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Archive for the ‘capitalism as cancer’ Category

Corporate depravity

Posted by Charles II on September 19, 2015

This was a story I ran across yesterday and hope is getting traction.

Rupert Neate, The Guardian:

The US government has ordered Volkswagen to recall almost 500,000 cars after discovering that the company deployed sophisticated software to cheat emission tests allowing its cars to produce up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday accused VW of installing illegal “defeat device” software that dramatically reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – but only when the cars are undergoing strict emission tests.

“Put simply, these cars contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test,” Cynthia Giles, an EPA enforcement officer said. “We intend to hold Volkswagen responsible.

The EPA and Carb discovered the “defeat device” software following independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, who were promoted into action by the International Council on Clean Technology, an NGO.

It does take a special kind of depravity to pull off this sort of crime. We could fix our engine so it works well even with emissions controls, or we come up with a trick to let is pollute. And they choose the stupid solution.

And what a statement about our government, that it didn’t detect the fraud.

Capitalism as cancer… in this case, quite literally.

Posted in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, crimes | Leave a Comment »

Preserved for posterity: The lies of the IMF, Euro Commission, and ECB

Posted by Charles II on June 30, 2015

Alberto Nardelli, The Guardian:

Greece would face an unsustainable level of debt by 2030 even if it signs up to the full package of tax and spending reforms demanded of it, according to unpublished documents compiled by its three main creditors.

The documents, drawn up by the so-called troika of lenders, support Greece’s argument that it needs substantial debt relief for a lasting economic recovery.

The second document in the pack of six, titled Reforms for the Completion of the Current Programme and Beyond, show there was less to this offer than suggested by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Germany’s vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. The cash on offer is not an ad hoc investment but is actually an EU grant that is regularly available to all member states. And, as Süddeutsche Zeitung points out, accessing the cash requires a 15% co-financing in Greece’s case, which it cannot afford.

A third document outlines the “financing needs and draft disbursement schedule linked to the completion of the fifth review”, spelling out how Greece would have received €15bn to meet its obligations until the end of November. The cash would have been handed over in five tranches starting in June (as soon as the Greek parliament approved the proposals) to cover Greece’s financing needs. However, 93% of the funds would have gone straight to cover the cost of maturing debt for the duration of the extension.

So, the Troika handed Greece a time bomb and, in exchange, demanded that they slash pensions, raise health co-pays, and make their taxes more regressive. Unsurprisingly, Greece is handing the device back to Europe.

Added: Deutsche Welle has picked up this meme, though without the documents from Suddeutsche Zeitung that The Guardian reported.

And The Independent, again without mentioning the SZ.

Posted in abuse of power, banking, capitalism as cancer | 2 Comments »

Red Cross funds for Haitian relief have gone missing

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2015

(Via Eschaton)

Laura Sullivan, NPR:

When a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti in 2010, millions of people donated to the American Red Cross. The charity raised almost half a billion dollars. It was one of its most successful fundraising efforts ever.

The American Red Cross vowed to help Haitians rebuild, but after five years the Red Cross’ legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes. It’s difficult to know where all the money went.

NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success, according to a review of hundreds of pages of the charity’s internal documents and emails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials.
NPR and ProPublica

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six.

The organization, which in 2010 had a $100 million deficit, out-raised other charities by hundreds of millions of dollars — and kept raising money well after it had enough for its emergency relief. But where exactly did that money go?

Ask a lot of Haitians — even the country’s former prime minister — and they will tell you they don’t have any idea.

“Five hundred million in Haiti is a lot of money,” says Jean-Max Bellerive, who was prime minister until 2011. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. It doesn’t add up for me.”

On a recent day, Bellerive was sipping coffee in his living room, high above Port-au-Prince, with Joel Boutroue, who was the United Nations deputy special representative in Haiti before the earthquake and an advisor to the Haitian government afterward. Boutroue says he can’t account for where the nearly $500 million went either.

They considered the Red Cross’ claim on its website and press releases: That all the money went to help 4.5 million Haitians get “back on their feet.”

“No, no, not possible,” Bellerive says. “We don’t have that population in the area affected by the earthquake.”

The charity’s own documents, however, give some insight: Much of the money never reached people in need.

The Red Cross gave much of the money to other groups to do the hands-on work, resulting in additional fees.

First the Red Cross took a customary administrative cut, then the charities that received the money took their own fees. And then, according to the Red Cross’ records, the charity took out an additional amount to pay for what it calls the “program costs incurred in managing” these third-party projects.

In one of the programs reviewed by NPR and ProPublica, these costs ate up a third of the money that was supposed to help Haitians.

Posted in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, Haiti | Comments Off on Red Cross funds for Haitian relief have gone missing

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:

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