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Knowledge is a weapon. Arm yourself.

WATCH: Our Brand Is Crisis | The Buying of Bolivia

Our Brand Is Crisis is a 2005 documentary film by Rachel Boynton on American political campaign marketing tactics by Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS) in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. The election saw Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada elected President of Bolivia ahead of Evo Morales.

“For decades, U.S. strategists-for-hire have been quietly molding the opinions of voters and the messages of candidates in elections around the world. They have worked for presidential candidates on every continent (in Britain, Israel, India, Korea, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, to name a few…).

Without the noise of tanks or troops, these Americans have been spreading our brand of democracy from the Middle East to the middle of the South American jungle. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS is an astounding look at one of their campaigns and its earth-shattering aftermath.

With flabbergasting access to think sessions, media training and the making of smear campaigns, we watch how the consultants’ marketing strategies shape the relationship between a leader and his people. And we see a shocking example of how the all-American art of branding can affect the “spreading of democracy” overseas.”



Banning NGOs in Somalia, or, Farmers Hate Food Aid

bensozia

 March 14, 2014

somalia-live-images-2-3-s-307x512

 

 

Strange story from Somalia, where Al Jazeera reporter Hamza Mohamed finds many people very happy that the anti-western fanatics of al-Shabab expelled all NGOs and ended food aid:

 

In November 2011, in a much-criticised move, al-Shabab banned foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from areas it controlled, accusing some of the organisations of “illicit activities and misconduct”.

“We want our people to be free of NGOs and foreign hands. We want them to depend on each other and to stand free of outsiders,” Sheikh Abu Abdullah, the al-Shabab governor of Lower Shabelle province, told Al Jazeera.

Lower Shabelle is Somalia’s breadbasket. During the famine of 2011, which killed more than 250,000 people, the province was hit hard. Many people moved to camps for internally displaced persons in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. On the other side of the town is the farm of Abdi Haji Qarawi, a 47-year-old who is the father of 18 children. On one side of his 17-hectare sesame farm stand triangular heaps of sesame drying in the scorching mid-afternoon sun.

Before the banning of NGOs and the construction of the town’s canals, Qarawi says he was a “beggar”. “Every last week of the month we used to go to the NGOs’ office to ask for food. Sometime they will tell us there was no food. It was a shameful life.” Two years after deciding to return to farming, Qarawi is a happy man. “All my children go to school. I can afford to send them to study and I have surplus cash,” he said with a smile.

Obviously the farmers are happy about this, since for them food aid amounted to unfair competition. The UN says that main reason things are better in Somalia than in 2011 is that there has been a lot more rain:

But farmers here see the turn of their fortunes differently. The area’s newfound prosperity “is because of the NGO ban”, said Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, the chairman of the Bulo Mareer farmers union. “They always brought food to the town weeks before the harvest… They bought their food from abroad and never bought from us local farmers. They killed every incentive to farm. We were hostage to the NGOs.”

In a traditional peasant society, what happens in years of crop failure is that prices for food soar. Farmers can sometimes do quite well out of this, since whatever little they have to sell is worth a lot more. The main victims are poor townspeople and laborers who don’t have crops of their own — they are the ones in danger of starving. Now bring in a few thousand tons of UN rice, and what happens? Laborers and townspeople are happy, because they can get enough to eat, but farmers find that their paltry crops are not worth that much more, so they are worse off even if not exactly starving. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether you have crops to sell.

Juba_river_downstream_Jamaame

I was not surprised that al-Shabab is opposed to food aid. Mohammed Morsi, when he was Egypt’s President, also tried limit food imports, which suggested to me that Islamic fundamentalists instinctively take the side of the farmers. Like conservatives in some other places, they admire the self-reliance and toughness of farmers and want to protect them from international agribusiness. Maybe this will work, and with protection and encouragement Somalia can become food independent. But maybe not.

The al-Jazeera story focuses on new canals built by a-Shabab that seem to be making some farmers rich. This may or may not be a good thing, depending; almost all of the world’s fresh water gets used by somebody, after all, and the canals that are such a boon to farmers in this district may cause rivers to dry up somewhere else. Hard to know without more detail.

Mungbean-planting1

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba

Che-Guevara-Cuba-Drawings-On-The-Wall-Graffiti-720x1280

cepr

April 4, 2014

by Dan Beeton

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funded for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:

(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:

¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps'] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:

11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:

…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader Maria Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered).  The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commented that, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

Left-White Solidarity?

On the New Face of 21st Century Neo-Fascism

Counterpunch

April 02, 2014

by AJAMU BARAKA

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

– George Santayana

Some years ago Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri suggested that while not always visible in the social practices of everyday European life, the racist foundation for European fascism was still present, safely confined to a space in the European psyche but always ready to explode in what he called a racist delirium.

Today, white workers and the middle classes in Europe and the U.S., traumatized by the new realities imposed on them by the decline of the Western imperialist project and the turn to neoliberalism, are increasingly embracing a retrograde form of white supremacist politics.

WATCH | RT: NGO Documents Plan Ukraine War

Published March 8, 2014



 

Upworthy Reveals Audience Behavior, Begins “Collaborations” With Brands, NGOs

Unilever will be first commercial brand in new program, underwriting curated content around building a brighter future for children

Digital Journal

April 1, 2014

NEW YORK, PRNewswire

WKOG admin: Aside from embracing misogyny, more recently, Unilever, with Kellogg’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, and other corporate entities  funneled big money into defeating Prop 37. Now, Unilever, one of the largest consumer products corporations in the world, is looking to  employ “effective story-telling” to help Unilever “engage with people more meaningfully” in order to “create a better future for children.” (We can assume this is the same children unwittingly being fed genetically modified “foods”). (More on Unilever here.)

It is critical to note that one of the two co-founders of Upworthy is Avaaz co-founder Eli Pariser, as well as president/chairman of MoveOn.org’s board. ["Prior to position of chair, Pariser served as the Executive Director of MoveOn.org. Pariser has worked directly with former Vice President Al Gore on drafting MoveOn-sponsored speeches and assisted in fundraising for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. In December 2003 Pariser worked with Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros, on a MoveOn.org campaign. On December 9, 2004, one month after Kerry’s defeat, Pariser declared that MoveOn had effectively taken control of the Democratic Party." Source]

220 Members of FAWU, employed by Unilever`s Food Solutions and Tea Factory divisions in Pietermaritzburg have embarked on strike on Friday, 17 January 2014 as a result of a dispute between the company and the union. – See more at: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=8359#sthash.mLmo2iH9.dpuf
220 Members of FAWU, employed by Unilever`s Food Solutions and Tea Factory divisions in Pietermaritzburg have embarked on strike on Friday, 17 January 2014 as a result of a dispute between the company and the union. – See more at: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=8359#sthash.mLmo2iH9.dpuf
220 Members of FAWU, employed by Unilever`s Food Solutions and Tea Factory divisions in Pietermaritzburg have embarked on strike on Friday, 17 January 2014 as a result of a dispute between the company and the union. – See more at: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=8359#sthash.mLmo2iH9.dpuf

Fergie Teams up with Unilever on Universal Children's Day

Utilizing celebrities: Effective behavioral change and indoctrination of children into corporate culture.

