"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Consolidation’

2+2=5: The United States, Home Of “Freedom Of The Press” Ranks 46th In World On Press Freedom Index

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Oldspeak: “Appreciate the ruthlessly Orwellian irony. At a time when a fucking CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR is President.  In the nation where journalism is the only constitutionally protected profession, press freedom is being snuffed out.  With the Borg-like 1% corporate media-industrial complexs’ assimilation, evisceration & homogenization of journalism and information dissemination continuing unabated with the soon to be approved Comcast/TimeWarner merger; while respected journalists, their sources and government/corporate whistleblowers being accused of terrorism & espionage, unlawfully harassed, threatened with arrest, jailed and face decades long prison sentences, this doesn’t come as very much of a surprise. in this context it’s easy to understand how square in the middle of an unprecedented torrent of a range extreme weather events cause by anthropogenic global warming/climate change, the weather reported as sensationalized disaster porn, while global warming/climate change is rarely if ever mentioned in relation. 97% scientists sounding the alarm are ignored. it is as Neil Postman said in 1985 “Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world“. prescient words. We are literally entertaining ourselves to extinction.” -OSJ

By Conor Friedersdorf @ The Atlantic:

Every year, Reporters Without Borders ranks 180 countries in order of how well they safeguard press freedom. This year, the United States suffered a precipitous drop.

The latest Press Freedom Index ranked the U.S. 46th.

That puts us around the same place as UC Santa Barbara in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. If we were on the PGA tour we’d be Jonas Blixt of Sweden.

If we were on American Idol we’d have been sent home already.

Countries that scored better include Romania,  South Africa, Ghana, Cyprus, and Botswana. And 40 others. Put simply, it’s an embarrassing result for the country that conceived the First Amendment almost 240 years ago. These rankings are always a bit arbitrary, but we’re not anywhere close to the top tier these days. Why?

The report explains:

… the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundations during George W. Bush’s two terms as president by the way journalists were harassed and even imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources or surrender their files to federal judicial officials. There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.

Elsewhere it notes:

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.

Some Americans reading those critiques will object that terrorism is a real threat, and insist that national security and freedom of the press must be balanced. Even if you agree in principle, consider the countries that rank highest on the 2014 Press Freedom Index. Here are the top 10: Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden.

Raise your hand if you’re afraid to visit any of those countries.

Does anyone truly believe that the way they treat the press is imperiling their security, or that America couldn’t prosper even if it was as friendly to the press as Finland? Does Team Obama believe that the terrorists are going to win in Sweden, New Zealand, and Iceland because their balance is too press-freedom friendly?

Take it from Lee Greenwood. “I’m proud to be an American because at least I know I’m freer than 47th-ranked Haiti” just doesn’t have the same exceptionalist ring to it.

The index methodology is here. Having looked it over, I still want the U.S. to be on top next year. How about you?

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama To Sign Secret Treaty That Will Offshore U.S. Jobs To Slave-Wage Countries; Decimate Corporate Regulations

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A group photo of leaders from the member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP). (Photo: Gobierno de Chile)

Oldspeak:”While Obama is touring the country assailing Mitt Romney’s record on offshoring and yapping about creating jobs in America, and regulating banks, he’s working on a treaty that will do THE EXACT OPPOSITE. It will give companies incentives to move jobs out of the U.S. to slave-wage countries, severely limit government regulation of financial services, zoning and land use, product and food safety, energy and other essential services, tobacco, and more.  It will consolidate corporate control over public resources and services. It’s basically NAFTA on Andro. “The TPP negotiations have been going on for two years under extreme secrecy, no information has been made available to either the press or Congress about the US position. But on June 12, a document was leaked to the watchdog group, Public Citizen, revealing the current US position and the reason for the secrecy. The contents are surreal, shocking and prima facia evidence for how corporations have become the master puppeteers of our government.” -Dr Brian Moench No surprise, universal silence in corporate media on this.  Also no surprise that Mitt Romney has demanded that this treaty be signed months ago. Both of these men have consistently proven themselves to be wholehearted Transnational Corporate Network Shills. This Illusion of choice make me think of the words of Dr. Howard Zinn “If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates… If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” Democracy’s gone, America is a one party Inverted Totalitarian Kleptocratic State. “Ignorance Is Strength” “Freedom Is Slavery”

Related Stories:

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Negotiations Seal Obama’s Pro-Corporate Approach to Foreign Policy

Growing Attention to Obama Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Threatens to Undermine Offshoring Attack on Romney as TPP Talks Wrap Up Today

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway

By Dr. Brian Moench @ Truthout:

This may be one of the most important stories ever ignored by the so-called “lame-stream, liberal” media. It’s unlikely you’re losing sleep over US trade negotiations, but the unfolding business agreement among the US and eight Pacific nations -the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – should cause every US citizen, from the Sierra Club to the Tea Party to get their pitch forks and torches out of the closet and prepare to “storm the Bastille.”

The TPP negotiations have been going on for two years under extreme secrecy, no information has been made available to either the press or Congress about the US position. But on June 12, a document was leaked to the watchdog group, Public Citizen, revealing the current US position and the reason for the secrecy. The contents are surreal, shocking and prima facia evidence for how corporations have become the master puppeteers of our government.

The leaked document reveals that the trade agreement would give unprecedented political authority and legal protection to foreign corporations. Specifically, TPP would (1) severely limit regulation of foreign corporations operating within US boundaries, giving them greater rights than domestic firms; (2) extend incentives for US firms to move investments and jobs to lower-wage countries; and (3) establish an alternative legal system that gives foreign corporations and investors new rights to circumvent US courts and laws, allowing them to sue the US government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for lost revenue due to US laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges or their investment “expectations.”

Despite the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) failures, corporations are arm-twisting the federal government to pursue trade agreements as inevitable and necessary for economic progress. But 26 of the 28 chapters of this agreement have nothing to do with trade. TPP was drafted with the oversight of 600 representatives of multinational corporations, who essentially gave themselves whatever they wanted; the environment, public health, worker safety, further domestic job losses be damned.

Residents of the West should be particularly alarmed. TPP would allow the plunder of our natural resources by foreign corporations allowed to bypass US law. Disputes over Western land contracts for mining and timber, for example, would be settled by international tribunals. Even if you are oblivious to environmental concerns, you should be outraged at the total circumvention of national sovereignty. Foreign investors could bypass our legal framework, take any dispute to an international tribunal and pursue compensation for being denied access to our resources at fire-sale prices – with much of the West on fire as we speak.

