Category Archives: Economy

Give Me That Old Time Business

I recently took some time to listen to an extensive podcast on medieval guilds which featured the economic historian Gary Richards and it was utterly illuminating concerning the functions & roles of guilds in medieval Europe. The full podcast, of course, can be listened to via player.fm.

Of course, there are countless sociological and historical reasons as to why our ancestors functioned the way that they did… You know, in a more civilized and socially conscious fashion than anyone does today. It is also clear that the idea of getting anyone to behave with the manner & neighborliness of a medieval person is a long shot, but let us pine for the old days together for a moment.

First off, throw the image that you have of guilds out of your head; it isn’t solely an organization of pre-modern businessmen trying to fix prices and pull one over on the consumer. The word guild has  a far broader reach. Any organization at all could be called a guild.

In medieval England, nearly every village had at least one registered ‘guild.’ These can be referred to as ‘societies’ as well, and some of these village guilds were nothing more than a prayer society. During the podcast Richardson stated that he believed nearly every adult in England probably was involved in some guild or another. But, of course, many of these were more so village social organizations, and not necessarily within the scope of our interest as we talk about former business practices.

The guilds that did exist that were associations of, say, pewter makers, blacksmiths, tanners, etc. formed very naturally and lived very interconnected lives. Remember that villages would be organized in a logical fashion — tanners and butchers deal with a lot of carcasses and do all manner of processes to make leather; you’d want them congregated in one area near the outside of town. Blacksmiths were involved in extremely loud work that likewise had a lot of fire and produced a lot of smoke and waste — again, you’d want them in one neighborhood.Thus, these guilds were also on some level neighborhood associations. They encompassed the entire section of town where all of the people of a single occupation lived.

It is also important to note that in the highly religious medieval times the craftsmen were devoted to their patron saints. Believing in purgatory as well as Heaven, the guildsmen would gather and pray not just for one another and their families, but also deceased guildsmen who may be stuck in purgatory. A very strong religious zeal existed within them — and in medieval England the primary threat that came with cheating your guild and being estranged from it was one of no longer receiving the prayers and blessings of the group you are with.

But guilds certainly weren’t just prayer warriors… Guilds offered mutual insurance to one another. If a guild member were to have died early, it is fully known that basic sustenance would be provided for his family and even dowries would commonly be furnished by his fellow guildsmen. There was a distinct sense of great social responsibility within the guild…

Guilds would compete to see who provided the best services to their communities and gave the most mutual assurance. They wished to be prestigious and have a measurable positive impact on the community. it was well documented that on the day of their patron Saints, they would have lively festivals and parades. This would include paying for lavish public performances of plays often depicting the life and good deeds of their Saints. The guildsmen would wear special liveries or badges indicating their membership in the guild — for it was a sign of distinct pride to have such an association with organizations that provided for the community.

Of course, guilds were dedicated to their economic work as well. Their trades were closely held secrets, but what was also important was providing quality products. It was common to put a symbol, emblem or ‘signature’ of sorts upon their products because the markings would have reputations attached to them. Thus, one of the other functions of a guild was to look into the work of their registered craftsmen and insure that nobody was doing things to make their products worst (like putting too much lead into their pewter, for instance).

Of course, this was a very different epoch in human history but as a fan of history I always hope to learn something from it. In this case what is clearly worthy of our attention was how, while the time was not as technologically advanced nor had the comforts of modern times, it does appear that they did their best to take care of one another, and a great point of pride was their ability to Give.

All of these elements stand out in stark contrast to the nature of how our business is done, and it is certainly harder to think of us as being the perpetual superior to these medieval peoples.

Hobby Lobby: Their Rights… & What About Universal Health Care?

The Hobby Lobby debate is a great illustration of a distracting issue that quickly devolves into a meme contest of mud slinging & false comparisons. The basic facts of the case are often ignored, and there is little to no discussion on what people actually believe government or business should do, or what obligations they actually have towards people. It seems to be more about what team you signed up for years ago, and what shirt you are wearing, than about the actual discussion of it.

