With Rockefeller, HE WHO MADE IT BIG comes to an end. Hope you guys had a good time.
John D Rockefeller began as a humble oil business book-keeper in Cleveland, Ohio and in just seven years rose to control a tenth of the entire US oil industry. In the late 19th century the oil industry was a free-for-all, the law of the jungle ruled. Rockefeller used this 'individual freedom' to pursue several extremely successful, if deceitful tactics to accumulate capital.
He would create new oil related companies such as engineering and pipeline firms that seemed to be independent operators. Rockefeller and his close colleagues secretly controlled the firms and gave Standard Oil of California, Rockefeller's main oil company, hidden rebates.
Another tactic was to buy up a competing oil company, again secretly. Officials from this company could then be used very effectively to spy on, and give advanced warning of, deals being hatched by his real competitors.
Probably the most effective secret deals done by Rockefeller and his partners were with the railroads. These 'in harmony' deals meant those refineries and oil traders not 'in harmony' with standard would find that railroads would refuse point blank to move their oil, whatever the price.
Oil, of course, is free at source, so once the investment in refining and extraction plant has been made the only really important cost was transportation. Rockefeller's secret railroad rebates on the transportation of his oil kept his competitors guessing for years. None of them could understand how he kept pump prices so low. They were all bemused that Standard Oil had being growing at such a rate. How he managed to persuade the railroads to give him rebates and keep the deals secret is still not clear.
Allun Nevins has produced an official biography¹ of the Rockefeller empire but even he cannot help but question its morality. Of a railroad contract signed on 17 October 1877 he says, "The commission was excessive for the services performed. It was ethically indefensible." "Today," he says, "we must condemn the misuse of power not only as a crushing blow to the company's competitors but as an indirect tax on the public."
At judicial enquiries such as the Hepburn Committee which delivered its report on January 22nd 1880 Standard Oil representatives and those 'in harmony' were tight lipped. They often refused to attend court hearings and regularly disputed its validity. They would give disdainful, condecending replies to the examiners which spoke of an seeming immunity to the rule of law. The committee decided that "Standard Oil violated... social justice" in its monopolistic deals with the railroads.
Standard Oil Of California, or SOCAL, had its own intelligence and espionage service. Rockefeller saw that a little knowledge can be decisive in the business world so he combined this good supply of information on his competitors with a total wall of silence he himself presented to the outside world. 'No comment' was all that journalists came to expect from the SOCAL offices.
But what about the man himself? Old film of John Rockefeller shows him moving in a curiously stiff and wooden fashion, expressionless. He was a Baptist who went to church regularly, but did he enjoy it? Anthony Sampson in his book 'The Seven Sisters' quotes John Rockefeller as having a favourite maxim; 'Don't let good fellowship get the least hold of you'. Jerome Greene called him, "the most unemotional man I have ever known".
One shadowy deal that SOCAL struck back in the 1930's changed the face of urban America for ever. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Phillips Petroleum Co., Mack Truck and General Motors collaborated on a project with SOCAL called National City Lines. The tram systems in the urban US were suffering from under-investment and often crippling debt repayments so National City Lines stepped in across the States to liberate the populous from their cheap and cheerful old 'streetcar' systems. They were replaced with motor buses or they were gradually closed down completely.
The demand for motor cars soared returning massive profits for all involved in the deal. By 1940 General Motors alone had been responsible for the disposal of more than 100 urban streetcar operations. In the late forties the consortium was found guilty by the federal grand jury under anti-trust (anti-competitive) legislation but the $5,000 fine was laughable. It did not even amount to the annual profit returned from the conversion of a single streetcar.
National City Lines sold the dream of the bus and the car to businessmen and politicians right across the continent. In Detroit, even the chairman of the rapid transit company declared the car as the 'magic carpet of transportation for all mankind'. Mayor LeGuardia in NYC said the car represented the best of modern civilisation, whereas the tram was simply an old-fashioned obstacle to progress.
So where are the Rockefellers now? The current head of the family is David Rockefeller, Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank and prime mover in the secret 'Bilderberg' and 'Trilateral Commission' elite groups.
His personal secretary, Alice Victor, was one of the only woman present at the 1996 covert Bilderberg meeting just outside Montreal. Amongst the 120 or so most were Peter Job, Chief executive of Reuters, James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada and representatives from most of the boards of US and European Banks.
Press coverage of these conferences of the super-powerful is virtually nil. The entire meeting is 'off the record' for the mere likes of you or I.
They may have moved the core of their interests from Oil to Banking and branched out considerably but the Rockefeller family have not given up the fascination of clandestine operations to keep their business empire beating at the heart of the capitalist machine.
