Just Try Stuffing That Genie Back In The Bottle, Folks


It’s The Corporations, Stupid: Juan Cole on why the Second Amendment is interpreted strictly, literally, fundamentally, but the Fourth Amendment is not. Good read.


Last night I was watching “All In With Chris Hayes,” a rare oasis of intelligent, in-depth conversation on the day’s news. The segment on Edward Snowden, which you can see here (WordPress won’t let me embed the video) covered a lot of the main issues. The thing that got me out of my chair was this bit from Karen Finney; I have no idea who Karen Finney is — I gather she worked in the Clinton White House and she’s got a show coming to MSNBC — but she hit every point I’ve been thinking and saying about this story, and I want to say thank you because there are a couple of larger issues here that really need to be addressed.

She said:

[…] I remember very clearly when I was at the DNC, when we were fighting the Bush Administration on the warrantless wiretapping. I mean, many Democrats, Howard Dean among them, you know, the argument we made was, follow the law. We can do, you know, let’s follow the law and we can keep America safe, we said we wanted a process. We now have a process. I think the argument needs to be, if this process isn’t right, then let’s have that conversation. But the other problem, just quickly, Chris, that really bothers me about this is, you know, somebody could track my location just based on my cell phone. Somebody not the government and so, like, we’re already — it’s a farce if we think that we’ve got a level of privacy that we used to. I mean the amount of information that is out there and available about us that we are willingly giving away all the time, if we’re going to be this concerned about it, then let’s really have that conversation because I don’t want private companies having access to that information either, by the way.

Marc Ambinder then jumped in with his notion that there’s a big difference between corporations and the government having this information, the worst a corporation can do is send you coupons in the mail, but the government can actually put you in jail. That’s an extraordinarily dumb argument, and Ambinder should know better. First of all, being deluged with advertising messaging is incredibly invasive (I wrote about it here). But also, we live in an era when corporations are polluting our elections with dark money and trying to hide their true agenda behind shadowy groups like Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks. So to say the worst thing a corporation can do is send you some unwanted ads is extraordinarily obtuse. They’re trying to undermine our entire democratic process, Ambinder. They’re unraveling the very fabric of our democracy. You goddamn fool.

I’m not happy about any of this, but I’m slightly less concerned about the government’s activities than I am the private sector’s. We have control over the government. We have elections, and a certain amount of transparency built into that system. Private corporations? Not so much. Money corrupts, doesn’t it? So let’s not bring the profit motive into any situation that we don’t want money to corrupt. Like, you know, national security.

Let’s take this scenario to its logical end, when we’re all slaves to the board of directors of RJ Exxon Coca-Koch Bros. Industries, and quaint things like clean air, clean water, worker’s rights and a fucking Saturday off are a thing of the past. Yes I’m exaggerating but if you think things like income inequality are bad now, wait until we turn more of our institutions over to private, for-profit corporations. It’s called “corporate capture” and it’s the real problem, the one no one wants to talk about because it’s already too late.

If I seem a little “emo” on this issue it’s because the whole surveillance issue is something I’ve devoted a lot of time to in my life. Heck, I spent 10 years on a novel I never finished (I know, such a cliche, right?) whose title was “Panopticon,” okay? So I get it. The thing is, as Finney points out, this isn’t just big, bad gummint doing this. This is a private security contractor! A private corporation! The collusion between government and the private sector is extremely disturbing. And I guess we won’t ever address that issue until some Tea Party Republicans decide they don’t like it (which will be never) because apparently our corporate media doesn’t think any issue is worth discussing unless Republicans are upset about it.

So wake the hell up.