That is why being ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ isn’t helpful in this debate. The only thing that is actually helpful is having a clear view of the role of government, the role of business, and the role of individuals within society. And when you even take a moment to understand all of these perspectives that you might have, and come to conclusions on them, you are then suddenly overwhelmed by the absurdity of the Hobby Lobby debate as it stands….

Let us be clear for a minute: Hobby Lobby is only fighting to not pay for 4 of 20 different contraceptive devices that they believe specifically to be involved in the process of abortion.

They even released a statement saying that the 4 items they do not provide through their health care plan are generally quite cheap and readily available, and any of their employees can certainly purchase these on their own dime if they do not intend to use any of the other 16 methods that range from the classic Jimmy Hat to vasectomies & female sterilization surgeries (The Blaze).

But some people are still not satisfied because of the four things they cannot buy — most notably, the morning after pill, for this is where they have decided to draw their line in the sand, believing that abortion is an immoral action, and they do not want to spend any of their money on it.

There is a really simple line of argument for the right of Hobby Lobby to not do this:

(1) People should be able to negotiate their terms of business. 

I simply believe that private enterprise has the right to come up with their own contracts.

If person A agrees to work for person B for 40/hours week for X-amount of money, and they put in the contract that person A also gets one bottle of Jack Daniels every Friday night, that is their business; if person A agrees only to work for person B if he is paid in Swedish Krona because he plans on returning to Sweden at the end of the summer and he wants his money in that, so be it; if person A wants to be paid exclusively in foodstuffs, that is also their business.

it seems remarkably silly that a person wouldn’t be able to negotiate the terms of a health care plan.

(2) People Should Be Able To Express Religion / Ideology, Even In Business.

Is it the best idea for a major chain store to advocate a religious or ideological standpoint? Probably not. But if the local Hallal butcher wants to talk about how great of a Muslim he is, or a Hallal grocer wants to insure the Hallal-ity of his groceries, why not?

Let’s say we even have a private Buddhist school, and it only has about 100 students… They only need about 10 teachers and a few other staff, and they want every employee to be a devout Buddhist because of the environment that they try to foster, and they give special priority to Buddhist monks or nuns to be teachers…
Can we be upset with them if they hire only Buddhists? Can we be upset with them if they hire only monks & nuns, and for these people they have zero plans for birth control?

Follow this logic t its natural conclusion.

(3) Personal Responsibility & Strength

I am responsible for everything that I do. if I were to ride my bicycle without a helmet consistently, who could I blame if I suffered a head injury? My employer who didn’t buy me a helmet even though he knew I was a cyclist?

If my employer doesn’t buy me a helmet… I guess if I want to cycle, I just have to use a portion of my own income to buy my own helmet. If my employer doesn’t want to give me abortion pills but still offers to buy me condoms, should I really complain if they do not buy me my abortion pill?

(4) If You Want Universal Health Care So Bad, How About You Universalize Health Care?

I want universal health care in the sense that I think everyone who doesn’t make a certain amount of money should have affordable and essentially free health care provided by the state.

I have no idea why we would just fight for businesses to provide some sort of… vast health care plan. Then we are denying health care to loads of unemployed people. Then we are denying health care to people who will just go to jobs that will cut their hours below X-amount so they do not qualify for certain health care costs…

I thought there was some goal for this generation of young Americans to universalize the health care system…

… Instead, they are taking the fight to make hobby lobby buy them abortion pills, as if this is the new frontier of a meaningful healthcare plan. 

Whatever happened to the campaign for universal health care? How did the Left suddenly see this Red Herring, and then go barking up this tree?

They are just being duped by super-liberal organizations capitalizing off of anti-religious  & anti-conservative sentiment.

This really should all be addressed in calm, quiet terms and be an issue about private enterprise and its rights to negotiate their own terms of service…

If this was really about health care, why would we focus on getting private businesses to buy abortion pills for people while the far greater injustice is the fact that many people are without viable health care plans?

I think the whole thing is a distraction from real issues & being discussed in entirely the wrong way.

Perhaps we should all go sit on some ice for a minute and re-think our priorities.

