Archive for the ‘Culture – How not to do it’ Category

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…

Ottawa weighing plans for bank failures

Friday, April 12th, 2013

– Cyprus and the government’s actions there to seize depositor funds to rescue a failing economy and its banks wasn’t a one-off.  

– This same plan is wending it way through the parliament here in New Zealand under the guidance of the conservative National Government.  And, just as in the article, below, about Canada’s movements in the direction, the New Zealand government is doing their very best to deflect any and all questions about whether or not money would or would not be taken from depositor accounts of a bank to cover the shortfalls if that bank failed.  

– No one in New Zealand has explained why the bank’s officers should not first be stripped of all their assets before anyone should think of going after the bank’s depositors.  

– And no one has explained why, if it is the government’s rightful roll to regulate banks to prevent such things, why the government should not be culpable and why, if they were, they should not spread the burden of their malfeasance across the entire tax-payer base of the country to more fairly spread the load.

– And finally no one has explained why of these three; the bank’s officers, the government and the bank’s depositors, why the depositors (who would would obviously know the least about the bank’s stability) should be the ones tasked with paying the penalty for a bank’s failure.

– Yes, God damn it, the people DO want to know the answers to these questions.

– dennis

Canadian Federal government looking at ‘Cyprus solution’

Buried deep in last month’s federal budget is an ambiguously worded section that has roiled parts of the financial world but has so far been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

It boils down to this: Ottawa is contemplating the possibility of a Canadian bank failure — and the same sort of pitiless prescription that was just imposed in Cyprus.

Meaning no bailout by taxpayers, but rather a “bail-in” that would force the bank’s creditors to absorb the staggering losses that such an event would inevitably entail.

If that sounds sobering, it should. While officials in Ottawa are playing down the possibility of a raid on the bank accounts of ordinary Canadians, they chose not to include that guarantee in the budget language.

Canadians tend to believe their banks are safer and more backstopped than elsewhere in the world. The federal government enthusiastically promotes the notion, and loves to take credit for it.

It may well be true, even if Canada’s six-bank oligopoly isn’t terribly competitive, at least in comparison to the far more diverse American banking universe.

But in the ever-more insecure world that has unfolded since the financial meltdown of 2008, it is also increasingly clear that nothing is safe anymore, not even blue-chip bank stocks and bonds or even, in the case of the Cyprus bail-in, private bank accounts.

And now, Canada is making a bail-in official government policy, too.

“The government proposes to implement a bail-in regime … designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability,” says Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s March 21 budget, on page 144.

That would be done, the document says, through the rapid conversion of “certain bank liabilities.”

Ottawa’s budget document leaves the definition of “certain liabilities” to the reader’s imagination.

Bank deposits?

There has been very little public debate about the plan to date, but Finance Department officials and the banks protest it should never be taken to mean small personal deposits would be seized.

Deposits are insured by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, up to $100,000, and the inviolability of that insurance is key to maintaining the crucial public trust.

“The risk of the Canadian government not honouring its insurance on deposits is as close to zero as you can get,” says Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Canada Trust.

Perhaps.

As the Cyprus meltdown proceeded, it became clear that Europe’s finance ministers and central banks, encouraged by the International Monetary Fund, were not only willing to freeze and seize uninsured deposits over 100,000 euros, they were also initially willing to cancel deposit insurance and go after small depositors, too.

In the end, the plan was rewritten, and insured deposits were protected. But the signal had been sent: The Europeans and the IMF had been prepared to do the unthinkable.

Holland’s finance minister then declared that bail-ins would be the template for all future bank rescues in Europe, and that he could not rule out seizure of deposits elsewhere.

– More…

 

A Capitalist Command Economy

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

George Monbiot, as I have said several times, is an excellent writer who highlights issues that we all need to be aware of.

– I’ve discussed corporations many times here myself.  I decry their growing power over our governments and over our lives.   What Monbiot’s talking about here really gives me the chills and has made me wonder if the ‘takeover’ I’ve been on about hasn’t bigger aims than I’d previously imagined before.

– He discusses here how the conservative government in the UK seems hell-bent on converting schools from the public to the private model which is scary enough.

– But, it made me imagine that corporations, which are gaining control more and more over governments, are also moving into controlling all the things that we think of as the rightful province of government; our schools, our utilities, our water, our power, our prisons, our road systems, and just about everything else.  I say ‘rightful’ because government is suppose to do these things for the good of the people and the nation.

– It will be a radically different model if these things all end up being done by corporations for profit because they won’t be doing them for the good of the people but, rather, for the good of the corporations’s profits.  And simple look as how things have gone in the U.S., as they’ve been experimenting with privatizing prisons there, should give us all deep pause.

