Consumer Protection Progress and Regress – From the Sixties to Now

I’m often asked whether consumers are better or worse off since the modern consumer movement took hold in the nineteen sixties.

Let’s look at the record. Motor vehicles are much safer, less polluting, and more fuel efficient now, but not nearly what they should be. Today, consumers have warranty rights, recall rights, equal credit opportunity rights they did not have back then. Labeling has also improved. There is no more lead in gasoline and paint, though lead water pipes still contaminate some drinking water systems.

From being King tobacco over 50 years ago, cigarette companies are more regulated and daily tobacco smoking is down from 45% of adults to less than 15% of adults. But now there is vaping. Deadly asbestos is out of most products.

Solar energy and wind power are growing, even though energy company propaganda smeared them as Buck Rogers science fiction over 50 years ago.

Nuclear power plants are closing and no new ones are under construction, except for the massive Georgia boondoggle projects costing taxpayers and ratepayers billions of dollars

— source nader.org | Ralph Nader | Apr 15, 2022

Nullius in verba


Billionaires Are Not Morally Qualified To Shape Human Civilization

Human civilization is being engineered in myriad ways by an unfathomably wealthy class who are so emotionally and psychologically stunted that they refuse to end world hunger despite having the ability to easily do so.

The United Nations has estimated that world hunger could be ended for an additional expenditure of $30 billion a year, with other estimates considerably lower. The other day Elon Musk became the first person ever to attain a net worth of over $300 billion. A year ago his net worth was $115 billion. According to Inequality.org, America’s billionaires have a combined net worth of $5.1 trillion, which is a 70 percent increase from their combined net worth of under $3 trillion at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So we’re talking about a class which could easily put a complete halt to human beings dying of starvation on this planet by simply putting some of their vast fortunes toward making sure everyone gets enough to eat. But they don’t. This same class influences the policies, laws, and large-scale behavior of our species more than any other.

— source caitlinjohnstone.com | Caitlin Johnstone | Oct 31, 2021

Nullius in verba


No, We’re Not All in This Together

Media outlets keep telling us that we’re all together in this pandemic. But we’re not. The super-rich have separated themselves from the rest of us, with concierge medicine, private travel accommodations, isolated but well-stocked resort homes, and a variety of other advantages that allow them to look beyond the hardships endured by average Americans.

A few billionaires have contributed to the fight against Covid-19. But Luke Hildyard, Executive Director of the High Pay Centre, says, “Very generous individual grants can obscure the fact that on the whole, wealthy people’s charitable giving is pretty minimal.” In the most flagrant example of disregard for the rest of us, one company has installed private ‘doomsday’ bunkers in New Zealand with “luxury bathrooms, game rooms, shooting ranges, gyms, theaters and surgical beds.”

There are at least three good reasons why wealthy Americans should be doing a LOT MORE to give something back to the nation that made them rich.

A Guaranteed Income Held Hostage: The Richest 5% Own Almost Two-Thirds of Our Nation’s Wealth

— source commondreams.org | Paul Buchheit | Apr 27, 2020

Nullius in verba


We Need a Collective Response to the Collective Dilemma of Coronavirus

I write this in the midst of the coronavirus crisis in New York City. It is a difficult time to know exactly how to respond to what is happening. Normally in a situation of this kind, we anti-capitalists would be out on the streets, demonstrating and agitating.

Instead, I am in a frustrating position of personal isolation, at a moment when the time calls for collective forms of action. But as Karl Marx famously put it, we cannot make history under circumstances of our own choosing. So we have to figure out how best to make use of the opportunities we do have.

My own circumstances are relatively privileged. I can continue to work, but from home. I have not lost my job, and I still get paid. All I have to do is to hide away from the virus.

My age and gender put me in the vulnerable category, so no contact is advised. This gives me plenty of time to reflect and write, in between Zoom sessions. But rather than

— source jacobinmag.com | David Harvey | 04.24.2020

Nullius in verba


The New Puritans

“It was no great distance, in those days, from the prison-door to the market-place. Measured by the prisoner’s experience, however, it might be reckoned a journey of some length.”

So begins the tale of Hester Prynne, as recounted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. As readers of this classic American text know, the story begins after Hester gives birth to a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. As a result, she is sentenced to be mocked by a jeering crowd, undergoing “an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.” After that, she must wear a scarlet A—for adulterer—pinned to her dress for the rest of her life. On the outskirts of Boston, she lives in exile. No one will socialize with her—not even those who have quietly committed similar sins, among them the father of her child, the saintly village preacher. The scarlet letter has “the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.”

