[Through international PR company Ogilvy & Mather,] BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
[On the BP America Facebook page,] when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.
Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and “others just being more derogatory”, according to [Government Accountability Project investigator Shanna] Devine. “We’ve seen all this documentation and that’s why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman’s office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about.”
One troll using the name “Griffin” makes several allusions to gun violence, while another, named “Ken Smith” also harassed and threatened users, even going so far as to edit a photo of a BP critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight, before posting the photo online – along with photos of an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.
Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalist who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP”. “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that read, “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch”.
According to Marie, Lockman and GAP, BP’s “astroturfing” efforts and use of “trolls” have been reported as pursuing users’ personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics’ family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual compensation claims against BP.
Linda Hooper Bui, an associate professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, experienced a different form of harassment from BP while working on a study about the impact of the oil disaster on spiders and insects.
“BP was desperately trying to control the science, and that was what I ran into,” Bui told Al Jazeera. According to her, BP’s chief science officer “tried to intimidate me”, and the harassment included BP “bullying my people” who were working in the field with her on her study that revealed how “insects and spiders in the oiled areas were completely decimated”.
While collecting data for the study, Bui and her colleagues regularly ran into problems with BP, she said.
“Local sheriffs working under the auspices of BP, as well as personnel with Wildlife and Fisheries, the US Coast Guard – all of these folks working under BP were preventing us from doing our job,” Bui explained. “We were barred from going into areas to collect data where we had previous data.”
Bui said personnel from the USCG, Fish and Wildlife, and even local sheriffs departments, always accompanied by BP staff, worked to prevent her from entering areas to collect data, confiscated her samples, and “if I’d refused to oblige they would have arrested me” – despite her having state permits to carry out her work.
Archive for the ‘corporatists’ Category
Posted by Charles II on June 29, 2012
when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we’d identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.
Via Scott Horton.
A coup is when one faction in a society usurps the function of one or more branches of government to seize power illegitimately. Military coups are the most common. Paraguay is in the midst of a congressional coup. I called the Starr investigation a judicial coup, and Bush v. Gore was its culmination. That coup placed the Republican Party in control of all three branches of government. We now are experiencing a second coup, this time by billionaires, who aren’t satisfied with exerting indirect control.
Fallows has found his acorn, 18 years too late.
Posted by Charles II on May 19, 2012
Update: I want to bring the following sentence in the report linked below to attention:
The Obama administration has taken meaningful steps to address political interference in science.
I am not an Obama booster, but I think it’s important to keep some perspective. This sentence would not have been written about President McCain or, especially, Presi..gak Romney.
Francesca Grifo, Michael Halpern, and Peter Hansel, UCS:
Corrupting the Science
Corporations that stand to lose from the results of independent scientific inquiry have gone to great lengths to manipulate and control science and scientists by:
Terminating and suppressing research. Companies have controlled the dissemination of scientific information by ending or withholding results of research that they sponsor that would threaten their bottom line.
Intimidating or coercing scientists. Corporations bury scientific information by harassing scientists and their institutions into silence. Scientists have been threatened with litigation and the loss of their jobs, have had their research defunded, have been refused promotion or tenure, and have been transferred to non-research positions, leading to self-censorship and changes in research direction.
Manipulating study designs and research protocols. Corporations have employed flawed methodologies in testing and research—such as by changing the questions scientists are asking—that are biased toward predetermined results.
Ghostwriting scientific articles. Corporations corrupt the integrity of scientific journals by planting ghostwritten articles about their products.
Rather than submitting articles directly, companies\ recruit scientists or contract with research organizations to publish articles that obscure the
Publication bias. Corporations selectively publish positive results while underreporting negative results. While not directly corrupting science itself, these publishing and reporting biases skew the body of evidence.
To be fair, individual scientists do some skunky things, too. If a guy has a pet theory, he’s not likely to immediately publish results that contradict it. He’s more likely to ask for new experiments.
But of course, this is the difference between street crime and organized crime. Street criminals are a nuisance, but easily controlled at the local level. Organized crime has to be confronted with an organized response.
We need corporate science. Those guys study things that would otherwise never be studied, and they enrich science immeasurably–when the science is honest. The real problem is dishonesty, it permeates American society, it proliferates at the corporate level only because workers have limited career choices, and because there’s not much solidarity between scientists. Scientific careers flourish or wither based not on collaboration, but on destructive competition. So government oversight is not the entire answer. But it’s a very important component.
Posted by Charles II on May 16, 2012
Sara Blaskey and Steve Horn, Truthout:
ALEC, though, is not the only “corporate bill mill” playing this game.
