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Moment of Truth: No Peace In Our Time

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Last week I came out of the jungle to find we were still fighting WWII, and I hate to say it, but fighting and hate were what WWII was about. Is about. Still. That Winston Churchill fellow was a great hater and fighter of Nazis. He got his training while hating and fighting the people he colonized. It was damn effective training, too.

The movie, Dahkest Houh, is about Winston Churchill, starring Gary Oldman as Mrs. Doubtfire, a man who is divorced from his country but, in order to be close to his children, puts on a muppet-like prosthetic disguise and gets a job as the nation's nanny and mascot.

The movie begins with the evacuation of Dunkirk, which required the sacrifice of 4000 men's lives to rescue 300,000 from certain destruction. It was a calculated sacrifice. Churchill made a decision no gathering of Talmudic rabbis could have come to. Churchill was good at presiding over death. That training in the colonies, don'tchy'know. The British needed to save the 300,000 so they could fight the 3 million who were in Hitler's army, so the 4000 had to die.

Churchill was the last in a long line of stocky jowly belligerent imperialist British alcoholics, and he, like Barack Obama, came into office only when his country needed him to clean up a terrible mess. Like Obama, he performed the task, but unlike Obama, he didn't resort to half-measures, or one-quarter measures, or an even lesser fraction, he didn't leave most of the job undone for the next administration to dismantle, and he didn't hire the exact people causing the problem to try to deal with it. He didn't hire Himmler or Field Marshall von Sauerkraut to run the military for him.

If Churchill had run the British war effort the way Obama ran Wall Street reform, it would have been Goebbels saying "We shall fight in the fields." The British people would have been admonished to lie down in the middle of the road so the German tanks could crush them easier. And don't forget to hand over any Jewish neighbors!

The Atlantic Magazine just posted a worthless article (Is Big Business Really That Bad?) about how big corporations are being unjustly vilified. Kind of like when the NYT urges us to be nicer to Nazis. If you're suggesting that big corporations will respond to reasonable regulation, you are Neville Chamberlain announcing peace in our time. Hitler has invaded country after country on the continent, but sure, let's try reasoning with him as he's about to destroy every young man in our military.

Haven't you learned the lesson of Mrs. Doubtfire and the Gathering Storm of fascism?!

The authors are silent on the main problems with big corporations. Instead they offer some startling facts:

"Employment at large businesses is in fact steadier than at small businesses." Is it? Do you include having to relocate to another state or country to keep your job in your assessment of stability? Just curious.

"In 2015, small enterprises were four times more likely to lay off their workers than large ones." In an economy where a giant franchise chain can run you out of business by temporarily undercutting you in a particular market, undercutting you severely and unethically (by human standards of ethics), you might allow that small businesses are hindered from being stable concerns, much less stable employers, by the very existence of large corporations. All of the examples of the superiority of large corporations in the article reflect the way they have been able to distort the economy in their favor. So, authors, aren't you separating causes from symptoms?

I did read in Fortune magazine a list of the largest layoffs of the two decades straddling the turn of the current millennium:

60,000 in 1993 by IBM, 50,000 by Sears in 1993, 40,000 by ATT in 1996, 31,000 by Boeing in 2001, 35,000 by Ford in 2002, 35,000 by Kmart in 2003, 50,000 by Citigroup in 2008, 47,000 by GM in 2009, 34,000 by Circuit City in 2009, 30,000 by Bank of America in 2011

I remember those Boeing layoffs when they happened. The economy was supposedly doing well. Boeing sure wasn't doing badly. And over all, labor productivity was at an historic high, although that sure wasn't reflected in wages. And in the midst of that environment, Boeing fired the population of a small city. Capitalism, from the workers' point of view, seems incapable of stability, but seems rather engineered to create instability and fear – and big corporations laying off tens of thousands of people in one fell swoop is a large part of that. When does the failure of a small business gut a city like Flint or Detroit?

A disingenuous thread in the article is to accuse progressives of hypocrisy in holding big business in low esteem.