– dennis

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Forcing schools into the hands of unelected oligarchs is the latest contradiction of everything the market fetishists claim to stand for.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 5th March 2013

So much for all those treasured Tory principles. Choice, freedom, competition, austerity: as soon as they conflict with the demands of the corporate elite, they drift into the blue yonder like thistledown.

This is a story about England’s schools, but it could just as well describe the razing of state provision throughout the world. In the name of freedom, public assets are being forcibly removed from popular control and handed to unelected oligarchs.

All over England, schools are being obliged to become academies: supposedly autonomous bodies which are often “sponsored” (the government’s euphemism for controlled) by foundations established by exceedingly rich men. The break-up of the education system in this country, like the dismantling of the National Health Service, reflects no widespread public demand. It is imposed, through threats, bribes and fake consultations, from on high.

– More…

– Research thanks to Piers L.

 

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

– I rave a lot about the evil that multinational corporations are in our world.  The central complaint is that these hugely powerful entities (of the 100 largest economies in the world today, 53 are corporations) have only a single goal and that is to maximize the return on investment for their share-holders.  

– You’ll need to think about that for awhile to realize just how deeply dysfunctional that is for our world.  

– If you want to see how it works in detail in just one domain; food, then reading this will provide you with an excellent and sobering education.

– dennis

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On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

– to the original:

– research thanks to Rolf A.

 

 

New Category added to Samadhisoft

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’ve added a new category under which I can classify posts here in Samadhisoft.  It is:

Corporate takeover of government

I’ve been realizing for sometime that in their efforts to maximize profits for their shareholders, corporations have been working to control our governments in order to diminish the power those governments to make the laws that limit their actions and opportunities.

This is a major factor in the way human history is progressing now in the early 21st century.

We, as a species, should be deep into the realizations now that if we do not change directions, we are going to experience a calamity of truly historic proportions.  I call this the Perfect Storm.  A calamity so huge, in fact, that it will make all the other major ‘events’ of human history pale.

So, what makes us press on so heedlessly when the danger signs are growing so prolifically around us?

Some of it is our human nature.

But another very significant part is the fact that corporations have gotten so powerful that they are directly or indirectly controlling our governments for their own aims.  And, as those aims are solely about maximizing profits for their shareholders, those aims do not include considerations about the future of our species or the health of the planet.   In many cases (as you will see in the links, below), corporations are working actively to defeat the very things we should be doing for own own survival. And they do this because if we are allowed to do these things, it would interfere with their profits.

To get an idea of the size and tenacity of the problem, consider that of the 100 most powerful economies on the planet, 51 of them are corporations.

In honor of the new category  and to review for you some of the stories and perceptions that have led me to this POV, I’ve listed below a number of stories and pieces I’ve written or reported on here that bear on this subject:

 

 – The Corporate “Heist” of the United States Government Began With a Memo in 1971

– Forbidden Planet – George Monbiot

– Tobacco and the manipulation of public perception for corporate profit

 – The new face of how corporations dominate governments

– The Greedy are everywhere…

– Myth of Perpetual Growth is killing America

– Top (American) CEO pay equals 3,489 years for typical worker

– Why increasing corporate control of our world is bad

– Obama tries again to end oil subsidies

– Corporate Margins and Profits are Increasing, But Workers’ Wages Aren’t

– Plutocracy, Pure and Simple – George Monbiot

– Syngenta PR’s Weed-Killer Spin Machine: Investigating the Press and Shaping the “News” about Atrazine

– Ohio Lawmakers Introduced 33 Bills Last Year Based on ALEC Model Legislation

– Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report
– Financial world dominated by a few deep pockets
– As Verizon Demands Huge Cuts to Worker Benefits, Its Profits Soar and Its CEO Gets $18 Million in Compensation
– America in Decline – Noam Chomsky
 – Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care
 – Lobbying Firm Advising Corporate Clients How to Take Advantage of Campaign Finance Ruling
 – We’re having the wrong conversations

– The Supreme Court and Corporations

– Corporations Are Citizens – What Are We?

Forbidden Planet

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

– George Monbiot is brilliant,  He’s one of my favorites.   He has a way of taking things apart so clearly and laying all the pieces out.

– His theme here, that preventing global ecological and climatic disaster is in direct opposition to Capitalism, is not new.  

– Numerous others, like James Gustav Speth in The Bridge at the Edge of the World, have said precisely the same thing.

– The really scary bit is when you contrast the truth of their observations against the fact that the world’s impending ecological and climatic disasters have largely gone off the radar with the rise of the world’s financial crisis and that the main thing most folks are concerned with fixing is getting Capitalism back up on its feet, then you can see why many of us are thinking we’re doomed.

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Forbidden Planet

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th December 2012

Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that manmade climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine, whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call “the market” looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich(1). Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.

