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Archive for the ‘The Plunderbund’ Category

They all just hang out together

Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2014

Robert Parry, The Consortium:

[Following the Iraq debacle,] You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine.

… the ultimate goal of the Ukraine gambit is not just “regime change” in Kiev but “regime change” in Moscow. By eliminating the independent-minded and strong-willed Putin, the neocons presumably fantasize about slipping one of their ciphers (perhaps a Russian version of Ahmed Chalabi) into the Kremlin.

Then, the neocons could press ahead, unencumbered, toward their original “regime change” scheme in the Middle East, with wars against Syria and Iran.

JP Sottile, The Consortium:

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant corporations – from Cargill to Chevron – which see the country as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation, reports JP Sottile.

Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer.

On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Cargill was decidedly confident amidst the post-EU deal chaos.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.

David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”

That puts Kramer and, by one degree of separation, Big Ag fixer Morgan Williams in the company of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan who, as coincidence would have it, is married to Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland, the current Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Nuland spoke to the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation last Dec. 13, extolling the virtues of the Euromaidan movement as the embodiment of “the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies.”

These people hang out together, they have the same triumphalist world view in which America is the lamp to the world and capitalism = democracy, so they work together on common goals, even if those goals may contradict international law and those American values that are not commercial. It’s not a conspiracy, but neither is it the government that Americans voted for when they voted for Barack Obama. After all, what Cargill, Monsanto, and John Deere are doing in the Ukraine (using our State Department and the tax money collected by our government) is more akin to a hostile takeover of the kind that Mitt Romney pioneered.

Posted in impunity, Russia, State Department, The Plunderbund | 3 Comments »

DeLay Walks

Posted by Charles II on September 19, 2013

In one of the longest miscarriages of justice, a Texas appeals court decided that the evidence that Tom DeLay laundered corporate cash into Texas state campaigns was insufficient. He is a free man.

It’s stuff like this that makes it clear how corrupt our courts are. I would not be a bit surprised to learn that DeLay contributed to the campaigns of those appellate justices.

Posted in corruption, Republicans acting badly, The Plunderbund | 1 Comment »

All about the Benjamins: Indiana/Florida school chief cooked test scores for donor’s school

Posted by Charles II on July 29, 2013

Via Atrios. It’s Tom Lo Bianco, AP, so link only.

Christel DeHaan is a major GOP donor, giving $2.8M to GOPers, including $130K to Tony Bennett.
Tony Bennett was the head of Indiana schools, and is now head of Florida schools.
Christel DeHaan had a private academy, Christel House Academy in Indianapolis.
Test scores gave it a C because of bad algebra scores.
After a flurry of e-mails about how bad this would be for Christel House, the scoring system was changed.
Christel House got an A.

The one good thing is that Bennett is in Florida because he was defeated for office by teachers angered at his methods, who supported Glenda Ritz.

Maybe Bennett and Michael Berkland can get together for an alternate reality show.

Posted in corruption, Republicans acting badly, The Plunderbund | 3 Comments »

There’s never enough Bachmania

Posted by Charles II on January 13, 2013

Via Kaili Joy Gray at DK, Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald:

Over a year after she dropped out, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has refused to pay five staffers from her failed presidential bid, according to a former top campaign official. Peter Waldron, her controversial former national field coordinator, told Salon the dispute started when former Iowa straw poll staffers refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would bar them from discussing any “unethical, immoral, or criminal activity” they witnessed on the campaign with police or reporters.

A home-schooling group accused the Bachmann campaign of stealing the [group's e-mail] list, which was contained on a volunteer’s laptop, and then using it to fundraise for the campaign. The home-schooling group has sued the campaign and Waldron said there is also a criminal investigation pending, explaining that he spoke with police about the incident “several times.”

Now, I have as much expectation of the theft being prosecuted as for the Second Coming being at 9 o’clock tonight (which would, presumably, obviate any earthly prosecution). But it is truly amazing that a self-professed Christian has to demand that employees silence themselves over “unethical, immoral, or criminal activity.”

Posted in abuse of power, hypocrites, impunity, Michele Bachmann, The Plunderbund | 1 Comment »

Corporate welfare vs. general welfare

Posted by Charles II on January 9, 2013

Via Ritholtz, a synopsis by ataxingmatter of the social welfare vs. corporate welfare components of the fiscal cliff deal and of the tax code. It’s fascinating how so-called conservatives demand that we give money to companies, something that they themselves call “socialism.” All of Social Security and most of Medicare are paid for with taxes, while things like the R&D tax credit are not.

