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Archive for the 'Revenge' Category

Ready the Fire Extinguishers: The Coca-Cola Olympic Torch is Coming!

Posted by keith on 10th November 2011

The Olympic torch relay does not have an auspicious history. The modern torch relay, as a symbol of local pride enmeshed in the Olympic ideal, was introduced in 1936 to herald the opening of the Berlin Olympics. It was nothing less than a propaganda exercise to show the world the superiority of Aryan athletes over the rest of the world:

It was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence.

The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem, wanted an event linking the modern Olympics to the ancient. The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich, and the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.

The first torch was lit in Greece with the help of mirrors made by the German company Zeiss. Steel-clad magnesium torches to carry the flame were specially produced by the Ruhr-based industrial giant Krupp.

Media coverage was masterminded by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, using the latest techniques and technology. Dramatic regular radio coverage of the torch’s progress kept up the excitement, and Leni Riefenstahl filmed it to create powerful images.

Coca-Cola were there, a friend of Nazi Germany, as a major sponsor proud of its associations with the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and seemingly proud of it’s links with National Socialism and the Third Reich (Coca-Cola Gmbh remained producing throughout World War Two, and even invented a new drink – Fanta – when Coke syrup became unavailable). In 1925 the Coca-Cola Corporation, perhaps naively, produced a watch fob in the shape of a Swastika to represent “good luck”. It has since come to represent something far more sinister; as has the name of Coca-Cola.

The website “Killer Coke” has highlighted some of the abuses carried out by, or in the name of, Coca-Cola over the last few years. The 1936 shame of Coca-Cola’s association with the Nazi regime is no distant, shameful memory; it is kept alive and kicking by the corporation’s continued activities:

Colombia and Guatemala

According to “The Coke Machine,” by Michael Blanding, published in September 2010, “…the union members do look to the lawsuit and the Killer Coke Campaign as the reason they are still alive.”

Some find it unbelievable that human rights abuses — systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder — are occurring at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. But it’s not the first time Coke has committed such atrocities.

In a 1987 booklet, “Soft Drink, Hard Labour,” the Latin America Bureau in London said:

“For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for 13 months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world.

“A huge international campaign of protests and boycotts was central to their struggle. As a result, the Coca-Cola workers forced concessions from one of the world’s largest multinational food giants and kept the Guatemalan trade union movement alive through a dark age of government repression.”

The kind of violence directed against labor leaders at Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City in the ’70s and ’80s has been happening at Coke bottling plants in Colombia over the past couple of decades and unfortunately is being repeated again in Guatemala.

Turkey

In Turkey, in 2005, 105 workers at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Istanbul joined a union and were terminated. They organized a lengthy sit-down strike in front of the main offices of Coca-Cola in Turkey. After several weeks of protesting, Coca-Cola workers entered the building to demand their reinstatement. While leaders of the workers were meeting with senior management for the company, the company ordered Turkish riot police to attack the workers who were by all accounts peacefully assembled, many with their spouses and children. Nearly two hundred of them were beaten badly and many required hospitalization. Lawsuits are pending.

El Salvador

In addition to abuse of workers, Coke has been involved in the exploitation of children by benefiting from hazardous child labor in sugar cane fields in El Salvador. This was first documented by Human Rights Watch in 2004 and in footage taken in 2007 for a nationally-televised British documentary and highlighted in Mark Thomas’s book “Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola,” published in 2009 in the U.S.

Representatives of the International Labor Organization interviewed company representatives at Colombian Coca-Cola bottling plants in 2008 to ascertain whether they exercised any control of suppliers of raw materials (such as sugar) to ensure that they did not use child labor. The manager at the Coke plant in Cali said that their suppliers should not use child labor, but added “that the enterprise [Coca-Cola] did not yet exercise oversight over this issue.”

India

Of the 200 countries where Coca-Cola is sold, India reportedly has the fastest-growing market, but the adverse environmental impacts of its operations there have subjected The Coca-Cola Co. and its local bottlers to a firestorm of criticism and protest. There has been a growing outcry against Coca-Cola’s production practices throughout India, which are draining out vast amounts of public groundwater and turning farming communities into virtual deserts. Suicide rates among Indian farmers whose livelihoods are being destroyed are growing at an alarming rate. Every day for years there has been some form of protest, from large demonstrations to small vigils, against Coca-Cola’s abuses in India.

One target of protest has been the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, which has remained shut down since March 2004 as a result of the community-led campaign in Plachimada challenging Coca-Cola’s abuse of water resources.

The International Environmental Law Research Centre issued a report in 2007 that stated, in part, “The deterioration of groundwater in quality and quantity and the consequential public health problems and the destruction of the agricultural economy are the main problems identified in Plachimada. The activity of The Coca Cola Company has caused or contributed a great deal to these problems…The availability of good quality water for drinking purposes and agriculture has been affected dangerously due to the activity of the Company. Apart from that, the Company had also polluted the agricultural lands by depositing the hazardous wastes. All these points to the gross violation of the basic human rights, that is, the right to life, right to livelihood and the violation of the pollution control laws.”

It is not so much a case of Coca-Cola having hard questions to answer as people realising that this company stand in the unenviable position of being one of the most unethical corporations in history. In May 2012 the London Olympic Torch will begin its long route through the United Kingdom, raising publicity for the Olympics and giving an opportunity for thousands of people to share in the Olympic ideal. The London 2012 website states:

The Olympic Flame will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. It will enable local communities to shine a light on the best their area has to offer – including celebrations of local culture, breathtaking landscapes and dynamic urban areas.

