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Archive for the ‘capitalism as cancer’ Category

Financial culinary skilling

Posted by Charles II on May 9, 2013


Hard-pressed company bosses across much of the world are under so much pressure to deliver on growth that many have resorted to cooking the books, Ernst & Young said in a survey Tuesday.

One in five of almost 3,500 staff quizzed in 36 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India said they had seen financial manipulation in their companies in the last 12 months, the accounting and consultancy firm said.

In addition 42 percent of board directors and top managers questioned in the fraud survey said they were aware of “some type of irregular financial reporting.”

Conspicuously missing from the country list: the US. Where Jeffrey Skilling of Enron could have his sentence reduced by 10 years. Because, of course, lightening penalties on white collar criminals deters crime.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, financial crisis, frauds | 4 Comments »

Rick Wolff: How The American Left Was Neutered After 1945

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 23, 2013

In the course of discussing something else, Prof. Richard Wolff discusses why, in contrast to the flourishing leftist movements in Europe and elsewhere, the United States’ left is so sadly, pathetically gormless (emphases mine):

… In Europe after 1945, business and conservative efforts to destroy the labor unions and anti-capitalist parties and movements were far less successful than their counterparts in the US. Thus, as the current crisis led to austerity, Europeans opposed to austerity and to capitalism were far less disorganized and far less isolated from one another — and likewise less ideologically disarmed. They could and did mobilize millions for classic, visible street actions to advance their criticisms and demands. They could and did plausibly threaten effective electoral action as well.

In contrast, US history after 1945 displays a relentlessly effective destruction of those organizations whose alliance had forced the New Deal on the Roosevelt government. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the socialist and communist parties had then articulated a powerful opposition to austerity intertwined with serious anti-capitalism. Their opposition to austerity was successful. Very high taxes were imposed on corporations and the rich to pay for a major expansion of social welfare for the masses (social security, unemployment compensation, and a huge federal jobs program). The contrast between FDR’s expansive response to a collapse of the capitalist economy then and those of Bush and Obama now could not be starker. What the labor-left alliance of the 1930s failed to achieve, however, was any change at the micro-level of the capitalist system. Major shareholders and their boards of directors remained in full command and control of capitalist enterprises.

Once the Second World War ended, business and the rich used every possible weapon to roll back the New Deal. From the secured preserves of their corporate positions and wealth, they targeted the social forces (labor, socialists, and communists) that had succeeded in raising their taxes and expanding the powers of a mass-based government. One key strategy was to eradicate the socialist and communist parties as effective social movements; this was achieved in the name of intense Cold War anti-communism. The other key strategy pursued in tandem by business, government, the rich, and the political right entailed attacks on labor unions. Since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, countless laws, regulations, and private campaigns contributed to a nearly continuous half-century decline in unions’ membership and social influence. If anything, the current crisis through 2012 has intensified that decline.

Thus, US opposition to austerity and capitalism since 2009 differed from European oppositions. The US left had been systematically disorganized, demonized as traitorous, and fragmented. To survive, those who did not abandon their previous political commitments altogether splintered into single-issue social movements (against racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental degradation, etc.). Many sought refuges in more or less safe social enclaves such as the academy, religious institutions, and the arts. When large demonstrations occurred they focused on single issues, minimized or excluded direct criticisms of capitalism, and marginalized or excluded advocacy of alternative economic systems.

For half a century, the capitalist system in the US enjoyed a free pass from the kinds of debates and criticisms that other systems in the US experienced. The educational, medical insurance, transportation, energy, and other systems comprising US society had hardly been damaged by those debates and criticisms. Indeed such debates and criticisms are widely believed to be signs of social health, indispensable to the improvement of those systems. In contrast, criticism and debate over capitalism as a system were considered taboo and replaced by celebration and cheerleading. Protection from criticism and debate enabled capitalism to indulge its darkest tendencies (deepening inequality, speculation, cronyism, corruption, etc.). Any component system within any society rots when kept immune from criticism and debate.

