Posts filed under ‘Corporatocracy’
Did you hear about the new report that shows the United States is now an oligarchy instead of a democracy?
Oligarchy, Not Democracy: Americans Have ‘Near-Zero’ Input on Policy – Report
The first-ever scientific study that analyzes whether the US is a democracy, rather than an oligarchy, found the majority of the American public has a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy” compared to the wealthy.
Nothing illustrates that more plainly than this astonishing development:
The most telling sentence in the article is this one:
Fallin signed the bill Monday that supporters say would prevent a hodgepodge of minimum wages in different parts of the state that could potentially harm the business community.
“Potentially harm the business community.” Never mind harm to We the People.
You can read the article here.
Xcel Restores Power in Boulder After Outage Left More Than 15,000 Without Power
Power was restored to Boulder after more than 15,000 customers lost power this morning, according to Xcel Energy officials.
About 15,300 customers lost power at around 8:10 a.m. today after a “transmission disturbance,” Xcel officials said. As of 9:39 a.m., Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said power had been restored to all customers in Boulder.
Stutz said the outage was due to a “transmission disturbance,” but said it is not known at this time what caused the disturbance and that the outage was still under investigation.
There are four Verizon towers down in the Pitkin County area this afternoon. The company called Pitkin County 9-1-1 dispatch this afternoon to see if there has been a power outage. Dispatch says there has not been a power problem. The four towers in the area are in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, and Glenwood Springs. It’s not clear when the service problems will be resolved.
Woohoo, the corporatocracy! Hey, let’s have even more deregulation because, you know, these guys are doing such a great job and no problem, right, putting our utilities in their hands?
The new documentary, Years of Living Dangerously will be talked about a lot in the coming month. If you can’t afford a cable subscription that includes Showtime — that would be me — watch the first segment, which airs tonight, here, for free:
The elites would have us believe teachers, firefighters and oh yeah, letter carriers, are overpaid. But when was the last time we heard them scream about these guys:
Oh, and don’t forget, the players got nothin’.
Mike Papantonio (♥) on Thom Hartmann tonight:
I give up. This is awful:
The Supreme Court took another step Wednesday toward giving wealthy donors more freedom to influence federal elections.
The justices ruled 5-4, in a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that limits on the total amount of money donors can give to all candidates, committees and political parties are unconstitutional. The decision frees the nation’s wealthiest donors to have greater influence in federal elections.
The decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission marks the latest round in the bitter national debate over the role of money in American politics. It’s the most important campaign-finance ruling since the high court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.
The case pitted the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech – which the justices previously have equated with spending money in elections – against the government’s interest in preventing political corruption.
Poor babies. We all know how the wealthy have been suffered of late…
Hey Americans, we won a tiny round last week in the war to know more about the food we eat via labeling:
In its relatively brief but potentially exceedingly important opinion in American Meat Institute v. United States Dep’t of Agriculture, the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a meat labeling rule requiring increased specificity.
As the court explained, the 2013 rule regarding country of origin newly required the “production step,” so that instead of saying, “Product of the United States,” a label for Category A meat will now read, “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the United States.” Similarly, Category B meat might now have to be labeled, “Born in X, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States,” and Category C meat “Born and Raised in X, Slaughtered in the United States.”
The meat producers argued that the new rule exceeded statutory authority and that it violated the First Amendment. They sought a preliminary injunction which the district judge denied.
Again, it’s a tiny victory but hey, it’s nice to get some good news for a change.
Climate change is happening fast in the United States but state and federal governments are so dysfunctional they’re unable to respond. Chaos reigns. Central California’s San Joaquin Valley is an example. It’s referred to as America’s “bread basket” but it’s literally being sucked dry. And no, I’m not a drama queen blogger high on Cheetos:
When water doesn’t fall from the sky or flow from reservoirs, there’s only one place to find it: underground. So, three years into a devastating drought, thirsty Californians are draining the precious aquifer beneath the nation’s most productive farmland like never before, pitting neighbor against neighbor in a perverse race to the bottom.
The rush to drill is driven not just by historically dry conditions, but by a host of other factors that promote short-term consumption over long-term survival — new, more moisture-demanding crops; improved drilling technologies; and a surge of corporate investors seeking profits for agricultural ventures.
