Monday, November 22, 2010

Life is a cabaret

Sally Bowles’s powerful closing song, “Life is a cabaret,” sums up her choice to turn away from reality, taking the cabaret as a great escape from the burden of society’s troubles. But the actual message of the film Cabaret is exactly the opposite: escapism is dangerous for the individual and to society as a whole.

The choice of a musical to highlight the dangers of escapism is quite ironic because it is typically for pure entertainment. Somehow the director, Bob Fosse, in using film techniques such as crosscutting and montage, was able to enhance the message that escapism is wrought with dangers. Through his characters and plot, Fosse showed us the inherent dangers that escapism brings. Through Sally and Brian, he showed us the dangers for the individual, and through the hedonistic baron, Max, the dangers for society.

Yet, the image of Liza Minnelli singing “Life is a cabaret” continues to linger on and remind us, not of its dark message, but of the fleeting joy and delight in leaving your troubles outside. The song offers us a fantasy, for we can see that outside of cabaret, life is anything else but. This rings a bell in today’s politically unstable world (the terrorists are out to destroy us and sow anarchy everywhere) and depressed economy (people are losing jobs and their homes as the economy remains in shambles). What better way to forget our troubles than to escape in fantasies, in what entertainment can offer: the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, video games, Hollywood and Bollywood, sports, sex, gambling, porn, alcohol and drugs. Even religion is targeted as a form of opiate, like a potent drug, albeit metaphysical, capable of relieving one’s depression and worries in life.

One person stands out from my experience whenever I am reminded of escapism. To caricature him as the epitome of a happy-go-lucky type is doing him a great disservice. From all appearances, he’s more than the sum of his parts. Or he is just a great escape artist, better than Houdini or Steve McQueen.

This guy I’m talking about plies his taxi around the busy streets of Toronto. He drives his own cab and hires out two or three more, so he could qualify as an entrepreneur, rather than a lowly cab driver which has become a ubiquitous job for male immigrants from South Asia. Nothing mysterious or quirky about him—unlike Robert de Niro in the film The Taxi Driver—although he talks like a straight-shooter like de Niro. “You talkin’ to me,” it could have been him mouthing de Niro’s famous line with the typical accent of a New Yorker.

While wandering around or gallivanting with his friends—happy and inebriated revellers like him—he would tweet to his group in the Internet about his musings on life and almost everything under the sun. Never a dull moment for this guy, or even his colourful commentary of life around him. Nothing seems to dampen him, even if you intimate or insinuate about his obvious lack of refinement. If you do this, he’ll predictably come back at you jabbing and stinging like a butterfly, almost like Ali and Pacquiao combined. He doesn’t get mad, but can make your blood boil that you wish you could just dunk his head. Everything to him is a joke; he wears the cap of the eternal jester. Sometimes you wonder, is this guy for real? Like Nietzsche’s Übermensch? What could be the true persona behind his mask of invulnerability against the weight of everything others seem so incapable to bear?

Sometimes, people could be just like this fellow I know. He might be in an escape mood every time, trying to mask his own problems and frailties, but it is too hard to tell. Unlike others who are so transparent. One guy who pretended he belonged to a group tried too much to blend in, flaunting his association with known members of the group with tall tales about his exploits. It was obvious that he wanted people to notice him, to pay attention to his presence, so he concocted an intricate web of fantasy which he thought would last. But time and the truth finally caught up with him and he was exposed.

Is this happy and content cab driver like Sally Bowles? Are they both trying to escape reality? One in the cheerful life of the cabaret, where everything is warm and beautiful? While the other, steering his cab wherever his fare would tell him to go, unmindful of all the troubles around him, not even the potholes on the street.

In a letter to his chat-group sometime ago, our man about town belittled the intelligence of anyone who thought it was a good idea to write a petition to kick out a non-member, even suggesting that intelligence can become hazardous to one’s health (whatever it meant). Then ending his missive with a plea for everyone to ignore him, he wrote: “Don’t mind me. I’m just a donkey with a hangover last night. Please forgive me.” How, in heaven’s name, could you not possibly burst in laughter and not simply forgive this hapless guy?

