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Science Under Trump – A New Dark Age

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A new video from the Public Health and Social Justice website

Donohoe M. Science and Society in the New Dark Age. Conversations (Populist Dialogues – cable television program). Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQLn8z2yjCg&feature=youtu.be – I believe it is airing on local cable this week. Program is 30 minutes long and covers the nature of the scientific enterprise, how governments and religion have responded to science throughout history, how science is and should be taught, the role of corporations in subverting science, the Trump administration’s war on science, and what scientists/journalists/citizens should be doing.

Other videos can be found on the Videos/TV/Radio page of the public health and social justice website at https://phsj.org/videos-tv-radio/. Feedback and new content always welcome.

Martin Donohoe
http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
http://www.phsj.org
martindonohoe@phsj.org

 

THE GREATEST PUNISHMENT FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT INTERESTED IN POLITICS IS THAT THEY ARE GOVERNED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE. (Arnold Toynbee)

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Human rights: Food for a punishing thought

Human Rights Reader 414

Politics without value-grounded ideas stimulates corruption (Revista Primera Piedra)

 

  1. In its true sense, politics is to be taken as an emancipatory process; in our case of human rights (HR), it calls on fellow colleagues and on claim holders to go beyond their routines to join the political struggle over equality and dignity issues.* Philanthropy (or philanthrocapitalism), on the other hand, is not emancipatory. It acts as a ‘voluntarist invasion’ of what should clearly be the space of political processes.

*: I acknowledge though that not everyone is sensitive to political facts. Beliefs, values and ideologies can be and are a big filter for the perception of facts. (V. Masson-Delmotte)

 

Critique/Trends

 

  1. In this day and age:
  • The world that has accompanied globalization has transformed political parties into machines of public opinion, directed to solve administrative problems. Citizens are deserting and politicians seem more interested in their perpetuation, and polling while marketing tools have substituted a direct dialogue with citizens. Values have regrettably disappeared from the political debate. (Roberto Savio)
  • Angry voters have one thing in common: They have been left in the dust by globalization. (Der Spiegel)
  • It is thus extremely difficult or even almost impossible for citizens to make an intelligent use of their political rights. Our educational system as a whole suffers from quite the same influence: It inculcates a competitive attitude on students that are ultimately trained to adopt greed as a preparation for their future career. (Albert Einstein)
  • The shift to the left we are seeing in younger citizens is more and more based on perceiving the growing and overwhelming evidence base.

 

Oh, politicians!

 

– The political language of tyrant politicians vies to make lies believable and to make crimes respectable. (George Orwell)

– Since light travels faster than sound, some politicians appear bright until you hear them speak.

 

  1. Four of my ‘iron laws’ apply very well here to the current situation we are living in:
  • Politicians running for office better be careful about announcing a political moment, given how many such proclamations turn out to be ludicrous. (Paul Krugman)
  • One of the dangerous concepts that you can find in a democracy is charisma. Charismatic politicians can inspire followers with soaring rhetoric –which also too often proves divisive and damaging to a nation’s fortunes. (David Barnett)
  • Worse for a politician than talking with a full mouth is talking with an empty head. (Albino Gomez)
  • If you cannot get rid of the politicians who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system. (Tony Benn)

 

It is about power, stupid!

 

Would more opportunities and more diversified sources of wealth mean more sources of power and less scope for authoritarian attitudes? (Hans Dembowski)

 

  1. Anonymity is both a symptom and a cause of the undue political power concentration we have right now. Excess power has played a major role in a remarkable variety of recent crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‐8; the offshoring of wealth and of power (of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse)*; the slow collapse of public health and education; resurgent child poverty; the epidemic of loneliness; the collapse of ecosystems, …the rise of Donald Trump. (The Guardian)

*: Some defenders of the present system are already maintaining that scandals are proof that democracy is alive and works. But if the citizen’s growing lack of trust in the political and economic elites’ power continues, it is difficult to see how scandals will help nurture democracy. (Roberto Savio)

 

  1. The rapprochement or fusion of corporate power with government generates an elite brand of politics based on a political-financial revolving logic in which money buys power and power rewards money. Calls for a post-democracy era are nothing but a rehashed imitation of what we have had. These calls have a populist ring, a consultative appearance while the real politics of power and money consists of a continuing round of inter-personal (golf club?) transactions among elite members. This cozy paradigm creates a sort of ‘designer activism’ deeply compatible with the circuitry of power in the current order. It emphasizes the role of private foundations/philanthropies as the world’s problem solvers, so that social programming is decided by the untaxed wealthy in their boardrooms in a discretionary manner –rather than by democratic processes based on universal HR and entitlements. (Alex de Waal)

 

  1. How long can it be denied? Power relations are at the heart of how our world is run. As a consequence, more and more social movements are uniting to influence power relations. It is becoming clear to them that the ideology convincing people that poverty is due to individual failure is what is making economic power structures of exploitation invisible. Therefore, opposing this approach has to start with analyzing underlying power relations. The analysis shows that all actors have power, sometimes overwhelming power; sometimes just a little, but power nonetheless. Awareness-raising simply has to start with raising the idea that change can happen and power relations can be better balanced. Bringing people together in determining their own destiny is a central feature of HR and of empowerment understood as influencing power relations. (PHM)

 

Capital will allow no one to govern, but its own

 

– The separation of powers must be preserved for the true democratic political process to resume its course.

