Archive for corporate America

Power play: Hobby Lobby et al. "not happy until their faith has more influence."

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My Twitter followers often ask me why religious-slash-conservative politicians do what they do despite the potential negative effect on so many Americans. Why, for example, do they persist with their War on Women? Why do they insist that a zygote is a child and force closures of women's health clinics, putting existing lives at risk? Why do they claim they are "pro-life" as they scream their heartless, vicious verbal attacks at-- and put the fear of their god into-- child refugees who are escaping from rape, violent abuse, and death? Why do right wing extremists allow these atrocities to continue? Why are they willing to potentially end lives in the name of their god? My answer is an abbreviated (it is Twitter, after all) one-size-fits-all reply: Power and money.

Power and money are strong motivators. Tossing red meat to rabidly hungry political donors and like-minded voters goes a long way to securing state and federal lawmakers' positions. And by keeping their jobs, they get to extend their influence. It's all about self-interest.

Hypocrisy is an ingredient of Theocratic Stew, too, but that doesn't answer the Why. Besides, some outwardly religious zealots may very well believe their own fevered, ill-conceived blather.

The Hobby Lobby case allows bosses to control and exert their influence over women, women who may hold different beliefs (or disbeliefs) than the corporate "person" that pays them. Rather, they claim it's about their beliefs. Some of us see it differently.

Today on her radio show, Nicole Sandler played an interview with David Silverman. Silverman is the president of AmericanAtheists.org. He was discussing conservatives and their heavy-handed religious policies, but made a very important distinction. To quote Silverman, "It's not conservative, it's theocratic." Bingo.

Which brings me to today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because, believe it or not, our voices matter:

That's rich, a Christian activist law firm calling itself the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom. Equally Orwellian phrasing titles the constitutionally dubious Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the Becket firm has cited to obtain ill-considered U.S. Supreme Court decisions favoring Christianity over sound public policy. ("Law firm in Hobby Lobby win is playing key role in religion cases," July 19)

For truth in advertising, how about "the Becket Fund for Denying Nonbelievers' Rights to Freedom from Religion"?

So what if this firm advocates a Muslim prison inmate's right to grow a beard. That ploy likely will prevail as a bone thrown to non-Christian detractors, but its narrow application betrays the firm's ulterior motive: to set up more far-reaching court rulings to favor the Christian majority.

Edward Alston, Santa Maria

..

The lawyers for Hobby Lobby don't seek religious freedom. As with the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, they seek the right to extend their religious beliefs to apply to everyone else.

All over the world, it's common for those who practice a particular religion not to be satisfied with their own personal religious freedom. They are not happy until their faith has more influence.

In Iraq, this conflict gets people killed. In the U.S., the Supreme Court allows businesses to force employees to comply with owners' religious beliefs.

The freedom of religion in the 1st Amendment prevents the government from establishing a religion. Once the immense power of government assists one religion, all others suffer.

Norwood Price, Burbank

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Poll-itics: SCOTUS approvals near lowest "in 14-year trend"

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SCOTUS, SCOTUS, SCOTUS, what are we going to do with you? Well, here's an idea: Elect Progressive presidents who will replace right wing extremist Supreme Court justices (and other judges) who decide cases that are turning this country upside down.

This Supreme Court has:

  • ruled in favor of prayers in city council meetings (read: Christian prayers);
  • eliminated buffer zones around abortion and contraception medical centers in Massachusetts so that women can now be intimidated and threatened literally within an inch of their lives;
  • weakened unions by ruling that they could not force home-care workers to join them and pay dues;
  • and, of course, allowed Hobby Lobby and other family-owned businesses to decide what kind of birth control their employees could use based on their bosses' religious beliefs. Not the workers' beliefs, mind you, because apparently, corporate religion trumps that of the individual.

And don't get me started on Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions allowing corporate money to attempt to buy elections the way Willard "Mitt" Romney buys car elevators.

According to Gallup, this has affected the court's popularity. Democrats in particular are not too thrilled with this SCOTUS. If that's the case, you know what to do: Vote. In droves. Swarm the polls. Help to register other voters and get them to the ballot box, too.

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Gallup:

Americans remain divided in their assessments of the U.S. Supreme Court, with 47% approving of the job it is doing, and 46% disapproving. These ratings are consistent with approval last September, when 46% approved and 45% disapproved, and rank among the lowest approval ratings for the court in Gallup's 14-year trend. [...]

Republican approval of the Supreme Court is up 21 percentage points since last September, from 30% in 2013 to 51%. Independents' approval shows little change, going from 47% to 46%. Support among Democrats, on the other hand, is down [...]

Americans' current views more closely reflect the court's own ideological divisions in these two recent decisions, rather than its bipartisan unanimity.

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Snark attack: Marco Rubio "is onto" thousands of climate scientists' "schemes."

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On "This Week," Marco Rubio was interviewed by ABC's Jonathan Karl about climate change:

Rubio:

I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there — including scientists — that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research, and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to man made activity.

I don't know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving. Natural disaster have always existed.

