Archive for the 'Corporate shenanigans' Category

Retractions, anybody?

Jul 24, 2012 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Environment

Of course, economists have found that Republican “jobs” plans, which I’ve previously scoffed at, would create no jobs in the next five years and would create no more than “marginal” numbers after that. What’s the point? To get things Republican donors already wanted:

Carl Riccadonna, a senior economist at Deutsche Bank, said some of the bills could create jobs, but that they would amount to more of an afterthought in terms of achieving broader policy goals.

“They are very narrowly targeted, and it gives the impression that maybe some of this is special interest really pursuing these, not really taking a macro view but a very, very micro focus in what the impact would be,” Riccadonna said. For most of the bills in the package, “jobs are a second- or third-order effect, not the main priority.”

At the heart of the GOP jobs package is a push for rolling back regulations — and gutting environmental laws that regulate clean air and water — to spur job growth.

It’s rotten enough that we’re asked to trade clean air and water for jobs, but the promised jobs are just that, promises. In the end, the Koch brothers get a little more profit for themselves because they spend less money on protecting the environment, and everybody else gets heavy metals in their drinking water as compensation while they ship the money to an offshore account.

Republicans are against any direct action that would lower unemployment numbers, because high unemployment numbers are their only tool against Obama. They certainly don’t have a worthwhile candidate. So this is win-win for them, as they keep their industrial overlords content while doing nothing for the economy, making things harder for Obama while keeping the campaign cash flowing.

How clean water doesn’t interest them, well, you’ll have to figure that one out.

-hw

So Rick Perry doesn’t just squash investigations into innocent men who were executed, he also tried gambling with the lives of teachers. Well, golly…

Aug 26, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans

Far out!

According to the notes, which were authenticated by a meeting participant, the Perry administration wanted to help Wall Street investors gamble on how long retired Texas teachers would live. Perry was promising the state big money in exchange for helping Swiss banking giant UBS set up a business of teacher death speculation.

All they had to do was convince retirees to let UBS buy life insurance policies on them. When the retirees died, those policies would pay out benefits to Wall Street speculators, and the state, supposedly, would get paid for arranging the bets. The families of the deceased former teachers would get nothing.

What’s weird is that this is all money that would have to come from life insurance companies…and exactly how much are they willing to bleed before they put a stop to such shenanigans? Sooner or later, either the insurance companies or the state will realize that they are getting the splintered end, and they’ll want out. No? Then someone please explain the math to me, because finance people sure are wonderful at putting numbers on a piece of paper and telling you that’s real money.

I think Obama would have a pretty easy time against Perry. He’s likely to seduce the base by being proudly ignorant and extreme, along with being so very manly and handsome (all the queer gay-hating Republicans get their hearts aflutter, I’m sure), but he’s got an atrocious record and he makes Dubya look like a Mensa member. He’s not going to reassure the country that he’ll be better for them than grown-up actual compromiser (much to the chagrin of people who thought electing a Democratic president with huge majorities in Congress would mean a Democratic agenda would be followed). At least he ought to jerk a few liberals out of their BOTH PARTIES ARE THE SAME stupor that enables their constant susceptibility to getting punked.

So who wants to roll some dice on which teachers die first?

-hw

Apparently it’s not really about business.

Aug 30, 2010 in Corporate shenanigans

Wall St. got everything it wanted from Obama, but he hurt their feelings.

Moments like this really shake the optimism about our country’s future right out of my bones.

On the other hand, maybe Obama should extoll them as giants among men while throwing half of them in court and passing truly fundamental regulation to protect Americans from the ravages of unchecked corporate financial greed. Talking smack while delivering billions in bonuses doesn’t wash, I guess.

-hw

Drill, baby, drill!

Apr 30, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Energy, Environment

I’m happy to be wrong but when I read this the first thought that sprung to mind was “fat fucking chance”:

“We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up, and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them. We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that,” Tony Hayward told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Like Exxon, BP will be fighting this in court for the next twenty years trying to defer as much of the coasts of cleanup onto the federal and state governments. Considering that they’ve already spent considerable sums fighting regulations that would have prevented this disaster it’s hard to believe that they’ll be going out of their way to admit fault.

So what is geological and energy security expert Sarah Palin’s take on all of this? As Digby has humorously remarked, “How’s That Wishin’ Prayin’ Thing Workin’ Out For Ya?”
-mg

Tea Partiers, man your battle stations.

Feb 01, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Economy

Wall Street needs your anti-government rhetoric, and Frank Luntz is here to tell you how to apply your newfound populism to protecting big banks and the inscrutable financial apparatuses that got us in this mess:

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated,” Luntz wrote. “This is your critical advantage. Washington’s incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support.”

Luntz continued: “Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests.”

