Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

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The corporate barbarians are through the gate of American democracy. Not satisfied with their all-pervasive influence on our culture, economy and legislative processes, they want more. They want it all.

Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook - in any amount and at any time - to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.

What's next ... a corporate right to vote?

Don't laugh. Just this month, the Republican National Committee filed an amicus brief in a US appeals court contending that the natural extension of the Citizens United rationale is that the century-old ban on corporate contributions directly to candidates and political parties is similarly unconstitutional. They want corporations to be able to sponsor candidates and parties directly while claiming with a straight face this would not result in any sort of corruption. And while, this month, they take no issue with corporations being subject to the existing contribution limits, anyone paying attention knows that eliminating such caps will be corporate America's next prize in its brazen ambition for absolute control over our elections.

The US Constitution has served us very well, but when the supreme court says, for purposes of the first amendment, that corporations are people, that writing checks from the company's bank account is constitutionally-protected speech and that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger.

I am a proud sponsor of a number of bills that would respond to Citizens United and begin to get a handle on the problem. But something more needs to be done - something more fundamental and indisputable, something that cannot be turned on its head by a rightwing supreme court.

That is why I have introduced a resolution in the Senate (introduced by Representative Ted Deutch in the House) calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that says simply and straightforwardly what everyone - except five members of the United States supreme court - understands: corporations are not people with constitutional rights equal to flesh-and-blood human beings. Corporations are subject to regulation by the people. Corporations may not make campaign contributions - the law of the land for the last century - or dump unlimited sums of money into our elections. And Congress and states have broad power to regulate all election spending.

I did not introduce this lightly. In fact, I have never sought to amend the Constitution before. The US Constitution is an extraordinary document that, in my view, should not be amended often. In light of the supreme court's Citizens United decision, however, I see no alternative. The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good.

At a time when corporations have more than $2tn in cash in their bank accounts, make record-breaking profits and swarm Washington with their lobbyists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the highest court in the land to suggest that there is just not enough corporate "speech" in our system defies the bounds of reason and sanity. The ruling already has led to plans, for example, by industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch to steer more than $200m - potentially much more - to conservative groups ahead of election day 2012. Karl Rove has similar designs.

Does anybody really believe that that is what American democracy is supposed to be about?

I believe that the Citizens United decision will go down as one of the worst in our country's history - and one that demands an amendment to our Constitution in order to restore sovereign power to the people, as our nation's founders intended.

If we do not reverse it and the culture of corporate dominance over our elections that it has exacerbated, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests have on our campaigns and our democracy.

How Research can Support Occupy Movement Strategizing

How Research can Support Occupy Movement Strategizing

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According to a Pew Research Center poll released January 11, two-thirds of Americans now believe there are “very strong” or “strong” class conflicts in their country—a marked increase from 2009. The Occupy movement is both a cause and a beneficiary of that change, if it can make the most of it. There is no need to start from scratch.

As the movement reflects on last fall and prepares for spring, the Global Nonviolent Action Database (GNAD) is becoming an ever more valuable resource. Since its release on the web in September, the database has surged to more than 530 cases of nonviolent direct action campaigns, available at no charge to activists and researchers everywhere. The GNAD draws on people’s struggles from over 190 countries, and goes back in history as far as 12th century BCE Egypt. Most are from the 20th and 21st century. The student researchers from Swarthmore College—aided by students at Georgetown and Tufts—have found far more cases than they’ve had time to write up so far. A hundred additional cases are underway.

While many of the campaigns have used the “occupation” method in their struggle—77, in countries including Kenya, Mongolia, Paraguay, Brazil, Germany, England, and Chile—campaigners have used dozens of other methods as well. As the Occupy movement grows to encompass a wider range of tactics, from eviction blockades to strikes and boycotts, the GNAD can help organizers learn from past experiences.

Over two hundred of the database’s cases involve campaigners who are seeking economic justice. In Sweden, for example, the political power of the wealthiest—that country’s own “1 percent”—was undermined by a mass nonviolent struggle in the 1920s; when the 1 percent resorted to ordering troops to shoot workers in 1931, protests surged even more and the Social Democrats took over the leadership of the country, bringing a truer democracy and the redistribution of resources that today is the envy of most of the world.