It gets worse. Those tribunals would be staffed by private-sector lawyers that rotate between acting as “judges” and as advocates for the corporations suing the governments. American taxpayers could be forced to pay those corporations virtually unlimited compensation for trying to protect our air, land and water from much looser standards than current US law allows.

This agreement could directly affect efforts in my home state of Utah to hold the international mining giant, Rio Tinto, accountable to the Clean Air Act. A consortium of public health and environmental groups including WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Sierra Club have filed suit against Rio Tinto for mining more – and polluting more – than the amount allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency via provisions in the Clean Air Act. This agreement would allow disputes about their pollution to be settled by foreign “judges” who don’t live in Utah, aren’t personally affected by the outcome, aren’t even US citizens and could be attorneys for mining companies. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the chickens.

The original TPP nations were the US, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. But Mexico, China, Japan and Canada are expected to be invited to join, so there is no comfort to be derived from the thought that only a few minor, foreign corporations will be given these extraordinary free passes to profit at our expense. Of course, American corporations will get the same opportunity to “invade” other countries, as if that makes this agreement any less grotesque.

TPP is much worse than NAFTA, which eviscerated middle-class jobs and wealth in the US. And this sellout to foreign corporations is not just a rogue brain cramp of President Obama. Mitt Romney demanded this agreement be signed months ago, and the notorious “climate change denying” US Chamber of Commerce can’t get it signed fast enough. Romney has called Obama’s the most hostile administration to business in recent history. If the TPP trade agreement is “hostile” to business, god help us if we have an administration, presumably Romney’s, “friendly” to business.

If you thought that with Citizens United we had hit rock bottom in surrendering our democracy to the power of money, this TPP “trade agreement” would throw our democracy into free fall. Foreign corporations will be allowed to feast like termites upon America’s natural resources, trash our environment and public health, violate our rights as American citizens and make us pay them if we try to protect ourselves.

AT&T Chief Says DOJ Blocked Merger With T-Mobile Will Cost Its Consumers More

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Oldspeak: “Since that deal got killed, our data prices have gone up 30%,” he said. He also blamed the blocked T-Mobile USA deal, in part, for AT&T’s decision earlier this year to impose a limit on the amount of data available to a given customer. However, he said such a move probably would have been necessary regardless of the decision, and that he regretted not imposing the cap sooner.” Austerity measures, affect you in more ways than you think. How bout that. The merger doesn’t happen, so they jack up prices to increase their perceived lost potential profits. And the argument for corporate consolidation and less choice perfectly crystallizes some of the fundamental flaws with oligarchical capitalism.  In the minds of terminal ill Capitalists, More for me, less for you = More for me, more for you. Your basic 2+2-=5 logic. This insatiable lust for more, and the idea that it is good, unbridled greed;  it is unsustainable and certainly catastrophic for our planet, and our ‘civilization’. Every thing in nature grows, and then stops growing. We’ve created a civilization in which that basic physical rule does not apply and we are reaping the consequences: ever rapid resource depletion and contamination, mass extinctions, environmental destruction and contamination, drought, starvation, overcrowding, homelessness, poverty… All because a few hundred Oligarchs want ever ‘more’.  And have conditioned us to believe that we want ever ‘more’ even though the vast majority of us never will attain Oligarchical levels of it. That simple and insidious idea; ‘more’ has led us to the brink of collapse on multiple levels, yet we’re still being told that everything is ok. Why? We need Barefoot Economics. NOW.”

Related Story:

AT&T To Buy T-Mobile: Great For Them, Bad For You

What Does Proposed AT&T And T-Mobile Merger Mean?

By Ethan Smith @ The Wall Street Journal:

The government’s decision to block AT&T Inc.’s T -0.76% takeover of Deutsche Telekom AG’s DTEGY -0.18% T-Mobile USA unit will result in higher prices to consumers, AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson contended during a public interview Wednesday.

Speaking at the Milken Institute’s annual global conference, Mr. Stephenson said that the U.S. wireless-telecommunications market can’t sustain the current number of competitors because there isn’t enough wireless spectrum for all of them.

Based on current patterns, wireless data usage will increase 75% a year for at least five years, Mr. Stephenson said.

“We’re running out of the airwaves that this traffic rides on,” he added. “There is a shortage of this spectrum.”

With or without a deal like the one his company unsuccessfully pursued, he said, competitors will be forced to drop out if they can’t find enough wireless capacity to offer more modern data services to growing numbers of customers.

“The more competitors you have, the less efficient the allocation of spectrum will be,” he said. “It’s got to change. I don’t think the market’s going to accommodate the number of competitors there are in the landscape.”

Many countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America have many fewer companies offering wireless voice and data services, letting them allocate bandwidth more efficiently, Mr. Stephenson contended.

“Since that deal got killed, our data prices have gone up 30%,” he said. He also blamed the blocked T-Mobile USA deal, in part, for AT&T’s decision earlier this year to impose a limit on the amount of data available to a given customer. However, he said such a move probably would have been necessary regardless of the decision, and that he regretted not imposing the cap sooner.

“I wish we had moved quicker to change the pricing model to make sure the people who were using the bandwidth were paying for the bandwidth,” Mr. Stephenson said.

House Passes CISPA (Another) “Big Brother” Internet Surveillance Bill; Garners Broad Support Among Internet/Telecom Corporations

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Congress

Oldspeak:”Internet Privacy? What internet privacy?! CISPA would “waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity; allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on.”-Rep. Jared Polis, (D) ColoradoOne of the biggest differences between CISPA and its SOPA predecessor is that the Web blocking bill was defeated by a broad alliance of Internet companies and millions of peeved users. Not CISPA: the House Intelligence committee proudly lists letters of support from Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and trade association CTIA, which counts representatives of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm as board members.”-Declan McCullagh Why did all these computer, internet and telecom corporations speak out against SOPA and PIPA, but are now falling over themselves to endorse a damn near identical threat to our civil liberties? PROFIT. They’re no longer subject to legal action and damages for sharing your private information with the military and surveillance state. (Which they have been doing unconstitutionally for some time now) “The bill immunizes ISPs from privacy lawsuits for voluntarily disclosing customer information thought to be a security threat. Internet companies are also granted anti-trust protection to immunize them against allegations of colluding on cybersecurity issues. The measure is not solely limited to cybersecurity, and includes the catchall phrase “national security” as a valid reason for turning over the data”-David Kravets. Even though in their earnest and sincere sounding “Privacy Statements” they promise not to.Reminds me alot of how the President uses “Signing Statements” where he’ll decide to veto or pass legislation and then draft a signing statement that expresses his intention to do the exact opposite of his publicly stated decision. Doublespeak par excellence. The internet is the last bastion of free, open, non-corporate controlled thought, news and information. Steps are being taken to change that, under the familiar pretexts of “National Security” and “Counter-terrorism” It must be controlled and surveilled constantly to eliminate potential threats to the Transnational Corporate Network. “Freedom Is Slavery”

