More likely to feed biotech corporations than the world’s poor

I’ve written about the Casey-Lugar Act – a Trojan horse for Big Ag interests – before, here and here. The latest push to bring sanity to the bill is a call from over one hundred scientists and development experts from around the world, whose dissection of the bill’s inadequacies is sharp, concise, and below the fold. Continue reading “More likely to feed biotech corporations than the world’s poor”

Financial Crisis and Human Rights

Two of the US’s finest heterodox economists have done us all a favour. Radhika Balakrishnan and James Heintz have knitted together the seemingly disparate topics of the financial crisis and human rights, showing how the two are linked and why rights have for too long been scandalously absent from discussions about the economy. It’s readable, rigorous and, above all, right. More below the fold. Continue reading “Financial Crisis and Human Rights”

Down on the Clown

It was a seminal moment. For the first time, breaking all convention, Ronald turned to the TV cameras and addressed himself to his viewers directly. It had never been done before, and it set off a revolution the consequences of which we still struggle to fight. When Ronald Reagan ended his presidential debate with Jimmy Carter in 1979 with “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”, his media savvy changed mass politics forever.

But long before that, another Ronald messed with mass communications no less indelibly, paving the way for today’s politicians and pundits. Appropriately, the first Ronald was a clown. In 1963, sixteen years before Reagan’s fateful piece to camera, Ronald McDonald broke every rule in advertising when he turned to the lens and stunned children by speaking to them directly, saying:

“Here I am kids. Hey, isn’t watching TV fun? Especially when you got delicious McDonald’s hamburgers. I know we’re going to be friends too cause I like to do everything boys and girls like to do. Especially when it comes to eating those delicious McDonald’s hamburgers.”

It’s easy both to wince at how crass this sounds, and to overlook its audacity. With entire TV channels premised on direct marketing to children, it seems impossible that there might have been a time where kids were considered anything other than shorter, louder, more pestering versions of adult consumers. But it wasn’t always thus. It took a canny cabal of admen to tap the pockets of a newly affluent generation of youngsters. They wanted to redefine the frontiers of what advertising in television age could be. And they succeeded. Continue reading “Down on the Clown”