Archive for the ‘Capitalism & Corporations’ Category

Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

– I don’t think the best of our idealists are going to be going out on Greenpeace ships any more to protest politely.   Not when they stand to lose the most of their young lives sitting in Russian prisons for the crime of idealism and the crime of trying to wake people up to the stupidity and danger gathering all around us.

– The days or holding signs and protesting peacefully are withering away all over the world as people realize that none of that has been effective.   And now it is become downright dangerous.

– I first read that an ecologically sane world and the world of Capitalism may not be compatible bedfellows on this planet back in 2008 when I read The Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth; Yale University.   He is and has been a major leading light in all things environment in the U.S. and he’s been a team player all along.  So, this was a hard conclusion for him to come to.

– In the article, below, Naomi Klein tells us that others up and down the line are coming to the same conclusions.  

– If what we’ve been doing isn’t working and losing is not an option for those of us who love this world and our children, then quite simply, new measures will be needed.

– dennis

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Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012,Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

– More:  

 

Privatize profit, socialize debt…

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

“Privatize profit, socialize debt… and risk… and pretty much everything else.  This is the current global system and the pattern is apparent everywhere.  If many sectors of the economy actually had to pay their way they would not be profitable at all.  The state of ecosystems around the world stands as testimony.”

Kierin Mackenzie – seen on Facebook, 24 October 2013

– Kierin’s a friend of mine and a tireless worker for all sort of issues.  This quote of his captures, in such a succinct way, the state of the world today as the corporate takeover of government proceeds apace and the world’s public sleeps through the event.

– dennis

 

Paris notes: 5 August 2013

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

I have to say that sometimes the news brings me down so badly.

I’ve been thinking about and advocating the idea that until humanity decides that its highest priority is to maximize the quality of life for all, we will inevitably fall victim to the default alternative which is that every individual’s highest priority is to look out for themselves.

And, by themselves, I mean both individual people and corporations.

Today, I read the August 5th copy of the International Herald Tribune and there was this:

In need of a new hip, but priced out of the U.S.” – A man went to Belgium and had his hip replaced for $13,600 USD. You’ll have to read the article to see how much it would have cost him in the U.S., and why.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

Nuclear scandal snowballs in S. Korea” – A story about how many of the tests and inspections that were intended to ensure the safety of S. Korean nuclear plants has been discovered to have been faked by the testing companies and the nuclear plant designers.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

As cost of importing food soars, Jamaica turns to the earth” – a little story about how the Jamaican government is now strongly advising people to begin to grow their own food.

I wonder if any of you saw the documentary entitled, ‘Life and Debt’ 10 or 15 years ago? It was about Jamaica, Mon.

It was about the arrival of “Globalization’ and how the low price of imported grain had driven most of the small farmers off their land and into the cities since they could not complete with the price of the grain being dumped into their market.

But, at the time it was explained, ‘Globalization’ was all for the good of all of us long-term.

Now that the Jamaicans don’t grow much food, it’s the time to hike the prices and squeeze them. And so the circle turns.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And that was just one issue of the paper on an apparently normal day.

And then when I tell people that the corporations, looking out for their own best interests, are steadily taking over governments and their regulatory processes – and I see that they think I’m peddling conspiracy theories to them, I’m stunned.

It’s as if I’m watching a line of cows entering the slaughter house and I’m warning them about where they’re going and they all laugh; sure that they are off to a Caribbean vacation.

I haven’t posted much here for awhile since I’ve been traveling.  But, not much need.   Nothing’s changed.

dennis

For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change

Friday, June 7th, 2013

If there were one American industry that would be particularly worried about climate change it would have to be insurance, right?

From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating$35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.

And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.

“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”

– More…

World Bank Insider Blows Whistle on Corruption, Federal Reserve

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Nothing to see here ... move along

– I don’t think this is new information.  Just a confirmation of what many of us have suspected for some time.  

– But, the gathering awareness doesn’t seem to be enough to change things.  

– We are all too apathetic and ‘they’ have got far too much control at this point for anything short of a revolution or a major breakdown of the world’s structures to shake them loose (visualize blood-sucking ticks, and you’ll have it).

– dennis

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A former insider at the World Bank, ex-Senior Counsel Karen Hudes, says the global financial system is dominated by a small group of corrupt, power-hungry figures centered around the privately owned U.S. Federal Reserve. The network has seized control of the media to cover up its crimes, too, she explained. In an interview withThe New American, Hudes said that when she tried to blow the whistle on multiple problems at the World Bank, she was fired for her efforts. Now, along with a network of fellow whistleblowers, Hudes is determined to expose and end the corruption. And she is confident of success.