There are older campaigns for economic justice in the database. The first strike in the U.S., for example, was in colonial Jamestown, Virginia—somehow not included in Disney’s Pocahantas! It also includes much more recent examples, such as last year’s victories in Bolivia, Jordan and Oman.

A virtue of the database for strategizing is that all the published cases cover complete campaigns; they’ve reached a conclusion—win, lose or draw. The reader can therefore more easily take lessons from them, seeing how certain choices led to certain outcomes. In addition, all sources are cited, so readers can delve more deeply into any particular case to learn more about it.

We’re already hearing back from activists about how the database is expanding their ideas of what is possible. It builds, in fact, on scholar Gene Sharp’s famous taxonomy of 198 nonviolent methods of struggle—it has already added a 199th method to his list! We’re also always looking for more cases that are not yet in the database; if you know of one that you don’t find after conducting a search, please write to me at glakey1@swarthmore.edu.

Happy strategizing!

How Research can Support Occupy Movement Strategizing

How Research can Support Occupy Movement Strategizing

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According to a Pew Research Center poll released January 11, two-thirds of Americans now believe there are “very strong” or “strong” class conflicts in their country—a marked increase from 2009. The Occupy movement is both a cause and a beneficiary of that change, if it can make the most of it. There is no need to start from scratch.

As the movement reflects on last fall and prepares for spring, the Global Nonviolent Action Database (GNAD) is becoming an ever more valuable resource. Since its release on the web in September, the database has surged to more than 530 cases of nonviolent direct action campaigns, available at no charge to activists and researchers everywhere. The GNAD draws on people’s struggles from over 190 countries, and goes back in history as far as 12th century BCE Egypt. Most are from the 20th and 21st century. The student researchers from Swarthmore College—aided by students at Georgetown and Tufts—have found far more cases than they’ve had time to write up so far. A hundred additional cases are underway.

While many of the campaigns have used the “occupation” method in their struggle—77, in countries including Kenya, Mongolia, Paraguay, Brazil, Germany, England, and Chile—campaigners have used dozens of other methods as well. As the Occupy movement grows to encompass a wider range of tactics, from eviction blockades to strikes and boycotts, the GNAD can help organizers learn from past experiences.

Over two hundred of the database’s cases involve campaigners who are seeking economic justice. In Sweden, for example, the political power of the wealthiest—that country’s own “1 percent”—was undermined by a mass nonviolent struggle in the 1920s; when the 1 percent resorted to ordering troops to shoot workers in 1931, protests surged even more and the Social Democrats took over the leadership of the country, bringing a truer democracy and the redistribution of resources that today is the envy of most of the world.

There are older campaigns for economic justice in the database. The first strike in the U.S., for example, was in colonial Jamestown, Virginia—somehow not included in Disney’s Pocahantas! It also includes much more recent examples, such as last year’s victories in Bolivia, Jordan and Oman.

A virtue of the database for strategizing is that all the published cases cover complete campaigns; they’ve reached a conclusion—win, lose or draw. The reader can therefore more easily take lessons from them, seeing how certain choices led to certain outcomes. In addition, all sources are cited, so readers can delve more deeply into any particular case to learn more about it.

We’re already hearing back from activists about how the database is expanding their ideas of what is possible. It builds, in fact, on scholar Gene Sharp’s famous taxonomy of 198 nonviolent methods of struggle—it has already added a 199th method to his list! We’re also always looking for more cases that are not yet in the database; if you know of one that you don’t find after conducting a search, please write to me at glakey1@swarthmore.edu.

Happy strategizing!

Americans Are Less Nationalistic Than Flag-Waving Politicians Think

Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees

Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees

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Apple has released a report on working conditions in its suppliers’ factories, highlighting a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain) that criminology has identified but rarely discussed. I write overwhelmingly about accounting control fraud because it drives our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. The primary intended victims of accounting control frauds are the shareholders and the creditors. Other private sector control frauds target customers (e.g., George Akerlof’s 1970 article on “lemons”), and the public (e.g., the unlawful disposal of toxic waste, illegal logging, and tax fraud).

Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories – illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees’ wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery. Apple has just released a report on its suppliers that shows that anti-employee control fraud is the norm. Remember, fraud is hidden and is often not discovered and Apple did not have an incentive to make an exhaustive investigation. Apple calls its inquiries “audits” and it is apparent that most of its information comes from reviewing written and electronic records at its suppliers. That is exceptionally revealing. The suppliers know that they can defraud their employees with such impunity that they don’t even bother to get rid of records that prove their frauds. Apple has resisted making public its suppliers and the report refused to identify which suppliers committed which violations – often for years despite repeated, false promises to end their anti-employee control frauds. Two other facts are evident (but not reported). First, Apple rarely terminates suppliers for defrauding their employees – even when the frauds endanger the lives and health of the workers and the community – and even where Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices. Second, it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers even when they commit anti-employee control frauds as a routine practice, even when the frauds endanger the worker’s and the public’s health, and even when the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about the frauds. Apple’s report, therefore, understates substantially the actual incidence of fraud by the 156 suppliers (accounting for 97% of its payments to suppliers). From the New York Times:

The company said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that more than half of their workers exceed a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies.

And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some facilities showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at levels that have persisted for years.

The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post articles on the Apple report are all lengthy, but none of them has any input from a criminologist and each of the articles misses most of the significance of the report. The most fundamental flaws have to do with why anti-employee control fraud is the norm at Apple’s suppliers and why the suppliers typically don’t even take the inexpensive efforts necessary to avoid holding a paper trail that makes the frauds obvious even to a not terribly vigorous audit that they know is coming.

If there is one single thing that drives us white-collar criminologists around the bend it is the implicit assumption that fraud cannot be common. There is, of course, no logical (or experiential) reason for this belief. Nevertheless, it is a common belief and among economists it is a virtually universal dogma. Economists have a tribal taboo against even using the word “fraud” to describe individual frauds. The surest way to be considered an un-serious economist is to use the “f” word to describe frauds by elite economic actors. Economists’ taboo is particularly bizarre because it is economic theory, developed by a Nobel Laureate that explains why fraud can become endemic. George Akerlof, in his famous article on markets for “lemons” (largely describing anti-customer control fraud), explained the perverse “Gresham’s” dynamic in 1970: "[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”

Anti-employee control fraud creates real economic profits for the firm and can massively increase the controlling officers’ wealth. Honest firm normally cannot compete with anti-employee control frauds, so bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. Companies like Apple and its counterparts create this criminogenic environment by selecting least-cost – criminal – suppliers who offer components at prices that honest firms cannot match. Effectively, they hang out a sign – only the fraudulent need apply to be suppliers. But the sign is, of course, invisible and cannot be introduced in court so Apple and its peers also get deniability. They are shocked, shocked that its suppliers are frauds that cheat their employees and put them and the public’s health at risk in order to make a few extra yuan or dong for the senior officers.

Fraudulent suppliers, therefore, have compelling incentives to locate in nations and regions in which they can commit fraud with impunity. The best way to evaluate the fraudulent CEOs’ view as to the risk of prosecution for their frauds is to observe whether they take cheap means of hiding their frauds. When the CEOs do not even bother to avoid creating a paper trail documenting their frauds one knows that they view the risk of prosecution as trivial. Nations that are corrupt, have weak rule of law, weak or non-existent unions, poor protections for workers, a reserve army of the impoverished, and have few resources devoted to prosecuting elite white-collar crime provide an ideal criminogenic environment for firms engaged in anti-employee control fraud. The ubiquitous nature of anti-employee control fraud (and tax fraud) in many nations explains why U.S. industries have been so eager to “outsource” U.S. jobs to fraud-friendly nations. Companies like Apple also discovered long ago that Americans often made poor senior managers in these nations because they objected to defrauding workers. Not a problem – there are plenty of managers from other nations that have no such ethical restraints. Foreign suppliers run by Asian managers are increasingly dominant.

