Tomorrow We Disappear: The Human Price of Development

Tomorrow We Disappear: New Dehli’s Kathputli Slum

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This is one of the saddest and most beautifully made documentaries I’ve ever seen. It concerns a 60-year-old artist colony in a New Dehli slum called Kathputli. The film follows the artists’ futile struggle to block government plans to evict them to make way for a shopping mall and high rise commercial and residential buildings.

The 1500 artists who have learned their craft from parents and grandparents, consist of magicians, puppeteers, musicians, carvers, acrobats, fire eater, dancers and jugglers. Most earn a meager living as street performers in the crowded streets of New Dehli. The documentary follows their fruitless negotiations with government officials and property developers.

In the end they organize a series of colorful protests featuringde giant puppets, stilt walkers, jugglers, acrobats and magicians in brilliantly colored costumes. Their goal is to call public attention to what is being lost.

Their colony was bulldozed in late 2017, and they were all moved to temporary “transit” camps (they look more like concentration camps) at considerable distance from Dehli.

The History of Advertising

Sell and Spin: A History of Advertising

Produced by Rob Blumenstein (1999)

Film Review

Sell and Spin details the history of advertising, which apparently dates back 3,000 years to a wine ad painted on a wall in ancient Babylon. The documentary’s only weakness is its omission of the important role Edward Bernays, the father of the public relations industry played in incorporating psychological persuasion into advertising (see Edward Bernays: The Father of Water Fluoridation).

In Europe, advertising took a giant leap forward with the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1548 and a significant increase in literacy. The first printed ad appeared in 1580 – to promote the sale of books.

Newspapers, the first mass media, contained no ads when they first appeared in England in the early seventeenth century. The first newspaper ads appeared in 1625, alerting readers to the availability of various advertisers’ products. In the US, the first newspaper ad in appeared in the Boston News-Letter in 1704. In 1728, Benjamin Franklin was the first publisher to use images in newspaper ads in the Philadelphia Gazette.

Volney E Palmer created the first advertising agency in 1842. He worked solely for newspaper publishers, helping them find advertisers.

Magazines first accepted advertising after the Civil War. In 1883 the Ladies Home Journal was created as a vehicle for ads aimed at housewives.

In 1869 Wayland Ayer created the first full service advertising agency, writing copy as well as selling ads. Before long, “every orifice of the body was taken over by advertising,” as corporations invented fictitious illnesses and products to cure them. BO (body odor) was invented in 1919 to sell Odorono and halitosis in the 1920s to sell Listerine.

The first radio program was broadcast in 1920, announcing that Harding had won the US presidency. Although most European governments assumed responsibility for broadcasting in the public interest, in the US the private corporations Westinghouse (CBS) and General Electric (NBC) controlled the first radio networks. The first radio ad appeared in 1922.

In 1946, the first TV program was broadcast, and by 1951 there were more than 5 million TVs around the world.

Beginning in the early sixties, advertising agencies began incorporating sophisticated psychological persuasion techniques in their TV ads. According to the filmmakers, this was mainly under the influence of George Gallup, the father of the public opinion poll. Gallup, whose primary focus was the science of persuasion, was ultimately responsible for the major role focus groups and other forms of market research play in product development.

When this documentary was filmed in 1999, Internet advertising was only five years old. Yet advertisers were already tracking us with “cookies” monitoring which websites we visited and to targeting us with specific ads.

 

 

 

The Economic Function of Militarism

Trump’s Foreign Policy and the American Economy in Decline

Vjay Prasad (2018)

Film Review

In this talk, Indian historian and journalist Vjay Prasad outlines the importance of militarism to the US economy, via a concept he refers to as “military keynesianism.” In so-called “sensible countries,” governments seek to ameliorate cyclical economic downturns by increasing spending on public services, such as health, education, public transport and social services.*

The technical term for this type of spending, first advocated in the 1930s by British economist Milton Keynes, is “countercyclical spending.”

The US also engages in countercyclical spending to prevent economic collapse during a recession – but on the military side. In Europe, one of the primary effects of public service spending is an enhanced sense of community. US elites prefer to keep the US population splintered and isolated because it makes them easier to control. They can’t take the risk of them banding together to push for reforms or revolution.

Although a military base operates like a mini-socialist state where the government takes care of every need, there is little risk a genuine egalitarian community will develop. This relates to the hierarchical nature of military life.


*No elites do this out of the goodness of their heart. European social democracies increase public spending during recessions because their populations are well-organized and force them to do so.

In Debt We Trust

In Debt We Trust

Directed by Danny Schechter (2006)

Film Review

The main selling point of this 10-year old documentary is that it foretells the 2008 global economic crash. It quite accurately paints the enormous debt bubble that had developed by 2005 and which triggered a massive global recession when it burst in 2007.

Schechter mainly focuses on aggressive marketing efforts by banks to addict young people to debt and living beyond their means. College students can easily rack up $10,000 in credit card debt by the time they finish graduate, on top of $50,000+ of student loan debt.

The film also addresses predatory check cashing and pay day loan stores in minority communities, tax preparation services like H & R block that offer high interest tax return loans as part of their service, and predatory mortgage schemes that played a role in the 2007 housing bubble that crashed the global economy.

