Tag Archives: Global Development

Soc News – What would you do with £45.5 billion?

NB – I’m moving most of the material on here to my new site – ReviseSociology.com – check it out for everything related to AS and A level Sociology

The £45.5 Billion Dollar Question: what would you invest in?

OK you won’t exactly be able to make it, but here’s a link to an interesting event to be hosted by the World Developmen Movement in Glasgow –

What would you do with £45.5 billion? It’s a lot of money – not far off the GDP of Iraq. £45.5 billion is the amount of taxpayers’ money that the UK Government has given to one single British bank to bail them out. That bank is RBS. And RBS is investing that money in projects that are wrecking the climate and abusing human rights. But imagine what else could be done with £45.5 billion. This interactive event will set you thinking about the power of money and how it can be used to make the world a better, or worse, place.

See http://www.wdm.org.uk/events/wdm-scotland-autumn-events

Marxist commentators would probably call these type of activities for being ‘Utopian’ personally I think think Utopian thought is a useful critical tool

Vulture funds bill blocked by Christopher Chope, MP

OK this is old news – from March, but I’ve been meaning to write on this for ages… only just got round to it!

This item shows you the following

  • For A2 Global Development – this demonstrates the role of the Capitalist class in keeping developing countries poor – this is due to to the inability of the government to regulate a few unscrupulous hedge fund managers.
  • For A2 Crime and Deviance – The power of the elite minority to prevent just laws that the majority believe in coming into force

I first came across Vulture Funds thanks to this article – which is quoted at some length below…

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-we-must-stop-the-vulture-funds-that-feed-on-the-worlds-poor-1789257.html

39779“Would you ever march up to a destitute African who is shivering with Aids and demand he “pay back” tens of thousands of pounds he didn’t borrow – with interest? I only ask because this is in effect happening, here, in British and American courts, time after time. Some of the richest people in the world are making profit margins of 500 per cent by shaking money out of the poorest people in the world – for debt they did not incur.

Here’s how it works. In the mid-1990s, a Republican businessman called Paul Singer invented a new type of hedge fund, quickly dubbed a “vulture fund.” They buy debts racked up years ago by the poorest countries on earth, almost always when they were run by kleptocratic dictators, before most of the current population was born. They buy it for small sums – as little as 10 per cent of its paper value – from the original holder and then take the poor country to court in Britain or the US to demand 100 per cent of the debt is repaid immediately, plus interest built up over years, and court costs.

Let’s look at two examples in two of the countries most aggressively targeted by the vulture funds – Peru, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I spent a week in a gargantuan rubbish dump in Peru 35 miles north of Lima. It is home to more than 5,000 children. Among them I found Adelina, a little eight-year old smudge, living there in a nest she had built from trash. She spends all day searching for something – anything – she can sell. The vulture funds managed to get $58m out of Peru, on a debt they paid $11m for.

Action Aid launched a campaign to prevent vulture funds from suing indepbted developing countries for their money in British Courts – part of whch involved raising public awareness as most people simply don’t know about them! – see here for more details –http://www.actionaidusa.org/what/intl_policy/vulture_funds/

In March 2010, Labour MP Sally Keeble actually tabled a private members bill to prevent vulture funds from operating in Britain. Having just reviewed some old WDM and Action Aid magazines from that month, they had news reports that assumed these vulture funds would be bloked.

25799_jpgHowever, because this bill was brought before the commons just before the general election, if one member objected, it would not get passed – This member was a Torie MP Christopher Chope – It is rare that you find a living example of scum – but here is one – Christopher Chope MP – Doing the dirty work of hedge fund managers in the house of commons while the poorest people suffer.  

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-mp-blocks-bill-targeting-vulture-funds-1920708.html

What is really aweful about this affair is that at the time of the vote on the bill, three MPs actually covered their mouths when the question ‘are there any objections’ to this bill was raised, so other people in the house could not be sure who actually objected, it was only afterwards that Chope came out as being scum.

Chope’s contact details, should you wish to send him a message…

http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/christopher-chope/25799

Westminster

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5808
Fax: 020 7219 6938
chopec@parliament.uk

Constituency

18a Bargates, Christchurch, BH23 1QL
Tel: 01202 474949
Fax: 01202 475548
office@christchurchconservatives.com
www.christchurchconservatives.com

Had this bill gone through it would have been a good example of the state regulating the finance sector – but once again here it fails to do so – and this example shows you the appalling lack of morality amongst some conservative MPs.

