Category: corporations

NYT’s Krugman “Their Own Private Europe”

You can read the entire column here.

Krugman nicely lays out the economic issues in Greece, Ireland and Britain. And he traces it to the deregulation of banking which resulted in the real estate booms both in those places listed above, and here in the United States.

I may have mentioned before a co-worker who is all for completely deregulating banks. The rest of us looked at him with horror and I exclaimed “How exactly do you think we got into the mess in the first place?” If the Bush Administration hadn’t gone full tilt to cowtow to the banks and peel back more regulatory layers then we wouldn’t have seen the tech bubble, the housing bubble, any of the bubbles at all!

Over the past 40 or so years banks and their lobbyists have fought to be deregulated, to buy up smaller banking concerns, merge with insurance companies and it goes on, all to enhance the bottom line for their shareholders. The banks promised us that they’d self-regulate. Yeah, you’re reading me, it’s right up in the category of “I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m just gonna bash your brains the fuck in!”

And it’s only going to get worse if we do nothing. That horrid US Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case pretty much sealed the ability of corporations to BUY elections.
I can understand why the Supreme Court did what they did. I’ve discussed it here numerous times that over a century ago, Corporations were endowed with the same rights as a flesh and blood human. The prior notion is nothing but absolute bovine effluent, but the notion has carried forward into case law. And law in general is nothing without it’s archival or case law.

So the reality is, it’s we the people who allowed this to happen. If you have a retirement 401(k) take a look at the prospectus. I’d be willing to bet there’s a bank or insurance company in there hiding in plain sight.

I remember in the 1970’s we had a number of banks to choose from. There was Industrial National, Hospital Trust, Citizens, Peoples, Eastland. Now you’ve got a few credit unionish banks and Bank of America, Citizens, and Sovereign.

Not much choice at all and the banks know this so they’ll try so screw you any way they can. Come on, 1.25% on six month CD? How stingy can you get?

The fix to this is for more citizens to become politically involved. And I don’t mean you necessarily have to join the Democratic or Republican (aka Tea Party) parties. Start a new party, we’ve done it here Rhode Island and for the first time in my memory we had not just two or three candidates for Governor but seven. Seven! A good chunk were independents and for the first time in it’s history, Rhode Island now has Governor Lincoln D. Chafee an Independent!

We need to have so many candidates running for office that it becomes economically infeasible for corporations to buy their way through. We need to recruit people who will tell lobbyists to take a hike. And we need to make it so ALL candidates accept public financing of their campaign. That’s the only way we’ll ever fix this mess.

President Bush, the Cluster Fuck

It appears that Vanity Fair has done a rather nice dice up of the Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

There is still a lot of chatter reverberating regarding the outright theft of the elections in 2000, and now the evidence for that happening in 2004 is ever greater. Just check out this site.

I for one cannot believe that we re-elected someone that was so beholden to corporate interests for a second term. All you have to do is ask the question, who benefits most from the current debacle in Iraq? If the answer to that was big corporations congratulations, identifying the problem is the first step.

The next step is making damned sure we don’t elect a repeat of Bush. And by that I mean Romney, Huckabee, McCain, et al. on the Republican side. And on the Democrat side I distrust Clinton immensely. She’s definitely playing it to win but I cannot read her true motivation.

Want to know who I’d love to see get the nod for President? Dennis Kucinich. Here’s a guy who’s been through it all. Mayor of Cleveland, a U.S. Rep and most importantly a gorgeous wife. If a guy that looks like that can score like that, he’s got to be good for this country. Plus he’s ultra-left liberal which in my book makes him a pretty ideal candidate.

Once we’ve accomplished that step I think we really need to make a grass roots push to take the money influence out of congress. It will mean sponsoring a third party, and sponsoring it well enough that it can capture a majority in congress. And make damned sure we elect people who will hold to one rule:

The will of the people, excluding corporations, is their highest mission. If one is caught taking finance money from a corporate entity, all bets are off and at most they serve one term.

Of course people need to break away from the television and the other diversion that keep most of us from noticing what is really happening. Try it sometime, block out an hour or so after dinner to sit and read, be it books, be it foreign newspapers, just read. Be sure to do so in a well lit area, and turn off any distractions like the television or radio, unless of course you can listen to music while reading without it distracting you.