The thing is, the teabaggers never were populists at all. They’re nothing more than angry Republicans who went apoplectic the day a man named Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office, and the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency were utterly rebuked.

A group adrift, ideologically bankrupt, unrepentant, they seized on the emergency measures drafted to fight the economic collapse that nearly a decade of Republican deregulation had merited. In 1999, the Glass-Steagal Act crafted after the Great Depression was revoked, a move championed by Republicans and signed by go-along-to-get-along President Clinton, and in 2008, unleashed financial chaos led to entirely predictable results. Being Republicans, they couldn’t fight that. In reality, they could do nothing more than wait to see what President Obama would do to correct the situation, and then attack every inch of it. While they were at it, they tacked TARP onto Obama as well, since Great Leader Dubya must be excused from responsibility for his eight year tenure.

So the Tea Party activists claimed to develop “principles,” but it was new and unsteady for them. The best they could come up with was that they were against, surprisingly after eight years of massive deficit spending by Dubya, deficit spending. And after Bush’s massive tax cuts which contributed to our massive debt, they concluded that they were “taxed enough already.”

Of course, they have no clear proposals on how to reduce any spending or fix the deficit at all. They’re against ending the tax cuts, they’re against requiring bills to pay for themselves, they’re largely against toning down our overseas adventures, they’re against the cost-cutting reforms of the health care bill.

But Frank Luntz knows who the Republican party is, and he’s geared up the propaganda to make sure Tea Party buffoons are properly educated to understand that they must never truly turn their rage against the real elites who are robbing them blind. Wall Street must remain deregulated. There’s been some loss of message control over TARP, but pinning it on Obama was a fair enough compromise (if you don’t believe me, scan the comments threads on any rightwing blog, including Common Sense Political Thought…there’s a bevy of revisionists there). Sure, it’s likely to result in another collapse in a few years, and Wall St. will proceed as if expecting to be bailed out again, but since the president is a Democrat, Republicans can block whatever he tries doing to fix the problem and then blame him for anything that goes wrong.

All that’s really important is that Republicans get back in office. And if they don’t stop reinstating regulation to keep Wall Street safe, what use will Republicans be to those who regularly fill their campaign coffers?

-jb

Well, Son…

Dec 04, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans, Politics

Every once in awhile, people explain how the world works (hat tips to Sullivan and some other dude who netted it):

Remember too that when you have a progressive tax system, especially when there are surcharges on people making seven-figure incomes, you also have a system where for any given level of national income, the greater the inequality, the greater the government’s tax revenues. And indeed federal revenues have been rising faster than median wages for decades now, thanks to the rich getting ever richer.

Given the government’s insatiable appetite for cash, it’s only natural that it would prefer to tax plutocrats, spending some of that money on poorer Americans, rather than move to a world where poorer Americans earn more (but still don’t pay that much in taxes), and the plutocrats earn less, depriving the national fisc of untold billions in revenue.

The government’s interests, then, are naturally aligned with those of the plutocrats — and when that happens, the chances of change naturally drop to zero.

Of course, this plays itself out in campaign cash, which Democrats occasionally try to clean up via methods like public financing (which Republicans obstruct).

Presidential elections used to be short and cheap. Now they’re massive and mind-numbingly expensive, a major industry unto themselves, as wealthy interests keep bidding higher for massive kickbacks of billions.

Ah, but now we’re supposed to believe Republicans are the populists. If so, Republicans, I’ve got quite a list of ideas for you…

-jb

There are no LULZ here.

May 06, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans

funny pictures of cats with captions

Only this:

-jb

Wait a minute…

May 05, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans, Politics

Quick recap: The right works through repetition. They repeat it until the MSM repeats it. Even people like myself will instinctively consider them an argumentative roadblock unless I’m careful. Unfortunately, rightwingers are masters of jabbering on endlessly, filling up vacuums with declarations based on nothing more than their desire for them to be true. Now, it doesn’t always originate with them, as they are loyal and dutiful servants of the ultra-rich and powerful. As I pointed out just a few blog-posts ago, when the rich need them to protect their offshore tax havens, they’re already out the door with tearing off their shirts to reveal the “$” bedecked costumes (or simple asshats).

So Michael Lind knocks down another accepted truism that if we ever dare hold our masters accountable for things like war crimes or breaking the country’s banks, nobody will want to take their jobs.

The voluntary expatriation of leading Wall Street geniuses might help to restore the U.S. economy and wreck potential rival financial capitals at the same time. The thought brings to mind the observation by a wag on the defection in the 1970s by John Connally from the Democrats to the Republicans: “He raised the IQ of both parties.”

The American Way, as preached to us by Republicans and the ruling class, is that you fire fuck-ups in order to improve fortunes. Like sudden Fourth Amendment zealot Jane Harman, they’re just trying to sell us peasants gruel they wouldn’t dare eat themselves.

