WWH – A few years ago, my dishwasher fucked up and burned down the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago, a nuclear reactor fucked up and leaked radiation all over Northern Japan. The dishwasher and the nuclear reactor were both made by GE, a conglomerate that brings good things to life – like genetically modified seeds. An engineer who worked on the design for the reactor raised concerns about the design in 1972 and resigned from GE when nobody would listen to him (NTDTV, 03.23.2011).
GE also knew this model of dishwasher caused a number of fires, but they didn’t recall those dishwashers until enough people successfully sued for damages. Lawsuits changed the profit equation.
It’s too late to recall the reactor, although I suppose that GE and other nuclear contractors will be forced to modify designs of nuclear power plants in the future. There may be talk in some quarters about suing GE over the trouble with Fukushima Daiichi, but the difference between my dishwasher and the nuclear reactor is that with a little, individual dishwasher, it is simple to prove GE was responsible. They were the only company involved in the design and production of the machine, and since we and other homeowners with lawyers could show a direct link between that product and fires in kitchens across America, GE had to reimburse each plaintiff for the costs associated with cleaning up the mess GE caused when they chose to ignore a design flaw.
Even if the GE design was at fault, there are contractual safeguards to protect manufacturers from liability. Channeling law is the long-standing nuclear industry practice that assigns the liability for damages from a nuclear failure on plant operators, regardless of fault for an incident (WSJ, 03.14.2011) .
The liability situation with the Deepwater Horizon disaster is different because months ago, then CEO Tony Hayward said BP would pay all legitimate claims, and Obama took steps to hold BP accountable. However, the Deepwater liability trail is twisted due to the involvement of Transocean and Halliburton, a notorious war profiteer formerly run by Dick Cheney. BP immediately blamed Halliburton for negligence, and although there is certainly evidence to that effect, it’s doubtful that there is a legal firm in the world who can make charges stick to Dick Cheney. That’s the trick with corporations – it’s nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable even though the individuals who profit from corporations are pretty easy to spot, like Tony Hayward on his yacht sadly saying he wants his life back.
When corporations have so much influence on the government that the corporations are, in fact, calling the shots, that’s called Fascism.
I’m sorry to say that even though I did quite well on Standardized Tests in High School, I never thought to wonder exactly what fascism was until the Teabaggers started carrying signs to Town Hall meetings against Health Care reform calling Obama a Fascist, a Nazi, a Communist and a Socialist all at the same time. Even those of us who barely paid attention in High School know that it’s not possible to be all of that at the same time unless maybe you’re French. Those French Intellectuals are confusing, and may be responsible for stirring up all the trouble with the Bolsheviks. Truly, I can’t remember, but one thing is sure: in America, we are definitely not French or Russian. We are a Democracy which means, in theory, the people are the boss of the government.
We really meant to be a Democracy, anyway, back in Revolutionary times. A government by the people and for the people was a beautiful, romantic ideal. I remember falling in love with the whole concept on The Young Rebels where the dashing young Marquis de Lafayette rode in on a white horse to support The Revolution.
In those days, commercials on TV were for tangible products, with characters like Madge the Manicurist using dish washing liquid to soften hands, or the sleepy baker in boxer shorts chanting, “Time to make the doughnuts.” There are very few commercials for products on CNN these days. Often, commercials are well-crafted messages from Corporations telling us how much good they do for our country and the world. Cheerful GE employees line dance across fields of wind turbines, and medical miracles are brought to us by the good folks at Phillips. Corporations own the TV networks, which make their money from the advertising dollars spent by Corporations. It’s no wonder the information those networks provide is as carefully crafted to preserve the corporate image as the advertisements.
It’s hard to believe that America is like the Fascist countries we learned about in high school because, first of all, Fascism was a problem in World War II and secondly, there aren’t any Italians involved. The Fascist Mussolini was Italian and allied with Hitler during World War II. As everyone knows, Hitler was a Nazi. Both were totalitarian governments, however, and both were proponents of Corporatism. Although the corporatism Mussolini advocated may have been for organizations more like guilds than GE and Halliburton, and Hitler went further with the whole Aryan Nation idea – when we look at Fascists in WWII, we see that The State used the power of Financial Organizations to control the citizens with a very visible military presence.
In America today, we see that financial organizations have bought the government in order to use the citizens as cheap labor and cannon fodder. The US military budget is greater than the next 18 largest spenders combined (Assetbuilder 03.11.2011), without factoring in the TSA or other spending on security. We don’t have the Gestapo kicking in our doors in the middle of the night. We have politicians like Tom Delay, the Texas Congressman who pushed redistricting efforts that effectively secured Texas for Republicans for the next generation or two.
Before anyone ever heard of the Tea Party or Citizens United, Tom Delay was involved with Triad Management Services, a shell corporation funded by the Koch brothers that poured millions of dollars into attack ads used to manipulate elections across the country (Sourcewatch.org). Triad was at the center of Tom Delay’s felony conviction for money laundering. As it happens, the Koch Brothers own Spandex – the stretchy synthetic fiber that’s in all manner of garments.
Tom Delay was under indictment for funnelling Koch money to political attack ads when he shook his Spandex covered ass on Dancing with the Stars. That’s American Fascism, or Contemporary Corporatism, in action.
PENolan (pseudonym) was a New Waver in Austin, Texas before running off with a Yankee to New York City. She holds Masters Degrees in both Early Childhood and Secondary Education and has been teaching preschool for more than twenty years. Tricia appears regularly in the humor series Drunken! Careening! Writers! at KGB Bar. Through her blog, Menopausal Stoners, she has developed a reputation as a theologian and subversive.