The main sponsor of the Olympic torch is Coca-Cola. In 2011 the corporation ran a competition to select the young people who would bear the torch on its way around the country; in essence, if you wanted to bear the torch then you had to bare your soul to the Coca-Cola Corporation. The competition contained the following, stomach-churning propaganda, not a million miles away from the same propaganda that Joseph Goebells utilised so effectively in 1936:

The Olympic Flame is coming to the UK in 2012, and for the eighth time, Coca‑Cola will be a Presenting Partner of the Olympic Torch Relay. The route will stretch the entire length of the country, starting at Land’s End on May 19th 2012, and finishing in the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27th 2012. We’re using our involvement to shine a light on young people across the UK, and celebrate the great things they get up to every day.

Through our Future Flames campaign, we’ll be giving young people who are using their passions to inspire others the once-in-a-lifetime chance to carry the Olympic Torch next year.

Enough! It’s time we had another way of looking at the Olympics and opposing the way it and the torch relay has become a corporate party; a way that reflects the Olympic ideal, “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”.

So how about being a Future Rebel? Young people who agree with the Olympic ideal, but disagree vehemently with the corporate ties that the modern Olympics are so ravenously embracing. These corporate ties are so embedded that if you so much as bring a soft drink into an Olympic stadium that isn’t made by the Coca-Cola Corporation you will, at best, have it confiscated, and at worst be refused entry. Now I don’t really care whether I can take my choice of soft drink to an Olympic venue – I won’t be attending because of the sheer scale of commercialism. But I do care about the drowning of the ideas of friendship, solidarity and fair play in the tide of commerce. If you are in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, then as the Olympic torch passes through your neighbourhood I would love a band of people to be there, at every corner, on every street, subvertising the sponsors with alternative images; telling the press, radio and television reporters how commercialism is destroying childhood, sport and life in general; and generally pouring water on the brands that have come to dominate every aspect of our lives.

Or, for that especially ironic touch, you could use something other than water.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Exposure, General Hypocrisy, Human Rights, Sabotage, Subvertising | 1 Comment »

Moving Planet Just Moved!

Posted by keith on 23rd September 2011

Symbolic action sucks!

Have a look at the other side of Moving Planet and the environmental mainstream at www.moving-planet.com

Posted in Exposure, NGO Hypocrisy, Subvertising | No Comments »

English School Embraces iPads, Apple and Techno Brainwashing

Posted by keith on 30th August 2011

There is a rule in civilized society that goes something like this: Whenever something is compulsory then it must have something wrong with it. We see it all the time, in the school system and it’s one-size-fits-all approach to child indoctrination; in the application of statutory rules that are essentially corporate policies; in the forced registration and noting of people and everything associated with them – compulsion is rampant within civilization because if it weren’t then people might do whatever they liked, and that would be a terrible blow to the economy and the power of the ruling minority.

Such is the micro-management taking place in every aspect of our lives, that it comes as little surprise when a new compulsion is introduced, and a great surprise when any genuine freedom is granted. One such new compulsion, or so it seems, that only briefly caused a ripple – and then possibly only because of a fear of increased access to pornography – was a new scheme introduced by Longfield Academy in Dartford, Kent. Essentially, every student (of state-sponsored indoctrination) will be given an iPad, which would be used to, in the school’s own words: “revolutionise learning in the new Academy and at home”. There is little about this idea that doesn’t make my skin creep, and the creeping becomes more intense as you delve deeper into the details.

The otherwise abhorrant Daily Mail was refreshingly candid in the headline to the story that broke in July, 2011: “School orders parents to buy their children a £600 iPad2″. It went on:

A school came under fire yesterday for forcing its parents to buy a £600 iPad2 for their children. Teachers at Longfield Academy, in Dartford, Kent, have succumbed to the current technology trend and are bulk-buying 1,400 of the touchscreen computer tablets made by Apple. From September the school will require all pupils to have one and are installing interactive whiteboards that link to the iPads.

Parents will have to splash out £16 a month, for three years, for the iPads – equivalent to £576. The total cost to parents at the school will be a staggering £806,400. The move by Longfield, a school for pupils aged 11 to 18, is the first of its kind in England, but hundreds of schools could follow suit as it has been revealed that some 500 are poised to adopt a similar scheme with digital education charity, e-learning Foundation.

Experts yesterday criticised Longfield for piling pressure on cash-strapped parents to pay for the ‘toy’. They questioned the school’s desire to use iPads as an educational tool – saying they were more suited to watching movies, surfing the internet and playing music.

And they warned that it will lead to an increase in the number of pupils viewing porn.

Education expert Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: ‘This school is jumping on the “cool” bandwagon. It’s after cheap headlines. It should instead be focusing on the quality of education it provides. The school is shamefully giving parents the impression that buying an expensive iPad is in their child’s long term interest. In reality parents are being asked to invest a small fortune in something that is little more than a toy and hugely associated with the viewing of porn.

Longfield’s decision to teach all pupils with an iPad is the first of its kind in the England.

To be honest the “porn” issue is a moot point – people will view porn whenever and however it is available, so long as it remains available, so the iPad is no worse than any other technology on this point. On every other point, though, it is clear that the scheme does nothing but feed the technological obsession of the school system while lining the pockets of Apple Computer. This latter point is made clear via the school’s own newsletter, all about the scheme, which explained:

On the 30th March two parents events were carried out where the vision for the scheme was outlined and the iPad project
manager from Apple demonstrated the educational applications of the device.

Going on to answer the revealing question, “Why are we going to use Apple only?” with a trite explanation pointing to “life expectancy” and “creative and collaborative work”, conveniently skipping over the idea that Open Source or even other commercial offerings have much the same capabilities. But that’s not the point. Apple appears to have benefitted perhaps accidentally from this decision but then been called in to ensure the technology becomes binding. Brand loyalty is what all corporations love best, and what better way to seal brand loyalty than to make your brand ubiquitous in a (to all intents and purposes) compulsory “learning” environment?

Apple love this lots, as you can see from their Youth Programs, offering among other things:

Youth Workshops
From composing a song in GarageBand to building a photo album to creating a compelling Keynote presentation, our Youth Workshops offer families with kids (ages 6 to 13) a chance to work together to hone their Mac skills and use iLife and iWork applications to complete exciting projects. We offer the free workshops at Apple Retail Stores worldwide.