Citing an explosive 2011 Swiss study published in the PLOS ONE journal on the “network of global corporate control,” Hudes pointed out that a small group of entities — mostly financial institutions and especially central banks — exert a massive amount of influence over the international economy from behind the scenes. “What is really going on is that the world’s resources are being dominated by this group,” she explained, adding that the “corrupt power grabbers” have managed to dominate the media as well. “They’re being allowed to do it.”

According to the peer-reviewed paper, which presented the first global investigation of ownership architecture in the international economy, transnational corporations form a “giant bow-tie structure.” A large portion of control, meanwhile, “flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions.” The researchers described the core as an “economic ‘super-entity’” that raises important issues for policymakers and researchers. Of course, the implications are enormous for citizens as well.

Hudes, an attorney who spent some two decades working in the World Bank’s legal department, has observed the machinations of the network up close. “I realized we were now dealing with something known as state capture, which is where the institutions of government are co-opted by the group that’s corrupt,” she told The New American in a phone interview. “The pillars of the U.S. government — some of them — are dysfunctional because of state capture; this is a big story, this is a big cover up.”

At the heart of the network, Hudes said, are 147 financial institutions and central banks — especially the Federal Reserve, which was created by Congress but is owned by essentially a cartel of private banks. “This is a story about how the international financial system was secretly gamed, mostly by central banks — they’re the ones we are talking about,” she explained. “The central bankers have been gaming the system. I would say that this is a power grab.”

– More…

– research thanks to Carol S.

Hackers ‘raid US weapons’

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Cultural Revolution

– If China doesn’t implode from its own internal pressures (the failure of the Mandate of Heaven concept), then it is likely that we’re all going to be living in a Chinese dominated world.

– Most of the rest of us are living in debt ridden societies with few realistic ideas of how to break the debt cycles. (Oh, yeah, let’s have another WalMart or Warehouse store so we can buy really cheap shit – that’ll sort things out).

– So here, the Chinese, apparently, have stolen the heart of America’s weapon system designs. They’ve denied it?   Well, what would you expect them to say?

– Clearly, they are winning the game against the west and they’ve used our own Capitalistic Systems and greed against us, brilliantly.

– All we can hope for is that their own greed, corruption, and their failure to understand that they too are subject to the consequences of pollution, climate change and global overshoot, is going to pull their system apart before they can take over ours.  

– Then, at least, we can all live equally in a ruined world rather than having to be serfs in a ruined world that they dominate.

– Do you think after reading this that I am prejudiced against the Chinese?  

– No, I’m not.  I differentiate between the people and their culture.   I know and value a number of excellent friends among the Chinese.  

– But their culture is another thing.  These are, after all, the same people that gave the world the spectacle of The Cultural Revolution just a few decades ago.  These same folks drive the Shark Fin markets, the Bear Gall Bladder Markets, the Ivory Markets, and etc.  

– They don’t seem to mind poisoning each other, and other nationalities, in their pursuits of profit.  (Granted, we’ve not been much better).  And, like other cultures before them (and here I very much include ours), they think they are superior, that they are right and that it is their mandate to rule.

– In the end, I think I’d prefer our own assholes to theirs.

– dennis

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Some of America’s key defence items compromised but the culprits are not known.

Designs for some of America’s most important and sensitive weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a confidential report.

More than two dozen key weapons systems had been affected, including missile defences, fighter jets, helicopters and navy vessels, the report said.

Among those listed are the advanced Patriot missile system, or PAC-3, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the Black Hawk helicopter and the V-22 Osprey, which is able to land and take off vertically.

It was not clear from the report, extracts of which were published by theWashington Post, when or how the designs had been compromised.

Its authors _ the Defence Science Board, an influential advisory body _ stopped short of accusing the Chinese Government of attempting to steal the information.

But senior military sources pointed the finger directly at Beijing, saying the security breaches were part of a “widening Chinese campaign of espionage against US defence contractors and government agencies”.

– More…

– Thanks to Kierin M for the Mandate of Heaven concept.

The corrosive power of big money

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

– Tonight, at the suggestion of a friend, I watched a documentary called, “Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream“.  Here’s a link to it on youtube :

– It was a very powerful piece about how American is being taken over by the richest of the rich and everyone else is being left to eat dirt.  

– I can’t begin to do the film justice.  You should find 30 or 40 minutes and watch it.

– Afterwards, when I wrote my friend back to thank him for the suggestion, I was telling him in my E-Mail that I was surprised that the American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) still had enough independence to broadcast such a thing.

– Well, not long after I penned those words, I came across this story which proves that they were not independent enough and they’ve had their feathers clipped.  

– Money talks.

– dennis

– research thanks to John P.

 

 

Rise Up or Die

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

– It seems to me that perceptions of the ongoing take-over of government by multinational corporations and the very wealthy is gaining traction in the Blog-o-sphere and in the internet’s left side musings.