We need the best and the brightest. Torturers and CEOs rewarded double-digit millions for failure are clearly excluded from that description.

-jb

To hell with Obama. We need Teddy Roosevelt pronto!

Mar 18, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans

Fuck AIG:

Edward Liddy, CEO of American International Group, warned a congressional panel Wednesday of “dire consequences” if the bailed-out insurer is allowed to fail.

So unless we fork over the loot the hostages will suffer. Awesome.

-mg

You peasant rabble!

Mar 18, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans

Should have expected Rush Limbaugh to pipe up trying to coax Republicans away from halfway making sense. How dare they forget to listen to their corporate masters?

“A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration.”

Nevermind that Obama and team had to reverse themselves under public pressure…reality is rarely a restraint for Rush or his loyal Republicans. He may not convince them to walk off a plank on this one, but my ground reports tell me the real dittoheads are taking their marching orders.

This kind of stuff does scare corporate America, mind you. Rigging outrageous bonuses and rewards for failure has become popular sport in the boardrooms. Anybody willing to run defense for them will get heard on as many outlets as they can spare. But if the public doesn’t shift, expect a quick public surrender in order to facilitate private deal-wrangling to keep the order of things.

Rush Limbaugh realized long ago that the secret to getting ahead was to be a voice for the establishment, someone to tame the masses while the rich and powerful strengthened their positions and made off like bandits. Sometimes he isn’t so subtle about it. Back down, you ignorant peasants!

No, I don’t mean YOU! YOU aren’t like them, y’know, not if you side with ME, King Limbaugh! That makes you practically royalty.

-jb

Golden Oldies

Mar 17, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans, Journamalism

If you have time to kill and need a laugh, flipping through old articles about Wall Street before the crash is always good for a chuckle. Followed by projectile vomiting. The “best and brightest” make for easy pickings, so I’ll ding another one off the head of wonder boy Andrew Sorkin for some of his corporate stenography in July:

It’s a controversial hypothesis, which others have put forward before, and it has sparked plenty of debate within the industry. But Mr. Schwarzman is convinced that the rule — known as FAS 157 — is forcing bookkeepers to overstate the problems at the nation’s largest banks.

“From the C.E.O.’s I talk with,” Mr. Schwarzman said during an interview on Monday morning, “the rule is accentuating and amplifying potential losses. It’s a significant contributing factor.”

Some of his bigwig pals in finance believe that Wall Street is in much better shape than the balance sheets suggest, Mr. Schwarzman said. The president of Blackstone, Hamilton E. James, goes even further. FAS 157, he said, is not just misleading: “It’s dangerous.”

Huh? So the Citigroups and Merrill Lynches of the world are writing off billions of dollars — but they haven’t actually lost the money?

Okay, honestly Sorkin does seem to cast doubt on the hypothesis over the course of the article, allowing opposing viewpoints to get their word in and noting that dubious subprimes may indeed be worthless. However, doesn’t this strike you as a bit of, “Is it actually dangerous to play pogo-stick with a loaded shotgun?”

Let’s remember who saw it coming and who twiddled their thumbs, smirking.

-jb

Poor Cramer?

Mar 16, 2009 in Corporate shenanigans, Journamalism, Politics

Richard Cohen is responsible for some of the worst op-eds in existence. He’s so reliably offended when comedians puncture the Beltway/Wall St. bubble. Poor Jim Cramer didn’t know what was going down on Wall Street, as they didn’t know it was going to fail so soon and lost face/money…in other words, because he and other wealthy investors thought they could keep the whole con game going longer.

Glenn Greenwald provides the context Cohen ignores: Cramer admitted that he often knew corporations were lying to him and let it go. Cramer admitted he had engaged in dubious acts himself. The Beltway/Wall Street types are getting their panties in a bunch because Stewart is breaking the rule they have indoctrinated themselves with: Thou shall not question the powerful. Greenwald reminds the press that this is their job.

America sides with Stewart, and after America gets done kicking AIG’s ass, Cramer, the people at CNBC, the Beltway corporate media, and Wall Street would do well to heed the warning: Do not fuck me with a toilet plunger and tell me you’re shaking my hand.

-jb

Republicans cornering the CEO vote.

Feb 06, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans

As I was saying in the comments section of my previous post, the GOP is “fuming” over $50 milion for the NEA because lefty artists will get some rent money, but when it comes to loser CEOs of bailout-begging corporations, their allegiances kick in:

President Obama has proposed capping compensation for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money at $500,000. Republicans hate the idea — a position that puts them uncomfortably on the side of people currently about as popular as armed burglars and subprime mortgage brokers.

And there they should stay, lackey dogs of organized embezzlers who have no idea how to fix our problems.

-jb

Bush keeps it real.

Dec 16, 2008 in Corporate shenanigans, Disappointing Dems

The champion of the CEO, all the way to the end.