The average Upworthy post generates 42x as many Facebook interactions as the average post from a top 50 U.S. media site. Promoted brand content on Upworthy.com performs at 73x the average. These and other first-time insights into the highly engaged Upworthy audience will be shared later today at the Ad Age Digital Conference here. The company will also announce its initial revenue approach, and that Unilever will become the first commercial brand to join a new “Upworthy Collaborations” advertising and sponsorship program.

Upworthy lands Unilever as first brand customer #aadigital

Today, Upworthy has one of the most engaged audiences on the Web:

  • The average piece of Upworthy content drives more than 75,000 Facebook likes per post, some 12x more than BuzzFeed, according to engagement data from Newswhip.
  • In 2013, the average unique Upworthy.com visitor spent 11.44 hours with the company’s curated content. Currently, the site is registering more than 5 million “attention minutes” per day.
  • Unique monthly visitors to the site now consistently top 50 million.
  • And 78% of Americans on Facebook have either Liked Upworthy or have a friend who has.

“Billions of sharing actions take place in our network, and Upworthy consistently ranks number one across many of our social metrics, from shares-per-post to percentage of incoming traffic from social networks,” said Sachin Kamdar, CEO of Parse.ly, a provider of content analytics solutions for publishers, whose clients include Conde Nast, Fox News, Atlantic Media, and The Cheezburger Network.

“Upworthy attracts a huge community of highly influential, socially conscious citizens — people who share our goal of building a better future for children,” said Marc Mathieu, Unilever Senior Vice President, Global Marketing. “Our partnership will include work for several of our brands, and we are looking forward to seeing how effective story-telling can help us engage with people more meaningfully.”

Unilever Marketing Vice President Kathy O’Brien will join Upworthy co-founders Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley on stage at Ad Age Digital to discuss the companies’ partnership to promote the core values of Unilever’s Project Sunlight. The program aims to engage people in more sustainable behaviors that will create a better future for children. Upworthy will curate content from across the web, highlighting stories of leaders working toward a more sustainable world, and will work with Unilever agency partner Mindshare to promote the best Project Sunlight content.

“Unilever’s leadership in moving to improve child welfare and contribute to a more sustainable world made them a strong fit for this program,” said Upworthy’s Pariser. “The heart of Project Sunlight matches several of the top topics our audience voted to see more of in 2014. We look forward to working together to bring more attention to young people who are making the world more sustainable.”

First Three Types of Upworthy Collaborations

Participation in the Upworthy Collaborations program will extend to brands, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and foundations. It will take three initial forms:

  • Promoted Posts — Here, participants create content and pay Upworthy to present and distribute it on Upworthy.com and Upworthy social channels. Pilots of this approach in 2013 included one with Skype.
  • Sponsored Curation — Here, participants underwrite Upworthy’s curation costs on a given topic. In this category, Upworthy retains full editorial control of both the selection and presentation of the content. Pilots of this approach in 2013 included All 7 Billion with The Gates Foundation.
  • Content Consultation — Here, Upworthy will work with participants to advise on content selection, packaging, and distribution strategies with a focus on testing and optimization to draw shared insights as a relationship evolves.

The program blends these elements with additional reader-engagement tactics to build always-on content partnerships, fueled by shared learning, organic optimization, and true relationship building with the Upworthy community.

Reception to the paid-content pilots in 2013 was positive, with strong performance of the individual posts and praise from the Upworthy community for how clearly the content was marked.

Upworthy Collaborations launches amid continued strong performance from the two-year-old company:

 

  • Upworthy’s core community of subscribers now tops 7 million, comprising nearly 6 million Facebook fans, 1.6 million email subscribers, and more than 350,000 Twitter followers. All receive Upworthy.com content daily and form the core of a massive sharing community.

 

 

Upworthy brings massive amounts of attention to things that matter in the world. Every day, curators unearth and spotlight awesome, important content using a proprietary approach that combines deep social science, strong voice, and a passionate community. Co-founders Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley have raised $12 million in initial financing from a group that included prominent venture capital firm Spark Capital, the Knight Foundation, and leading individual investors such as Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and BuzzFeed co-founder John Johnson. Each month, more than 50 million people experience Upworthy content. Learn more at http://www.upworthy.com.

Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140401/AQ95317LOGO

SOURCE Upworthy

 

Humanitarian Imperialism in Libya: Review of Slouching Towards Sirte by Damir Mirkovic

Zero Anthropology

March 13, 2014

by Damir Mirkovic

libyabanner

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa
Maximilian Forte
Montreal, Baraka Books, 2012
341 pp, $17.95 (paper), ISBN 978 -1 -926824-52 -9

The post-WW II anti-colonialism is now reversed with a neocolonial thrust to Middle-East and Africa. The case of recent attack on Libya by NATO powers in support of the rebels against the Gaddafi’s regime is the essence of Forte’s critical and scholarly treatment of this contemporary problem.

Several writers – notably, Sartre  (1968), Dedijer ( 1962 and 1968), Markusen (1987 ) Mirkovic ( 2000 ), Lifton (2011 ) – have intimated that modern wars are genocidal. A careful reading of Maximilian Forte’s new book leaves little doubt that the attacks by NATO on Libya in 2011 are a good illustration of this point. When a targeted group or society is of a different culture, race or religion and is not in a position to defend itself adequately, due to a huge difference in military power, the most essential characteristics of genocide are present. Slouching Towards Sirte is a scholarly and well-documented account that gives reader the impression that “humanitarian missions” and the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” are just an ideological facade and smokescreen used to mask the raw imposition of power and punishment on the nations whose leaders dare to oppose the “new world order” of liberal democracy.

Maximilian Forte is Associate Professor of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, and his speciality is political anthropology. The six chapters of this book deal with what the title implies: In its support of rebel forces against Gaddafi’s government, NATO forces attacked a sovereign country and a member of UN, inflicting a huge devastation, and all this under the pretext of promoting human rights and “the responsibility to protect”. Moreover, we learn from Forte’s book that NATO helped, and in fact made possible, the mass killing of black Africans (Libyans and guest workers from the south). Protection of civilians from Gaddafi’s forces sounds hollow in view of the fact that such statements and media reports were never substantiated. “Foreign military intervention did, however, enable the actual genocidal violence that was routinely sidelined in the mass media and was discussed at the UN only once regime change either had occurred fully, or was close to doing so. That was a horrific violence against black African migrants and black Libyans, singled out solely on the basis of their skin colour, and persecuted as such, which fits the definition of genocide much better than violence against protesters.” (p. 240-241).

Forte’s main thesis is the claim that the attack on Libya was not about human rights, neither entirely about oil, but about the destruction of Gaddafi’s pan-African initiative, with the objective of counteracting western neo-colonialism. This – in addition to Gaddafi’s antagonizing of the Arab world – activated the Pentagon Africa Command (AFRICOM) to plan and launch the campaign against African countries to ensure neo-colonial submission to western powers. This is no doubt an original and realistic claim, which the author supports by the facts and analysis he provides throughout the book. In arguing his point Forte does not omit the clear calculation by the US to eliminate from African soil competitors such as Russia and China. Moreover, Forte shows to what extent the (false) claims of human rights violations by Libya government were based on sheer rumours and wishful thinking that justified the NATO air bombardment.