Jonathan Karl:

But let me get this straight. You do not believe human activity — C02 — has caused warming to our planet?

Rubio:

I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientist are portraying it. And I do not believe the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except, it will destroy our economy.

And with that, here are today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

It is a coincidence that the day after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an apparent GOP presidential hopeful, stated his belief that man was not causing climate change, scientists announced that global warming was causing irreparable harm to massive Antarctic glaciers, which will eventually cause a major sea-level rise. ("Irreversible collapse of Antarctic glaciers has begun, studies say," May 12)

Evidently, Rubio is courting corporate donors and therefore must deny that man contributes to climate change. These corporate leaders need politicians like Rubio to stop the implementation of policies that would reduce carbon emissions and therefore hurt their bottom lines.

Yes, the increasing use of solar and other alternative fuels could reduce certain corporations' profits, but corporate interest should not trump the planet.

Norwood Price

Burbank

Those climate scientists are at it again. They're trying to scare us all into believing that climate change is really happening and that humans are causing it.

It's a good thing that Rubio is onto their schemes. I'm looking forward to him exposing the mastermind of this hoax that has been perpetrated by those thousands of scientists in dozens of countries these past several decades, and to having him identify the (undoubtedly sinister) motive behind the hoax.

If he can accomplish this, it definitely qualifies him to be the next U.S. president.

Al Barrett

Santa Monica

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Watchdog: Oversight of state pipeline safety "riddled with weaknesses."

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What would we do without a watchdog to protect us and reveal what we already know: We need more (and as you'll see, way more effective) oversight of Big Corporate Ventures; and that Big Corporate Ventures involving fossil fuels (coughKEYSTONEXLcough) are putting our lives in serious danger.

Two words: Oy vey.

Via HuffPo:

(AP) — The federal agency responsible for making sure states effectively oversee the safety of natural gas and other pipelines is failing to do its job, a government watchdog said in a report released Friday.

The federal effort is so riddled with weaknesses that it's not possible to ensure states are enforcing pipeline safety, the report by the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General said. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, isn't ensuring key state inspectors are properly trained, inspections are being conducted frequently enough and inspections target the most risky pipelines, it said.

Uh oh.

uh oh

The post goes on to say that more than 20 percent of our pipelines are more than 50 years old or made of inadequate materials. And don't get me started on those incompetent inspectors. One had less than a year's experience.

Without proper oversight, deadly explosions and leaks occur, so clearly, the qualifications and competence of those who are charged with keeping us safe have to improve drastically.

But wait. One of the top three items on the official Republican bucket list is "less oversight." Oh, those wacky zany "pro-lifers" and their totes adorbs shortsightedness. The inspectors and the companies who are the focus of any given watchdog are as responsible as anyone for maintaining safe, healthy, reliable conditions for everyone affected by their operations. But so are our elected officials.

There's more here.

Time to revisit my post of a few days ago, "Our addiction to the ways of the past are destroying us. For humanity, intervention is needed."

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"Our addiction to the ways of the past are destroying us. For humanity, intervention is needed."

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Climate change is a fact. That this country has a dangerous addiction to fossil fuels is also a fact (See: Pres. Obama, just say no to addiction to (tar sands) oil. Please.). That Big Corporations are shortsighted, self-serving, and greedy at the expense of our health and welfare is also a fact.

You know what's fiction? That climate change doesn't exist. That climate change isn't man-made. That shifting to clean, renewable energy won't affect the impending disaster that is climate change. That if we don't do that soon, we'll be just fine, thankyouverymuch.

If you support gradual-- and accelerating-- devastation; if you're okay with coping with the increasing frequency and intensity of deadly hurricanes, "Snowmageddons," frackquakes, floods, and fires; if you don't object to pouring billions into cleaning up the messes Mother Nature is and will continue to create due to our self-indulgent and willful reliance on and acceptance of dirty crude oil, tar sands, methane, and coal, then you support a toxic, grim future for all of us, our children, their children, and so on.

As a spiritual leader, I often counsel people regarding personal problems such as addiction. ("Climate change is already affecting all of U.S., report says," May 6)

I have been preaching about global climate change for years. In the Jewish tradition, there is a teaching that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark so people would ask him what he was doing and hopefully heed his warning.

We are getting closer to our "120 years," as scientists and others have been sounding the alarm for years. How much longer will we think that money trumps doing the responsible and moral thing regarding fossil fuels?

Having the know-how to change, having the knowledge that we need to change, and seeing destructive forces at work but refusing to change: these are tell-tale signs of addiction and suffering that I counsel in my career.

Our addiction to the ways of the past are destroying us. For humanity, intervention is needed.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

Pasadena

This year's National Climate Assessment will do little to sway those in Congress who are in denial about the contribution of human pollution to the changes seen around the globe. Even those who admit that our emissions into the air might add to the problem say that our efforts would be insignificant, so why go to the expense and trouble.

We should ask them, "Even if human-caused pollution has no effect on climate, why would we want to continue to pump such massive amounts of poison into the air?"

