Category Archives: corporate greed

American Slave Labor

This would make a great Jackie Gleason & Paul Newman movie. 1

The worst day of Brad McGahey’s life was the day a judge decided to spare him from prison.

McGahey was 23 with dreams of making it big in rodeo, maybe starring in his own reality TV show. With a 1.5 GPA, he’d barely graduated from high school. He had two kids and mounting child support debt. Then he got busted for buying a stolen horse trailer, fell behind on court fines and blew off his probation officer.

Standing in a tiny wood-paneled courtroom in rural Oklahoma in 2010, he faced one year in state prison. The judge had another plan.

“You need to learn a work ethic,” the judge told him. “I’m sending you to CAAIR.”

McGahey had heard of Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery. People called it “the Chicken Farm,” a rural retreat where defendants stayed for a year, got addiction treatment and learned to live more productive lives. Most were sent there by courts from across Oklahoma and neighboring states, part of the nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison…

…There wasn’t much substance abuse treatment at CAAIR. It was mostly factory work for one of America’s top poultry companies. If McGahey got hurt or worked too slowly, his bosses threatened him with prison.

And he worked for free. CAAIR pocketed the pay.

“It was a slave camp,” McGahey said. “I can’t believe the court sent me there.”…

…But in the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.

The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.

Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions…

…Chicken processing plants are notoriously dangerous and understaffed. The hours are long, the pay is low and the conditions are brutal…

…Those who were hurt and could no longer work often were kicked out of CAAIR and sent to prison, court records show. Most men worked through the pain, fearing the same fate.

So, we’re back to the days of the company store? To suggest this practice is illegal 2 is like suggesting the Generalissimo is an incompetent buffoon; both suggestions are the epitome of understatement.

And fucking evil. But there’s certainly plenty of historical precedent for that in this country…

American Slave Labor

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Yeah yeah yeah, I know they’re dead. And, sadly, the closest we got to Gleason is Billy Gardell, who’s fine and all. But…you know, he lacks Gleason’s madness. And as for Newman, well, I got nothing. And then there’s Kennedy and Martin, both ‘types’ that don’t really exist today. Le sigh…
  2. Not to mention unconstitutional; forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. The problem here is most of the defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed.

Oil Wars

It appears our Manchurian President-elect has already managed to initiate the trade war he all but promised while campaigning: Get set for a rising tide of oil and gas prices:

OPEC clinched a deal to curtail oil supply, confounding skeptics as the need to clear a record global crude glut — and prove the group’s credibility — brought about its first cuts in eight years.

OPEC will reduce production by 1.2 million barrels a day to 32.5 million a day, two delegates said Wednesday during a ministerial meeting in Vienna, asking not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public. Benchmark Brent crude rose 8 percent to $50.07 a barrel in London at 1:37 p.m. local time.

After weeks of often tense negotiations, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ three biggest producers — Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran — resolved differences over sharing the burden of cuts. Notably, it appears the Saudis accepted that Iran, as a special case, can raise production to about 3.9 million barrels a day. The agreement is also likely to include an additional reduction of about 600,000 barrels a day by non-OPEC countries.

“This should be a wake-up call for skeptics who have argued the death of OPEC,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. “The group wants to push inventories down.”

The deal promises to revive the tattered finances of countries from Venezuela to Libya and restore flagging confidence in the producer bloc that controls 40 percent of the world’s oil. But the consequences will reverberate far beyond OPEC, giving a boost to U.S. shale drillers crippled by a two-year price rout and oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which have cut spending to the bone to weather the prolonged downturn.

Suddenly after eight years of stable (when not falling) oil/gas prices, OPEC looks at our Clown Prince, smirks and screws down production. This will immediately benefit countries like Iran, Venezuela, Libya and, yes, Russia. The Sauds, of course, will make billions. Anyone see a pattern?

In addition, as the Manchurian President-elect has reiterated time and again, he intends to boost drilling/fracking in the US by gutting the environment 1 rather than lower demand through alternative energy.

So how does all this benefit the US? Why, we get the satisfaction of accelerating global warming AND a an oil price war. 2 3

Wake up, people.

Oil Wars

Show 3 footnotes

  1. And now that the EPA administrators are playing down the water pollution issues of fracking that will be easier to do one the Manchurian President-elect takes office. If, indeed, the Clown Prince doesn’t kill that agency’s budget all together.
  2. We can hardly wait to see how the Manchurian Candidate-elect handles coal!
  3. Oops! And US shale producers will benefit, which of course means US insurance companies will also make money hand over fist due to all the new earthquake coverage policies they’ll write.