The almost total destruction of Libya’s new capital city Sirte by the rebel forces and NATO air strikes is simply mind-boggling. To illustrate this, it suffices to quote two sentences from Chapter 1: “While observing the destruction of Sirte throughout the course of NATO’s intervention, and particularly in the period from late August to late October 2011, or when visiting the aftermath of the catastrophic shattering of this small city (varyingly described as containing between 70,000 and 150,000 inhabitants), journalists repeatedly noted just how far from grace Sirte has been taken down. … That the slaughter in Sirte should have barely raised an eyebrow among the kinds of Western audiences and opinion leaders who just a few months before clamoured for “humanitarian intervention,” is thus the more striking.” (p. 41). Additionally, many humanitarian organizations, such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, including AVAAZ and the leftist groups in the West, including Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, have acquiesced in raw aggression and even supported it. If we give credence to the facts and evidence presented by the author, we are left with the impression of western powers not evolving and departing from their old racist-colonial attitudes of subjugation and domination, followed by identity-difference and concomitant deference, which are all conducive to genocide. Thus the new reign of terror imposed by the winning side, with the help of the NATO’s air power, is also reminiscent of the worst cases of fascism in twentieth-century Europe. If Forte is right, similar war crimes (against peace and humanity), for which the Nazi leaders were accused and convicted in Nuremberg, were recently perpetrated by the NATO leaders and with impunity.

On the other hand were the cases of strong condemnation of the intervention in Libya by prominent leaders and diplomats from Arica. Among others, the most prominent were Jacob Zuma, the South African President; former South African President Thabo Mbeki; Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni; Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Ugandan permanent representative to the UN; and Dr. Chris Landsberg, Head of the Department of Politics at the University of Johannesburg. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela also condemned the attack, while Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe maintained friendly relations with Gaddafi.

The sources and data on which this book is based are varied and include published documents, press releases and journalistic accounts, reports of private intelligence firms, reports by human rights organizations, some NATO documents, first-hand reports of some of the foreign supporters of the Libyan government, UN documents and resolutions, and as a key sources, the U.S. Embassy cables published by WikiLeaks. The book has extensive references and a short Index. Numerous small photos are also included.

In the Preface, the author explains his understanding of the ethnographic requirement of “being there”, i.e. doing field research. He says that his focus is on the ideological smoke-screen raised across the world by the West. Therefore to him “being there” applies to all of us, because the “there” in question is “composed of our militaries, our ideologies, our fantasies of control, our preferred self-image” (p. 11). As Forte delineates his objective: “This book intends to sketch out this context, while providing a critique of the political culture of late imperialist societies in the West, the kind of morality that is refashioned for mass consumption, and the vision of humanity that is imbedded within NATO and U.S. foreign policy narratives.” (p. 11). Undoubtedly, the author has accomplished this objective successfully and by publishing this book has laid the ground-work for critical anthropology. On the whole, the book is a powerful argument against the humanitarian myth promoted by western powers to mask the imposition of their dominance on other societies. Unfortunately, this fact is ignored by many, who ostrich-like prefer to put their heads in sand.

Damir Mirkovic
Professor Emeritus, Sociology
Brandon University

 


SLOUCHING TOWARDS SIRTE

 

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa
Maximilian Forte
Paperback and E-book: 352 pages
Publisher: Baraka Books (November 28, 2012)

 

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The CERE$ Network

ceres sachs mckibben

May, 2013: “CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes, Generation Investment Management Co-Founder David Blood and 350.org’s Bill McKibben have a lively conversation about how investors can influence the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Ehnes also serves on the Ceres board of directors. Prior to co-founding Generation Investment Management, David Blood served as the co-CEO and CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Prior to this position, Blood served in various positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., including “Head of European Asset Management, Head of International Operations, Technology and Finance, Treasurer of the Goldman Sachs Group, L.P. and Head of Global Private Capital Markets. Mr. Blood was the first recipient of the John L. Weinberg Award in 1990, an award given to a professional in the investment banking division who best typifies Goldman Sachs’ core values.” 

 

Intercontinental Cry

March 11, 2014

by Jay Taber

In Climate Wealth Opportunists, Cory Morningstar presents part two of her investigative report on the non-profit industrial complex, and on the oligarchs that own it. In this part of the series, Morningstar examines CERES, “the clearinghouse for the institutionalization of private governance.”

Creating complacency in a populace that embraces environmental protection required corporate investment in marketing a caring corporate image. As Morningstar observes, through corporate underwriting of mega NGO campaigns, “Ceres successfully lays the groundwork for corporate takeover of goods, services and now ecosystems.”

Thus perpetuating the commodity culture that is currently devastating the planet and indigenous peoples worldwide, the corporate-financed crusades co-opt the innocent and corrupt the opportunists. What Wall Street masterminds might call a win-win situation.

 

[Jay Taber Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as director of Public Good Project. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Pierre Omidyar Co-funded Ukraine Revolution Groups With US Government, Documents Show

Pando

February 28, 2014

By Mark Ames

Just hours after last weekend’s ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, one of Pierre Omidyar’s newest hires at national security blog “The Intercept,” was already digging for the truth.

Marcy Wheeler, who is the new site’s “senior policy analyst,” speculated that the Ukraine revolution was likely a “coup” engineered by “deep” forces on behalf of “Pax Americana”:

“There’s quite a bit of evidence of coup-ness. Q is how many levels deep interference from both sides is.”

These are serious claims. So serious that I decided to investigate them. And what I found was shocking.

Wheeler is partly correct. Pando has confirmed that the American government – in the form of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – played a major role in funding opposition groups prior to the revolution. Moreover, a large percentage of the rest of the funding to those same groups came from a US billionaire who has previously worked closely with US government agencies to further his own business interests. This was by no means a US-backed “coup,” but clear evidence shows that US investment was a force multiplier for many of the groups involved in overthrowing Yanukovych.

But that’s not the shocking part.

What’s shocking is the name of the billionaire who co-invested with the US government (or as Wheeler put it: the “dark deep force” acting on behalf of “Pax Americana”).

Step out of the shadows…. Wheeler’s boss, Pierre Omidyar.

Yes, in the annals of independent media, this might be the strangest twist ever: According to financial disclosures and reports seen by Pando, the founder and publisher of Glenn Greenwald’s government-bashing blog,“The Intercept,” co-invested with the US government to help fund regime change in Ukraine.

350.org’s Friends on Wall Street – The “Climate Wealth Opportunists” | Part III of an Investigative Report

McKibben: Red, White, Blue and Gold(man Sachs)

Saturday Keynote Address by Bill McKibben at the Guiding Lights Weekend 2011.

March 11, 2014

By Cory Morningstar

[Part I of this series, McKibben's Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II can be found here.]