Thailand’s Shrimping Slave Ships

I ran across this horrific piece of news that I found interesting & completely repulsive. However, I wasn’t incredibly surprised — and I would not be surprised to see if there was truly not that much action taken here to get to the bottom of this. It would be quite an error in thought to think that the totality of the world has the same concern for human rights as many Westerners…

(& needless to say, there are many Westerners as well that have little regard for human rights…)

Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK

Thai ‘ghost ships’ that enslave and even kill workers are linked to global shrimp supply chain, Guardian investigation discovers
• Trafficked into slavery on Thai trawlers to catch food for prawns
• Thailand’s seafood industry: state-sanctioned slavery?
Ask your questions – live chat as it happened

Link to video: Globalised slavery: how big supermarkets are selling prawns in supply chain fed by slave labour

Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers, the Guardian can reveal.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

Fifteen migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia also told how they had been enslaved. They said they had paid brokers to help them find work in Thailand in factories or on building sites. But they had been sold instead to boat captains, sometimes for as little as £250.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Vuthy, a former monk from Cambodia who was sold from captain to captain. “They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food … They sold us like animals, but we are not animals – we are human beings.”

Another trafficking victim said he had seen as many as 20 fellow slaves killed in front of him, one of whom was tied, limb by limb, to the bows of four boats and pulled apart at sea.

“We’d get beaten even if we worked hard,” said another. “All the Burmese, [even] on all the other boats, were trafficked. There were so many of us [slaves] it would be impossible to count them all.”

CP Foods – a company with an annual turnover of $33bn (£20bn) that brands itself as “the kitchen of the world” – sells its own-brand prawn feed to other farms, and supplies international supermarkets, as well as food manufacturers and food retailers, with frozen or cooked prawns and ready-made meals. It also sells raw prawn materials for food distributors.

The Guardian

I did not really see this make big news — I wouldn’t be surprised if there are powerful people not interested in the story getting out and damaging Thailand’s image. After all, they have to deal with that whole coup business and plenty of people enjoy Thailand continuing to be a safe spot for the elites of the West to go and enjoy sexual romper-roos.

Because it isn’t Iran or North Korea, little attention is paid to it.  & perhaps that’s the real story here since it would be seemingly pointless to highlight just the suffering of one little piece of the world, but the point might be to wonder why so little is cared for realities faced by many people if it doesn’t serve the immediate interest of vilifying certain people.

I am sure if we dug just a bit more on the internet we would also find tons of similar stories of horrific human misery that, of course, would make headlines if it was Iranians or Syrians or Russians or any other opponent… But when it is important trade & business partners, or nations that play host to CEO sex tourists, there is no real reason to press the issue.

Anti-Russian Policy Compromises US Space Program

The Obama administration has dropped the ball on effectively containing Russian foreign policy successes — whether Syria or the Ukraine, the Russians have been able to get everything they want and then some.

Recently we put some really cute sanctions on the Russians — incredibly weak and ineffective ones that cannot disrupt the Russians in any real sense but are meant to look like they are doing something. Sec. of State John Kerry refers to this as a scalpel rather than a hammer, as if to lend credence to his impotent policies.

But the Russians, of course, are not going to stand by and watch:

Here is an informative video on the issue:

And here is a more detailed article specifically concerning rockets:

PARIS, WASHINGTON – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said May 13 that Moscow would halt the sale of RD-180 and NK-33 rocket engines to the U.S. for the purpose of launching military satellites.

The RD-180 is used to power the first stage of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, while a modified version of the NK-33 – the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 – provides core propulsion on the first stage of the Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares launch vehicle.

“We will assume that, without guarantees that our engines are used only for launching non-military spacecraft, we won’t be able to deliver them to the U.S.,” Rogozin told reporters during a news conference.

