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Mon Jul 16, 2012, 06:59 AM

The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union

http://www.alternet.org/visions/156311/the_new_totalitarianism%3A_how_american_corporations_have_made_america_like_the_soviet_union/

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The great power struggle of the 20th century was the competition between Soviet-style communism and "free-market" corporatism for domination of the world's resources. In America, it's taken for granted that Soviet communism lost (though China's more capitalist variant seems to be doing well), and the superiority of neo-liberal economics -- as epitomized by the great multinational corporations -- was thus affirmed for all time and eternity.

There's a small problem with this, though. An old bit of wisdom says: choose your enemies carefully, because over time, you will tend to become the very thing you most strongly resist. One of the most striking things about our victorious corporations now is the degree to which they've taken on some of the most noxious and Kafkaesque attributes of the Soviet system -- too often leaving their employees, customers, and other stakeholders just as powerless over their own fates as the unhappy citizens of those old centrally planned economies of the USSR were back in the day.

It's not just that the corporations have taken control over our government (though that's awful enough). It's also that they've taken control over -- and put serious limits on -- our choices regarding what we buy, where we work, how we live, and what rights we have. Our futures are increasingly no longer our own: more and more decisions, large and small, that determine the quality of our lives are being made by Politburo apparatchiks at a Supreme Corporate Soviet somewhere far distant from us. Only now, those apparatchiks are PR and marketing executives, titans of corporate finance, lobbyists for multinationals, and bean-counting managers trying to increase profits at the expense of our freedom.

With tongue only somewhat in cheek, here are a few ways in which Americans are now becoming a new lumpenproletariat, subject to the whims and diktats of our new Soviet-style corporate overlords.

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Reply The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union (Original post)
xchrom Jul 2012 OP
ananda Jul 2012 #1
nashville_brook Jul 2012 #2
Octafish Jul 2012 #3
amfortas the hippie Jul 2012 #4
knitter4democracy Jul 2012 #5
reformist2 Jul 2012 #6
raouldukelives Jul 2012 #7
bhikkhu Jul 2012 #8
Occulus Jul 2012 #10
bhikkhu Jul 2012 #14
marmar Jul 2012 #12
JackRiddler Jul 2012 #20
bhikkhu Jul 2012 #25
bobthedrummer Jul 2012 #9
TBF Jul 2012 #11
Art_from_Ark Jul 2012 #15
TBF Jul 2012 #16
Art_from_Ark Jul 2012 #19
BOG PERSON Jul 2012 #22
Art_from_Ark Jul 2012 #24
DonCoquixote Jul 2012 #27
joshcryer Jul 2012 #32
Art_from_Ark Jul 2012 #33
TBF Jul 2012 #36
Art_from_Ark Jul 2012 #42
TBF Jul 2012 #45
BOG PERSON Jul 2012 #17
white_wolf Jul 2012 #39
Egalitarian Thug Jul 2012 #13
kenny blankenship Jul 2012 #18
joshcryer Jul 2012 #21
BOG PERSON Jul 2012 #23
TBF Jul 2012 #37
joshcryer Jul 2012 #38
white_wolf Jul 2012 #40
joshcryer Jul 2012 #43
HiPointDem Jul 2012 #26
RobertEarl Jul 2012 #28
snot Jul 2012 #29
white_wolf Jul 2012 #41
snot Jul 2012 #46
patrice Jul 2012 #30
nadinbrzezinski Jul 2012 #31
quaker bill Jul 2012 #34
krispos42 Jul 2012 #35
aint_no_life_nowhere Jul 2012 #44

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 09:12 AM

1. Yeah..

.. even our police forces are for the most part not in place
to serve and protect people but rather to serve their
corporate fascist masters.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 09:13 AM

2. k and r

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 09:30 AM

3. Is Truth.

Corporate rule is exactly same like dicktatership.
All zeks serve Mission.
No peon get vote that counts.
Big Boss rules.
Little Bosses terrorize.
Serfs serve.
Big Time.

Sounds familiar, America?

