Goodye Gibson Guitars?

This is a  nice example of how the US Federal government is happy to interpret international law to the letter in the case of a small company, whereas it ignores it for larger companies. As a result Jimmy Page may well have to lend Gibson Guitars a helping hand because it might be facing something of a cash flow crisis in coming months –

Three weeks ago a group of agents armed with sub-machine guns raided the Tennessee factories of the guitar-maker, siezing $1 million dollars worth of Indian Ebony and Rosewood. Gibson – a thriving artisan company uses these exotic hardwoods in fretboards etc. because they give a unique tone.

The wood was imported legitimately under US law, but that isn’t good enough for the tough guys of the department of Justice. It turns out that the Lacey Act – a 100 year old law banning the import of endangered materials – requires companies to abide by the laws o other countries too. Gibson may have breached a caluse in India’s legal code which states that all wood exports have to finished by Indian workers.

Gibson of course, can’t realistically be expected to interpret every law of every country successfully, and may now have to close for good.

Thanks to The Week magazine where I read this!

How BP and other oil companies get away with murder….

Tar Sands in Alberta

Do you know where the USA gets most of its oil from – It’s not Saudi Arabia, it’s not South America, not Nigeria – no, its Alberta, Canada, and Dirty Oil is a thoroughly depressing documentary that looks at the devastating environmental and social impacts of tar sands extraction from a region the size of the state of Florida.

Probably the most depressing scene focusses on Fort Chipewyn, a native community who have lived for thousands of years on the Athabasca river, which, according community Elders, had never experienced cancer deaths until, that is, the arrival of tar sands extraction companies such as BP into the vincinity. The community doctor noted a 30% higher incidence in Cancer rates in this community compared to similar communities.

As any scientifically minded person would do, this Doctor started asking questions about why there was such a sudden and dramatic increase in the Cancer rate, and, without even mentioning oil, the provincial government warned him off publisicing the cancer deaths because he risked causing a ‘panic’ over public health, and he was also threatened with having his medical license revoked, so he backed off.

Suspecting the cancer deaths were linked to pollution due to Tar sands extraction, the community then paid for an independent consultant to measure pollution in the river, and he verified that levels were consistent with an increase cancer risk.

The oil companies response was, in addition to the obvious strategy of criticising his researhc methodology, to point out that because the pollution levels in the river had never been measured before Tar sands extraction took place, it was actually not possible to prove that extraction pollution had caused increases in cancer levels – it could just be natural seepage.

The problem with this arguement is, of course, that the Elders testimony that there were no cancer deaths before tar sands extraction, strongly suggests (unless there was some massive environmental shift in the last ten years) that the oil extraction industry is causing pollution that is literally killing people in Fort Chip.  

So here we have a nice example of how a company is legally allowed to murder people – basically all you have to do is to not make it a requirement for a company to do environmental measurements on an area before they pollute it – that way they can get away with murder.

So at the end of the day this is a depressing example of how oil companies can manipulate the political agenda and how crime is socially constructed by the elite – not only does oil money (the local government is set to receive $40 billion in coming years in taxes) shape environmental law (the company doesn’t have to monitor pollution effectively) it also at the end of the day enables companies to kill people in the process of maximising their profit.

Crude – The real cost of oil

This documentary is the story of a lawsuit by tens of thousands of Ecuadorans against Chevron over contamination of the Ecuadorean Amazon.The case, worth $27 billion is one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet.

The Plaintiffs are suing Chevron for damage cause by 30 years of operation in the Amazon between 1960-1990. The plaintiffs claim that Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – spent three decades systematically contaminating one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, poisoning the water, air and land. The plaintiffs allege that the pollution has created a “death zone” in an area the size of the Rhode Island, resulting in increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a multiplicity of other health ailments. They further allege that the oil operations in the region contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples and irrevocably impacted their traditional way of life.

Chevron fights the claims, charging that the case is a complete fabrication, perpetrated by “environmental con men” who are seeking to line their pockets with the company’s billions.

In some respects the film is depressing, in others enlightening – it’s only being fought in Ecuador because Chevron demanded so, after spending 9 years dillydallying in American courtrooms, to get the case moved from the USA to Ecuador.

The film mostly follows the legal team representing the Indians – and it’s a bleak picture – we learn, for example, that the brother of one of them was tortured and  murdered, and we also get see what a drawn out process this legal battle is – most of the time this team looks on the edge of exhaustion – but not as exhausted as some of the people living near Chevron’s oil spills who are suffering from Cancer.

You also get to see and hear from Chevron’s lawyers – who play a cunning game of ‘it’s  not our fault, you have to blame the government that allowed us to drill here’ or ‘OK –  we see that there’s oil here – but how can you prove it’s a result of our drilling processes rather than just natural seepage’? and similarly ‘how can you prove the skin rashes are due to oil and not just poor sanitation’?

The Movie doesn’t conclude, as at the time of production the legal battle was ongoing – but in Feburary 2011 Chevron were found guilty of environmental damage and slapped with a $9 billion dollar fine - only 1/3rd of what the Plaintiffs were asking for.

