15 April

United We Stand: Life Inside The Corporate Nation

by Jon Katz
Life Inside The Corporate Nation

I’m getting my resistance shoes on.

People can fuss all they want about Donald Trump, my resistance is and has always been to the rampaging growth of the Corporate Nation, corporations in my lifetime have destroyed health care, the movies, banking, Congress, veterinary care,  publishing, journalism,  TV and mass media, peace of mind, security, work and the environment.

I can safely say corporations have destroyed nearly every single thing I have loved in my life or care about, except for my family and my farm. And they are getting around to the farms, there is big money to be made driving the small farmers out of business and making bigger farms.

Corporate farms, they are called.

If our new President did every single thing he has promised to do, he wouldn’t do a fraction of the damage to the country that the Corporate Nation, a governing body all of its own now, has already done. Just think about the case of Dr.  David Dao, this week the most famous doctor in the world after he was pulled off a United Airlines seat he had bought and paid  for and beaten nearly senseless for demanding and expected what he paid for.

You all know the story, I don’t need to rehash it here. You may not know this is a prescient and almost inevitable consequence of the lack of accountability and runaway power of mega-billion corporations who are simply beyond anyone’s control.

Deregulation was great for them, awful for us.

The federal government is chump change next to a company like United. Gazillion dollar lawsuit settlements are a minor expense and annoyance to them, Twitter outrage is a two-day headache, a scandal quickly finessed by skilled and slick crisis management companies.

Five days after United’s CEO finally woke up and followed the corporate crisis plan and started groveling to his outraged customers and reporters, United’s Stock was up even higher than it was before the incident with Dr. Dao. You can bet his lawsuit will be settled out of court and include a no-comment clause.

Corporations know how to bury things under the rug. The president, who has tweeted a half dozen times about Saturday Night Live, was apparently not outraged by the story of David  Dao. He has yet to mention it.

Today, the lede trending story on Twitter was whether or not George Bush really said Donald Trump’s inaugural speech was
“some shit.”

Woodrow Wilson said that liberty has never come from the government, it has always come from the governed. The history of government is a history of resistance, the history of liberty, he said, is the history of limiting government and power, not increasing it. Conservatives have long targeted the runaway scope and power of the federal government, but neither the left or the right dares any longer to take on the big corporations, which now give them unlimited amounts of money  in exchange for their silence and complicity.

The biggest reason for rising health care costs, says everyone involved, is runaway pharmaceutical costs. There is no mention in any proposal, bill or plan from either political party to control pharmaceutical companies or their processes, we are the only advanced country on the earth that doesn’t.

I believe the real fight for freedom will come against the Corporate Nation, not the political one.

I am old enough to remember when flying was a pleasure, when there was room to stretch my legs, good food, courteous attendants, proud pilots, pleased passengers. I can’t imagine any airline daring to force a paid passenger off a plane, let alone drag him off and beat the crap out of him for refusing to give up his seat.

Or charge for being comfortable on a flight.

United didn’t think twice about dragging Dr.Dao  off the plane, it seems it happens all the time. The gullible man thought he had some choice in the matter. If some of the passengers didn’t use their cell phone videos, nobody would have heard a thing about it.

The big airlines have grown ever more profitable as they pummel their customers with long lines and many fees – $450 for changing a flight, Draconian limits on carry-on bags, high fees for checked bags, rude and harried attendants who are not nearly as courteous or responsive as the teenagers who work in fast food franchises. Airline travel is a miserable experience, an exercise in degradation, discomfort and awful service.

I cringe at the pile-ons and panic in cabins as passengers and attendants jostle and shout to cram their bags in the overhead bins so the plane can take off. It seems to set the template for the way airlines treat passengers.

Say what you want about regulation, if the airlines were still regulated honestly by the FAA, Dr.Dao would not be in the hospital, recovering from his wounds.

He would have gotten where he wanted to go and where he paid to go. And he would have had room for his knees.

The big idea in government now, is to let big companies run amok, to simply get out of their way and trust them to be good, even over the bodies of their own customers. Brutalizing customers is good for business, if you have a stomach for it.

Last year, I suddenly got a $748 charge from Facebook for ads – for the second time – that I did not order and did not want. In three months of trying, I could not reach a single human at the company, nor would any government agency even pretend to help me. When I realized I was all alone against this unaccountable behemoth, I swallowed my pride and paid them. This was money I could not afford.