 ”Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X

Preface: A Coup d’etat of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that while anti-REDD climate activists, organizations (legitimate grassroots groups do exist) and self-proclaimed environmentalists – who consider themselves progressive – speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources, they also simultaneously promote the divestment campaign. The irony comes from the fact that the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests (via REDD), water, etc. (environmental “markets“). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing,” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of (tax-exempt) dollars (i.e., investments) to those most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex, via foundations, the corporations need not lift a finger; the feat is being carried out by both the legitimate and the faux environmentalists in tandem with an unsuspecting public (a public with almost no comprehension of 1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis, 2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or 3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony).

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – a fait accompli extraordinaire of unparalleled scale, with unparalleled repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is, all corporations on the planet (thus, all investments on the planet) do and will continue to require massive amounts of energies (including fossil fuels) to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as the beautiful (marketing) imagery, yet they are somewhat illusory – the veneer for the commodification of the commons that is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

The purpose of this investigative series is to illustrate (indeed, prove) this premise.

+++

Poisonous Apples and Agent Oranges

In the explicit plan by the fund portfolio managers to consult with universities to continue investing in the market albeit in “divested” portfolios [Document: Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio], Patrick Geddes, Chief Investment Officer of the Aperio Group, compares apples and oranges, presenting two separate arguments, masquerading as one: 1) Is it worth investing in “environmentally sound” funds from a financial standpoint? and 2) Are “environmentally sound” funds environmentally sound?

In the document, the first question trumps the second. In fact, the paper, in its entirety, is framed in these terms. The fact that there is no such thing as an “environmentally sound fund” is moot. Rather, it’s all about whether a fund makes profit.

The webinar “Do the Investment Math—Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio” explores in detail the risk impact of divesting from a range of carbon-intensive companies, from the Filthy 15 to the Carbon Tracker 200. The panel, moderated by Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, features Geddes (who explores the risk impact of divesting from carbon), and Dan Apfel, Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, who highlights the trend of students calling for divestment and college interest in responsible and sustainable investing.

Activist Robert Jereski wrote to Apfel of the Responsible Endowments Coalition and asked what the “clean tech” that Apfel speaks of actually is, in precise terms. Apfel’s response is as follows: “We interpret clean tech broadly so that investors can find solutions, but also work hard with students so that we can make sure schools avoid things that we consider to be false solutions – fracking, clean coal, as well as trying to figure out what is a good way to do other investment in clean tech. We’re also trying to bridge the gap to more local investments that are not always seen as investable.” The interpretation is so broad that they are apparently unable to actually define it.

In both the webinar and the Q&A period, the word “equity” arises over and over again. Yet in this divestment campaign, brought forward by the oligarchs’ appointed “leader” on climate change, the meaning of equity is that of finance, accounting and ownership. The word equity, as in fairness, does not exist in this patriarchal paradigm: white privilege harnessing climate wealth, as the solution to our global accelerating ecological crisis.

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May, 2013: “CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes, Generation Investment Management Co-Founder David Blood and 350.org’s Bill McKibben have a lively conversation about how investors can influence the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Ehnes also serves on the Ceres board of directors.

McKibben: Red, White, Blue and Gold(man Sachs)

“What can our ‘socially responsible’ investment managers say when they invest in the stocks of banks, like Citibank and JP Morgan-Chase, and government contractors, like IBM and AT&T, who are running critical parts of government as these manipulations occur – including the disappearance of $4 trillion from government bank accounts and the manipulation of the gold markets and inventory in a silent financial coup d’etat?” — Catherine Austin, March 14, 2006

McKibben opens his 2013 Ceres presentation (McKibben was also a Ceres guest speaker in 2007) with some welcome honesty, speaking of his long-standing friendships/relationships with many Wall Street darlings. Prior to co-founding Generation Investment Management, David Blood served as the co-CEO and CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Prior to this position, Blood served in various positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., including “Head of European Asset Management, Head of International Operations, Technology and Finance, Treasurer of the Goldman Sachs Group, L.P. and Head of Global Private Capital Markets. Mr. Blood was the first recipient of the John L. Weinberg Award in 1990, an award given to a professional in the investment banking division who best typifies Goldman Sachs’ core values.” [Source]

In the same 2013 Ceres presentation, McKibben furthers his irresponsible and negligent lie, basing it on the illusion of staying below a deadly +2ºC within an economic system dependent upon growth and the further allowance of burning fossil fuels. In reality, we’re committed to far past 2ºC today, not including feedbacks, [+2.4ºC, Ramanathan and Feng 2008 paper] and looking at a +6ºC future void of most all life.

“[But] we should accept the fact that we have actually written off some of the southern hemisphere communities as a consequence of sticking to 2 degrees centigrade.” — Kevin Anderson

McKibben Promotes 2C

 ”No scientist believes the 2 degree limit is safe, just corporate NGOs.” —Chris Shaw, writer/researcher | Note that the red square highlighting “2 degree Celsius” and the arrow appear in the original image/presentation.

McKibben proceeds to cite his long-time friend/associate, Bob Massie [1], an integral supporter/promoter of the 350.org divestment campaign.

Global Reporting Initiative

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In 1994, Bob Massie won the statewide primary election and became the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He served as Executive Director of Ceres from 1996 to 2003, and was on the Ceres Board of Directors from 2001-2009. [Note that in 2003, the organization dropped the CERES acronym and rebranded itself as "Ceres".] During his tenure as executive director of Ceres, Massie increased the Ceres organization’s size and revenue ten-fold. Massie also “proposed and led the creation of the Investor Network on Climate Risk and the Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk, a major gathering of public and private sector financial leaders held every two years at UN Headquarters in New York City. In 1998, in partnership with the United Nations and major U.S. foundations, he co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative with Dr. Allen White of the Tellus Institute, and served as its Chair until 2002.” [Source] [Dr. Allen White is also founder of Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) – a joint project of Ceres and Tellus Institute.]

“‘Working increasingly with the business sector as a partner, we in the UNDP welcome the Global Reporting Initiative as a critical effort to strengthen the practice of monitoring and measuring corporate sustainability.’  —United Nations Development Programme” (in Ceres 2001 Annual Report)

The Global Reporting Initiative website outlines the timeline and key events as follows:

GRI’s inclusive, multi-stakeholder approach was established early, when it was still a department of CERES. In 1998 a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee was established to develop GRI’s guidance. A pivotal mandate of the Steering Committee was to “do more than the environment.” On this advice, the framework’s scope was broadened to include social, economic, and governance issues. GRI’s guidance became a Sustainability Reporting Framework, with Reporting Guidelines at its heart.

 

The first version of the Guidelines was launched in 2000. The following year, on the advice of the Steering Committee, CERES separated GRI as an independent institution.

 

The second generation of Guidelines, known as G2, was unveiled in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. GRI was referenced in the World Summit’s Plan of Implementation. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) embraced GRI and invited UN member states to host it. The Netherlands was chosen as host country.

 

In 2002 GRI was formally inaugurated as a UNEP collaborating organization in the presence of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and relocated to Amsterdam as an independent non-profit organization. Ernst Ligteringen was appointed Chief Executive and a member of the Board.

