Sunday, July 8, 2012

Joseph Stiglitz: 'Jail the Bankers'

Ben Chu reports for The Independent:

The Barclays Libor scandal may have shocked the British public, but Joseph Stiglitz saw it coming decades ago. And he's convinced that jailing bankers is the best way to curb market abuses. A towering genius of economics, Stiglitz wrote a series of papers in the 1970s and 1980s explaining how when some individuals have access to privileged knowledge that others don't, free markets yield bad outcomes for wider society. That insight (known as the theory of "asymmetric information") won Stiglitz the Nobel Prize for economics in 2001.

And he has leveraged those credentials relentlessly ever since to batter at the walls of "free market fundamentalism."

It is a crusade that has taken Stiglitz from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the Clinton White House, to the World Bank, to the Occupy Wall Street camp and now, to London, to promote his new book The Price of Inequality.

And kind fortune has engineered it so that Stiglitz's UK trip has coincided with a perfect example of the repellent consequences of asymmetric information.

When traders working for Barclays rigged the Libor interest rate and flogged toxic financial derivatives - using their privileged position in the financial system to make profits at the expense of their customers - they were unwittingly proving Stiglitz right.

"It's a textbook illustration," Stiglitz said. "Where there are these asymmetries a lot of these activities are directed at rent seeking [appropriating resources from someone else rather than creating new wealth]. That was one of my original points. It wasn't about productivity, it was taking advantage."

Yet Stiglitz's interest in the abuses of banks extends beyond the academic. He argues that breaking the economic and political power that has been amassed by the financial sector in recent decades, especially in the US and the UK, is essential if we are to build a more just and prosperous society. The first step, he says, is sending some bankers to jail. "That ought to change. That means legislation. Banks and others have engaged in rent seeking, creating inequality, ripping off other people, and none of them have gone to jail."

Next, politicians need to stop spending so much time listening to the financial lobby, which, according to Stiglitz, demonstrates its spectacular economic ignorance whenever it claims that curbs on banks' activities will damage the broader economy.

This talk of economic ignorance brings us to the eurozone crisis and the extreme austerity policies being pursued. Stiglitz is depressed. In 2000 he resigned from the World Bank and launched an excoriating attack on the way it and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, handled the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. He condemned the IMF for imposing brutal and inappropriate adjustment policies on bailed out nations - medicine which, he argued, merely pushed nations further into crisis. "For me there's some nostalgia here," he says.

Does he see any hope for the eurozone, I ask, or is it now heading, inevitably, for a breakup? "It is a train that can still be stopped" he says. "But the relevant question is the politics in Germany. Have they created in their rhetoric a dynamic that makes it difficult to stop? In particular [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel's rhetoric that the crisis was caused by profligacy. She's framed the issue as profligacy, rather than framing it as 'the European system is fundamentally flawed'."

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Operación Diablo / The Devil Operation

Operación Diablo / The Devil Operation from Guarango Film & Video on Vimeo.

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." Henry David Thoreau

Dear Friends,

This July 4th, while executives of Colorado’s Newmont Mining Corporation celebrated America’s Independence Day, a priest was beaten and detained by police for protesting an expansion plan at the company’s Peruvian mine.

Father Marco Arana was sitting peacefully on a bench in the city’s main square when about 30 police commandos approached and pushed him the ground. Videos and photos taken on the scene show police beating the priest and dragging him off by the neck. Surrounded by a squadron of officers in riot gear, the renowned environmentalist was taken to the central police station where he was again beaten and refused communication with his lawyer for several hours.


Photos by Jose Novoa (elmoscon.blogspot.com)


The incident brought to mind Thoreau’s famous phrase, written 170 years ago, when the father of Civil Disobedience went to jail to protest slavery. Today’s ‘just men’ (and women) are still being thrown behind bars, but they’ve picked up a few new tools of the trade, like Blackberries and Facebook.

Marco managed to send this Twitter message from inside the station before contact was cut off: "They detained me and they beat me a lot. Inside the station they continued to beat me, punches in my face, kidneys, insults." (Marco is recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia and has suffered kidney stones and infections for over a year).



Lawyers from Peru’s most prestigious human rights organization (CNDDHH) intervened, and the government Ombudsman’s office lodged a complaint that Marco was refused medical attention. More than thirteen hours after being detained without a warrant, Marco was released in the early hours of July 5th.

His departure from the station was delayed somewhat, because - true to form - Marco refused to leave his captors until 22 people detained in an earlier protest were also released. As of printing, Marco was resting in hospital while doctors evaluate the impact of the beating on his already weakened lungs and kidneys.

Not surprisingly, none of Peru’s authorities will take responsibility for the incident. The Minister for Justice said the matter was in the hands of the provincial police. Cajamarca’s attorney general said there was no arrest warrant or order against Arana and that the police were acting on their own initiative.