Related Video

“We Don’t Live in a Free Country”: Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance

we_do_not_live_in_a

Related stories

By Declan McCullagh @ CNET News

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a controversial Internet surveillance bill, rejecting increasingly vocal arguments from critics that it would do more to endanger Americans’ privacy than aid cybersecurity.

By a vote of 248 to 168, a bipartisan majority approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which would permit Internet companies to hand over confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency and other portions of the U.S. government.

CISPA would “waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity,” said Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, during today’s marathon floor debate. “Allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on.”

Americans’ confidential information that could legally provided to the feds would “include health records, it can include firearm registration information, it can include credit card information,” warned Polis, a former Web entrepreneur who was a leader in opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act as well.

CISPA wouldn’t formally grant the NSA or Homeland Security any additional surveillance authority. (A proposed amendment that would have veered in that direction was withdrawn.)

But it would usher in a new era of information sharing between companies and government agencies — with limited oversight and privacy safeguards. The House Rules committee yesterday rejected a series of modestly pro-privacy amendments, which led a coalition of civil-liberties groups to complain that “amendments that are imperative won’t even be considered” in a letter today.

CISPA Excerpts

Excerpts from the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a self-protected entity may, for cybersecurity purposes — (i) use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property of such self-protected entity; and (ii) share such cyber threat information with any other entity, including the Federal Government

The term ‘self-protected entity’ means an entity, other than an individual, that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself.”

That prompted some politicians, including House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), to reluctantly oppose the bill. Schiff said that because his proposed amendments were rejected, he had to vote against CISPA “due to my concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of Americans.”

What made CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word “notwithstanding,” CISPA’s drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had predicted earlier in the week he had the votes. And it turned out he did, despite a last-minute surge of opposition that included Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warning that “CISPA is Big Brother writ large,” a White House veto threat, and 18 Democratic House members saying it “does not include necessary safeguards.”

CISPA is “needed to stop the Chinese government from stealing our stuff,” Rogers said. They’re “stealing the value and prosperity of America.”

Rogers’ position paper on CISPA said the bill is necessary to deal with threats from China and Russia, and that it “protects privacy by prohibiting the government from requiring private sector entities to provide information.” During today’s floor debate, Rogers repeatedly referred to the need for the Feds to share attack signatures with the private sector — but never addressed the privacy criticisms directly, except to say they were invalid.

One of the biggest differences between CISPA and its SOPA predecessor is that the Web blocking bill was defeated by a broad alliance of Internet companies and millions of peeved users. Not CISPA: the House Intelligence committee proudly lists letters of support from Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and trade association CTIA, which counts representatives of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm as board members.

CISPA’s authorization for information sharing extends far beyond Web companies and social networks. It would also apply to Internet service providers, including ones that already have an intimate relationship with Washington officialdom. Large companies including AT&T and Verizon handed billions of customer records to the NSA; only Qwest refused to participate. Verizon turned over customer data to the FBI without court orders. An AT&T whistleblower accused the company of illegally opening its network to the NSA, a practice that the U.S. Congress retroactively made legal in 2008.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where related cybersecurity legislation has been stalled for years, and the threat of a presidential veto makes speedy approval unlikely.

“Once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back,” Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel, said after the House vote. “We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Financial ‘Reform’ Failure: Chase, Bank Of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs Now 30% Bigger; Control Assests Equal To 56% Of U.S. Economy

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Oldspeak:“Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” & “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis. Five banks – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56% of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.” Behold! The fruits of toothless, non-regulating financial ‘reform’! Financial oligarchs now control assets equal to a majority of the U.S. economy. They’ve gained complete control of the European economy, and many others around the world. The conditions have been created for a bigger and more devastating global economic crash, that will facilitate the continued consolidation of control over all assets by the International Banking Cartels, and the continued destruction of sovereign states. How long will the rape and pillage of our planet and societies go on? If the Banksters have their way, until there is nothing left.

By Washington’s Blog:

Size of Banks Killing Economy … But Giant Banks Have Only Gotten Bigger Since Financial “Reform” Enacted

For years, many high-level economists and financial experts have said that – unless we break up the giant banks – our economy will never recover, real reform will be blocked, and democracy and the rule of law will be corrupted.

So how did the government respond to the financial crisis which started in 2007?

Let the giant banks get even bigger.

As Bloomberg notes, the five banks that held assets equal to 43% of the US economy in 2007 before the financial crisis and the bank bailout now control assets that equal 56% of the US economy:

Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis.

Five banks – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

Five years earlier, before the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to 43 percent of U.S. output. The Big Five today are about twice as large as they were a decade ago relative to the economy, sparking concern that trouble at a major bank would rock the financial system and force the government to step in as it did during the 2008 crunch.

“Market participants believe that nothing has changed, that too-big-to-fail is fully intact,” said Gary Stern, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

That specter is eroding faith in Obama’s pledge that taxpayer-funded bailouts are a thing of the past. It is also exposing him to criticism from Federal Reserve officials, Republicans and Occupy Wall Street supporters, who see the concentration of bank power as a threat to economic stability.

***

The industry’s evolution defies the president’s January 2010 call to “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system.” Embracing new limits on banks’ trading operations, Obama said then that taxpayers wouldn’t be well “served by a financial system that comprises just a few massive firms.”

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, blames a “lack of leadership at Treasury and the White House” for the failure to fulfill that promise. “It’d be safer to break them up,” he said.

***

Regulatory burden could promote further industry consolidation, according to Wilbur Ross, chairman of WL Ross & Co., a private-equity firm.

“We think the little tiny banks, the 90-odd percent of banks that are under $1.5 billion in deposits, are pretty much an obsolete phenomenon,” he told Bloomberg Television on March 14. “We think they’ll all have to merge with each other, be acquired by bigger banks or something.”