– Members of the legislature are selected by political parties that are financed (or otherwise influenced) by private (capitalist) sector actors. For all practical purposes, this separates the electorate from the law-making process. As a consequence, the ‘representatives of the people’, in fact, end up not really protecting the interests of the non-privileged groups in the population. (Albert Einstein)

– Political domination has, so far, successfully depended on instilling a perception of legitimacy. (David Legge)

 

  1. Have you noticed? Courts deal exclusively with individual rather than collective disputes and are designed not to interfere with the ruling classes and elites that are protected by immunity and other privileges. But citizens do now increasingly have growing awareness of their rights. So, to counter, when faced with political deadlocks in controversial issues, the political elites selectively use the courts as a way of lifting the political weight off certain decisions. An example is the control of constitutionality as the tool used by the ruling political classes to defend themselves against potential threats to their interests resulting from the growing groundswell of democratic politics by the upside-down ‘tyranny of the majority’.

 

  1. Be it as it may, these developments all lead to a new kind of judicial activism known as the judicialization of politics and this inevitably leads to the politization of justice. The judicial system –supposedly the ultimate defender and guarantor of the legal order and of HR– can and has become a dangerous source of legal disorder. Blatantly illegal and unconstitutional judicial measures, plus a selective persecutory zeal, an aberrant promiscuity in which media outlets are at the service of the conservative political elites, and a seemingly anarchic judicial activism can result in injunctions relating to a single political act: bringing democracy and HR to the edge of chaos. With the legal order thus turned into legal disorder and democracy being hijacked by the non-elected sovereign elite, political and social life, as well as HR, have become a potential field at the mercy of political vultures.

 

  1. This is why: Rules are these days regularly ignored by a judicial system that has not only been conformist, but also complicit with the privileges of the ruling political elites. We must beware that the latter elite assumes a politically neutral position precisely to defend the judicial system from the attacks it is being subjected-to by those targeted by their investigations and prosecutions of activists and HR defenders. Moreover, external pushes clearly lie behind such defenses of the judiciary. Those pushes are what dictate the glaring selectivity of any investigative and accusatory zeal –HR issues quite consistently excluded. Courts can show a shocking display of double standards, punishing with severity actions committed by the far left and showing great leniency towards the violence of the far right.

 

  1. Backed by a conservative legal culture that is widely predominant in too many judicial systems and law schools, wielding a full arsenal of high-powered, high-precision media weapons, the conservative bloc does everything it can to distort facts –the political taking precedence over the judicial. Courts must be barred from putting their own independence at the service of any corporate or sectoral political interests, no matter how powerful. Although easy to say, the principle is very difficult to enforce. Disciplinary proceedings by reason of reiterated procedural abuse must be initiated. When progressive governments are defeated, the right comes to power possessed with an unprecedented virulence and bent on destroying all that was built in favor of the popular classes during the previous period. (rings a bell?) Then, along comes the vindictiveness seeking the complicity of the judiciary (even the supreme court…). (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)

 

 

Needed: Think and act bottom-up

 

  1. What I miss in the prevailing political discourse is looking at the political constraints we face globally and nationally to implement the meaningful changes we HR activists so passionately pursue in a world clearly dominated by those with excess power. Yes, many have and do document the powerlessness of the majorities, but consistently fail to conclude with advice for those powerless to mobilize so as to exert pressure (or rather counterpower) to change this indeed oppressive situation. The best self-proclaimed experts can come up-with is to say something like: “Vigilant monitoring of these inequalities, combined with forceful engagement with the economic and social determinants, will be needed to ensure that the favorable trends in the contours of human rights become each person’s priority”. I also read calls “to compile evidence across disciplines to rethink our ideas of a just society”. The question is who is ‘our’…are they talking to their already-convinced-fellow-social-scientists?

 

  1. If you allow me the generalization, these social scientists aim to deliver reports addressed to all social actors, movements, organizations, politicians and decision-makers, in order to provide them with the best ‘evidence’ on questions that bear on social change. The flaw in this thinking though is that the politicians who are to take the decisions that these experts (mostly tangentially) call-for are not convinced by evidence produced by academics; they have their own political agendas! This is why even thinking that elected members of governments and parliaments are supposed to generate public hearings and decide according to grassroots networks and not according to the policy sets and narrow ideologies for which they were chosen by the people is so senseless. Ideology plays the major, key role.* Advice-to-policy-makers is what we have been doing for decades; to what avail? Top down does not work! We cannot depoliticize the issues.

*: All of us are deeply attached-to and even defined by our beliefs and ideology, for they define our reality and are thus elemental to our very selves, so any challenge to our core beliefs tends to feel like a personal attack. This is equally true of ourselves as it is of those who hold opposing beliefs. (Maria Popova)

 

  1. We see governments, politicians, the justice system, external funders… hushing and denying the needed key change-fostering knowledge to the people. We thus have to organize the necessary debates and actions to bring that knowledge to the fore since it is intentionally eclipsed and withheld. (Hernan Cardinale)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

All 400+ Readers are available in http://www.claudioschuftan.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

– Bertrand Russell famously said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”

– The truth is that the UN now comprises a bunch of politically and financially exposed, as well as financially vulnerable intergovernmental agencies.