Field Trip to the Apple Store
Take your students on a Field Trip to an Apple Retail Store for an unforgettable learning experience. On their Field Trip, students can create something amazing right on the spot. Or they can bring in a project they’ve already created and turn our store into a theater, sharing their achievements with parents, teachers, and friends. No matter which option you choose, everyone will have a great time.

and the exceptionally immersive:

Apple Camp
Lights. Camera. Camp. Nothing beats Apple Camp for a fun summer activity for your kids. This summer, kids ages 8-12 will learn the ins and outs of iMovie and how to make a film in about the time it takes to watch one. The free workshop, held at the Apple Retail Store, spans three days and leads up to an Apple Camp Film Festival where campers debut their masterpieces.

So by falling for the latest retail obsession, no doubt helped by the fact that it is run by the Leigh Academies Trust (motto “Act Enterprisingly. Work in Partnership. Achieve Excellence.”), Longfield Academy has allowed Apple to influence a significant part of the lives of the young people whose care it has been entrusted with. By further making the iPad a home/school deal then Apple gets to eke its way into the private lives of these same young people who without the iPads may have (horror of horrors!) decided to spend some time away from technology when they get home rather than being gripped with the ubiquity of computerisation.

I can’t finish off this noxious tale without linking to a video produced by (some of) the students of Longfield. What is really frightening is that they really think this is a good thing…


UNDERMINING OPPORTUNITY

Are you a student at Longfield Academy? Do you like being brainwashed by the technocracy and the so-called “education” system? Well, first I think it would be fair to refuse the iPad – just take it back, if you have it, or if you are today’s new intake (yes, term starts today, at the time of writing) then refuse it in the first place. Legally, no school can force you to accept the iPad; less still can they make you pay for it – they would be in breach of tax rules and subject to ferocious fines from HMRC if you were forced to pay.

And how about a nice bit of subvertising? Maybe you have an art project coming up, or perhaps something in media studies. How about taking the beloved Apple logo and turning into something a lot more truthful – perhaps a worm coming out of its rotten core, or some slave labour overseen by a grinning Apple?

Some good examples of subvertising here: http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/subvertising-gallery/, to adorn the toilet walls, or even the art room :-)

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship, Subvertising | No Comments »

Dispatches: Conservation’s Dirty Secrets

Posted by keith on 21st June 2011

JUST-WATCH-THIS…

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od#3201652

Dispatches reporter Oliver Steeds travels the globe to investigate the conservation movement and its major organisations. Steeds finds that the movement, far from stemming the tide of extinction that’s engulfing the planet, has got some of its conservation priorities wrong.

The film examines the way the big conservation charities are run. It questions why some work with polluting big businesses to raise money and are alienating the very people they would need to stem the loss of species from earth.

Conservation is massively important but few dare to question the movement. Some critics argue that it is in part getting it wrong, and that, as a consequence, some of the flora and fauna it seeks to save are facing oblivion.

Long term it can also be viewed on YouTube via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUwYZSwSLY0

More information about Conservation International’s activities can be found at http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/877241/conservation_international_agreed_to_greenwash_arms_company.html

More information about WWF’s capitalist addiction can be found at http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/partners/corporate/index.html. You can make your own mind up about the motivation of the various businesses.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups, Exposure, Funding, Human Rights, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

I’m On The Run

Posted by keith on 7th June 2011

Actually I’m not. It would have been quite exciting to have been writing a blog from an internet cafe somewhere, or hijacking a wireless connection outside an office building, but it seems I am safe and snug in my home completely bereft of law enforcement officers hammering at my door demanding I complete the 2011 Census. Following on from my public announcement that I would be breaking the “law” (actually breaching the terms of the Census Act, as they aren’t allowed to call it a law) there was a mixture of wholehearted support, denial that the census was anything but an important social tool, and personal appeals to just fill the damn thing in.

As expected I received a few visits from the census taker, a very nice lady in her 50s, I would say, who continued to follow the official line regardless of what I said, although towards the end I did sense that she felt she would rather be somewhere else than at my door listening to various problems I had with the execution of the census. What emerged prior to census day really sealed my position though. It turned out that, during an experimental testing of the census materials, I couldn’t get the envelope to stick down. After all the claims of security on the Scotland’s Census website with regards to CACI (UK) Ltd, they couldn’t even use proper envelope glue, effectively making the act of posting the census form a security failure in itself. It wasn’t just me – of the four people I asked in Scotland, two of them had already noticed this, one had stuck their envelope successfully, and one hadn’t checked. As the two people weren’t even that local to me then I have to assume the problem was more widespread than just my local office.

This I passed onto the Census Office, my local MSP, my MP and a couple of newspapers. The resulting publicity over this complete balls-up was…zero. It seemed that the census was sacrosanct and nothing would be allowed to cast a pall over its exulted status – especially given the amount of money and airtime being utilised telling people that the MUST FILL IN THE FORM. A £1000 fine loomed, so we were all told.

After the second note of non-compliance had been put through my letter box, I bumped into the census taker outside my gate. The conversation went something like this:

“Have you filled in your census form yet?”

“No.”

“You do know that you have to fill it in or you will get a fine.”

“Yes.”

And I walked off to buy a local paper.

The next time I met the census taker was on my doorstep. She was a bit less smiley than usual. I explained that this was nothing personal but I would not be filling in my census form until the Census Office had explained how they were going to deal with the likely security breaches resulting from the failure of the envelopes to seal, and that I had absolutely no confidence in their ability to keep confidential data from a military contractor given that they couldn’t even keep their data safe from casual sorting office glances. This was noted, and that was the last time I ever saw her.

