Monday, September 29, 2008

The Corporation


Next week sometime...stay tuned...CCHRIST will continue with the first of a film series. We will pick up again with the award-winning documentary, The Corporation, in at least a half-hour segment (considering people have places to go after school).

The film takes an interesting and highly critical look into U.S. imperialism as exercised through the workings of the corporate world.

The meeting will start promptly at 2:30 pm. I will provide snacks so come with somewhat of an appetite. Come to Room 402 or 407 (check both rooms).

Below is some reliable information on the film from

The film was written by Joel Bakan, and co-directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary has been displayed worldwide, on TV and is also available on DVD. Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (ISBN 0-74324-744-2), during the filming of the documentary.

The film charts the development of the corporation as a legal entity from its origins as an institution chartered by governments to carry out specific public functions, to the rise of the vast modern institutions entitled to some of the legal rights of a person. One central theme of the documentary is an attempt to assess the "personality" of the corporate "person" by using diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV; Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia Psychology Professor and FBI consultant, compares the profile of the modern, profit-driven corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath. The film focuses mostly on corporations in North America, especially in the United States.

The film is composed of several vignettes examining and critiquing corporate practices, and drawing parallels between examples of corporate malfeasance and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, i.e. callous unconcern for the feelings of others, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (repeated lying to and deceiving of others for profit), incapacity to experience guilt, and failure to conform to the social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.

Topics addressed
Topics addressed include the Business Plot, where in 1933, the popular General Smedley Butler exposed a corporate plot against then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt; the tragedy of the commons; Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning people to beware of the rising military-industrial complex; economic externalities; suppression of an investigative news story about Bovine Growth Hormone on a Fox News Channel affiliate television station; the role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust; the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of Bolivia's municipal water supply by the Bechtel Corporation; and in general themes of corporate social responsibility, the notion of limited liability, the corporation as a psychopath, and the corporation as a person.

The film also features interviews with prominent corporate critics such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Vandana Shiva, Charles Kernaghan, and Howard Zinn as well as opinions from company CEOs such as Ray Anderson (from the Interface carpet & fabric company), the capitalist viewpoints of Peter Drucker and Milton Friedman, and think tanks advocating free markets such as the Fraser Institute. Interviews also feature Dr. Samuel Epstein with his involvement in a lawsuit against Monsanto for promoting the use of Posilac, (Monsanto's trade name for recombinant Bovine Somatotropin) to induce more milk production in dairy cattle.

"The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine." - Robert Monks, a corporate governance advisor in the film and former GOP (Republican) candidate for Senate from Maine

Film critics gave the film generally favorable reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 104 reviews.[1] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 28 reviews.[2]
Variety praised the film's "surprisingly cogent, entertaining, even rabble-rousing indictment of perhaps the most influential institutional model for our era" and its avoidance of "a sense of excessively partisan rhetoric" by deploying a wide range of interviewees and "a bold organizational scheme that lets focus jump around in interconnective, humorous, hit-and-run fashion."[3]

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert described the film as "an impassioned polemic, filled with information sure to break up any dinner-table conversation." He felt that "at 145 minutes, it overstays its welcome. The wise documentarian should treat film stock as a non-renewable commodity."[4]

The Economist review suggests that the idea for an organization as a psychopathic entity originated with Max Weber, in regards to government bureaucracy. Also, the reviewer remarks that the film weighs heavily in favor of public ownership as a solution to the evils depicted, while failing to acknowledge the magnitude of evils committed by governments in the name of public ownership, such as those of the Communist Party in the former USSR.[5]

The Maoist Internationalist Movement, in their review criticizes the film for the opposite: for depicting the communist party in an unfavourable light, while adopting an anarchist approach favoring direct democracy and worker's councils without emphasizing the need for a centralized bureaucracy. The film, in their view "offers no realistic alternative to imperialism." and "it shares some of the strengths and downfalls" of Mark Achbar's film Manufacturing Consent, which celebrates the life of anarcho-syndicalist, linguist, and activist Noam Chomsky. In their view, "corporate power for profit [is] not the same as megabureaucracy without profit."[6]

The film was nominated for numerous awards, and won the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, 2004, along with a Special Jury Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival in 2003 and 2004.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Catch the Bombs!


A “Golden Rule” on human rights is essential for an effective Arms Trade Treaty

As UN member states meet in October to consider moving towards negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, a new detailed report by Amnesty International urges world leaders to adopt a “Golden Rule” on human rights. This rule states simply: that governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The report "Blood at the Crossroads: Making the case for a Global Arms Trade Treaty," is the first detailed examination of the parameters and scope of such a treaty using nine detailed case studies of the catastrophic human rights consequences of unrestrained arms trading. From the ongoing conflict in Darfur, military crackdowns in Myanmar and Guinea to the proliferation of sectarian violence in Iraq, the report shows how and why the current variation and loopholes in national arms legislation allows massive violations of human rights to occur. The report demonstrates that without an effective human rights provision, a global Arms Trade Treaty could fail to protect those most vulnerable.

China, Russia and the USA, amongst many other nations, are highlighted in the report as trading arms to countries with well documented human rights violations. The report uses the detailed case studies of Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Guinea, Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan & Chad and Uganda to demonstrate how and why a “Golden Rule” is essential to making an Arms Trade Treaty work.

