Sunday, October 01, 2006

Trick and Treat

Eager, as always, to make both first call at the bar and an early getaway, the bicameral two ring circus of embezzlers, extortionists, buffoons, car dealers, and lawyers known as the US Congress stirred itself last week to raise its right arm and wield its mighty rubber stamp.

With Sunday football, Halloween, and elections dangling in front of its nose/trunk like a carrot in front of the proverbial elephant's ass, the 109th convention of bozo millionaires passed the Bush administration's military tribunal proposal-- finally bringing bourgeois theory finally into line with bourgeois practice by abrogating the "principle" of habeas corpus.

Then, warming to its task, and dedicated to keeping the mean in mean green, Congress passed the defense appropriations bill, a cool $448 billion in guaranteed cost overruns secured through the sale of US Treasury bonds to Japan, China, Russia, and various petroleum exporters. $70 billion or so is committed to ensuring that the destruction of the Iraq and its people can continue in the style to which Americans have become so accustomed, at least for the next 6 months.

But it was the House committee on Commerce and Energy that provided the anti-comic relief to this carnival of vicious venality. The committee, whose members have received some $24 million in campaign donations from the corporations, associations, and individuals subject to its inquiries, investigations, and legislations, called on the former chairperson of Hewlett-Packard, Ms. Patricia Dunn, the company's current CEO, Mark Hurd to explain certain irregularities committed by the corporation in its investigation into the leak of sensitive information. The "irregularities" included the transmission of "tracer" emails to track any secondary distribution made by the recipient, the surveillance of employees and journalists, the use of "pretexting" (the use of fraudulent identities and pretenses) for obtaining personal phone records, and other tactics used so spectacularly, dismally, and everyday by... by the US government.

In the second grandest tradition of American corporate leadership, Ms. Dunn denied any responsibility for the conduct of the investigation. Not only did the buck not stop with her, it didn't start with her, and she never got to keep even a measly quarter. Ms. Dunn was guided in all these matters by HP's general counsel, HP's former general counsel, Ann Baskins. Ms. Baskins resigned her position on the day of the hearings.

In the grandest tradition of American corporate leadership, Ms. Baskins declined to testify before the committee, citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination. While refusing to testify under oath, however, Ms. Baskins did manage to negotiate a separation agreement with Hewlett-Packard. In return for her cooperation with HP's unsworn investigations and her agreement not to sue the company, Ms. Baskins will retain her rights to vested stock options worth $3.7 million, and the company will accelerate her vesting in stock options worth an addition $1 million. America the beautiful for sure of thee I thing.

Hewlett-Packard stated that in taking this strong stand against rewarding unethical and illegal behavior by its employees, it will rightfully resume its position as the brand name in business ethics.

Meanwhile, it's not the crime that bothers the representatives, it's the competition. Stings? Surveillance? Obtaining personal phone records? Sifting trash? False pretexts? Just exactly who do Dunn, Hurd, Baskins et al think they are? Unelected government officials? Missing the kidnappings, the secret prisons, the digital pictures of torture emailed home, and the disappeared bodies, the unhabeased corpses, Hewlett-Packard was really only missing one thing-- the government contract to do all those things.

Somewhere in some corporate executive offices, some corporate executives are wondering why they should continue to absorb the expense of supporting Congress, which shows how little some corporate executives understand of the political economy of modern capitalism.

One of the less brilliant presentations used to explain and bolster Keynes theory argues that the bourgeois economy could be maintained and the value of money retained if half the population was put to work digging holes into the side of a mountain, with the other half put to work filling in the holes. This assertion ignores the criticality of use, of use value, to the bourgeois and to all economies; it ignores the very conflict of use and exchange value in the identity of the commodity, at the very core of capitalist reproduction. But....

But Congress is exactly that Keynesian exercise for corporate capitalism, just that exercise of throwing money into holes, so that money and more money can be taken out as Congress redistributes incomes, sanctions the liquidation of pension funds, authorizes the destruction of countries abroad, and the sacking of cities and populations at home. As the committee members and their cohorts race out of DC, fright wigs on and bags in hand, to ring the corporate doorbells, get their corporate candy, they represent, almost too perfectly, the uselessness of capital.

S. Artesian October 1, 2006
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