Chevron of course, rather than pay the fine are fighting back - arguing that the lawyers in the Movie have been engaged in Fraud in that they’v emade false allegations against Chevron, and they hold the state owned oil company of Equador, which took over prodcution since 1990, responsible for the pollution.

This is just about the perfect resource for teaching ‘environmental crime’ in the A2 Criminology course!

Introducing Kweku Adoboli – White Collar Criminal

Nice example of a white collar crime with a huge economic cost –

Former public school boy Kweku Adoboli, son of a former Ghanaian official to the United Nations, appeared in court today on two charges of false accounting and two counts of fraud while working for Swiss investment bank UBS.  The total estimated losses due to his alleged criminal activity stand at £1.5 billion.

Compare this to the cost of the UK riots – estimates range from £100 million - although figures might be higher, they are unlikely to be anywhere near the £1.5 billion that Kweku managed to gamble away.

Of course, keep in mind that these comparisons might be unfair as they don’t tell us about the human cost.

Whether you think the comparisons fair or not, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on how Kweku’s trial progresses – but you’ll have to wait ’til October, oddly enough, it doesn’t look like his trial is being fast tracked like the underlcass rioting teenagers.

Common Criminals?

Can you imagine working for a company that has just 635 employees, but has the following employee statistics? 29 have been accused of spouse abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques, 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses, 3 have done time for assault, 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits, 84 have been arrested for drink driving in the last year – and – collectively, this year alone, they have cost the British tax payer £92,993,748 in expenses! Which organisation is this?

It’s the 635 members of the House of Commons. The same group that cranks out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line. And just to top all that they probably have the best ‘corporate’ pension scheme in the country! If you agree that this is an appalling state of affairs, please pass it on to everyone you know.

Thanks to Brian for forwarding this on and to someone called Dan Pit who he got it from via facebook.!

Happiness is just around the corner and other ‘anti-Capitalist’ cartoons

- Double header of Marxism* coming up in Sociology next week – The Marxist perspective on crime in A2 and intro to Marxism in AS – and here’s some nice cartoons that illustrate the broad marxist critique of Capitalism –

Firstly, an animated cartoon – the rat race –

And the non-animated version

And secondly – from our concerned friends organising this year’s buy nothing day – on November 26th this year!

And putting things in global perspective –


And this should bring a certain Marxist concept to mind – for ‘business man’ read the ‘Bourgeois’ or the ‘Capitalist Class’

*Or at least what the AQA call Marxism – which basically involves teaching it in a very generalised way – in fact anything that is critical of Capitalism and Elites can count as ‘Marxism’ in this context – which means anything from Marxism all the way through to Anarchism comes under the heading. Loose I know – but then again it is just the start…

Related Posts

My Book – Why Western Notions of Happiness are Unsatisfactory and How Buddhism Can Lead to a Deeper Sense of Happiness

Mainly for my own reference – some postcards

The Message – RIP freedom of speach in the UK

This blog post reports how, on 3rd July 2011, twenty-six year old Manchester rapper Yosh was just starting his set at a community event in Rochdale’s Broadfield Park. He asked the crowd “who wants to hear how the police statistically stop more ethnic minorities than white people?”, and launched into The Message, at which point the event organisers cut off his backing track. Yosh tried to continue, but then five police tackled him, grabbed the mic off him, before finally escorting him off the premises.

If you want to download, legally, the entire EP for free – click here

If you just want to listen to the song that got the police were so keen for Yosh not to sing – here’s the link – 03. MESSAGE (OBAMA INTRO)- and you can follow along with the lyrics below (handily transcribed by the blogger mentioned above)

I come to topple the tyrants
Bin Laden isn’t dead
Was never really alive
It’s just another lie
To keep the wool on your eyes
Nick Clegg and Cameron insiders
Fabricating characters to give society a fucking enemy
So they can go about tryna take over steadily
Revolution is the only way
A wake up is needed
I can see the way they deceiving
Coming through the TV it’s trauma-based mind control
So you can live, act and think like a mindless drone
Her Royal Highness who’s sat behind the throne
All-seeing eyes popping up to idolise the glow
Speech patterns – I can hear the lies unfold
And shoot holes in 99% of lies we’re told
Fuck the government
Treat us like we’re nine years old
They’re coming for us
That’s the reason why it’s knives we hold

“Yesterday I saw the popo pulling over three men
For nothing but their skin colour
When will they stop?
Turned a head to see a poster saying ‘vote’
I nearly choked
I know it’s just a sick joke devilish plot
Too many tensions from government intentions
Pensions turning into spends for inventions of warfare
Tell me that I’m wrong to be militant
It’s on cos we’re cashing in promises they’ve given us
To believe that these devils will deliver us
Taxpayers footing the bill for politicians living frivolous
Everybody’s fucked in the budget
Cuts everywhere like we don’t know what the result is
More debt to keep us all enslaved
And more threats to keep the fear engraved
I ain’t hearing the brainwash
I don’t give a fuck how much your chain cost
You’re just another part of the oppressor like J was”

Finally – this blog looks like an interesting source for underground music

Increasing inequality in the UK

Nice post on trends in increasing inequality from the ripped off Brtains blog -

  • The top 0.1 per cent of earners will take home 10 per cent of national income by 2025
  • They will take home 14 per cent by 2030 on the present trajectory.
  • FTSE 100 bosses are paid 145 times the average wage
  • On current trends, this would rise to 214 times by 2020**
  • Corporate leaders have seen their pay quadruple in the past 10 years, while average earnings increased at just 0.1 per cent a year.

