Archive for May 8th, 2011
Under the Convention Against Torture, member states can refuse to extradite citizens to another country where they might be subject to torture. A Canadian court has just denied extradition of an al Qaeda suspect to the US on exactly those grounds. We are no longer trustworthy when it comes to prisoner treatment:
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a decision to halt extradition proceedings for an alleged Al-Qaeda arms supplier, citing the extent of US human rights abuses tied to his capture in Pakistan. A 3-0 ruling by the court ruled that a Toronto judge was justified in releasing Abdullah Khadr, the older brother of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp’s youngest detainee Omar Khadr. Both are Canadian. Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney hailed what he called a “victory for the rule of law.” “Evidence should be (obtained while respecting) human rights, and it was not,” he told AFP.
The entire news story is worth reading.
I was thinking about the modern corporation and how, unleashed from regulation and oversight, it becomes a fearsome beast indeed. Its only purpose is to make profits, and it is legally required to do whatever it takes to return those profits, short of actions later found to be illegal. Thus corporations do not hesitate to injure their customers (it’s a long list, but: Ford Pinto, unsanitary conditions in food industry leading to continual recalls (each generally following a new wave of food poisoning), the tobacco industry, and so on) and corporations fight regulations that would make injury to customers less likely.
And, of course, corporations have very much gotten the upper hand in the US. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but the financial industry got billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to pay themselves off for bad paper they created and sold, and no one has gone to jail. No one, so far as I know, has even gone to trial. And the Supreme Court is building up a solid wall of protection for corporations as fast as they can create new precedents minimizing workers’ rights, GOP state governments are busting public employee unions and the killing off of other unions is just about complete. The Citizens United decision allows corporations to spend from their increasingly heavy profits to control the legislatures—and, so far as I can see, control it they do, with the result that teeth are removed from regulation after regulation and new regulations die before enactment.
And, of course, the modern corporation is not only powerful—and becoming ever more powerful as it consolidates its control of all major governments—it is also effectively immortal. Already some corporations are working on their second century and a few are even older.
The corporation is a meme—and a highly successful one, at that. But of course humanity has been creating—and supporting—memes for millenia—indeed, at least since the time language originated, itself a spectacularly successful meme. Humanity is the proving ground and environment through which memes compete: we are the jungle, they are the beasts—we the environment, they the creatures who live in that environment.
So memes compete and resources are limited. Thus: evolution. And the modern corporation can be seen as the culmination (to date) of the meme genus “human organization.” Organization, in itself, has been part of human culture (which is the sum of memes) ever since humans began to cooperate. And, as a meme, “organization” evolved, developed, speciated, and competed, and evolved further.
Looking about today, one sees all sorts of organizations and organization structures and methods. The modern corporation seems to be, in terms of survival and control of its environment, the most successful. In one sense, its a highly damaging virus of the mind, but in another it’s a highly successful meme. Other organizational forms so far have been unable to compete successfully with (or control) the modern global corporation.
The modern corporation has evolved to be a predatory, powerful, controlling, and highly damaging machine: they are, in effect, the Terminator robots of the future. In the movie those were physical robots and they were in the future. But the dangerous human creations that today follow their own imperatives, taking control and indifferent to our fate, are not physical robots but a meme beyond our control. John Connor, where are you?
My fountain-pen interest apparently is now fully reawakened: I now have half a dozen pens filled and ready for use—and have been using three already—but felt an intense pleasure on rediscovering what a pleasure the italic tip is on my Dunhill 2000 pen, and what a great pen it is. I bought it at the Dunhill shop in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on some long-ago business trip. Red, smooth torpedo shape, cool mechanism to raise and lower clip—cartridge fill, it’s true, but an ingenious pump cartridge with cute internal float. Great pen.
I start each morning with a review of three Anki decks: one I made from the textbook we use, one is the first Spanish word list from Teach Yourself to Learn a Language, and one is of random Spanish words that I run across in reading Spanish-language newspapers, Spanish books, etc. At this point I am mostly reviewing words, though after the course ends later this month I’ll build a deck for the vocabulary in the second-semester text and start learning that.
The daily review goes fast: this morning, I whipped through 207 words in 15 minutes. Only a handful presented a problem, and those of course will show up tomorrow as well.
“A class at Hamilton College led by public policy professor P. Gary Wyckoff has analyzed the predictions of 26 prognosticators between September 2007 and December 2008.”
Quite interesting article. Best predictor in terms of accuracy: Paul Krugman. Worst: Cal Thomas.
Read it all. Via Ed Brayton.