Chump Change

According to many many many what the fuck just happened analyses 1 of how we elected a hot mess of a president, chief among the identified culprits was The Left’s attitude toward The Deplorables.

Besides calling them The Deplorables 2 The Left said many many many mean things 3 about the slightly-less-than-half-the-voting-populace 4 that went GOP this year.

One of the accusations The Left apparently tossed out was that The Deplorable were too stupid to vote, that they consistently voted against their own self-interests. 5 This pissed off The Deplorables to such extent that once again they cut off their noses to spite the country’s face:

House Republicans are currently in the process of making lists of regulations that fall within their time frame and could potentially be repealed early next year. One of the major ones they’re eyeing is Obama’s overtime rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half to employees who make under roughly $47,000.

The rule is set to go into effect Dec. 1 6 and will be a top priority for Republicans to reverse, multiple sources said.

As an The Elite The Deplorables despise, I assure you this won’t affect me.

But y’all continue to enjoy the (minimal) fruits of your labor, hear?

Chump Change

Show 6 footnotes

  1. YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE analyses!
  2. Which, face it, they are.
  3. Nasty things!
  4. Well, to be exact, 2 million voters less than those that voted for Clinton.
  5. Not to mention that of society and the country’s, as a whole.
  6. Though yesterday’s ruling will effectively kill it; any appeal would certainly last longer than the Obama administration.

On Monopolies

Botanists define a rheophyte as an aquatic plant that thrives in swift-moving water. Coming from the Greek word rhéos, meaning a flow or stream, the term describes plants with wide roots and flexible stalks, well adapted to strong currents rather than a pond’s or pasture’s stillness. For most of the 20th century, U.S. lawmakers worked to maintain just these sorts of conditions for the U.S. economy—a dynamic system, briskly flowing, that forced firms to adapt to the unpredictable currents of the free market or be washed away.

In the past few decades, however, the economy has come to resemble something more like a stagnant pool. Entrepreneurship, as measured by the rate of new-business formation, has declined in each decade since the 1970s, and adults under 35 (aka Millennials) are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation on record.

This decline in dynamism has coincided with the rise of extraordinarily large and profitable firms that look discomfortingly like the monopolies and oligopolies of the 19th century. American strip malls and yellow pages used to brim with new small businesses. But today, in a lot where several mom-and-pop shops might once have opened, Walmart spawns another superstore. In almost every sector of the economy—including manufacturing, construction, retail, and the entire service sector—the big companies are getting bigger. The share of all businesses that are new firms, meanwhile, has fallen by 50 percent since 1978. According to the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank dedicated to advancing the ideals of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, “markets are now more concentrated and less competitive than at any point since the Gilded Age.”

On Monopolies

Labor Day

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, necessarily, but perhaps you should peruse the following nine charts that explicitly explain wage stagnation. 1

So…did you read the charts the same way I did?

Because my reading shows we’ll revert back to feudalism, and not all that long from now, either. 2 Duuuuuude, serf’s up! Everyone good with that?

Labor Day

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Did you also break out into laughter at “The first policy choice should be to quickly restore full employment. The Federal Reserve Board can do this by not raising interest rates.”? Funny shit, man.
  2. RE Trump? There have been sociopathic douchebags for generations; they’ve just become even more nakedly in thrall to their ids of late. Don’t promulgate this; vote Hillary. Yes, I know, I don’t like her, either.

Bank of America

Yesterday the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York demonstrated why prosecuting banks for committing fraud in the lead-up to the Great Recession is such a difficult proposition. Here’s the background on one of the biggest government enforcement cases to go to trial in connection with the U.S. housing meltdown and financial crisis:

A federal jury had in 2013 found Bank of America and Rebecca Mairone, a former midlevel Countrywide executive, liable for fraudulently selling shoddy loans originated through its “High Speed Swim Lane” program, also called HSSL or “Hustle.”…

Following the verdict, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in 2014 imposed a $1.27 billion penalty on Bank of America and ordered Mairone to pay $1 million.

That decision was appealed and a ruling issued yesterday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York found insufficient proof under federal fraud statutes to establish Bank of America’s liability over a mortgage program called “Hustle” run by the former Countrywide Financial Corp…

In a 3-0 decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Wesley said the evidence at most showed that Countrywide breached contracts to sell investment-quality loans, and that there was no proof it intended any deception.

“The trial evidence fails to demonstrate the contemporaneous fraudulent intent necessary to prove a scheme to defraud through contractual promises,” Wesley wrote.