Anyhow on to the third phase, codifying discrimination against corporate abuse and power. It will only take one little change to the Constitution to do so, make the 14th Amendment explicitly state that corporate entities are excluded from rights enumerated by the Constitution.

Then we can start taking out country back from the greedy arms of corporations. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think corporations should be abolished, I just want them to be accountable.

For too long now (Just over a hundred years.) they’ve hidden behind the same protections offered to you and I. It’s time we strip away the hiding places and make them answer for their crimes.

The Privatization of Government

I was just trolling around YouTube and found a Democracy Now video of Jeremy Scahill author of “Blackwater”.

Mr. Scahill understands the danger of privatizing government. I’ve posted before about Grover Norquist and his wanting to destroy the federal government. The current occupants of the White House want not only to do that, but to replace it with total corporate control.

Think for a moment what that would mean. Every day we see increasing reaches by corporations. Read your cell phone agreement for instance, I guarantee that part of what you agreed to was a thing called arbitration. Arbitration uses private parties that are favorable towards the corporations to resolve disputes. You are contractually denied usage of the court system in the U.S. when settling disputes with telecom carriers and even credit card issuers.

Then of course there is the document that George W. Bush calls “A god damned piece of paper…”, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. With no federal government that evaporates. No free speech, no freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures, no more right to plead nolo contendre, etc. Think about it.

And regarding Blackwater, they’re owned by the Prince family. These are people who are being given billions to spread their neo-Christian views.

So if you wonder why I’m so vociferous about the dangers of the Christian-military-industrial complex, you know. Just read the PNAC documents and you’ll see exactly what they’re trying to do. I for one do not want to live under the thumb of corporation, nor do I want to live under a theocracy.

These quotes in particular demonstrate the point:

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
~ John Maynard Keynes

Keynes for those who haven’t had any economics courses, was part of FDR’s circle of advisors. His policies helped lift us out of the depression, and he gave FDR a healthy dose of cynicism regarding big business. Of course big business fought back and most of the reforms that FDR put into place were rescinded. But look around some day and see the good that the Works Progress Administration did.

And

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Yes, Ike warned us what was going to happen but he did so on his way out of office. I give him credit though, at least he said something. Today we have people like Colin Powell, who completely disgraced himself in front of the United Nations to push a false pretext for war. I remember watching the speeches that Powell gave and it was clear he was uncomfortable. Yet he could have been a true American hero instead of a relatively obscure player ground up into little bits by the Bush administration.

Part 1, ignore the blogspam at the end if you wish.

Part 2

The Owners of the Country

I note that as George Carlin gets older he gets more and more angry. He’s not so much about comedy anymore but about educating his audience.

This video is prime evidence of that. If you hadn’t put two and two together yet, government in the U.S. is no longer beholden to the people, it is beholden to large corporations. What other purpose did you think Political Action Committees (PAC) served? It was a back door for business to buy off our elected representatives.

Right now I’m reading the book titled Internal Combustion by Edwin Black. Most interesting about the games played and I can now see that the corporate takeover of government got its start in the early part of the 19th century, and was cemented in place by the time of the U.S. Civil War.

This is why I’d love to amend the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Just twelve words, “None of the rights granted by this amendment shall apply to corporations.”

—————-
Now playing: J. Boogie – La Playa
via FoxyTunes

Corporate Fraud and Greed – End it Now!

Rolling Stone has a very interesting article on the excesses of fraud and waste in the Iraq war.

What is happening to the United States is that corporations are looting the federal government. Grover Norquist eat your heart out, your fondest desire might actually be coming true but the consequences will be very bad for everyone. For corporations should never be in the business of providing government services. We’re seeing that push here in Rhode Island, our Republican governor who is also a Bush supporter wants to privatize just 1,000 state jobs. That’s the camel poking its nose into the tent.

How did corporations get so bold? It’s simple, under a fictional legal theory, little more than a comment inserted by a clerk who was paid by the Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations are under the mistaken notion that they have the same rights and privileges as a real person. They should have no such thing, for if they did not they wouldn’t be able to throw money to congress via PAC’s and other vehicles for corporate malfeasance like no bid contracts.

