Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter

June 18, 2015

This week: Corruption and power

Corruption – or at least some types of corruption – are much in the news, with the ongoing scandals in the Canadian Senate and the recent U.S. targeting of the Swiss-based football federation FIFA for alleged bribery. In this issue, we look at these and other forms of corruption.

Diana Johnstone writes about the double standards displayed by U.S. institutions, which happily target enemies and rivals, while ignoring the much greater corruption that underlies the power structures in Washington. We feature an article detailing how much money U.S. Senators received from corporations prior to their vote on the TPP negotiations, as well as materials on criminal conduct by some of the world's biggest banks, and an article on the work of investigative journalists in exposing corruption.

Also in this issue is an article on the ethnic cleansing going on at this moment in the Dominican Republic, where are quarter of a million people born in the country are being made stateless. And Adolph Reed asks why the non-news story about Rachel Dolezal, a woman who identifies as black and whose parents don't approve of her doing so, has attracted so much passionate comment. He specifically asks why many of those who approve of transgender identity choices are so disapproving of transracial identity choices.

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Topic of the Week: Corruption

The Connexions Subject Index features resources on many different forms of corruption, such as:
- the corruption of politicians and governments by corporate money;
- privatization: where public assets are turned over to private interests at a fraction of their true value;
- the subversion of journalistic ethics to accommodate advertisers and media owners;
- the corruption of law enforcement and the justice system, where blacks, Native people and the poor are much more likely to be harassed, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to longer sentences;
- behind-the-scenes collusion by government, law enforcement agencies, and corporations to target environmentalists, First Nations, and others who resist resource extraction industries.
Explore these issues at www.connexions.org/CxLibrary/Corruption-17065CX.htm

This Week on Connexions.org

Playing Hard Ball with Soft Power

The United States claims the right to impose its laws on other countries and on organizations and individuals in those countries. It claims the sole right to decide what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The U.S. mostly ignores the rampant corruption in and around its own government and corporate sector, while going after rivals and enemies in other countries. A recent example is the prosecution of the Swiss-based football federation, FIFA, for alleged bribery. Is bribery only bribery when it is secret? What about the American electoral system, which has a much greater effect on the world than football games? What about an electoral system in which billionaires can openly "fix the game" thanks to perfectly legal campaign contributions? Read More

Keywords: Bribery - Double Standards

Here's how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill

Members of the U.S. Congress were showered with money by multinational corporations prior to voting to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "fast track" legislation without debate. The TPP is being created to allow corporations to increase their power and profits. Read More

Keywords: Campaign Financing - Corporatons/Influence on Government

Biggest criminals write laws that make their crimes legal

A Costa Rican journalist describes the bribery and corruption investigation she worked on which led to criminal charges against two former presidents. She notes that the biggest criminals have the power to write laws that make their crimes legal. Read More

Keywords: Corruption - Investigative Journalism

Six Banks Pay $5.6 Billion in Fines for Foreign Exchange Manipulation

Six major international banks – Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) – have agreed to pay $5.6 billion in fines for rigging global foreign exchange markets. Four of the six have pleaded guilty to criminal behaviour. These banks number among a total of 15 that are being investigated for rigging the $5.3 trillion global market. Just four of the 15 together control over half the foreign-exchange market. Read More

Keywords: Banking Industry - Corporate Crime

Dominican Republic being 'Socially Cleaned'

This week about a quarter of a million people in the Dominican Republic are being made stateless. They will have no homes, no passports, and no civil rights. There are several reasons for this, but the primary reason is racism. At issue is a ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic to strip away the citizenship of several generations of Dominicans. According to the decision, Dominicans born after 1929 to parents who are not of Dominican ancestry are to have their citizenship revoked. The ruling affects an estimated 250,000 Dominican people of Haitian descent, including many who have had no personal connection with Haiti for several generations. Read More

Keywords: Dominican Republic - Ethnic Cleansing

From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much

Adolph Reed asks why the non-news story about Rachel Dolezal, a woman who identifies as black and whose parents don't approve of her doing so, has attracted so much passionate comment. He specifically asks why many of those who approve of transgender identity choices are so disapproving of transracial identity choices. According to Reed, "When all is said and done, the racial outrage is about protection of the boundaries of racial authenticity as the exclusive property of the guild of Racial Spokespersonship.... That is to say, as is ever clearer and ever more important to note, race politics is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism. It is the expression and active agency of a political order and moral economy in which capitalist market forces are treated as unassailable nature." Read More

Keywords: Identity Politics - Race & Class

People’s History

The Magna Carta

On June 15, 2015, King John of England gave in to pressure from the English barons and reluctantly signed the Magna Carta ("the Great Charter"). The Magna Carta states that freemen have certain rights and liberties which even the king may not infringe. Among the Magna Carta's important provisions is the guarantee that no freeman may be imprisoned or punished without due process. The rights in the charter apply only to a privileged minority, but nonetheless they mark a victory because they establish the principle that the king's power cannot be used arbitrarily to violate established rights and liberties. According to historian Peter Linebaugh, the author of The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, the Magna Carta, along with the lesser-kownn Charter of the Forest that accompanied it, was important because it recognized the commons and protected the rights of the poor to use it to earn their own livings.