**FYI – I knocked up this graph to show you what 214* more than looks like – it looks insulting (based on 2009 figures – 2020 projections)


The public is angry about the yawning gap that has opened up between rich and poor. In an ICM poll for the commission, 72 per cent of those questioned felt that high pay made Britain grossly unequal.

Yet 73 per cent said they had no faith in business or government to tackle excessive pay, and two pieces of evidence support this –

Firstly, the decoupling between pay and company performance – share prices have dropped.

Secondly, although most of the super rich’s returns come from sources other than wages – Osborne’s commitment to scrapping the top rate of income tax also shows how he’s committed to allowing wealth to drift upwards.

Given the government’s unwillingness to act and given the debilitating effects of inequality on a country’s well- being (see the spirit level) – some might argue that UK citizens at this point in history now have the moral right, if not the moral duty, to forcibly take, or failing this, destroy, the wealth of the richest 0.1% of our country. What dyou think?

My top four examples of elites getting away with crime

So in week 2 this term – we look at what the crusty old men at the AQA label the ‘Marxist’ perspective on crime – part of what they say the ‘Marxist’ perspective is involves the Criminal Justice System being unfair – here are four examples that support this view – four examples of elites getting away with crime!

I wish I could say there was some kind of points ranking system that leads to the 1-4, but there isn’t – the ranking’s mainly based on a combination of  harm done, raw cheek, and the extent to which these ‘criminals that aren’t actually criminals’ annoy me.

Yes that's his son - he should've got 10 years just for producing that ponce...

In at number four – achieving its position for the sheer cheek of it – Derek Conway (ex) MP – I know there are more recent examples of the expenses scandals, but this one from a few years ago really stands out – in 2007, an inquiry found that Conservative MP Derek Conway had “misused” parliamentary funds by paying an annual £11,773 salary, plus bonuses totalling more than £10,000, to his younger son Freddie while he was a full-time student in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that the arrangement with Freddie was “at the least, an improper use of parliamentary allowances: at worst, it was a serious diversion of public funds.”  The Commons committee said it was “astonished” by the lack of evidence of any work that Mr Conway’s second son had done in return for the £45,000 in salary. Mr Conway was suspended from the Commons for ten days and required to repay £13,000 of the money.

Mark Thatcher - 'It was just a little coup attempt'

In at number three – It’s ‘Sir’ Mark Thatcher - In 2005 he plead guilty over his involvement in an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. The son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fined the equivalent of US$500,000 (£265,000) and given a four-year suspended jail term. Sir Mark denied any knowledge of the plot, and agreed a plea bargain and will now co-operate with investigators. He admitted breaking anti-mercenary legislation in South Africa by agreeing to finance a helicopter. The businessman said he did not initially know the helicopter’s alleged purpose – that it was to be used in the alleged coup attempt, instead believing it was to be used as an air ambulance. But in his plea bargain statement, Sir Mark says he came to realise the helicopter was to be used for mercenary activities before the deal was finalised.[3]

And at NUMBER two – the case of Union Carbide in Bhopal-

The events surrounding the tragedy at Bhopal, India, provide a good case study of how capitalist enterprises can be supported by the state on a global scale. Union Carbide, an American owned multi-national company, set up a pesticide plant in Bhopal. In 1984, the plant accidentally leaked deadly gas fumes into the surrounding atmosphere. The leakage resulted in over 2,000 deaths and numerous poisonous related illnesses including blindness. Investigations since have revealed that the company set up this particular plant because pollution controls in India were less rigid than in the USA. In Snider’s terms (1993), the Indian State supported such capitalist development in the interests of allowing profits to be made. Marxists would point out that there have been no criminal charges despite the high death and injury toll. They would see the company owners as the true criminals in this scenario. Killed more than 3000 people and caused permanent injury to a further 20 000. The escape of gas was caused by inadequate safety procedures at the plant. No criminal charges have as yet been brought against the plant although it has agreed to pay 470 million dollars in compensation.

Bliare - he operated according to his own rules

At Number one – For sending hundreds of British soldiers to their deaths and being responsible for thousands of innocent Iraqis dying – and well deserving of the top position-  is the Megalomaniac psychopath Tony Bliar - the most notorious war criminal in the history of Britain – for decieving the public into backing (well some of them at least) an illegal war in Iraq.


Of course this is not an exhaustive list – we could add Andy Coulson, the Corporation Shell, and Berlusconi – all deserve top ten positions – but I only had time to do four….