The endemic nature of anti-employee control fraud also demonstrates an important technical point. The wages reported in the most fraud-friendly nations are substantially overstated because workers work far longer hours without receiving the compensation to which they are entitled. Their hourly rate is much lower than reported, which means that the wage gap between U.S. and the most fraud-friendly nations is significantly greater than reported. U.S. firms that have foreign suppliers in these nations are well aware of this data bias and make their outsourcing decisions based on the real (much larger) wage gap.

The Harm to Employee and Consumer Health is Grave

The NYT article notes that it was bad publicity in the U.S. that finally forced Apple to make greater disclosures about its suppliers’ frauds:

The calls for Apple to disclose suppliers became particularly acute after a series of deaths and accidents in recent years. In the last two years at firms supplying services to Apple, 137 employees were seriously injured after cleaning iPad screens with n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis; over a dozen workers have committed suicide or fell or jumped from buildings in a manner that suggests a suicide attempt; and in two separate blasts caused by dust from polishing iPad cases, four were killed and 77 injured.

The Washington Post article noted:

Apple found that 62 percent of the 229 facilities it inspected were not in compliance with the company’s maximum 60-hour work policy; 13 percent did not have adequate protections for juvenile workers; and 32 percent had problems with the management of hazardous waste.

One supplier was caught dumping wastewater at a nearby farm. Another had a total lack of safety measures, creating “unsafe working conditions,” the report found. Five facilities employed underage workers.

The company in the past had refused to divulge its full supplier list even as it became standard practice for multinational corporations to do so after the public outcry in the 1990s over labor problems at Nike factories in developing countries.

Apple’s change of heart follows a highly publicized string of factory worker suicides in 2010 and deadly explosions in two Chinese factories in 2011.

The WSJ emphasized this chilling finding:

The report also found 24 facilities conducted pregnancy tests and 56 didn't have procedures to prevent discrimination against pregnant workers. Apple said that at its direction, the suppliers have stopped discriminatory screenings for medical conditions or pregnancy.

The article does not make this point explicitly, but these firms conduct these tests in order to unlawfully coerce their pregnant employees to have undesired abortions in order to obtain and keep their jobs.

Foreign Anti-employee Control Fraud harms U.S. Workers

These frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home. Mitt Romney explains that Bain had to slash wages and pensions to save firms located in the U.S. who had to meet competition from foreign anti-employee control frauds. The damage from foreign anti-employee control frauds drives the domestic attack on U.S. manufacturing wages. Bad ethics increasingly drive good ethics out of the markets and manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. and into more fraud-friendly nations.

A final caution is in order because each of the major articles on the Apple report failed to mention it. CEOs who are willing to routinely defraud their workers and expose them to grave threats to their health are exceptionally likely to commit other forms of control fraud.

Some Americans preparing for ‘civilization’s collapse’

Some Americans preparing for ‘civilization’s collapse’

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When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, she sees trouble on the horizon.

“In an instant, anything can happen,” she told Reuters. “And I firmly believe that you have to be prepared.”

Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to themselves informally as “preppers.” Some are driven by a fear of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating series of natural disasters is leading to some type of environmental cataclysm.

They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an increasingly secular and oppressive government.

Preppers, though are, worried about no government.

Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a “survival center,” complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present. She says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon.

“I think this economy is about to fall apart,” she said.

A wide range of vendors market products to preppers, mainly online. They sell everything from water tanks to guns to survival skills.

Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck seems to preach preppers’ message when he tells listeners: “It’s never too late to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.”

“Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society, the chances of a societal collapse are increasing year after year,” said author James Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding light of the prepper movement.

A former Army intelligence officer, Rawles has written fiction and non-fiction books on end-of-civilization topics, including “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It,” which is also known as the preppers’ Bible.

“We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls, stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass street protests, and riots,” he told Reuters. “The worst-case end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency collapses, and long term power grid failures.”

A sense of “suffering and being afraid” is usually at the root of this kind of thinking, according to Cathy Gutierrez, an expert on end-times beliefs at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Such feelings are not unnatural in a time of economic recession and concerns about a growing national debt, she said.

