

    Richard T. Ely, a Christian, pro-labor reformer, was the first outside observer to write critically of Pullman’s claim to have solved the ubiquitous labor question. While praising Pullman for diffusing the benefits of concentrated wealth to his workmen and accepting at face value the goal of promoting middle-class respectability, Ely reported workers’ resentment at total surveillance of their lives and their lack of self-government. As Ely put it, Pullman was a “benevolent, well-wishing feudalism, which desires the happiness of the people, but in such way as shall please the authorities.” That suffocating paternalism, which contradicted American notions of personal independence and freedom, would soon become an issue of national importance.

    http://dig.lib.niu.edu/...

    http://dig.lib.niu.edu/...

    "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." -- Mandela

    by agoldnyc on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:32:58 PM PDT

  •  wow--not sure that I am ready to say that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shrew in Shrewsbury, JeffW, rat racer

    small "c" capitalism is entirely the problem.  But there is something wrong, and you have done a really good job laying it out there.  Sadly, I don't see anyone who has a real solution, and few who can even articulate what seems to have gone wrong.  One person whose judgement I trust is Senator Elizabeth Warren.  Another is Rep. Jim McGovern.  

    It seems that a reinstatement of Glass Stegall is a first step and should be a no-brainer.  

    •  It depends upon how you define capitalism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy

      I would agree if you equate the free enterprise system and entrepreneurial spirit with small "c" capitalism but I disagree that it does. Capitalism is the act of using capital to invest in the capital markets to make more profits. Capitalists are gamblers at the Wall Street casino, they are not our entrepreneurs and small business owners that are the real backbone of our free enterprise system.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:24:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re (0+ / 0-)
    In fact, Gramm's final act on the congressional stage left banks in a position where they could actively profit more from the downfall of their clients than they ever had in promoting growth.
    This is quite a statement here and requires a lot of evidence to back up.

    In order for someone to "profit" from a collapse, there has to be a counterparty somewhere that agrees to pay you in that case.

    You can't just blithely assert that "banks" make money from such situations without identifying the counterparty
    who agreed to pay "the banks" out in cases of these failures and understand what their motivations were.

    Financial agreements always involve two or more people!

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:42:50 PM PDT

  •  Totally awesome. I have a new goal in life. (6+ / 0-)

    Someday I'm going to say something as significant as this, written at least as well and coherently. Or at least, I'm going to try.

    Damn, that was good.

    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

    by serendipityisabitch on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:48:12 PM PDT

  •  Spot on and well written (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, jjellin, onionjim

    This is basis of all of our current problems. We really need to decentralize our economy especially in the financial and energy sectors.

    Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

    by RMForbes on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:13:15 PM PDT

  •  Remember the TV spots from Washington Mutual (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    that made mock of traditional pin-striped bankers?

    They ran from 2005 to 2007. Sadly, WaMu collapsed in 2008 and its assets were acquired by J.P. Morgan.

    Irony. Bitter.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 09:03:56 PM PDT

  •  This diary goes to the top of the heap. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, jjellin

    Well done.

    ----- GOP found drowned in Grover Norquist's bathtub.

    When it all goes wrong, hippies and engineers will save us. -- Reggie Watts

    by JimWilson on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 02:16:43 AM PDT

  •  Fantastic job. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rat racer, maryabein, Eric Nelson

    This should be pegged to the top of the page until morale improves. I like this para:

    First, it’s because we’re all too aware of the gross imbalance of power between corporations and individuals in any capitalist society. Corporations may have been created to provide a protective envelope for investment risk, but they easily accrue privileges and abilities that position them well outside that original intent.
    Bingo, outside that original intent. Lets think about all the rights and privileges bestowed upon these corporations. As entities they absorb the legal ramifications of an individual's wrongdoing, no matter how greedy or malicious. Local governments shower corporations with free taxes, roads, infrastructure, and even positions on local committees. I wonder if a town ever gave John Doe ten years free taxes and a new driveway just to move into town. Its ludicrous, and should be outlawed. I can't keep ranting I type so lousy anyhow.  