“Taxpayer-subsidized stealth lobbyists” have upped the ante and skillfully advanced their agendas through bipartisan “trade associations” for state government officials – in particular, the Council of State Governments (CSG) whose multimillion-dollar budget is mostly funded by taxpayers. …
Upon being sworn into office, all state-level legislators (there are about 7,500 of them total), as well as their respective legislative staffs, automatically become CSG members. The organization’s membership also includes representatives from the executive and judicial branches of state governments.
Between 2009 and 2011, CSG’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 forms indicate revenue between $29 and $34 million annually. … $8.4 to $9.9 million of these funds – come from what it describes as “entrepreneurial efforts” which can be loosely interpreted to mean anything from publication sales to a sizable chunk from corporate patronage.
Some perspective is warranted: 990s filed by ALEC in 2010 placed its entire budget at just under $6 million.
To date, CSG is responsible for publishing between 30-40 model bills annually, in a process called Suggested State Legislation (SSL). These bills are distributed to the states as templates of bipartisan “best practices” often promoting the agendas of multinational corporations.
Most recently, the 2013 SSL docket includes legislation written by and for the shale gas industry on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as well as a corporate-backed, union-busting collective bargaining “reform” bill.
Until now, the virtual charter school agenda has been linked exclusively to ALEC, though this is far from the case. It is common to see corporations and special interests groups use both CSG and ALEC to promote their agenda – a two-pronged attack, if you will.
A little-known fact is that the NRA also played a role in promoting a slightly tamer – and much less controversial – pro-gun model through CSG.
CSG and ALEC have also broken bread over the so-called “tort reform” agenda.
The most damning evidence of [another organization, The National Council of State Legislatures] NCSL’s shenanigans comes from an October 2010 report from ABC News’ “Nightline” on the July 2010 NCSL Legislative Summit, which took place in Louisville, Kentucky.
NCSL – due to ABC’s reporting – was the inspiration for a broader US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation on corruption in state politics. “Nightline” went so far as to describe state governments as the new “ground zero of influence peddling” for corporate lobbyists, using NCSL as a case in point. [Golfing, groping, dancing, drimking, and horse races]
Though not directly responsible for any policy positions, per se, the [And yet anotherorganization] State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF), with an annual budget in the $2.5 to $3 million range, can best be described as a corporate-funded tutelage academy for majority and minority state-level legislative leaders nationwide.
I really don’t think that “FFFFFF” is too strong a statement about people who claim to be for private enterprise while using the US Treasury to bribe and indoctrinate public officials into the task of busting up the bedrock of civil society to create a one-party corporate state,
Posted by Charles II on March 20, 2012
The latest monthly statement by the Treasury Department contains a startling revelation: the amount that Treasury expects to collect in corporate taxes in 2012 has been slashed by more than 28 percent, from $333 down to $237 billion.
With such a dramatic revision, one might expect that lagging corporate profits or a sudden economic disruption is to blame. In reality however, corporate tax revenue continues to limp in spite of the fact that corporate profits have rebounded to record highs.
If corporate profits are not behind this $96 billion drop in expected corporate tax revenue, then what is?
The Wall Street Journal’s David Reilly suspects that there are two critical drivers: the offshoring of more profits through overseas entities by multi-national corporations; and the continuation of extravagant corporate tax breaks for accelerated depreciation of assets like equipment. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) came to the same basic conclusion….
Corporations use the facilities of the United States of America, ranging from its courts to its highways to its Medicaid system to its schools to its university research labs. It has stopped paying for the privilege. This is wrong.
Posted by Charles II on January 16, 2012
John LaForge, truthout, on the latest atrocity:
In the amoral milieu of the corporate bottom line, you can’t blame Tokyo Electric Power Co. for trying.
Tepco owns the six-reactor Fukushima complex that was wrecked by Japan’s March 11 earthquake and smashed by the resulting tsunami. It faces more than $350 billion in compensation and clean-up costs, as well as likely prosecution for withholding crucial information that may have prevented some radiation exposures and for operating the giant station after being warned about the inadequacy of its protections against disasters.
So, when the company was hauled into Tokyo District Court October 31 by the Sunfield Golf Club, which was demanding decontamination of the golf course, Tepco lawyers tried something novel. They claimed the company isn’t liable because it no longer “owned” the radioactive poisons that were spewed from its destroyed reactors.
“Radioactive materials that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not Tepco,” the company said. This stunned the court, the plaintiffs and the press. An attorney for the golf club said, “We are flabbergasted….”
You gotta admit, that’s a novel defense. If they get away with it, I wonder what’s next? Guys claiming that they are not responsible for the deaths of people they shoot because the bullet is not longer in their gun?
Anyway, as we groan about the outrageous conduct of our corporations, it’s good to keep in mind that foreign corporations aren’t sweethearts either.