No? Read words of man who once headed Supreme Corporate Presidium of the BFEE:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -- George W Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:09 AM

4. in a sad irony

this is an unintended result of the Enlightenment.
I holler all the time, on my little blog, about the Universalism that the Enlightenment inherited from what came before.Without Reflection,and Vigilance, Reason can lead to Totalitarianism(Arendt).
The Soviets found that their version of Marx wasn't winning the Hearts and Minds, so Force was used.
We're doing the same, just stealthily.
I try mightily to avoid Walmart...but what if I need a new windw unit?
There's simply nowhere else to go, out here,on the perimeter.And I'd better get one before Labor Day, because the Machine has determined that the Herd doesn't purchase A/c's after that date, in sufficient numbers to warrant stocking them...no matter if it's in Alaska, or Texas(Heat until November)
This is Efficiency///which is the Reason for Being for Corps(e)...Reason run Rampant, Universalised, without much Thought given to Individuals or Regions.
This was, of course, forecast as far back a s Adam Smith. Which is a pretty wild thought.Riffing on Horkheimer/Adorno/Rosenstock-Huessy...lol.(Geek Alert)

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:11 AM

5. I've said for years that our leaders learned the wrong lessons.

The Cold War was not an object lesson of how we should run the US for crying out loud. Cheney's the worst--he'd fit right in with the Politburo.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:12 AM

6. And pretty soon, we'll all be buying everything from one store - Wal-Mart.


But it'll be SO different from communism! lol

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:32 AM

7. k&r

Your dollar speaks louder than your vote today.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:53 AM

8. The whole helpless and powerless spiel gets old...

corporations, by and large, only exists because we choose them. They depend utterly on the continual flow of cash that our behaviors and daily choices provide - which essentially makes them almost purely democratic constructs.

If people chose to vote away their freedom, that says more about people than anything else. If they chose to change, if they chose to live differently, they certainly can.

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:59 AM

10. That could have been a good joke, but you lost me at "purely democratic constructs"

Today's corporations aren't anything close to what you describe.

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Response to Occulus (Reply #10)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 07:54 PM

14. In the sense that they are chosen by the people in general

especially if one looks at our financial choices as "voting with our wallets".

I'm not saying I like it - I won't set foot in a w-mart myself, for example, but the store is always busy, and other stores it competes with have gone out of business because more people vote for w-mart. W-mart exists on the scale it does because people chose it to be so. Other corporations exist in the same way, and there are very few that would survive long if people in general chose otherwise.

Reagan is another example of a "purely democratic construct". I couldn't stand him myself and couldn't imagine how anyone voted for him, but nevertheless people in general did choose him. Which says more about human nature, disappointing as it may be sometimes, than about how we might be powerless and helpless.

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 03:23 PM

12. 'which essentially makes them almost purely democratic constructs'


You cannot be serious.

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:00 PM

20. You're right, I always choose Lockheed for my warplane needs.

Blackwater provides my mercenary squads, and any time I want to buy a billion in naked derivatives, I turn to Goldman Sachs.

And where do you think I'm going to place that $10 million ad buy tomorrow? FOX, of course!

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Response to JackRiddler (Reply #20)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:21 PM

25. I get your point, but nevertheless corporations are the sum of people's choices

Governments pay for mercenaries, but people chose governments. Fox would evaporate overnight if people didn't chose to watch it, and any bank that people stopped depositing money in would fold very soon.

I'd rather have people look at the many choices they make daily and how they affect the world we all live in, that convince them they are powerless and helpless. People can change their lives, they can make a difference, and enough people acting toward an ideal can change the world.

Other than that, I watch the daily stream of customers in and out of the w-mart, most of whom believe they amount to nothing and make no difference at all; and voting (or not) with similar lack of care.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:57 AM

9. K&R n/t

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 12:02 PM

11. In terms of lack of political choice true -

but the Soviet Union didn't have the unemployment we have so the citizens were actually better off in that regard.

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Response to TBF (Reply #11)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 08:46 PM

15. Soviet citizens had to stand in long lines to buy very basic items

like bread and clothes.



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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #15)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:27 PM

16. Yes I saw the propaganda movies in 6th grade

and you are not talking to someone who is interested in your red-baiting.

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Response to TBF (Reply #16)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:54 PM

19. A couple of my geography professors actually took a tour of the USSR with Intourist

One of them flew into Russia on Aeroflot and he said it was the worst flying experience he had ever had. Both he and the other professor confirmed that there were lines to buy basic daily items, and that was as late as 1987. The Soviet economy was not oriented toward consumer goods, it was geared toward "industrial production", which was essentially producing products for other industries.

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #19)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:08 PM

22. perestroika (abandonment of central planning) was already implemented by 1985

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Response to BOG PERSON (Reply #22)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:16 PM

24. I don't think you can say perestroika was "already implemented" by 1985

since it wasn't even introduced until 1986

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Gorbachev

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Response to TBF (Reply #16)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:25 PM

27. The Sovoets had their horrors

and America had it's.