ULA, which says it has more than two year’s worth of RD-180 engines in its U.S. inventory, is “not aware of any restrictions,” according to a company statement. “If recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that [Space Exploration Technology’s] SpaceX’s irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station.” The company is referencing a protest in Federal Claims Court filed April 28 by SpaceX claiming that the Air Force’s five-year, sole-source deal with ULA unfairly cut the company, and its new Falcon 9 v1.1 launcher, out of the competition. The filing prompted a temporary injunction in payments for RD-180 work and thrust the issue into the public debate amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Aviation Week

The whole venture has been a great disaster in the end for Americans who will now have to find other means to send satellites into space if they are truly determined to continue squaring off with the Russians.

This, of course, comes with the fact that our economy isn’t what it used to be and our entire military sector is merely a series of vast dependencies on military contractors who are fleecing the tax payers. Of course, we will get off the ground again — and spend ten times as much as necessary towards Northrop-Grumman or some other contracting agency that makes far too much money.

This whole Ukraine debacle has only shown the inability of the European & American dove administrations from doing anything effective at all.

It is hard to watch these people work. They are nothing more than overly idealistic imbeciles who really look like they are having their first go at foreign policy — and for all intents & purposes, that is fairly true. 🙂

Google & Tech Firms: Still Gov’t Cronyism & Profits Before People w/ a Hip Facade

Google has always tried to show itself as being truly a force not for evil; in fact, they recently were involved in the production of a popagandizing film with Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson to show you just how utterly new, unique & community positive they are. We know though that Google has previously changed search results to appease China & even deleted entire user groups to appease the critics of the Indian governmen (source).

But still, guys, come on! Google is the company of the future! And they are different! They are young & hip and building a brighter future, and we sure better listen to their perspective because they are looking out for us — fun parts in bold:

Email exchanges between National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt suggest a far cozier working relationship between some tech firms and the U.S. government than was implied by Silicon Valley brass after last year’s revelations about NSA spying.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s vast capability for spying on Americans’ electronic communications prompted a number of tech executives whose firms cooperated with the government to insist they had done so only when compelled by a court of law.
But Al Jazeera has obtained two sets of email communications dating from a year before Snowden became a household name that suggest not all cooperation was under pressure.
On the morning of June 28, 2012, an email from Alexander invited Schmidt to attend a four-hour-long “classified threat briefing” on Aug. 8 at a “secure facility in proximity to the San Jose, CA airport.”
“The meeting discussion will be topic-specific, and decision-oriented, with a focus on Mobility Threats and Security,” Alexander wrote in the email, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the first of dozens of communications between the NSA chief and Silicon Valley executives that the agency plans to turn over.
Alexander, Schmidt and other industry executives met earlier in the month, according to the email…
“About six months ago, we began focusing on the security of mobility devices,” Alexander wrote. “A group (primarily Google, Apple and Microsoft) recently came to agreement on a set of core security principles. When we reach this point in our projects we schedule a classified briefing for the CEOs of key companies to provide them a brief on the specific threats we believe can be mitigated and to seek their commitment for their organization to move ahead … Google’s participation in refinement, engineering and deployment of the solutions will be essential.”
Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, said she believes information sharing between industry and the government is “absolutely essential” but “at the same time, there is some risk to user privacy and to user security from the way the vulnerability disclosure is done.”
The challenge facing government and industry was to enhance security without compromising privacy, Granick said. The emails between Alexander and Google executives, she said, show “how informal information sharing has been happening within this vacuum where there hasn’t been a known, transparent, concrete, established methodology for getting security information into the right hands.”
The classified briefing cited by Alexander was part of a secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), and his email provides some rare information about what the ESF entails, the identities of some participant tech firms and the threats they discussed.
Alexander explained that the deputy secretaries of the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and “18 US CEOs” launched the ESF in 2009 to “coordinate government/industry actions on important (generally classified) security issues that couldn’t be solved by individual actors alone.”
“For example, over the last 18 months, we (primarily Intel, AMD [Advanced Micro Devices], HP [Hewlett-Packard], Dell and Microsoft on the industry side) completed an effort to secure the BIOS of enterprise platforms to address a threat in that area.”
“BIOS” is an acronym for “basic input/output system,” the system software that initializes the hardware in a personal computer before the operating system starts up. NSA cyberdefense chief Debora Plunkett in December disclosed that the agency had thwarted a “BIOS plot” by a “nation-state,” identified as China, to brick U.S. computers. That plot, she said, could have destroyed the U.S. economy. “60 Minutes,” which broke the story, reported that the NSA worked with unnamed “computer manufacturers” to address the BIOS software vulnerability.
But some cybersecurity experts questioned the scenario outlined by Plunkett.
“There is probably some real event behind this, but it’s hard to tell, because we don’t have any details,” wrote Robert Graham, CEO of the penetration-testing firm Errata Security in Atlanta, on his blog in December. “It”s completely false in the message it is trying to convey. What comes out is gibberish, as any technical person can confirm.”
And by enlisting the NSA to shore up their defenses, those companies may have made themselves more vulnerable to the agency’s efforts to breach them for surveillance purposes.
“I think the public should be concerned about whether the NSA was really making its best efforts, as the emails claim, to help secure enterprise BIOS and mobile devices and not holding the best vulnerabilities close to their chest,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s digital civil liberties team.
He doesn’t doubt that the NSA was trying to secure enterprise BIOS, but he suggested that the agency, for its own purposes, was “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”
The NSA “has no business helping Google secure its facilities from the Chinese and at the same time hacking in through the back doors and tapping the fiber connections between Google base centers,” Cardozo said. “The fact that it’s the same agency doing both of those things is in obvious contradiction and ridiculous.” He recommended dividing offensive and defensive functions between two agencies.
Two weeks after the “60 Minutes” broadcast, the German magazine Der Spiegel, citing documents obtained by Snowden, reported that the NSA inserted back doors into BIOS, doing exactly what Plunkett accused a nation-state of doing during her interview.
Google’s Schmidt was unable to attend to the mobility security meeting in San Jose in August 2012.
“General Keith.. so great to see you.. !” Schmidt wrote. “I’m unlikely to be in California that week so I’m sorry I can’t attend (will be on the east coast). Would love to see you another time. Thank you !” Since the Snowden disclosures, Schmidt has been critical of the NSA and said its surveillance programs may be illegal.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did attend that briefing. Foreign Policy reported a month later that Dempsey and other government officials — no mention of Alexander — were in Silicon Valley “picking the brains of leaders throughout the valley and discussing the need to quickly share information on cyber threats.” Foreign Policy noted that the Silicon Valley executives in attendance belonged to the ESF. The story did not say mobility threats and security was the top agenda item along with a classified threat briefing.
A week after the gathering, Dempsey said during a Pentagon press briefing, “I was in Silicon Valley recently, for about a week, to discuss vulnerabilities and opportunities in cyber with industry leaders … They agreed — we all agreed on the need to share threat information at network speed.”
Google co-founder Sergey Brin attended previous meetings of the ESF group but because of a scheduling conflict, according to Alexander’s email, he also could not attend the Aug. 8 briefing in San Jose, and it’s unknown if someone else from Google was sent.
A few months earlier, Alexander had emailed Brin to thank him for Google’s participation in the ESF.
“I see ESF’s work as critical to the nation’s progress against the threat in cyberspace and really appreciate Vint Cerf [Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist], Eric Grosse [vice president of security engineering] and Adrian Ludwig’s [lead engineer for Android security] contributions to these efforts during the past year,” Alexander wrote in a Jan. 13, 2012, email.
“You recently received an invitation to the ESF Executive Steering Group meeting, which will be held on January 19, 2012. The meeting is an opportunity to recognize our 2012 accomplishments and set direction for the year to come. We will be discussing ESF’s goals and specific targets for 2012. We will also discuss some of the threats we see and what we are doing to mitigate those threats … Your insights, as a key member of the Defense Industrial Base, are valuable to ensure ESF’s efforts have measurable impact.”
A Google representative declined to answer specific questions about Brin’s and Schmidt’s relationship with Alexander or about Google’s work with the government.
“We work really hard to protect our users from cyberattacks, and we always talk to experts — including in the U.S. government — so we stay ahead of the game,” the representative said in a statement to Al Jazeera. “It’s why Sergey attended this NSA conference.”
Brin responded to Alexander the following day even though the head of the NSA didn’t use the appropriate email address when contacting the co-chairman.
“Hi Keith, looking forward to seeing you next week. FYI, my best email address to use is [redacted],” Brin wrote. “The one your email went to — sergey.brin@google.com — I don’t really check.”
Al Jazeera
The fellows who have always presented themselves as the hip, new group of forward looking dudes are right here helping the government spy on you completely.
Of course – we do not know the precise details of these occurrences, though, because neither the US government nor Google are transparent organizations.

