Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scott Walker and the Chamber of Horrors, er, Commerce

As I was working on catching up on the things I missed while I was away, I saw a story from JSOnline reporting that on Wednesday, our wayfaring governor is going to Washington D.C. to "attend U.S. Chamber of Commerce events."

Normally, I would have just brushed it off as just more of Walker's "rising-star-before-smashing-into-a-Walkergate-nova" antics.  But this caught me dead in my tracks.

Lewis F. Powell
The reference of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was most timely.  During my travels, I was given a tip from a most sagacious soul.  Said tip had to do with a letter written 41 years ago by Lewis F. Powell, just two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Richard M. Nixon.

Powell's letter, which came to be known as the Powell Memo or the Powell Manifesto, was written to and at the request of his friend, Eugene Sydnor, Jr., then Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  It has come to be a strong influence in the strategy adapted by the likes of the Koch Brothers, Sam Adams Alliance and the Bradley Foundation.  It is also the basic playbook for ALEC.

The first part of the letter was a cursory overview of the plaints that businesses are echoing to this day: That taxes are too high and that there are too many regulations.  He goes on to complain of "attacks" by the usual bogeymen of the right wing corporate nuts - communists, socialists, statists and leftists. And, as one might expect, Powell portrays the CEOs as the poor, downtrodden class that is too meek for their own good.

But as one reads on, it gets downright scary as you see Powell describing what is happening today, forty years after he wrote his letter.

He speaks of infiltrating the school systems with right-minded people, both as speakers, as teachers and as activists.  This brings to mind the story from one year ago about the undue influence the Koch Brothers had in personnel decisions at Florida State University.  Walker's own "merit system" is nothing more than a way for him to force out the malcontents and to keep and reward the ones that pass their fealty tests.

Powell even advocates for censoring what is in the textbooks and what is being taught in the classrooms.  Does "intelligent design" and "abstinence only" ring a bell?

What sent chills down my spine is when Powell writes about the ways to control the public, which he says is most vital for the immediate term.

He describes controlling what's on television, including educational programs and newscasts, much like he wanted control over the textbooks.  He advocated for similar control of the radio.  Suddenly, Fox News and talk radio takes on a much more ominous look.

Powell also describes the need to put out their own publications, whether it be "scholarly publications," books, pamphlets and advertisements.  What he is describing is their need for pseudo-scholarly propaganda machines such as WPRI, MacIver Institute and the Franklin Center.  And yes, I would add corporate media like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Wall Street Journal to this list.

Powell goes on with more strategies, such as using the courts (see Rick Esenberg and his legal group which just happens to be funded by the Bradley Foundation but "without expectations"). even more lobbying (which apparently became buying politicians like Walker) and generally flooding the system with more graft, er, I mean, money.

So what do we do now?

We have the corporate takeover of not only Wisconsin, but the entire nation, which has been meticulously and methodically taking place for literally decades.  They control most of the media and information sources, thereby controlling the population.  There is no better example than the unsuccessful recall of Walker.  It all looks like we are about to become an oligarchy and there's no way to stop it.

Well, we are not helpless and the situation is not hopeless.  Indeed, we have already started giving ourselves the means to stop and even reverse this trend.

First of all, Powell gives us a glimpse of the where they have overreached his original intent (emphasis mine):
We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.
The current version of the robber barons of old have stepped over the line when they started attacking Labor and collective bargaining.  Their greed has gotten the better of them and we can use that in a form of political judo.

Secondly, we have one of the largest grassroots movements in the nation in the form of #wiunion.  #wiunion is, as most already know, the loosely formed group that consists of people from the right, the left and the independent who feel that things have gone too far already.  We are public and private sector workers as well as the unemployed and underemployed.  We are the people of Wisconsin and we are fighting for our homeland, in every sense of the phrase.

Thirdly, we have ways to getting the information out there, whether it be through blogs, social media or even just social gatherings.  However, this is not enough at this time.  I would like to see a group of people come together to form a counterweight to the corporate media.  With the number of teachers and other workers who have been laid off and/or retired, not to mention citizen journalism, there are more than enough people who could be benefited by and beneficial for an alternative news source.  The funding to support the reporters, editors, artists, etc. could come from the same groups that supported the recall movement: the unions, the advocacy groups and groups like United Wisconsin.