Now those forces are renewing an age-old problem of environmental degradation: Decades ago, overpumping sunk half of the entire San Joaquin Valley, in one area as much as 28 feet. Today new areas are subsiding, some almost a foot each year, damaging bridges and vital canals.
Yet in California, one of the few states that doesn’t regulate how much water can be pumped from underground, even this hasn’t been enough to create a consensus to stop.
“It’s our savings account, and we’re draining it,” said Phil Isenberg of the Public Policy Institute of California, a former Sacramento mayor and assemblyman. “At some point, there will be none left.”
I recommend reading the whole article. Growers are plowing hundreds of thousands of dollars into drilling wells and well drilling companies are booked 12 months out. Well permits have tripled this year over last, and this year is only three months old. What’s happening there is a not-so-slow-motion catastrophe the corporate media will talk about — and people will know about — when it’s too late.
Check out this “Generic Brand Video” using stock video meant to make us feel good about a company, any company:
Last year I bought a new Nissan Sentra after I drove a 1989 Saab 900 into the ground. It was a great car but everything was breaking on it.
12 moths on, I still don’t trust the Sentra. Why? Because:
Shorter: An ignition switch problem that was obvious in 2007 finally, FINALLY, caused the National Transportation Safety Administration to issue a recall a few days ago.
People died because the NTSB sat on this for almost ten years.
It would be nice to think — to know — that the NTSB is on We the People’s side instead of GM’s (or potentially, Nissan’s).
People acted up against austerity today (i.e., giving money to banks and starving We the People) in Spain and Chile. Don’t expect to see coverage of these events on your local TV (they don’t want to give us any ideas).
Anti-Austerity Protesters Join Forces in Spanish Capital
Tens of thousands of protesters from across Spain converged in Madrid on Saturday calling for an end to EU-imposed austerity which has deepened poverty amongst the worst-off.
The so-called “Dignity Marches” brought tens of thousands to the capital, Reuters witnesses calculated, in support of more than 160 different causes – employment, housing, health and education and an end to poverty amongst them.
Banners urged the conservative government not to pay its international debts and to tackle unemployment of 26 percent.
Chileans Rally to Demand Promised Reforms
Tens of thousands of protesters have marched in Chile to press Michelle Bachelet to follow through on ambitious reforms she pledged before assuming the presidency less than two weeks ago.
The protest on Saturday in central Santiago, dubbed “the march of all marches”, was the first of Bachelet’s new term and the biggest political demonstration since huge student protests in 2011.
Organisers said at least 100,000 people were present, even without core groups of student protesters active in the past. Those activists said they would not take part because they were working with Bachelet on education reforms soon be sent to Congress.
The march underscored lingering frustrations in Chile, which has one of the region’s widest inequality gaps. It also raised expectations following four years of rule by the unpopular Sebastian Pinera.
Protesters said the march was a warning sign they would not go easy on Bachelet.
“This is not a protest against Bachelet or for her, it’s just an alert for the political class so they know people have demands,” said Oscar Rementeria, a spokesman for gay rights group, Movilh.
The 40 activist groups that helped fill the streets supported causes ranging from environmental protection to gay and indigenous rights.
If anyone sees any coverage of this in the U.S. media, please let me know.
Thanks in advance.
From Seattle’s King5.com:
The state of Washington is preparing to take the most aggressive action in four years against the U.S. Department of Energy for the federal government’s failure to adhere to waste laws and legally binding cleanup schedules at the Hanford ["nuclear reservation"] Site – a sign of state officials’ growing frustration with lack of progress in the decades-long nuclear waste cleanup.
On Friday, the state Department of Ecology ordered a new, faster timetable for pumping out a massive double-shell waste tank — designated AY-102 — that is slowly leaking highly radioactive waste. Next week, the state will communicate to the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice that the government is in violation of the 2010 consent decree governing the Hanford cleanup…
The order issued Friday deals specifically with AY-102, a massive waste tank that has been at the center of a year-long KING 5 investigation, Hanford’s Dirty Secrets. KING 5 exposed the government’s contractor in charge of the tanks, Washington River Protection Solutions, ignored scientific evidence for nearly a year that the tank was leaking.