Posted by Charles II on January 4, 2012
Figuring out what politicians will do in office is very difficult. Most of them are masters of disguise and deception. Tens of millions of people imagined that Bush would be a compassionate conservative (despite the fact that he was well known to be personally sadistic). Tens of millions imagined that Obama would not get involved in all sorts of optional wars, even though he told people ahead of time he would have American troops cross Pakistani borders whether they gave permission or not.
A very important part of anticipating what politicians will do is understanding where they get their ideas. Obama’s close ties with guys like Austan Goolsbee was a warning sign that he wasn’t an economic liberal. An economic liberal would have aligned himself with guys like Joe Stiglitz (for the record, there were some liberal economists like Jamie Galbraith and Bob Reich among his advisors. They just were not in any clear majority or among his personal associates). Understanding which wells or sewers a candidate drinks from in forming his ideas is a much better predictor of what he’ll do than what he says.
So, Ron Paul’s links to the John Birch Society, which are much more recent than his survivalist newsletter should be a focus for those who want to understand what Ron Paul would actually do. American Opinion, the JBS newsletter, gives Paul a 100% rating on 20 recent votes. Now, the JBS is a very strict grader. In the House, I count only 4 South Carolina Republicans, 1 North Carolina Republican, and Ron Paul who meet their exacting standards. In the Senate, there are none. The JBS is remarkably mainstream in Republican circles, considering they were once drummed out of the Republican Party. They sponsored a recent CPAC meeting.
Since there is no clear distinction between the John Birch Society and the conservative movement, one may wonder what the special interest in them should be. The answer is that the JBS is, in effect, the Bolshevik Party of the right. They are intensely conspiratorial, use deception routinely, and–because they have pre-determined that the world governments are all in the hands of the communists–have completed the process of dehumanization that is necessary for the use of ruthless means. For the latter, see for example this article, which includes such interesting lines as:
But now there appears to be another secret cabal, known as the Shadow Party, controlled by radical billionaire George Soros who operates secretly to influence the direction our government is going in. He has boldly proclaimed his intentions, so they are not secret. But how he controls events in Washington is another story. We suspect that he is behind Barack Obama’s presidency…
John Dewey and his colleagues were all socialists and made no secret of their intent to take over the public schools and use them as the means of converting America from an individualist society to a socialist one….Most readers of The New American are familiar with the Illuminati conspiracy that was launched by Adam Weishaupt on May 1, 1776, at Ingolstadt, Germany….The earliest conspiracy I know of in the United States was created by the Owenite socialists who wanted to convert America into an anti-Christian communist society.
So, let me speculate on what a couple of Ron Paul’s positions which are so attractive to the left might actually mean:
* does withdrawal of American forces from wars mean that we will use nuclear weapons when our interests are threatened?
* would legalization of drugs without any compensating effort to help people get off and stay off drugs mean that drugs would effectively become a means of medicating and controlling the population?
What does the John Birch Society say about these things? I’d really like to know. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Republican Party will never let Paul gain the nomination. I don’t see why not, not when some of the biggest money in the GOP comes from corporate libertarian/John Birchers like the Koch brothers.
Posted by Charles II on August 22, 2011
The limited government crowd should spend some time over these stories:
The story is about growing scandal in the banking industry centered around banks allegedly overcharging pension funds for currency transactions.
“Attorneys general in Virginia and Florida filed civil suits against BNY Mellon alleging that the bank cheated pension funds in those states by choosing improper prices for currency trades the bank processed for the funds,” …
In addition to Virginia and Florida, California and Tennessee are also suing BNY Mellon and State Street Corp. over the alleged fraud.
Markopolos says BNY Mellon and State Street we’re taking about “three tenths of a percent from every forex transaction for pension funds” by back-timing the trade to benefit banks at the detriment of their pension fund clients.
Henry Blodget at DailyTicker, on a story provided by Business Insider (no link):
We’ve included highlights of Harrington’s story below. Here are some key points:
* Moody’s ratings often do not reflect its analysts’ private conclusions. Instead, rating committees privately conclude that certain securities deserve certain ratings–and then vote with management to give the securities the higher ratings that issuer clients want.
* Moody’s management and “compliance” officers do everything possible to make issuer clients happy–and they view analysts who do not do the same as “troublesome.” Management employs a variety of tactics to transform these troublesome analysts into “pliant corporate citizens” who have Moody’s best interests at heart.
* Moody’s product managers participate in–and vote on–ratings decisions. These product managers are the same people who are directly responsible for keeping clients happy and growing Moody’s business.
* At least one senior executive lied under oath at the hearings into rating agency conduct. Another executive, who Harrington says exemplified management’s emphasis on giving issuers what they wanted, skipped the hearings altogether.
Harrington’s comments to the SEC are here. He would have done better to lay off the snark, but I am grateful that people willing to tell the inside story do come forward.