This has always been the challenge. In order to prosecute banks and/or individuals, the most likely charge is that they committed fraud. But federal statutes require proof of intent in order to find a business or person guilty of fraud. In other words, the prosecution not only has to prove that the defendant committed fraud – but that they intended to do so. The dismissal of this case demonstrates what a high hurdle that can be.

We often hear about the “meager” financial settlements the Justice Department negotiated in similar cases. It’s worth noting that in this instance, Bank of America and Rebecca Mairone got away with having to pay nothing.

The Masters of The Universe, the ones who obviously intended to sell dangerous financial instruments to anyone (without divulging their danger to the investors), get completely off the hook, owing nothing to no one.

It’s almost as if the 2nd Appeals court had not read The Big Short. Or had not watched the news at any time in the last eight years. Or did not know any ex-homeowners during the same period. Or, hell, even had a lick of common sense, for fuck’s sake. 1

Wake up, people! 2

Bank of America

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The only good news is that, on whole, SCOTUS reverses the 2nd 40% of the time
  2. It’s shit like this, in the cumulative, that will eventually get people to do more than talk about revolution.

Koch Blocked in Florida

We mentioned yesterday that Miami’s streets will soon be underwater, and a good portion of the blame for the situation can be directly ascribed to moral monsters like the Koch brothers.

The Sunshine State has the best solarity east of the Mississippi, and the third-best rooftop solar potential in America. Yet measured by solar production, it ranks just 16th in the nation. It’s dwarfed by solar giants like California. Florida even lags behind Northern states like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York. “It defies logic,” says former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. “It’s absolutely absurd.”

The solar industry in Florida has been boxed out by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) that reap massive profits from natural gas and coal. These IOUs wield outsize political power in the state capital of Tallahassee, and flex it to protect their absolute monopoly on electricity sales. “We live in the Stone Age in regard to renewable power,” says state Rep. Dwight Dudley, the ranking Democrat on the energy subcommittee in the Florida House. “The power companies hold sway here, and the consumers are at their mercy.”

The full political might of Florida’s IOUs was on display in December, when a deceptive campaign, funded by the state’s electric utilities, crushed a citizen-led effort to open Florida to solar competition through the 2016 ballot. “When your opponents have no ethical foundation, have unlimited resources and are willing to say and do anything to defeat you,” says Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which led the pro-solar effort, “it’s a tough hurdle to overcome.”

Given the future we all face, and the Koch brothers’ purposeful responsibility for same, public censure/condemnation seems a woefully inadequate response.

It’s time the Koch brothers were walked out behind the barn.

Koch Blocked in Florida

About Zuckerberg

So…about the Zuckerberg’s proposed philanthropy plans: perhaps we could hold off on all the applause until the couple have actually accomplished something? 1

To start with let’s take a closer look at the LLC (actually a 8-K filing) the Zuckerbergs created. And the term ‘LLC’ is important here because it is a straight up admission that the organization Zuckerberg intends to fund is not a charitable organization. In contrast to, say, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a bona fide 501c3 nonprofit.

Facebook boy may in the long run actually do something with this LLC other than use it as a shell game to –in essence– launder his own money. But until he actually builds something useful for the world I’ll remain skeptical – he is, after all, a lynchpin the private sector potion of our surveillance society.

Moreover, shouldn’t the press spend a little more time on examining details rather than kowtowing to yet another of Zuckerberg’s announcements, more than a few of which in the past have turned out to be…how should I put this? Lies?

About Zuckerberg

Show 1 footnote

  1. Credit where it’s deserved – they did previously support Planned Parenthood to the tune of nearly $1 billion.

It’s Everything Change

Suppose the future without oil arrives very quickly. Suppose a bad fairy waves his wand, and poof! Suddenly there’s no oil, anywhere, at all.

Everything would immediately come to a halt. No cars, no planes; a few trains still running on hydroelectric, and some bicycles, but that wouldn’t take very many people very far. Food would cease to flow into the cities, water would cease to flow out of the taps. Within hours, panic would set in.

The first result would be the disappearance of the word “we”: except in areas with exceptional organization and leadership, the word “I” would replace it, as the war of all against all sets in. There would be a run on the supermarkets, followed immediately by food riots and looting. There would also be a run on the banks — people would want their money out for black market purchasing, although all currencies would quickly lose value, replaced by bartering. In any case the banks would close: their electronic systems would shut down, and they’d run out of cash.

Having looted and hoarded some food and filled their bathtubs with water, people would hunker down in their houses, creeping out into the backyards if they dared because their toilets would no longer flush. The lights would go out. Communication systems would break down. What next? Open a can of dog food, eat it, then eat the dog, then wait for the authorities to restore order. But the authorities — lacking transport — would be unable to do this.

It's Everything Change