Since when do 30 elite police commandos take it upon themselves to viciously beat a respected member of the community, sitting on a park bench?

What makes the situation even more bizarre and questionable is the fact that Marco was accompanied by an official police guard at the time of the attack. Peru’s government is required by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to provide Marco with police protection ever since the priest was the target of a massive spy operation in 2006.

So, the public is expected to believe that a rogue band of police commandos randomly bludgeoned a Catholic priest – coincidentally hitting him in areas already weakened by disease - while he was being guarded by one of their fellow police officers. Either Peru’s elite special forces have fallen into anarchy, or someone, somewhere gave an order.

Why this Peruvian priest?

A month ago, Father Marco and other regional leaders declared an indefinite state-wide strike against the proposed 'Minas Congas' gold mining project, which would destroy 4 sacred lakes in the province of Celendin.


Farmers gathered at one of Congas sacred lakes to protest the proposed mine

On July 3rd, the evening before Marco was attacked, Peru's government declared a state of emergency in the region, suspending civil liberties. The pronouncement came shortly after a violent encounter between police and protesters that resulted in the death of 5 civilians, including a 17-year-old boy and at least 36 wounded.

Since the conflict exploded last year, about 100 leaders, including Marco Arana, have been charged under Peru’s new ‘criminalization of social protest’ laws. This draconian legislation includes sentences of up to 20 years for blocking a highway.



'Minas Congas' is a quite huge expansion project owned by Yanacocha, South America's largest gold mine, located in Cajamarca province. Yanacocha is controlled by Newmont of Colorado and Peru's Buenaventura with minority shares held by the World Bank. Farming communities accuse Yanacocha of contaminating their water supply and the mine was responsible for a mercury spill that poisoned over 900 people -- the focus of a documentary I co-directed with Peruvian film maker Ernesto Cabellos: 'Choropampa, The Price of Gold.'


Scene from ‘Choropampa, The Price of Gold’

Ernesto and I met Father Marco during the filming of Choropampa, 12 years ago. In the immediate aftermath of the spill, Marco visited the affected villages and published the first independent study on the devastating impacts. But he insisted on remaining behind the scenes and doesn't appear in the film. "The farmers are the real heroes of this story," he told us.

Over the years, Marco and his group of young activists known as GRUFIDES continued their defense of farming communities affected by the mine and we kept filming them, even though ‘Choropampa’ was already finished. In 2004, Marco was awarded Peru's most prestigious human rights award and in 2009 he was declared an 'Environmental Hero' by TIME magazine.

Marco's defense of farming and indigenous communities has also earned him powerful enemies. In 2006, he and other Peruvian activists were victims of a spy-ring called 'The Devil Operation'. One of Marco's farming allies was assassinated and the priest and other activists were harassed, photographed and filmed.

Determined not to be victims, the activists launched a counter-espionage campaign, and captured two of the spies, along with photos, videos and detailed reports of the espionage.


Scene from ‘The Devil Operation’ (2010)

This evidence became the basis for 'The Devil Operation', a real-life suspense documentary that has won multiple awards, including the 'International Human Rights Film Award' sponsored by Amnesty International and given by the Cinema for Peace Foundation at an event parallel to the Berlin film festival.

Infinity humble, Marco didn't want to be the film's protagonist, but the importance of the case for Cajamarca's farmers, and people around the world suffering abuse at the hands of transnational corporations, convinced him to participate. And, as we reminded him, it was Marco's enemies who labeled him 'The Devil', making him the story’s hero.

In solidarity with Marco during this new assault on his safety and liberty, we have put 'The Devil Operation' on YOUTUBE, for free public viewing: in English: http://youtu.be/ATM8mK9LYok and in Spanish: http://youtu.be/PQk_U9WLHgA

I’ll be sending a letter soon, demanding justice for Marco and other environmental defenders under police investigation. In the meantime, please circulate this note and the link to the film.

You can also sign the petition against the Minas Congas project at Avaaz: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Conga_mining_project_2/

The past few months have been especially tough for human rights defenders in Peru, as we find ourselves once again the target of brutal repression. In these difficult times, I’d like to sign off by remembering the words of a very just man who continues to inspire me with his bravery and sacrifice:

“If we don’t risk our lives to save life, what sense is there in living?” (Marco Arana, The Devil Operation).

Thanks to everyone who has helped us bring this important story to life.

Stephanie Boyd
July 5th, Cusco, Peru

Director/Producer 'The Devil Operation'
Asociación Guarango Cine y Vídeo
Quisca Productions
sboyd@guarango.org


DVDs, Press kit, photos and guide for educators and activists available at: www.guarango.org/diablo


Financial Coup d’Etat in Europe: Government by the Banks, for the Banks

Ellen Brown reports for Global Research:

According to Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor for BBC News, the concessions mean that:

[T]he eurozone’s bailout fund (backed by taxpayers’ money) will be taking a stake in failed banks.