We read that story with a certain self-satisfaction: Such an old-fashioned tale! Even Hawthorne sneered at the Puritans, with their “sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats,” their strict conformism, their narrow minds and their hypocrisy. And today we are not just hip and modern; we live in a land governed by the rule of law; we have procedures designed to prevent the meting-out of unfair punishment. Scarlet letters are a thing of the past.

Except, of course, they aren’t. Right here in America, right now, it is possible to meet people who have lost everything—jobs, money, friends, colleagues—after violating no laws, and sometimes no workplace rules either. Instead, they have broken (or are accused of having broken) social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior, or even

— source theatlantic.com | Anne Applebaum | Aug 31, 2021

Nullius in verba


Building bonds between males leads to more offspring for chimpanzees

A study led by the University of Michigan, in collaboration with Arizona State and Duke universities, examined why male chimpanzees form close relationships with each other, and found that male chimpanzees that build strong bonds with the alpha male of the group, or with a large network of other males, are more successful at siring offspring. The results are published in the journal iScience. For males, the biggest task is getting reproductive access to females. One function of these social bonds, the researchers found, is to help males gain access to mating opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get without help from their friends.

They found that males with more strong association ties — males with the highest number of social bonds with other males — had a higher likelihood of siring offspring. In fact, two or more strong association ties meant a male chimpanzee was more than 50% more likely to sire a given offspring.

— source University of Michigan | Aug 17, 2021

[agressiveness is the rule of capitalism. not natural.]

Nullius in verba


Workplace incivility is on the rise

a new Portland State University study found that employees who experience or witness incivilities are more likely to be uncivil to others — a worrying trend that could intensify as people return to in-person work. Uncivil behavior at work can range from criticizing someone in public, rude or obnoxious behavior or withholding important information to more subtle acts such as arriving late to a meeting, checking email or texting during a meeting, or ignoring or interrupting a colleague. Employees who have more control over their jobs are less likely to reciprocate incivility. Employees whose immediate team or workgroup engages in more civil behavior are less likely to reciprocate incivility. Employees who are older are less likely to reciprocate incivility.

— source Portland State University | Aug 10, 2021

Nullius in verba


Why Anthropology Matters

In 2012, both Kiplinger and Forbes ranked anthropology as the least valuable undergraduate major, unleashing a small wave of indignation as many outside the field rushed to defend the study of culture as ideal preparation for any life or career in an interconnected and globalized world. The response from professional anthropologists, confronted by both an existential challenge and public humiliation, was earnest but largely ineffective, for the voice of the discipline had been muted by a generation of self-absorption, tempered by a disregard for popular engagement that borders on contempt.

Ruth Benedict, acolyte of the great Franz Boas and in 1947 president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), reputedly said that the very purpose of anthropology was to make the world safe for human differences.

Today, such activism seems as passé as a pith helmet. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the AAA met in Washington, D.C. Four thousand anthropologists were in the nation’s capital in the wake of the biggest story of culture they or the country would ever encounter. The entire gathering earned but a mention in The Washington Post, a few lines in the gossip section essentially noting that the nutcases were back in town. It was hard to know who was more remiss, the government for failing to listen to the one profession that

— source scientificamerican.com | Wade Davis | Feb 1, 2021

Nullius in verba


MGNREGA never intended to categorise workers based on caste

The Government of India amended the payment procedure for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) some time ago. Due to this, MGNREGA workers in the states and Union territories faced a delay in their wage payment. This delay came at a time when the second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was wreaking havoc across the country.

MGNREGA was started in 2006. Economist and honorary professor at the Delhi School of Economics, Jean Dreze played a pivotal role in preparing the draft of the scheme. Down to Earth spoke in detail with Dreze. Edited excerpts:

Down To Earth: The government has brought in a new notification for MGNREGA, which classifies workers into Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward and general categories and gives them work and money accordingly. What problems arise and how may this hinder achieving MGNREGA’s basic objective?

Jean Dreze: Currently, I am not informed about why the central government brought such a notification and what it wants to achieve from it. But it is certain that many people are getting affected. I am going to do a detailed study about this and will share all the information related to it with you very soon.

— source downtoearth.org.in | Jean Dreze | 12 Jul 2021

Nullius in verba