Archive for May 24th, 2008

Corporate responsibility: bananas!

May 24, 2008

The NZ Herald yesterday carried Johann Hari’s comment piece from the Independent that gives the lie to the false maxim of the far-right that corporations only ever act in their own long-term interests and are therefore always to be trusted to do the right thing — say, with infrastructure, or GM science.

The answer to that bit of right-wing dogma is simple: bananas!

For those who haven’t caught up with what’s happening, the banana that we eat (i.e. the Cavendish) is a dying breed. That’s because the same multi-national that created the banana as we know it was so focused on the short-term maximisation of its shareholders’ returns that it couldn’t learn from its own mistakes.

As Johann Hari puts it:

Is there a parable for our times in this odd milkshake of banana, blood and fungus? For a hundred years, a handful of corporations were given a gorgeous fruit, set free from regulation, and allowed to do what they wanted with it. What happened? They had one good entrepreneurial idea – and to squeeze every tiny drop of profit from it, they destroyed democracies, burned down rainforests, and ended up killing the fruit itself.

But have we learned? Across the world, politicians like George Bush and David Cameron are telling us the regulation of corporations is “a menace” to be “rolled back”; they even say we should leave the planet’s climate in their hands. Now that’s bananas.”

Read the article and then buy Dan Koeppel’s brilliant book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.

[Footnote: the brilliant comedian Redbaiter has described Johann Hari as “extreme leftist Johann Hari (of all the most loathsome people)”. In fact, Hari is a “European social democrat”, who believes that markets are “an essential tool to generate wealth” but must be matched by strong democratic governments and strong trade unions (wikipedia), a republican, atheist, prison reformer, etc. A man after my own heart (politically).]

Right attack health research

May 24, 2008

Political blogger David Farrar posts on Murray McCully’s attack on health research and the increased funding for health research in this week’s Budget.

McCully writes that:

Last year the Health Research Council (HRC) decided to approve a grant of $701,000 to a group of researchers from the Wellington School of Medicine, a branch of Otago University, to study policymaking to reduce smoking around children. The fact that said group of researchers might accurately be described as anti-tobacco activists is underlined by the fact that the application discloses over $1.8 million in grants to members of the group for tobacco-related research over the previous three years.”

Much is made of the research into obstacles in the political process that forms part of this research. Farrar sums up, “this was a $700,000 grant paid to anti-smoking activists for them to research on how they can be more successful activists!!”

McCully’s attempt to cast a shadow over health research funding on the basis of this one grant — and to call this attack “constructive” — is disingenuous and misleading.