Sally in the movie was caught up in the cabaret lifestyle, choosing to be detached from life outside or around her. She chose the world of the cabaret, yet she lost everything and gained nothing. She lost her father’s respect, and lost both Brian and Max, too. Most importantly, she lost an intrinsic part of who she was, the life inside her.

We all know, at least those who have watched Cabaret and still vividly remember the film, what happened to Sally in the end. But we don’t know how to divine what the future holds for our guy in the cab. Sally Bowles’s downward spiral reflected the grave consequences of running away, of escaping. For our man, no one can really tell. Maybe someday he’ll leave us with these words: “Sorry, this cab is taken.”

I have chosen to write about these two characters to demonstrate that reality is, most of the time, what life offers in real time, and not the full-length story we see in a film. Reality is ongoing, non-stop and the end may or may not happen soon. Cinema, on the other hand, is over after one-and-a-half or two hours.

The paradox is that running away from reality in the film shows us it’s not always going to end living happily ever after. On the other hand, our guy who simply brushes aside life and its troubles in gay abandon, seems to run away with it and enjoys being in his own cabaret. One time he told me that life is just a joke, and he might not be kidding after all. Perhaps, he is not running away or escaping like Sally. In spite of everything, he could be running with reality tagging along with him.

Take one more time to reflect on one of his rants: “What have we proven out of all this brouhaha? Aha, I know what it is. One, lots of intelligence but lack of common sense. Two, lots of animosity but lack of compassion, respect and love. And lastly, lots of big egos but lack of life experiences.”

Most people feel the need to escape their real life (that’s why reality shows are a hit), but often what they really want to run away from is their thoughts about their life. Our man in the cab seems to possess the rare ability to forget all his fears, worries or disenchantments. He doesn’t let his mind spin round and round, for if he does, he knows what happens to most, his mind will never shut off. It will control him, and that will annoy and exhaust him to no end.

Perhaps, this is the key to a wonderful and happy life: the ability to shut down one’s brain and thoughts and just keep on living life as you see it. When you happen to be on the street downtown, flag down a cab and ask the man on the wheel if his name is Ray and what keeps him going. You may learn a lesson or two.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mainstream as the new social order

Many Filipino professionals in Toronto, at least those I know from my alumni association, lament some of the experiences told by Filipino newcomers to Canada about other people mistaking them for nannies. The newcomers recount how they had been asked if they could clean their co-workers’ homes after work or if their parents had also come to Canada as nannies. Somehow this gave the impression that being a nanny is degrading, especially if this is attributed to an entire ethnic group.

What’s wrong with being a nanny?

To many socially-mobile Filipinos in Toronto, it has become a stigma to be identified with the Filipino nanny, the lowest of jobs in this affluent metropolis. Strange but true, these professionals who’ve made it big in their job careers don’t want to be associated with their poor country cousins. Instead, they want to be identified as the new Filipinos: professional, competent, who dress and speak like Whites, and are a vital part of mainstream Canada. As one so-called professional and leader of his alumni association said, “There is more to Filipinos here in Canada than caregiving.”

To counter such image, of being identified with a nanny, some Filipino professionals have suggested that Filipinos should try not to talk, nor think or dress like a nanny. That they should integrate themselves into the mainstream, learn about hockey so they can easily assimilate in group conversations in this hockey-crazed city.

Almost instantly, the nanny has become the new leper, and it is quite tragic that this perception is being engendered by fellow Filipinos. Perhaps, we need a drastic makeover or plastic surgery so we can alter the way we look or speak in order to conform to the dominant image of the superior race perpetrated by centuries of Spanish and American colonialism. A by-product of racism, colonial rule has ingrained a colonial mentality among Filipinos that “white skin is better.” More than 60 per cent of Filipinos today believe that life in North America or Europe is a lot superior to their own culture and country. Economically speaking, that makes sense, but do we have to look down on our own?

This reminds me of how Filipinos were portrayed in early Hollywood films as the proverbial maid or valet, such as in Reflections on the Golden Eye where Marlon Brando had a conversation with his wife’s (played by Elizabeth Taylor) servant Procopio. Or that Filipino wife of an Australian from the outback in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, who had a special knack for spitting ping pong balls from between her thighs. We have been racially stereotyped in the past as lowly servants and this tragic image continues in the present, thanks to the help of members from our own ethnic community.