Richard Green

San Clemente

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Charter schools, corporations cheat kids, spend millions on trips, strip clubs #CharterSchoolsWeek

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Charter schools are cheating our children. Brace yourselves: Over 100 million dollars meant for our kids have been misused, lost or stolen by charter operators and corporations. Why? Because there is no regulation. We all know how the GOP and corporate America hate regulations, and this is why.

Privatization gives greedy, corporate types all kinds of opportunities. For instance, the opportunity to use taxpayer funds meant for students; they're using that money, our money, to pay for house renovations, outings to strip clubs, and vacations to Atlantic City.

How in the world can we keep giving money to people (because we all know that corporations are people, my friend) who do this? How in the world can Americans keep supporting-- and voting for-- these pigs?

By the way, the report covers what "might just be the tip of the" proverbial iceberg, focusing on a mere fifteen of the forty-two states that have charter school laws.

Paul Rosenberg at Salon has the story:

While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools—from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices—this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. Crime, not greed, is the focus here. [...]

[The report] organized the abuse into six basic categories, each of which is treated in its own section:

• Charter operators using public funds illegally for personal gain;
• School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses;
• Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger;
• Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided;
• Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and,
• Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools.

Perhaps most disturbingly, under the first category, crooked charter school officials displayed a wide range of lavish, compulsive or tawdry tastes. Examples include:

• Joel Pourier, former CEO of Oh Day Aki Heart Charter School in Minnesota, who embezzled $1.38 million from 2003 to 2008. He used the money on houses, cars, and trips to strip clubs. Meanwhile, according to an article in the Star Tribune, the school “lacked funds for field trips, supplies, computers and textbooks.”

[...]

Others spent their stolen money on everything from a pair of jet skis for $18,000 to combined receipts of $228 for cigarettes and beer, to over $30,000 on personal items from Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Tommy Hilfiger. But the real damage came from the theft of resources for children’s future.

No wonder Republicans are trying to do away with public schools. They're no fun!

More at Salon.

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“This event is emblematic of how corporate money undermines our democracy"

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Why hasn't this big, corporate money, corporate influence event already been canceled, especially after this from the Los Angeles Times: "AT&T wields enormous power in Sacramento"?

No other single corporation has spent more trying to influence legislators in recent years. It dispenses millions in political donations and has an army of lobbyists. Bills it opposes are usually defeated.

Here's a press release that just came my way:

Sec. of State Candidate Cressman Urges Lawmakers to Cancel This Weekend’s “Speaker’s Cup” Pebble Beach Fundraiser

Lawmakers Get Schmoozed By Lobbyists, Corporate Titans

Senate cancelled similar fundraiser in wake of Sacramento scandals

Sacramento, CA –

California Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman today blasted lawmakers attending the Speakers Cup Weekend in Pebble Beach this weekend, saying the golf-and-schmooze event embodied everything that is wrong with politics in a state where three lawmakers were recently suspended from the Senate for corruption.

Cressman today called on Assembly Speaker John Perez to cancel the event, just as Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg had recently cancelled a Senate golf fundraiser with corporate interests.

Cressman, who is running on a platform of transparency and reducing the influence of corporate money, said the Pebble Beach event was just a legal version of the bribery and influence-peddling in the Golden State that has made headline news across the country in recent months.

“This event is emblematic of how corporate money undermines our democracy,” said Cressman. “Corporations like AT&T use campaign contributions to elect corporate Democrats who then deliver legislation that boosts their profits at the expense of California consumers,” he said.

“Frankly, it seems AT&T has California by the calls.”

As an example, Cressman pointed to SB 1161, authored by Senator Alex Padilla to deregulate phone service provided over Internet lines. Consumer advocate Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network called it “the most anti-consumer bill ever introduced in California.” AT&T likes the bill so much that it has made a similar version a “model bill” of the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC. ALEC is an organization that connects state legislators with corporate and right wing organizations that is best known for promoting the Stand Your Ground law implicated in the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Senator Padilla has received at least $108,732 from telecommunication interests, including $43,395 from AT&T and it’s employees during his time in the Senate.

Overall, AT&T has given California legislators $2,336,468 since 2006.

Cressman wants to get corporate money out of California politics by overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that struck down bans on corporate campaign spending under the reasoning that corporations should be considered people with constitutional rights. “AT&T is not a person and it shouldn’t be allowed to buy our elections,” said Cressman. He has led a national movement to place questions on the ballot giving voters the chance to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court. SB 1272, to be voted on in the California Senate Elections Committee on April 21st, would place such a measure on the statewide ballot in November.

AT&T has consistently been able to block legislation to remove monthly fees that it charges consumers to have an unlisted phone number, a basic privacy protection that reportedly nets telecom firms upwards of $50 million per year.

In another instance of telecommunications influence, just last week Senate bill SB962, which was sponsored by Senator Mark Leno in response to the high rate of stolen smartphones, would have forced electronics manufacturers to install a shut-off function in all smartphones failed in the state Senate. The so-called “kill switch” legislation would have required companies to manufacture smartphones with technology that would make them inoperable when not in the owner’s possession.

AT&T has lobbied heavily against the bill.

Note: Edited to correct error in original release.

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