– dennis

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By Chris Hedges

 

Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

– More…

TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

– I’ve written and displayed articles on this issue before.

– dennis

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Our country’s democratic values could be under threat if President Obama fast tracks the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration willundermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers’ rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as “Fast Track,” which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

Circumventing the Checks and Balances of US Democracy

President Nixon first developed the idea of “Fast Track” in 1973 as a way to secure Congressional approval of trade agreements, and it has been a key to passing many unpopular agreements such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and NAFTA. As people have caught on to the offshoring of jobs and other detrimental consequences of these agreements, civil society now understands how important it is to not allow a president to circumvent the democratic role of Congress. Fast Track expired in 2007, so President Obama must have it re-instated in order to pass the TPP. His administration is moving to have Fast Track approved and hopes it will happen by this summer.

Under Fast Track, the president was allowed to negotiate and sign trade agreements with whatever countries the executive branch selected – all before Congress voted on the agreement. Fast Track meant that the Congressional committee processes were circumvented and the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy implementing legislation for each trade pact without Congress. These executive-only authored bills required US law to conform to the trade agreement. For example,Glass-Steagall had to be repealed under President Clinton to conform to the WTO. And, Fast Track empowered the president to submit the executive-branch written bill for a mandatory vote within a set number of days, with all amendments forbidden, normal Senate rules waived, and debate limited in both chambers of Congress. Fast Track clearly undermined democracy.

Indeed, Fast Track turned the US Constitution on its head. Under Article I Section 8, Congress has exclusive authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” and to “lay and collect taxes [and] duties.” Under the Constitution, the president is empowered to negotiate treaties, but Congress must vote to approve them. Thus, Fast Track took constitutional power from Congress and prevented the checks and balances needed to prevent an imperial presidency.

For most of the history of the United States, treaties and trade agreements went through the normal congressional process described in the Constitution. Fast Track is a relatively new concept that coincides with an era of increasing presidential power, which includes the power to declare war and to murder US citizens without warning or judicial oversight. If Congress had reviewed agreements such as the WTO and NAFTA beforehand and civil society had been able to participate in a democratic process, would the United States have made the mistake of passing these laws that have so injured our economy and others?

Fast Track is very unpopular, so now President Obama and others who advocate for it do not use the term. Instead they call it by the euphemism “Trade Promotion Authority.” But changing the name does not change what it is – a method of ceding the constitutional power of Congress and undermining the checks and balances built into the constitutional framework.

Congress needs to consider what agreements such as the TPP will do to jobs, trade balances and the environment. Since Nixon, Fast Track has been used by presidents to go way beyond trade and tariffs. These agreements have been used to change US law by establishing “rules related to domestic environmental, health, safety and essential-service regulations, including deregulation of financial services; establishment of immigration policies; creation of limits on local development and land-use policy; extension of domestic patent terms; establishment of new rights and greater protections for foreign investors operating within the United States that extend beyond US law; and even limitation of how domestic procurement dollars may be spent.” Thus, not only has the constitutional power of Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations been undermined, but a whole host of domestic laws have been rewritten to satisfy international trade.

– More…

 

‘Monsanto Protection Act’ slips silently through US Congress

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

The future approaching

– This was perhaps for me the last straw with President Obama.   That he signed this bill is unforgivable and deeply inconsistent with the values I’d hoped he represented.

Monsanto represents what is so deeply disquieting about the gathering ascendancy of corporate power and money over governmental processes which are suppose to act in and for the good of a nation’s people.

– dennis

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The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week – including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.

The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.

The provision, also decried as a “biotech rider,” should have gone through the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees for review. Instead, no hearings were held, and the piece was evidently unknown to most Democrats (who hold the majority in the Senate) prior to its approval as part of HR 993, the short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Senator John Tester (D-MT) proved to be the lone dissenter to the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, though his proposed amendment to strip the rider from the bill was never put to a vote.

As the US legal system functions today, and largely as a result of prior lawsuits, the USDA is required to complete environmental impact statements (EIS) prior to both the planting and sale of GMO crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA exercises this rule is in itself a source of serious dispute.

The reviews have been the focus of heated debate between food safety advocacy groups and the biotech industry in the past. In December of 2009, for example, Food Democracy Now collected signatures during the EIS commenting period in a bid to prevent the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which many feared would contaminate organic feed used by dairy farmers; it was approved regardless.

Previously discovered pathogens in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soy are suspected of causing infertility in livestock and to impact the health of plants.

So, just how much of a victory is this for biotech companies like Monsanto? Critics are thus far alarmed by the very way in which the provision made it through Congress — the rider was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed through the Senate Appropriations Committee. Now, groups like the Center for Food Safety are holding Senator Mikulski (D-MD), chairman of that committee, to task and lobbing accusations of a “backroom deal” with the biotech industry.

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