– According to the British Diplomat Lord Carnavon, the professional quality of a diplomat is best demonstrated by how efficiently he follows orders he does not agree with.

-In life, we have to avoid three geometric figures: Vicious circles, love triangles and square minds. (Mario Benedetti)

– A great advantage of your enemies over your friends is that the former are always authentic and very consequent in their behavior; additionally they give the person they consider their enemy, you, a great importance. In short, they are very stimulating. (A. Gomez)

 

Science and Society – Illuminating the New Dark Age

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A new video from the Public Health and Social Justice website

Donohoe M. Science and Society: Illuminating the New Dark Age. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program). Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjxgqucWmSA  (first 15 minutes general discussion, topic covered 15 minutes onward). Posted April 25, 2017 – I believe it is airing on cable later this week.

The program covers the nature of the scientific enterprise, how governments and religion have responded to science throughout history, how science is and should be taught, the role of corporations in subverting science, the Trump administration’s war on science, and what scientists/journalists/citizens should be doing.

Other videos can be found on the Videos/TV/Radio page of the public health and social justice website at https://phsj.org/videos-tv-radio/. Feedback and new content always welcome.

Keep up the fight.

 

 

Slide Shows on Public Health and Social Justice Website Updated for Spring, 2017

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Dear Friends and Colleagues

Slide Shows on Public Health and Social Justice Website Updated for Spring, 2017

The major (starred, *) Powerpoint slide shows on the Public Health and Social Justice have all just been updated to include the most recently available research and policy information. They range in length from 50 slides to 766 slides (yes, seven hundred sixty six, for the Environmental Degradation and Social Injustice Powerpoint). All slide shows are open access, meaning that anyone can use all or part of one, with appropriate citation. See http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org or http://www.phsj.org.

Topic areas are listed below. Some have much more content than others, so submissions are always welcome and can be sent to martindonohoe@phsj.org Below the topic areas are direct links to some of the most popular slide shows and videos.

You can also order a copy of the Public Health and Social Justice Reader (2013, Jossey Bass/Wiley) through the website at http://phsj.org/public-health-and-social-justice-reader/ – Click for table of contents, endorsements, and use discount code MPH20 to use to receive 20% off.

Note that all information in the slideshows comes from real, not “alternative” facts, and is culled from peer-reviewed journals, respected news organizations (e.g., AP, Reuters, BBC) and periodicals (e.g., Harpers, New Yorker, National Geographic, Smithsonian, etc.). Note that I have not included developments from the early days of the Trump administration, as it is hard to keep up with the moment-to-moment dismantling of human rights and the Constitution coming from this narcissistic, sociopathic, temperamental, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, ecocidal, profiteering, anti-science, war-mongering pseudo-Christian and acknowledged perpetrator of sexual assault, and his amoral, complicit to actively-involved toadies, who lack basic human qualities like empathy. Those committed to social justice, human and environmental health, and world peace should resist the dictatorial urges of this demagogue at every turn.

The website and I have no disclosures, I/it receive(s) no external funds, and I have not made any money off the book…..the site is a labor of love and my goal is to just to get the word out and hopefully help educate and motivate others.

TOPIC AREAS (with direct links):

External Links – http://phsj.org/external-links/

Direct links to some of the most popular slide shows (short versions are also available for most of these, continue to scroll down for most popular videos; note dates on links sometimes refer to date of original upload, not revision):

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Activism-History-Literature-and-Contemporary-Movements.ppt
Slide show on activism and public health & social justice, with literature, history, and photography

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Environmental-Degradation-and-Social-Injustice.ppt
Slide show covering causes and consequences of environmental degradation and social injustice – the most comprehensive slide show on the phsj website

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Corporate-Control-of-Public-Health-Case-Studies-and-Call-to-Action.ppt
Slide show covering the effects of corporations on various aspects of public health

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Luxury-Primary-Care-Academic-Medicine-1.ppt
Comprehensive version of slide show covering the links between luxury care clinics and academic medical centers, along with a general overview of concierge care, medical tourism, retail clinics, relevant ethical and legal issues, etc.

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Obstacles-to-Abortion-and-Comprehensive-Reproductive-Health-Care.ppt
Comprehensive version of slide show covering obstacles to abortion and reproductive health care

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GMOs-and-Biopharming.ppt
Comprehensive slide show covering health and environmental risks of genetically-modified organisms, biopharming, genetic modification of trees and vertebrates, and synthetic biology

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Ideals-of-Beauty-and-Methods-of-Body-Modification.ppt
Slide show on historical and contemporary ideals of beauty and body modification

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Symbols-of-Love-Flowers-Diamonds-and-Gold.ppt
Comprehensive slide show on the environmental, health, human rights, and economic consequences of flowers, diamonds, and gold

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Incarceration-Nation.ppt
Comprehensive slide show covering the US criminal justice system, including jails/prisons, racism, the war on drugs, prison health care, the prison-industrial complex, and the death penalty

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Causes-Costs-and-Consequences-of-War-Militarism.ppt
Slide show on health, economic, and environmental consequences of war and militarism; also covers historical epidemiology of warfare, WMDs, current wars, and U.S. military and foreign policy

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Doctors-Gone-Bad-Experimentation-Murder-Torture-and-Terrorism.ppt
Slide show on human subject experimentation in the 20th Century, covering WW II Germany and Japan, Willowbrook, Tuskeegee, contemporary research issues, government-sponsored torture, doctors as murderers/torturers/terrorists, etc.