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 04:07:27 AM PDT

  •  RIPPED OFF (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, Farlfoto

    HOW “WE THE PEOPLE” ARE RIPPED OFF BY BIG WALL STREET BANKS
    Bank of America, Morgan-Chase, Goldman-Sacks, CitiGroup and Morgan Stanley together have assets which total one quarter of the nation’s economy.  They form an oligopoly controlling the banking and financial markets with the ability to boost profits and bonuses while gouging their customers and consumers.  These, tax supported Federal Reserve favored private corporations are in many ways like the old East and West India Companies, two other oligopolies, which dominated trade and the economy of the 1st British Empire at the time of the American Revolution.  Our revolt was just as much a revolt against their monopolist dominance as it was against King and Parliament.
    Here is how they tax us today without representation, consent or knowledge:
    They control and keep artificially high interest rates on loans, credit cards and mortgages.  They are the principle buyers of debt originated by smaller community banks, loan companies, mortgage firms and small financial institutions.  These large oligopoly banks, the big Five, are making historically large profits on their investments by taking interest rates far higher than in the past.   When the number and the competition among big banks decrease; the cost to the consumer/customer increases.  This excess profit can be views as a corporate taxation without representation.    Indeed, it is a rip off!
    The Big Five banks using their Hedge Fund partners engage in high speed trading using ultra-fast large computers they have the ability to execute millions of stock trades per second.   When banks can trade in nanoseconds while you are trading in minuets, the nanosecond trader has a large advantage because they ‘see’ your trade buy the stock you are interested in and sells it to you making 1, 2 or 3 cents profit.   Do this, once you make a penny; do this 10 million times and you are ripping off the system!  This is taxation without representation on our pensions, our mutual funds, our IRA’s and our 401K’s, and we never even knew it occurred!   Another, rip off!!
    All too often, Big bank money managers make trades based upon insider information not available to outsiders not in the know.  Such trades are illegal but difficult to catch and harder to bring before a judge.  If you do not get the upside; you are stuck with the downside.  All too often the large profits of hedge funds and proprietary trading firms controlled by the too-big-too-fail banks come from such illegal insider knowledge.    This is another example of corporate taxation without representation.  Again we lose, our pensions, mutual funds, IRA’S and 401K’s all ripped off!!!
    The Big Five Wall Street banks and the Big Three credit raters, Standards & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s conspired in a pay-to-play shake down in which the raters would give undesirable ‘trash’ securities any rating the big banks selling said ‘garbage’ desired provided the assessed fees were high.  Both the big banks and the credit raters profited, and an unsuspecting public, as well as, local governments, small not-for-profit corporations, pension funds and other sorts of investments were victims of criminally incompetent ‘gatekeepers’ and their worthless information.   Corporate taxation without representation flourished while “We the People” got ripped off!!!!
    BUT PERHAPS THE BIGGEST RIP OFF OF ALL is that under Dodd-Frank and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, judges must give derivative gambling and speculative claims super-priority to be settled over all other claims whether secured or unsecured, insured or uninsured, depositors, bonds and all other types.
    The largest tax burden Wall Street banks place upon us is the fact that as the banks grow larger our economic growth declines; thereby, killing jobs, tax revenue, opportunities while increasing debt and deficits.  Andrew Holdane who has studied this phenomenon tells us, “There is a threshold at which private credit-to-GDP may begin to have a negative impact on GDP growth.  That threshold is found to lie at a private credit-to-GDP ratio of around 80 to 100%.”  Today the ratio is approaching 200%.  As the financial sector grows larger and larger, the economic well being is sucked out of the nation.  Investment money is siphoned from other more productive uses, lowering effective demands and milking the customer/consumer.  Big Wall Street banks use their too-big-too-fail status to take riskier risks to increase already high profits even further skywards feeling guaranteed, based upon experience that any downturn will result in another BAILOUT and further corporate taxation without representation of “We the People”.   What can we the people do to stop the ripe off?????
    We must let our elected officials and those responsible for regulating and enforcing the laws and rules know we expect them to work for us and not Wall Street.  That, we are on to their greedy ways, their revolving doors, the lobbying pay outs and the campaign contribution, which more and more look like a quid-pro-quo bribe.   No firm should have the power to blackmail the nation into another bailout.  The fear of bankruptcy due to a smaller financial footprint will reign in their worst tendencies and they will once more learn to manage risk to protect themselves.  We should demand of our representatives and our senators the following:  
    1.       Reinstatement of Glass-Steagall which separates consumer banking (FDIC protection) from investment banking (the gambling casino).
    2.        Large financial firms must be broken up into small manageable firms which our overseers can see into and regulate.
    3.       End the credit rating charades by requiring these firms be managed by professional trained and licensed managers uninvolved with what is being evaluated.  They must provide unbiased ratings with proof of how the evaluation was derived and be liable for any fraudulent ratings provided.
    4.       Encourage Congress to pass a financial transaction tax on all high speed nanosecond stock and derivative trades, end the ‘carried interest’ loopholes so private equity and hedge fund managers no longer receive special tax rate treatment on their earning and close all off-shore tax havens.
    5.       Eliminate super-priority of derivatives.
    6.       Make derivatives illegal as they were from 1936 to 1982 under the Commodities Act.
    7.       Create a US Postal Saving Bank and State owned banks for government guaranteed depositors for individual savings and public (local and state government transactions) with a mandate to serve the public and not to speculate or gamble.
    8.       Create a climate which places the public community before corporate power.
    9.       “We the People” must put our elected politician’s feet to the fire.  Those who take or are given excess amounts of money from predatory large banks must be defeated regardless of party.
    At times this may require supporting strong independent third party candidates who will put us first rather than their own greed.  We must learn to become knowledgeable about who is giving how much to whom and for what purpose.  