The thing I find the most outrageous:
According to a plan released on March 7, the federal government said it would not begin pumping the leaking double-shell tank until 2016 at the earliest. State and federal waste laws require leaking tanks to be emptied within 24 hours or whatever is practical.
I guess we’re supposed to believe that, after ten or so years of this Hanford disaster going nowhere, 2016 is as fast as is “practical” to pump out that leaking tank.
Check out this chart:
The top, blue line is U.S. productivity/output per hour (1945 – 2013). The bottom red line is median family real income. Look at how productivity has kept going up but incomes have leveled off and then fallen since roughly 1980. Americans have kept working — hard — but the corporatocracy, again, in roughly 1980, stopped increasing wages commensurate with that level of production. The so-called trickle down stopped at just about the same time politicians started dangling that term in front of our face, like a carrot.
Interesting ahem, coincidence? No, in retrospect, I’d call it a rather obvious distraction.
Larger version and more here.
We humans are stupid to think we can outsmart bugs who have the ability to mutate and adapt much faster than we give them credit for:
One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.
After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.
Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.
First planted in 1996, Bt corn quickly became hugely popular among U.S. farmers. Within a few years, populations of rootworms and corn borers, another common corn pest, had plummeted across the midwest. Yields rose and farmers reduced their use of conventional insecticides that cause more ecological damage than the Bt toxin.
In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped.
Shorter: Rootworms have figured out a way around Bt corn and they’ve begun destroying corn crops in Iowa again. Farmers don’t want to do the “hard” thing, i.e., rotate the fields they plant their corn on — i.e. crop rotation (Remember that old fashioned thing? Hello!) — which has been proven to work against rootworms:
Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. “Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,” said Gassmann.
Greed rears its ugly head again.
I predict we’re heading toward more and “better” GMO corn. The thing is, rootworms will become resistant to that version too. We can alter this seed and that seed and pour chemicals on fields all we want but Mother Nature will win in the end. It’s about time we got off our high horse and accepted that. But will we? Sadly, probably not.
Make it permanent France!
On Saturday, France’s agriculture ministry temporarily banned the sale, use and cultivation of Monsanto’s MON 810 genetically engineered (GE) corn—the only variety that had been authorized in the European Union (EU).
France’s reinstatement of its previous ban of Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered crop … is another encouraging sign that the biotech industry’s iron grip on foreign government’s is slipping and that resistance to these flawed products is continuing to take hold,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!.
The decision was strategically timed to block the seasonal planting of Monsanto’s corn by French farmers before a draft law is debated on April 10, which is aimed at banning the cultivation of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“The sale, use and cultivation of varieties of [Monsanto's corn seed] … is banned in the country until the adoption, on the one hand, of a final decision, and secondly, of European Union community action,” a French decree stated.
The annual planting of corn in France typically gets under way in the second half of March.
Things like this can happen when politicians aren’t wholly owned corporate puppets like they are here in the U.S.
You won’t hear about this in the corporate media because the corporate media has unilaterally decided to ignore We the People but an estimated 4,000 We the People demonstrated in Sacramento and surrounded the capitol building today urging Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking in the state:
My favorite sign? Keep the oil in the soil. Love it.
C A N C E R
Cancer Soon to Become #1 Killer in America
Here’s a depressing stat: Within the next 16 years, cancer will be the number one cause of death among Americans, according to a new report from the American Society for Clinical Oncologists (ASCO).
In their first report of its kind, ASCO dug into the prevalence of cancer in the U.S. and its projected rise, as well a number of pitfalls in our current medical system that will make treating all those cancer cases increasingly difficult. In fact, the report notes, the field of oncology is under such strain from skyrocketing medical costs and doctor shortages that the Institute of Medicine has called it “a system in crisis” in need of “urgent intervention.”
Why do we have “skyrocketing medical costs” and “doctor shortages?” I’m definitely not an expert on that but I would suggest unrestrained corporate greed might have something to do with “skyrocketing medical costs” and low wages and the high cost of a college education (not to mention medical school for crying out loud) might have something to do with it.