For those with the patience to read it, it shows the fundamental flaw in corporations that government to some degrees does not have: in corporations, all functions ultimately report to the President/CEO. Therefore, if the President/CEO is corrupt, the whole company is corrupt. Furthermore, the only enduring guiding principle of a corporation is delivering profit to shareholders. Following the law or even common sense is optional.
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Posted by Charles II on August 5, 2011
One of the reasons I used to refuse to invest in China, and now do so only selectively, is that they use some prison labor. Prison labor, unless it’s done at a competitive wage, is a form of slavery. So, to be consistent, I should divest from the US. Mike Elk and Bob Sloan, The Nation (via t/o):
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture…
Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…
So: incarcerate people at a cost of $50,000 per year to the taxpayers, make them work at jobs that would pay $7.25 an hour for $0.25/hr. Labor costs being about half of all costs, and figuring a markup to generate a margin of 50% without nearly free labor, that means that one prisoner working 2000 hours per year generates profit of $42,000 for PRIDE, while costing the taxpayers $50,000 minus whatever taxes they are able to get PRIDE to pay (maybe $5,000 if they’re lucky). We pay $45,000. PRIDE makes $42,000. And they are able to drive down the cost of labor to the minimum, or even drive legitimate companies out of business.
It would, of course, be cheaper not to lock up the guy in the first place. But if we just had prisoners do the same services at market rates for a state-administered program, the state would receive a profit of ca. $28,000 and would collect some taxes from the prisoner, making the cost of incarceration roughly $20,000. And that’s assuming that overhead is roughly the same for a state-administered enterprise than for private enterprise. Usually the reverse is true.
What PRIDE is doing is state socialism, folks. The state pays a state-approved company to do something that could be done much more cheaply in other ways. The alternative, a state-administered program, is democracy. Democracy pays a real wage, not a slave wage.
Posted by Charles II on July 27, 2011
Adrienne (via Brother John) links this on Honduras’ “Charter Cities,” in which Hondurans cede control over their own territory to… whoever! It’s not out of the question to have a “Charter City” for each of the narcotics cartels.
But in many ways, Honduras’ “Charter Cities” is done under better controls than Michigan’s takeovers of localities by “Emergency Managers.” The Michigan law is (in my layman’s opinion) written very vaguely, such that towns could be signed over to…whoever…with even less oversight. A preliminary review can be triggered by an alphabet soup of conditions, including this gem:
The existence of other facts or circumstances that in the state treasurer’s sole discretion for a municipal government are indicative of municipal financial stress, or, that in the superintendent of public instruction’s sole discretion for a school district are indicative of school district financial stress.
Then a fundamentally political process proceeds:
the governor shall appoint a review team for that municipal government consisting of the state treasurer or his or her designee, the director of the department of technology, management, and budget or his or her designee, a nominee of the senate majority leader, and a nominee of the speaker of the house of representatives. The governor may appoint other state officials or other persons with relevant professional experience to serve on a review team to undertake a municipal financial management review.[and a similar process for schools]
And then? An Emergency Manager is appointed and basically, the law ceases to exist in that jurisdiction. Elected representatives no longer have any power, since they serve at the pleasure of the Emergency Manager. Unions? Forget about them! Have a contract with the city? Too bad! All of the civil mechanisms that serve as brakes on bad governance are stripped away, with the sole power to the will of the Governor residing in the courts… which are notoriously conservative and unwilling to engage the other branches of government. Your “Emergency Manager” could even, in theory, be Corporation Corrections of America(*). The law is just that vague!
It’s true that the way the law is written, it can only turn truly foul if all branches of government are in the hands of one party. But that’s where Michigan is, God help ‘em. At least Honduras thinks it has to give some measure of deference to international norms, even if it’s only window dressing.
Only comedians can get the situation correct:
The law stipulates that:
(a) The emergency manager shall have a minimum of 5 years’ experience and demonstrable expertise in business, financial, or local or state budgetary matters.
(b) The emergency manager may but need not be a resident of the local government.
(c) The emergency manager shall be an individual.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in this subdivision, the emergency manager shall serve at the pleasure of the governor. An emergency manager is subject to impeachment and conviction by the legislature as if he or she were a civil officer under section 7 of article XI of the state constitution of 1963. A vacancy in the office of emergency manager shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
(e) The emergency manager’s compensation and reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses shall be paid by the local government and shall be set forth in a contract approved by the state treasurer. The contract shall be posted on the department of treasury’s website within 7 days after the contract is approved by the state treasurer.
The provision that the emergency manager shall be “an individual” might seem to exclude corporations. However, (a) a contractor or employee of a corporation would certainly qualify, and (b) US law increasingly recognizes corporations as individuals, possessing for example free speech rights.