Why We Need Pirates

Imagine a pirate. The image that comes immediately to mind is a man, disabled in various ways, with a peg leg, a hook for a hand, a patch over one eye, and a parrot on his shoulder. He is rough, coarse, sometimes humorous, sometimes terrifying. From Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to Hollywood films, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, this image of the pirate has for centuries now suffused an American, and increasingly global, popular culture.

The image is a myth, but it is no less powerful for that. Like all myths, it contains a small but essential element of truth. Pirates of the “Golden Age,” who marauded on the high seas from 1660 to 1730, were almost all common working sailors, poor men from the lowest social class, who crossed the line into illegal activity, most of them bearing the scars of a dangerous line of work. Naval warfare of the era featured cannonballs blowing up wooden ships, sending an explosion of splinters and chunks of wood that blinded and severed the arms and legs of mariners. Sailors fell from the rigging, suffered hernias while lifting heavy cargo, caught malaria and other debilitating diseases, and lost fingers to rolling casks. Many died, their bodies dumped into that vast gray-green graveyard called the Atlantic Ocean. Crippled mariners made up the majority of beggars to be found in the port cities of the Atlantic world.

The ravaged body of the pirate is a key to understanding the real history of those who sailed “under the banner of King Death,” the infamous black flag, the pirates’ Jolly Roger.

— source yesmagazine.org | Paul Buhle & Marcus Rediker & David Lester | Jan 26, 2023

Nullius in verba


McKinsey’s Addiction Corporations

Almost 30 years ago, tobacco CEOs were forced to answer questions – under oath. For the first time, corporate bosses had to admit that tobacco companies were designing cigarettes to sustain addiction – a dark day for corporate profits, tobacco corporations, and the ever supportive management consultancy firm: McKinsey. Yet, it was a good day for everyone else. Corporate CEOs also confessed that they had manipulated an addictive drug. But Big Tobacco wasn’t finished.

The $157bn heavy tobacco giant Philip Morris shot back by trying to intimidate the media. The corporation did this by filing a $10bn lawsuit against two reporters and their employer – ABC News.

The goal was to shut them up – in the so-called “land of the free speech”. The corporation did this because of their investigation into nicotine manipulation in cigarettes. Yet, the corporate strategy came a touch too late. Public sentiments began to turn against Big Tobacco.

Watching all this unfold in horror was McKinsey. The global consultancy juggernaut was forced to observe a rising tide of public disapproval. Yet, McKinsey knew full well – for

— source scheerpost.com | Thomas Klikauer | Jan 10, 2023

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The world’s insurance bill from natural disasters this year: $115 billion

Extreme weather events have caused an estimated $115 billion in insured financial losses around the world this year according to Swiss Re, the Zurich-based reinsurance giant. That’s 42 percent higher than the 10-year average of $81 billion. The firm estimates that $50 billion to $65 billion of the total losses are a result of Hurricane Ian, the category 4 storm that pummeled parts of Florida’s west coast in late September with torrential rain, a 10-foot storm storm surge, and winds topping 140 miles per hour. Swiss Re ranks Ian as the second costliest natural disaster ever, in terms of insurance losses, after Hurricane Katrina struck south Louisiana in 2005.

— source grist.org | Dec 02, 2022

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Wealth Inequality Increased From 2000 to 2021

In most countries around the world, wealth inequality decreased from the beginning of the 21st century, but that trend was reversed in some places. The global financial crisis of 2007-08 had a negative effect on the attempt to close wealth gaps. After having fallen to a still-high 43% by 2008, the share of global wealth held by the wealthiest 1% increased again to nearly 46% in 2021, according to Credit Suisse’s annual Global Wealth report.

Wealth inequalities (and their dynamics) vary enormously from one country to another. Previous to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia was the country with the highest wealth concentration in the hands of the 1%, revealing a deep-reaching system of cronyism. Last year, 1% of the Russian population had still held nearly 60% of the national wealth. Since then, Russian billionaires’ fortunes have dwindled.

Other countries exhibiting big wealth inequality shares are Brazil, India and the United States. In China, wealth inequality has grown significantly from 2000 until 2021.

— source statista.com | Katharina Buchholz | 08/Dec/2022

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What Price “Defense”?

Late last month, President Biden signed a bill that clears the way for $858 billion in Pentagon spending and nuclear weapons work at the Department of Energy in 2023. That’s far more than Washington anted up for military purposes at the height of the Korean or Vietnam wars or even during the peak years of the Cold War. In fact, the $80 billion increase from the 2022 Pentagon budget is in itself more than the military budgets of any country other than China. Meanwhile, a full accounting of all spending justified in the name of national security, including for homeland security, veterans’ care, and more, will certainly exceed $1.4 trillion. And mind you, those figures don’t even include the more than $50 billion in military aid Washington has already dispatched to Ukraine, as well as to frontline NATO allies, in response to the Russian invasion of that country.

The assumption is that when it comes to spending on the military and related activities, more is always better. 

There’s certainly no question that one group will benefit in a major way from the new spending surge: the weapons industry. If recent experience is any guide, more than half of that $858 billion will likely go to private firms. The top five contractors alone — Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman — will split between

— source tomdispatch.com | William Hartung | Jan 17, 2023

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