I interviewed with one firm mentioned in the article, Custer-Battles. First, I knew about the shell companies and had alarm bells ringing like crazy in my head. They had advertised the job as full time but when I had gotten to the car after the interview Battles calls and asks if I’d do contracting. I told him to kiss my ass. Turns out my alarm bells over Custer-Battles were correct but get this, even though they had a judgment against them, it was overturned by a Bush friendly jurist at the appellate level. How’s that for disgusting, I know they’re dirty, everyone knows but the courts that are supposed to protect us instead protect corporations that are defrauding the government and therefore the taxpayer for billions.

Consider the $544 Billion dollars spent in Iraq so far. Had we not gone there that $544 Billion might have helped victims of Katrina and maybe, just maybe, we could have a single payer health system in the United States.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until it happens. We MUST change the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to specifically EXCLUDE corporations from the rights derived by that amendment.

How to do that is the conundrum. We cannot depend on our representatives since every single one of them has been bought and paid for many times over.

We’ve all seen how that works. We now have bankruptcy law that benefits the creditors rather than the debtors. We also have corporations like Verizon et al trying their damnedest to kill net neutrality, or the RIAA who won’t adapt to the times, instead they prefer to litigate their way through. Those are just three examples but I’m sure you can think of more, like maybe the oil and gas companies who reap obscene profits while we pay dearly at the pump. Just keep thinking about all the little ways corporations try to screw you and you should be getting very upset. Good, that’s precisely the kind of thing that moves our society forward.

We must lift ourselves into the fray and create a true opposition party that is funded by the people, and not by corporate interests. We have to start locally because constitutional amendments require ratification by the states, so start there and move onward. Howard Dean hit on this briefly when he had several million people chipping in $25 here and there to elect him as the Democratic President. It has to be grassroots and it will take time, I can only hope that it takes as short a time as possible to stop this craziness once and for all.

—————-
Now playing: Earth Wind & Fire – Sun Goddess (Live)
via FoxyTunes

Cool Science Facts Daily – Homeobox Genes

Every now and then I see something I want to expand upon on CSFD. Today’s is about homeobox functions in living beings.

In essence the homeobox genes are templates. We all use templates on a regular basis. A form is a type of template, as is the XML used to generate most Web 2.0 content.

Homeobox genes are structural in the sense that they don’t tell you how to build an eye for example, but where to put the eye. So it explains why our eyes aren’t on the ends of our fingers. Some flies might protest that fact since experiments have made perfectly functional fly eyes grow on said flies legs.

We’re gradually unlocking the functions of all our genes and in the process finding that we’re related to pretty much all multi-cellular life with the exception of trees and grasses. The only issue I have with all this discovery is the ridiculous notion of patenting a gene.

Patents are completely out of whack these days and we need to reform that system without delay. Otherwise the very processes that keep us alive might be patented, requiring us to pay royalties to the patent holder. Imagine patenting the process that keeps us breathing, or our heart beating. That’s essentially what is happening with the genes that underlie those processes.

Politicians Running for Cover in Rhode Island

In my last post about the federal judiciary going after corrupt politicians in Rhode Island I mentioned the 7/7 combo of politicians and corporations.

In it I predicted that leadership in one or both houses of the legislature would be ensnared in what is now called operation Dollar Bill. Sure enough, Joseph Montalbano the president of the Senate is a target. And CVS seems to be playing heavily into the investigations.

This is going to be explosive. Because now the dotted lines between the political and the corporations are going to be filled in to become solid connectors.

My next prediction is that to save his own ass Montalbano will give up lower ranking members of the Senate. Time will tell – but it is about time that the Providence Journal had something to report on.

Operation Dollar Bill
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, February 4, 2007
By Mike StantonJournal Staff Writer

When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney, Robert Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.
The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer

Politicians are looking over their shoulder, witnesses are lawyering up and the FBI and state police have spent many hours at the State House library, poring over the arcane details of committee votes and the travel of legislation.

Welcome to Operation Dollar Bill, the newly minted federal corruption probe that seeks to connect the dots between dollars, as in payoffs, and bills, as in legislation.

In the U.S. Attorney’s office in downtown Providence, overlooking the imposing white marble dome of the state capitol, the case is referred to simply as “the State House investigation,” says U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente.

