Monday, October 29, 2007

Lobbying for Democracy?

There are many stories in news today which one might comment on. The Pope has issued a statement calling upon Catholic pharmacists not to fill "immoral prescriptions" for drugs used for abortion and euthanasia to the 25th annual international convention of Catholic Pharmacists (there have been conflicts over this issue in regard to contraception in the U.S.). But that is conflict between spiritual and medical advisors, of soul and body or vice versa.

A Russian serial killer has received a life sentence for his crimes (this is interesting because the pro capitalist regime in Russia, under pressure from the European Union established a moratorium on the death penalty a decade ago, an example of an advance for "democracy" that the U.S. government, which actively supported the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, and Boris Yeltsin's terroristic suppression of his enemies in the Russian State Duma, has not exactly highlighted, emulated, or taken credit for). But no one has yet suggested that Americans on death row go to Russia.

And of course, there is the daily carnage from Iraq along with the daily statements from the government and the U.S. military that things are getting better, law and order is being established in the North, relations are improving between the Sunni provinces and the Shia led central government along with the following policies which will follow the successful completion of the Bush administration's mission: no Iraqi child will be left behind, Iraqi homeowners will receive property tax rebates, the Iraqi national anthem will be sung in Arabic only, the border patrol will be beefed up to prevent undocumented workers from crossing Iraqi borders, faith based Iraqi organizations will be given responsibilities for social welfare, the right of Iraqis to bear arms will be maintained at any cost, and of course there will be no public funding for pregnancy terminations for low income Iraqis. In the future democratic Iraq, students will be freed from the dogma of biological Darwinism thanks to the introduction of Intelligent Design into the school curriculum and freed also to understand the great truth of Social Darwinism, social survival of the fittest in a free market where the wealth and power of those who have wealth and power is both proof of their superiority and for the good of society. Actually, looking at the contradiction in the Bush administration, which actively opposes all scientific work which advances biological Darwinism while its political and economic policies promote Social Darwinism is always a good story to comment on and will continue, unfortunately, to be one until the Right Republicans are decisively defeated in the U.S.

But the story that most intrigued me concerned Robert D. Blackwell. Blackwell is a former ambassador to India who in 2004, as the Iraq area director of the National Security Council, helped make former Baath politician Ayad Allawi, a Shiite who had broken with Saddam Hussein and whom the CIA came to see as its first choice to be strongman of the new "democratic" Iraq, interim Prime Minister. Allawi turned out to be a political disaster and he and his supporters got nowhere in the subsequent Iraqi elections. Today Blackwell is a professional lobbyist who is still representing Allawi in the U.S for a $300,000 fee (at least that was what he received for six months of work recently).

Blackwell, the news reports, also represents for a fee many other governments including a few, Serbia and the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq, for whom I and others on the left would have some sympathy, along with the government of Taiwan (for whom few on the left would have any sympathy) a billionaire former president of Thailand, and a Moscow bank. In 2005 alone, the press reports that he brought in eleven million dollars of business alone to the lobbying firm, Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, with whom he is now associated.

Blackwell goes back to the 1970s when he began work with associates of Henry Kissinger and has had a long career in government and teaching at the John F. Kennedy School, along with a reputation for pushing people around. Now he, with thirty years of information, a good deal of it, I would assume, possibly classified, is taking in millions to represent foreign governments and businesses on a variety of issues, the way former generals and politicians work for military contractors and foreign governments. Influence peddling is nothing new but it has, as students of the U.S. government contend, expanded tremendously since Ronald Reagan became president with his scripted attacks on "big government."

A system of institutionalized and legal bribery, what an old Tammany politician once called "honest graft," operating openly and directly at the legislative and executive levels of the national government, makes that government today what the great Wisconsin progressive Governor and Senator Robert La Follette called it a century ago, a "trading post" for the Trusts (today one would have to add foreign governments and Trusts). If the U.S. is to become(and I emphasize become) a modern democracy, it must be eliminated by serious regulation of lobbying firms, a regulation that would reduce such firms to a small fraction of what they presently are. This is something that progressives must fight for now, if we are not to see progressive governments of the future fall victim to that institutionalized bribery.

Norman Markowitz

1 comment:

Doug said...

Let's not forget that crude oil is above $92/barrel and will probably hit $100 soon.