US President Barack Obama’s program-length (27 minute) appearance on The Daily Show just aired. There was no mention of the preeminent moral and financial issue of our time: occupation and war. The US is killing civilians, occupying foreign lands, engaging in torture beyond what is being owned up to (thanks to WikiLeaks for publishing war records and confirming what so many knew for years!), and civil liberties are diminishing before our eyes at a cost of trillions of dollars. These occupations are using up money which could have helped millions of poor unemployed Americans facing an ongoing mortgage fraud crisis (which the government refuses to stop). The mid-term elections are coming up and apparently the corporate media is showing itself to be useless. Indeed, war should be an election issue.
[O]n Halloween much of the chocolate Americans will hand out to trick-or-treaters will be tainted by the labor of enslaved childrenAndrew Korfhage
Apparently capitalism and big business vertically integrate oppression. Korfhage writes that Congress shelved legislation that would have ostensibly kept slave child labor out of US chocolate companies but when the chocolate companies announced a voluntary plan to deal with the problem themselves, Congress backed down. As a result most Americans won’t find it easy to distinguish which chocolate was produced with slave child labor. The self-regulation plan was a ploy to keep on using child slave labor without Congressional oversight. US chocolate companies kept legislation at bay in 2005 and again in 2008 by renewing their call for self-regulation and Congress keeps buying it.
When businesses use slave child labor they have already demonstrated that they are incapable of self-regulation. I’m guessing Congress knows this but has fallen into the time-honored trap of soliciting campaign donations from the businesses they’re supposed to regulate. Any business which promises to clean things up from within should be ignored; clearly we need more punitive anti-child/slave-labor legislation. It’s unlikely that anything but disincorporation, prison time for business leaders, and heavy fines will stop businesses from being slavers.
Can you have an economic system designed to push for the lowest possible price without treating people as marketable objects? Capitalism has never demonstrated that this is possible.
With the majority of modern slaves in agriculture and mining around the world ”“ and forced labor prevalent in cotton, chocolate, steel, rubber, tin, tungsten, coltan, sugar, and seafood ”“ it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor. Even reputable companies can profit from abuse when they do not protect their supply chain ”“ whether at the level of raw materials, parts, or final products ”“ from modern slavery.US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010
- Green America’s Fair Trade page on chocolate
- Green America’s chocolate scorecard: Who makes chocolate you can ethically buy? (remote, local archive)
- Documentary: The Dark Side of Chocolate—an excellent documentary, a must-see. This exposé includes laying out what major chocolate corporations (with revenues in billions) do to avoid taking responsibility for any part of the system that benefits them so greatly; the last scene in particular. The participants know what’s going on, as you can see, when they carefully form their responses in a feeble attempt to avoid outright lying.
- Andrew Korfhage’s article about chocolate child slavery
Update 2011-01-02: I highly recommend seeing “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and continuing to only buy chocolate from the organizations the researchers, journalists, and investigators working against child slave labor have pointed to (see the aforementioned PDF for more on this).
Occasionally you come across an informative source for information and you want to republish what you find, but you look into the licensing terms and find that the copyright holder’s opinion of how to properly interpret the license is at odds with the license text.
Consider ProPublica; an investigative journal with interesting articles and research. Their FAQ for “Can I republish one of your stories?” says yes: “Unless otherwise noted, you can republish our articles and graphics (but not our photographs) for free” and that their articles are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 US license. But their page entitled “Steal our Stories” attempts to add bizarre requirements not found in the CC license. Adding more confusion, this page isn’t in sync with their FAQ.
The headline and story tells the tale succinctly enough:
JPMorgan Chase Agent Breaks into Home of Borrower
A Florida woman has revealed an agent hired by her bank broke into her home after she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Nancy Jacobini of Orange County was inside her home when she heard the intruder. Thinking she was being burglarized, Jacobini called 911.
Dispatcher: “Do you hear somebody trying to open the front door?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes, yes.”
Nancy Jacobini: “My alarm is going off.”
Nancy Jacobini: “He’s in. He’s in the house.”
Dispatcher: “He’s in the house?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes.”
The intruder turned out to be an employee hired by Jacobini’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, to change her locks. But Jacobini was only three months behind on her payments and wasn’t in foreclosure. Chase has apologized for the incident. Jacobini has hired an attorney to pursue legal action against the bank.
With the plague of fraudulent bank actions against homeowners (breaking in with intent to lock the homeowner out, fraudulent foreclosures) these days, one wonders how attractive it would be for politicians to campaign for letting homeowners kill intruders on their property.
Apparently both corporate parties agree to do little to help homeowners from being kept out of their homes without due process (Republicans raise no objection to Democrats saying the US doesn’t need a national moratorium on foreclosures). It would be far more wise to not give homeowners reason to reach for their weapons.
Recently I had time to watch the Wednesday, March 12, 2003 Charlie Rose interview with Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! (transcript, video). Despite Rose asking if she’d return to his show,
Rose has not had her back. After watching this interview I think it’s readily apparent why: Rose’s arguments just don’t work out.
In that 2003 interview Goodman talked about how, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, corporate news presented the American public with a “parade of retired generals” and a “military hardware show”.
In the years after this interview studies have found exactly what she was talking about:
- May 2009: Amy Goodman interviewed David Barstow about his Pulitzer-prize winning corporate news exposé. As Goodman put it in February 2010, Barstow is “the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who exposed how dozens of retired generals working as radio and television analysts had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to military contractors that benefited from policies they defended.” (emphasis mine) Barstow, despite winning such a widely lauded prize, didn’t get interviewed much about his story.
- February 2010: Goodman interviewed Sebastian Jones about his Nation cover story called “The Media-Lobbying Complex” summarizing it as “A four-month investigation into the covert corporate influence on cable news found that since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials have repeatedly appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure that they are paid by corporate interests.