I expected a formal letter soon afterwards. None came. It has been six weeks since the Census was supposed to have been filled in. According to the Census Web Site, this is the compliance process:

1. Your census taker (enumerator) will visit to remind you to complete the questionnaire and offer help and advice to do so. If you’re out, they will leave a reminder card.

2. If the questionnaire is still not with us after seven days, your census taker will visit again and, if you’re out, will leave a second reminder card.

3. If you refuse to take part, that information will be forwarded to the census non-compliance team.

4. You will be sent a warning letter from the Registrar General Duncan Macniven. Warning letters are also issued to people who publicly state that they refuse to fill in a census and/or encourage others not to.

5. You may also be visited by census non-compliance officers and your case may be referred to the Procurator Fiscal. Successful prosecutions will result in a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.

No letter, even though I publicly stated my refusal to fill in the census, and encouraged others not to do so. No visit from non-compliance officers. Nothing.

I am very disappointed; I wanted a fight, in court, and in public. It would have been a great pleasure to explain to the media and the courts that despite my calls to the Census Office and my so-called representatives, no public statement was made, not even the pathetic “You could stick it down with tape” one official respondant suggested, with regards to the impending security breach. I would have loved to have got the Census Office to publicly state that despite not even being able to source a decent glue we should still trust our personal information to a company that used state privilege to escape prosecution for repeated human rights violations.

If it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

Posted in Cover Ups, Exposure, Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 2 Comments »

350.org on Facebook: Now You See It…Now You Don’t

Posted by keith on 8th April 2011

Naomi Klein decided to join the board of 350.org. They are delighted, as you would be if one of the world’s most influential anti-capitalism writers joined your campaign.

Obviously this puts Naomi Klein’s writings in a whole new focus – she’s happy to be part of an organisation that received its seed money from a foundation that bears the name of the kinds of business empires she railed against in the Shock Doctrine. She’s happy to be part of an organisation that has recently forsaken its grass-roots members in favour of business partners in order to add a bit of money to its empty coffers.

They are happy, so they put something on their Facebook Page to say so. Not surprisingly the fans were also delighted and started posting gleefully, as they do on everything to do with 350.org.

Then someone posted a link to my previously mentioned article – it didn’t quite gel with the self-congratulatory sense of the rest of the comments, but criticism is criticism and 350.org are surely big enough to cope with a bit of that:

Apparently not. Within a few minutes the link was removed. Someone alerted me to this and I posted a comment asking why the link had been removed, and whether their recent merger with 1Sky was not just a way of saving money.

That post disappeared as well, as did the post of the person who originally alerted me to the link.

Then 350.org commented back, which you can see in the image below, along with the absence of the two posts being referred to:

That response in full:

“Hey Rachael and Keith. I’m a 350.org FB admin — and didn’t delete any comments, except the sudden notes you left accusing 350.org of deleting comments (could you have re-posted your criticism?) We do moderate comments, and will un-publish ones that are divisive, or seek to draw people into movement in-fighting. We don’t have time for that anymore. Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course, and need it to keep evolving. Thanks.”

I highlighted a key phrase here – “Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course” – in view of the next move by the 350.org administrators. They blocked both me and my contact from commenting further on the Facebook page. Not content with censoring anything that looked like dissent they decided to lock out any dissenters entirely, in case their rose-tinted views might be damaged in any way.

The following email has been sent to 350.org. I await their response:

Hi Guys

Well done for the brave move in banning people from your Facebook group. Glad to see that the merger with 1Sky is making you even more keen to avoid any kind of criticism rather than engage with the criticisms of symbolic action and working too closely to businesses.

Don’t worry, though, because the original screen captures of posts you deleted and people you banned are still available and will be appearing on a few websites soon.

I think it’s safe to say you ran out of money even with your appeals to business, which is why you have been forced to recombine with 1Sky. Call it a tactical retreat if you will, but I think there are a growing number of people who recognise that writing letters to senators and forming pretty pictures out of tee-lights isn’t really the way to undermine the planet killing system that’s loving every “action” that leaves them unscathed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb9JdH6sU1Y – the industrial system must be really crapping itself with this kind of hardline stuff.

Cheers

Keith Farnish
www.unsuitablog.org
www.timesupbook.com

Posted in Exposure, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 10 Comments »

Switch Your Lights ON for Earth Hour!

Posted by keith on 24th March 2011

Earth Hour Sucks tower block

Once upon a time there was just greenwash: corporations and governments went to great lengths to convince a concerned public that they were doing everything they could to help the natural environment return to its former glory. All the time they were filling their bank accounts and pumping up their career prospects. You could be green and profitable and no one would suspect the former was nothing but a lie.

Then the non-profits got involved and things started to become complicated. Partnerships were drawn up between the biggest “environmental” NGOs and the most destructive corporations on Earth, all for a tiny sliver of the corporate pie, and a large wad of environmental fuzziness. The corporations looked good; the NGOs got their funding; the planet continued to fry and die.

And then it went even further. Greenwash became partnership became parody as the NGOs fully embraced both the corporate world and the trivial activities they put forward as symbols of their committment to a better world. And a better world it would be: if all you cared about was making money, that is.

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us, and it stands as the ultimate parody of this great coming together of all that is evil in the world of greenwashing. I don’t use the term “evil” lightly. A person cannot be evil; an action can. Earth Hour is evil because it not only allows corporations, politicians, urban sprawls and industrial monoliths to look good in the eyes of a naive public, it actively attacks genuine attempts to try and undermine the very things that feed off Earth Day. An ordinary person in the thrall of industrial civilization cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of a thousand buildings simultaneously switching off their lights in the name of planet Earth; how can something as mundane as building non-dependent communities compete with such glamour.

How can supergluing the valves on the Las Vegas fountains compete with the casinos on the strip switching off their lights for an hour?

How can setting up a community barter scheme compete with Canary Wharf in London switching off its lights for an hour?