“With our current dependence on things from the electric grid to the Internet, things that people have absolutely no control over, there is a feeling that a collapse scenario can easily emerge, with a belief that the end is coming, and it is all out of the individual’s control,” she told Reuters.

She compared the major technological developments of the past decade to the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s and 1840s, which led to the growth of the Millerites, the 19th-Century equivalent of the preppers. Followers of charismatic preacher Joseph Miller, many sold everything and gathered in 1844 for what they believed would be the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Many of today’s preppers receive inspiration from the Internet, devouring information posted on websites like that run by attorney Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse blog out of his home in northern Idaho.

“Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the old days,” he said. “You could be living next door to a prepper and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on the weekends.”

Like other preppers, Snider is worried about the end of a functioning U.S. economy. He points out that tens of millions of Americans are on food stamps and that many U.S. children are living in poverty.

“Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they understand what is happening,” he said. “A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it.”

So, assuming there is no collapse of society — which the preppers call “uncivilization” — what is the future of the preppers?

Gutierrez said that unlike the Millerites — or followers of radio preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end last year — preppers are not setting a date for the coming destruction. The Mayan Calendar predicts doom this December.

“The minute you set a date, you are courting disconfirmation,” she said.

Tegeler, who recalls being hit by tornadoes and floods in her southwestern Virginia home, said that none of her “survival center” products will go to waste.

“I think it’s silly not to be prepared,” she said. “After all, anything can happen.”

Citizens United allowed corporate money to dictate public policy

Citizens United allowed corporate money to dictate public policy

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rephankjohnson-screen

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) condemned the influence of money on American politics on Saturday, the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision.

“An activist Supreme Court, misusing its authority by legislating policy from the bench, ignored decades of legal precedent when it ruled in 2010 that corporations have the same constitutional right of free speech as people,” he said in a statement.

The Supreme Court held that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people, overturning campaign finance laws that restricted the amount of money a corporation could spend in an election.

“In doing so, the Court opened the floodgates for unlimited, unregulated and undisclosed secret corporate spending to influence the outcome of elections – local, state and federal – throughout America,” Johnson said. “Citizens United also enabled the use of foreign corporate money for the same purpose. The effect of this devastating decision has been to enable corporate money to dictate public policy so that it favors wealthy business interests, and millionaires and billionaires, over the interests of working people.”

Johnson has co-sponsored the OCCUPIED Amendment, one of several proposed constitutional amendments aimed at overturning theCitizens United ruling.

The proposed amendment was introduced to the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) in November, two months after the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration began in New York City. If passed, it would establish that constitutionally protected rights are those of natural persons and not corporations, and grant Congress the authority to regulate all election contributions and expenditures.

“Powerful special interests and their lobbyists should not be able to drown out the voices of the American people and sell our Democracy to the highest bidder.”

Hunger Is A ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’, Says Jean Ziegler

Hunger Is A ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’, Says Jean Ziegler

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"Every five seconds, a child under 10 dies of hunger. – Thirty-five million people die each year from hunger or its immediate aftermath. – One billion people are permanently and severely malnourished and the situation is becoming increasingly catastrophic." (Jean Ziegler)

January 21, 2012 "
Information Clearing House" ---
-- In his latest book “Mass Destruction – the Geopolitics of Hunger”, Jean Ziegler[1] talks about the current state of the world and the neoliberal politics of starvation of the poor, which has led to a crisis situation amounting to calculated murder. What we are witnessing today is the worst hunger crisis in human history is. And it is all because of human greed, colossal mismanagement for profit.

Professor Ziegler deals in detail with the various causes of the current worldwide hunger disaster, which could have been avoided. This crisis is not determined by fate – or, to use Ziegler’s own word – ‘La famine n’est pas une fatalité’. The world could perfectly well provide food for 12 million people, almost the double of the present population of 7 million.

So what made this murderous situation possible where thousands of people are dying (37,000 every day) from lack of food and clean water? La famine n’est pas une fatalité. It could have been avoided. It should not be happening.

The agroindustry is killing off small farmers – some countries are fighting back

The goals of the ‘cold monsters’ (les monstres froids) of the agroindustry, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Bunge, et al. is to suck the life out of small farmers all over the world, especially in Africa and southern Asia.