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Drug-Testing-and-Privacy-Scientific-Legal-Ethical-and-Policy-Issues.ppt
Slide show covering scientific, legal, ethical, and policy issues relevant to drug testing (including physician drug testing), genetic testing, and privacy

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Economic-health-and-human-rights-issues-of-racial-and-ethnic-minorities.ppt
Overview of economic, health, and human rights issues of racial and ethnic minorities

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Health-Care-US-and-Worldwide.ppt
Overview of health care in the US and the world, including what constitutes health, major health problems, and how health care is financed

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Scans-Scams-and-Unnecessary-Testing-in-Medicine-1.ppt
Slide show covering direct-to-consumer marketing of unnecessary (and potentially harmful) screening tests. Slide show also reviews benefits and risks of CT scans (including coronary calcium CTs and lung cancer screening) and examines health care fraud

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/General-Electric-New-York-Presbyterian-Alliance-A-Critique.ppt
Slide show re troubling agreement between corporate polluter and human rights-abusing company and large hospital system, with an historical and contemporary overview of General Electric’s activities antithetical to human and environmental health and human rights

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Womens-Health-Human-Rights.ppt
Comprehensive slide show covering myriad issues relevant to women’s health and human rights (including individual and societal violence against women)

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Coal-Exports-Through-the-Pacific-Northwest.ppt
Environmental and health consequences of planned shipments of Powder River Basin coal through the Pacific Northwest

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Minamata-Disease-the-Minamata-Treaty-and-the-Photography-of-W-Eugene-Smith.ppt
Slide show on Minamata Disease, mercury toxicity, the Minamata Convention, W Eugene Smith’s photography, and famous photographs relevant to public health and social justice

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Confronting-Pseudoscience-and-Threats-from-a-Corporate-Front-Group-The-American-Council-on-Science-and-Health.ppt
Exposé of the American Council on Science and Health – based in part on articles on “Science and Pseudoscience” page of phsj website

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Agricultural-antibiotics-factory-farms-bayer-cipro-and-anthrax-putting-profits-before-people.ppt
Slide show covering the relationship between Bayer, overuse of agricultural antibiotics, and the anthrax scare

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/rBGH-hormones-in-meat-and-milk-breast-cancer-and-pink-ribbons.ppt
Slide show with brief overview of health effects of rBGH and hormone use in milk and meat production, breast cancer, and “pinkwashing”

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Obesity-and-Public-Health.ppt
Slide show on epidemiology, causes, consequences, treatments, and public health approaches to obesity

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Tobacco-Health-Effects-Costs-WHO-Treaty-Academia-and-Control-Measures.ppt
Slide show covering US attempts to scuttle Global Tobacco Treaty, with comments on the links between medical schools, the insurance industry, and the tobacco industry; discusses health effects and costs of tobacco use and current tobacco regulation

Death and Dying in Literature – http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Death-and-Dying-in-Literature3.ppt
Slide show on literature relevant to death and dying, uses of such literature in health care education

http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/Violence-Against-Women-in-the-Military17.ppt
Slide show covering violence against women in the military, covering both active duty military and veterans

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/War-and-Peace-in-Literature-and-Photography.ppt
Slide show with famous quotes, some poems, and photos relevant to war and peace

http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/War-Rape-and-Genocide18.ppt
Slide show on war, rape, and genocide, with historical perspectives and an overview of Darfur, Sudan

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Cosmetic-surgery-past-present-future.ppt
Slide presentation on cosmetic surgery

http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/Ethical-Policy-Qs-re-beauty-cosm-surg-obesity4.ppt
Slide show on ethical issues relevant to ideals of beauty, cosmetic surgery, and obesity

https://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Female-genital-cutting.ppt
Slide show on female genital cutting

Direct links to some of the most (hopefully) interesting videos:

*The kind of world we want for our children, Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program, May, 2015). Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B6nlNtaqQc

*Social Justice. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program, February, 2013). Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD7fMoG1zWk

*Does today’s U.S. government serve corporations or the people? (topics include the appropriate role of government in society and the U.S. health care system) Debate with Howard Ellberger, “Conversations with Dr Don” (cable television program), Portland, OR, May, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21004742PCxDDT99 and http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21004742PCxDDT99?h1=CWDD+2011-05-26+(2)+Does+Today’s+U.S.+Government+Serve+Corporations+or+The+People+

*War and peace, Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), September, 2013. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmGy8HmibWU&feature=c4-overview&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q

*Corporations and Health, “Conversations with Dr Don” (cable television program, March, 2011). Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v208492269jJ8APJN (note: download Veoh web player, as per website, to watch full video).

*Everything you Wanted to Know About GMOs. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, September, 2014. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dVp1pNqy_U&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q (first 26 mins general discussion of social justice, 27 mins through end focuses on GMOs).

*The corporate assault on human health and the environment (topics include General Electric, the American Council on Science and Health, and corporate infiltration of public education). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, July, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21170152kDqfHBPE

*Food Justice (show also includes discussion of activism and medical/public health education and training). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, July, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v24892987MqXa2ySr

*Obesity epidemic: causes, consequences, and solutions. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, August, 2012. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q6STkJ-Xfo&feature=plcp

*The Costs of the Symbols of Love: Floriculture, Diamonds, and Gold, Conversations with Dr. Don, Portland Community Television, February, 2014. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92ZO6CVplV8&feature=c4-overview&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q (first half of program is general conversation; second half of program covers topic).