The Bush Administration inserted an eleventh-hour provision into the $750 billion bailout bill to protect executive bonuses, a single sentence that will torpedo efforts to reduce bonuses even as companies slash tens of thousands of jobs and use taxpayer money to gobble up other companies at fire-sale prices.

Pressured by constituents who worried that companies would take government aid and continue to pay their executives eye-popping bonuses, Congress inserted a provision that would penalize companies who took taxpayer money and shelled out outsized bonuses.

But at the last minute, Bush officials insisted on a one-sentence provision that stopped the measure in its tracks, according to congressional aides who spoke to the Washington Post.

The change stipulated that the sanction would only apply to firms that sold mortgage backed securities to the government at auction, which the Bush Treasury Department said would be the method they’d use to infuse troubled companies with bailout cash.

“Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts” who spoke to Post reporter Amit Paley. “In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.”

They insisted. George W. Bush is never short on courage when it comes to protecting the most powerful and rewarding the richest. While the nation vomits over the prospect of CEOs being paid double-digit millions to lead their companies to financial ruin, George comes swinging in to the rescue, making sure they can keep looting their own sinking ships and escorting them safely to lifeboats.

Keep an eye out for Republicans who say, “George Bush who?” while applauding this measure. Things like this are why they loved him, why they thought he would bring us untold prosperity. And even while he signs off on these multi-billion dollar bailouts of his friends, Republicans will take away the small assurance that even when times were tough, George W. Bush was there to not only preserve the wealth of the wealthiest, but to make sure they profited even further from failure.

A special shout-out to brave members of Congress for wilting again against a lame-duck president with sub-30 approval ratings!

-jb

$15 billion to keep the US auto industry alive vs. trillions for Wall Street, no questions asked.

Dec 12, 2008 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Economy, Politics

The discrepancies are starting to come to a boil…what CEO of a major financial behemoth is getting dragged in front of Congress to have their homework demanded or else? Why is the political class so fast to throw up their hands and say “Whatever you want!” to AIG so they can keep circulating money on paper, yet so slow to talk about doing something to save mortgages?

This week’s drama has centered around the auto-companies, who affect the employment of millions, asking for $25 billion, a pittance compared to what is being thrown at the financial sector to scant avail. Now they’ve been hounded and harassed and bargained down to $15 billion, with pay cuts for CEOs that would be unthinkable for Wall Street moguls (even the golden parachute provision was engineered to not apply to anybody who’s currently in charge).

I was initially suspicious of the auto bailout, at least until I heard they were only asking for $25 billion. I later said, install conditions, accountability, and the means to produce vehicles for the modern era (already I’ve heard rightwingers drooling about buying big gas-hogs again now that you can fill up your car without a mortgage). As I see it right now, the auto bailout can do more good for the economy than ten times the amount thrown at Wall Street, so…

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a fierce critic of the bailout, said the failure of the bill could hurt his auto-state colleagues, but noted, “politically, I think Republicans can show a real difference [with Democrats] here.”

I’m glad this Republican has his priorities straight. Surely them Southern Republicans, free from the nefarious influence of Michigan, can think with their principles.

…pitting Rust Belt and auto-state senators who joined Democrats in a plea for federal aid against their Southern colleagues who represent states where foreign-owned automakers constitute a significant economic presence

Great job!

We are reflecting our deepest priorities, our very nature, in our response to the Siege of the Invisible Hand. Given the urgent need to completely restructure how business and politics is handled in America, given that we have little choice but to re-align our priorities or else have it done forcibly, Republicans like Jim DeMint represent the Old Guard…of Nothing. Nothing but politics and self-interest, when we need them to get the country repaired.

-jb

Hot potato played by blind men.

Sep 22, 2008 in Barack Obama, Corporate shenanigans, Economy, Politics

Uncertain times, folks. The geniuses of the free market turned out to be, hold onto your hat, con men who spent their time gaming the system to keep the buck moving. Odd man out became the American public, and now the fiscally criminal Bush administration is expecting us to pony up a trillion bucks which they can…oh, do whatever the hell they please while we cross our fingers that the Titanic won’t land on our heads while the rich paddle away.

Slowly, there is some pushback going on:

They may be right, but if they took their business plan as written to any bank or VC, they’d be laughed out of the office. The plan is utterly vague, untested, and there is no proof that they have or can find the executive talent needed to run a pilot program of this kind, much less scale it up to $700 billion.

People are starting to worry that this bailout-to-end-all-bailouts (because that worked so well with war) is another raw deal the Bush administration is trying to panic us into accepting without question.