  •  at the end of the movie, it was changed to (0+ / 0-)

    "corporate hymn"

    The Seminole Democrat
    Confronting the criminally insane who rule our state; as well as the apathy of the vast majority who let them.

    by SemDem on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 06:13:19 AM PDT

  •  The federal government has (0+ / 0-)

    allowed its enforcement powers to fall into disuse on such a scale as to encourage the lawlessness of white collar criminal types. There was a time when the Federal Trade Commission looked out for consumers. Now the Justice Dept. has, as policy, corporate integrity agreements which are chronicles of corporations being caught in the act, yet being given a token fine, as long as the promise not to do it again. And when they are caught again, the process repeats.
        The amount of corporate fraud waste and abuse is staggering, if you just read the corporate integrity agreements on file with the Justice Dept. And yet the government continues to do business with them. That is not a prescription for survival.

  •  "Rollerball" & "Network" the movies (0+ / 0-)

    The tried to warn us.

    Keep It Real Folks

  •   From t/ beginning proponents of capitalism feared (0+ / 0-)
    ..the exercise of democracy. They always feared that citizens would act to restrict the wealth and power of the elite. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
    So well juxtaposed in word and thought - Mark Summers

    - imo
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Here is a time line of the long demise of Glass-Steagal Act and part of the reason for it - The Powell memo
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part of a corporate blueprint to dominate democracy  that was taking off in the 1970's.
    The Lewis Powell Memo

    Forty years ago today, on August 23, 1971, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of the dominant public institutions of American society.

    Powell and his friend Eugene Sydnor, then-chairman of the Chamber’s education committee, believed the Chamber had to transform itself from a passive business group into a powerful political force capable of taking on what Powell described as a major ongoing “attack on the American free enterprise system.”

    The Organizations on the team:
    Historian Kim Phillips-Fein describes how “many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.” In fact, Powell’s Memo is widely credited for having corporate foundations (e.g. Coors, Olin, Bradley, Scaife, Koch and others) thereafter creating and helped catalyze a new business activist movement, with numerous conservative family and sustaining powerful new voices to help push the corporate agenda, including
     • the Business Roundtable (1972),
     • the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC - 1973),
     • Heritage Foundation (1973),
     • the Cato Institute (1977),
     • the Manhattan Institute (1978),
     • Citizens for a Sound Economy (1984 - now Americans for Prosperity),
     • Accuracy in Academe (1985), and others.
    Including: The long demise of Glass-Steagall
    http://www.pbs.org/...
    My comment @ Daily Kos:
    http://www.dailykos.com/...
    Another comment with Hedrick Smith comment added@ Daily Kos:    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    An excellent chart:  Change in share of total income 1967 – 2012 from the census Bureau


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