*You are being watched: privacy, public health and society (one hour program, first half features mostly discussion about current political situation with respect to Syrian refugees, terrorism, and the rise of xenophobia and nationalism; second half covers privacy). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, December, 2015. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQBP5vdlZY0

*Doctors gone bad: research, torture, and terrorism. Conversations with Dr Don, (cable television program), Portland, Oregon, August, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUr1EYuLw7I

*Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.

*Gun violence: public health and public policy (last 17 minutes covers reflections on the election of Donald Trump). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, November, 2016. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5cwchwu0kM

Martin Donohoe
http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
http://www.phsj.org
martindonohoe@phsj.org

 

FOR TOO LONG IT WAS CONSIDERED THAT TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS COULD NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. THIS HAS NOW CHANGED.

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Human rights: Food for a new corporate thought

 

Human Rights Reader 405

 

Already the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 interpreted the issue as implying that no State, group or person has the right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. (Art.30)

 

  1. Because of this change, it is of the utmost importance that State parties ensure access to effective remedies to victims of corporate abuse of economic, social and cultural rights through judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means. And (!), no distinction is to be made between violations committed by a State, a physical person or a legal person. There is a ratified optional protocol pertaining to business enterprises operating abroad on this, but there are no means of enforcement since available means are not legally binding. Therefore, for now, norms applied to transnational corporations (TNCs) are merely voluntary codes, i.e., with no sanctions and no compliance —so impunity continues.

 

  1. Regarding corruption though, the UN General Assembly has adopted a legally binding instrument (UN Convention Against Corruption, 2003) and, in 2009, a review mechanism for the implementation of the convention was passed.

 

  1. Furthermore, the existing norms applicable to legal persons, hence to TNCs, are fragmented, do not deal with the entirety of human rights (HR), are not universal (since they are not ratified) and they have no coherent implementation.

 

  1. It is now possible to bring the management of TNCs before the International Criminal Court. Since 2008, the HR Council has emphasized that TNCs and other business enterprises have a responsibility to respect HR. TNCs being legal persons are thus subjects and objects of the law; they are indeed bound to respect HR.

 

  1. TNCs have greatly influenced commercial treaties in their own favor. Most trade agreements place TNCs above the State thus above the people. Hence these entities have all the rights, but they are not accountable for their acts. They typically short-circuit national courts, but have the right to bring states before the World Bank’s tribunal (the International Center for Settlement of investment Disputes), their favorite court, which is unfailingly favorable to them while states are denied this right. The ICSID ignores national and international legislation on HR, the environment and worker’s rights.

 

  1. So, by virtue of current international HR law, TNCs are bound to respect HR. All that remains is to clarify the HR obligations of these entities and to establish binding enforcement mechanisms. It is possible to demand they refrain from acts that violate HR and compel them to act so that the respect of these rights is guaranteed.

 

  1. As soon as possible, measures must be taken to require accountability before the courts for their non-respect of HR. Such respect is more than ever indispensable given that privatization policies are being imposed by the IMF and the WB, especially affecting public services previously provided by the State. Simply put, the people must have the possibility to defend their rights.

 

  1. The overwhelming majority of unpunished crimes and violations are committed in the countries of the Global South where justice mechanisms are slow. Therefore, TNCs responsible for these HR violations cannot be subjected to statues of limitation.

 

  1. With their economic and political power, the most powerful TNCs can and do escape all democratic, administrative and legal control. Their strategy consists of reinforcing their dominant position in the market in practically all areas of production and services by the way of acquisitions and mergers. Moreover, legal responsibility must reach all the way to their downstream contractual chains (affiliates, subcontractors, licensees). The parent company is indeed responsible for the offenses these downstream entities commit. The parent company must also assume responsibility for the debts of their affiliates in case they go bankrupt.

 

  1. The treaty now under negotiation at the UN pertaining TNCs liability will have to establish universal jurisdiction enabling legal action in the TNCs’ host State for their offenses committed regardless of where they occur. Host countries must guarantee access to their courts to the victims of violations committed by these entities in foreign countries. The treaty will further have to reassert the hierarchical superiority of HR norms over trade and investment treaties.

 

  1. Additionally, to fight impunity, victims will have to be guaranteed: the right to know, the right to justice, the right to compensation and the right to guarantees of non-reocurrence of violations with states having the obligation to take effective measures to fight impunity. There will have to be: i) no court costs to claimants, ii) the possibility of class action suits, iii) speedy trials (justice delayed is justice denied), and iv) limits to out-of-court settlements, i.e., TNCs offering easy transactional solutions to victims to avoid conviction and victims accepting a partial monetary compensation in exchange for abandoning litigation. Lawyers’ fees will have to be assumed by the State or supported by a special tax on TNCs.

 

  1. Bottom line: In an era of neoliberal (in)justice, the power is in the hands of the biggest TNCs while this power has no correlative counterpart accountabilities. The initiatives taken so far have been limited and are far from responding to what is at stake. The new treaty will also have to take into account environmental crimes and even killings of HR defenders that elude justice. Given the colossal magnitude of the violations committed by TNCs, an international instrument (treaty), as the one under consideration, may appear insufficient. But this will be a significant first step. The existence of such an instrument will be a clear message to HR violators.