***

In 2011, funding costs for banks with more than $10 billion in assets were about one-third less than for the smallest banks, according to the FDIC.

Some presidents of regional Federal Reserve banks have lambasted too big to fail. As Bloomberg notes:

In recent weeks, at least four current Fed presidents — Esther George of Kansas City, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond and Richard Fisher of Dallas — have voiced similar worries about the risk of a renewed crisis.

But the most powerful Fed bank – the New York Fed – and Bernanke’s Federal Open Market Committee, as well as Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department, have done everything possible to ensure that the the giant banks become too bigger to fail.

Corporate Crimes In the Cereal Aisle: How Companies Are Fooling You Into Thinking Their Products Are Good For You

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Oldspeak:Generally “natural” is thought to imply the absence of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms, but a closer look at the crunchy goodness inside the boxes reveals the content of both. Tests showed as high as 100 percent genetically engineered (GE) contaminated ingredients in popular products like Kashi GoLean, Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix. Even the brands explicitly claiming to be “non-GMO” failed the test, some of them containing more that 50 percent GE corn. Organic products, such as Nature’s Path certified organic corn flakes, were GMO and GE free when tested. Why does it matter? Because these companies exploit consumers’ desire for conscious consumption and make us feed the system we think we are taking a stance against: Industrial agriculture.” -Ida Hartmann The Transnational Corporate Network is hard at work trying to make you pay more for “food” you think is better for you, but in fact makes you sick. Still more evidence that the “profit-motive” is by far the most destructive force created by humans. It supersedes ethical behaviour, morality, concern for others and the environment. “Profit Is Paramount”.

Related Story:

Kashi, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Good, Natural, Socially Conscious Brands? Owned By The Corporatocracy

Landmark Study Finds 93 Percent Of Unborn Babies Contaminated With Monsanto’s Genetically Modified ‘Food’ BT Toxin

Why You Can Now Kiss Organic Beef, Dairy And Many Vegetables Goodbye Courtesy Of Monsanto

USDA Approved Monsanto Alfalfa Despite Warnings Of New Infertility Causing Pathogen Discovered In Genetically Engineered Crops

By Ida Hartmann @ Alter Net:

A trip to the supermarket is an adventure into a tempting and treacherous jungle. The insatiable hunger for a ready-made breakfast that nourishes our bodies and our social conscience has made our morning bowls of cereal a hiding place for corporate charlatans. A new report, Cereal Crimes, by the Cornucopia Institute discloses the toxic truth about “natural” products and unmasks corporate faces like Kellogg’s hiding behind supposedly “family-run” businesses such as Kashi.

When these breakfast barons forage for profit, we eaters are the prey. But what are the laws of this jungle? And how do we avoid being ripped off by products that are hazardous for our health and our environment? Let’s have a look at some of these corporations’ sneaky strategies.

First, there is intentional confusion. With so many different kinds of cereal lining the shelves, figuring out which is the best requires detective work. Many make claims about health, boasting “no trans fats,” “gluten-free,” and “a boost of omega three.” Others play to environmental concerns declaring “earthy harmony,” “nature in balance,” and “sustainable soils.” With the legion of labels, separating wheat from chaff seems impossible, but the report offers one rule of thumb: Don’t confuse organic with “natural.”

Organics, certified and recognizable by the green USDA label, are required by federal law to be produced without toxic inputs and genetically engineered ingredients. “Natural,” on the other hand, is defined by the producers themselves to mislead shoppers and protect shareholders. Cornucopia’s report found that, “When determining their ‘natural’ standards, companies will consider their profitability. Environmental concerns are unlikely to weigh heavily, if at all, in this profitability equation.”

Too bad we’ve been falling for it. The report cites a 2009 poll showing 33 percent of the public trusts the “natural” label while 45 percent trust the organic label.

Generally “natural” is thought to imply the absence of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms, but a closer look at the crunchy goodness inside the boxes reveals the content of both. Tests run by the institute showed as high as 100 percent genetically engineered (GE) contaminated ingredients in popular products like Kashi GoLean, Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix. Even the brands explicitly claiming to be “non-GMO” failed the test, some of them containing more that 50 percent GE corn. Organic products, such as Nature’s Path certified organic corn flakes, were GMO and GE free when tested.

Moreover, conventional ingredients, which “natural” products contain, have been found to hold traces of pesticides. The USDA found detectable neurotoxins in popular breakfast ingredients like oats, wheat, soybeans, corn, almonds, raisins, blueberries, honey and cranberries. New studies are constantly finding new health risks associated with exposure to pesticides. One such found that exposure during pregnancy increased the risk of a pervasive developmental disorder and delays of mental development at 2 to 3 years of age, while another found postnatal exposure to be associated with behavioral problems, poorer short-term memory and motor skills, and longer reaction times among children. Adding to the picture, a recent study by University of Montreal and Harvard University found association between organophosphate in children and ADHD.

It is time for us to reconsider what we associate with the term “natural.” In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan sends out a warning against health claims on food: “As a general rule it’s a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in the Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their new found ‘whole-grain goodness’ to the rafters.”

The same applies to “natural.” Labeling broccoli “natural” would offend common sense. This is the irony of marketing: On a spectrum between whole foods and processed products, the loudest “natural” claims sound from the latter end.

So why do we eaters swallow these cereal scams? The report exposes how breakfast barons intentionally blur the line between organic and natural.

The “natural” products are predominantly camouflaged in brown and green boxes, mimicking the colors of nature, creating an association between “natural” and sustainable agriculture. Packaging images such as rolling fields, grazing cows or smiling farmers give us the impression that by throwing these products in our basket we take a stance against industrial agriculture.

And the producers market themselves as family-run, small-scale business. The Kashi Web site reads: “We are a small (after 25 years, still fewer than 70 of us) band of passionate people who believe right down to our bones that everyone has the power to make positive changes in their lives.” Conveniently absent from packages and Web site is the fact that Kellogg, the largest cereal manufacturer in the country, acquired Kashi back in 2000. Kellogg also owns Bear Naked. General Mills, the second largest breakfast company in the country owns Cascadian Farm, and Back to Nature is run by Kraft Foods, a company with almost $50 million revenue in 2010.

Why does it matter? Because these companies exploit consumers’ desire for conscious consumption and make us feed the system we think we are taking a stance against: Industrial agriculture.