Given the history of the Democrats, Bush will have whatever he wants within a week. Obama is showing a highly lauded steady hand and playing a bit of poker here, outclassing John McCain and he’s talking to the right people. He’s saying a blank check is unacceptable, and he could win with that message. Unfortunately, he may have no power but to cast “aye” or “nay” in a matter of days. I recommend to Barack Obama that he stick to principle regardless of whether or not it looks like the bailout will pass. Nobody likes this bailout except the people who will be getting that big infusion of funds. Even if it slows the market unraveling, it’s a big fat target for rhetorical bombs. It is up to liberals to tell Republicans that socialism isn’t about a blank check.

-jb

My thoughts exactly.

Mar 18, 2008 in Corporate shenanigans, Economy, Housing Bubble, Not a recession!

E.J. Dionne in today’s WaPo:

Never do I want to hear again from my conservative friends about how brilliant capitalists are, how much they deserve their seven-figure salaries and how government should keep its hands off the private economy.

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard. They have lost “confidence” in each other, you see, because none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another’s portfolios.

As Chomsky says, more often than not capitalism means “free markets for thee, not for me.”  So much for the concept of moral hazard.  Every time the “Masters of the Universe” innovate themselves into financial armageddon it’s taxpayers like me that have to make sure they don’t have to face any scrutiny (in Bear Stearns case that means litigation) for frittering away billions.

-mg  

Drawing a line in the sand.

Feb 12, 2008 in Constitution, Corporate shenanigans, Disappointing Dems, Glenn Greenwald, Legal, Politics, Where's the outrage?!?!

Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, and 12 Democrats make it more than clear that having a (D) next to your name is never a guarantee that you will stand up for the Constitution, or that you won’t stand against it. Glenn Greenwald laments:

That’s really the most extraordinary aspect of all of this, if one really thinks about it — it isn’t merely that the Democratic Senate failed to investigate or bring about accountability for the clearest and more brazen acts of lawbreaking in the Bush administration, although that is true. Far beyond that, once in power, they are eagerly and aggressively taking affirmative steps — extraordinary steps — to protect Bush officials. While still knowing virtually nothing about what they did, they are acting to legalize Bush’s illegal spying programs and put an end to all pending investigations and efforts to uncover what happened.

Just tell me how a Republican congress could have delivered a better result for Bush. When it came time to answer the question of whether or not we were going to become a surveillance state for good, enough Democrats crossed over to show that liberals are still a minority, and that “conservative” means “authoritarian” today. And then we have those scared independents and spineless politicians who refuse to believe that standing up for founding principles is a career-maker. They understand the Constitutional arguments, and then they wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares in which Republican ads accuse them of loving Osama bin Laden more than Jesus.

We must face the truth: Bush has scored a complete slam dunk on nearly every consolidation of his authority he has attempted. What he has not been able to carry out on his own, he has gotten the support of Congress to finish. Fear has won.

Is it any wonder that people see Obama as an antidote, a catalyst who could enable a resurrection of the Constitution? Every grassroots organization left or right should put the task in front of Obama from day one: renounce the unitary executive and reverse every presidential order from Bush that remotely relates to the concept. That’s just for starters. But I think Obama, more than Clinton or McCain, would be the president most likely to be swayed by the people’s call for a return to accountability. I don’t think with the other two there is even a glimmer of hope that the authority of the president will loosen.

-jb

I love capitalism!

Feb 01, 2008 in Corporate shenanigans, Economy

 Wall Street Embraces Government to Avoid Recession:

 Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) — With U.S. mortgage foreclosures set to top 1 million this year and home prices falling at the fastest pace since the Great Depression, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Vice Chairman Thomas Russo says the government must take action to prevent a recession.

Remember this next time some winger tries to lecture you about, well, take your pick from the same tired list; personal responsibility, corporate efficiency, free-market values, class warfare, etc.

It is the opinion of this writer that those who are quick to lecture upon the virtues of capitalism perhaps need to take a refresher course on the topics of risk and moral hazard.

Statistics like these are managing to change even the most ardent opponents of big government. William McCarthy, a mortgage broker in Parker, Colorado, said he has been against federal intervention his entire life. Now 62 and facing eviction Feb. 11 after his lender foreclosed on his $199,200 mortgage, he said the government has to take action.

Classic!

-mg 

Corporations and Government unite against the people.

Dec 19, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Drugs, Legal, Politics, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!

One of the virtues of fascism is that corporations are easily integrated into the system. Corporations have the power to streamline and lubricate the mechanics of tyranny, privatizing what the government cannot get away with itself. If the government itself goes awry, watch out. One way the government always goes awry is through gradual mission creep and erosion of civilian protections. Crooks and Liars looks at an NYT article about how Bush’s surveillance state will inevitably spread beyond terrorism-related cases and become standard police procedure against U.S. citizens. The most obvious point-of-entry? The failed War on Drugs.

