Archive for the ‘Social Breakdown’ Category

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

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…

 

Secret “Free Trade” Negotiations Will Gut Regulations, Further Enrich Multinationals and Big Financial Firms

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

– I’ve written before on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is being negotiated between the United States, New Zealand, Brunei, Australia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and Malaysia.  Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines have also expressed interest in joining.  

– I’ve also written on another agreement that Canada is negotiating, the FIPPA, that is just as toxic to human rights and the ability of the signatory government to legislate freely to protect the health and the rights of their peoples.

– These agreements, largely being drawn up and agreed to in secret, are a reflection of how very deeply the large multinational corporate interests have gotten into the knickers of our governments.

– These agreements do not favor the individual sovereign governments of any of their possible signatories.  The U.S., which is perhaps the largest player in the group, is not much better off that the other countries save for the fact that it is the home ground for many of the large corporate players backing these agreements.  

– But, as you will read, even U.S. Congressmen are complaining about being locked out of the agreements while the representatives of major corporations freely sit in and help shape what’s to be signed.

– Let’s get that straight.  HalliburtonChevronPHRMAComcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America can all see the current texts of the negotiations – and United States Senator Ron Wyden cannot?

– dennis

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It’s a sign of the times that a reputable economist, Dean Baker, can use the word “corruption” in the headline of an article describing two major trade deals under negotiation and no one bats an eye.

By way of background, the Administration is taking the unusual step of trying to negotiate two major trade deals in the same timeframe. Apparently Obama wants to make sure his corporate masters get as many goodies as possible before he leaves office. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both inaccurately depicted as being helpful to ordinary Americans by virtue of liberalizing trade. Instead, the have perilous little to do with trade. They are both intended to make the world more lucrative for major corporations by weakening regulations and by strengthening intellectual property laws. The TPP has an additional wrinkle of being an “everybody but China” deal, intended to strengthen ties among nations who will then be presumed allies of America in its efforts to contain China. As we indicated via a link to an Asia Times article over the weekend, that’s proving to be a bit fraught as Japan is flexing its muscles militarily and thus less inclined to follow US directives tamely.

One of the most disturbing aspects of both negotiations is that they are being held in secret….secret, that is, if you are anybody other that a big US multinational who has a stake in the outcome.

Baker describes in scathing terms why these types of deals are bad policy:

…these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.

All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly…

The idea is that once a deal is completed there will be enormous political pressure for Congress to approve it no matter what it contains….news outlets like the Washington Post will use both their news and opinion sections to bash members of Congress who oppose a deal. They will be endlessly portrayed as ignorant Neanderthals who do not understand economics.

The reality of course is that it is the “free traders” who either do not understand economics or deliberately choose to ignore it. Many of the provisions that we are likely to see in these deals, like stronger patent protections, will slow growth and cost jobs.

These deals will also lead to more upward redistribution of income. The more money that people in the developing world pay to Pfizer for drugs and Microsoft for software, the less money they will pay for the products that we export, as opposed to “intellectual property rights”….

This is yet another case where the government is working for a tiny elite against the interests of the bulk of the population.

If that isn’t bad enough, there’s another side of these planned pacts that is often simply ignored. These “trade” deals are Trojan horses to erode or eliminate national regulations. Baker anticipates that these deals will include sections that would limit government regulation (including at the state and local level) on fracking and could revive much of the internet surveillance that reared its ugly head in the failed SOPA.

– More…

 

Secret Files Expose Offshore’s Global Impact

Friday, April 12th, 2013

– This story is going to have legs for a long time, folks.  High net worth individuals and politicos all over the globe must be crapping themselves wondering what’s going to come out of this story.

– All us small folk are paying higher and higher taxes while the disparity between the rich and poor grows wider and wider and the folks on the top are clearly not paying their share.  They are, in fact, working very hard to pay little or nothing.

– Corporations and the rich are gaming the situation to push the tax burdens down on the middle classes and that’s one of the reasons why the middle classes are beginning to look like an endangered species.