On Saturday, October 2, 2010 some unions and other Democratic Party sympathizers organized the “One Nation Working Together” rally at the Washington Memorial which appears to have been, from both attendees Danny Schechter and Amy Goodman’s descriptions, far less critical of the Democratic Party than is called for.
They discussed their experiences on Democracy Now! (video, audio, high quality audio, transcript). Schechter also wrote a blog post about what he didn’t hear at One Nation Working Together. Here’s an excerpt from both the show and the blog post (emphasis mine).
I didn’t hear any one mention the eleven MILLION workers who shut down Spain for a day in a protest against cutbacks in the name of austerity, or the three MILLION who angrily marched in France to defend their pensions. American workers do not have the consciousness or political culture of their European counterparts.
Danny Schechter, Marching on Washington: One Nation Listening Together
All in all, the One Nation Working Together rally seems to have been almost a complete waste of time. I get the impression the Democrats care mainly about silencing dissent at home: the recent health care legislation is an attempt to silence those pursuing single-payer universal health care (caving into the HMOs through compulsory business is the best we can do!), blowing the horn about the “Last full U.S. combat brigade leaves Iraq” is about silencing the anti-war crowd (never mind the tens of thousands of US troops and countless mercenaries we’re leaving there to kill Iraqis, these troops are moving out!). One Nation Working Together is about keeping the Left in line: this rally featured little talk that would convince people to either not vote at all (out of disgust with their choices) or vote against the Democrats by voting for a truly progressive candidate in their district. We’ve recently seen both corporate parties run Congress and the presidency. Both of those parties bring war (primarily), environmental destruction, a reduction in civil liberties (PATRIOT act, domestic spying whether illegally via telecoms or through compulsory back doors), and bailouts to benefit their backers (mostly major corporations) all at the cost of an increasingly impoverished citizenry. Perhaps this is why the rally was so sparsely attended.
The GNU Telephony project is a software project for using computers as telephones. By now this isn’t new but it is important as few other telephony projects are based in code we are all free to share and modify.
This project is also important because its politics are in the right place. Recently the US government announced intention to compel American software developers to introduce a means for investigators to get access to all communications—known as “back doors”. This pursuit specifically includes allowing the government to break encryption and allow peer-to-peer services to be intercepted by the government. Such a request defies the entire purpose of speaking freely in a manner which is technologically difficult for others to spy on. David Alexander Sugar, head of GNU Telephony, had this to say in response
Good morning my relations. Today is not such a great day. In the United States the Obama administration is actively seeking a new law to legally mandate the forced introduction of insecure back doors and support for mass surveillance into all communication systems. Specifically targeted are Internet VoIP and messaging systems.
Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly defy such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and dignity seem most threatened.
You’ll no doubt want to read the rest of Sugar’s post. It is well worth your time. Our privacy isn’t just convenient, privacy is critical to the proper functioning of a civilized society.
Sintel is the latest Blender Foundation movie. Previous movies were Elephant’s Dream and Big Buck Bunny. Every couple of years the Blender Foundation puts out a movie made with Blender, a free software renderer and sequencer program. The Blender Foundation improves Blender as they go and we all get a better Blender program after their efforts (it should be noted that theirs are not the only Blender improvements).
The Blender Foundation raises money for these movies (which function as both entertainment and technical demo for Blender) in part by asking people to buy a copy of the movie on home video well ahead of time. They accept donations all the time, you can still buy a copy of the 4-DVD Sintel set.
The Blender Foundation movies are unlike other independent movies in that these movies are licensed to share (even commercially), and distributed with all the parts that went into making the movie so you can make derivative works. I know of no major Hollywood studio that encourages you to work with the movie in this way, which is partly why I find it so hard to spend time or money on Hollywood movies; free culture movies set the bar so high Hollywood simply doesn’t compete.
You should demand better for your freedom’s sake and demand more for your money by helping free culture artists do their work.
Ogg Format (stereo Vorbis audio / Theora video / subtitles in multiple languages):
Sintel is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
Despite being ill, Glenn Greenwald puts his finger on the issue:
A very intense case of food poisoning in New York on Thursday, combined with my traveling home all night last night, prevents me from writing much about this until tomorrow (and it’s what rendered the blog uncharacteristically silent for the last two days). But I would hope that nobody needs me or anyone else to explain why this assertion of power is so pernicious — at least as pernicious as any power asserted during the Bush/Cheney years. If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn’t he have the power to do?
Which strikes me as yet another issue to add to the pile: Maintaining the Drug War (the longest American war), illegal and unethical occupations, maintaining international gulags, environmental disaster inaction, corporate bailouts and give-aways while citizens lose their homes, and targeting Americans for assassination.
How bad do things have to get before the Progressive Left organizes even a march against the President like they did shortly before the Iraq invasion (large, in major cities, coordinated, and thus hard for the mainstream corporate media to ignore)? With the standards for impeachment being harder and harder to meet (thanks to an apparently politically inactive and apathetic public), how hard will it be to begin the process of telling the US President you don’t like what he’s doing and he needs to be replaced with someone else who won’t screw the public (this process starts with impeachment)? Wouldn’t this send a strong signal to Congress that the public is organized and if Congress doesn’t start seeing things the public’s way they’re next to leave office?
Monty Montgomery at xiph.org gives us the first part of A Digital Media Primer for Geeks.
It’s licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) license and there’s a discussion wiki and the entire show was edited completely with free and open source software. You will not only learn a lot about digital media but you’ll get to see it demonstrated for you knowing that everything you see you can do (and more, of course, limited only by your own imagination and will).
Enjoy the freedom.
WebM Format (Vorbis audio + VP8 video):
Ogg Format (Vorbis audio / Theora video / Kate subtitles + Index):