The economic crisis of capitalism since 2007 exposed that rot: the immense weaknesses and flaws that had accumulated over the previous half-century. Financial and other mega-corporations rushed to mobilize massive government assistance to save them from collapse. Clear to all, that rush mocked the previous era’s glib contrast of the private sector as efficient and the public sector as useless or worse. No political gridlock prevented the government from swiftly and nearly unanimously providing those mega-corporations with trillions in loans, guarantees, investments, and other forms of stimulus spending. Yet that same government could not end high and persistent unemployment (for example, by a federal jobs program), nor save millions from foreclosure (for example, by managing a transition from ownership to rental for those who needed that), nor stop real wages, job benefits, and job security from continuous decline (for example, by regulations preventing any declines from 2007 levels for the duration of the crisis). These and many other possible solutions, interventions in free-enterprise capitalism, were not considered, let alone examined and debated. The culture of capitalist dominance and the taboo on criticism of capitalism worked to ignore such solutions, not to mention the question of economic system change.

The same culture produced a left that is chronically disorganized (a condition often repackaged as anti-authoritarianism to disguise its impotence). It also produced a long left hibernation in a few safe social enclaves mentioned above. These afflictions rendered the left ill-equipped to recognize, let alone mobilize or lead, the US population’s increasing alienation from its economic and political leaders and institutions.

The thing speaks for itself.

Posted in capitalism as cancer | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Rick Wolff: How The American Left Was Neutered After 1945

Requiem for a tech giant

Posted by Charles II on November 20, 2012

Dominic Rushe, The Guardian:

Hewlett-Packard has revealed that it has taken an $8.8bn (£5.5bn) charge after “serious accounting improprieties” were discovered at Autonomy, the British tech firm it acquired in 2011 for more than $10bn.

The Silicon Valley giant called on the US and British authorities to investigate what it called “serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy” that occurred prior to HP’s acquisition.

How the mighty are fallen. Hard to believe that a company that brought us the engineering revolution of the 60s/70s, the workstation revolution of the 70s/80s, the scientific instruments, the printers… so many good things.

Wrecked by two prominent Republicans, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, plus Leo Apotheker (who probably gets the lion’s share of the blame for Autonomy).

Whitman can try to blame Autonomy for faking the books, and probably they did. But $8.8 B is a lot of failed due diligence.

Posted in capitalism as cancer | Comments Off on Requiem for a tech giant

Reckless geoengineering/profiteering

Posted by Charles II on October 17, 2012

Martin Lukacs, The Guardian

As controversy mounts over the Guardian’s revelations that an American businessman [Russ George] conducted a massive ocean fertilisation test, dumping around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate off Canada’s coast, it has emerged the Canadian government may have known about the geoengineering scheme and not stopped it.

The news combined, with Canadian obstructionism in negotiations over geoengineering at a United Nations biodiversity meeting in Hyderabad, India, has angered international civil society groups…

Why would anyone do such a thing? For money, of course. Martin Lukacs:

A controversial American businessman dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a “blatant violation” of two international moratoria and the news is likely to spark outrage at a United Nations environmental summit taking place in India this week.

Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

Scientists are debating whether iron fertilisation can lock carbon into the deep ocean over the long term, and have raised concerns that it can irreparably harm ocean ecosystems, produce toxic tides and lifeless waters, and worsen ocean acidification and global warming.

Hell is not hot enough.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, crimes, environment | 3 Comments »

A few Republicans are not trying to blame Obama for what Bush did

Posted by Charles II on August 14, 2012

If all Republicans were like Bartlett and Stockman, I’d have to reconsider which party to vote for. While I disagree heartily with them on many things, they have been honorable in accepting blame for bad policies. Via Ritholtz,

David Stockman, Reagan Director of OMB, in the NYT:

PAUL D. RYAN is the most articulate and intellectually imposing Republican of the moment, but that doesn’t alter the fact that this earnest congressman from Wisconsin is preaching the same empty conservative sermon.

Thirty years of Republican apostasy — a once grand party’s embrace of the welfare state, the warfare state and the Wall Street-coddling bailout state — have crippled the engines of capitalism and buried us in debt. Mr. Ryan’s sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to “job creators” (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse.

Bruce Bartlett, Reagan and GHWB adviser:

Although it was quickly overshadowed by his choice of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney released an important document last week by his principal economic adviser…economists Glenn Hubbard of Columbia, N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard, John B. Taylor of Stanford and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute….