That said, due to the corporatocracy buying off the folks who are supposed to represent and protect We the Little People, we know there are chemicals in our soil, chemicals in our air, chemicals in our water, chemicals in our clothes, chemicals in our food, chemicals in our building materials and chemicals in our baby bottles. There’s no end to the list.
I’m 61 and I’ve been lucky. No cancer (other than some basal cell carcinoma on my nose from spending my teen years roasting in the sun). Living 61 years — factoring in climate change — might be a thing of the past for today’s little ones.
Oh, and remember when Dick Nixon (R) declared a “War on Cancer?“
We lost. Our tax dollars went to “defense spending.” Never mind that cancer has, and will, kill more of us than the boogeyman out there.
I’m so old I remember when it was unthinkable not to pay overtime if someone ah, worked overtime, especially those workers who were paid hourly. So how in the hell did we get to where we are today? Oh wait. I know. Greed.
My Tweet of the Day:
Wall Street’s 2013 Bonuses, If Given to Average Workers, Would Double Minimum Wage of 1,085,000 Americans
This kind of slapped me upside the head:
Purveyors of Ferraris and high-end Swiss watches keep their fingers crossed toward the end of each calendar year, hoping that the big Wall Street banks will be generous with their annual cash bonuses.
New figures show that the bonus bonanza of 2013 didn’t disappoint. According to the New York State Comptroller’s office, Wall Street firms handed out $26.7 billion in bonuses to their 165,200 employees last year, up 15 percent over the previous year. That’s their third-largest haul on record.
That money will no doubt boost sales of luxury goods. Just imagine how much greater the economic benefit would be if that same amount of money had gone into the pockets of minimum-wage workers.
The $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pocketed in bonuses would cover the cost of more than doubling the paychecks for all of the 1,085,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Holy cow. Kind of puts those bonuses in perspective, huh?
I don’t think I’ve heard a better description of Goldman Sachs than this one from this RawStory article about Matt Taibbi. Goldman Sacks is like a
vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
We’ve all heard it: Unions donate as much money to political campaigns as wealthy donors like the Koch brothers. The Kochs donate to Republicans and unions donate to Democrats so it all works out in the end, right?
No, because that’s not true:
A larger version of this graph and more here.
If you read the New York Times‘ blog DealBook or watch Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s “SquawkBox” and you think he has you in mind when he does his reporting, think again. The so-called “journalist” Sorkin is about as in bed with Wall Street as you can get.
One great problem with financial journalism, especially in the decades leading up to the crash, has been that it’s often written in an argot understandable only to the already highly financially literate. Sorkin doesn’t usually employ such specialized language. This has led to the mistaken belief that he’s explaining the industry to regular people. In fact, he is a dutiful Wall Street court reporter, telling important people what other important people are thinking and saying. At the same time, he is Wall Street’s most valuable flack. He isn’t explaining finance to the people—you’d be better served reading John Kenneth Galbraith to understand how finance works—he’s justifying it.
Our subprime lenders proved, in the final analysis, too big too fail; and now, certain of our name-brand financial writers are too big to practice journalism.
I remember reading somewhere that when the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United ruling the conservative justices, in particular Chief Justice John Roberts, laughed at as silly the notion elections would be flooded with corporate and other “free speech” money.
Gosh. I’m so glad he was right (not). Geezus. Check this out. Here’s a graph showing how much “dark money” has been spent this cycle thus far:
Ah, yes, We the Little People who live near fracking wells and drink water contaminated by them should be so lucky as to have pockets lined with $1000 bills so we can afford to fight against having our environment trashed by, wait for it, Exxon!
For an example of hyper-elitism, NIMBYism, and the arrogance of the corporatocracy and the 1%ers, you’ve gotta read this:
The “smartest guys in the room,” who destroyed the world’s economy are still strutting around, getting multimillion dollar bonuses, but an 84-year-old nun who tried to bring attention to the danger of nuclear weapons has been sentenced to two+ years in prison:
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 18 (UPI) — Three anti-nuclear activists, including an 84-year-old Catholic nun, received jail terms Tuesday for breaking into a nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee in 2012.