How can creating food self-sufficiency compete with Sears in Canada switching off or dimming its lights for an hour?

How can groups of people finding that time spent embracing their local environment rather than jetting across the world compete with Skycity in New Zealand switching off its lights for an hour?

Well, exactly. It’s bullshit, all of it!

And that is why, for Earth Hour 2011, at 8.30pm on Saturday 26th March, if you are doing nothing more important then switch all your lights on. Every single one.

You might have to fight with that part of you that says, “This is wasteful!” but you need to fight it. That one hour spent consciously doing the exact opposite of what the industrial system would like you to think is the right thing to do is what will help cut that link between the machine and your own individual humanity.

Earth Hour is Evil.

SWITCH ON YOUR LIGHTS ON MARCH 26TH.

Posted in Campaigns, Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage, Symbolic Action | 22 Comments »

UK Census 2011: Why I Will Be Breaking The Law on March 27, 2011

Posted by keith on 28th February 2011

On Sunday March 27, 2011 I will be breaking the law.

If you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then I would also like you to break the law. We can do it together, and I know for a fact that an awful lot of people will be doing the same.

The UK Census 2011 is being held on that date, and everyone is expected to have their details recorded and sent back to the government for processing. Except it won’t, because it is not the job of the government to do the processing – and that is the key to why I will be breaking the law.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Census data will be recorded and processed by one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. In Scotland the Census data will be recorded and processed by a company wholly owned by a military services contractor. The following extract from the 2011 Census Security Report puts the two contractors in context:

The review team are aware that this has been a matter of public interest and note that the use of UK and EU subcontractors places Lockheed-Martin UK at arm’s length from the data gathered in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Once the data capture infrastructure has been completed. there will be a ‘scrubbing’ stage in which all routes of access for Lockheed-Martin UK employees will be removed and the Census Ofices will formally assume control, with Steria, an EU company, undertaking the necessary data management and administrative functions. There have been public assurances that the contractual arrangements have been structured to ensure that only sub-contractors registered and based in the UK, and either UK or EU owned, will have access to personal census data. No Lockheed-Martin staff (from either the US parent or UK company) will have access to any personal census data. The approach adopted by GROS [General Register Office for Scotland] has been similar, and GROS will play a major role in controlling access to the infrastructure used for processing data supplied in the 2011 Census. It is a condition of the contract with CACI (UK) that personal census information will not leave the UK. GROS have confirmed that CACI (UK)’s sub-contractors with access to 2011 Census data have no US links and that the Act, therefore, does not apply to them. GROS have also given public assurances on contractor confidentiality in this area.

It is important to note that under Patriot Act rules, any data processed by a US company for any reason can legally (under US law) be utilised for the purposes of National Security. In the case of the UK Census it is of great interest to National Security who has whatever name, living in whatever place, having whatever religious beliefs, holding whatever passport and having whatever country of origin (and maybe staying in whatever country for more than 30 days a year). This information is being collected, and there is nothing any foreign government can do to legally stop the US government and its agencies from using that data if the data gets into the US-based processing facilities of either Lockheed-Martin or CACI International Inc.

This fact has been recognised by the Office of National Statistics, revealed in a startling passage:

Concerns expressed about the possibility of the US Patriot Act being used by US intelligence services have been addressed by a number of additional contractual and operational safeguards. These arrangements have been put in place to ensure to that US authorities are unable to access census data.

The ONS know they have no legal powers to prevent the access to data, so they are merely going to try and do their best to make sure it can’t happen. Yeah, right!

And that isn’t even the major issue. As mentioned above, both of the companies involved in gathering and carrying out the initial data processing are involved in providing arms (in one case) and services (in both cases) to military operations.

The Office of National Statistics has awarded the England, Wales and Northern Ireland contract to Lockheed Martin, one of the largest arms companies in the world. From their own website:

While a pilot engaging an enemy in armed conflict is a defining moment, air power is more than just aircraft. Air power includes actual aircraft, training, focused logistics, munitions, and even targeting and navigation systems – all the interconnected pieces necessary to complete their missions successfully. Lockheed Martin is a global leader in the design, manufacture and support of military aircraft.

Lockheed Martin provides high altitude airborne reconnaissance that includes state of the art imagery sensors that collect intelligence in all weather and light conditions. This enables the warfighter to download and transmit data in real time via satellite to multiple ground stations and other manned and unmanned aircraft around the world.

The General Register Office for Scotland has awarded the Scotland contract to CACI (UK) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CACI International Inc. From their own website:

In support of DISA CACI also provides global net-centric solutions to our nation’s warfighters under all conditions of peace and war. CACI is the predominant IT services provider supporting a highly sensitive DISA agency that designs, operates and maintains presidential communication systems. CACI integrated computer network security solutions that formed a network which the National Security Agency (NSA) evaluated as one of the most secure government IT networks in the U.S.

Missile Defense Agency (MDA) – As the market leader in contracting and acquisition support, CACI has supported the MDA since 1993 by providing complex contracting and acquisition services. CACI’s expertise has been pivotal in evolving and transforming MDA’s mission over many years. CACI’s services are essential to awarding multiple billion dollar missile defense systems and associated services contracts. This cornerstone program has led CACI to become the premier contracting and acquisition support contractor and for the entire DoD and federal civilian marketplace.

Having companies like this deal with public census data is rather like having Monsanto carry out your gardening. They might be able to do the job, but do you really trust them to do the right thing; and do you really feel comfortable paying them to do the job given what they routinely do to the natural ecosystems of the world?

So that is why I will be breaking the law on Sunday March 27, 2011. And that’s why I will be explaining to the census-taker when they come to my door to collect the form that, for both data security and ethical reasons I wish to have no part in the Census. I will not be filling it in.