We’re Google founders; we are happy go lucky, nice guys. We wear semi-formal, borderline informal (OMG) clothes to official meetings and we are just so easy going… We’re NOT your grandfather’s corporation!

Check out our zany interior; we are really open minded and we aren’t stuffy or formal at all. We are cutting edge and just like, so CREATIVE, so like, people are confused we are a multi-billion dollar corporation and stuff because we really have this super laid-back & progressive environment…

Check it out — you see that guy is like sitting on a BOAT! that’s actually a chair (because we recycle? and stuff?), and, you can WRITE ON THE WALLS, because we combine like… Technology with a Free Spirit. So even in our meetings, we are just so relaxed and let the energy flow and… Like I said, we are TOTALLY not WALL STREET. Aren’t you impressed?

 

Google does everything that it can to portray itself as this ABOVE & BEYOND futuristic legion of free thought & excellence.

At the end of the day, they are spying on you and working closely with the NSA.

At the end of the day, they are more interested in profits to be made in India & China and will support their status quo.

At the end of the day, they aren’t a heroic, bold new face of companies. Unless that is really what you were hoping for: superficial spraypaint on a 1950s guy wearing a suit.

Because that is what the New World Order is: an attempt to look cutting edge and revolutionary, a great facade erected before the altar of Money & Power meant to dazzle the eyes and convince the people that they are actually getting something new.

But none of this is new at all.

It is a repackaging and retooling of old power structures portrayed as a benign force — but this really is Gordon Gecko international capitalism & elitist cronyism. But they changed the interior decorating and told their lies more bold faced — but, thanks for playing.

Olympics May Be Gross Waste of Resources for Russia

The Olympics, the World Cup and all these other great ‘global events’ that shift location every few years may have started with honest intentions and do stand as some celebration of sports but, more than anything, they exist to serve major corporations, politicians who take credit for bringing the event, the organizers themselves and those few other people who do stand to benefit from a very temporary boom in the economy. However, the actual taxpayer and average citizen is then stuck with a massive amount of unused structures and, of course, footing the bills for these.

Now journalists are acting as if this is something new:

For 17 days, the world’s attention will be on the Russian city of Sochi for the Winter Olympics.  But what happens when the games are over and the athletes leave? Some experts fear the facilities, build at great expense, will go unused and fall into decay.

“This is the first Winter Olympic games that has an Olympic park, where all seven venues were built specifically for the Olympic games in a specific area. And I do not think that is the best model, because there is just no use for, typically, seven big venues in a circle. It’s better to spread it out across the area.”

These games are estimated to cost Russia $50 billion. As the pricetag to host an Olympics skyrockets, Delpy Neirotti says proper planning is vital – especially after the games are over.

“It’s going to be a challenge to utilize all of those facilities [after the games],” she said.

The Beijing National Stadium and National Aquatics Center were the jewels of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Today, China struggles to draw visitors and events. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, as they were nicknamed, cost more than half a billion dollars to build.

In Greece, Athens’ Olympic park is abandoned, overrun with weeds, and closed to the public.

Even the London Olympics in 2012, which promised to revitalize the east end of the city, has had mixed results – says one man who lives nearby.

VOA

It is quite sad to think of the shortsightedness of man, willing to spend loads of money for a short economic bubble that doesn’t pay off, and doing this mostly in the name of whatever perceived prestige comes from having hosted the Olympics. I think that few people understand just how few craps are given ten years on after the event occurred.

People feel that this puts them ‘on the map’ and ‘in the spotlight.’ It is premium attention whoring for cities. And the Olympic Committee and all these associated organizations enjoy ‘awarding’ the Olympics to places, particularly struggling ones in developing nations & regions these days, as some sign of benevolence.