But this is only the beginning of the scam.

The report reveals another strategy: Bait-and-switch. Peace Cereal eloquently performed the maneuver. The brand started out organic, but in 2008 switched to cheaper conventional ingredients and adopted the “natural” label, without changing packaging, pricing or barcode. Many shoppers and retailers did not notice that the USDA label quietly disappeared from the bottom right-hand corner.

Similarly a number of brands market their names as organic by loudly promoting the few certified products on the shelf, ignoring the fact that most of their products are mere conventional ones labeled as “natural.” Annie’s Homegrown, for example, was featured in a 12-page advertisement section in the Washington Post, paid for by the Organic Trade Organization and aimed at educating consumers on the benefits of organics. Nowhere did it mention that only one of five cereal products made by Annie’s Homegrown is organic. That takes an investigation of the fine print on the box many of us don’t perform as we race through the aisle in the short minutes we often have to shop.

But if these natural cereals are nothing but cheap conventional ones in fancy dresses, one would at least expect them to be cheaper than organic products. The report, however, shows just the opposite, and suggests that, “some companies are taking advantage of consumer confusion regarding the difference between the meaningless natural label and certified organic claims.”

So next time you find yourself with a box of organic cereal in your right hand, and a box of natural cereal in your left, remember to read the fine print. Don’t be fooled by labels that are meant to sell products, not look after your health or the environment.

 

Report: Wall Street To Slash 10,000 Jobs By End Of 2012 As Thousands Continue To Protest Against Corporate Greed

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Oldspeak: “Wall Street is the 99%. In a case of chickens coming home to roost, a pothole was reported on Wall Street today with the prediction that 10,000 people working in the city’s securities industry will lose their jobs. In a report released Tuesday, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli also said bonuses are likely to shrink this year, reflecting lower profits on Wall Street. But it is not all bad news. The report revealed the average salary in the industry jumped by 16.1 per cent last year to $361,330. This is in comparison to an average salary of $66,120 in the private sector.”

Related Story:

Wall Street Job Losses Are Seen Hitting 10,000

By Lee Moran @ The U.K. Daily Mail:

New York’s financial sector has been hit by a further setback – with the prediction that 10,000 people working in the city’s securities industry will lose their jobs.

The announcement, forecast for 2012, will mean a staggering 32,000 people in the city’s industry would have lost their jobs since January 2008.

But it may come as good news for the Occupy Wall Street movement – which has taken over the city’s Zuccotti Park to protest against corporate greed.

Set back: Another 10,000 jobs are set to be lost in New York's securities industrySet back: Another 10,000 jobs are set to be lost in New York’s securities industry (file picture)

The news will pile even further pressure on New York’s battered economy, which is struggling to cope with the fall out from the European debt debacle and turbulence in the financial markets.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in his 2011 statement: ‘The securities industry had a strong start to 2011.

‘But its prospects have cooled considerably for the second half of this year. It now seems likely that profits will fall sharply, job losses will continue, and bonuses will be smaller than last year.

‘These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact State and City tax collections.’

He said the securities industry had lost 4,100 jobs in August, wiping out many of the 9,900 job gains between January 2010 and April 2011.

According to the report, by the Office of the State Comptroller, securities-related activities accounted for one in eight jobs in the city.

Solidarity: Singer Kanye West joined with demonstrators at the Occupy Wall Street movement - which is drawing attention to corporate greed and corruptionSolidarity: Singer Kanye West joined with demonstrators at the Occupy Wall Street movement – which is drawing attention to corporate greed and corruption 

It also represented 14 per cent of New York State’s tax revenues and nearly 7 per cent of New York City’s.

The report also said that each job gained or lost in the industry leads to the creation or loss of almost two additional jobs in other industries in New York City.

Mr DiNapoli added: ‘As we know, when Wall Street slows, New York City and New York State’s budgets feel the impact and that is a concern.’

A slew of financial services companies have disclosed plans to cut jobs in recent months, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, HSBC and Barclays.

Investment banks are forecasted to report big declines in third-quarter earnings in the coming weeks due to big trading losses in the financial markets.

Profits for member firms of the New York Stock Exchange are seen tumbling to $18 billion in 2011, marking a one-third decline from the year before.

 

Timing: The Occupy Wall Street movement may take comfort in news of the job lossesTiming: The Occupy Wall Street movement may take comfort in news of the job losses

The OSC said the expected new job cuts are due to the current debt crisis in Europe, the ‘sluggish’ domestic economy, turbulence in the stock markets and regulatory changes aimed at forcing banks to be less risky.

Like many analysts, the OSC said cash bonuses are expected to shrink this year, marking the second-straight year of declines.

But it is not all bad news. The report revealed the average salary in the industry jumped by 16.1 per cent last year to $361,330.

This is in comparison to an average salary of $66,120 in the private sector.

The protests against the state of the U.S. political and economic systems, which started with a handful of people, have now spread to more than 25 cities – from Sacramento to Seattle, Anchorage to Atlanta and Mobile to Minneapolis.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will allow Occupy Wall Street protesters to stay indefinitely at their Manhattan village – but suggested some have only camped out there because of the warm weather.

He also said demonstrators will only be allowed to stay in Zuccotti Park as long as they obey the laws.

J.P. Morgan Chase Makes Largest Ever Donation Of $4.6 Million To NYPD Foundation

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm


Oldspeak
: How bout that. The money will go to more ‘security monitoring software”. The corporatocracy is funding the expansion and strengthening of the police state just in time to literally arrest dissenters protesting its practices; who demand real accountability for precipitating & contributing to the collapse of the global economy.  This coming on the heels J.P. Morgan Chase back in March purchasing a 4oo million dollar stake in Twitter Inc. Curiously, there have been reports of censorship of occupy wall street protests by Twitter since then. We are witnessing consolidation of control over security and communications apparatus in this rapidly expanding and insidiously stealthy totalitarian state. The avenues for dissent and resistance are being constricted and cut off ahead of the soon to come collapse. “The Way Forward” indeed.

By Eric Allen Bell @ EricAllenBell.org: 

JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation.
The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing “profound gratitude” for the company’s donation.
“These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”

Federal Regulators Likely To Let Google Buy Motorola Mobility For “Superpower” Status

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

Oldspeak: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Corporate media consolidation and control of your means of communications continues unabated, while the illusion of choice is perpetuated.”

