It's been rough couple of weeks for cynical greed in this country. Not that you can be shocked by this, ever—not if you're a citizen with even minimal consciousness—but the prominent stories in the last fortnight are enough to sober even the most hardened realist.
• A quiet side-bar story in the NYT observed that Nestle corporation, among others, has been flagged as a company that maintains a fishing fleet in Pacific waters in which slaves—SLAVES!—man the nets on many of the boats that produce sardines and other food fish for canning. Some of these people have apparently landed on these fishing fleets through purchase from human traffickers, and have been enslaved for years, while Nestle looked the other way. Nestle, for those of you who don't recall, cooly weathered a scandal some years back in which they sold off defective infant-feeding formula to third world countries, arguing that although the formula was a health risk to American infants, it was just fine for the third world, where the predominant standard of living was already so bad that they'd barely be affected by their awful product. The corporation continues to thrive.
• The corporate cynicism was not just American. VW corporation, it turns out, has created automobiles which lie about their emissions output. Initially when this story broke, I thought it might be one of those things where test results during product development were overlooked or slightly doctored—the kind of thing that happens so often now that you can barely blink an eye when it occurs. But it turns out to be much, much more conniving than that. VW installed software in their automobiles that correctly identifies when an emission test is underway, as is still often conducted in places like California, and for that moment alone changes the fuel burning procedure so as to give low emissions results that will become 40 times larger the moment the car drives out of the test bay and into the real world. It is almost impossible to imagine the greedy duplicity that goes into a corporate decision to do something like this—until you remember Ford Motor company's handling of the Exploding Pinto era.
• Europe is in the throes of what can be argued to be the worst human refugee disaster since WW2. By most estimates, at least 8 million, and perhaps as many as 10 million, Syrians have been displaced from their homeland and are desperately seeking a place to live. Virtually half the entire population. The vast majority are still in camps in the nations immediately adjoining Syria. There are some people in Turkish refugee camps that have already been living in squalor for 2 years or more, with no end in sight. Other nations are attempting to help in lukewarm ways, but with efforts that are in no way commensurate with the size of the horror. The UK, it's estimated, will take as many as 20,000 by end of year; France, 24,000; Sweden, 50,000; Germany, 100,000 (though to be accurate this is because they admit to needing the cheap labor). Any way you look at it, these are paltry numbers from wealthy counties, akin to emptying a bathtub with spoonfuls of water.
From the Western hemisphere, Venezuela will accept 20,000 refugees by the end of the year. Mexico has agreed to accept 10,000.
The US? Thus far, fewer than 1500 Syrian refugees have landed in our open arms, though the Obama administration, in the face of heated opposition from the fear-mongering faction, wants next year to allow as many as a whopping 10,000 victims of the Syrian civil war into what was once the land of opportunity. That means that the most affluent nation on earth, which has built its wealth upon the efforts of those taking us up on "give us your homeless" offer, will help about 1/10 of 1% of the Syrian homeless. By way of comparison, remember that more than 1 million Irish refugees landed in America around the turn of the century. Following WW2, we accepted 95,000 Germans. It's estimated that we have 1.2 million Vietnamese immigrants living here quite successfully. In Minnesota alone, we have 30,000 African refugees already.
I am just slightly ashamed. 10,000 Syrian refugees? Surely we could do better than this.