Archive for category Corporations
Watch and read: The linked article and video below by Alexandra Rosenmann from the AlterNet is from an interview with Noam Chomsky discussing TPIP. Chomsky says TPIP “has nothing to do with reducing tariffs, (and calls) it ‘pretty extreme’.” Greenpeace, having recently released a portion of the agreement (about 280 pages) says: “Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labor rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.”
Chomsky points out that “so-called free-trade agreements are not free-trade agreements. To a larger extent they’re not even trade agreements. These are investor rights agreements.” By all means, let’s protect investors above all else. In the short video you’ll hear exactly what Chomsky says. Read the rest of this entry »
Read this: As usual, Norm Chomsky makes us rethink what we often lazily take for granted. He poses the question, “Who Rules the World” and immediately refutes what is probably our most common answer. That quick, assumptive response is often “the states” or “the great powers”, but he says this may be misleading. Regardless of the level of supposed democracy, decisions and politics “are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized”. Chomsky emphasizes that, to understand who rules the world, we cannot ignore the “’masters of mankind,’ as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like.” Basically what we know as multinational corporations. He describes “the ‘vile maxim’ to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: ‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people’. This doctrine or policy is intricately entwined with ‘class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the … the world’.”
In the two articles below found in The Nation magazine, Chomsky makes many points clarifying policies and tools used by “the masters (to) hold enormous power”. Read the rest of this entry »
Read this: The need of any viable democracy to have a strong, functioning, independent media has been stressed since Thomas Jefferson and yet, today, we find ourselves with a media, that although strong and functioning, is anything but independent. The number of key players continues to shrink as they gobble up more and more of the smaller players, consolidating the messages and limiting alternative opinions. Of course, this is seldom discussed, much less described, as the virus it has truly become on the very existence of any meaningful democracy.
In the link below, to a Moyers & Company article (originally appearing at Truthout), Michael Corcoran looks at the problem as “the media has become controlled by a handful of corporations thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview. | The Nation
Once again she nails it. This article from Naomi Klein via The Nation Magazine needs no summarization by me. It needs reading, by everyone. Please do and then act accordingly and spread the word.
Watch this: Every once in a while it is worthwhile to review some things that are, well, worth reviewing. The basic concepts suggested in Naomi Klein‘s book The Shock Doctrine / The Rise of Disaster Capitalism definitely meets this criteria, in my opinion.
While I would definitely encourage anyone, who has not, to read the book, I know that time is often a scarce commodity and for many reading will simply not happen. I recently found a quick alternative that gives a brief overview, with a little extra content related to issues such as inequality. This is a short YouTube video where Klein reviews the thesis of the book. Here she says that “we have entered a new phase of Disaster Capitalism, that uses the shock and awe of various national events to impose what economists call economic shock therapies” on the country or people least able to defend themselves. Often, if not usually, these economic actions end up not in the best interests of the people concerned. They, however, are usually wonderful for the wealthy people, corporations and banks that force them into being.
Read this: The subtitle in the article below notes an important critique of recent diversion in American priorities: “For most of human history, life-saving drugs were a public good. Now they’re only good for shareholders.” Is this really true and if so why? How did this happen? Can it be changed? The article in The Nation Magazine, by Fran Quigley looks at many perspectives on this issue. It is a long read, but well worth the effort.
According to Quigley this and similar economic trends dates back to, and is an extension of, what is called “the English enclosure movement”. It began “between the 15th and 19th centuries, (where) the rich and the powerful fenced off commonly held land and transformed it into private property. Land switched from a source of subsistence to a source of profit, and small farmers were relegated to wage laborers”. As British historian E.P. Thompson said, it was “a plain enough case of class robbery.” So once again we are faced with a situation where the wealthy and powerful have managed to manipulate a system to maximize the extraction of wealth from the pockets of the weak (and middle class) into their own bulging reserves. Here the “fenced-off commodity is life-saving medicine. Playing the role of modern-day lords of the manor are pharmaceutical corporations, which have taken a good that was once considered off-limits for private profiteering and turned it into an expensive commodity”.
If this bothers you, it should. It is time, as Bernie Sanders insists, that we get real angry, but this time we need to do something about it. As Quigley says “it’s time now to reclaim this commons, and reestablish medicines as a public good.” She goes on to spend quite a bit of time explaining that “public goods are non-rivalrous and non-excludable in their consumption” and how these lead to “positive externalities”. Here she goes into the positives and negatives, that the existence or absence of this enclosure movement create. To the dismay of our free market fans she points out that ” for nearly all of human history, societies have treated medicine as a commonly held benefit. Until well past the middle of the 20th century, few countries allowed individuals or companies to hold exclusive rights to produce medicines. And governments have long been involved early and often in the pharmaceutical industry, creating the very opposite of a laissez-faire market.”
So can this trend be changed? Quigley points out that “when governments don’t take a sufficiently activist role in the field of medicines, public opinion pushes them further.” We can only hope that the pharmaceutical corporations are not already too big. “Among governments and the public alike, medicines continue to be treated as a good quite distinct from consumer items like cell phones or flat-screen TVs. A human right to access essential medicines has found its way into international treaties and national constitutions.”
“Pharmaceutical corporations justify enclosure by claiming that patents are necessary to spur innovation.” This is a difficult argument to swallow however. They “justify enclosure by claiming that patents are necessary to spur innovation”. History doesn’t actually support this argument pushing for the “evil of monopoly patents”. Quigley goes on to point out that actually “the history of pharmaceutical innovations, especially vaccine developments and life-saving treatments for infectious and chronic diseases, shows that the critical research behind these developments was created outside the patent system.”
