The Corporation (2003) (must-see video)

Greedy Corporate America

Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

[replaced video June 12, 2019]

Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance. Since the late 18th century American legal decision that the business corporation organizational model is legally a person, it has become a dominant economic, political and social force around the globe. Continue reading

Bomb After Bomb – A Violent Cartography By Howard Zinn

Dandelion Salad

By Howard Zinn
Counterpunch
December 15 / 16, 2007

This essay serves as the introduction to Bomb After Bomb: a Violent Cartography, a collection of drawings illustrating the history of bombing by elin o’Hara slavick. o’Hara slavick is a professor of art at the University of North Carolina. More of her visionary work can be viewed on her website. AC / JSC

Perhaps it is fitting that elin o’Hara slavick’s extraordinary evocation of bombings by the United States government be preceded by some words from a bombardier who flew bombing missions for the U.S. Air Corps in the second World War. At least one of her drawings is based on a bombing I participated in near the very end of the war–the destruction of the French seaside resort of Royan, on the Atlantic coast.

As I look at her drawings, I become painfully aware of how ignorant I was, when I dropped those bombs on France and on cities in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, of the effects of those bombings on human beings. Not because she shows us bloody corpses, amputated limbs, skin shredded by napalm. She does not do that. But her drawings, in ways that I cannot comprehend, compel me to envision such scenes.

I am stunned by the thought that we, the “civilized” nations, have bombed cities and countrysides and islands for a hundred years. Yet, here in the United States, which is responsible for most of that, the public, as was true of me, does not understand–I mean really understand–what bombs do to people. That failure of imagination, I believe, iscritical to explaining why we still have wars, why we accept bombing as a common accompaniment to our foreign policies, without horror or disgust.

We in this country, unlike people in Europe or Japan or Africa or the Middle East, or the Caribbean, have not had the experience of being bombed. That is why, when the Twin Towers in New York exploded on September 11, there was such shock and disbelief. This turned quickly, under the impact of government propaganda, into a callous approval of bombing Afghanistan, and a failure to see that the corpses of Afghans were the counterparts of those in Manhattan.

We might think that at least those individuals in the U.S. Air Force who dropped bombs on civilian populations were aware of what terror they were inflicting, but as one of those I can testify that this is not so. Bombing from five miles high, I and my fellow crew members could not see what was happening on the ground. We could not hear screams or see blood, could not see torn bodies, crushed limbs. Is it any wonder we see fliers going out on mission after mission, apparently unmoved by thoughts of what they have wrought.

It was not until after the war, when I read John Hersey’s interviews with Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, who described what they had endured, that I became aware, in excruciating detail, of what my bombs had done. I then looked further. I learned of the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945, in which perhaps a hundred thousand people died. I learned about the bombing of Dresden, and the creation of a firestorm which cost the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 residents of that city. I learned of the bombing of Hamburg and Frankfurt and other cities in Europe.

We know now that perhaps 600,000 civilians–men, women, and children-died in the bombings of Europe. And an equal number died in the bombings of Japan. What could possibly justify such carnage? Winning the war against Fascism? Yes, we “won”. But what did we win? Was it a new world? Had we done away with Fascism in the world, with racism, with militarism, with hunger and disease? Despite the noble words of the United Nations charter about ending “the scourge of war” – had we done away with war?

As horrifying as the loss of life was, the acceptance of justifications for the killing of innocent people continued after World War II. The United States bombed Korea, with at least a million civilian deaths, and then Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, with another million or two million lives taken. “Communism” was the justification. But what did those millions of victims know of “communism” or “capitalism” or any of the abstractions which cover up mass murder?

We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.

This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for “national security”, “national defense”, “and national interest”.

Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that “we are fighting for our country” when in fact they are fighting for the government – an artificial entity different from the people of the country – and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.

My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.

One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end– however laudable, the existence of no enemy — however vicious, can justify war.

Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.

Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.

Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.

Five:Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I,50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.

Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not “intend” to kill innocent people — that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.

Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.

These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.

If the drawings of elin o’Hara slavick and the words that accompany them cause us to think about war, perhaps in ways we never did before, they will have made a powerful contribution towards a peaceful world.