The exceptional development that is taking place today in Latin America is liberating it from the grip of neoliberalism. This can only emphasize the point that the horrible famine that is seen in Africa and south Asia should never have happened. Latin America is forcefully fighting against dependency on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) – the three horsemen of the Apocalypse, in Jean Ziegler’s own words.

Redistribution of land from large estates with huge tracts of uncultivated areas to small farmers has proven extremely effective in raising the standard of living, in helping the poorest of the poor in several Latin American countries. These countries have wrenched themselves free from the killer treaties like NAFTA, CAFTA and FTAA[2], created exclusively for rich North America to take over the natural resources in the southern hemisphere.

The United States is intimately tied in with the Transnational Corporations (TNC) and they are firmly determined to end up owning the world. The way they proceed is to first take over the valuable commodities everywhere, in Latin America as well as in Africa and now also in India. Let us not forget that Latin America used to be quite naturally counted on as the backyard of the U.S. The leftist liberation movements to the south of its borders have been a bad blow to the deeply rooted feelings of superiority and selfrighteousness that Americans have always taken for granted.

Latin American countries have now created trade treaties of their own, like MERCOSUR and ALBA. However, It remains to be seen how well MERCOSUR will be able to stand up to U.S. imperialism.

Organized hunger has been made the order of the day, without any visible protest

It was done step by step, in the deepest secrecy, since the Main-Stream Media (MSM) did not even touch on the subject, if they knew about it at all. And all the time we were thinking: ‘There must be a way back. This can not go on.’ And then it went on. And it got worse. And worse.

The transnational corporations essentially own the western governments and they are running the world for the profit of their own cabal, and for profit alone.

The small farmers, the subsistence farmers who produced enough food to provide for their families and for selling at the market for a modest income, are being ruined, by careful planning.

The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse of organized hunger, the supra-state organizations IMF, The World Bank and the WTO carry out the wishes of the major food companies. The major three are Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Bunge. These cold monsters are able to fix the prices of food through the powers they have given themselves as cartels or monopolies.

The small farmers in Africa and elsewhere needed help to go on with their hard work to support their families and to produce food for the country. Droughts, military conflicts, political crises, natural catastrophes, man-made emergency situations, all these contributed to recurrent food crises.

IMF was ready to extend big loans, BUT with strings attached. Structural adjustment programs would follow and the people were the victims.[3] There was now less money for the governments to spend on education, health care, food aid to the desperately poor, infrastructure – and the list goes on. Unemployment and poverty increased and new loans were needed, if only to pay off the interest on the old loans to the tiger sharks, ‘les requins tigres’ – Jean Ziegler’s term. Now the third world countries are enslaved in a vicious spiral of debts.

There is of course also disastrous corruption among the leaders of the countries in need that prevents the money from many well-intentioned NGOs from getting into the right hands.

To add to the many problems small farmers are faced with, there is also the other product of Western greed – big companies buying up land for huge plantations whenever the farmers are forced to sell at a ridiculously low price. And so those former poor but proud subsistence farmers are now forced to work for a pittance for the big landlords who, instead of producing food to feed the native people, grow cotton, green beans, coffee, tea, cocoa, peanuts and other crops to sell to the rich countries. And these foods for the wealthy are often produced by small children, severely exploited by cruel farmers. Slave labor conditions are the rule.

Jean Ziegler points out in ‘Destruction massive’, p.327

“The ideologues of the World Bank are infinitely more dangerous than the sad marketing agents Bolloré, Vilgrain (French investors in Africa) and company. With hundreds of millions of dollars of credits and subsidies, the World Bank funds the theft of arable land in Africa, Asia, Latin America.”

Food has to be imported – all for the profit of the big corporations. Poor people can not afford buying imported food at artificially high prices. Children go hungry, pregnant mothers are undernourished and so their babies are born with what can be called birth defects. Very importantly, their brains are insufficiently developed and this deficiency can never be recovered. A large number of the infants die before the age of two.