Like a hurricane gathering force, a case that began three years ago with one state senator, John A. Celona, has gained sufficient strength to recently earn its own name in the FBI register. Not since Operation Plunder Dome, the corruption probe of Providence City Hall that brought down Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., has Rhode Island seen such a high-profile public corruption case.

And this case is bigger. While Plunder Dome focused on one mayor and one city, Operation Dollar Bill encompasses “multiple entities and a lot of players,” Corrente says.

Last week, when Celona was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for using his public office for private gain, a federal prosecutor stunned Rhode Islanders by telling the judge that Celona’s cooperation has spawned 14 “active investigations” of 7 politicians and 7 corporations for possible influence peddling.

The investigation reaches into the office of the Senate president, Joseph A. Montalbano, and the powerful Senate Finance chairman, Stephen D. Alves. Investigators are looking at Montalbano’s title work as a lawyer and Alves’ dealings as an investment adviser, searching for a possible nexus between their jobs and their political positions.

The trail has led to town halls in West Warwick, where Alves is a longtime political power and Montalbano received town title work, and Lincoln, where the FBI has also been asking questions. According to people familiar with the case, the probe has also looked at a powerful ex-legislator with financial ties to the CVS drugstore chain — former Senate President William V. Irons.

Irons, who earned insurance commissions related to CVS employees, has denied any impropriety. His lawyer declined comment Friday. CVS declined Friday to comment on whether it has provided documents to investigators regarding Irons. A corporate spokeswoman said that the company stands by its previous comments that it has cooperated and will continue to do so.

Where any of this will lead remains to be seen. Corrente noted last week that an investigation does not necessarily lead to criminal charges, and he declined to identify specific targets.

“Fourteen investigations today could be 11 tomorrow and 16 to 20 the day after,” said Corrente, in an interview. “It’s fluid. Some may close out [with no charges], while others may lead to new territory. It’s unclear how many prosecutable cases will emerge.”

The U.S. Attorney, who has been mentioned as a candidate to succeed U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres — who presided over corruption cases against Celona and Roger Williams Medical Center — has dedicated one-fifth of his staff resources to Operation Dollar Bill. Gerard B. Sullivan has relinquished his position as chief of the office’s criminal division to supervise a task force that includes the FBI, Rhode Island State Police, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Labor.

With Celona having pleaded guilty and former Roger Williams executives Robert A. Urciuoli and Frances P. Driscoll convicted at trial last fall, the State House probe two weeks ago shifted its focus to CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain. Executives John R. Kramer and Carlos Ortiz were indicted on corruption charges for allegedly putting Celona on the payroll as a $1,000-a-month consultant to influence pharmacy-choice and other legislation worth millions of dollars in sales.

Authorities have also investigated another company with whom Celona had financial dealings — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. A former state senator and Blue Cross vice president, Thomas Lynch, resigned after disclosures regarding the insurer’s financing of Celona’s cable television show on health care. To date, there have been no charges.

Corrente understands the coziness of Rhode Island. He was born in North Providence, the home base of Celona and Montalbano, and lives in East Greenwich, down the street from Jack Kramer, the CVS executive. When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney 2 1/2 years ago, Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.

“Whatever the end result, in terms of number of prosecutions or individuals targeted, I hope people involved in political life will get the message,” Corrente said. “They have to conduct themselves honestly, ethically and fairly.”

Sullivan, a veteran prosecutor who has handled violent crimes and drug cases, including prosecutions of the Latin Kings, says that those sorts of crimes are the most horrific imaginable –but they are generally confined to surviving family and friends. Public corruption, he noted, “affects everyone in the state.”

“It’s so widespread that everyone loses faith in government.”

MONTALBANO CONFIRMED to The Journal last fall that he had been questioned by the FBI, but declined to elaborate.

At the same time, officials in West Warwick told the newspaper that they had talked to the FBI and produced records regarding Montalbano’s hiring to perform title work in the town — work that Montalbano says he inadvertently failed to disclose, and which is now the subject of a complaint before the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

Jeanne-Marie DiMasi, a former West Warwick councilwoman, said that she told the FBI that Alves had recommended Montalbano for the title work. The matter was controversial because two of the parcels abutted the proposed site of the Narragansett Indian-Harrah’s casino. Montalbano had supported legislation putting the casino question on the November ballot, where it failed. But he said there was no conflict.