It is of interest to note that the GRI Secretariat is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands while “Ceres continues to serve as the U.S. advocate for corporate and investor use of the GRI, and Bob Massie from Ceres serves on the GRI board of directors.” [Ceres 2003 Annual Report] The GRI’s Board of Directors [2] met for the first time on April 3, 2002. The directors included, but were not limited to, representatives from Deutsche Bank Group, Royal Dutch/Shell, Bob Massie for Ceres, and American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations.

GRI is financed by its global network; corporate and governmental sponsorships, Organizational Stakeholders, revenue from GRI products and services and its core support and grants from governments, foundations and international organizations including the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Germany’s state-owned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Australian government. Previous institutional supporters include the European Commission, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, UN Foundation, World Bank, International Finance Cooperation (IFC), John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Foundation, United States Environment Protection Agency, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, the Soros Foundation, and governmental bodies from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Australia.

“With South Africa liberated, Massie went on to other things. Lots of other things. He became an ordained Episcopal minister; he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in his native Massachusetts (in a bad year, up against the Gingrich contract-with-America GOP groundswell). And he took up the global warming fight, bringing his expertise to bear as president of Ceres, a national coalition of environmental and investor groups. He went on to found the Global Reporting Initiative, one of the first attempts to hold businesses accountable for their carbon emissions.” — Bill McKibben, Nov 2012

In the above quote, McKibben states “With South Africa liberated, Massie went on to other things.” McKibben either failed to recognize that the transition was from racist apartheid to economic apartheid or, perhaps, simply viewed/views the transition to the hegemonic nature of neoliberalism as a “success.” [Video source: John Pilger, Apartheid Did Not Die. An analysis of South Africa's new, democratic regime.] It is also imperative to acknowledge that the “attempt” by Massie (as cited by McKibben above) and others within the non-profit industrial complex with their “first attempts to hold businesses accountable for their carbon emissions” has proven to be an epic fail of unparalleled proportions. Despite relentless rhetoric and marketing of such schemes/collaborations/partnerships as success stories, emissions since the launch of the Ceres (1987) and GRI (2000) guidelines have skyrocketed, having increased over 40%; atmospheric CO2 has been pushed to its highest in 15 million years, at an unprecedented rate; ocean acidification has increased 30% with the oceans being acidified faster than at any time in the past 800,000 years and soon, faster than in the past 300 million years. All the marketing and hype will not make this fact any less so. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Failure is success. George Orwell lives on.

In 2002, Massie was named one of the 100 most influential people in the field of finance by CFO Magazine. In 2008, Massie was awarded the Damyanova Prize for Corporate Social Responsibility by the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, and in 2009 he received the Joan Bavaria [founder of Ceres] Innovation and Impact Awards for Building Sustainability in Capital Markets.

In January 2011, Massie declared his candidacy for the United States Senate and began actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination for that office. McKibben actively supported Massie’s campaign utilizing his brand 350.org. [Fundraiser with Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org: "Mark your calendars: Thursday, June 2nd, Bill McKibben, a founder of the grassroots organization 350.org, is coming to Massachusetts to speak at a fundraiser for Bob's campaign for US Senate."]

In March 2012, Massie became the president of the New Economics Institute.

“Ceres and GRI pursue an innovative approach to corporate responsibility which relies on transparency and reputational incentives as opposed to traditional bureaucratic regulation alone. Initially considered impractical, this approach has proven far more effective and efficient at improving social, environmental and human rights performance than traditional regulatory methods alone. More than two thousand major corporations and institutional investor groups now voluntarily participate in Ceres and GRI corporate disclosure standards.” [Emphasis added] [3]

If the voluntary approach as described above has “proven far more effective and efficient at improving social, environmental and human rights performance than traditional regulatory methods alone,” it is hard to imagine what a failure would look like as we edge ever closer towards the final curtain call on what many scientists refer to as Earth’s sixth extinction or the Holocene Extinction .[4] If Coca-Cola and other like-minded corporate psychopaths receive accolades under the Ceres banner of “[H]uman rights performance” (which they do) as they continue to assassinate union leaders in Latin America, what does Ceres consider to be human rights violations? Ceres, although clearly audacious, also understands the psychology of one pining for and readily accepting what one wishes to hear – regardless of whether the facts state otherwise. Like kittens lapping up a bowl of fresh milk, psychopaths have a tendency to lap up such luxurious lies.

Seduction by Omission

In the divestment lecture by McKibben and Massie titled Divestment and the New Economy, it is relatively easy to understand why activists, well-intentioned students and citizens are easily seduced. Language is everything and both McKibben and Massie are extraordinarily experienced, perhaps even gifted, at using palatable and acceptable terminology. Key words that are recognized by many as false solutions (i.e., “green economy”) are omitted, with terms such as “sustainable enterprises” and “fossil-free portfolios” used and exercised in their place. Yet, what is far more stealthy is the language that is purposely omitted: critical discussion as to how colonialism, imperialism, racism and patriarchy are propelled forward and normalized in our commodity culture, via non-fossil fuel investments. Under the economic system of industrialized capitalism, infinite growth of any investment dependent upon Earth’s natural resources is not, and cannot be made to be, sustainable. This is the elephant in the room that no one dares speak of.

Socially Responsible Investing Options: McDonald’s, ConocoPhillips and Nike

“To assess the ‘personality’ of the corporate ‘person,’ a checklist is employed, using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and the standard diagnostic tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social ‘personality’: it is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. Four case studies, drawn from a universe of corporate activity, clearly demonstrate harm to workers, human health, animals and the biosphere. Concluding this point-by-point analysis, a disturbing diagnosis is delivered: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a ‘psychopath.’” —The Corporation, The Pathology of Commerce, Case Histories Divest for our Future, 350.org’s divestment website, recommends “environmentally and socially responsible funds.” [5]

Social responsible investing (SRI) is to serve one purpose: the human purpose. SRI serves/benefits only those with the monetary means to invest – meaning those of privilege. In 2009 Forbes provided a list of the top ten “Socially Responsible Buys.” Number 4 was Energen – a diversified energy company involved in natural gas distribution and oil and gas exploration and production. Number 10 was Apache, which develops and produces natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids. In 2013 things don’t look much different when we view the top 25 ranked socially responsible dividend stocks. Number 20 is Consolidated Edison (natural gas). On Feb 4, 2013 Forbes reported Northeast Utilities a top socially responsible dividend stock. Note that on Feb 20, 2014, it was reported that “Northeast Utilities (NU) Opposes Solar to Protect Profits” [Source]. Most SRI funds are heavily invested in one type of fossil fuel or another. Examples are Parnassus Equity Income Fund (approx. 14% of assets are held in oil, natural gas and electric utilities), TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund (owns shares in dozens of oil and gas corporations including Hess, Marathon and Sunoco, and shale gas corporations, Devon Energy (named the “producer of the year” by Oilsands Magazine) and Range Resources), Calvert Equity Portfolio (approx. 10% of its portfolio comprised of fossil fuels with Suncor one of its largest holdings, which says on its website that it was “the first company to develop the oil sands, creating an industry that is now a key contributor to Canada’s prosperity”) and the Domini Social Equity Fund (among its top 10 holdings is Apache Corp). [Source]

Green Money Journal cited the following as one of five “top socially responsible investing news stories of 2004″ as reported by SocialFunds.com:

“While shareowners have for years withdrawn resolutions when companies comply with their terms, 2004 saw an increasing number of such instances. Energy companies Cinergy (CIN), American Electric Power (AEP), TXU (TXU), and Southern Company (SO) agreed to prepare reports on the risks posed by climate change and company plans to mitigate such risks, and Reliant (REI) agreed to increase climate risk disclosure.”