By Susan Decker and Ian King @ Bloomberg:

Google Inc. (GOOG) is relying on its planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. to forestall patent litigation and force settlements with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) over smartphone technology.

Google cited patent disputes as key to its agreement to buy Motorola Mobility, announced yesterday. Apple, maker of the iPhone, and Microsoft, developer of Windows Phone software, have targeted phones that run on Google’s best-selling Android system, including handsets built by Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. (2498), in lawsuits worldwide.

Lacking its own trove of patents to vie with Apple, Microsoft and other companies, Google and its hardware partners were targeted by suits aimed at slowing the adoption of Android smartphones. Adding the 17,000 patents of Motorola Mobility, which has been inventing mobile-phone technology since the industry began, may help Google stanch the onslaught.

“The analogy to a nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction is compelling,” said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC, which counsels companies on purchasing intellectual property. Google and its rivals “look pretty evenly matched at the moment. Google may have become a patent superpower.”

The goal of Google’s new patent clout is also to act as protection for the handset makers that have been bearing the brunt of the litigation, the company said yesterday.

Patent Weaponry

Competition for dominance in the smartphone market has heated up since Google introduced Android in 2008. Patents, which grant exclusive rights to use a specific invention, have become a way to fight for market share and inhibit rivals from introducing new features.

Apple stepped up the patent feud by suing Android manufacturers, claiming Google-powered devices copy the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft has sued Motorola Mobility and Barnes & Noble Inc., whose Nook reader runs Android software.

Apple and Microsoft have focused on the devices that run on Android, while Oracle Corp. (ORCL), which has sued Mountain View, California-based Google directly, contends Android was developed using its Java programming language. Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages for patent- and copyright-infringement, and Google’s response has been limited to challenging the validity of Oracle’s patents.

Heightening the dispute, a group led by Apple and Microsoft won an auction of patents owned by Nortel Networks Corp. in June after bidding up the price to $4.5 billion, beating out Google in the largest-ever patent auction.

Google Shops Around

Before agreeing to buy Motorola Mobility, Google had few patents on mobile-phone technology. The company’s research had focused largely on its main search-engine business.

Google, seeking to tilt the balance, has actively sought patents that it said could be used as a deterrent to litigation, culminating in the purchase of Motorola Mobility. Google bought more than 1,000 patents in July from International Business Machines Corp.

“Yesterday you could sue Google and you weren’t taking any risks because they didn’t have any patents,” said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein inLondon. “Today it’s the same as suing Motorola.”

The purchase of Motorola Mobility lessens the likelihood of future bidding wars, Ferragu said.

“You have very, very few transactions that would make sense today,” he said. “You possibly have some smaller transactions as Google continues to shop around for quality.”

‘Level Playing Ground’

Motorola Mobility traces its roots to the 1928 founding of Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago. The company, renamed Motorola, was a pioneer of early televisions and two-way radio in World War II. It helped lay the foundation for the mobile- phone industry, demonstrating its first handset in 1973.

“Motorola was a pioneer in this business,” said Will Strauss, an analyst at Tempe, Arizona-based Forward Concepts Co. “They certainly have a lot of intellectual property. It will certainly level the playing ground quite a bit. It’s going to give them an awful lot to defend Android with.”

The purchase would directly embroil Google in litigation, where its partners have until now been the main targets. Motorola Mobility has its own pending lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft. A case Microsoft brought against Motorola Mobility is due to begin trial Aug. 22 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, and a victory may mean a ban on imports of Motorola phones. Motorola Mobility retaliated with a bid to ban U.S. imports of Microsoft’s Xbox video-game systems, with a trial scheduled for October.

Protecting the Ecosystem

Motorola Mobility’s case against Cupertino, California- based Apple also was scheduled to begin Aug. 22, though it’s been postponed. Apple’s case against Motorola begins in September at the ITC. Samsung and HTC also have each filed separate suits against Apple.

“We believe we’ll be in a very good position to protect the Android ecosystem for all of the partners,” Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said in a conference call with analysts yesterday. Motorola will manage the litigation until the acquisition is completed, expected by the end of this year or early next year, he said.

Kevin Kutz, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment on what Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility might mean for the litigation. Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

Nokia Agreement

Apple has been winning so far, with an ITC judge’s finding that, if upheld, could lead to a ban on imports of HTC phones into the U.S. and a court order that prevents Samsung from introducing its new Galaxy Tablet in most of the European Union. As yet, nothing has stopped sales of Motorola’s phones or Xoom tablet.

Google may be hoping that an agreement can be reached with Apple that mirrors one the computer maker struck with another phone pioneer, Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), said Bernstein’s Ferragu.

The Finnish phone maker in June said it won an almost two- year patent dispute with Apple in a settlement that provided it with a one-time payment plus royalties.

“From that, you could infer that in the end it’s going to be Apple paying Motorola, paying Google,” Ferragu said.

While there will continue to be patent purchases in the mobile-phone market, litigation may slow if Google is successful in its strategy of using patents as leverage to strike settlements and keep further lawsuits at bay.

“It may not be the end, but you can see it from here,” said Inflexion Point Strategy’s Laurie. Google “was such an obvious target, and now they’re not,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington atsdecker1@bloomberg.net; Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net

Kashi, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Good, Natural, Socially Conscious Brands? Owned By The Corporatocracy.

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Oldspeak: “Burt’s Bees; owned by Clorox. Tom’s of Maine; Owned by Colgate-Palmolive. Kashi Cereals; Owned by Kellogg’s. Naked Juice; owned by PepsiCo. The Body Shop; owned by L’oreal/Nestle. Most all “Naturally Produced Spring Water”  is actually corporate owned tap water. Deliberately deceptive ‘Marketing strategies have been fooling us to trust that the niche brands continue to be small, environmentally conscious businesses that combine ecologically sound practices with a political agenda to put products out on the market under a business model of “the Greater Good.” In fact, they are frequently cogs in the giant corporate wheel.‘ –  Andrea Whitfill Most all socially conscious, environmentally friendly brands are now nothing more than revenue streams for profit-hungry Megaconglomorates. The commons, social, environmental, political, media, have been commodified and corporatized. Is there no way to escape giving our hard-earned dollars to the decidedly anti-social, anti-environmentally friendly entities that are destroying and exploiting our planet and peoples alike? But I guess the fundamental Catch 22 question as discussed in the article is this: “If you want to change what people consume on a grand scale, you have to penetrate mass markets. ‘And you can’t do that if you’re a small, specialist brand stuck in the organic or whole-food niche, even if that means you are on supermarket shelves. It is a familiar dilemma: stay pure and have a big impact on a small scale, or compromise and have a small impact on a grand scale.’ -Roger Cowe

By Andrea Whitfill @ Alter Net:

My first introduction to natural, organic and eco-friendly products stems back to the early ’90s, when I stumbled upon Burt’s Bees lip balm at an independently owned health food store in the heart of Westport, Kansas City, Mo.

