Joanne Knight

July 29, 2014

A fox whispering in your ear: corporate solutions to climate change

Filed under: Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 10:52 pm

jemimaOnce upon a time a silly duck wanted a not-so-silly thing: to protect her eggs from the farmer’s wife. Unfortunately Jemima Puddle-Duck listened to the advice of a fox. In much the same way the UN and national governments have invited corporations to set the agenda for measures to address climate change.

The latest episode in the climate change fiasco is the repeal of the carbon tax in Australia. The political machinations reveal the paradoxical nature of market-based solutions to climate change. As a tax or emissions trading scheme drives up the price of carbon and demand for these products decreases, energy companies and the fossil fuel industry fight back, legally, politically and through the media, to maintain their profits. A purely economic solution ignores the political weight of corporate economic players in a democratic system.



March 28, 2014

Asian Stereotypes on “The Colbert Report”: Racism and Political Satire

The eruption of outrage in the last 24 hours over the Colbert Report skit featuring a racist Asian stereotype raises interesting questions about the nature of race as a category of discrimination in Western liberal societies.

In the sketch, Colbert draws a parallel between the racism of the Redskins team using a stereotyped name and logo of Native Americans and the Asian stereotype of Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation, a charity to increase “Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

“The Colbert Report” was drawing on a long history of political satire which dates back to Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Swift’s satirical piece recommended that the Irish eat their children to stave off starvation after the collapse of the potato crop. Swift’s point was that the outrage created by this idea should actually be directed at English policies which produced the famine in Ireland. Much of Steven Colbert’s humour works in the same way.

The outrage expressed by the Asian-American community on Twitter against Colbert’s character parallels the way that Native Americans feel about the Redskin’s logo.

The force of the Asian-American community’s response draws attention to the difference with the ability of the Native American community to have its voice heard over the Redskins issue. People in the Native American community feel just as passionately as Asian-Americans about the use of racist stereotypes. However the Native American community is a much more oppressed community on every index of development than the Asian-American community. They score lower on income, health, life expectancy, and education.

This phenomena points to the complexity of racism as a category of discrimination in Western liberal societies. Race is affected by history and other categories of discrimination such as class. Taking the category of race in isolation ignores this. The Asian-American community is clearly able to defend itself against overt racist slurs in a way that the Native American community cannot do.
As Stephen Colbert said in a previous show “We now have an African-American President so racisms over, right?”

The responses on Twitter demonstrate the differences between the two communities.
“I just dont understand whats so hard about admitting @redskins is racist, without throwing other groups under the bus?” wrote Dani. She is claiming political solidarity with Native Americans but does such solidarity exist in reality?

“#CancelColbert because white liberals are just as complicit in making Asian-Americans into punchlines and we aren’t amused,” wrote Suey Park.
Park argues that white liberals are just as likely to exclude Asian-Americans from privilege as white conservatives. Liberalism promotes formal institutional measures to combat racism, such as anti-discrimination laws, while in many ways ignoring other forms of institutional racism. At the same time, Asian-Americans work very hard to be accepted into systems of white privilege without challenging the racism inherent in those systems until it affects them personally. This seems to be borne out by the Twitter storm.

The Native American community is fighting to maintain its unique heritage as a distinct cultural group whereas Asian-Americans seem more concerned with maintaining the privileges they have gained in the globalized economy. Maybe Stephen Colbert was mistaken in attempting to equate the two issues. But given the paucity of political satire on American television, I definitely support the continuation of The Colbert Report and will continue to watch it.

November 8, 2013

Hybrid Labour Activism: OUR Walmart and US anti-unionism

Filed under: Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 7:27 pm
Coming from Australia with its history of labour representation in Parliament, reflected in a liveable minimum wage and an adequate welfare system, it was a shock to comprehend the disempowered position of labour in the US. The creation of the body OUR Walmart highlights the anti-unionism rife in the political and economic system. It amounts to the type of networked, flexible political body which is the antithesis of the enormous Walmart Corporation. Some have declared it a new type of organization which draws on the tactics of a union but sets out to avoid being legally defined as such. Unions are so constrained by legal requirements that they have been made largely ineffective in the US. Like networked terrorism and some social movements, OUR Walmart seeks to operate beneath the radar.
Full article available for purchase at

October 7, 2013

Foreign Policy by Batman!

Filed under: Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 5:33 pm

The drums of war have faded into the distance and once more the people can breathe a collective sigh of relief or disappointment. Every few weeks the media ramps up war hysteria against one of the gallery of international villains. It’s like a game show: spin the wheel, which rogue regime is the Administration debating action against this week? Last week it was Egypt; this week it’s… Syria!

Over the past 12 months the government has deliberated bombing North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Foreign policy has become dominated by a cartoon-like view of certain countries as a rogue’s gallery of villains: Iran, North Korea, Syria.

Read the full article at

September 5, 2013

Surveillance and Leakage

Filed under: Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 5:24 pm
I have followed the activities of Julian Assange for some years with interest and, at times, with bemusement. However when the media spotlight swung onto Edward Snowden, the significance of these individuals and their fight against the electronic panopticon became clearer.
In the panopticon, each human is rendered visible due to the central locus of surveillance. Safety for the majority of individuals in the electronic panopticon involves remaining an anonymous piece of data in the electronic stream. Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have turned the light upon the authorities in their acts of interfering with other governments and collecting private data. But the vast, detailed, and ongoing scrutiny of individual information conducted by corporations as part of their daily activities continues with impunity. The activities of these activists present an opportunity for disruption to this massive system of surveillance and social control.
See the full text at:

August 30, 2013

Bombing go round

Filed under: Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 5:11 pm

I’m confused–which rogue regime is the US debating “action” against this week. Last week it was Egypt, this week… oh yes… Syria! So the debate is not ‘should the US intervene in Syria’ but ‘is there a justification for bombing Syria?’ Should the US bomb Syria or simply arm the rebels? People on NPR debated whether this should be the US’s go to position on foreign policy but there is no doubt apparently that the US has a right, a duty even, to interfere militarily in the affairs of another country. This is the main assumption underlying the debate.