Read the entire article. There is a lot more, but she ends with a call to action: ” A petition now circulating for a global research agreement calls on policymakers to “Make Medicines for People, Not Profit.” For that noble goal to be achieved, the fence surrounding essential medicines will need to be torn down once and for all.”
Read these: Trade deals are good for everyone, or so the propaganda goes. Beginning with George H.W. Bush, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush and now Barack Obama, all of our presidents seem to love them. We’ve had NAFTA, CAFTA and other less well know trade deals and are waiting for the mighty pen to drop, committing us to TPP. Each one has been touted as a fix for workers, trade, corporations, investors, oh and don’t worry about labor protections, the environment, safety, etc. It is all covered and will be good. So what do the American people and the leaders of smaller economies around the world do? What can they do? They resist a little, try to get the word out and then cross their fingers and sign.
What happens shortly after the ink dries has been a very well hidden but quite different story. These trade deals, largely written by corporations, have led to massive reductions in trade for small farmers, greatly reduced wages, loss of local farms and industry, devastated local economies, environmental pollution, degradation in safety standards among other destructive effects. They have been good for corporations, their investors and some others, so I guess that is what we call a win / win.
Understanding these trade deals is difficult and you will seldom see much on our beloved news/entertainment media. Below are several links to well documented and detailed reports giving a “not so rosy” review of the existing trade deals and of course the impending TPP deal (what many are calling NAFTA on steroids). There is a lot to read, so do it in pieces and at your own pace, but please read. You / We need to understand these agreements and maybe begin to abstain from participating in these abusive endeavors to further the power and wealth of the few.
NAFTA, CAFTA & Other Trade Deals
Watch this: Sometimes a short video can get a message across much faster than a more lengthy article. Such is the case here where a crew from Spotlight CA investigates what happens when oil mixes with our water sources. Now that oil drilling is taking place right in the middle of fields where farming is actively taking place and massive amounts of water are used to extract fossil fuels, some of that same water is ending up as the irrigation source for various crops. What could go wrong?
Reporter Kiran Deol meets a “watchdog farmer, a maverick water scientist and a public health expert who are all taking action to ensure our safety.” As they investigate the situation, a farmer named Frantz asks “An orange is 90 percent water when it gets to the consumer … where did that water come from? It’s the irrigation water. If the irrigation water is toxic even at very tiny amounts, is there a tiny amount of toxicity now in the fruit? Nobody has tested that yet.” As the story says, we (and particularly the oil companies) could be doing a lot more to ensure the purity of the water, but they are simply not. I guess they don’t have to so they probably won’t until that changes.
We, the consumers, need to wake up and be diligently, maybe radically, active.
Read this: Once again, a news story you need to search for when it should be unavoidable. The rupture at Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site in Southern CA. “It’s the climate equivalent of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: the rupture of a natural gas storage site in California that is spewing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere and is likely to go unchecked for three months.” The industries’ solution: make the story go away, then deal with the problem, maybe. The leak occurred on 10-23-15, but we sure haven’t heard much about it. Naturally, the resulting assumption ends up being that it must not have been much of a problem. However, the reality of this breach, near Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley is not small. It’s consequences are alarming:
- It “has forced the relocation of hundreds of families, who complained of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea from the rotten-egg smell of the odorant added to the gas to aid in leak detection.”
- The leak “now accounts for at least a quarter of California’s emissions of methane – a far more powerful climate-altering gas than carbon dioxide.”
- “Already, the ruptured storage facility has released well over the equivalent of 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide – about the same amount that would be generated by driving 160,000 cars for a year, according to the California Air Resources Board.”
- “Methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a climate-altering gas, in the short-term.” And this one is big
“The time lag and the scale of the breach brought immediate comparisons to BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11, caused lasting environmental damage to the marine wildlife and environment, and took three months to bring under control.” Excuses abound regarding the difficulty of plugging the leak as well as determining any realistic timetable. Consensus is “plugging the well won’t be quick.” This kind of reckless use of our environment by the fossil fuels industry must stop and coverage of these problems must be diligent and accurate. We have to make it so this industry cannot afford to chance these mistakes and that doesn’t even deal with the main problem, climate change. Read the entire article from The Guardian, by Suzanne Goldenberg for more details.
Read this: Keeping an eye on the results of man made disasters is essential. It is part of our responsibility as citizens in a democracy. After a disaster we are all amazed, upset and demand justice, but then we slowly stop paying attention and soon forget. Sadly this is to the benefit of those who cause those disasters, particularly large corporations. The BP Oil Spill is a classic case of this neglect by us all. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has continued to monitor this disaster and says “The extensive research on the impacts of the BP Oil Spill were kept private until the case was closed against BP. Now that the report is public, some of the effects are much worse than estimated. We broke the report down into the most crucial data.” The link below to an article from the NWF, by Ryan Fikes briefly details 16 types of damage along with the severity of each. We as citizens expect our national leaders to ensure that these disasters are corrected, but we are naive. The required actions occur minimally at best and often much too late. We need to realize it is up to us to make sure does. As the CEO of the NWF said: ” Helping the Gulf of Mexico recover from this unprecedented disaster should be a national priority. Ultimately, as much as $16 billion in criminal penalties, the RESTORE Act dollars, and the Oil Pollution Act fines will be available for restoration efforts across the Gulf. Ensuring that this money goes where it can do the most good will require commitment and coordination—we’re on the ground in all five states working to make sure this happens.”