Before the eyesore invasion of ’98, when Starbucks frothed its way into the neighborhood, leading to its ultimate demise, Westport was the kind of  ‘hood I still yearn for. It was saturated with historically preserved, hip and funky, mom-and-pop-type establishments, delivering their goods people to people.

I was surprised more recently when I saw Burt’s Bees products everywhere — in grocery stores, drug stores, corner bodegas and big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. I thought to myself, fantastic; the marketplace is working, and good for Burt. He has made his mark, and the demand for his products is on the rise.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt.

I now understood. The reason Burt’s Bees products were everywhere was precisely because they now had a powerful corporation in the driver’s seat, with big marketing budgets and existing distribution systems.

The story of Burt is a charming one gone bad. Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Dexter, Maine, lived an extremely humble life selling honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck and resided in the wilderness inside a turkey coop without running water or electricity.

In the summer of 1984, Shavitz was driving down the road and spotted a hitchhiker who needed a lift to the post office. He pulled over and picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 34-year-old woman who eventually became Shavitz’s lover and business partner. Quimby started helping him tend to the beehives, and that eventually led to the all natural-inspired health care products made with Shavitz’s honey and the birth of Burt’s Bees products.

Burt’s story and very powerful narrative gave Burt’s Bees products their legitimacy in my book. Creative entrepreneurs and knowledgeable consumers together working their magic; not the results of a corporate behemoth out to dominate the marketplace.

However, Quimby and Shavitz’s relationship became ‘sticky’ in the late ’90s for reasons unclear, yet probably having little to do with honey. Their romantic break up carried over to the split of their business partnership as well. In 1999, Quimby bought out Shavitz’s shares of the company for a small six-figure sum. Quimby then continued, becoming phenomenally successfully and growing sales to $43.5 million by 2002.

In 2003, a private equity firm, AEA investors, purchased 80 percent of Burt’s Bees from Quimby, with her retaining a 20 percent share and a seat on the board. In 2006, John Replogle, the former general manager of Unilever’s skin-care division became CEO and president of Burt’s Bees. The company was sold to Clorox in late October 2007 for $925 million.

Quimby was paid more than $300 million for her stake in Burt’s Bees. At the time of that deal, Shavitz reportedly demanded more money, and Quimby agreed to pay him $4 million. Quimby now refurbishes fancy, swank homes in Florida, travels the world and buys massive chunks of land in her free time. Our bearded man Shavitz, on the other hand, now 73 and unchanged, continues to reside amidst nature in his now-expanded turkey coop, which still remains absent of electricity or running water.

The Burt’s Bees story is disconcerting. I vaguely remembered long ago that one of my favorite ice cream products, Ben & Jerry’s, sold out. Unilever (which also owns Breyers), the giant conglomerate with an estimated market cap of $50 billion and close to 174,000 employees, bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 for $326 million.

I began to wonder about the other products I liked, trusted and respected for their independence and their social responsibility. How many were really owned by big corporations, who were going out of their way to hide the link between the big corporate company with the small, socially responsible brand? It didn’t take long for my list of disappointments to grow and grow.

Upon first meeting someone, I can usually tell a quite a lot about them by the contents of their bathroom. The brand I see most often behind medicine cabinets of people I consider to be environmentally conscious is Tom’s of Maine. What Tom’s says to me about the person is that they are willing to spend a little bit of extra cash in order to take proactive steps to help green the Earth.

Well, no more. My bathroom assessments will never be the same. Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, a massive, tank-like company with an estimated 36,000 employees and revenue of approximately $11.4 billion. Its big products include: Ajax, Anbesol and Speedstick.

I am only left to wonder, is Trader Joe’s, popularly known to showcase Tom’s of Maine in its hygiene department, just as much in the dark about all of this as I have been? Or is Joe’s simply another conduit for big corporate products?

As my curiosity grew, I took a little field trip to the grocery store with one of my friends to be a “brand anthropologist.” “Let’s get to the bottom of this,” I said, aiming to check out all of the brands that I and countless other good consumers were buying in our efforts to support grassroots business and not corporate behemoths. Little did I know how deep the hole was going to be, and in some cases, how hard to find out who owns what.

Thinking Dairy

In the dairy section sit many flavors of Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. I knew its socially conscious CEO, Gary Hirshberg, had created major organic brand recognition to become the No. 1 seller of organic yogurt in the United States, but since then Danone, the French conglomerate (which also owns Brown Cow), acquired a majority holding in Stoneyfield. This is the same Danone that had to recall large quantities of its yogurt in 2007 after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. (In an interesting twist, the still-active Hirshberg sits on the board of Dannon U.S.A. Unlike most of the early entrepreneurs, who took the dough and left the scene, Hirshberg is still involved. )

Meanwhile, I learned that Horizon Organic milk was bought out by the largest dairy company in the U.S., Dean Foods Co., in 2005.

Thirsty? Juices and Water

Next I ventured to the juice section. Drinking Odwalla juices was an expensive habit I had justified for years because of its healthy California brand. The ubiquitous refrigerators in thousands of stores should have given it away that Odwalla wasn’t the small company it once was. It is now owned by Coca-Cola. Almost as soon as Coca-Cola bought the company, back in 2001 for $181 million, it stopped selling the fresh-squeezed OJ that had made Odwalla famous and popular among the healthy set. With its massive distribution system, fresh squeezed wouldn’t last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.

Not to be outdone (although it took it a while), Pepsi bought Naked Juice in 2006 for $450 million, in order to compete with Odwalla. Smuckers, the brand we are told is the “brand we can trust”, grabbed several juice mainstays from the health food store shelves: After the fall — R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic.