All the same, no way the Soviets would have allowed DU on there.

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Response to DonCoquixote (Reply #27)

Tue Jul 17, 2012, 12:32 AM

32. Work for a corporation and try signing on to DU.

Good luck keeping your job.

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Response to TBF (Reply #16)

Wed Jul 18, 2012, 04:29 AM

33. "Red baiting"?

Do you have any idea what the term means?

Joseph McCarthy engaged in red-baiting. That is, he accused numerous people of being members of the Communist Party, whether they were or not. All I have done is point out something that was a part of life in the old USSR.

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #33)

Wed Jul 18, 2012, 03:00 PM

36. I know what you're doing

and I'm not interested in your "facts".

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Response to TBF (Reply #36)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 02:54 AM

42. Next thing you'll be telling me, Stalin didn't have any purges

and there were no gulags-- they were all Solzhenitsyn's imagination

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #42)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 08:31 AM

45. I'm not getting into this with you.

Let it go Palmer.

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #15)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:29 PM

17. otoh

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #15)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 02:35 AM

39. Central planning was very efficient, it was just focused on the wrong things.

They focused very heavily on the military, something the U.S. does as well. Also, Russia went from being a semi-feudal state to being a world superpower in less than 50 years. Central planning worked as far as industrialization goes. Had the USSR organized itself along Syndicalist lines, and actually placed power in the hands of the workers it could have avoided its other problems such as authoritarianism.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 06:18 PM

13. K&R. Thanks for posting. n/t

 

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 10:34 PM

18. They only want what's best for us.

We wouldn't know what to do with our freedom if we still had it.
Mandates = Freedom

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:06 PM

21. There's no fundamental difference between state communism and unfettered capitalism.

None.

However, it's a lot easier to emancipate yourself from corporations, not so much a state nationalized apparatus.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #21)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:10 PM

23. you're the worst

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #21)

Wed Jul 18, 2012, 03:02 PM

37. I dunno - from this vantage point it looks to me like the

corporations are eating us alive ... as are the 1% who own most of the country. Anytime just a few people are running everything we seem to have problems. I'd love to see actual democracy in action.

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Response to TBF (Reply #37)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 02:23 AM

38. You still have the option to not shop at Wal-Mart.

You never have the option not to shop at the nationalized food dispensaries.

Corporations are ripe for cronyism, nepotism, and outright corruption.

Nationalized state assets are not immune from that, either.

Indeed, I argue that all centralized capital formations encourage it and make it more viable.

The corporations are irrelevant from my vantage point.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #21)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 02:38 AM

40. In one of his videos Chomsky makes a similar point.

He argued that having a company assemble their products in Mexico and ship them to L.A. for distribution and sell them in New York is really no different than what the USSR did. He said you are still operating within a massive command economy. I don't necessary agree that you can emancipate yourself from corporations. You can choose not to shop at Wal-Mart, but you will have to shop somewhere. Perhaps if you are lucky you can avoid corporations, but you are stuck with capitalism.

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Response to white_wolf (Reply #40)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 03:01 AM

43. Chomsky recognizes that state communism / USSR is capitalist at heart.

His anarchist views tend to be cut from interviews, unfortunately, so a lot of people don't see the end result of his arguments.

I think that emancipating yourself from corporations is still possible, and I believe that corporations are going to be marginalized in due course as open source, open hardware in particularly, starts to encroach upon their space. It's only a matter of time and yes there will be a push back against it because some people would prefer their hands be held by corporations just as some would prefer their hands be held by the state.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:24 PM

26. kr

 

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:29 PM

28. heh

I told that to a state appointed board one time. That the whole process we were enmeshed in reminded me of Soviet Russian Communism. That no matter what the people thought and no matter what the science said, there were just a few people whom, behind closed doors, were making all the decisions that affected millions of people in the region.

My side ended up winning. Or rather, we influenced the decision makers to change their minds, get out of the rut and make progress.

Reflecting on that and other more recent campaigns, it is reality that major decisions are made day in and day out by the 1%. It isn't communism in its purist sense, but Soviet style of government. Like Bush said, it would be great if this were a dictatorship, as long as he, Bush was the dictator.

America, i love you for what you could be and might have been!

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:32 PM

29. I've been seriously thinking, there seem to be problems once ANY kind of organization becomes

too powerful -- whether because it's too big, or controls too much weaponry relative to the rest of the world, or too much wealth, or too much information.