Filed under civil liberties, corporations, FISA, FISA. telecom immunity, national security, NSA, warrantless surveillance

16 responses to “Just Try Stuffing That Genie Back In The Bottle, Folks

  1. Mary Wilson

    SB, my unease about all these revelations is comparable to yours…similar to yours. In fact, it reminded me of all the ‘leaks of information about citizens’ files held by major credit checking groups several years ago…where all your personal information was out there and these companies were powerless to FIX it. And BTW, these young commentators/pundits now featured on MSNBC…Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry and Karen Finney are armed with FACTS and telling truth power and to all of us who will listen. Finney was a PR person in the DNC during the 8 years of the Clinton Administration, and she knows her stuff. She has earned her own show, which will launch soon, on weekends, at 4pm on MSNBC. I do agree that private, secret, for profit corporations are 10 times more dangerous to individuals that the Feds…thanks!

  2. Mary Wilson

    Hi, all:  I think this writer has hit the nail on the head with her take on the new ‘leaks of private information case’.  It may not be your opinion, but she makes so much sense, to me, that I am sharing.


  3. Bert Woodall

    Spot on and well said. Thank you.

  4. Ivan Ivanovich Renko

    the worst a corporation can do is send you coupons in the mail

    No, the worst thing a corporation can do is deprive you of your livelihood, and quite possibly your life. Most of us work for corporations, and most of us make our living from “at-will” employment– meaning that your boss can fire you for looking at him sideways.

    Marc Ambinder doesn’t seem to recognize that corporate power is far more intrusive on our day-to-day lives than government power is. After all, your boss can’t put you in jail… but he can surely put you in the poor-house.

    • deep

      meaning that your boss can fire you for looking at him sideways.

      Slight correction, at-will means he can fire you even if you did absolutely nothing–not even looked at him sideways. He can fire you just to laugh at your misfortune.

      That said, why are we just considering the economic hardship that a corp can impose upon a person. Many corporations have sizable security staff, they could even rough you up and get away with it. Blackmail you, send their thugs to burn down your house. Whatever.

      • GregH

        Corporations and private companies can and have intentionally killed people (primarily labor activists and whistleblowers) in the past in our country and walked away scot-free. Just keep telling yourself they are benign rulers and you be much happier with your pitiful lot in life. heh, heh.

    • After all, your boss can’t put you in jail…

      The hell he can’t!

    • … deprive you of your livelihood, and quite possibly your life….

      Also, I’m remembering the energy traders at Enron laughing hysterically at how they jacked up grandma’s electricity bills for fun and profit.

  5. Kathryn Stapp

    Just a point of info for you along this line.  Many years ago, my husband worked for Matador Pipeline, a Koch Industries subsid.  He’d worked for about 5 years when he was approached by a manager to fill out a life insurance policy application which named Koch Industries as beneficiary.  In other words, his death would profit Koch.  It was shocking–a chilling look at corporate thought process.  He refused, as did some others, and shortly after left the company.   Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!


    • Another waay under reported story. I’ve heard of Wal-mart taking out life insurance policies on their employees, as well. They call them “Dead Peasant Policies”:

      Betina Tillman felt shocked and deceived when a reporter from The Wall Street Journal told her that her brother, a music store cashier, was insured by his employer for $339,000 when he died, despite the fact that he no longer worked at the store.

      “We were just in disbelief they were able to do it, and actually cash the policy and cash in on the policy,” Tillman said.

      Families Battle in Court

      She sued, and won. Now, the government mandates that companies obtain the consent of employees.

      At least they have to tell us now. It would be nice if the government would ban the practice altogether, but in this day of corporate capture that is probably asking too much. They get us coming and going, don’t they?

  6. GregH

    Hey, corporations are PEOPLE! And they have FEELINGS! Just ask BP how all the negative press about the humongous oil spill in the Gulf hurt their widdle FEEWINGS!

  7. Mack Farmer

    Did you read David Simon’s piece?

  8. democommie

    Thanks, Mack. Now, go do some witty writing at your house so’s I can read one more GOOD blog.

    Simon, it seems, is a realist; that’ll never do!

  9. CB

    Late to the party, but I just saw this today, and thought some here might find it as thought-provoking as I did. The additional commentary from the guy at Univ. Alaska-Fairbanks is as good as the article.