In light of this top news story of 2004 applauding Southern Company’s corporate responsibility, one might wonder, eight years later, how this lauded corporation has since evolved.

It has evolved the way one would expect any psychopath to evolve:

“To insulate themselves against charges of environmental racism for poisoning poor blacks in Burke County, Southern Companies doesn’t just make wild claims about how many [new] Homer Simpson jobs … its nuclear plants will produce. Southern Companies purchased its very own civil rights organization, the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Council, originally founded by Dr. Martin Luther King himself. A Southern Companies CEO headed up SCLC’s building fund and raised over $3 million to pay for its new office buildings on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue.” June 27, 2012, Black On The Old Plantation

Giving Up Nothing

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“Walden Equity (WSEFX) illustrates the variety among SRI funds. Its holdings include McDonald’s, energy giant ConocoPhillips and Nike, which has had its own labor problems…. Walden, which charges 1.0% per year, has beaten the S&P 500 by 2.8 points a year over the past five years…. So, giving up practically nothing, you can get a warm feeling that your money is serving a useful purpose – even if the fund manager or index composer is deciding what that purpose should be. Not a bad deal.” — 5 Mutual Funds for Socially Responsible Investors, May, 2012

 

“Responsible But Still Profitable – Investors, however, don’t want to suffer losses on their investments, even if they are socially responsible ones. With that in mind, here are five stocks currently listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability United States Index that have produced positive returns over the past year…. limiting your investment selections to companies listed on an index such as this will likely not create an investment portfolio that perfectly matches all of your political and ethical concerns, but it will ensure that your investment capital goes into companies that are regarded as socially responsible on average compared to most companies.” — 4 Socially Responsible Stocks To Watch, Investopedia, June 26, 2012

Stocks

Image: Investopedia

Most all social fund portfolios claim that the funds will consider a company’s performance with respect to environmental responsibility, labor standards, and human rights. This claim must be acknowledged as nothing but marketing rhetoric given Coca-Cola – one of the top offenders on environment degradation, labor and human rights on the planet – is considered a “socially responsible” investment.

The idea that one can divest from Suncor and Exxon and re-invest it into top ranked socially responsible dividend stock such as Pepsi and McDonald’s, and that this is going to somehow develop a “sustainable” economy that will help tackle climate change, is more than a little hopeful. It’s delusional. Don’t like Pepsi? How about Apple? One need not worry about the modern day slaves in China jumping to their deaths from the sweatshop rooftops, just click over to SumOfUs where you can click a petition “to Apple telling them to make the iPhone 5 ethically.” [SLIDESHOW: 25 Top Ranked Socially Responsible Dividend Stocks, Nov. 22, 2013] All is good for the privileged hyper-consumer in the world of make-believe where “real change” is only a click away.

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Make no mistake, one can divest from Exxon and reinvest in Coca-Cola, but infinite growth – a requirement of the industrialized capitalist system – will not and cannot become tamed under a “good” investment or a “bad” one. Nor can the violence and oppression upon the world’s most vulnerable and Earth’s ecosystems, also inherently built into the system.

Under Michael Bluejay’s list of socially responsible stocks, the author writes:

“On the other hand, some say that no large company is completely clean — some are just “less bad” than others. For example, the largest plastics recycler in the world is also the largest producer of virgin plastic. And while producing bicycles is a laudable goal, critics allege that a major bicycle manufacturer uses sweatshop labor to produce its bikes….

 

“There are still yet other complications: Over the years the small eco/responsible companies I list on this site invariably seem to get bought out by a larger company, or themselves grow bigger and then attract multinational investors, or go out of business. As an example of the second case, natural foods maker Hain Foods merged with tea maker Celestial Seasonings a while back and then continued to swallow up dozens of small natural foods makers around the country, and is now a big enough player that their biggest investor is Wellington Management, whose primary investors include Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Alcoa, Gillette, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Wal-Mart! Who would have guessed?”

Does divesting from fossil fuels ensure one does not invest in nuclear? Not necessarily. From the Sustainable & Responsible Mutual Fund Chart, let’s randomly look at just one fund, in this instance, Calvert International Opportunities Fund Y. Under the heading Environment: Climate / Clean Technology we find:

“Restricted/Exclusionary Investment – No investment in companies that own or operate new nuclear power plans, but may invest in companies with existing nuclear power if they are demonstrating leadership in alternative energy.” [Emphasis added.]

Under the heading Social: Human Rights:

“Restricted/Exclusionary Investment: Avoids investing in companies that directly support governments that systematically deny human rights, including those under international and/or US sanction for human rights abuses.” [Emphasis added.]

The irony is grandiose: “Avoids investing in companies that directly support governments that systematically deny human rights.” If this were true, most every U.S. corporation would be “avoided” seeing that the U.S. government has the most appalling history of human rights abuses of all states in the entire world. Never has a single country inflicted so much pain and suffering in almost every corner of the globe.

The Right “Track” for Green Investors

On October 12, 2012 the Guardian featured an article titled How to invest ethically (“As National Ethical Investment Week begins, we look at the latest thinking on green finance and joining the ethical revolution”). Reflecting the fact that water will become exceedingly scarce as planetary tipping points continue to be crossed, perhaps it is of little surprise that the second choice for the opportunistic ethical investor is water. The article states: “Desalination will be a significant investment play for ethical investors, naming GE, Suez and Siemens as potential stock beneficiaries. And most green funds now have a portion of their portfolio dedicated to water stocks, while others, such as Pictet Water, invest only in water.” And what was the number one choice for the ethical investor? Incredibly, it is rail. Rail is highlighted as “[T]he right track for green investors.” The irony is rich – literally. Not only did those behind the creation of the Keystone Pipeline campaign distract the populace long enough for Obama’s financial advisor, Warren Buffett, to build a 21st century North American rail empire, hell, now one can even invest in his rail company BNSF under the guise of ethical investment. Move your money from tar sands investments over to the rail. This way you can watch the oil roll down the tracks, but without holding a direct investment in the oil itself. And the best part is you can feel like you’re saving the world. [From the article: "Shares in railroad companies have soared... In 2009, legendary investor Warren Buffett bought America's second biggest rail operator, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, in a deal valuing the company at $44bn, while CSX, the third biggest operator, has seen its share price quadruple since 2004."]

DeRailment @ Vandergrift, Pa.

February 13, 2014: A 120-car Norfolk Southern Corp train carrying heavy Canadian crude oil derailed and spilled in western Pennsylvania. On January 6, 2005  a Norfolk Southern train hauling chlorine through Graniteville, South Carolina, derailed. The result was toxic gas that poured into the town. Nine people lost their lives on the day of the accident. On June 10, 2010, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Liberty, SC spilling toxic substances.