Malnutrition is rampant and it causes unimaginably horrible diseases, such as noma, which is far less known than the killer diseases such as malaria, dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria and other infectious diseases. Noma is not an infectious disease but it has been proven that it is due to severe and chronic malnutrition.[4]

For the United States and their mercenary organizations, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO the UN declaration of the Universal Right to Food[5] has no importance whatsoever. It is very simply ignored.

Attempts by global structures to make the right to food a human right

"The ‘United Nations’ is a term that appeared for the first time in 1941. It was tied to the combat against hunger. The World War was raging and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met on the battleship USS-Augusta in the Atlantic off Newfoundland. What came out of that meeting was the first major attempt to create a document declaring the basic freedoms of man, including Freedom from want and Freedom from fear.

“US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941, in an address known as the Four Freedoms speech proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:

1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear

"His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional US Constitutional values protected by its First Amendment, and endorsed a right to economic security and an internationalist view of foreign policy.”

From The Atlantic Charter which was an outcome of the meeting on the USS-Augusta, articles 4 and 6 state:

“Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

“Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;” (Destruction massive, pp. 139-140)

Jean Ziegler talks about the origin of the world food programs, p. 201:

FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organization] and the World Food Programme (WFP) are the big and beautiful legacy of Josué de Castro.[6] These two institutions are threatened with ruin.
They were born, as we have seen, when the great awakening of consciousness took place in Europe that was emerging from the night of fascism: the FAO in 1945, the WFP in 1963.

The sad fate of those two organizations, however, is that they were both rendered fairly helpless when the current economic crisis took hold of the world. The mandate of the WFP is precisely to eliminate hunger and poverty in the world, but with a severely reduced budget, how were they going to reach their goal?

Jean Ziegler writes (p. 216):

“On October 22, 2008, the 17 heads of state and government from the euro zone countries gathered at the Palais de l'Elysée in Paris. At 6 o’clock, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on the front steps of the palace, in front of the press. They declared to the reporters: "We have to free 1,700 billion to remobilize the interbank lending and to raise the floor of auto-financing of the banks by 3 to 5%." Before the end of the year 2008, subsidies from the countries in the euro zone for emergency food aid decreased by almost 50 %. The WFP budget was about $ 6 billion. It fell in 2009 to $ 3.2 billion.

“For 2011, WFP evaluates its minimal needs to $ 7 billion. Until early December 2010, they had received $ 2.7 billion. This loss in revenues has had dramatic consequences.”

Jean Ziegler goes on to say:

“For the United States and its mercenary organizations – the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – the
right to food is an aberration. To them, there are no human rights except civil and political.

“Behind the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the Washington government and its traditional allies, appear of course the huge private transcontinental companies. The increasing control these transcontinental corporations exert on vast sectors of food production and trade have of course significantly affected the exercise of the right to food.” (Destruction massive, p. 155)

Food for fuel

Another highly important factor in the increasingly catastrophic problem of hunger in the world is of course the use of food for fuel, which has been dealt with in some detail in the essay ‘Food for fuel, a sure way of creating a hunger crisis’ By Jean Ziegler and Siv O'Neall

It is of course perfectly clear to anybody who thinks with his brain, that growing sugar cane, wheat, corn or other food crops in huge plantations for the use of making ethanol for energy, first of all takes land away from small farmers and, secondly, ruins useful food to put gasoline in SUVs that we don’t really need.

In addition to this obvious truth, there is the crucial fact that the making of ethanol uses up more energy than it produces. It also gives off an enormous amount of carbon dioxide in the process.

Explosive increase in food prices beginning in 2007

The stage is open to the real tiger sharks, the financial speculators. Without the slightest shade of a moral conscience, they speculate on the value of a harvest, on land value, on currencies. Is it going up or down? In either case, they win, since they always hedge their bets. The noxious ‘futures trading’ has opened up the commodity market to conscience-free sharks who care only for the fast buck. These men are not dealing in any real product. They don’t sell or buy grain or anything whatever. They just speculate in the fate of these commodities, land, currencies.

The prices of corn, rice and wheat are literally exploding because of market speculation on the basic commodities. This is the Market neoliberalism that was once made out to be the self-regulating force of the Free Market.