But let’s not forget that all they are doing is causing massive building surges that serve nobody but the elites in truth and only cause tax hikes put on the shoulders of the citizens — and there is many a Brazilian who will attest to its senselessness:

Meanwhile, mega sports projects such as the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup (to which Brazil has already spent over 7 billion reais and with total expected cost of over 32 billion reais, equivalent to three times South Africa’s total in 2010, despite only half the stadiums being finished),[40] as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics, have turned out to be over-budget, and have resulted in a series of revelations about gross overbillings and multi-billion dollar financial scandals.[42]

Wikipedia

But overall it appears that London has the right idea and that there is a movement to build more temporary structures:

“It was like a building site while they were doing it. It was like a holiday park when it was on. And when they’re all gone, it’s like the circus has left town,” says Bob Sweeney, the CEO of DC2024, a group bidding to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Washington, D.C.

He says the London games also perfected an existing concept: temporary facilities.

“Their basketball venue was a brilliant example of steel construction, high-quality interior, wrapped in plastic, and it was immediately taken down after the games. It was about a third of the cost of building a permanent construction project for the games,” he explained.

(aforementioned VOA article)

It would seem that the only logical way of doing the Olympics would be in one that is meant to host it in the most temporary fashion…

The age of building massive showcase stadiums and structures are over. Perhaps the only reason why these things seemed to fly in places like Seoul was because the country had relatively poor infrastructure leading up to the event, making the development a much needed gift to the people. Many of the facilities are still in use in Seoul, and perhaps a few other random cities out there…

But the idea of building massive new facilities in every place that it becomes hosted is an increasingly foolish idea. Especially considering that if Beijing cannot fill their facilities, how can Sochi be expected to do so?

Do not get me entirely wrong – I admire bringing the world together through athletics. I think that it is a positive and good thing, and I do understand the notion of the pride that comes with some sacrifice for the cause, some nation footing a portion of the bill, but still it seems to go unnoticed just what a burden it becomes to some places. Pretending that what the average Brazilian needs right now is a massive Olympic or World Cup event also strikes me as absurd considering the general poverty within the states and the massive crime rates that are both unaddressed.

Yet, they pretend these things are like gifts! and not burdens.

Few people gain much from these events — but those few are nearly always elites who will campaign their hearts out to get it.

Irresponsible.

Man Acquitted For Chalk Messages

I enjoy how there was an actual trial for this sort of stuff:

SAN DIEGO – A 40-year-old man was acquitted Monday of 13 misdemeanor vandalism charges that stemmed from protest messages he wrote in chalk in front of three Bank of America branches in San Diego.

Jeffrey David Olson’s attorney argued during the trial — which garnered national attention — that his client was engaging in a legal protest and was not maliciously defacing of property.

Defense attorney Tom Tosdal argued that vandalism law required jurors to find something was “maliciously defaced.”

“His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform,” Tosdal said of his client.

Olson did not deny that he scrawled the anti-bank messages and artwork outside the banks between April and August of last year. The messages included “No thanks, big banks” and “Shame on Bank of America.”

Olson said he started his message campaign because big “Wall Street banks nearly drove our economy into the ditch.”

 10News (ABC)

I am surprised that a message which could be erased could make it so far as to a vandalism charge — especially when this was not placed directly on the banks. It merely goes to show how much influence and how far these banks will go to wield their power against those who step on their toes in the least.

Not to mention: the guy is basically right. The financial sector has been dominated and mismanaged by a cabal of horrific bankers who have little to no regard for the majority of the American people.

What I find interesting about this whole ordeal is the fact that the bankers found it to be so threatening. As if Free Speech itself ought not to be used to question the intentions, the power, the authority with which these people walk around — this is the sort of attitude that just blows your mind: the unbound arrogance.

Discovery Of Monsanto GM Wheat Threatening Exports

What an interesting development:

The discovery of a Monsanto-created, genetically modified strain of wheat in the US that was never approved by the United States Department of Agriculture has imperiled US exports of a staple world food commodity.