I know for a fact that I won’t be going to jail, despite what some media sources have been claiming, and I probably won’t even get a fine*; but if push comes to shove, here are some other things I might be trying to avoid giving any satisfaction to the peddlers of blood gathering the data:

1) Spoiling the Census form by making it illegible;

2) Filling in vague data that provides no useful information, but is not false in any way;

3) Filibusting on the doorstep, so that the census-taker runs out of time;

4) Claiming the rights of a Conscientious Objector given the business of the business of the companies involved (particulaly useful if this ever goes to court, for more information read this article).

I don’t think I will be the only person doing this…

— ————

*From the Census Act 1920

Penalties.

(1)If any person—

(a)refuses or neglects to comply with or acts in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or any Order in Council or regulations made under this Act; or

(b)being a person required under this Act to make a statutory declaration with respect to the performance of his duties, makes a false declaration; or

(c)being a person required by any Order in Council or regulations made under this Act to make, sign, or deliver any document, makes, signs, or delivers, or causes to be made, signed, or delivered a false document; or

(d)being a person required in pursuance of any such Order in Council or regulations to answer any question, refuses to answer or gives a false answer to that question;

he shall for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage | 6 Comments »

Interview With Bill McKibben, Winner of Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and Gregory Vickrey, Winner of International Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize

Posted by keith on 24th February 2011

Climate reality writer and activist Gregory Vickrey. (L) ( Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Founder of 350.org, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben. (R) (Photo: Nancie Battaglia /
350.org)

Bill McKibben, Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” (1989), regarded as the first book for a general audience about global warming. He is also founder of the global grassroots climate movement 350.org, which organized what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Most recently, he was the recipient of the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Of this honor, McKibben said:

“I’m a beginner as an organizer; it’s a great honor to be included on this list of people who have changed America for the better. I am deeply grateful to The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute for this recognition of my work. I am even more appreciative that this award is representative of a shared conviction that now is a singular moment in our history for all people of good conscience to come together in defense of the planet. Our work has never been more urgent.”

Gregory Vickrey, Peace of the Action distinguished board member and generally unknown writer and activist, is the author of not a few critiques of environmental organizations, including “Environmentalism is Dead”, likely one of the least read articles on Counterpunch, ever. He has been lucky to work with Cory Morningstar of Canadians for Action on Climate Change; otherwise, he’d be extra-unknown. Most recently, he was the recipient of the $0 Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize. Of this honor, Vickrey said:

“It sucks to be broke and targeted, but what can I do? The entire world is at stake. So few of us stick to our guns and speak the truth about climate change – recognizing it as the greatest crime against humanity in history – I’d hate to cull myself from that group. Even if it meant I could also afford jelly on occasion.”

On that note, I interviewed Bill McKibben and Gregory Vickrey and would like to share our conversation with you.

Mickey Z.: You’ve noted that this award highlights your shift from writer to organizer. Can you tell us more about how and why you made that shift?

Bill McKibben: At some point, it became obvious to me that we were losing badly in the global warming fight, and that one reason was we had no movement. All the scientific studies and policy plans on earth don’t get you very far if there’s no movement to push them. So we’re doing our best to build that – too late and too slowly, but as best we can.

Gregory Vickrey: I think Bill is genuine here. He did realize we are losing badly in the global warming fight – and we still are. It is important to question ourselves when we endeavor to build a movement. In Bill’s case, I think one of the first questions was funding. And that’s can be a dangerous question, especially when one considers the history of the environmental movement, and even recently sees organizations like The Nature Conservancy cutting deals with Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, with the incarnations of what was to become 350.org, we find seed money from the likes of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (think big oil), and we find a pronounced effort to create a brand, rather than a movement – and that strategy was created by Havas, one of the world’s largest marketing firms.

MZ: Of your work, Derrick Jensen has said: “One of the problems that I see with the vast majority of so-called solutions to global warming is that they take industrial capitalism as a given and the planet which must conform to industrial capitalism, as opposed to the other way around.” How do you respond to this critique?

BM: It strikes me that the single biggest variable explaining the structure of the world today is the availability of cheap fossil fuel – that’s what happened two hundred years ago to create the world we know, especially its centralization. I think if we can put a serious price on fossil fuel, one that reflects the damage it does to our earth, then the fuels that we will depend on – principally wind and sun – will push us in the direction of more localized economies. Those kind of changes have been the focus of my work as a writer in recent years.

GV: What strikes me is that Bill did not respond to the question that was asked. What Bill says instead is that we should depend upon the political system that got us into this mess to get us out of it by taxing the crap out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we could elect Bill (or me!) as president and we still wouldn’t get the policy in place to force corporations to kill the carbon economy. Jensen is on point with the quote you provided, and Bill and corporate brand 350.org ignore that part of reality.

MZ: So many people believe they’re already “doing their part,” e.g. recycling, using CFL bulbs, bringing their own bag to the grocery store etc. How do we help them see ASAP that this isn’t even remotely enough?

BM: Well, I think we keep encouraging them to become politically active too, not instead. It’s good to do what you can around your house; and our job is to help people realize that there are ways they can be effective in a larger sphere too. That’s what movements are. And especially with climate change, the feeling that you’re too small to make a difference can be crippling.

GV: This is another arena where Bill has no forthright response at the ready, because he and 350.org are not in the business of systemic change. They believe in green capitalsm, so changing light bulbs is good, recycling is good, etc. See, the “feel good” in recycling allows us to continue consuming at preposterous rates. Changing light bulbs damns us to suffer Jevons Paradox, and corporations love that. So 350.org loves that. Instead, we should be making people aware of reality: our only chance is effective zero carbon emissions, and we must get there in a matter of years. That means dramatic systemic change. That means drastic lifestyle changes. It’s apolitical, in the end, because Mother Nature doesn’t care about having a seat at the table in DC. She doesn’t need it.

MZ: The US Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter, the planet’s top gas guzzler, and recipient of 53.3 percent of American taxpayer dollars. How does your work address this situation and the concurrent “untouchable” status the US military has among the majority of American citizens?

