Tag Archives | Greed

The Fiefdom Will Soon Be Complete: Wall Street Buying Up Farmland

PIC: LOC (PD)

PIC: LOC (PD)

Not merely satisfied with purchasing our foreclosed homes en masse and charging us to rent them back (thanks to a crisis they created), Wall Street has set their sights on America’s fertile soils. Sing it with me! This land is their land, this land is their land…

Via Tom Philpott at Mother Jones:

In a couple of posts last fall, I showed that corporations don’t do much actual farming in the United States. True, agrichemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms—enterprises that generally have razor-thin profit margins—are run by independent operators.

That may be on the verge of changing. A recent report by the Oakland Institute documents a fledgling, little-studied trend: Corporations are starting to buy up US farmland, especially in areas dominated by industrial-scale agriculture, like Iowa and California’s Central Valley.

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Wal-Mart Holds Food Drive For Its Hungry Employees

walmartWal-Mart tries to show its concern for some of society’s most vulnerable and deprived: Wal-Mart workers. What seems like an Onion story come to life, reported via Cleveland.com:

It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton.

The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. Is the food drive proof the retailer pays so little that many employees can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner?

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, said the food drive is proof that employees care about each other. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said.

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Study Suggests Thinking About Money Causes Immoral Behavior

thinking about moneyEven thinking about money causes immoral behavior? A reminder to keep your thoughts clean via MarketWatch:

People are more likely to lie or make immoral decisions after being exposed to money-related words, according to researchers from Harvard and the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business who published a report last month.

The findings show that “even if we are well intentioned, even if we think we know right from wrong, there may be factors influencing our decisions and behaviors that we’re not aware of.”

The study asked college students studying business to make sentences out of various word clusters before answering questions and playing several games. Some of the phrases contained a financial focus such as “She spends money liberally,” and others that were neutral, such as “She walked on grass.” Researchers found that people who were exposed to the financial phrases lied more often in subsequent activities.

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The True Story Of Mitt Romney At Bain Capital

Via Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi explains how what Bain does to the companies it takes over pretty much mirrors what Romney has in mind for America:

In Romney’s version of the tale, Bain Capital – which evolved into what is today known as a private equity firm – specialized in turning around moribund companies (Romney even wrote a book called Turnaround that complements his other nauseatingly self-complimentary book, No Apology) and helped create the Staples office-supply chain.

The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force.

Here’s how Romney would go about “liberating” a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows.

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Research Suggests That Having Money Makes People Act Less Human

Via New York Magazine, money is all around us, yet, until recently, there has been little study of its psychological effect on humans. The results are now coming in, and they’re not good:

Earlier this year, [psychologist Paul] Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can make people less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children.

Piff is one of a new generation of scientists—psychologists, economists, marketing professors, and neurobiologists—who are exploiting this moment of unprecedented income inequality to explore behaviors like those.

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The Difference Between Greed and Selfishness

Stephen Diamond writes in Psychology Today back in 2009:

Greed, like lust and gluttony, is traditionally considered a sin of excess. But greed tends to be applied to the acquisition of material wealth in particular. St. Thomas Aquinas said that greed is “a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” So greed or avarice was seen by the Church as sinful due to its overvaluation of the mundane rather than immaterial or spiritual aspects of existence. Avarice can describe various greedy behaviors such as betrayal or treason for personal gain, hoarding of material things, theft, robbery, and fraudulent schemes such as Madoff’s, designed to dishonestly manipulate others for personal profit. Where does greed originate?

Both greed and gluttony correspond closely with what Guatama Buddha called desire: an over-attachment to the material world and its pleasures which is at the root of all human suffering.

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How Ayn Rand Tanked The Economy

Screen-shot-2011-04-11-at-9.46.35-PM-e1302612380309Ayn Rand was a godawful writer, and in ironic fashion her philosophy failed disastrously in her personal life. Yet decades after her death, her work’s destructive influence has never been stronger. The Awl rips apart the “Objectivist” doctrine championed by Rand and one of her most adoring disciples, former Fed chief Alan Greenspan:

That pill-popping, boy-crazy nincompoop Ayn Rand has got a lot to answer for. Indeed, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we owe at least part of the recent economic crisis to her and her philosophy of Objectivism, since former Fed chief Alan Greenspan was a lifelong disciple of both.

The two first met in the ’50s. Back then, a gang of acolytes, calling themselves the Collective, used to gather at Rand’s apartment on East 36th Street every Saturday night so they could tell each other how smart they all were. Along came Greenspan one evening, shy and somber.

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Defense Contractors Sponsor Sesame Street Programming Special

If you fill out and send in this form, you can remove you or your ward’s name from a list of prospective American military recruits. Its completion moves a name into a “suppression file” in the Department of Defense’s Joint Advertising and Marketing Research & Studies. This makes it much harder for military recruiters to reach out to a prospective recruit whose contact information they may have acquired in various ways. Federal law actually requires that they have as much access to high school students as any other prospective employer.

Sesame Street has become loved and reviled for its socially-conscious programming; in one famous example from 1983, after an actor on the show died, Sesame Street took the chance to impart to very young children the temporal nature of human existence by marking his character’s death on the show. The forward-thinking episode invited some degree of opposition because even adults When Families Grievethemselves continue to find death very uncomfortable or even impossible to psychologically confront.

Premiering tonight on PBS at 8 p.m. EDT is a program, “When Families Grieve,” that features four families, two of which features fathers from the American military…

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