The doctrine was first applied in Chile in 1973, as former students of the University of Chicago, schooled in Milton Friedman’s extreme prescriptions and funded by the CIA, worked alongside General Pinochet to impose a programme that would have been impossible in a democratic state. The result was an economic catastrophe, but one in which the rich – who took over Chile’s privatised industries and unprotected natural resources – prospered exceedingly(2).

– More…

 

Indonesia heads for the 13th century

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

– In a recent article, I lambasted the Islamic Fundamentalist Taliban for wanting to take us back to the 13th century.

– I also cited how big Islam is here on Earth:

If you look up Islam on the web, you will learn that 50 countries have Muslim majorities.  23% of the world’s population is Muslim.   Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.  And, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

– Let’s add to that the fact that the most populous Islamic nation is Indonesia.

– So, it comes as more than a bit worrying that Indonesia’s Education and Culture Ministry is planning on changing the curriculum for Indonesia primary students.  See these links:    , , and 

– They are going to emphasize religious and Indonesian nationalist studies and eliminate Science and English studies.

– dennis

On Radical Islam and the Taliban

Monday, October 15th, 2012

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. 

~ Nietzsche

There is a strain of Islam loose on our planet which would like to take us back to the 13th century.  Just the other day, some of these fellows shot a 14 year old school girl in the face in an attempted assassination in the Swat Valley area of Afghanistan.  Her crime was advocating that women should have a right to education.

In their most extreme form, Islamic Fundamentalists would impose their religious police on us.  They would reject the equality of men and women.  They would reject the separation of Church and State.  They would reject freedom of speech.  They would reject freedom of religion.  They would reject freedom of assembly and they would reject freedom of the press.  They would force us to dress by their codes.  They believe that they have a right to kill anyone who speaks out against Islam.   Indeed, they think it is Islam’s right to rule the world and many of them think that this will be accomplished by the sword.

I’m not going to mince words here.  They, and those like them, who would impose their faith-based belief systems on the rest of us by force are a cancer among us.

The Taliban are creating terrible havoc in the world today and I, for one, have lost all patience with them.  And I have lost all patience with the multiculturalists who say we should tolerate them and turn the other cheek and hope that they will learn by our example.

The Western World

We in the western industrialized nations have spent centuries clawing our way up and out of a world of made of superstition, violence, disease, slavery, inequality, and religious domination.  At the end of all that, our societies are not by any means perfect but they are vastly better than what went before.

Much of what drove people into a Diaspora from Europe and onto the American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand shores was a deep desire to get away from religious oppression and political domination.

So, here we are now in our comfortable western democratic societies enjoying the benefits of freedom of religion, speech, and assembly.  Here we are enjoying our societies in which women have equality and the vote.

But what are these societies of ours?

Well, these societies we’re enjoying are secular societies which means that they are not exclusively allied to any particular religion.

This point is worth thinking about for those of you who are religious (and I know that most of you are).   We live in peaceful country wherein those of us of different religious persuasions get along well because we live in a secular society in which we are all guaranteed an equal right to practice our faith.

But, unfortunately, in today’s world, some folks make the word ‘secular’ sound like it’s a dirty word.

Next time you hear someone say such a thing, stand back and reflect and ask yourself what that person wants to accomplish.  You’ll find that most of them will be in favor of abandoning secularism in favor of being able to impose whatever their favorite religion is upon the rest of us; to make it into the state religion that we all have to follow.

And isn’t that just another way to take us back to the 13th century?  Didn’t we just come from there not long ago?

Stories from the Islamic World

I started this article by referring to the 14 year old school girl shot in Afghanistan for simply advocating the rights of women to get an education.  I could cite many more stories I have followed over the years from the Islamic world.

Did you know that they perform forced female genital mutilations on young girls in Egypt?  This is done to remove their clitoris to  ensure their chaste behavior.  The idea being that these woman cannot not now feel sexual pleasure and thus will never be tempted to stray.

Did you know that there are honor killings carried out because young women in some countries have the audacity to think that they have the right to decide for themselves who they  want to marry?

Did you know that women in many Islamic counties are required to wear garments that completely cover them?  This is done so that they will not incite lust in men.

And did you know that in many places women have no right to vote, own land, drive a car or even go outside unless accompanied by their husband or a male blood relative?

These things go on in many Islamic counties in the world today.  Countries which are members of the U.N., countries which are geo-political allies of the U.S.   Countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt to name a few.

Someday, these different world views are going to collide; Islam’s and ours. There’s even an academic phrase for this likelihood.  It is, “The Clash of Civilizations”.

If you look up Islam on the web, you will learn that 50 countries have Muslim majorities.  23% of the world’s population is Muslim.   Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.  And, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Islam in perspective

But before I go any further, let me point out in fairness that Islam is not all one thing.