BM: I’m not sure it really does, directly. Indirectly, I think the biggest reason we have the oversized defense that we do is that we rely on distant and unstable sources of energy as the core of our economy. I remember one sign in particular from the early Anti-Iraq-War rallies I went to: “How did our oil end up under their sand?”

GV: Bill’s work doesn’t address militarism at all. We need to drastically cut military spending in order to subsidize systemic change in the short term, and that mechanism is the fastest way to start cutting carbon. You won’t find that on the 350.org website.

MZ: Since 51 percent of human-created greenhouse gases come from the industrial animal food business, are you encouraging people to adopt a plant-based diet lifestyle?

BM: I’ve written time and again that industrial agriculture, especially factory livestock farming, is a bane – not only for its greenhouse gases, but for myriad other reasons. Interestingly, though, scientific data from the last couple of years is leading to the conclusion that local, grasspastured, often-moved livestock, by the action of their hooves and the constant deposition of manure, improve soils enough to soak up more carbon and methane than they produce. (This would explain why, say, there could have been more ungulates on the continent 300 years ago than now without it being a curse to the atmosphere). So there may be hope for meat-eaters as well – but only if you know and understand where your dinner is coming from.

GV: Again, Bill misses the point. Beyond eliminating militarism, we can cut into our carbon budget most drastically and immediately by scrapping the agro-meat industry. In time, Bill’s scenario providing hope for voracious meat eaters may come into effect, but we do not have the time to gradually shrink agro-meats. If we implement a strategy of incrementalism here, we are doomed to suffer the worst effects of climate change.

MZ: Is there a question you’ve always wished to be asked during an interview? If so, please feel free to ask and answer now.

BM: I’ve … done a lot of interviews.

GV: How do we get to zero? In short, the United States, Canada, and Australia must get to zero emission before 2020, with most of the cuts occurring over the next 5 years. Europe, Japan, China, India, and a few other countries must accomplish the same before 2025. The rest of the developing world must accomplish the same before 2030. Even in the best of circumstances, this scenario does not protect us from the feedback loops that are not included in any of the predictive models. But it gives us our best shot. Assuming policy-makers balk at this, we need an all-out global uprising to overcome, overwhelm, and overtake the system, and to be prepared for massive sacrifice. The system and its masters will not be easily returned to the masses. We must give them no choice.

MZ: What do you like to do when not engaged in writing, organizing and activism? What inspires you outside of those realms?

BM: I like to be outdoors – cross-country skiing most of all, or hiking. That’s why I live in the woods. And that’s why it’s tough to be on the road so much organizing. But I love the people, especially the young people, who are my colleagues.

GV: I chase dogs and kids and soccer balls. I succumb to the “need” of college basketball. I wonder where my next meal is coming from.

MZ: How can readers connect with you and get involved with your work?

BM: By going to 350.org and signing up. We spent what little money we had on a website; it works in about a dozen languages, and we think it’s pretty sharp.

GV: People can learn more about Bill’s work here and here. People can go to my website to get in touch and learn more about climate reality; it works in one language – occasionally two when I can manage to get a translator – and it’s pretty sharp considering I still owe the guy who helped me with it some cash. Maybe I can fix him a peanut butter sandwich instead.

Note: The preceding interview is not real. Mickey Z. and Bill McKibben held an interview that may be found here; their sections remain the same. Gregory Vickrey’s sections are a fictitious addition meant to bring the reality of corporate brand 350.org to the fore, and to urge everyone to get serious about climate change. Wake up. Tear down. Rise up.

Posted in Celebrity Hypocrisy, Funding, NGO Hypocrisy, Spoofs, Symbolic Action | No Comments »

Undermining in 2010: How Did I Do?

Posted by keith on 27th December 2010

There is something very human in looking back over a specific period of time and reflecting on what you have achieved, failed in or could just have done a bit better. It’s part of the learning process that civilization discourages, because if we really did look back and reflect upon what really matters to us, then we would – me included – have more than a few regrets as to how little we actually did. All that time spent shopping, watching TV, social networking, being taught pointless bits of information at school so we can end up doing pointless things at work in order that we can shop, watch TV and socially network…a boon for the industrial economy; another nail in the coffin of life.

But among that monotony and technologically-assisted repetition are signs that change is happening: that the system is creaking under the joint pressures of material shortage, financial instability and – how it warms my heart to write this – a determination from formerly benign quarters to no longer take this toxic existence lying down. The impact of WikiLeaks on the psyche of people who previously might have considered freedom of information a luxury, is perhaps the most high-profile indicator of this change; but there are other signs, such as targeted rioting across Europe, an upsurge in on-the-ground direct action in the Americas, and a not-too-insignificant backlash against the mainstream environmental movement’s stubborn intransigence. In parallel with that is the growth of survivalist and anti-civilization groups, and a widespread move towards self-sufficiency.

This is just a tiny taster of what is perhaps a much wider air of discontent with the industrial system, but there is no room for complacency – it is just as likely a reaction to financial hardship, rather than altruistic, or communal, desire; nevertheless, the light of humanity does seem to be flickering back into life.

For my part, I have been involved in a number of external and internal struggles that have manifested themselves in all sorts of unexpected outcomes. The Unsuitablog has provided a frosted window for peering into some of these, and given that I made Undermining the focus of this blog in 2010, I think it only right to explain, as far as I can, how I think I did in this area. As I made clear in the opening salvo of this year-long campaign, being an interested bystander was no longer an option. We all had to, and could do something significant:

“One action a month, by every person who reads The Unsuitablog: that’s a lot of actions that could really drive some terminal nails into the coffin labelled “Hypocrites”, helping to free up the minds of a misled and brainwashed public.”

The rule I set myself was that for every Monthly Undermining Task article posted on The Unsuitablog, I would do at least one of the tasks contained therein. I don’t believe in passing the buck; we all have a part to play, and if dramatic change is to happen we have it within our gift to provide the environment where that change can take place.