"Large firms are [] more likely to be unionized." Yes, but there are laws that make unionizing any new shop hard, and larger ones tend to be older, so their unions are legacy unions, from a hard fought battle against a formidable enemy over time in a slightly less fascistic labor environment. "And they employ a greater share of women and minorities than small firms do." Thus the authors conclude "Big Business [is] an unlikely enemy of progressives." Look, if all progressives cared about was how big a percentage of women and minorities corporations hired, sweatshops and slave labor wouldn't be much of a concern of theirs, would they? "Hey, we're Apple, look at all the Asian women we employ in China." Yes, many of them try to leap to their deaths out the windows, but now we have suicide prevention nets in which to catch them. I wonder if the authors are counting the suicide nets as among the many benefits big corporations provide.

"If the claims of the small-is-beautiful school are so at odds with the facts," (no, at odds with a few select, distorted facts) "how can we explain their popular appeal?"

Just as popular as the idea of the rebel upstart independent business is the fairytale of the kid who comes from nothing and builds a business empire. Business empires are admired. Tycoons are admired. Check out our president before you start talking about small business appeal. Where does THAT sack of crap get its popular appeal? That's the actual mystery, and we've been baffled by it since the Gilded Age robber barons. And utterly befuddled since the last presidential election.

A lot of suspicion of big business derives from its faceless, extra-governmental, extra- national power of fiat, which is no small thing to be brushed aside with, "well of course, but if not for that." Too much power is the problem.

From the Guardian: "[US Federal Court evidentiary documents show] that in the 1990s Shell Oil routinely worked with Nigeria's military and mobile police to suppress resistance to its oil activities, often from activists in Ogoniland, in the delta region." The Ogoni were protesting because Shell was polluting beyond repair their water and land. How many transnational corporations get away with crimes like this because there is little to no accountability for corporate human rights violations? Our inability to know is part of the problem. Although the authors of the Atlantic article crow about how big corporations are the real sources of innovation (they're not, it more often begins with government funded research programs), they seem blind to certain kinds of innovation. Writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed, along with other Nigerians, under this delightfully innovative cooperative project between the Nigerian military and Shell Oil, for example. Yet such innovation goes uncelebrated by the authors of the offending article.

While small businesses may also violate human rights, they are rarely, if ever, able to hire a nation's military police force to put down resistance to their plans to destroy acres of land. Nor are they able to buy up huge amounts of the world's potable water for pennies, depriving local communities of a life necessity, to sell it in bottles to people thousands of miles away, as Nestlé is in the process of doing around the world.

The article's thesis is contingent on ignoring the dire threat to our civilization from capitalism in general and these bloated greed machines in particular. Yes, in some fantasy universe where big business and big banks didn't suck all new wealth into their coffers last year; where they don't trade money and high positions for political favors; punish rising wages with austerity in order to push real wages back down and drive up their stock prices; reward their worthless executives for hollowing out their companies; poison our soil, air and water; destabilize communities and entire nations to more easily rob them of their resources; hoard and conceal their profits; engineer the destruction of competing local enterprises; fire tens of thousands of employees at once; defy governmental and communal attempts to curb their inherent ruthless trajectory to engulf and devour – then, yes, in a world where those aspects of big business are not integral to their nature, perhaps some of their benign features might come in handy. But, of course, even a dictatorship can be very useful and efficient, if it weren't for the massacres and oppression and eccentric mustaches and all.

But that's what Mrs. Doubtfire was fighting against. All that extra stuff. The brutality. The swastikas. The mass conformity. The bombing. The hatred of the Other. The quasi- messianic drive to dominate. But mostly, she was fighting for her home, England. Maybe a few other parts of the Island, too. But she found herself, after decades as an oppressor, now an unlikely underdog, fighting against the boot stomping the human face for eternity. And that fight's not over, clearly.

There will not be peace in our time. We will fight on the beaches. We will fight in the fields. You fascist-appeasing idiots.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.

Moment of Truth

 

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