– This can only go so far and there will be a backlash.   This, if carried far enough, is the stuff revolutions are made of.

– dennis

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Dozens of journalists sifted through millions of leaked records and thousands of names to produce ICIJ’s investigation into offshore secrecy ­

A cache of 2.5 million files has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich the world over.

The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways.

They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program.

The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.

The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.

The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.

– More…

 – Later breaking stories on this subject…

Food, Corporations, Government and who’s got your back?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

– This is an original piece.  I feel pretty strongly about this stuff.  Comments will be welcomed.

– dennis

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The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost….”

~ Galadriel – Lord of the Rings

 Things are changing all around us though most of us do not see it.   Indeed, the world is nothing but change, and when enough change is going on around you, it is easy to miss some of it.

Administrations change, inflation rises and falls, the stock market wobbles along, prices at the market and at the gas station always seem to rise but then, to be fair, our wages seem rise as well.  Sometimes, amid all that change, it’s hard to see if we’re losing or winning.  After all, we’ve got businesses, families and lives to live.   The daily round of just getting on with things absorbs us.

Maybe it has always gone on but it seems to me that if we want to pick out just one area where things are going wrong, we could talk about food.

Food is big money because, after all, the millions of people who comprise a nation all have to eat and most of them are not farmers.

So, food industries are born and food is brought to us through vast networks of growers, transporters, processors, storage facilities, packagers and wholesale and retail outlets.

There are people and corporations out there making vast fortunes supplying us with food.  And therein lies a problem because where ever big money goes, there also goes big temptation.

Recently, here in New Zealand where I live, the top local executive of the American corporation, Coca-Cola, criticized New Zealand for being ‘anti-business‘ in an interview (http://tinyurl.com/br6dxex) that he gave on the occasion of his departure from the country.  Some of us here in New Zealand, myself included, were not amused.

But the real irony of his comments came a few weeks later when a story came out in the New York Times entitled, “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” (http://tinyurl.com/as52ncb).

This story details the efforts undertaken by major American food companies (like Nestlé, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars) to create foods that we just cannot resist.

On the face of it, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?   It’s just good old Capitalism creating better products for the benefit of the American consumer?

But, it’s not all good news, I’m afraid.

These companies are corporations and they, especially the big publically held ones, are focused on only one thing and that is the maximization of profit for their shareholders.

When I say this (about corporations being solely about profits), I’m afraid that some folks might think this is some sort of a Liberal conspiracy theory on my part.

Well, it’s not.  Corporations are required in the U.S. by law to be primarily focused on profit.   You can read about it here: (http://tinyurl.com/3y63to)

In search of these profits, the big food companies, like those mentioned above, have established large and sophisticated laboratories setup to work out exactly how much of ‘this’ and how much of ‘that’ they should put into their products to make them as appealing to us as possible.  They know that the more appealing the products are, the more they will sell and thus the more they will profit.

Sadly, these companies have found through research that to maximize their sales they generally need to add more salt, fat and sugar.  And they also add preservatives and coloring agents and whatever else helps with the product’s visual appeal and its shelf life.  We all know that more salt, fat and sugar are not good for us, the consumers.   But, in the quest for profit, that becomes irrelevant.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here about how they optimize the appeal of their foods because it’s all in the article cited.

But remember, friends, that it is you and those you love that these companies are trying to manipulate into eating their junk food.   And they are not doing it for your health or welfare.

Quite simply, these folks do not care about whether the foods they create for profit  are making more and more of us obese or prone to diabetes (and they are making us more obese and prone to diabetes).   These concerns are irrelevant to them unless they should start to get ‘bad press’ that begins to hurt their sales.  But whichever way they turn, be assured it will be about profit.

So, to return to the subject of the Coca-Cola executive who criticized New Zealand for being ‘business unfriendly’ as he left?  One has to wonder what exactly he was criticizing New Zealanders for?  Did he judge them as  ‘unfriendly’ to business because people here in New Zealand might want to have some say in what foods they eat and how those foods might affect their health?