Both Norfolk Southern and CSX rail corporations are listed among the “Top 25 Socially Responsible Dividend Stocks” in a recent ranking by the Dividend Channel (August 21, 2013). Norfolk (“Giving Mother Nature a High Five”) has also been named in the “Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list” by G.I. Jobs magazine while CSX (“See how CSX is driven to protect the environment”) is the largest coal transporter east of the Mississippi River. CSX is also prepared for growth in the oil by rail market: “CSX’s recently announced capacity expansion will support crude oil growth to the Northeast. The $26 million investment in 2013 adds passing sidings along our River Line running south from Albany, NY to provide even more train capacity to serve the crude oil market. Overall, CSX is investing $2.3 billion into our network and strategic assets in 2013. Currently, CSX has the ability to handle more than 400,000 barrels of crude per day into the Philadelphia market alone. Additionally, our network is capable of handling the largest capacity tank cars (286,000 gross weight on rail), maximizing your barrels loaded per car. This gives you the ability to ship more crude per train and lowers the per barrel transportation costs.”

The SRI Mutual Fund Industry: A Free-for-all

“Colonization, imperialism, slavery, and virtually all wars are directly attributable to oligarchies trying to achieve the highest return on investment. It is called ‘sacred hunger’ in Barry Unsworth’s prize-winning novel of the same name on the slave trade. How the SRI industry came to believe that it could use avarice to reverse the suffering that greed causes has everything to do with marketing and nothing to do with philosophy.” — Paul Hawken, 2004

 

“Clearly no large company has changed its fundamental business practices due to SRI retail investing.” — Paul Hawken, 2004

In 2004 Paul Hawken wrote:

“Imagine an organic food trade association any company could join. Members set the standards to suit themselves. Thus, any store or company can label their products ‘organic’ if they choose because there are no rules defining what organics mean. If your company does anything to improve its production methods, no matter how inconsequential, it qualifies for membership and can use the word ‘organic’ on its labels.

 

The association gives an annual prize to an academic paper, showing that if you eliminate six of the twelve pesticides commonly used on lettuce, you still get as much lettuce as before. Consumers who want to know about the food they buy can’t find out how it is grown or how it is certified. Instead of an independent outside agency, association members hire private for-profit ‘screening’ companies to determine what’s organic. The screening companies compete, each has a different screening method, and none reveal how they define or determine organic. The screening standards allow 90% of all the food produced in the world to be labeled organic. Inside this organization a small group of core producers believe organic should mean ‘no use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.’ The big food companies are amused by this group’s romanticism and see them as ‘idealists.’

 

Sound ridiculous? Yes, but this trade association exists. It doesn’t sell food, it sells investments. It is the international socially responsible investing (SRI) mutual fund industry. Like the imaginary trade group, it has no stands, no definitions, and no regulations other than financial regulations. Anyone can join; anyone can call a fund an SRI fund. Over 90% of Fortune 500 companies are included in SRI mutual fund portfolios.”

Hawken’s summary:

1.     The cumulative investment portfolio of the combined SRI funds is virtually no different than the combined portfolio of conventional mutual funds.

2.     The screening methodologies and exceptions employed by most SRI funds allow practically any publicly-held corporation to be considered as an SRI portfolio company.

3.     Fund names and literature can be deceptive, not reflecting the actual investment strategy of the managers.

4.     SRI in advertising caters to people’s desires to improve the world by avoiding bad actors in the corporate world, but it can be misleading and oftentimes has little correlation to portfolio holdings.

5.     There is a lack of transparency and accountability in screening and portfolio selection.

6.     The ability for investors to do market-based comparisons of different funds is difficult if not impossible.

7.     There is a strong bias towards companies that aggressively pursue globalization of brands, products and regulations.

8.     The environmental screens used by the portfolio managers are loose and do little to help the environment.

9.     The language used to describe SRI mutual funds, including the term “SRI” itself, is vague and indiscriminate and leads to misperception and distortion of investor goals.

10.  Although shareholder activism is cited as a reason to invest in SRI mutual funds, few SRI mutual funds engage in shareholder advocacy or sponsor activist shareholder resolutions.

Perhaps the single most important and overlooked statement within Hawken’s report was as follows:

 ”The single most important criterion for a company is whether its products or services should exist at all.”

The report is damning – especially in light of the fact Hawken is an avid supporter/promoter of “natural capitalism.” “In keeping with their longstanding commitment to green capitalism, in 1982 Hawkin’s coauthors Hunter and Amory Lovins founded the green think-tank and consultancy Rocky Mountain Institute, which has worked with all manner of large and small companies including Royal Dutch Shell and Walmart, and with governmental clients such as the Pentagon.” [Source]

Following this report, Hawken went on to found the Highwater Global Fund with Michael Baldwin. Highwater, with Portfolio 21, are considered to be two of the most ethical funds that exist. Yet both funds have holdings in Banco Bradesco – an investor in REDD. ["The FAS is an innovative institution, created by the state government of Amazonas and Bradesco Bank, also the maintainer. Among the other organizations that support it are Coca-Cola, Amazon Fund – BNDES, Marriott International, Samsung, and other operational partners."] [WATCH: Indigenous Peoples Aggressively Targeted by Manipulative NGOs Advancing REDD Agenda]

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred… It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network Oct 22. 2013

Portfolio 21 also has holdings in gas: “Portfolio 21 Investments will invest in companies involved in the transmission and distribution of natural gas as well as in utilities that utilize natural gas as a fuel source.” [Source]

The top ten equity holdings of Highwater are: Apple; Banco Bradesco; Cisco; EnerNOC; Ford Motors; Hyflux; Natura Cosmetics; Novozymes; SSL International; and Vivo Participacoes (Highwater Global Fund, 2010). Although addressing poverty appears to be a predominant area of interest in Hawken’s extensive CV, those with limited funds need not contact Highwater Global Fund anytime soon. The minimum investment bar creates yet another exclusive venue where only the monetarily rich have access to Highwater’s services, furthering class distinction and division.

It’s not that Highwater or Portfolio 21 are “evil,” rather, it is simply the nature of capitalism. The nature of the beast. Profit comes first.

“Some claim that the SRI label has become a little too elastic. In 2010, a report from ethical financial advisers Barchester Green said many UK funds cannot justify the labels applied to them. It was particularly critical of the Zurich Environmental Opportunities pension fund, whose top holdings – Shell, BP and miner Rio Tinto – resembled ‘an environmental investor’s blacklist.’ Conservative investors might approve of the Ave Maria Catholic Value fund’s screening out of supposed sin stocks, but not be keen that controversial oil company Halliburton is one of its biggest holdings.” — Ethical wrapper can contain some surprising names, October 22, 2013

From Exxon to BP

It is somewhat ironic that Ceres was launched in 1989 (presented to the public as The Valdez Principles), exploiting the Exxon Valdez spill to build its own brand recognition and value as the corporate watchdog. Jump forward to the April 20, 2010 BP oil spill, which is considered the largest, most catastrophic, accidental marine oil spill in history – surpassing the cataclysmic Exxon oil spill of 1989. How many people know that up until this disaster, BP was a top holding SRI fund. Also not to be forgotten as a top holding SRI investment before its demise in 2004 was none other than Enron – the poster child for corporate malfeasance.