Click the link petitioning the U.S. Foreign Affairs Minister to urge the UN to adopt the treaty and sign!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meeting: Thursday 09/25

Be there...or else...I'll go war monger on you!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Talking About Torture: 9/20/08


Below is a schedule of the day's events on Saturday, 9/20, at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside.

I suggest that those of us who attend go for the morning session, which runs from 9:15 AM to 12:30 PM. That way, the entire day is not taken up with such heaviness, knowing, as I do, how busy everyone's weekend schedules can be.

I will be leaving from Central's main quad at 8:30 AM on said Saturday. Those who show must RSVP (on blog or in person) to me by Friday, 9/19. I am in Room 407 most periods. So stop by, damnit!

Meanwhile, below is a detailed schedule of the days events according to the website:

Talking About Torture: Schedule for September 20th

9:00-9:15 am Coffee/Networking

9:15-9:30 am Introductions and power point on the history of the use of torture in the US.

9:30 -11:00 am Plenary Panel - Moderator Helen Gerhardt
Religious Communities – speak Sr. Barbara Finch, PAT (Pittsburgh Against Torture)
Media – Isabel McDonald, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
Children – Glenna Wilson, Safe Start Pittsburgh
Legislators and candidates - Sandy Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy PA Council of Churches
Prisons – Bonnie Kerness, AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)

11:00 – 11:15 am Break

11:15-12:30 pm Workshops : Topics to be addressed in the panel and workshops:

How can we talk about torture in our religious communities? Moderator -Wanda Guthrie
Representatives from different interfaith traditions will discuss language and teachings relevant to discussion of torture in their communities.

Resource people: St Barbara Finch, ?

How do we help the media to talk about torture? - Moderator David Meieran
This workshop will explore ways the mainstream media, TV programs such as “24”, You Tube and video games have normalized torture in our society and culture. How do we reframe the issue of torture for the media?

Resource: Isabel McDonald, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

How do we talk to our children about different issues, such as torture? Moderator Claudia Detwiler
This workshop will focus on how children experience and process the culture of violence around them. How do we raise our children to resist violence and how do we break the cycle of violence and torture that some of our children experience?

Resource People: Glenna Wilson, Safe Start Pittsburgh, Toni McClendon, Committee in Action For Peace

How do we encourage our legislators and candidates to take a stand against torture? Moderator Eve Wider
This workshop will discuss effective ways to educate and motivate people in the political sphere to address the issue of torture.

Resource: Sandy Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy PA Council of Churches

How do we talk about torture in our prisons? Moderator Scilla Wahrhaftig
Experts on prison abuse will address psychological and physical torture in our prisons. We will explore ways of raising public awareness about this issue.

Resource people: Bret Grote, HR FedUp

12:30-1:30 pm Lunch

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Children's Rights Links

The following are some introductory links on progressive children's rights organizations around the globe.

UNICEF and its mission

Amnesty Int'l: Children's Rights

Invisible Children: Ugandan Child Soldiers

Children's Defense Fund: an American Org.

Human Rights Watch: Children's Rights

Right to Play: Freeing Kids through Athletics

These are just sneak peeks at the various abuses of children everywhere. Peep the work that millions are doing to join the fight and give these kids a right to live, learn, and play, just like we did.

Just remember: we don't look back on our childhood thinking, 'Man, when I was six we went without water for four days and food for a week and a half.' or, 'I hated my orphanage after my mom and dad were killed by AIDS.' Take advantage of your fortunes and get involved.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Holla Back: Meeting Minutes 09/04


It was decided by the senior membership of CCHRIST, namely, Michael Noel, to develop a committee of upperclassmen, each of whom would be willing to take on a human rights issue, dedicating time to raising awareness at meetings and around school of his appointed issue.

That said, the following are responsible for proactively and spontaneously informing constituents--be it Central Catholic as a whole or CCHRIST group members--of ways to confront the world's societal ills by way of social analysis and suggested plans of action:


  • Dante "The Inferno" Odorisio - VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, DISCRIMINATION (gender / sexual orientation)


  • Michael Noel - CHILD RIGHTS, TIBET

  • Luke "Kung Fu" Kunkel - ANTI-TERRORISM (via justice/peace)

  • John "J" "Writaz Block" Welch - ARMS TRADE/CONFLICT


We still need someone to take on the issues of AIDS, Poverty, Education, and Darfur. Any takers on any or all of them?

Otherwise, the upperclassmen are to help serve as "big brothers" to the underclassmen within CCHRIST and throughout Central. It is our collective role to "look out" for each other and confront aspects of those social ills we are trying to confront on an international level that manifest themselves in the school environment.

Remember: "Think globally; Act Locally."

Moreover, I am willing--as co-moderator of The Viking--to allow space for a human rights forum in the school newspaper. Whoever is responsible for taking on a leadership role vis a vis a specific human rights issue is encouraged to write and submit editorial pieces pertaining to appointed issue with the aim of increasing awareness on campus and abroad.

Lastly, everyone is encouraged to submit information to this blog. I also encourage each of you to check the websites listed to the left to see what you can do to pressure legislators (via Amnesty International or Catholic Charities, for instance) with online mailings regarding the confrontation of human rights violations at home and around the globe.

Check the blog regularly, please.

In peace,