Howard Zinn’s most recent book is A Power Government’s Cannot Suppress.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Stop Harm: Logic Bomb #3 (video)

After the Money’s Gone By Paul Krugman

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Krugman
Truthout
The New York Times
Go to Original
Friday 14 December 2007

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced plans to lend $40 billion to banks. By my count, it’s the fourth high-profile attempt to rescue the financial system since things started falling apart about five months ago. Maybe this one will do the trick, but I wouldn’t count on it.

In past financial crises – the stock market crash of 1987, the aftermath of Russia’s default in 1998 – the Fed has been able to wave its magic wand and make market turmoil disappear. But this time the magic isn’t working.

Why not? Because the problem with the markets isn’t just a lack of liquidity – there’s also a fundamental problem of solvency.

Let me explain the difference with a hypothetical example.

Suppose that there’s a nasty rumor about the First Bank of Pottersville: people say that the bank made a huge loan to the president’s brother-in-law, who squandered the money on a failed business venture.

Even if the rumor is false, it can break the bank. If everyone, believing that the bank is about to go bust, demands their money out at the same time, the bank would have to raise cash by selling off assets at fire-sale prices – and it may indeed go bust even though it didn’t really make that bum loan.

And because loss of confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, even depositors who don’t believe the rumor would join in the bank run, trying to get their money out while they can.

But the Fed can come to the rescue. If the rumor is false, the bank has enough assets to cover its debts; all it lacks is liquidity – the ability to raise cash on short notice. And the Fed can solve that problem by giving the bank a temporary loan, tiding it over until things calm down.

Matters are very different, however, if the rumor is true: the bank really did make a big bad loan. Then the problem isn’t how to restore confidence; it’s how to deal with the fact that the bank is really, truly insolvent, that is, busted.

My story about a basically sound bank beset by a crisis of confidence, which can be rescued with a temporary loan from the Fed, is more or less what happened to the financial system as a whole in 1998. Russia’s default led to the collapse of the giant hedge fund Long Term Capital Management, and for a few weeks there was panic in the markets.

But when all was said and done, not that much money had been lost; a temporary expansion of credit by the Fed gave everyone time to regain their nerve, and the crisis soon passed.

In August, the Fed tried again to do what it did in 1998, and at first it seemed to work. But then the crisis of confidence came back, worse than ever. And the reason is that this time the financial system – both banks and, probably even more important, nonbank financial institutions – made a lot of loans that are likely to go very, very bad.

It’s easy to get lost in the details of subprime mortgages, resets, collateralized debt obligations, and so on. But there are two important facts that may give you a sense of just how big the problem is.

First, we had an enormous housing bubble in the middle of this decade. To restore a historically normal ratio of housing prices to rents or incomes, average home prices would have to fall about 30 percent from their current levels.

Second, there was a tremendous amount of borrowing into the bubble, as new home buyers purchased houses with little or no money down, and as people who already owned houses refinanced their mortgages as a way of converting rising home prices into cash.

As home prices come back down to earth, many of these borrowers will find themselves with negative equity – owing more than their houses are worth. Negative equity, in turn, often leads to foreclosures and big losses for lenders.

And the numbers are huge. The financial blog Calculated Risk, using data from First American CoreLogic, estimates that if home prices fall 20 percent there will be 13.7 million homeowners with negative equity. If prices fall 30 percent, that number would rise to more than 20 million.

That translates into a lot of losses, and explains why liquidity has dried up. What’s going on in the markets isn’t an irrational panic. It’s a wholly rational panic, because there’s a lot of bad debt out there, and you don’t know how much of that bad debt is held by the guy who wants to borrow your money.

How will it all end? Markets won’t start functioning normally until investors are reasonably sure that they know where the bodies – I mean, the bad debts – are buried. And that probably won’t happen until house prices have finished falling and financial institutions have come clean about all their losses. All of this will probably take years.