 

  1. Completing the current UN negotiations setting binding norms on this is indispensable. People must mobilize and network to back these negotiations.

 

  1. Fighting TNCs impunity also means fighting the danger that TNCs represent for democracy and for the very existence of the states. If the states wish to maintain the little credibility they still have and put an end to the principle that might-is-right, they must act promptly against TNCs to subject them to the rule of law. (Taken from TNCs’ Impunity, What’s at Stake and Initiatives, CETIM, 2016, Geneva, www.cetim.ch)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

All 400+ Readers are now available in my new website http://www.claudioschuftan.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

Not all corporations are averse to responsibilities in the field of human rights. TNCs upholding HR and investing in best practices across contractual and production chains ought to have a clear interest in movement towards developing a binding instrument in regard to TNCs, and other business enterprises in the area of HR. An instrument at the global level will help avoid illegitimate corporate competition that could be achieved through exploiting differences in the applied standards and in mechanisms available to uphold the implementation of rights. (South Centre, Policy Brief No. 32, Geneva, October 2016)

-“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, do take sides! Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)

Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never her/his victim. In denying their humanity, we betray our own. (Eric Friedman)

-As we persistently propose the adoption of a new HR paradigm, we cannot work with our youth from our desks or facing the old blackboard, treading the old line. We have the responsibility to push them to grow new wings, to face the wind –and fly. (Jaime Breilh)

 

Following the added piece I shared with you two weeks ago on the visionary excerpt from Henry Miller –and given the important change we expect since last week in America– allow me to share with you another very relevant comment:

 

One of the details of understanding human psychology is how a person’s unconscious fear works in a myriad ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem. In an era when human extinction is now a likely near-term outcome, this is obviously particularly problematic.

 

The belief is that it is the decisions of others, and not ours, that are responsible for the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves. This belief is widespread among those who refuse to accept structural violence, such as the exploitative way in which the global economy functions, as responsible for these circumstances. In a way, this leads to blaming the victims for their circumstances leading many to say: ‘I am not responsible in any way’.

 

Actually, the way these people evade responsibility is by deluding themselves thinking that a-person-who-needs-help is ‘not contributing’ while also deluding themselves about the potential importance their own efforts may have. This is just one of many delusions that wealthy people often have to self-justify their wealth while many, many people work extremely hard and are paid a pittance (or nothing) for their time, expertise and labor. A common way in which particularly some academics evade responsibility is to offer an explanation and/or theory about a social problem, but then take no action to involve themselves to change things. Deluding ourselves that we can avoid dealing with reality, much of which happens to be extremely unpleasant and ugly, is a frightened and powerless way of approaching the world. Yet it is very common. Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. The most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labor –all these with serious human rights connotations.

 

All of the above should not be interpreted to mean that we should all take responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world. There is, obviously, a great deal wrong and the most committed person cannot do something about all of it. However, we can make powerful choices, based on an assessment of the range of problems that interest us, to intervene in ways large or small to make a difference. This is vastly better than fearfully deluding ourselves and/or making token gestures.

 

Moreover, powerful choices are vital in this world. We face a vast array of violent challenges, some of which threaten near-term human extinction. In this context, it is unwise to leave responsibility for getting us out of this mess to others, and particularly those insane elites whose political agents (who many still naively believe that we ‘elect’) so demonstrably fail to meaningfully address any of our major human rights, social, political, economic and environmental problems.

 

You may have had a good laugh at some of the examples above. The real challenge is to ask yourself this question: where do I evade responsibility? And to then ponder how you will take responsibility in the future. (Robert Burrowes) (January 14, 2017)

 

New Video on Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue and Violence in the Trump Era

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For those interested, there is a new video from the series I have been doing on public health and social justice issues, all of which can be found on the videos, tv, radio page of the website at https://phsj.org/videos-tv-radio/ – feel free to share

The latest is on gun violence as a public health issue, epidemiology of violence, the nra, statutes, how women and children are affected, major studies, etc. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5cwchwu0kM

the last 17 minutes covers thoughts on the trump election, what it means viz a viz social justice for the US and the world, including violence

I talk almost the whole time, as this is what the host asked for

Martin Donohoe
http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
http://www.phsj.org
martindonohoe@phsj.org

TALKING GRANDIOSELY ABOUT ‘LIBERTY’ AND ‘FREEDOM’ ALLOWS CONSERVATIVES TO IGNORE ANYTHING APPROACHING THE NEEDED TRULY DEMOCRATIC WAYS OF WORKING TOWARDS THE REALIZATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. (Ted Greiner)

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Human Rights: Food for how to bias a thought

 

Human Rights Reader 399

 

In many countries, democracy and capitalism may actually be oxymorons (contradictory expressions) –and never forget, low intensity democracy leads to populism. (Albino Gomez)

 

Be the change you want to promote (anonymous slogan)

 

  1. There is little democracy left in our election-based political systems where the same wo/men keep trying to fight each other and where the interest of the many is buried under layers of elitist complacency. Young people know all this and seek solutions elsewhere. They know the post-war (for the North) and postcolonial (for the South) solutions will have to be abandoned, or at least seriously re-visited. We should be grateful for young generations focusing on what needs to be changed. Formal changes in rules and institutions will be indispensible though. Ethics, solidarity and human rights (HR) must be the basis from which to start. Francine Mestrum calls this ‘reciprocity based structural solidarity’ and says this is what will have to be pursued, and further says that it is local initiatives that are the way to democratically build something new, bottom up.