There are fundamentalist Muslims and there are progressive Muslims.  There are those who believe in women’s equality and those who don’t.  There are those who are willing to live along side other cultures and belief systems in tolerance and there are those who are not.  There are educated Muslims and there are ignorant ones.  There are many Muslims in the world today that reject the violence of the few such as the Taliban.  There are Islamic countries where women can dress as they like, get an education, drive cars and own property just as people in our countries can.

In the future, I sincerely hope that most of Islam will follow the same path that our western nations did and claw their way out of the darkness and into some semblance of the light to join us here in the 21st century.

We should all hope so because the world is getting smaller decade by decade and we are all being pressed up against each other more and more.

The current pressures and problems in Europe, which has allowed millions of Muslims to immigrate, illustrates these tensions.  And where Europe goes now, we will all eventually follow.

I’m out of tolerance

Personally, I’ve run out of tolerance for the more extreme forms of Islam just as I’ve run out of tolerance for the more extreme forms of Christianity in the U.S.

Those Islamic Imams who call for the overthrow of the evil and corrupt western states and who want to impose their Sharia Law of us are no different to me than those Christian preachers among us who think that the Bible should trump the Constitution and that the U.S. should become officially a Christian State and all the decisions in it should be driven by interpretations of Biblical scripture.

All these folks want to take us back to the 13th century and I thoroughly reject them all.   The freedoms we’ve gained over these last centuries in these secular states are far too valuable to yield to people whose convictions are all faith based and who think that their understandings and beliefs should trump our rights.

Let me step aside here, as I did with the Muslims, and strongly assert that the vast majority of Christians and Christian preachers are not radical fundamentalists bent on replacing the secular state and the Constitution and establishing a Christian state.   Most Christians are steeped in tolerance and want to live and let live. They are the salt of the earth and the very bedrock of our western nations and they are not the people I am talking about here.

If you think I’m wrong by including Christians in with my complaints, you should consider some of the Christian movements afoot in the U.S. now like Joel’s Army.

And as to the pointy end of the stick of Islamic Fundamentalism; the Taliban?

Frankly, my friends, I’ve lost all patience with them and their shooting of 14 year-old girls and I’d advocate a scorched earth policy on them where ever their shadow falls.

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 – This article was updated on 18 Oct 2012 to reflect that nothing I say here should be seen as reflecting on the vast majority of Christians or Muslims.  The vast majority are tolerance and quite willing to live and let live.   I am only speaking in this article of those who would impose their faith-based belief systems on the rest of us by force.  – dennis

– Private critique by David D. – much appreciated.

Taliban attack wounds teen activist blogger

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

– I have no time for people who want to take us back into the darkness of the 13th century and who want to impose their dark fundamentalist ideas on us.

– I appreciate the idea of multiculturalism as well as the next fellow, I think.   But respect has to be reciprocal   It’s hard to deal with folks who believe on faith that they are right and doing God’s work and that you are evil incarnate.

– So, when it comes to Islamic fundamentalists (or Christian Fundamentalists who’d like to subvert secular states to the their own literal translations of biblical verse), I have no patience.  None.

– dennis

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Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — Malala Yousufzai’s courageous blogging against the Taliban set her apart from other 14-year-old Pakistani girls.

Growing up in a region once dominated by the Islamic extremists, she knew the fear associated with the word Taliban.

One of her fears came to pass Tuesday, when gunmen sought her out and opened fire on her school van, leaving her seriously wounded along with two other classmates.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Ihsnaullah Ishan told CNN. Ishan blamed the shooting on Malala’s activist blogging.

Although she is now hospitalized in stable condition and “out of immediate danger,” a bullet is lodged in Malala’s neck and will be difficult to remove, her doctor said.

The attack began when armed militants stopped a van as it was taking her and two other girls home from school. The attackers asked which girl was Malala, said Kainat Bibi, one of the wounded girls. When the girls pointed Malala out, the men opened fire, Bibi said, wounding the girls before the van’s driver was able to speed away. The other two girls’ injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Malala lives in northwest Pakistan’s Swat Valley — one of the nation’s most conservative regions. Her frustration with the Taliban’s restrictions on female education in her town prompted her to use the Internet and speak out, effectively making herself a target.

– More…

– Research thanks to Lise L.

 

African American Doctor Depicted as Gorilla at UCLA Event

Friday, June 15th, 2012

– Racism has no place … anywhere.   But surely, it has no place in medical academia.

– But, apparently, it is alive and well at one of America’s foremost Medical Campuses; UCLA.

– Watch this video to see what’s going on and sign the petition.

AND pass this on and do your part to say ‘no‘ to this sort of crap.

– Dennis

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– To the Video…

– To the Petition…

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– Research thanks to John P.