Meanwhile, anyone who expects the Fed or anyone else to come up with a plan that makes this financial crisis just go away will be sorely disappointed.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Strangling Gaza by César Chelala

Dandelion Salad

by César Chelala
CommonDreams.org
December 15, 2007

t could, rightfully, be a cause of shame to the world. But the world, besieged by violence and injustice, hardly notices it. The people of Gaza, 1.4 million of them, are slowly and purposely being deprived of basic foods and medicines by the so called civilized countries in the West and there is hardly a protest. And all this happens because the people in Gaza want to be free and independent. Never mind that in the process children and innocent civilians are killed or families dispossessed.Dr. Mona Elfarra, a Palestinian physician and human rights activist, thus describes a situation in her personal blog, “I don’t know exactly what was going on inside the little heads of the kids who were preparatory school children, of Al Buriege boy’s preparatory school. But the two tiny bodies were shot, with many bullets, as I was told by my colleagues at the emergency room at the Al Aqsa hospital…On November 10, the dreams of two tiny kids has stopped forever.”

As Dr. Elfarra states, both the children as well as the Israeli soldiers who killed them are victims of the occupation, “…the occupation that deprives the soldiers of their humanity, when under the false pretence of Israeli security, daily crimes are committed against my country. And against my people.” This is particularly true in the lack of food and medicines for the people in Gaza.

Most of the basic goods in Gaza are imported. Because of border closures, there is limited delivery of those goods, in particular sugar and wheat flour, which represent 80 percent of the caloric intake of Palestinians. The majority of the population depends on food aid from international organizations.

At the same time, the flow of exports leaving Gaza has practically stopped, while the commercial and humanitarian goods allowed to come in continues to decline. The Gaza Strip is practically sealed off from the outside world. Approximately 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. It is estimated that 70 percent of the potential workforce is out of work or without pay. The Gaza Strip is not receiving tax monies owed to by Israel, which amounts to almost half of its budget.

Also critical is the public health and medical situation of the inhabitants of the Strip. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the public health system is facing an unprecedented crisis. UNICEF reports that children are living in an environment of extreme violence, insecurity and fear. Shelling and sonic bombs have increased children’s signs of distress and exhaustion.

UN agencies have appealed for Israel to restore full energy supplies to the Gaza Strip, stating their concern over the status of the public health system. “In the last months, the situation has become intolerable, with problems of referral outside of Gaza for patients who need specialized care that cannot be delivered in Gaza,” states Dr. Ambroggio Manenti, head of the WHO office for the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli government General Security Service (Shabak) cites unspecified “security concerns” when denying medical patients exit permits from Gaza, a situation that has been denounced by Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel.) “Israel denial of medical care to those in urgent need amounts to collective punishment against the population, which violates international law,” states Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch Middle East division.

In June, PHR-Israel and Gisha, another Israel-based human rights group, challenged Israel’s restrictions on medical evacuees in Israel’s Supreme Court. One of those denied permission to leave Gaza was a 16-year-old girl with a heart condition. “Israel has legitimate security concerns about militant groups firing rockets from Gaza into civilian areas. But denying medical treatment to a 16-year-old girl with a congenital heart defect doesn’t make Israel any safer,” said Leah Whitson.

Leah Whitson’s words are confirmed by Gideon Levy, the Israeli journalist, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “But we have no right to do what we are doing. Just as no one would conceive of killing the residents of an entire neighborhood, to harass and incarcerate it because of a few criminals living there, there is no justification for abusing an entire people in the name of our security. The question of whether ending the occupation would threaten or strengthen Israel’s security is irrelevant. There are not, and cannot be, any preconditions for restoring justice.”

César Chelala, an international public health consultant, is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times (Australia.) He is also a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Al Jazeera: Israeli blockade fuels Gaza poverty (video)

Al Jazeera: Israeli blockade fuels Gaza poverty (video)

Dandelion Salad

AlJazeeraEnglish

Gaza has been virtually cut off from the outside world since Hamas seized control of the strip in June. Its economy has been crippled by Israeli sanctions and checkpoints. Israel insists the restrictions will remain in place, because its border towns are still coming under rocket attacks from Gaza. But as Jacky Rowland reports, a growing number of people in Gaza are living in poverty.  Added: December 15, 2007