Two months ago, Facebook gave everyone a chance to put a limit on the cost of ads they could authorize.  I was not the only one.

If anyone had bothered to look at my ad record, they could have seen instantly that I have never taken out expensive ads like that, I don’t even know what they were for. But nobody bothered to look, or even speak to me.

But the truth is, I needed them much more than they cared about me. When I wrote my fifth letter to Facebook, a computer replied that I had a history of claiming my ads were not autorized. I gave in, I just did not have time to fight something the size of Facebook, and t here was no way to do it. . I was wrong. I felt awful giving them that money.

I think Dr. Dao is not an aberration but the future.

He is a prophet and a symbol, come to warn us to think about liberty and how to resist the loss of it. If you are not free to buy a plane ticket and take the flight and refuge to give up your seat, then you are not free.

Corporations are merging, growing, profiting more every day.

LIke the banks, they are simply too big to fail, regulate or even talk to. Banks like Wells Fargo weather horrific scandals like their account stealing and forgeries, other banks walked away from the mortgage scandal, which ruined the lives of millions of Americas. Chase Manhattan paid $16 billion to the government for banking violations in the past two years, and they made more money last year than the  year before.

Who, exactly, are these corporations accountable to? I guess we all know. Stockholders. And soon, there will be no consumer protection agency.

I should say I do find some companies more responsive than others, they at least pretend to care about their customers, even if they don’t. I think of Apple,Microsoft, AT&T as companies that are responsive and courteous. In my dealings with them, they have all been fair and tried to help me when I needed help.

But that is the exception, not the rule.

Government is shrinking, dysfunctional and beset by controversy and polarization. Corporations are growing, merging and expanding, ever more ruthless in pursuit of ever greater profits. No single customer has rights in such a world.

To ride on an airline today is to be abused and exploited. If you really want a seat you can sit comfortably in, you will have to pay extra for it, and unless you are wealthy, there is a good chance you won’t get it.

There is no longer any reasonable way to be safe and comfortable on an airline with just what you paid for.  It’s just another kind of bait and switch.

That is a model that works for corporations, and Dr. Dao will not be their last victim.

Just the one fortunate enough to be near people with video cameras and a couple of cops who lost their minds.

For me, a happy and engaged human being, the challenge is to keep my individuality and my spirituality. I don’t want to rant or argue on the phone with anyone, I want to find a solid ground to stand on, and to work at being compassionate and empathetic. I think I’ll have some work to do.



15 April

Fate’s World View. Weltanschauung Of A Dog.

by Jon Katz
Fate’s View

Every individual dog, like every individual human, is believed to have a worldview, the fundamental cognitive orientation encompassing point of view and sense of the world. The Germans, who coined the term, called it Weltanschauung, or “outlook,” and it is believed to be something that dogs develop by their twelfth week of life, and once it is formed, it is nearly impossible to change.

This worldview is largely shaped by genetics, the interaction with their mothers and their siblings. Dogs become confident or socially at ease or fearful and aggressive during this period, even the best trainers have trouble altering a dog’s Weltanschauung after several months.

People think dogs are a blank space when they come to them, but that is rarely true, they are most often pretty much formed in their outlook when they come to us. If a dog has easy access to food, she will be easy around kids and others when she eats. If she was pushed aside by her siblings, or ignored by her mother, or had to fight and scrap for every drop of milk, they she will almost certainly be protective of her food around dogs and people. That’s just one example of worldview, there are many.

This, of course, is why it’s so important to know as much as we can about dog when we bring it home, rather than simply leaving it up the fates to show us over time. This laziness and fixation on dogs as primarily a self-serving  moral object of choice harms a lot of dogs. More dogs suffer die after being returned to shelters than from any other cause of death.

When we choose the wrong dog, they pay, we don’t. They can’t return us.

We owe it to them to choose our dogs wisely and well and thoughtfully, not just because it makes us feel good about ourselves, or we saw a border collie in a movie.

I think about my dog’s worldview all the time, especially Fate and I took my new portrait lens outside to try and capture what I see is her view of the world. Welltlanschauung is not just about running, it is demeanor and temperament and intelligence as well, it is how the dog relates to the world.

I think this lens captured Fate’s view of the world when she is racing around the pasture, I think this must be what it seems like to her.

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