Integrating in mainstream activities has been bandied as the most effective way we can earn a respectable identity that truly reflects our educational and professional background, that we are not merely a nanny population. The word “mainstream” seems to be the magic word. Everywhere and every time mainstream is spoken as if it were a synonym for society.

Perhaps, this is a failure of the policy of multiculturalism that promises every ethnic community to retain its culture and tradition in the larger Canadian mosaic. What multiculturalism has accomplished is to push minority groups to the fringes of political and economic power. It only helped establish and fund organizations that single out the promotion of the cultural elements of their ethnic origins to dressing in traditional costumes, showcasing their traditional dances, and serving their exotic culinary feasts. Yet ethnic communities in Canada still lag far behind the circles of power in politics, business, and social life.

Filipino organizations in Toronto, whether community or grassroots-oriented or professional associations, are essentially inward looking. We continue to serve our parochial interests and fail to attract the mainstream’s involvement in our activities. Thus, we continue to hold beauty pageants and singing contests, invite talents from the Philippines to perform in concerts, profess our religious devotion in pilgrimages and processions, or hold annual festivals featuring and promoting our local businesses but only to ourselves.

When a group invited Miguel Syjuco, award-winning author of Ilustrado, those in attendance felt an affinity to our historical ilustrado of the Spanish colonial period, affirming what Syjuco has said in one interview that overseas Filipinos are the new ilustrados. Truth is, most of us here in Canada or even in the United States are not born from wealthy and privileged families.

In Toronto alone, more than half of the 250,000 population of Filipino origin are former nannies and their families. More than ten per cent of the Filipino population live overseas, about 8 million souls, not because they are escaping from their rich and landowning Filipino families but from the lack of opportunities in our homeland. They are the face of the new Filipino diaspora, voluntarily exiled to foreign lands in search of better-paying jobs and a better life.

Interestingly different and much more intellectually refreshing was a small forum organized recently by our young people at the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture. The forum, part of the Kamalayan Konsciousness Series, was about the role of the ilustrados in our history and their relevance today, especially to émigrés like us in Toronto. A consensus was arrived by the young group that we could be the “new propagandists,” like the Propaganda movement’s Rizal, del Pilar and Lopez Jaena during the Spanish colonial times, in spreading a better understanding of the present conditions in the Philippines to our kababayans in Toronto. There was no false pretence of kinship to the historical ilustrado because most, if not all of them, hail from working class families.

A more worthwhile event also happened recently in Toronto at the launching of Gawad Kalinga Canada, with GK founder Tony Meloto as guest. Even if this was for the particular benefit of Filipinos in the Philippines, the launch engaged the participation of Canadian companies in building sustainable communities for the poor in the Philippines. Canadian companies led by Telus and Sun Life Canada as well as the Toronto-based Canadian Urban Institute—already involved in building communities in the Philippines—were present, along with Filipino-Canadians who have rallied to the cause of our poor countrymen.

A few nights later, a Philippine alumni association held its bash to pay tribute to its past leaders, as if being chosen as the organization’s president was not enough recognition by itself. This is an archetypal Filipino social gathering in Toronto, with self-serving speeches, pats in the back, and dancing until the clock strikes midnight. Yet, these are the very same people who would challenge Filipinos to join the mainstream and be an active part of the Canadian social fabric and not to be insular yet ending up catering to their own tribal and trivial preoccupations.

Last November 15, my wife and I attended a forum sponsored by the Literary Review of Canada (LRC) on “Our Green Economy” at the Gardiner Museum. The forum invited Andrew Heintzman, author of The New Entrepreneurs: Building a Green Economy for the Future, to speak on how green venture capitalists are reconciling the need to protect environment from the demands of a high-growth economy. Heintzman’s thesis is that green capitalists can save the world. It was refreshing to hear questions and answers on oil sands, global warming, carbon tax, cap and trade, and other matters ordinarily heard in big debates between the Conservatives, the Liberals, and social activists on Canada’s hot issues of the day. Heintzman concluded that today’s green tycoons are showing the way on how to make money and at the same time save the planet.