January‘s “The Great TV Turn-Off” was the opener, partly because television is such a ubiquitous and usually negative influence on humanity, and partly because I wanted to provide some ideas that everyone could carry through with immediate impact, and without great risk to themselves. After a few forays in local shopping malls with my TV-B-Gone, I decided to upgrade to a high-powered TV-B-Gone model (my first soldering project) that was so effective I had to make quick exits from a number of stores. On Christmas Eve 2010 I discovered, to my delight, that Burger King menus were now on LCD TVs…I didn’t hang around to see the chaos. Sadly I never had a chance to use my Grid Key Switch, but will try my best in the new year.

February‘s “Time To Break The Ads” saw a sudden outbreak of torn billboards in my hometown, along with AdBlock Plus becoming a staple of every computer I tuned up in my work. Again, I wasn’t ever in a position to switch off lit billboards, but did a fair bit of poster “reconfiguration”.

March saw the joint campaign called “Throwing off the Shackles of Debt“, which featured prominently in the ouvres of three writers of far greater significance than myself, creating a huge amount of fuss in one particular place. As a family we, even with a move from England to Scotland, reduced our spending and reinforced our desire never to be indebted. That month I sent a fake press release on behalf of a major retail bank to dozens of radio stations in the UK outlining the bank’s plans to go loan-free. As with most undermining activities, I have no idea whether this came to anything, but on the other hand did it with no comeback whatsoever (partly due to posting the letters in a different part of the country).

In April I targeted the school system, and it’s brainless testing regime in “Sack The SATs“. This coincided with our move to a place that does not have the regime I railed against, but while in England there was time to persuade a few parents not to subject their children to extra-curricular cramming classes, and steadfastly refused to give any time to pre-SATs homework. It was wonderful to learn that a quarter of schools had, for their part, decided to boycott English SATs – a serious blow for the testing regime. Immediately after moving we learnt about the joys of unschooling with one of our children, though haven’t quite got to the point where it’s necessary to take them out of school altogether – they need to make friends, after all.

In May it was time to “Mind Your Language“, for which I took a more analytical approach towards, publishing a major piece on The Earth Blog, which was republished in far more high-profile locations. Subsequently I have been a lot more careful with my own use of loaded words, but not being in more public-facing role there hasn’t been a lot more I could do.

June‘s “It’s The Freeconomy, Stupid!” coincided with the profile raising of the Freeconomy movement, particularly the Guardian’s featuring of Mark Boyle’s work – so I can’t take any credit for that. However, my barter-based computer servicing business has been quite successful, both in terms of work and the number of people in our village taking a renewed interest in bartering and sharing of goods and skills. In the 5 months since the business was established I have worked for: vegetables, the services of an electrician, some shelves, the labour to build a chicken fence, a loft full of sheeps wool insulation, a hand-made scarf and all sorts of knick-nacks that were offered.

July encouraged people to “Escape The Tourist Trap“, but I have watched in dismay as people close to me seem to have taken more overseas holidays, not less; although we have come across an array of neighbours who think close to home (or at home) is the best place for a holiday. For my part, we steadfastly refused to go any further than back to where we used to live, and even paid for a (relatively cheap) holiday next year which included people who might have otherwise gone far further afield. Fortunately for society in general, icy weather and industrial action stopped an awful lot of needless vacations in 2010, which is some comfort.

In August I wanted people to “Crash The Mainstream Environmentalists’ Party“, which saw a major ally in the form of the Cochabamba Agreement that made clear which NGOs were actually on the side of Earth and the people. It turned out that few were – the presence of the Agreement can only make things increasingly uncomfortable for the mainstream. I’m afraid I was distracted from doing anything really effective myself at the time, apart from becoming the bane of the Nature Conservancy Facebook Group, and publishing a few blogs about NGO hypocrisy here; but I have a couple of irons in the fire which will become apparent in 2011.

I was 40 in September. Just thought I’d mention that, and the fact that it just made me more determined to get stuck into things. I started writing a new book all about Undermining, but can’t really put that into the mix until its published. I did take a swipe at the fashion industry in that month, and October, making “Unfashion” the priority. Being a distinctly unfashionable person, there is little more I can do to change things at home, though I am working with a friend who produces goods from scrap and offcuts, and doing my best to imbue everyone with a love of the second-hand. Unfashion is more a state of mind than an activity, but if you fancy taping up any new year sales as a crime scene then be my guest…

The last published MUT was in November. Entitled “The Online Infocrunch” it was a shout-out to everyone with a taste for online activism to subvert and correct the skewed worldview given to us by the internet heirarchy. I have carried out a few subtle corrections to Wikipedia, helped out with a few bits of online subterfuge and – earlier in the year – created my own fake online announcement which made it to the front page (as a refutation) of the target company’s website. To my sheer joy, the company involved later pulled out of the relevant activities, although I probably can’t take much credit for that. I guarantee that more of the same will be happening in 2011.

Finally, I intended the December Monthly Undermining Task to be related to WikiLeaks, with a call for people to help the site, and to leak information wherever possible. Then I got involved in a bit of hard reality, and with the help of a few other people, EnviroLeaks was born. This is ostensibly an extension of the call for information from readers of The Unsuitablog, but with the stakes so much higher now that information leaking has become mainstream news. EnviroLeaks is not a substitute for WikiLeaks: we hope instead it will complement that offering with a more conversational and also targeted approach to environmental malpractice.

2011 may be a bit more barren on the pages of The Unsuitablog due to this and other committments. We all have so much to do – and even if we can’t or shouldn’t write about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Have a great and very active 2011.

Keith

Posted in Exposure, Monthly Undermining Tasks, Reviews, Sabotage, Spoofs, Subvertising, Unsuitablog News | No Comments »