By Taskin Rahman
NSU Aces with Annual Economic Conference 2005
North South University in conjunction with its club, the Young Economist Forum (YEF) organized the Annual Economic Conference 2005 (AEC) on the 20th of June.
The AEC offers a premier opportunity for economists all over the country to meet and air their ideas under one roof. It is often the gathering of the some of the most illustrious names across Bangladesh. This year it was no different as such names as Dr. Atiur Rahman (Chairman, Unnayan Samannay), Dr Amirul Islam and last but definitely not the least Professor Hafiz G.A. Siddiqi (Vice Chancellor, North South University) graced the Star Tower of North South University.
The AEC was a day-long program divided into one Inaugural Session and three Technical Sessions where participants presented their paper to be judged by an exclusive panel. As is usual, this years AEC also had a recurring theme. This time the conference mainly dealt with "Successes and Failures of the Bangladesh Economy."
The Inaugural Session was attended in part by Commerce Minister, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury who was Chief Guest and got the program underway with a stirring speech in which he recollected much of his past life and compared it with the present- all in relation to the recurring theme. He also stated that he thought that the Bangladesh economy had improved substantially in all sectors during the last twenty years. Zakir Ahmed, Secretary, Minister of Finance also attended as Special Guest. Vice Chancellor Hafiz G.A. Siddiqi oversaw proceedings at session chair and Professor Amirul Islam Chowdhury got the program underway presenting his Key Note Paper of the same name as the theme.
There were three Technical Sessions, each of which, dealt with specific sectors of the Economy. The first session concerned Economy, Poverty and Health and was chaired by Dr. M. Ali Rashid of North South University. There were a number of papers presented in this session most notable of which was one by an independent group of students who presented an interesting paper that dealt with beggars of Dhaka city and why they chose to beg. Some notable professors of North South University also acted as discussants in this session.
After a lunch break, the second session entitled Money, Finance & E Commerce got underway and was chaired by Professor Ashraf Uddin Chowdhury, Dhaka University. Professors from Royal University & AIUB presented interesting papers in this session.
After another break for tea, the third session dealing with Environment and Agriculture got underway. It was fittingly, chaired by, Dr. Atiur Rahman who is Chairman of Unnayan Samannay. Most papers in this session came from students of Dhaka University and were very intellectually stimulating as well. Mr. Sakib Mahmud and Mr. Wahid Abdallah acted as discussants in this section.
The AEC was organized in no small part due to the hard work and perseverance of Dr. Gour Gobinda Goswami and Dr. Amirul Islam Chowdhury both of North South University and their hard work paid dividends in making the program a huge success.
By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam
American Studies Institute- 2005
It would be a congregation of 21 Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani students thousands of miles away from their home in the United States...
Referred to as young global leaders, these students were chosen through a rigorous selection process by the American Centers of their respective countries. Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania will host these 21 Muslim South Asian undergraduate students. Supported and fully funded by the U.S. Department of State, this is an effort on the part of the USA to introduce these South Asian students to the American political institutions, academic environment, society and values from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
Known as the American Studies Institute (ASI), this program is particularly targeted at the Muslim students of South Asia who have already shown high degree of accomplishment in their academic field as well as in areas beyond their studies. This student exchange program is an effective endeavour to bridge the gap between the USA and the Muslim world.
ASI is taking place for the third time this year. The 6-week-long program is entirely sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. It's open to all Muslim undergraduate students living in Bangladesh. Like the previous two years, this year too thousands of Bangladeshi undergraduate students vied to qualify for this prestigious program that would not only give them an idea about American social structure, politics and culture but will also add to their list of special achievement and experience. This program would give them a rare opportunity to interact with people from other parts of the world and learn about their lifestyle, culture, values and thoughts.
It's also a unique occasion for all those who have an interest in learning about the United States. The program will comprise of thorough academic sessions and intensive study tours to the major landmarks of the USA.
This year 7 students studying at different universities of the country have been selected to take part in ASI 2005. This year we have students from North South University, Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka University, BUET and BRAC University. A group consisting of 7 students of diverse interests and field of study has been formed by the American Center and the U.S. Embassy at Bangladesh; they are talented, confident, responsible and smart. These young people have already demonstrated high degree of accomplishment in education, debate, literature, journalism and community services. If everything goes right then this group will be flying out to the USA on 21st of June.
These 7 students will be representing Bangladesh and its people in a land where they have never visited before. We all seek your good wishes. I'll be updating you about the group's activities and exciting travel experiences for the next 6 weeks. And in the upcoming articles I'll introduce you to these 7 young people. I bet that at least one of them would turn out to be someone you know or have seen...
By Wara Karim
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