Not one of those Filipino professionals we often hear enjoining fellow Filipinos to mix and be part of the mainstream was in the audience that night. Was it hockey night in Canada? Or perhaps they were still celebrating Manny Paquiao’s victory in his last fight toward establishing himself as boxing’s greatest of all time?

The condescending attitude of some Filipino professionals to look down on the plight of nannies only reveals their utter ignorance of why our women are leaving the Philippines to take on jobs beneath their qualifications. Maybe these same professionals are so besot of their own success that they have become oblivious of their own past struggles to be where they are now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The new panopticon

Our insatiable thirst for tabloid fodder makes privacy a lost cause for the famous. No celebrity is safe from tabloid gossip anymore. The more famous you are, the more you are hounded by the paparazzi until everything about you is made public.

But nothing compares to the advances of technology and how they have made our society a modern-day panopticon where everything and everyone are under constant observation.

The social theorist Jeremy Bentham designed a prison called the panopticon which allows the observation of all the prisoners without them knowing they are being watched. Bentham did not see the panopticon built during his time, but his design was invoked by Michel Foucault (1926-1984) who is often described as the most important philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century.

In his work Discipline and Punish, Foucault used the panopticon as a metaphor for society’s invasive tendency to observe and punish aberrant behaviour.

Today, the Internet as a structure for social control is sometimes referred to as the new panopticon. Many new technologies, in particular new Internet services, are eroding privacy worldwide, with the United States leading efforts to remove legal restrictions that limit electronic surveillance.

Sometime in 1996, the FBI started using a program called Carnivore to randomly monitor email, a form of surveillance similar to telephone surveillance called “trunk-side” wiretapping, which has been illegal in the United States for more than 30 years. While it has been argued that email should be protected by the Constitution against government intruders, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that email messages stored in a computer are not protected by the Electronic Privacy Communications Privacy Act of 1986.

It is this feature of monitoring Internet users that gives the Internet a semblance of the panopticon prison structure.

As a conceptual structure, the panopticon can apply to any physical structure that allows those in a position of authority to monitor the inmates without the inmates knowing. Within the structure of the Internet, there are multiple layers of observation where no one knows who is the observer and who is the observed.

Today’s Internet user’s privacy is being overlooked to allow corporations to provide declared necessary services such as security against terrorists and hackers, control over illegal content (pornography, pirated computer music and film files, and dangerous information on how to build bombs, etc.)

While it is impossible to say or verify that one central organization is implementing panopticon on the Internet with the objective of achieving social control, the panopticon may in the near future emerge as a desirable structure for the perceived need for the protection of national security over Internet user safety. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned against the passage of the Patriot Act, for example, during the second Bush administration as a carte blanche authorization for the FBI to access communications of innocent people contrary to the core promise of the Fourth Amendment.

With the onset of the “Cam Era” or webcam technology, surveillance cameras have extended the panoptic technology of power. Surveillance has now become even subtler and more intense, fusing material space and cyberspace. One writer has called this as the contemporary urban panopticon.

As in Foucault’s ideation of the panopticon, all that is needed is just a gaze. There is no need for arms, physical violence or material constraints. People under surveillance can, as in the panopticon, be seen but never know when or by whom. They are under control but without physical intervention.

By erasing online privacy as already practised in some countries, governments are quick to embrace mass surveillance that threatens privacy rights. While the West is quick to criticize the Chinese government for its surveillance programs, London, England, with its “ring of steel,” has the highest number of street-corner cameras in the world, with roughly 16 cameras for every square mile.

The number of surveillance cameras in cities has grown so massively that our cities have become like enormous panopticons.

In London, thousands of surveillance cameras that line the city’s intersections and neighbourhoods have been credited for providing license plate numbers, images of suspects and other important clues in crime investigations.

New York, specifically lower Manhattan, the site of two terror attacks that included the 9/11 attack, is not far away in building its own “ring of steel.” The area includes the New York Stock Exchange, the Mercantile Stock Exchange, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the site where the World Trade Centre once stood and where the Freedom Tower is now being built.

Police officials say that surveillance cameras will be effective in helping combat crime and terrorism, perhaps even deter it. Civil liberties advocates, however, argue that such systems are a threat to privacy rights and just another step for a society to move toward a constant state of surveillance.