The tax subsidies to 27 companies for 2008-11 alone were larger than what is needed for Hurricane Sandy relief, so I guess you could say those companies are worse than a major natural disaster for this country. Depreciation, depletion, deferral and the R&D tax credit (which is supposed to help small hi-tech businesses) account for most of the tax dodging.

Let’s call this what it is: corruption.

Posted in taxes, The Plunderbund | 1 Comment »

Offshore abuses

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2012

Following up on a previous post regarding an effort to clamp down on tax evasion….

The presidential campaign might have failed to address poverty and global warming. But it did bring forward one important issue: the use of offshore shell companies to evade taxes and commit other crimes. James Ball of The Guardian has the interesting tale of a woman who is the titular head of 1200 companies:

[Mrs.] Petre-Mears does not appear to need to know much about the people for whom she passes resolutions, allots shares and helps set up bank accounts. All she has to do is sign her name.

Those names appear on activities ranging from Russian luxury property purchases, to porn and casino sites. Sometimes, such nominees even act as shareholders as well as directors.

The BBC has done a parallel investigation:

Secret filming by the BBC as part of a joint investigation with the Guardian newspaper and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists identified a number of corporate service providers – firms that specialise in setting up companies both in the UK and abroad – willing to facilitate tax evasion and turn a blind eye to criminal activity.

Maybe US media will discover a story someday, too. There’s enough tax evasion to substantially close the deficit without throwing a single granny into the snow.

Posted in corruption, crimes, taxes, The Plunderbund | Comments Off

GOP to reality: “Shut up!”

Posted by Charles II on November 3, 2012

Via Rachel Maddow, the GOP has suppressed a Congressional Research Service Report saying that tax cuts do not increase economic growth. Inconvenient, that. Also inconvenient is the fact that Maddow posted a link to the report on her blog, going here:

The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of
income at the top of the income distribution.

I can see why the Republicans are shouting SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!

Posted in anti-truth, economy, taxes, The Plunderbund | 3 Comments »

Planet Hershey: not so sweet corruption at the heart of “charitable” giving

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

The Nation has a blockbuster expose based on a Philadelphia Inquirer series that goes to the heart of the corruption of charitable enterprises in the US. F. Frederic Fouad:

Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the deed of trust establishing the Milton Hershey School as an orphanage in 1909, funding it with revenue from the famous candy company. Since then, the school has officially been dedicated to “the purpose of nurturing and educating children in need.” Because its founder gave MHS Trust a controlling interest in the Hershey Company, today it boasts a massive $8.5 billion in assets and also owns Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (operating hotels and an amusement park). In keeping with its mission, the Milton Hershey School serves about 1,800 students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, who study in state-of-the-art school buildings in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

What the charity also does, of late, is shovel money and favors to a coterie of prominent Pennsylvania Republicans. MHS’s alleged wrongdoing is pervasive and well documented, but thanks to the GOP’s grip on power in the state—most crucially its iron lock on the attorney general’s office—the charity has never been effectively called to account. With the first real possibility of the attorney general’s office shifting to the Democrats since it became an elected position thirty-two years ago, all this may change come November.

For a sense of MHS’s alleged misdeeds and the culture of impunity surrounding the charity, consider how, in 2006, board members of the school allowed the trust fund to purchase a failing luxury golf course called Wren Dale. The $12 million investment was two to three times the appraised value of the course and bailed out as many as fifty prominent local businessmen and doctors—including a former Hershey Company CEO who also sat on the MHS board. These investors stood to lose tens of thousands of dollars if the course closed. With the purchase, the investors turned their potential losses into profits of between $15,000 and $100,000. MHS’s board then sank another $5 million into a swanky, Scottish-themed clubhouse for the money-losing course, all paid for by the charity. The charity explained the purchase as necessary to create a “buffer” between MHS students and the community, and later claimed the land was for future MHS expansion.

Last year, an MHS administrator named William Charney Jr., who was in charge of training houseparents, went to prison for receiving and distributing child pornography. The Philadelphia Inquirer exposé described how yet another administrator, Peter Gurt, mocked a sexual act involving several students, reportedly seeking to elicit laughs from this at a senior roast. Gurt was later promoted and is rumored to be in line today to become the next MHS president. Another two MHS teachers were fined and disciplined in 2006 and ‘07 for engaging in sex with students.