An American, Sinclair Lewis, said the following:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

I think this would be the reason why the American Coca-Cola executive could have trouble understanding what the New Zealanders are concerned about.

From his point-of-view, such worries could interfere with Coca-Cola’s profits and thus with his career with Coca-Cola.  So he labels New Zealand ‘unfriendly’ to business.  That’s cynical in my view.  Does he think that New Zealanders are suppose to trade their health for Coca-Cola’s profits?

This story I’ve been sharing with you about junk food science is just one example of how corporations will pursue their profits without regard for the health of the people they sell their products to.

And this is a global problem.   If one country resists having their health corrupted in the name of corporate profits, then the corporation involved can always move along to another country.

As an example, let’s reflect a bit on the tobacco industry.

These days, people take it for granted in the U.S. that nicotine is addictive and that smoking causes cancer.

But it wasn’t always so.   You don’t have to be too old to remember a time not long ago in 1994, when several of the top U.S. tobacco executives went before the U.S. Congress and testified that nicotine was not addictive (http://tinyurl.com/4xofj7).  But the tobacco industry’s real subterfuge with regard to defending their profits began long before that.  If you follow this link (http://tinyurl.com/cl78heo), you can read about this deeper history which is referred to as ‘Operation Berkshire’.

After the congressional hearings and a lot of debate, the U.S. forced tobacco companies to lower the tar and nicotine levels in their products and to place health warnings on their packaging.

The tobacco corporations simply shifted their focus to concentrate more on other countries where there were less protections against their predatory practices.   The Philippines was one such target.   That poor country has long been a prime target of the tobacco industry.  You can read about it here: (http://tinyurl.com/cgtb4vw)

So, let me point out yet once again, that these strategies by tobacco corporations to advance and expand their markets whenever and where ever they can, with no regard for the health of consumers, is simply standard behavior for corporate entities.  Their primary motivation is the maximize the profits of their shareholders and the rest, all the human misery they cause, is irrelevant to them.

All of this begs the question, for those of you who are fortunate enough to own stocks or mutual funds, do you know what corporations your money is invested in?   Do you know what they are doing?  Are you making profits on investments that, if you really stopped to see what these corporations are doing, that you would find repugnant?

Not long after I read the story about junk food science in the U.S., I began to read another one about the Horsemeat Scandal in Europe.  Details are here: (http://tinyurl.com/cobggsg).

You’d have to have been living in a cave recently to have not heard of how the Europeans discovered through DNA testing that all over western Europe, meat labeled as beef actually contained significant amounts of horsemeat.

It’s a sordid tale and at the bottom of it, as always, it will be found that someone somewhere (whether an individual or a corporation) found a way to make extra money by cheating and substituting the cheaper horsemeat.  And they didn’t think they’d get caught or they thought that they’d make so much money that the risk would be worth it.  I doubt that they thought much about whether or not folks wanted to eat horsemeat.

I know that a lot of people in the U.S. and in other countries as well (like here in New Zealand), think that we just have too much government.

But isn’t it the government that is suppose to protect us from horsemeat scandals, from aggressively marketed junk food and from cigarettes, among things?

Some folks believe that the markets should be left alone and allowed to regulate themselves.  They believe that in a free market “cheaters never prosper“.

Well, I think that history has shown over and over again ad nauseam that this is a particularly naive point of view.  The evidence clearly seems to be that cheaters prosper quite a bit.

Another article appeared about a week ago.   This time the subject was bogus seafood in the U.S.

This was a great wake-up call for everyone in the U.S. who might have been smirking over their morning coffee and newspaper at  the horsemeat scandal in Europe.

Here’s the story in all its gory detail if you want to skip right to it: (http://tinyurl.com/buwrj5b).

It turns that an organization called Oceana.Org conducted DNA testing and determined that 33% of all fish samples subjected to testing in the U.S. were mislabeled.