The governments can well see the abyss that is open in front of them, but they obediently bail out the banks when the gamblers cause a total breakdown and the banks go bankrupt.

Jean Ziegler writes (p. 78):

"The speculative madness of the predators of the globalized financial capital has cost Western industrial states in 2008-2009, $ 8,900 billion in all. Western states have in particular paid trillions of dollars to bail out delinquent bankers."

Neoliberals claim that no regulations are needed, because the market is regulating itself. That way they are free to speculate, to trade indefinitely and, in many cases, without even paying capital gains taxes, without any insight or any rules. There are of course also the tax-free havens where speculators can gamble with their billions without the slightest insight or taxation.

The whole point is to the neoliberal sharks that the rich must get richer and the poor must be made powerless. The numbers of the poor have been increasing drastically ever since the beginning of neoliberalism in the eighties (exploratory beginnings in Latin America already in the seventies, with catastrophic results). Poor people are made to be so invisible, so voiceless that they can be totally disregarded. Which is precisely the goal of neoliberalism.

Conclusion

It is mind-blowing how the world can have come to a situation where it is being run by hungry sharks with no understanding of how the world economy can function in a rational way. The gamblers follow no rules whatsoever, except profit, and humanitarian considerations have no place in this casino.

What Jean Ziegler is doing in such an expert and passionate way in his latest book is denouncing the monstrosities of the world we live in, using his typical forceful style, with his trademark of genuine human empathy. He is explaining how we got to be where we are and what has to be done to remedy the gross negligence of human rights.

We can no more sit lethargically in our comfortable homes, watching the blatant propaganda that is fed to us through the Main-Stream Media, listening to the biased reports about the U.S. wars that are fought, so they tell us, in the name of freedom and democracy. The truth is that the wars are fought to make huge profits for the arms industries and all the big corporations. Take over lands and nations by war or by insidious so-called ‘aid’ that ensnares the nations in a net of debts that it is impossible to get out of.

After reading Jean Ziegler’s book, one is convinced that the time has come to act on what we know to be the truth. The West is corrupt to the gills and, if we the people are too lethargic, ignorant or frightened to do something NOW, then the pillars of the world will crumble. And that will be the end.

Notes:

[1] ‘Destruction massive – Géopolitique de la faim’ published in October 2011 ; Éditions du Seuil ; Jean Ziegler, a former professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and the Sorbonne, Paris, is member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee with an expertise on economic, social and cultural rights. For the period 2000-2008, Jean Ziegler was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In March 2008, Jean Ziegler was elected Member of the UN Human Rights Council's Advisory Committee. One year later, the Human Rights Council decided, by acclamation, to re-elect Jean Ziegler as a member of the Advisory Committee, a post he will now hold until 2012. In August 2009, the members of the Advisory Committee elected Jean Ziegler as Vice-President of the forum.

[2] NAFTA = North American Free Trade Agreement; CAFTA = Central America Free Trade Agreement; FTAA = Free Trade Area of the Americas

[3] A study by Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) which has become famous showed that wherever the IMF applied a structural adjustment plan during the decade 1990-2000, millions of more people were thrown into the abyss of hunger. Jean Ziegler: Destruction massive; p.179

[4] For the horribly disfiguring and ultimately deadly disease called noma see ‘NOMA – The Face of Poverty’, By Siv O'Neall and the UN report 'The tragedy of Noma' by Mr. Jean Ziegler, Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

[5] On December 10, 1948, the 64 members of the UN unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It recognises in Article 25 that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_food

[6] This Brazilian doctor and physiologist (1908 – 1973) to whom Jean Ziegler devotes two entire chapters in Destruction Massive, was an ardent fighter for the right to food, starting with his homeland in the Nordeste region of Brazil. When his book Geografia da fome (Geography of hunger) was published in 1946, de Castro already had a long career behind him. He became a world famous fighter for the right to food, and in particular he had studied the effects of undernourishment and child malnutrition. He fled from Brazil to Paris in 1964 because of the barbaric military dictatorship that ravaged Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Geografia da fome has been translated into 26 languages.