The only glaring inaccuracy is a claim that attributes the American Revolution to the colonists’ desire to end their “enslavement” to European banks. Unfortunately the War of Independence didn’t end US enslavement to European banks. The first Bank of the United States, founded by the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, was a private central bank largely funded by European banks which imposed crippling interest charges on the fledgling US government.

Contemporary historians are more inclined to identify the British ban on seizure of unceded Native lands as the main trigger for the US War of Independence (see Voice of Sanity in the Gun Control Debate).

Overall the major weakness of the film is its failure to highlight the root cause of the present debt crisis – namely that we continue to allow private banks to issue (out of thin air) 97-98% of the money used to run the global economy (see The Battle for Public Control of Money )

Wall Street: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

The Wall Street Code

VPRO (2013)

Film Review

While the rest of us are busting our ass to earn an honest living, Wall Street traders are running around thinking up new ways to rip us off. And laughing all the way to the bank. I love the way they refer to ordinary investors with pension funds or retirement accounts as “dumb money.”

The Wall Street Code is all about whistleblower Haim Bodek and his discovery of a secret algorithm used by high frequency traders to rip off mutual and pension funds (aka “dumb money”).

As of 2013, when this documentary was made, 70% of Wall street trading was automated and 50% occurred within milliseconds. When large volume trades are made, they always drive the share price up. This means there’s a distinct advantage in getting your order in before a large volume trade by a pension or mutual fund.

Badek discovered a secret algorithm that alerted unscrupulous traders to large volume trades before they were made public and help them jump to the front of the queue (and purchase stocks before the share price started to rise).

Michael Lewis writes about a similar scam in his 2015 book Flash Boys. The book concerns whistleblower Brad Katsuyama’s discovery that high frequency traders were secretly exploiting minute differences in the speed of electronic transmissions (see Wall Street More Deeply Corrupt than We Thought).

Bodek believes that Lewis seriously underestimates the serious amount of fraud occurring on Wall Street. Bodek’s persistence has resulted in the prosecution of the New York Stock Exchange by the Security and Exchange Commission – resulting in unprecedented fines being imposed.

See http://blog.themistrading.com/2018/03/the-return-of-haim-bodek/

Trump Instructs Top Advisors to Review Joining TPPA

Trade For People and Planet

Popular Resistance

Donald Trump has instructed United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, and National Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow, to review re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) according to declarations given by Senator Ben Sasse to reporters after leaving a meeting on trade that Trump had with lawmakers and governors from farming states just a few hours ago.

“[Trump] said that he was going to deputize, again, Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer with reentering the TPP negotiations,” Senator Sasse said. “The president multiple times reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, ‘Larry, go get it done.’

We must show that the people are watching their every move! Help us make the hashtag #NeverTPP viral! Click on any of the tweets below to tweet now or create your own tweet and mention us at @FlushTheTPP.

BREAKING: Trump orders review of #TPP. We never trusted @realDonaldTrump to be the end of the #TPP. We defeated the deal under Obama & will again under #Trump if need be. Say NO to reviewing joining the TPP! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump tells @USTradeRep to review joining #TPP. @realDonaldTrump forgot that this deal is POLITICALLY TOXIC. Join us in saying #NeverTPP ! @FlushTheTPP 

.@FlushTheTPP on Trump’s reconsideration of TPP: It was the people who defeated the TPP, not Trump, and we will do it again. See more at –> https://bit.ly/2qqkKFe #NeverTPP pic.twitter.com/v8KyOLEHww

BREAKING: Trump tells @larry_kudlow to review joining #TPP. This deal is the ultimate power grab and will be opposed by the people across the political spectrum. Say NO to rejoining the TPP. #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump instructs top trade aides to review joining the TPP. Fair trade is the exact opposite of the TPP. We will resist! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

NZ Govt Shuts Down Offshore Oil Exploration, Onshore Exploration Outside Taranaki

According to Taranaki Daily News, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an end to offshore oil exploration, with no new onshore permits outside Taranaki.

Ardern said the Government was “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand”

As well as an immediate end to new offshore permits, some onshore will be offered to the industry for the next three years in onshore Taranaki, none of which will be on conservation land.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

The decision to continue to offer onshore permits was partly a concession to Labour’s coalition partners, New Zealand First, which expressly supports extractive sectors. The move is also designed to head off the risk of judicial review.

“All three of the parties in this Government are agreed that we must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change. I’m grateful for the support of New Zealand First in ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels protects jobs and helps regions equip themselves for the future. I also thank the Green Party for their continued advocacy for action on climate change.

An oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki. Ardern will announce no more offshore exploration permits, and ...

ANDY JACKSON/STUFF – Oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki.

Less than a month ago, Ardern created huge expectation among environmental activists by declaring the Government was “actively considering” a call to end exploration.

Since taking office, Ardern has said the Government will move towards having 100 per cent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2035, while the economy will be carbon neutral by 2050.

Greenpeace said announcement was an “historic moment, and a huge win for our climate and people power”. . .

Read more: Ardern to End Offshore Oil Exploration

This is an important win in a long, difficult battle. It’s disappointing to see that Taranaki (where I live) is still treated as a sacrifice zone. Taranaki Energy Watch has an ongoing case in Environment Court to stop fracking next to our homes and schools. See Fracking: When Fossil Fuel Companies Turn Your Community into a Sacrifice Zone