Sister Megan Rice received a 35-month term, and her co-conspirators, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, received 62-month terms, WVLT-TV, Knoxville, reported.
Rice, 84, Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, were convicted of breaking into the Y-12 Security Complex at Oak Ridge, a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and considered among the most secure buildings in the world. They defaced a uranium-processing facility with human blood as an anti-nuclear protest.
On Tuesday, February 11, a gas well about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA erupted in flames:
State environmental officials and expert firefighters brought in by Chevron monitored a burning Marcellus Shale natural gas well on Wednesday.
The well, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Dunkard Township, erupted into flames on Tuesday morning, injuring one worker and leaving one still unaccounted for. State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Jon Poister said Wednesday night that the fire had partly extinguished itself due to moisture from inside the well. It will take time for multiple investigations to determine the cause.
Yesterday, Chevron dropped off coupons for free pizza to their “neighbors” in the area in an effort to placate them (and it’ll probably work):
It isn’t about energy, it’s about money:
If you thought shale gas was a nightmare, you ain’t seen nothing yet. A subterranean world of previously ignored reserves is about to be opened up. These are the vast coal deposits that have proved unreachable by conventional mining, along with gas deposits around them. To the horror of anyone concerned about climate change, modern miners want to set fire to these deep coal seams and capture the gases this creates for industry and power generation. Some say this will provide energy security for generations to come. Others warn that it is a whole new way to fry the planet.
Some 300 metres beneath the plains east of Tashkent, Stalin’s engineers and their successors have been burning a seam of brown coal that can’t be mined conventionally. There are two well heads on the surface: one pumps air down to fan the flames while the other retrieves a million cubic metres of combustion gases a day. Scrubbed of coal dust, cooled and compressed on site, the gases are then sent down a pipeline that snakes across the countryside to a sprawling power station on the outskirts of the industrial town of Angren, where they are burned to generate electricity.
Without a way to capture all the carbon and store it out of harm’s way, it could raise the world’s temperature by 10 degrees or more. Is this burning desire for fossil fuel pushing us towards disaster?
The NAACP estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 people gathered outside the North Carolina State Capitol Saturday morning for the Moral March in Raleigh (official attendance numbers have not been released yet). The march was the culmination of a year of Moral Monday protests at the State Capitol organized by The Forward Together Movement, a “fusion movement” of over 150 groups fighting for mostly progressive causes in North Carolina.
A year ago, only 15,000 turned out for the same march in Raleigh. The leap in turnout is a good indicator of the growing support for the movement’s agenda in the months before the 2014 midterms, and a show of how much more popular the movement has become since last February.
The article goes on to explain what North Carolina’s Tea Party government has been doing over the last three years and, well, it ain’t pretty.
This was the largest civil rights demonstration since the 1960s and the largest demonstration of any kind here in the United States since those held in the run-up to the Iraq war. You know, when George Bush said he didn’t “pay attention to focus groups?” And the corporate media hasn’t said a word.I wonder if they would have covered it if this had been a Tea Party demonstration. (I’m thinking yes.)
Now that I’ve read the article, it’s obvious why for-profit prisons are stacked with people of color:
It’s well known that people of color are overrepresented in America’s prisons relative to their share of the population. But a recent study finds that they make up an even larger share of the populations of private, for-profit prisons than publicly run institutions.
According to Christopher Petrella, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley who conducted the study, this is not an accident — it’s about private firms selecting the least expensive prisoners to manage and leaving costlier populations in the hands of state correction systems.
Why would African American and Latino prisoners be cheaper to incarcerate than whites? Because older prisoners are significantly more expensive than younger ones. “Based on historical sentencing patterns, if you are a prisoner today, and you are over 50 years old, there is a greater likelihood that you are white,” Petrella explained to BillMoyers.com. “If you are under 50 years old — particularly if you’re closer to 30 years old — you’re more likely to be a person of color.” He cited a 2012 report by the ACLU which found that it costs $34,135 per year to house a non-geriatric prisoner, compared with $68,270 for a prisoner age 50 or older.
Throw in the relatively new mandatory sentencing/3-strikes laws and that contributes to the equation too. When judges can’t use their discretion when handing down sentences, voila, you get more prisoners overall.