 

  1. If the little that is left of representative democracy is said to be ‘a higher form of human civilization’ and elections to be ‘the festival of a democracy’, then we are not including the violence, the terrorization, the corruption, the filthy speeches, the rigging, the voting booth capturing and the malpractices that go with it. (Swasthya Siksha Unnayan)

 

  1. The problem is that, ideally, democracy expects all its wings to function independently, but in a way that ultimately allows sovereignty to stay with the people. It is another matter that rulers themselves become authoritarian and behave like the worst of the emperors. Those who ought to ensure that democracy functions in the interest of the people are the judges who, in theory, have the power to interpret and apply the law. The debate about whether the judiciary or the executive is supreme is an ongoing discussion. Moreover, on HR issues, journalists are too often failing us in the standards, the rigor and the ethics they apply. None of this has been helped by the new digital technology that promotes very short stories or sound bites. In fact, things have deteriorated to such an extent today that news columns can be bought. It is an open secret that several stories are nothing more than paid news. Some leading newspapers feel no shame in selling the space to whoever wants to buy it. For them, it is purely a question of revenue –forget democracy. (Kuldip Nayar)

 

  1. Are we living in a post-ideologies and post-parties era? Is being on the left or on the right becoming increasingly irrelevant? Without ideologies, politics are becoming just acts of administrative action, where differences disappear. Parties without ideologies carry little motivation and identity. Gone are the times when they were based on strong membership with a vibrant youth wing. Parties are becoming just movements of opinions which mobilize citizens only to vote in temporary campaigns, where hired experts of marketing tools and other instruments of mass communication have replaced debates on actual visions and values. More important yet, the Internet and new technologies have changed how people relate to politics. The relationship between the parties and voters is no longer direct and vertical, as it was at the time of the radio and of TV. Voters still use the TV, but more and more the Internet as their primary instrument of information. Clearly, the great popular meetings filling public squares are something of the past. Is the Internet destroying good politics? The net is progressively reducing the power of the traditional system of information for people now immune to the traditional information systems like the printed press and even TV. (Roberto Savio)

 

What we are left (or right) with

 

  1. Will the traditional political elite be able to learn lessons from reality and change austerity for growth, discard banks as a priority, come back to a debate of ideas and visions, values and ideals, begin to discuss at least social remedies in the face of the disasters of an unregulated globalization? –and growing violence?* (R. Savio)

*: Winston Churchill famously stated that it is always better to “jaw, jaw than to war, war.”

 

  1. Will the traditional political left get its act together and rally around HR? Their leaders tell themselves: “Deep down we are struggling for the same, but too many shades of thinking separate us”. [As opposed to this, the traditional right leaders tell themselves: “Many shades of thinking separate us, but deep down we are on the same page and have a common objective, don’t we?”].** (Politika, Chile)

**: ‘The Right’ has it clear what it wants and what it rejects. ‘The Left’, when it is divided (and it always is), immediately shows its key shortcomings, namely: leadership and a common program of action.

 

6a. Because ideology also plays a key role elsewhere, this brings us to the equally hot topic of governance. [Governance is the tradition and institutions that determine how authority is exercised].

 

Good governance needs to be measured by more than the number of meetings where jawing occurs, but also by who’s invited to do the talking

 

Not being facetious, what is needed for better global governance is not convergence, but rather more dancing together… or better, what is actually needed is not negotiators trying to fit into the same shoes, but rather taking off their shoes as a gesture of equality.

 

  1. The problems States face when negotiating with other states at the global level is to be found in their divergent interests and ideologies and their unequal wealth and resources. This invariably results in conflicts as relates to finding the solutions they can eventually agree-upon. There is a glaring neglect of true efforts to find common interests and ideas that are to benefit humanity and are not constrained by national physical, political and mental borders’ interests; the result is watered-down initiatives, resolutions declarations or whatever. (adapted from Kelley Lee)

 

  1. Newly proposed governance tools, even the so-called whole-of-government approaches, have proven insufficient to the task. (Olivier de Schutter) Political negotiations involve complex political processes over prolonged periods of time with a predicable conciliatory outcome inevitably dominated by the same old tensions between rich and poor counties. (F. Sassi) Power imbalances and the ensuing impacts on decisions taken should not merely be seen as ‘inconvenient obstacles’, because they invariably end up taking center stage. (IPES)

 

  1. Multilateralism creates a false confidence that global governance is adequate. On the contrary, if its outcomes are shaped by the interplay of national interest perspectives generated from highly unequal circumstances, it is naïve to think that global interests will be adequately served. (Richard Falk) The challenge is making multi-actor governance work for the HR of those lacking the necessary power to have not only voice, but influence.