The modern-day electronic panopticon can be considered as unlimited warrantless surveillance. Civil libertarians, notably the American Bar Association and American Civil Liberties Union, are up in arms against the pervasive use of presidential power to monitor the activities of innocent civilians through electronic surveillance under the pretext of protecting national security interests.

It appears that the events of 9/11 may have pre-empted all objections to state monitoring of suspected or potential terrorists. However, there is a need to balance protection of national security with the right to privacy. While the President of the United States or any government leader must have the ability to use all the appropriate tools in his command to defeat the enemies of democracy, there is always a need for a careful balancing of interests. Otherwise, constitutional freedoms would become a victim of the fight against terrorism.

The electronic panopticon can be a tool to install totalitarianism, especially in an environment where technology has taken over every aspect of civil society. Through pervasive electronic surveillance of society and virtually every activity of its citizenry, the personal has become political, where the totalitarian goal is not just legal control over actions, but of our thoughts as well.

Those of us who oppose totalitarianism to flourish under the auspices of electronic technology must expose the agenda behind mass surveillance, censorship and thought crimes. Or we will run the risk of turning into a future reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. The fact is, there are no longer any technical barriers to the Big Brother regime portrayed by Orwell as the surveillance monster grows in power. But it is upon us to continue building stronger restraints to protect our privacy.

We cannot allow September 11 to be continued to be used as a convenient pretext to loosen constraints that law enforcement has been chafing under for years.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Government for private profit

In his first state of the nation address, President Benigno Aquino III bewailed the fact that his new government has only 6.5 per cent (or 100 billion pesos) left of the total government budget of 1.54 trillion pesos to spend for the remaining months of the year. He pointed to his predecessor’s wasteful use of government funds as one reason for this sorry state of the nation’s coffers.

There was no need to worry, the President said, like a hopeful captain of the ship reassuring his passengers of the impending storm. “The answer is a new and creative approach to our long-standing problems. Many have already expressed interest and confidence in the Philippines. Our solution: public-private partnership,” the President declared.

In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York during his first foreign trip as President last September, Noynoy Aquino repeated his mantra of public-private partnership. He said: “I am here today to tell you that my government is doing what it takes to create a more investor-friendly environment. I came here to declare that the Philippines is open for business under new management. The forging of private-public partnerships would be our main engine in revving up our economy. We will enlist the participation of the private sector, both domestic and foreign, in big-ticket, capital-intensive infrastructure projects, while ensuring reasonable returns. We look forward to the participation of the U.S. investors, specifically as we open up our infrastructure sector for foreign participation.”

What exactly is this public-private partnership or PPP that President Aquino is so enamoured of? Contrary to what Noynoy Aquino claimed as a “new and creative approach,” PPP has a history of two decades of hit-or-miss performance in the Philippines, having been started by his mother Cory Aquino through the Build-Operate and Transfer program or BOT upon the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

Before he left for New York, Noynoy Aquino signed an executive order renaming the BOT Centre as the Public-Private Partnership Centre of the Philippines (PPP Centre) and earmarked P300 million for the study and evaluation of selected PPP programs and projects.

The concept of public-private partnership (PPP) applies to a government service or private business venture that is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. It is sometimes referred to as P3.

Fundamentally speaking, public-private partnerships are about giving private investors and financiers high returns with low risks, at the long-term expense of taxpayers and the public. Proponents of P3s are able to borrow capital at lower rates of interest, which narrows the interest rate spread between private and public sector borrowing rates, allowing P3s to appear more financially attractive than otherwise.

In reality, however, private investors do not bring as much investment to the table as advertised but actually rely on foreign loans, frequently with state guarantees. The Aquino administration’s PPP program will likely be funded through a multibillion foreign borrowing scheme. Another possibility is the creation of a government corporate entity that would sell bonds to foreign creditors to raise funds to bankroll infrastructure projects.

Right now, the Aquino government is developing a proposal to set up a new entity that would serve as a financial intermediary for PPP projects, issuing bonds and providing funds, equity participation and guarantees. This initiative would also involve ongoing discussions with multilateral financial institutions. The government is also planning to establish an insurance scheme to protect private partners in the event of courts overturning a contract or issuing a stop order. A total of $15 billion has also been earmarked by the current administration for its 2011 budget, representing the government’s counterpart for funding of PPP projects

Doesn’t PPP sound like privatization, and nothing more? Critics of P3s in Canada point out that they are means to contract-out public services over the long term, which in effect, is “privatization by stealth.”