This article has exposed even more Bush administration lies and confirmed what many of us have suspected for some time. It’s not all about international terrorism. It appears the programs are being used for domestic crime fighting and there are more companies involved with the programs than previously revealed — and the programs include capturing data that is strictly domestic. In other words, the very core of our judicial system appears to have been thrown out the window and we still have no idea how bad things really are.

“What, me worry?” being the refrain of the right, I find it impossible to secure them any sympathy.

-jb

What it really means to have Bush in office.

Nov 28, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Media, Politics

Dirty shenanigans against the people like this every day.

Earlier this month the FCC convened the final of six public hearings to air out concerns about this proposed rule change. I have watched, listened to or attended all of these hearings and one thing is clear. The public is single-mindedly opposed to more media consolidation.

Martin himself admitted recently that he remembers “only one” public witness calling for relaxation of media ownership rules at these hearings.

This public opposition is not just evident in the passion of the thousands of people who testified against consolidation at FCC hearings in Seattle, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tampa, Harrisburg and Chicago. It’s a fact reflected in the public record.

The last time the FCC tried to change the rules in 2003, millions of people contacted Congress and the FCC to oppose the changes, which were ultimately thrown out by the courts. My organization, Free Press, checked the public comments of those who have written the FCC since June 2006 and found that more than 99 percent opposed changing the rules.

Despite the massive outcry, Martin has not wavered in his rush to let loose a new wave of consolidation by the end of the year.

This is what’s really been going on for the past 7 years under Bush. Corporations rest assured that whatever the public thinks, Bush will have a lackey in place that will allow them to essentially rewrite the rules for themselves. This never stops under Bush, it just keeps chipping away every day at the years of hard work spent defending the public good and keeping voices alive. And it flies under the corporate media radar for all the obvious reasons. All the more reason why the voting booth becomes our only chance to reverse such trends, and even then corporate Democrats (like, say, for example, Hillary Clinton) take that choice away. Value it while it still lasts.

-jb

Goodbye, Privacy.

Nov 11, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, National Security, Politics, The Internets, Where's the outrage?!?!

We’ll miss you.

Millions of people in this country — particularly young people — already have surrendered anonymity to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and to Internet commerce. These sites reveal to the public, government and corporations what was once closely guarded information, like personal statistics and credit card numbers.

“Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all,” said Kerr, 68. “Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”

Thus the government can read all of your e-mail and listen to all of your phone calls whenever it wants and if you don’t shut up about it, you’re letting the terrorists win.

-jb

What? There’s money to be made in authoritarianism?

Sep 19, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Politics

China has 1.3 billion people to monitor and control. That means a lot of sales in surveillance gear. No problem, sez America’s corporations, some of which are China’s, simply incorporated over here. Harold Meyerson examines the implications:

Capitalism is global now; democracy is not. We are moving toward one unified world market that is home to democratic and authoritarian systems alike. The Chinese model of Leninist capitalism poses a systemic challenge to the democratic capitalism that the West espouses. It promises continuing power and greatly increased wealth to the ruling elites of developing nations. Which means that America must disenthrall itself from one of its most cherished myths: that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand, that the spread of markets inevitably means the coming of democracy. That was a key argument that proponents of extending permanent favored trade status to China made during the 1990s. In fact, the creation of the Chinese-American economic entity that followed — in effect, moving our manufacturing belt from the Midwest to Shenzhen — has demonstrated the opposite. Leading American companies such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have acquiesced in Chinese Internet censorship. China’s nonexistent standards of product safety — the direct consequence of its absence of democracy — became our standards, too.

And now, some of Wall Street’s smoothest operators are investing directly in China’s suppression of speech, worship and the right to assemble. It would be nice if the United States developed some regulations or enacted some laws that discouraged our financial institutions from promoting a Leninist mega-state. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) is looking into the matter, but he hasn’t received any encouragement from the White House. Asked about the hedge funds’ activities, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, “It’s not appropriate to interfere in the private decisions of Americans to invest in legally incorporated firms.”

If it comes down to a choice in the Bush White House between capitalism and democracy, or even capitalism and our national interest, the smart money’s on capitalism.

I’ve always believed that the free market does open up avenues for freedom in places it didn’t exist before. Strong consumers have a better chance at becoming strong citizens. Unfortunately, China has forged new ground in transitioning from a bankrupt communist state into a modern and profitable fascist one. The limits of capitalism are now drawn in higher relief, and the lesson is harsh: it can be turned into a vehicle of oppression with dizzying alacrity. Hitler was a pioneer of authoritarianism and corporate profitability; America has watched corporations assume a position of power stronger than or equivalent to the government; China has turned them into its own Stasi.

Where does that put us? On the eve of a world revolution in state/corporate power that will leave nowhere to run? Or on the brink of freedom, seeing the monster in front of us and rejecting it?

-jb

Bush administration relaxes standards on poisonous Chinese products? No way!

Aug 22, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Politics

This is so out of character.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn’t used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products…Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker.