“Regenerative Capitalism”

The December 27, 2012 article (Greenbiz), Why 350.org’s divestment campaign is on the money, is written by Michael Kramer of Natural Investments, another firm of mention in the 350.org divestment documents (Institutional Pathways to Fossil Free Investing).

Kramer (“Regenerative Capitalism“) makes the argument to move fossil fuel divestments to SRI funds. The article ends with Kramer announcing his firm has created a fossil-fuel-free portfolio for investors who can’t bear to invest in fossil fuels. “The time has come to put our money where our values are, and money managers and mutual funds that claim to be sustainable or socially responsible should look very closely at what these words truly mean and reflect upon whether they should use such terminology if they don’t measure up to such a standard.”

Upon further research it was found that the Natural Investments Fossil Fuel Free Portfolio is comprised of ten fixed income and equity funds and that the fund also supports a non-profit organization) (10%). When asked what actual investments comprised the fund, here was the response:

“Thanks for your inquiry. We have identified 10 such funds that meet our financial and broader environmental, social and governance criteria, but it’s certainly possible that there are other fossil fuel free funds that don’t apply such ESG criteria. But given our universe of about 200 sustainable and responsible funds, we’ve indeed found very few that qualify for inclusion. We certainly provide the names of all investments we use to our clients, but not otherwise (though all the responsible funds we consider are listed in the Heart Rating section of our website). As far as the nonprofits we donate to, 350.org is the recipient of a portion of the management fee for the fossil fuel free portfolio, and many other recipients for the rest of our 1%- of- revenues donations are listed here: http://naturalinvesting.com/charitable-contributions. Feel free to be in touch if we can be of further service. Thanks, Michael Kramer, Accredited Investment Fiduciary, Managing Partner, Natural Investments LLC

The transferring of investment funds from fossil fuel investments to SRI investments is not a solution to our unparalleled ecological crisis, with the planet already having crossed a multitude of planetary boundaries. Rather, it is a two-fold distraction with epic consequences. First, it distracts from the very root causes of our ecological/planetary crisis. Second, under this veil, the illusory “green economy,” – the commodification of the planet – is going forward, full throttle, with almost no opposition. This brilliant and diabolical marketing feat employing behaviour change strategies is being carried out by the organizations, firms and NGOs working with and promoting the divestment campaign, while on the surface, 350.org’s “hands” remain clean. SRI fund promoters are not activists. One must never lose sight of the simple fact that their primary duty as a fiduciary is maximum shareholder return.

The SRI industry is not interested in reversing the anguish resulting from colonialism, imperialism, racism, patriarchy, oppression and decimation of environment, as all of this ugliness is inherently built into the system (which then externalizes these costs). The task at hand is the continuance of individualism and greed, normalized into a commodity culture, where all those with monetary means can acquiesce in our collective path to self-destruction. Such a vogue fabrication of, in essence, a kinder, gentler, more compassionate capitalism, is achievable and even preferred in a corporatized society where lies are preferred over truth. Exquisite fabrication, wrapped in opaque vellum, bestowed with a shimmering green bow. It’s not high-gloss marketing over philosophy. High-gloss marketing is the philosophy.

The Mythology of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Such crafted veneer as the Ceres Principles can be categorized under the similar heading/guise of “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR). In the article Corporate Social Responsibility as a Political Resource (February 22, 2010), author Michael Barker writes:

“In June 2003 Gretchen Crosby Sims completed a vitally important Ph.D. at Stanford University titled Rethinking the Political Power of American Business: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility. Hardly counting herself as a political radical – Sims’s doctorate thesis was supervised by Morris Fiorina, who is presently a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution – the findings of her unpublicized study provide a critical resource for progressive activists seeking to challenge the mythology of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). As the British non-profit organization Corporate Watch states, CSR ‘is not a step towards a more fundamental reform of the corporate structure but a distraction from it.’ Indeed, Corporate Watch advise that: ‘Exposing and rejecting CSR is a step towards addressing corporate power….’

 

As [Weinstein] demonstrated long ago, corporate elites adopted the principles of ‘cooperation and social responsibility’ to sustain capitalism’s inequalities, not to remedy them. To campaign for Corporate Social Responsibility in this present day is akin to demanding the institutionalization of elite social engineering. Capitalist corporations will never be socially responsible, this fact is plain to see; thus the sooner progressive activists identify their enemy as capitalism, not corporate greed or a lack of good-will, then the sooner they will be able to create an equitable world whose political and economic system is premised on social responsibility, not to corporate elites, but instead to all people.” [Emphasis added]

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of GreenThe Art of AnnihilationPolitical ContextCounterpunch,Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.]

 Endnotes:

[1] Bob Massie is the President and CEO of the New Economics Institute. An ordained Episcopal minister, he received his B.A. from Princeton Unversity, M.A. from Yale Divinity School, and doctorate from Harvard Business School. From 1989 to 1996 he taught at Harvard Divinity School, where he served as the director of the Project on Business, Values, and the Economy. His 1998 book, Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years, won the Lionel Gelber prize for the best book on international relations in the world. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1994 and a candidate for the United States Senate in 2011. During his career he has created or led three ground-breaking sustainability organizations, serving as the president of Ceres (the largest coalition of investors and environmental groups in the United States), the co-founder and first chair of the Global Reporting Initiative, and the initiator of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, which currently has over 100 members with combined assets of over $10 trillion. [Source: New Economics Institute]

[2] ROGER ADAMS (United Kingdom) Executive Director-Technical, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, JACQUELINE ALOISI DE LARDEREL (France) Assistant Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics, FABIO FELDMANN (Brazil) former Secretary of Environment, São Paulo, TOSHIHIKO GOTO (Japan) Chair, Environmental Auditing Research Group, JUDY HENDERSON, CHAIR (Australia) immediate-past Chair, Australian Ethical Investment Ltd, former Commissioner, World Commission on Dams HANNS MICHAEL HÖLZ (Germany) Global Head of Sustainable Development and Public Relations, Deutsche Bank Group, JAMSHED J. IRANI (India) Director, Tata Sons Limited, ROBERT KINLOCH MASSIE (United States) Executive Director, CERES, MARK MOODY-STUART (United Kingdom) retired Chair, Royal Dutch/Shell, ANITA NORMARK (Sweden) General Secretary, International Federation of Building and Wood Workers, NYAMEKO BARNEY PITYANA (South Africa) Vice-Chancellor, University of South Africa, former Chair, South African Human Rights Commission BARBARA SHAILOR (United States) Director of International Affairs, American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations, BJORN STIGSON (Sweden) President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development PETER H.Y. WONG (China) Senior Partner, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Hong Kong; and Board Member, International Federation of Accountants.

[3] Source: Wikipedia

[4] “However these debates will unfold, the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet.” ["Geologists from the University of Leicester are among four scientists – including a Nobel prize-winner – who suggest that Earth has entered a new age of geological time."] Source: Science Daily, March 26, 2010

[5] Are SRI funds as clean and green as you think? by Marc Gunther, December 4, 2012

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