That 59 percent of fish sold as tuna in U.S. restaurants and grocery stores is not actually tuna.

By retail outlets they found that, seafood was mislabeled 18 percent of the time in grocery stores, 38 percent of the time in restaurants and 74 percent of the time in sushi venues.

That 84 percent of fish samples described as ‘white tuna’ were actually Escolar.  Escolar is a type of Snake Mackerel that has rich, buttery flesh, but unpleasant side effects.

What side-effects, you ask?

Oh, just ‘prolonged, oily anal leakage’ for some of the people who eat it; nothing much.

And it only takes about 6 ounces of Escolar to cause this effect.

So, let’s go back to the ‘less government’ idea again.

Who exactly is it that we think is going to test for stuff like this?  Who is it that will ensure that when someone sells us something they call ‘Tuna’, that it is what they say it is?

While you are thinking about that, consider that 90% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.  And less than 1% of that is tested.

Consider as well that human nature seems to be such that there’s always going to be someone who, when given the opportunity to make significantly more money, is going to ‘work’ the system to do so if they can.  We can count on it.

So, shouldn’t it be obvious that someone is going to substitute cheaper varieties of fish for the more expensive ones unless they are prevented from doing so?

We’d all like to think that folks won’t cheat us, but the blindingly obvious fact is, many of them will.

In this case, it was an organization called Oceana.org (http://tinyurl.com/bxawv7x) that discovered the substitutions; not the U.S. government.

That was lucky for the American public.  But in my opinion, people should not have to rely on luck to uncover this stuff.

So, when you hear the siren song of ‘less government’ you should think about all of this.

So, why doesn’t the U.S. government protect Americans better on these sorts of issues now?   Well, sometimes they do.  But as the opening quote of the article suggests, “The world has changed”.  And it is continuing to change.

Part of the reason is because increasingly a lot of Americans believe in the idea of “less government”.  And, because they vote, their beliefs are reflected how the government runs and what it does.

Another reason is because it is in the best interest of many big corporations and high-net-worth individuals to prevent the government from making laws that interfere with their profits.  Thus these folks unleash armies of lobbyists and bags of money in their efforts to influence and control law makers.

And yet another reason is because of what’s called “The Revolving Door”.  The Revolving Door is the practice whereby a man who yesterday worked as an executive at a big coal mining company will somehow today be appointed to a high office in government to oversee the coal industry.

You can read about this practice here: (http://tinyurl.com/yzhndor)

The Revolving Door practice has been going on for a long time and it truly is an example of letting the fox into the chicken coop.  But, somehow in the U.S. (and in other countries) this has become an accepted way of doing things.  And a seriously dysfunctional way, in my opinion.

Regarding “less government”, I don’t like the over-the-top Liberal ‘nanny-state’ anymore than the next individual.  But people do, in fact, need government to  regulate business so we can all maintain our quality of life.   What we don’t need are governments that exist primarily to protect the rights of the corporations.

But, in my view, the sad truth is that these days corporations are slowly and inexorably increasing their control over our governments.

Witness the “Citizens United” ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that says “corporations are people” (http://tinyurl.com/b4czkdp).  As a result of this ruling, corporations cannot now be limited in how much money they can donate to political campaigns.   Does that stink or what?

What do I want from my government in the U.S. or here in New Zealand (or anywhere else for that matter)?

I’d like to know that my government inspects my food and ensures that if I buy something called Tuna, that that’s what I’m getting.

I’d like a government that exerts itself to keep its populace well informed as to why the junk food being cooked up by the large corporations to maximize their profits may not be the best thing for people to eat.

I’d live a government staffed by people who haven’t just, for example, walked out the door of a coal mining company and are now sitting at a desk in the government office responsible for regulating the same coal industry.

I’d like a government that realizes that corporations bent solely on profit may not always make the best decisions for a people or for a country.  A government that will protect us against their worst excesses.

These are common sense ideas to me and most of us, I believe, would like think that this is how things are done.