The left and, by now, the middle know this is exactly how the Bush administration operates. The only aberration is that they didn’t publicize it as the “Lead-free Children Initiative.”

Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six hundred parts per million.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

The right, on the other hand, expects this kind of behavior out of their elected representatives. They demand that corporations be allowed to poison the public freely. After all, if people don’t like their children growing sick and dying, they’ll stop buying the cheap ass junk coming out of China, won’t they? Markets regulate themselves just fine.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”

“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened,” said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.

The problem with them, of course, is that they’re communist liberals and that this effort to keep poisonous toys out of children’s hands is just another socialist scheme to destroy our healthy economy. If a politician wants to let China ignore safety regulations, thus guaranteeing a certain number of sick and dead children, it’s OK, because he’s guaranteed himself a rightwinger’s vote. Yeah, every once in awhile a Republican ends up with a dead kid, but they know to suck it up for the party. If not, the extra campaign donation from Wal-mart helps make up for it.

-jb

How to hire aliens instead of citizens.

Jun 28, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans

Here’s a video of some immigration lawyers explaining how to their corporate clients:

[youtube TCbFEgFajGU]

Sadly, this will do little to silence those keen on crying “but Americans wont do those jobs”.

-mg

When bad debt becomes just that…

Jun 23, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Housing Bubble

Bad Debt.  Bear Stearns is against the ropes because they failed to heed the warnings of those who foretold doom in the all encompassing housing sector and now one of their most lauded hedge funds is about to tank.  This might knock a little reality into the skulls of those that see a rising DJIA and conclude that all is well.  News flash; the Dow is a dumb animal and merely reacts to immediate stimuli.  It is not a crystal ball.  In fact, it is the opposite:

“The problem is not what we see happening, but what we don’t see,” said Joseph Mason, associate professor of finance at Drexel University in Philadelphia and co-author of an 84-page study this year on the CDO market. “We don’t know the price of these assets. We don’t know which banks are exposed to this sector. These conditions are the classic conditions for financial crises across history.”

Conclusion?  The Street was wrong (and Iowa Liberal was right) when they previously assured investors that housing woes were limited to the subprime market.  Merrill Lynch attempted to sell two of Bear Stearns’ embattled securities (not even the high risk ones) to help raise some capital and came up half a billion short signaling that they’ve got a long ways to go before they hit bottom and this time the Fed isn’t going to be able to turn on the spigot (lower interest rates) to help them.  In fact, Bank of America analysts are calling this the “tip of the iceberg”.

-mg

“These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand.”

Jun 06, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Disappointing Dems, Energy, Environment, Global warming, Politics

So said Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in my recent post about the multi-million dollar lobbying effort to get billions in subsidies for the coal industry.

I was also told by an intelligent commenter that looking at Rahall’s voting record shows support for coal AND the environment and that he was not merely a bought-and-paid-for politician. Here’s Rahall’s votes for the past two years.

Imagine my enormous surprise to see this post at Libs Earth Watch leading to this article.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today sharply criticized a provision in a new bill introduced by Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) in the House Natural Resources Committee that the group said would “essentially outlaw the generation of electricity from new wind power plants in the United States and even phase out power production from existing wind turbines.”

The provision, Subtitle D of H.R. 2337, would:

* Bar any new wind power project until new Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rules are issued – a process likely to take years – and require FWS certification of every turbine
* Require all existing turbines, even small residential units, to cease operating 6 months after issuance of new FWS rules until they are “certified,” an unwieldy bureaucratic process applying to many thousands of turbines that, again, will take years
* Make it a crime, punishable by a $50,000 fine or a year in jail, to construct or generate electricity from an unapproved turbine, even for home use
* Undermine state and federal efforts to promote renewable electricity generation and subvert the growing movement to reduce global warming pollution
* Create an unworkable bureaucracy that will delay clean, emissions-free wind energy projects throughout the U.S.

The legislative proposal follows on the heels of a May 3 report from the National Academy of Sciences that states, among other things, that “Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of . . . total anthropogenic bird deaths – less than 0.003% [three of every 100,000] in 2003.” And the wind industry is already helping to fund groundbreaking collaborative research programs on bats and grassland birds to develop a knowledge base that would allow intelligent and effective conservation measures. Existing evidence suggests that fossil fuel-fired electricity generation, not covered by H.R. 2337’s requirements, has far greater wildlife impacts.

Commented Gregory Wetstone, AWEA Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs, “Wind energy requires no mining or drilling for fuel, no fuel transportation, no hazardous waste disposal, and no water use; and wind energy generates electricity without toxic pollutants like mercury, without greenhouse pollution, and of course without the conventional pollutants that cause smog and acid rain. Is this really an energy sector Congress should close down, for environmental reasons?”

Isn’t that curious? Congressman Nick Rahall, not in the pocket of the coal industry, is set to try destroying wind energy.