Fourthly, as I pointed out right after the recall, we need to get some fresh faces into the political system.  We can't keep hanging our hopes on corporate Democrats who aren't much better than the Republicans.  The first example of this which comes to mind is Lori Compas.  Yes, she lost the recall election.  But the fact that there was even a recall election exceeded all expectations from the Republicans or the Democrats. Compas did that with the grassroots movement that I just mentioned above.

And lastly, we have the weapon that the would be corporate overlords gave us on a silver platter - Scott Walker and his crew.  Walkergate is upon them, with two convictions already and four more of Walker's aides facing serious charges.  It is only a matter of when, not if, Walker himself is indicted.  The level of corruption in Walker's administration is so complete that even though they are downplaying it, the corporate media that supports him has had to admit to the seriousness of it.

When Walker is indicted and goes to trial and the information comes spilling out, there will be a backlash at the extent the corporate overlords have gone in trying to make their final push at a hostile takeover.  This backlash, I have reason to believe, will spill all over the nation.

Then, maybe, just maybe, we can start restoring balance to our state and to our country.


  1. Welcome back. So I have to ask. What corporate media is talking about the possible indictments? Any suggestions?

    1. Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been covering the story as well.

    2. At least the county case. No one else has covered the federal case.

  2. Capper, great post, thanks.

  3. Great analysis and suggestion. It sounds a lot like Tim Pool and what's coming out of the #occupy movement. The internet gives ordinary people the tools to fight back.

  4. Information on the internet or progressive radio is quite ephemeral. Corporations control newspapers and television so we will have to go back to an older system of political communication that dates back to the Revolution.

    Organizations often use phone tree systems to mobilize people for action and I think the same principle can be applied to printed information that can be copied and passed on from person to person.

    It's one thing to get a web link in an email from someone and quite another to get literature from Aunt Mabel that explains the situation in detail, along with a personal note explaining why she thinks the information is important and how it directly applies to the recipient.

    Local communities will begin seeing their school systems falling apart next fall and it needs to be explained to them in detail from a local perspective by rank and file people.

    Most campaign literature absolutely sucks. Reading the mailers, I learned that Tom Barrett was a nice guy but it was be hard to understand why a Recall was necessary. Major fail. We can do better with literature that isn't written and designed by DLC approved campaign consultants.

  5. If you want a longer history on the conservative ascendancy I recommend the following: Kim Phillips-Fein, "Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan" (2009); Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, "Selling Free Enterprise: Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-1960" (1994); Howell John Harris, "The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s" (1982). The last two deal more with the workplace environment, but are great none the less, and give a picture of how industrial relations changed. Unfortunately there is not a decent history of ALEC, and the changing nature of law in its wake. It would be interesting to see how the language and length of bills has changed over time, and how it became harder and harder to read and decipher, not only for citizens but for lawmakers as well. I agree with your prescriptions too. Getting a strong, articulated message out there is key, electing persons to office is a part of that. Starting now and working through to Nov would be a good start. I know there is some defeatism and some general dissatisfaction with the Dems but I think a clear message and honest candidates could go a long way to bringing a real change and countering some of the corporate message.

  6. I have to hand it you. You've managed to usurp the frustrations that sparked the Tea Party movement and pretend that your side is suddenly the downtrodden in a few short months. For those of us who have finally found some relief from the yoke of union-funded media-supported drivel, your vision falls flat. Spare us your Orwellian visions of doom and gloom. We're doing quite alright thank you.

    1. We know from Hindsight that the "frustrations that sparked the "tea party" movement" were basically the fact that our president is black and the "movement" was incredibly well funded to push the fear. There was no other reason for your frustrations....

    2. Wow, that is some mighty fancy spinning, Rod. You could almost qualify for corporate talk radio.

  7. When Walkergate blows open it will hit the national news scene. The GOP & its Corporate donors will look like the pool scene in Caddy Shack trying to bail on Walker;
    As suggested it could impact the national elections if it breaks before November. Time will tell :)

  8. I think that the U.S. corporate elite and their fascist Republican vassals will attempt to put all dissenters in concentration camps before they will give up their dream of absolute power. There may even be mass torture and murder. Chile, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany... It can happen here. When the GOP media constantly scream that "liberals" are traitors trying to destroy American and everything good and decent, the stage is being set.