Over the past 12 months the US has debated bombing North Korea, Iran and now Syria. It’s strangely like 1984 with the ever-rotating enemies of Eurasia and East Asia. How prophetic that book was!

It’s a glaringly contrast to the hands off approach to the military coup in Egypt which massacred hundreds of civilians and yet could still be described as a democracy!

February 15, 2009

Shorting the Regulation

Filed under: economic crisis,Uncategorized — joanneknight @ 12:23 am
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Innovation is the salient energy; Conservatism the pause on the last movement.
Ralph Waldo Emerson The Conservative (1842)

Biblical images of people scrabbling through the dirt for food in Colorado seem to capture the essence of this economic downturn. Lines stretching down the street for charity food parcels certainly remind one of images of soup kitchens during the Great Depression. But unfortunately Western leaders look more like Nero than FDR. The best they can come up with is more interest rate cuts to encourage people to borrow more and spend more; more tax cuts so once again people have more money to spend. It’s time to introduce the ‘R’ word: Regulation on financial markets. If banks cannot decide what is in their own best interest (as was pointed out by the guru of the free market, Alan Greenspan), let alone the broader public interest, it is time for the government to step in and tell them what is.

None of the $US700 billion ($1 trillion) financial rescue package provided to US banks will be used to assist homeowners facing foreclosure or business even though the legislation authorises it. US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who has made about half a billion dollars from the deregulated system, has clashed with Congress, telling them it was designed to stabilise the financial markets, not as a panacea for economic difficulties or to help beleaguered homeowners and automakers.

Deregulation means that we have wildly fluctuating markets operating on rumour and sentiment rather than hard data. Michael Heffernan, senior client adviser at Austock argues that the sharemarket drops have ‘a lot more substance to them that we thought 6 months ago.’ Many commentators claim that the market is suffering from a loss of confidence as if there were no structural reasons like deregulation, speculation and over-leveraging causing instability in the market.

The G-20 Study Group on Global Credit Market Disruption concluded in their report last year that regulatory gaps encouraged the increased use of securitisation and the spread of the ‘originate and distribute’ mortgage model that resulted in insufficient attention being paid to credit quality. Weaknesses in risk management systems and regulatory oversight saw these lending practices continue even as credit quality continued to decline and risk exposures increased. The spread of these losses was caused largely by high levels of leverage in the system, including insufficient capital held against loans. This in turn was partly a product of failings in the regulatory system to apply adequate risk capital to the off-balance sheet entities that securitise loans on behalf of the banks. The complex nature of structured finance products also resulted in some investors having an over-reliance on credit ratings instead of undertaking adequate due diligence. This complexity also meant that exposures to subprime lending were difficult to determine, which contributed to difficulties in assessing risks. Weaknesses in accounting rules meant that off-balance sheet entities did not require clear and transparent disclosure. It seems a significant part of this problem is a lack of regulation.

The main reforms being offered are patently inadequate. The G20 countries advocated greater oversight of ratings agencies and stronger regulation of hedge funds. Consumer protection is to be bolstered and international financial institutions should be reformed. In addition, there should be clearer accounting standards and a review of the way managers are paid.

Many observers believe that Obama will be more open-minded about regulations that strengthen international institutions or that put an end to tax havens. But the incoming president will likely resist ambitious plans for a global financial regulator. ‘Even under a President Obama, the US government would not accept any kind of global supervisory authority for the financial markets,’ said Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations. It seems America remains committed to free trade and deregulated markets.

Proposed changes to financial regulation require brokers to ask their clients whether an order was a covered short sale, and market operators to publicly disclose short-selling data they received from brokers. David Enke, Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Tulsa, argues that by making short data public, others might be tempted to increase their short positions, and so too the selling pressure on the shorted security. In the end, this may do nothing to decrease market manipulation, while still allowing the funds to profit from the falling prices.

According to AEF Rofe, Chairman of the Australian Shareholders’ Association, the new regime fails to address the past failure by the market operator and the regulator to effectively monitor and enforce the disclosure requirements. Advisers at DLA Phillips Fox also seem doubtful about the veracity of these changes. Traders have been selective about disclosure laws for years so asking them to disclose more appears rather pointless. At bottom financial institutions have shown themselves to be exercising reckless judgment when they think there are easy dollars to be made.

It is clear that short selling is a problem and needs to be regulated, but focusing on extreme speculation practices fails to take account of the myriad other causes of the financial meltdown. Companies which collapse due to high leveraging, such as Rubicon, have nothing to do with short selling. Deregulated lending resulting in shoddy lending practices and the inclusion of these bad mortgages as part of investment packages, which was not disclosed, has not even made it onto the agenda. The markets have run away and are now causing the economy to collapse, throwing thousands of people out of work, destroying local businesses, forcing people to seek charity. Markets need to be controlled by governments, not the other way around.

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