“I’ve been an attorney since 1979 and a senator for 18 years, and I stand by my reputation for honesty and integrity and the good, honest work I’ve done for my constituents,” Montalbano said at the time. “I’m not a target of an FBI investigation that I’m aware of.”

Montalbano did not return calls Friday regarding recent developments.

A State House banking lobbyist, William Farrell, was recently approached by the FBI regarding allegations that he, Celona and Montalbano had met with an executive of a bank that had gotten legislation passed in 2001.

Farrell confirmed Friday that there was legislation, and that he golfed at Newport Country Club that fall with Celona and Montalbano. But he said there was no meeting with anyone from the bank, which he declined to identify.

“I have never met with Joe Montalbano and any bank executive about title work,” said Farrell, a lobbyist for 25 years. He declined to elaborate on the FBI’s recent inquiry. “I don’t want to get into the substance of any ongoing investigation.”

The FBI also has approached officials in Lincoln regarding Montalbano and Alves.

Former Finance Director Stephen Woerner and ex-Councilman Dean L. Lees Jr. said Friday that an FBI agent asked them last year about the town’s hiring of a company where Alves is a vice president of investments.

Woerner, now finance director in Johnston, said that the town pension fund lacked a proper asset-allocation plan and that the company was hired after a competitive bidding process. He said that he didn’t deal with Alves.

“[The FBI] was looking into Alves’ connection” to the company, Woerner said. “Unbeknownst to me, Alves worked there. But everything was handled aboveboard.”

Woerner said that the FBI agent also asked him whether Montalbano did tax-sale work in Lincoln. Woerner replied that Montalbano did, but that he had been doing so since prior to Woerner’s tenure as finance director began in 2003.

Lees said that the FBI was “very attentive to the pension system.”

Reached yesterday by phone for comment on the investigation, Alves said “I don’t know anything about that.” The FBI also has taken an interest in legislation creating a municipal court in Lincoln. According to Lees, he was questioned about his efforts to promote a bill at the General Assembly to create a municipal court — an issue that met with opposition from the Senate leadership and died in 2003 in Celona’s Corporations Committee.

“There was concern about who would have more clout in selecting who the judge would be,” Lees said.

Montalbano, who has been a municipal court judge in North Providence, voiced concerns that “a good, competent judge” be chosen, recalled Lees. “He wanted a good, competent person, but he never said who specifically he had in mind.”

The bill eventually passed. In November 2005, Frederic A. Marzilli, a lawyer who has done work for the General Assembly, was appointed municipal court judge in Lincoln.

Lees said that local council members have also been approached by the FBI.

THE COMMON THREAD in the various investigations under way, says U.S. Attorney Corrente, is information provided by John Celona — and the fact that “all, in one fashion or another, involve public corruption.”

With 14 investigations involving seven politicians, one would assume that at least some of the targeted politicians figure into multiple investigations. But Corrente declined to offer any breakdowns, or say whether the list includes former officeholders or politicians outside the General Assembly.

He said that an investigation of the Laborers’ union and related training funds, which became public two years ago when FBI agents searched union offices, is not dead. Among those whose offices were searched was Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio, administrator of the New England Laborers’ training fund. Corrente would not say whether that investigation has been folded into Operation Dollar Bill, or whether that is why the Department of Labor is involved in the task force.

Asked why cases can take so long to develop, Corrente said: “These investigations involve a lot of people and entities and a staggering number of documents that require analysis. Then there’s additional legal work to determine who should get indicted.”

Just because prosecutors are focused on one case that has become public with an indictment doesn’t mean that they aren’t also working on others, he said.

“This investigation obviously has proceeded in steps,” Corrente said. “As it grew and encompassed more individuals and entities, we needed more people to keep up.”

With cases potentially stacking up like jets waiting to take off at a busy airport, how do prosecutors prioritize?

“That’s what we deal with all day,” Corrente said. “There are an unbelievable number of factors that go into that calculus. That’s our job. That’s what we do. Juggle.”