Risk has been increased. German taxpayers have increased their liabilities. In future a bank crash will no longer fall on the shoulders of national treasuries but on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a fund to which Germany contributes the most.

In the short term, these measures will ease pressure in the markets. However there is currently only 500bn euros assigned to the ESM. That may get swallowed up quickly and the markets may demand more. It is still unclear just how deep the holes in the eurozone’s banks are.

The ESM is now a permanent bailout fund for private banks, a sort of permanent “welfare for the rich.” There is no ceiling set on the obligations to be underwritten by the taxpayers, no room to negotiate, and no recourse in court. Its daunting provisions were summarized in a December 2011 youtube video originally posted in German, titled “The shocking truth of the pending EU collapse!”:

The treaty establishes a new intergovernmental organization to which we are required to transfer unlimited assets within seven days if it so requests, an organization that can sue us but is immune from all forms of prosecution and whose managers enjoy the same immunity. There are no independent reviewers and no existing laws apply. Governments cannot take action against it. Europe’s national budgets [are] in the hands of one single unelected intergovernmental organization.

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Sonata for Hitler (USSR,1989) by Alexandr Sokurov


Sonata for Hitler (Соната для Гитлера, 1989, USSR, Leningrad Documentary Film Studio) directed by Alexandr Sokurov (Александр Сокуров). Set to the music of Bach and Penderecki, Sonata for Hitler weaves together a bank of images from German and Soviet archive footage, drawing out a psychological dimension from the historical landscape at the end of World War II.
Made and released over a period of ten years, 1979-1989, censored in the Sovjet Union, later released to an international audience.


"As with so many early films by Sokurov, this film has two dates: the first is the date of its creation (the film was then banned), the second is the date of the final edition and legal public screening. The film consists of German and Soviet archive footage of the World War II — to be exact, from the end of the war. An attempt to make a largescale documentary on this subject had been undertaken in the Soviet cinema of the 1960s: the film — Ordinary Fascism — by the outstanding Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Romm had become a classic retrospective investigation of fascism. But Sokurov uses the expressive power of the documentary image in an absolutely different way. He does not amass materials for a largescale picture of Nazi crimes. As a lyrical filmmaker, in the space of this short film, he manages to present an entire overview of the historical landscape after the catastrophe. He chooses only the psychological aspect of this, showing the perpetrators of crimes as also the victims of their crimes: the execution of Hitler's generals, the miserable despair of a defeated Hitler, the shame of the crowd use[d] only to regimentation, the shame of the nation. Here Sokurov makes an unspoken comparison with the history of his own country: it was victorious in the face of Hitler, but at the same time had bred its own dictator, Stalin. The footage is numbered; dates on both sides of the frame denote the years of Hitler's and Stalin's deaths (1945 and 1953 respectively)." Alexandra Tuchinskaya

Source : http://www.kinoglaz.fr/u_fiche_film.php?lang=gb&num=2534,


See also:

Mikhail Romm's Ordinary Fascism (1965)

Psychetruth: Question Authority - The Big Media Lie, How To Avoid Mind Control & Know Truth


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Huxley Vs. Orwell: Infinite Distraction Or Government Oppression?

You be the judge. View the pictorial debate here and here.

In Search of Stripper Solidarity

Rachel Aimee writes:

The last time I danced at a strip club in Manhattan, I paid an $80 “house fee” to work. I was shouted at for slouching in my seat and for eating my lunch at the wrong time, and I went home with $40 less than I’d arrived with. After working in this exploitative industry for many years, I wanted to organize to improve working conditions for strippers. But when I reached out to other activists who had been involved in campaigns to protect dancers’ rights, the overwhelming response I got was: “Don’t do it!”

They had a point.

When dancers at the Lusty Lady, a San Francisco peepshow, successfully unionized in 1997, they put strippers’ labor rights on the map. Third-wave feminists across the world rushed to hold up the Lusty Lady as proof that sex work doesn’t have to be exploitative. The unionization drive and subsequent transition of the club into a worker-owned cooperative was seen by many as the Linkstart of a movement in which strippers would put a stop to the discriminatory practices that plague the industry.

Fifteen years later, the Lusty Lady remains the only unionized stripping venue in the country, and working conditions in most clubs have gotten worse, with dancers paying up to $300 a shift to work and often going home in debt to their employers. Meanwhile, dancers at the Lusty Lady have contracts and receive a standard wage instead of having to compete for tips. But rather than looking to the Lusty Lady as a beacon of progress, most strippers balk at the thought of working for an hourly wage instead of hustling for tips.

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UC recommends changes on civil disobedience policy

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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