 

  1. The network model of governance highlights how power is mobilized through nodes that link ideologically linked groups (in political and HR terms, basically two). Each group ultimately aims to alter the distribution of power more in their favor. This is the logic of the approach public interest civil society organizations and social movements are using to achieve political change (…and so do their opposing forces, but only to keep the status-quo). (adapted from David Legge)

 

  1. If we take the example of the needed global mobilization aimed at democratizing all instances global health governance, we have to be clear that this objective is not separate from, but very much part of, a global mobilization effort of a wider perspective. To treat global health governance as somehow independent of global economic and political governance is outright absurd. Simply said, proclaiming that the challenges of global health governance can be dealt independently plays the important political role aimed at obscuring the vested interests and power relations at play. (D. Legge)

 

Welcome to the Human Rights Hive

 

  1. Here is an interesting novel theory: The value of being connected is not in just-being-networked; it also is in arriving-at-a-shared-opinion and collectively-moving-into-action-towards-the-desired-outcome. This is why the concept of a hive is a smarter one, as it has now evolved from the concept of a network. The hive is bigger than the sum of its parts. The hive calls for: i) increasing the frequency of interactions, and ii) creating a higher level of synchronicity between members of the hive. This produces stronger ties between individual members and allows the hive to act collectively. As we are moving towards the idea of achieving more with less, hives will beat networks. If you want to survive, do not just build a network. You have to build a hive, and eventually a ‘hivemind’. In that sense, a network is a neutral description of how connections between composite parts form a system. The hive learns collectively and this is how the hive makes informed decisions in response to a changing external environment; in short, it becomes more effective. Hives produce stronger ties between individual members and allows them, as a hive, to act collectively. Because of the increased frequency of interactions, a hive behaves more intelligently. It ongoingly responds; interactions get everyone on the same page so as to work in sync aligned around shared goals. (Arjun Sethi)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

Breaking News: All HR Readers, from No.1 on, are now available in my new website www.bodega-vn.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

-Political will is usually understood as a greater resolve on the part of states. But political will is not owned by politicians –who usually act only in response to consistent and compelling pressure from claim holders. Therefore, it is not a lack of political will, but rather the accumulation of a political will by the powerful to oppose or stall, in our case, the implementation of progressive policies that tackle HR abuses.

-In the corridors of governance, we can often hear the haves say: “Other things being equal, the safer option is obviously the better one”. But other things are not equal….

-In the corridors of governance, we can often hear the have-nots say: “We had the best slogans, they won the war”. (Spanish Civil War) [Is this because it is which voices, and at what decibel levels, are the ones that ultimately clinch decision-making…?].

 

A Social Justice Take on the 2016 from Martin Donohoe, Public Health and Social Justice Website – Re-post with additional link

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Re-posting, as some have had problems accessing link.

 Please forgive the blatant self-promotion……hopefully some will find this interesting, since it touches a little on the candidates, but more on how various social justice objectives are/are not being (and can be) achieved in the US – host gave me permission to pretty much rant for an hour
Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w.
If any problems accessing this link, you might try https://www.youtube.com/user/friendlydon1 instead, then clicking on my show P0720.
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.
Feel free to share

A Social Justice Take on the 2016 from Martin Donohoe, Public Health and Social Justice Website – Re-post with additional link

Add a comment
Re-posting, as some have had problems accessing link.

Please forgive the blatant self-promotion……hopefully some will find this interesting, since it touches a little on the candidates, but more on how various social justice objectives are/are not being (and can be) achieved in the US – host gave me permission to pretty much rant for an hour

Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w.
If any problems accessing this link, you might try https://www.youtube.com/user/friendlydon1 instead, then clicking on my show P0720.
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.
Feel free to share
m

March and Rally to Close Riker’s Island September 24, 2016

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Rikers Island has been a cauldron of despair for decades. The brutality is endemic, and today violence is up even as the detainee population is down. Every day thousands of people are held in pre-trial detention simply because they cannot afford bail, leading to a litany of tragedies, such as the terrible death of Kalief Browder. Racial disparities are a hallmark of both Rikers Island and the broken criminal justice system it represents.

Horrific media stories and damning government investigations have become commonplace. There is no dispute that the Rikers Island Correctional Facility jails are dangerous, isolated, and woefully inappropriate for human beings. With all that we know about the human suffering on Rikers, the biggest scandal is that Rikers continues to exist at all.

As our nation finally confronts the error of mass incarceration and the failures of the war on drugs, communities across the country — including New York City — are rethinking policies to ensure public safety and health. A growing number of New Yorkers have come to a simple conclusion:

Rikers cannot be reformed; it must be closed. That is why two previous mayoral administrations have tried to close it. Those previous efforts stalled. Today, however, with growing momentum in New York City and around the country to fix our shameful, broken criminal justice system, the time is now for real solutions –it is time to finally

#CLOSErikers.

Closing Rikers will not be easy, but we know that it is possible and necessary, and that New Yorkers are up to the task. During his inauguration, Mayor de Blasio declared, “Our city is no stranger to big struggles — and no stranger to overcoming them.” As New Yorkers we must tackle this big struggle and re-imagine what a modern criminal justice system should look like, where justice and fairness is attainable to all, and where we heal the harms caused by a broken system by supporting the communities most impacted by its years of abuse.

Local Contact in the Bronx

There will be buses to the Rally coming from and returning to the Bronx. For more information please contact Joyce Wong at: mingjoy@aol.com and cell 917.331.0575.

rikers-march-rally-vigil-sept24




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