But, I have to tell you, they are in general not being done this way and every day the influence of the corporations and big money over our governments grows.

Would you believe me if I said that corporations don’t even care about the health of nations?

Many people think that the economic problems in the U.S. began long before the melt-down of 2008.

They think that it actually began when many of the big U.S. based multi-national corporations realized that they could increase their profits by moving their U.S. based manufacturing operations overseas.  The corporate logic was that it will cost less to make it over there and we can therefore make more profit when we sell it.

That was good thinking for those corporations but it was bad for America.  The net result?   America has beggared itself.

Just ask yourself, how can a country remain a net creator of wealth when it isn’t making anything to sell?

And if it is not generating more than it is spending, how it can ever expect to pay off an ever increasing national debt?

So, off shoring was good for the corporations and absolutely ruinous for the American economy.   But the corporations didn’t care.  It was, as always, all about their profits.

So, the American national debt rises every year and the battles in Washington, D.C. about what to do about the debt get more and more rancorous all the time.  Everyone’s fallen into blaming everyone else because there isn’t any good solution to the mess the corporations have put us into.

The Liberals blame the Conservatives and the Conservatives blame the Liberals and the big corporate interests who are getting richer and richer just keep pouring money and lobbyists into Washington, D.C. every year to make sure that things don’t change in any way that will affect their profits.

But it gets even worse.

The main overseas beneficiary of sending American manufacturing offshore has been China.

China is the largest Communist country in the world.  China used to be dirt poor and now it is overflowing in American dollars.

America, helped by the mercenary multi-national corporations, has sent China all the money  it needs to convert the Chinese third rate, third-world military into something with first world capabilities so that now it is a force to be reckoned with.

The Chinese may look capitalistic but their government is Communist to the core and their ambition to remake us all in their image has never faded.

And, in the mean time, America’s having trouble paying its bills.

Corporations, unchecked, are a bad idea.  But they are, of course, just doing what comes natural to them when they seek profits above all else.

The truth is that they’re a lot like a junk-yard dog; it’s been trained to bite people and that’s what it does.   But you wouldn’t let a junk-yard dog run loose on the street, unchained, would you?

To be fair, corporations are good in many ways.  They drive innovation, they provide jobs, and they help the economy grow and prosper.   But they are too mono-maniacal in their focus on profit to be allowed to ‘run free’.  They, quite naturally, don’t care about the health of people or even the health of nations.

It’s my strong opinion that in every country, the number one priority of government should be to maximize the quality of life for the people of that nation.  The freedom of corporations should always be of a secondary priority.

Corporations should be allowed freedom of action only so long as their actions do not impinge on the quality of life or the freedom of the people.  Corporations will, of course, make less profits this way.  But this world should not primarily be about their profits but, rather, about the quality of life for all of us.

Until we make such a decision about our priorities, we will continue to be abused by those who care only about their profits.  Horsemeat, bogus fish, revolving doors, and foods designed to addict us and kill us.  How much evidence do we need?

Anonymous Hacks US Government Site, Threatens Supreme ‘Warheads’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

– This YouTube video makes for interesting viewing and it sets out a number of  grievances Anonymous has with the U.S. government’s escalating abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens.   It’s well worth a watch.

– Will it cause the U.S. government to change its ways?   I doubt it.  Most of the people involved on the U.S. government side are simple people doing their jobs who haven’t the courage or the imagination to see that the jobs they are increasingly doing are not in defense of the principles upon which the U.S. was founded but rather in defense of those powerful forces who are in the processing of capturing the U.S. system for their own gains.

– dennis

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The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked the U.S. federal sentencing website early Saturday, [January 26th, 2013] using the page to make a brazen and boisterous declaration of “war” on the U.S. government.

The group claims mysterious code-based “warheads,” named for each of the Supreme Court Justices, are about to be deployed.

As of midnight Pacific time, the front page of Ussc.gov — the Federal agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts — is filled with a long screed in green on black, together with this YouTube video:  ➡

 – research thanks to Mashable