Much of the Romney paper is taken up with reviewing the poor economic recovery, which is undeniable. Reading it, however, one is left with the impression that the recession occurred on President Obama’s watch because of policies he is responsible for.

Just to be clear, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the private research group that determines the starting and ending points of recessions, says the latest economic downturn began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

The opposition of every Republican to the 2009 stimulus was a major factor in its inadequate size.

… it was Republican policies during the Bush administration that brought on the sickness and Republicans in Congress who have denied the economy an adequate dosage of the cure [i.e., stimulus]. Now they want to implicitly blame President Obama for causing the recession and the failure of stimulus to fix the problem, asserting that fiscal stimulus is per se ineffective.

One only wishes that Democrats would speak this plainly. Instead, some are complicit in why the stimulus is too small–a few are even giving their support to the Republican lie–and not enough are speaking out clearly on what stimulus is and why–of course!–it works (and why taxes have to be raised eventually to pay for it). Stockman and Bartlett, right-wing cranks though they may be, deserve a lot of credit for showing integrity.

Posted in budget, capitalism as cancer, Republicans, speaking truth to power | Comments Off on A few Republicans are not trying to blame Obama for what Bush did

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 »

Explaining the Wisconsin exit polls:

Posted by Charles II on June 9, 2012

Toles is da best (via Bartcop)

Posted in capitalism as cancer, unintended consequences, unions | Comments Off on Explaining the Wisconsin exit polls:

Antitruth, Inc. How corporations corrupt science.

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
sponsors’ involvement.

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 in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, corporatists, corruption, science and medicine, when government is a good thing | Comments Off on Antitruth, Inc. How corporations corrupt science.

Krugman on the case: ALEC under the spotlight/updated

Posted by Charles II on March 26, 2012


What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them…

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization… some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Who is ALEC?

Altria Group American Bail Coalition AT&T Inc.
Bayer AG Coca-Cola Co. Diageo PLC Energy Future Holdings Corp.
Exxon Mobil GlaxoSmithKline Intuit Inc. Johnson & Johnson
Koch Industries Kraft Foods Peabody Energy Pfizer Inc.
PhRMA Reed Elsevier Inc. Reynolds American Salt River Project
State Farm Insurance United Parcel Service Wal-Mart Stores

and which politicians do they own? Here are the top 20.

John Boehner (R-Ohio Eric Cantor (R-Va) Richard Burr (R-NC Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Dave Camp (R-Mich.) Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) James Clyburn (D-S.C.) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) Fred Upton (R-Mich.) James DeMint (R-S.C.) John Thune (R-S.D.) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

Nancy Pelosi is #96.

We, liberal Democrats, cut Blanche Lincoln from the body politic. It’s time for Republicans who are sick of corruption to start doing some surgery of their own.
Update, 3/27: Krugman has come under fire from Corrections Corp of America for accurately describing their relationship to ALEC. CCA says:

* it “is not a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council”
* it “does not and has not ever lobbied for or attempted to promote any legislation anywhere that affects sentencing and detention — under longstanding corporate policy”
* it is not “involved in seeking to influence, promote or lobby for immigration detention policy”

As Krugman says, he lawyered his description of their relationship pretty carefully, presumably because corporate a–holes like to create strawmen to distract from what actually got said and to draw distinctions without a difference. Krugman said that:

* “the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more” play “a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote”
* that this “complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons”
* “some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization”

The latter is the only place where CCA’s denials even vaguely approach Krugman’s assertions. What does “involved” mean? It certainly has been intimately involved as a member until quite recently. There’s no reason to think that they have disassociated themselves from ALEC. Let them denounce ALEC for what it is– a shady, anti-democratic means of forcing through legislation that profits business at the expense of the American people, and they can deny being involved.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, Democrats as cancer, Republicans as cancer, The Plunderbund | 9 Comments »

We need a post on Ron Paul’s connections to the John Birch Society

Posted by Charles II on January 4, 2012

Just sayin’.

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 in 2012, anti-truth, antiwar movement, capitalism as cancer, corporatists, eedjits, evil, fascism, unintended consequences, War On Some Drugs | 20 Comments »

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