Doesn't matter if it's a capitalist or a communist government, or a corporation, or a foundation, or a church, or a union, or the owners of the media, or anything else. Once it reaches a certain scale in power relative to everyone else, it's no longer accountable to everyone else, and becomes an irresistible target for hijacking by sociopaths.

Saying corporations aren't people might or might not be helpful, but isn't going to fix this basic problem. There will still be those who seek to amass disproportionate power via other means.

I am NOT saying it's hopeless. What I hope for is more discussion about new ways of thinking about systemic solutions, new kinds of checks and balances.

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Response to snot (Reply #29)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 02:40 AM

41. It's the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

"the iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German syndicalist sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It claims that rule by an elite - or "oligarchy" is inevitable as an "iron law" within any organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization. Michels particularly addressed the application of this law to democracy, and stated: "It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy." He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy." Michels stated that the official goal of democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that democracy is a fašade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, that he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy

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Response to white_wolf (Reply #41)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 11:36 PM

46. Very interesting, thanks!

Like your signature quote, too.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:33 PM

30. K&R

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2012, 11:41 PM

31. Yup, many of us have made similar observations

now into my notes for dystpia it goes

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Jul 18, 2012, 07:22 AM

34. I do what I can

I make and sell reasonably priced jewelry that is carefully made, unique, and unlike anything available at a big box or the mall. The stuff I do cannot be mass produced at the same level of quality for the price. It can only be done by hand and takes too much time for factory production.

Jewelry in a similar range of materials and price is mass produced in India and the far east, but the quality of the workmanship and materials is very poor and it shows. The range of materials they use is limited to mass market sensibilities and the cut stones and designs are standardized to speed production.

No two pieces I make are the same, except for earring pairs, and then no two pairs are the same. People seem to like what I do, they know they are getting something affordable, but unique and from the hand of an artist. It has taken some time and effort to develop work that can keep affordable and artistic and still make a buck at it. It can be done.

This model works. I expect it works in many different places.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Jul 18, 2012, 07:59 AM

35. Excellent article

<snip>

The USSR has been a historical dead letter for over 20 years now -- but there are still plenty of earnest Fox-watching Americans for whom "communism" remains the most terrifying of all scare words. They're vigilantly watching the leftward horizon, scanning for signs of government-inflicted socialism, ready to strip their own democracy of its very ability to thwart totalitarians if that's what must be done to stop totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, they're facing the wrong direction. The real threat of dignity-stripping, liberty-destroying, soul-crushing oppression is coming not from government, but from the very corporations those same people believed were the key to our superiority over the Communist menace. Now that the government can't protect us from rapacious businesses any more, the centrally planned authoritarian state they've feared is already coming to pass -- privately, for the profit of the few, free from pesky accountability or oversight, and without a bit of resistance from the would-be patriots who have been on guard for decades to ensure it could never happen here.

<end>

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jul 19, 2012, 03:14 AM

44. America has changed

When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, my dad was in the Air Force and he was transferred all over the place. We traveled a great deal on America's highways. There were noticeable regional differences from town to town and state to state in architecture, foods, even the accents of Americans when they spoke. Now if you were dropped in to several widely separated mid-sized town at random, you'd see the same handful of stores selling tires, fast food, clothes, and other things with the same store fronts surrounded by similar-looking suburban enclaves. You might have trouble telling the places apart. America has become very homogenized and the local color that privately-owned business brought to the downtown area is almost gone. I love certain things about modern America including the progress made in human rights, medicine, and science. But there are things about the older America I wish we could bring back. I know some of it has to do with the taste you acquire from growing up in a certain environment. I personally despise the look of modern architecture and the fact that most American cities now all look the same, with their steel and glass cubes that have zero personality. When I was a kid and my father was transferred to Colorado Springs in the 60s, they tore down the beautiful Antler's Hotel, the main downtown feature of charm so that a developer could put up a rectangular steel and glass monstrosity. As a lawyer, I always hated working in these buildings as you could not open a window to get fresh air. They were like crypts and I was much happier working in old buildings made of brick or stone remaining in older parts of town where you could open a window and listen to the life on the street outside. Somehow, that seemed more human. I know that part of my discontent is just the fact I'm an old-timer and hate a lot of modern things. But I think this article is very true and that America is losing its organically-grown character and is becoming an extension of corporate culture, centrally planned, based on how to spend the least and make the most profit. Culture and charm have no place in that world.

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