Turns out that Coca-Cola also owns Glaceau, the company once known for its “fresh new approach to bottled water that is inspired by nature and enhanced by science.” Glaceau is the maker of Vitamin Water, Fruit Water, Smart Water and Vitamin Energy — all bottled waters that are adorably marketed and loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit in 2006 for making deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims in its Vitamin Water marketing strategies; they are selling glorified sugar water.

As for bottled water, egads! That’s a whole article in and of itself. The scourge of bottled water, of course, is an environmental disaster on many levels, as corporations have moved in to take control of water local supplies, while some of the same companies and their mega advertising budgets have created a giant market for bottled water, with enormous waste from plastic bottles and giant carbon foot prints as water is shipped over many thousands of miles from Fiji for example, or Italy, when pretty much no bottled water is needed. Frequently, tap water is of higher quality and more closely tested than bottled water.

And as Michael Blanding notes on AlterNet, “In fact, many times bottled water is tap water. Contrary to the image of water flowing from pristine mountain springs, more than a quarter of bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies. The industry is dominated by three companies, who together control more than half the market: Coca-Cola, which produces Dasani; Pepsi, which produces Aquafina; and Nestle, which produces several “local” brands, including Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka and Calistoga. Both Coke and Pepsi exclusively use tap water for their sources, while Nestle uses tap water in some brands.

The Breakfast Nook

Over in the breakfast aisle, my friend was a bit apoplectic when we learned that the “super healthy” Kashi cereals, the favorites of millions of healthy breakfast eaters, was bought in July 2000 for an “undisclosed sum” by Kellogg’s, the 12th-largest company in North American food sales, according to Food Processing. I picked up a box of Kashi’s “Go Lean Crunch” and searched every word; not one mention of the fact that Kellogg’s owns them. That change was rally below the radar. In 2004, Kraft Foods, known for processed cheeses and Kool-Aid, bought the natural cereal maker Back to Nature. Kraft is a subsidiary of Altria, which also owns Philip Morris USA, one of the world’s largest producers of cigarettes.

According to the New York Times, “Many of the alternative cereal brands are owned by larger companies, including Kellogg and General Mills.”

“Cereals, like milk, are one of the primary entrance points for use of organics,” said Lara Christenson of Spins, a market research group for the natural products industry, “which is pretty closely tied to children — health concerns, keeping pesticides, especially antibiotics, out of the diets of children. These large firms wanted to get a foothold in the natural and organic marketplace. Because of the mind-set of consumers, branding of these products has to be very different than traditional cereals.”

These corporate connections are often kept quiet. “There is frequently a backlash when a big cereal package-goods company buys a natural or organic company,” Christenson said. “I don’t want to say it’s manipulative, but consumers are led to believe these brands are pure, natural or organic brands. It’s very purposely done.”

A little more digging shows that General Mills owns Cascadian Farm; Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm in England; Mother’s makes it clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo); Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by Hain Celestial Group, a natural food company traded on the NASDAQ, with H.J. Heinz owning 16 percent of that company.

The Sweet Tooth

After the Kashi news, I wondered what was next? I didn’t have to go any further than the organic chocolate aisle of my favorite deli to find Green and Black’s organic chocolate was taken over in 2005 by Schweppes, the 10th-largest company in North American packaged-food sales. And even more surprising to chocolate lovers is that Dagoba Chocolate, which had a little cult chocolate following for a while, is surprise, surprise, owned by Hershey Foods.

There seems to be an apt analogy between the huge growth in the “naturalization” of packaged goods in grocery stores and supermarket aisles and the massive transformation of organic fresh foods. Organic farming began as a grassroots movement to produce food that was healthier and better for the land. But it is now a huge, $20 billion industry, increasingly dominated by large agribusiness companies. Furthermore, when the government certifies food as “organic,” it has nothing to do with the original values of locally grown produce, workers being treated fairly, etc.

So it may cheer some to know that on the East Coast, McDonald’s has served fair-trade-certified Newman’s Own organic coffee in stores, while others may cringe at the words of Lee Scott, former CEO of WalMart, when he said, “We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food.”

“What’s important to keep in mind is that these big corporations are getting into organics not because they have doubts about their prior business practices or doubts about chemical, industrial agriculture,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “They’re getting in because they want to make a lot of money — they want to make it fast.” He said the companies couldn’t care less about “family farmers making the transition to organic farms.”

What does this all mean? One conclusion it is easy to come to is that big food companies and the stores and supermarkets that deliver their goods have stretched and abused descriptions of food until they are sometimes almost meaningless, and consumers believe that they are getting more benefits than they actually are. Consumers “walk down the aisle in the grocery stores’ health and beauty area, and they’re confronted with ‘natural’ at every turn,” says Daniel Fabricant, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Natural Products Association. “We just don’t want to see the term misused any longer.”

On the other hand, Roger Cowe, a financial commentator states: “If you want to change what people consume on a grand scale, you have to penetrate mass markets. And you can’t do that if you’re a small, specialist brand stuck in the organic or whole-food niche, even if that means you are on supermarket shelves. It is a familiar dilemma: stay pure and have a big impact on a small scale, or compromise and have a small impact on a grand scale.”

Some think that socially responsible business sellers don’t lose it all when selling out. Both Craig Sams from Green and Black chocolate and the late Anita Roddick from the Body Shop ( sold to L’Oreal/Nestle — one of the most vilified of multinational companies) have said that they believe that an acquired ethical company can influence its new parent to improve its corporate behavior.

Others are not so positive about this turn of events. Judy Wickes from the Social Venture Network describes corporate takeovers of socially responsible businesses as “a threat to democracy when wealth and power are concentrated into a few hands.” And David Korten, in his book,When Corporations Rule the World, explained how sustainable business “should be human scale — not necessarily tiny firms, but preferably not more than 500 people — always with a bias to smaller is better.”

It is clear that so-called organic brands are a rapidly growing portion of the consumer dollar, and that every major food corporation has invested deeply in buying these already-established brands.

Marketing strategies have been fooling us to trust that the niche brands continue to be small, environmentally conscious businesses that combine ecologically sound practices with a political agenda to put products out on the market under a business model of “the Greater Good.”

In fact, they are frequently cogs in the giant corporate wheel. I like to refer to this “other” business model as “We’ve Been Had.” It is time for we, the consumer, to question how much the ownership and neglectful marketing of these “pseudo” responsible brands warrant crossing them off our shopping list.

And it is time to find products more in tune with our values, which include thinking small. At least until they, too, get bought out by some large conglomerate.


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