Japanese authorities have already opted to cancel part of a tender offer to buy US western white wheat and have suspended imports of both that variety and feed wheat, Reuters reported on Thursday.

“We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today,” Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told the agency.

Japan, the biggest buyer of US wheat behind Mexico, will continue buying hard red winter and spring wheat from the US as well as grains from Canada, which are used for the production of bread and noodles.

However, Hisadome said the government has asked US authorities to provide more details of their ongoing investigation and Japan will stop buying the suspended species of wheat until a test kit is developed to identify genetically modified produce.

There is currently no US approved test kit to identify genetically engineered wheat. The USDA has said it is developing a “rapid test” kit.

Russia Today

I am not sure what it is – this obsession with genetically modified foods that could actually bring much aid to the world. These are things that are often lauded by the “scientifically inclined” who feel that technology is the saving grace of the world. But there is such a rich condemnation for genetically modified food.

However, it is quite a legitimate concern when it turns out that we have unapproved strains popping up in the world which is something that I cannot fully understand, in the least. No doubt, this must’ve been planned in some way by Monsanto — perhaps, during testing some things got out which nobody suspected. I have heard that the practices of this corporation are incredibly unscrupulous — that is a different topic but perhaps it is finally time for the government to legislate on the topic or somehow take some form of action.

US Shale Oil Supply Shock Shifts Global Economy

Big news for anyone who has even a passing interest in economics and the environment — but it is something that we have to digest a bit:

Shale oil production adds economic value, but critics say the costs to the environment are also large
A steeper-than-expected rise in US shale oil reserves is about to change the global balance of power between new and existing producers, a report says.

Over the next five years, the US will account for a third of new oil supplies, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The US will change from the world’s leading importer of oil to a net exporter.

Demand for oil from Middle-East oil producers is set to slow as a result.

“North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

The surge in US production will reshape the whole industry, according to the IEA, which made the prediction in its closely-watched bi-annual report examining trends in oil supply and demand over the next five years.

The IEA said it expected the US to overtake Russia as the world’s biggest gas producer by 2015 and to become “all but self-sufficient” in its energy needs by about 2035.

The rise in US production means the world’s reliance on oil from traditional oil producing countries in the Middle East, which make up Opec (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), would end soon, according to the report.

BBC

This could really change a lot — I wonder how long we have known about the potential for this massive shift?

The impact on the ME and on the environment could be huge as we can now prolong our petrol based economy as well as cause the overall price of oil to go down. Of course, the ramifications are huge in both directions and it would be most appropriate to just stop and digest this…

Medical Repatriation — Why Not More?

I came across this article at random and I was surprised that I had not heard of this before:

As United States hospitals deal with the constant need to cut expensive costs of care, some are choosing “unlawful” deportations of illegal patients in order to save money, according to a new report by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

The report revealed that over the past six years, several organizations have registered over 800 cases of attempted or achieved “medical repatriations” – a term used when a hospital deports an injured or sick immigrant to a different medical facility in their home country without their consent.

According to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, hospitals are required to screen and treat all patients regardless of their health insurance coverage or immigration status – for emergency care.

Once a patient is in stabilized condition, the hospital is technically not required to continue care. However, some hospitals have been deporting illegal immigrants even though the U.S. government is the only authority that can perform this action.

As outlined in the report, medical repatriation is considered a human rights violation mainly because many of these hospitals act as “unauthorized immigration officers.”

Medical News Today

I am just curious as to how the United States will foot the bill for the emergency treatment of immigrants, stabilize them and in apparently many cases continue their treatment as the expense of the US taxpayers and not expect the immigration officers to be alerted and the people to be deported.

Of course, this all goes back to the never ending theme of the US government being utterly disinterested in having a coherent and clearly stated immigration policy. That is what is generally incomprehensible — how we do not even know how we ought to be going about something.

I would maybe not even care so much about illegal immigration if we made it legal, documented and controlled but when we cannot even have people actively working towards the deportation of those who are here illegally… Well, in a word, it is ridiculous.