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‘December, 2008’

“All My Sons” is deft restaging of Miller’s attack on corporate immorality

“All My Sons” is deft restaging of Miller’s attack on corporate immorality

Dec 31, 2008


Arthur Miller’s play about corporate corruption never goes out of fashion. As a theater device, he focused on a small factory owned by one man, but you can take this as a representation of what went on and what goes on when anything goes in business. Profits trump morals. The victims are all of us, which is what the title means. Simon McBurney’s production is smooth and riveting, with a cast that acts with the fluidity of an ensemble.

Harold Pinter: a dinner party in Turkey where the playwright challenged the U.S. ambassador

Harold Pinter: a dinner party in Turkey where the playwright challenged the U.S. ambassador

Dec 25, 2008

British playwright Harold Pinter died last night. He was a man committed to political freedom and did his part to promote it.

In 1990, I visited Turkey and learned about a dinner in his honor given by the U.S. ambassador in 1985 that left the host quite out of joint.

Pinter had gotten into a heated argument with one of the guests about torture in Turkey. U.S. Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupé declared that such free discussion proved there was democracy in Turkey.

“There can be lot of opinions about anything,” he later remarked over coffee.

“Not if you’ve got an electric wire hooked to your testicles,” riposted Pinter.

Crisis Pits Vatican Against Offshore Bankers

Crisis Pits Vatican Against Offshore Bankers

Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 22, 2008

The financial crisis has the U.S. swirling with charges about the immoral greed of some corporate executives who recklessly bet their companies’ futures to line their own pockets. The popular fix for this international calamity stops at the nation’s borders: decouple top-line salaries and bonuses from stock prices and institute more transparency and regulation.Vatican shield

However, last month, the Vatican, in a groundbreaking statement, linked the financial crisis to a much deeper problem largely ignored in discussions of the crisis here. It underlined the need to consider carefully “the hidden but crucial role of the offshore financial system in light of the emergence of the global financial crisis”.

The Vatican now gets it, but U.S. corporations don’t. The U.S.-based multinationals that signed on to yet another ethics pledge included General Electric, The Hartford, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, Accenture, Dell, and United Airlines. Their ethics, according to their pledge, does not include rejecting the use of the offshore system to evade regulation as well as taxes.

AIG’s Past Could Return to Haunt

AIG’s Past Could Return to Haunt

Inter Press Service (IPS) Dec 19, 2008

American International Group (AIG) operated a captive insurance scam that involved fraudulent use of offshore tax havens. Currently, the U.S. government has invested over $40 billion in AIG, with the U.S. getting nearly 80 percent of its stock. AIG, photo AP/truthout

This puts the U.S. in a unique position to investigate the internal operations of a giant corporation with a reputation for using the offshore system for tax evasion.

U.S. authorities could begin their investigations with a look into a very curious practice that was revealed 15 years ago in a case that was never exposed by the mainstream press and which insurance insiders say is endemic.

AIG would keep a portion of a client’s inflated insurance premium and send the rest to the client’s offshore reinsurance company. AIG would earn a higher commission. The client would write off the entire amount as a business expense and enjoy the extra cash offshore, tax free.

This story tells how notorious fraudster Victor Posner made an AIG deal to stash reinsurance profits in Bermuda.

“Speed the Plow” a right-on satire of Hollywood moguls on the make

“Speed the Plow” a right-on satire of Hollywood moguls on the make

New York Theatre-Wire, Dec 9, 2008

At a time in the U.S. when most films seem made for retarded 13-year-olds, this revival of David Mamet’s 1988 “Speed the Plow” directed by Neil Pepe, is right on target. It’s a satire on Hollywood moguls on the make for money and success, which they see strewn along the paths of titillating sex and violence. Hey, how else to get a lunch table at the town’s favored watering hole?

Then a sweet, wide-eyed naive young woman who is working at the studio as a temp is called in to do some secretarial tasks. She ends up challenging Bobby to make a film that matters. “Why should it all be garbage?” she insists.

Undead GIs Pay a Visit to Bush

Undead GIs Pay a Visit to Bush

Inter Press Service (IPS) Dec 5, 2008

It might seem odd at first to compare them, but “Beast”, a brutal, surreal black comedy about the Iraq war, has something in common with “The Files”, a stunning, sardonic docudrama about the repression of cultural freedom by the Polish communist secret police.

They are theatres of the absurd, though in the Poles’ case, the tales they tell are very literally true. Both plays, staged off-Broadway in New York, are attacks on criminal acts of governments.