The ideological preference for the private sector is based on the belief that the private sector can deliver services more efficiently than the government, and that the role of the state should be reduced. This can be traced to the pro-privatization policies of the late 1970s and 1980s when governments in North America and the U.K. pushed heavily for deregulation, policy decentralization, cutting the size of government, outsourcing public services and privatizing important utilities such as gas, electricity and communications.

Right-wing political groups and neo-liberals also helped spawn the notion of the private sector being superior in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. But the cuts in public spending that they demanded served to fuel disenchantment with the public sector. Privatization created problems of its own that only proved that the private sector was just as capable of the inefficiencies commonly imputed to the public sector.

The failure of Metronet, the private company that won a £30 billion, 30-year P3 deal to upgrade and maintain London's Tube network best illustrates the pitfalls of privatization. Taking over the beleaguered transport, the City of London cost its taxpayers an extra £2 billion and left Londoners with 500 subway stations in various states of disrepair for a P3 deal that was forced on their city by the central government under its Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Even the normally conservative Economist magazine admitted that the P3 deals looked like "complicated costly mistakes."

There is no empirical foundation to the claim that the private sector is better at managing risk than the public sector. In Canada, where virtually all P3s have been modelled after the U.K. privatization efforts, a growing list of public-private ventures shows that P3s are both more risky and more costly for the public. A number of Canadian studies reveal that privatization is often no more efficient or less costly than conventional approaches to service delivery. In the area of utilities, for example, studies have shown that there is no significant difference between public and private utilities in terms of quality of service.

Noynoy Aquino’s first 100 days of presidency are not very encouraging for ordinary Filipinos. His ambitious privatization program, which rivals the privatization frenzy of the 1990s through the public-private partnership route, is a clear indication that his government will continue to adhere to controversial free market policies that have pushed poverty and hunger to their worst levels.

The present administration’s privatization initiative is tantamount to a mega-sale of the Philippines to foreign investors who would participate in the public-private partnership programs of the government, which is best advertised by Noynoy Aquino’s declaration that “the Philippines is open for business.” His trip to the U.S. netted him US$2.4 billion in committed fresh investments, which included US$1 billion of PPP funds from the American Energy Solutions (AES) for the expansion of the capacity of the Masinloc power plant by up to 660 megawatts.

After his state of the nation address last July, President Aquino has ordered increases in mass rail transit fares and power rate hikes to finance privatization debts and scrapping of the rice subsidy. The government justified the hikes in train fares as necessary in order to pay the investors’ profits which were guaranteed by the government despite the government’s takeover of the Metro Railway Transit (MRT) system.

Last month, the Philippine Supreme Court lifted its restraining order on toll fee hikes in Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEx), Skyway and Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEx) where it said that private developers contracted by the government to build and operate what should have been government-controlled services are entitled to the right to reasonable profit. Drivers using these expressways have lamented that the roads which are part of public service have now been privatized and turned into businesses for profits.

Everywhere public-private partnerships are resorted as options to build infrastructure or render essential public services like transportation and utilities, P3s have turned out to be both flawed and costly. The traditional way of creating infrastructure, for example, was to have the private sector design and build it, but for governments to finance, maintain and operate it. The P3 model extends the role of the private sector into all of those areas. Everybody wins, so they claimed P3s could deliver – the private sector gets paid well for their efforts and after say, 30 years or so projects revert back to the public. But the reality is, all too often, it is the citizens who are left holding the bag and the list of failures keeps on growing.

Public-private partnerships, like the huge bailouts the U.S. government needed to stimulate its economy after the Wall Street financial meltdown, ultimately place all the risk on the shoulders of the public, while the private sector gets all the profit. Infrastructure and public services are still best financed and delivered by the public sector, and should not be left to risky and unaccountable public-private partnerships, especially if the end goal is privatization.

A Canadian actor and activist puts it best: “P3s should be called P12s – Public-Private Partnerships to Plunder the Public Purse to Pursue Policies of Peril to People and the Planet for all Posterity.”