Further reading:
Peter Linebaugh: Magna Carta Manifesto - http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/magna-carta-manifesto
Noam Chomsky: Destroying the Commons: How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta - http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175571/tomgram%3A_noam_chomsky%2C_the_great_charter%2C_its_fate%2C_and_ours

Keywords: Civil Liberties - The Commons

From the Archives

The Hillcrest Mine Disaster

One hundred and one years ago, on June 19, 1914, the worst coal mining disaster in Canada occurred in Hillcrest, Alberta. Shortly after 9 am, a explosion ripped through the Hillcrest Coal Mine. 189 men died, either in the explosion, or as a result of the deadly gases that filled the mine afterwards.
One book has been published about the disaster: Canada's Worst Mine Disaster, by Frank W. Anderson, published by Frontier books in 1969; revised 1980.
For more information on the Hillcrest Minder Disaster, see http://coalminersmemorial.tripod.com/hillcrestminedisaster.html and http://hillcrestminedisaster.com/

Keywords: Coal Mining - Workers' History

Website of the Week: Global Witness

Global Witness works to expose corruption and environmental abuse. They believe that the only way to protect peoples' rights to land, livelihoods and a fair share of their national wealth is to demand total transparency in the resources sector, sustainable and equitable resources management, and stopping the international financial system from propping up resource-related corruption. The Global Witness team engages in undercover investigations, financial research, and information gathering on the ground, in cooperation with partners and activists in various countries. They say "exposure is not enough: our goal has always been to achieve system-wide change that will starve corrupt dictators and warlords of looted funds, stop brutal resource-driven conflicts, and protect the planet's natural assets for the benefit of all." Visit Global Witness here.

Keywords: Corruption - Environmental Crime

Book of the Week: The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen

Theodore Allen's two-volume study on the history of racism in the United States (Volume One: Racial Oppression and Social Control; Volume Two: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America) debunks the myth that race and skin colour are the same thing. His study sets out to show that race is a social construct; that the introduction of racial oppression was a deliberate ruling-class decision; and that the propertyless classes in the United States were recruited into an "intermediate buffer control stratum" by being given status and privilege vs. blacks (while being denied real power or significant economic benefits.
Allen writes: "It was in the interest of the slave-labor system to maintain the white-skin privilege differential in favor of the European American workers. At the same time, however, it was equally in the interest of the employers of wage-labor, as well as of bond-labor, that the differential be kept to no more than a minimum necessary for the purpose of keeping the European-American workers in the white race corral... The chains that bound the African-American thus also held down the living standards of the Irish-American slum-dweller and canal digger as well."

Keywords: Race & Class - Racism

Film of the Week: Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

What is a big corporation capable of when it sets out to protect its brand? Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten found out. His 2009 film Bananas!* recounted a lawsuit that 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers brought against the fruit giant Dole Food Company. The film was accepted for showing in the Los Angeles film Festival -- and then suddenly pulled after pressure from Dole. Gertten receives a letter from Dole's attorney threatening him with a lawsuit. What's a poor filmmaker to do when a giant corporation tries to silence him? Gerrten responds by making another documentary: this one about Dole's attempt to silence him and prevent his film from being shown. This second film, Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, is our film of the week. Check it out at http://www.bigboysgonebananas.com

Keywords: Bananas - Censorship

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Connexions Calendar

June 17, 2015

World Day to Combat Desertification


June 20, 2015

World Refugee Day


June 12, 2015

International Widows' Day


June 16, 2015

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture


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Seeds of Fire

June 17, 1789

Third Estate declares itself National Assembly: In France, the members of the Third Estate (the Commons), tiring of the fruitless manoeuvres that have followed the calling of the first Estates General since 1614, take matters into their own hands. They declare themselves the National Assembly, invite the other two estates (the aristocracy and the clergy) to join them if they wish, but make it clear that they intend to start conducting the nation’s affairs with or without them. The king attempts to thwart them by shutting down the Salle des États, but the Assembly moves to a nearby indoor tennis court, where on June 20, they swear the Tennis Court Oath, vowing not to separate until they have given France a constitution.

June 17, 1838

Trail of Tears: The Cherokee Nation, forcibly expelled from their lands in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, begin the 2000-kilometre forced march to the west to Oklahoma later known as the Trail of Tears. An estimated 4,000 Cherokee die en route.This is one of a long series of forced “Indian Removals” in the United States.

June 17, 1953

Workers’ uprising in East Germany: A workers’ uprising erupts in East Germany. It begins when construction workers in East Berlin walk out after being informed of increased quotes and pay cuts. The unrest spreads through the city and other cities and towns in Soviet-occupied East Germany.The uprising is put down by Russian troops assisted by police. More than 500 people die; more than 5,000 are arrested.

June 17, 2006

Popular Assembly of Oaxaca: After a police attack on striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, on June 14, teachers and their supporters build barricades and take over the centre of Oaxaca, and, on June 17, declare themselves Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) (the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). The Assembly includes teachers as well as representatives of Oaxaca’s state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, and cooperatives. It encourages all Oaxacans to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighbourhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns and declares itself “movement of the bases, not of leaders.”

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