Lot number 879

I bought a cup of coffee from the Urban Kitchen earlier today – it had a code – lot 879 -attached to it – so I was able to look up details of where the coffee came from online.

http://www.coffeereal.co.uk/kenya-gethumbwini-estate-aa-lot-no879-p-260.html

How often can you say that about a product! This seams to me as one of the best types of fair trade out there – full information about where the product came from – and no attempt to brand it and associate it with a certain lifestyle – you go into a shop – get a menu which roughly outlines the flavour of the coffee – providing you with the option of looking into the productive processes under which the coffe was produced – and you drink it! No lies, no excess – just fair and simple.

Obviously where the product is fair trade – it is in the interests of the companies invovled to publicise details of the productive process – this is quite the opposite with many TNCs – who spend billions of dollars each year promoting their corporate brands but try to hide from view details of the lives of workers who produce the things that you and I (probably you more than I!) consume in our ignorance.

Perhaps apple should attach details to every ipod or pad outlining the conditions under which their ipods were produced – maybe including the name of one of the ten workers who have committed suicide after working in the aweful conditions in the Chinese factories where they are produced – maybe including the option to contribute to the family of the deceased?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/tenth-worker-at-ipad-factory-commits-suicide-1982897.html

Perhaps Coke should put photos of the farmers who no longer have access to water because their local Coke bottling plant drained all the water to make that aweful beverage? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyFsodVUd-o&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRFyfTnxj80&feature=related

Surely consumers need access to such information in order to make informed choices about the products they buy! And I’m sure there’s some economic theory out there somewhere that market actors require effective access to information in order for the system to work more efectively??

Anyway, the message is – research before you buy – and then buy ethically – and if you can’t give up unethical products completely at least buy less of them or contact the companies and ask them to start treating their workers and neighbours with some respect – you would demand the same of others I am sure!

Karl.

Recommended documentaries – mainly anti-corporate

This is a list of good documentaries – mostly relevant to the module on Global Development and most of them with a broadly anti-capitalist slant. 

Most summaries are taken from the Internet Movie Database

Sweet Crude (2010) Sandi Cioffi – In a small corner of the most populous country in Africa, billions of dollars of crude oil flow under the feet of a desperate people. Immense wealth and abject poverty stand in stark contrast. The environment is decimated. The issues are complex, the answers elusive. The documentary film Sweet Crude tells the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The region is seething and the global stakes are high. http://www.sweetcrudemovie.com/home.php

Capitalism: A Love Story (2010) Michael Moore – examines the impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans http://www.michaelmoore.com/books-films/capitalism-love-story

The Age of Stupid (2009) Fanny Armstrong – A future archivist looks at old footage from the year 2008 to understand why humankind failed to address climate change.  http://www.ageofstupid.net/

The Shock Doctrine (2009) Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom Investigations of “disaster capitalism”, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance. It is worth nothing that Klein removed her name from the film, but due to stylistic differences.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/aug/28/naomi-klein-winterbottom-shock-doctrine

Black Gold (2007) Mark and Nick Francis – Explores the global coffee trade and looks at how unfair trade rules laid down by the WTO hurt farmers in Ethiopia while Corporations such as Starbucks make a fortune. http://www.blackgoldmovie.com/

The Trap: Whatever happened to our dreams of Freedom? (2007) Adam CurtisThe Trap is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom. All three films are available at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-trap/

The War on Democracy (2007) Christopher Martin and John Pilger –  Award winning journalist John Pilger examines the role of Washington in America’s manipulation of Latin American politics during the last 50 years leading up to the struggle by ordinary people to free themselves from poverty and racism. Since the mid 19th Century Latin America has been the ‘backyard’ of the US, a collection of mostly vassal states whose compliant and often brutal regimes have reinforced the ‘invisibility’ of their majority peoples. The film reveals similar CIA policies to be continuing in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. It also looks at the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez despite ongoing Washington backed efforts to unseat him.

Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) Hubert Sauper – A documentary on the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.

 Farenheit 911 (2004) Michael Moore  – Michael Moore’s view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. http://www.fahrenheit911.com/

The Corporation (2004) Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance. http://www.thecorporation.com/

The New Rulers of the World (2001) John Pilger – Explores globalisation, looking at the role of the World Bank, The World Trade Organisation and Neo-Liberalism.