It seems Congress, even our Democratic one, will be quite content to let Nick Rahall run wild and even vote in his bills if the netroots aren’t looking. Perhaps they should become aware that to maintain their credentials for supporting environmental issues, Nick Rahall and whatever coal-funded crackpot schemes he comes up with should be relegated to a tiny, tiny minority. Taking another look at where he stands on the issues, he’s barely even a Democrat. Yes on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (the one that ended your right of habeus corpus), yes on every vote in favor of criminalizing aspects of abortion, yes on the credit card “reform” bill, yes on the Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, etc. etc. etc. Obviously he’s got some good votes in there or he’d just be a Republican, but clearly his judgment is not to be easily trusted. Perhaps we should keep our heads out of the sand when it comes to Nick Rahall.

-jb

The excruciating inconvenience of testing for mad cow.

Jun 01, 2007 in Agriculture, Corporate shenanigans, Politics

The Bush administration has taken up another noble cause: fighting to stop meatpackers from testing all of their beef for mad cow.

You read it right. This isn’t fighting a regulation, it’s regulators fighting to stop a meatpacking company choosing to do the tests. Perfectly backwards.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

I guess they’re far less concerned about a false negative coupled with sporadic testing. Fortunately, a federal court has recognized the obvious and ruled that the meatpacking company can’t be prevented from testing its beef for mad cow.

This is Bush administration industry pandering at its absolute worst. What perturbs me is that frequently Beltway insiders will claim that Iraq is Bush’s only really big problem as a president, but stories like this have been going on for six years. When it comes to horrific corporate pandering though, never expect a word of concern from the corporate media. Things that are openly repulsive to almost every ordinary American who isn’t a dittohead simply don’t count.

-jb

I *heart* Joel Bolkcom

Feb 20, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Iowa, Local, Uncategorized

Ever rent an apartment in a college town?  Then you’ve probably been ripped off by a shady landlord or property management company.   Withholding some or all of deposit funds under flimsy pretexts is all too frequent in any community that has a largely transient population.  Landlords take advantage of the fact that student renters commonly lack the sufficient resources (both monetarily and the time associated with litigation) to pursue unfair treatment.  It’s also a pretty safe risk considering the lack of any meaningful penalties for those caught stealing.  That’s why I applaud this legislaton recently introduced that would give renters a fairer shot at representation and recompensation :

“First, the proposed bill would change the legal condition to win damages in court to proving the deposit was retained “wrongfully,” as opposed to in “bad faith.” At present, the court must be convinced that the landlord acted with “malicious intent” in withholding the deposit beyond the 30 days allowed by law. But under the bill, the tenant would only have to prove the landlord retained the deposit beyond the 30-day period without justifiable reason.

Second, if passed, the bill would increase the maximum damages for wrongfully withholding a deposit to double the amount of the deposit or the portion of the deposit wrongfully retained, or $500, whichever is more.

This would effectively set the minimum punitive damages a tenant could receive at $500. The current maximum reward a plaintiff can receive under current law is $200.”

Joe Kelly, a lobbyist representing the Iowa Landlord Association, the Manufactured Housing Association of Iowa, and Landlords of Iowa isn’t thrilled:

The most ‘egregious’ part of the bill, in his opinion, is the change of legal standard from ‘bad faith’ to ‘wrongfully,’ because that would give a judge little discretion in rewarding damages if a landlord made an honest mistake.  “When you put a straitjacket on a judge like this, it’s hard for us to support it.”

I’m sure the above was said with a straight face.

-mg

Wal-mart dishonest? No way!

Jan 27, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans

Gee, who would have predicted it?

Wal-Mart, the controversial retailing giant, is under investigation in the US over allegations it is trying to pass off non-organic foods as organic.

It has been accused of using misleading labelling that is “tantamount to consumer fraud” by an organic farming watchdog, the Cornucopia Institute. The body has handed its complaints to the US Department of Agriculture (Usda).

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is also conducting an investigation into whether Wal-Mart is placing “natural” produce on shelf space labelled as containing organic items.

The Cornucopia Institute claimed to have found dozens of examples of Wal-Mart’s mislabelling products – from “all- natural yogurt” to soya milk “made from organic soybeans”.

It’s simple, folks. Label foods what they are. Who disagrees? People selling foods with ingredients people don’t want.

If you shop organic, you are concerned about what you’re putting in your body, and if you can’t trust the labels on your food, you’re going to face an unending battle to figure out what the hell you’re eating. People shouldn’t have to do this, something that should go without saying.  Yet common sense rarely ranks over special interest agendas in Congress.  Makers of non-organic products will never stop trying to find loopholes that will allow them to fit under the “organic” umbrella.

Like Chomsky says, you don’t need conspiracies, you just need incentives.

-jb