“The problem with the Hershey Trust,” Sitkoff says, “is that its massive fund has been captured by Pennsylvania politicians to provide takeover protection for a local company. But that’s not the purpose of the trust. The purpose of the trust—which enjoys a federal tax subsidy—is to take care of needy kids.”

If Hershey were doing its task, by my calculation, it would be spending at least $300 million dollars a year on orphans. The entire Pennsylvania state budget is $27B, of which $10B is public welfare. While one cannot make out how much of that is devoted to orphans, it looks to me like about $1.6B is devoted specifically to children, not including Medicaid. So, waste on this order of magnitude (say, $100M annually) is a huge chunk of what is spent on Pennsylvania’s disadvantaged children.

While Fouad points out that this widening scandal has been protected from investigation by Republican Attorneys General, Ed Rendell also failed at leadership.

And this seems to be the trend. As the rich decide they can play by their own rules, nominally charitable functions are corrupted into personal piggybanks and political vehicles. The Milton Hershey School is being subsidized through the federal tax code and probably through state and federal spending. The Milton Hershey School is a disgrace, and it’s just one among many.

Posted in corruption, crimes, The Plunderbund | 2 Comments »

Meet your new overlords

Posted by Charles II on July 26, 2012

Paul Barrett, BusinessWeek:

Rove’s position is that a SuperPac of a few dozen billionaires deserves to have its donor base protected to the same degree that a grassroots organization like the NAACP does.

Ezra Klein:

According to Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, only 0.26 percent of Americans give more than $200 to congressional campaigns. Only 0.05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. Only 0.01 percent — 1 percent of 1 percent — give more than $10,000 in an election cycle. And in the current presidential election, 0.000063 percent of Americans — fewer than 200 of the country’s 310 million residents — have contributed 80 percent of all super-PAC donations.

You might want to check out Bill Israel‘s book, A Nation Seized. Maybe FDL Book Salon would be interested?

Posted in 2012, capitalism as cancer, corruption, Karl Rove, The Plunderbund | 1 Comment »

No one will care if a few kids get buggered, so long as we win those football games/keep the pews full

Posted by Charles II on July 17, 2012

Chris Hayes has a new book, Twilight of the Elites, whose title he calls “aspirational,” and I think he’s sold me a copy. The point of the book is that people who can get away with things are doing so at an alarming rate. There’s a word for this which we learned from Honduras: impunity. Hayes ties together the Catholic pedophilia/ephebophilia scandal with the Penn State pedophilia/ephebophilia scandal as examples of how elites have come to believe that no matter what they do, there will be no consequences. From DemocracyNow:

CHRIS HAYES: It’s such a perfect example, again, of this concept of social distance, right? I mean, the people like Robert Gnaizda and the folks at the Center for Responsible Lending down in North Carolina that were working among communities that were on the wrong end of the subprime crisis, right, that were seeing their homes foreclosed on, that were seeing equity stripped out, that were seeing these serial refinancing with fees and fees and fees—the folks working there started ringing the alarm bells in 2002, 2003, publishing reports saying, “We’re going have 10 million foreclosures. This is going to be a total disastrous thing.” And they were meeting with the Federal Reserve, and they were waving charts in their faces, right? They were giving them data. And the Federal Reserve didn’t act.

So the question is, why didn’t the Federal Reserve act? And there’s a whole bunch of complicated reasons. But I think, partly, at the core of it, is that they, the folks in the Federal Reserve—Frederic Mishkin; Ben Bernanke, who was a Fed governor, who was saying, “Don’t worry about subprime,” more or less; Alan Greenspan, the Fed chair—were just completely removed from the world in which subprime finance was metastasizing and wreaking havoc. And that removal allowed them to sort of go along doing what they were doing, doing the things that they thought were ideologically justified or justified by the data. When they didn’t—they were not embedded in that world. And the thought experiment I have in the book is, if Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan were in a neighborhood where this was happening, if they were walking down their street every morning and seeing the foreclosures signs, if they had a neighbor who had been through one of these serial refinancing and had all the equity stripped out and now faced foreclosure, I can’t help but think the Fed would have cracked down much earlier and with much more vigor.

Bingo. If the elites had to see the consequences of their decisions in the lives of their neighbors, they might very well make better decisions. As long as it’s someone invisible who is getting thrown on the street or denied medical care, anything goes.

Our job is to make America’s suffering visible.

Posted in financial crisis, impunity, The Plunderbund | Comments Off

 
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