Archive for corporate power

"I don't recall 'if you're comfortable with it' qualifying any of Jesus Christ's commandments."

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what would jesus do

Regular readers know that I'm a big Michael Hiltzik fan, and for good reason. He's good at spreading the-- What's it called again? Oh yeah-- truth. One of his latest columns dealt with the truths regarding the Supreme Court's wrongheaded Hobby Lobby ruling in favor of allowing bosses to make health decisions for women. The consequences of that one were fairly easy to predict. Not only are businesses trying to use their "religious beliefs" against access to contraception, but now the decision is oozing into other areas of discrimination, as in gay and transgender targets. But hey, it's all cool, because it's in the name of Religion, with a capital R. In short: Blame Jesus.

Where's an impartial Supreme Court when you need one?

Which brings us to today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Plaudits to Michael Hiltzik for highlighting how the U.S. Supreme Court's outrageous Hobby Lobby decision may abet religious zealots' discrimination against gays and transgenders in the business world. ("Hobby Lobby's harvest: A religious exemption for LGBT discrimination?," July 16)

Hiltzik's telling parallels with mid-20th century racism ring true. For pious segregationists, the 1896 decision Plessy vs. Ferguson served to keep public schools segregated until Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.

That epic reversal set the stage for civil rights legislation enacted during the next decade, which served to counter persistent racism.

Hiltzik's apt insights suggest that the 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision won't, like the Plessy ruling, endure for decades. All that's needed is one more high court justice who favors equal rights over faith-based discrimination.

Devra Mindell, Santa Monica

..

On Monday, President Obama issued an executive order barring LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. To protect their organizations from feeling "very uncomfortable" and to perpetuate "diversity of opinion," Pastor Rick Warren and other religious leaders, in a July 1 letter to Obama, argue their right to discriminate against the LGBT community while still receiving federal (taxpayer) funding

There is a disgraceful hypocrisy lurking in a request by Christian church leaders for religious exemption from an anti-discrimination rule. I don't recall "if you're comfortable with it" qualifying any of Jesus Christ's commandments.

Ellen Chavez Kelley, Santa Barbara

..

Hiltzik's excellent column was deficient in only one respect. He failed to ask Warren or Father Larry Snyder where in the fundamental documents of their faith they find their God commanding them to discriminate against LGBT people in terms of employment. Are they discriminating on religious grounds, moral grounds, or do they want to discriminate because they're simply bigoted?

Additionally, if their consciences won't allow them to treat LGBT people equally, they're always free to say "no" to the taxpayers' money.

John Gibson, Los Angeles

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

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separation of church and state cartoon power

obama tweet birth control women hobby lobby

Link

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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FCC extends deadline for public comments on #NetNeutrality

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net neutrality FCC cable John Oliver

Back in June, I posted the video below in my post, "Cable company f*ckery: If you want to do something evil, do it inside something boring." Allow me to repeat some of that post to set up this one. The video comes to us courtesy of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which he blasts the FCC and explains why net neutrality is so important:

John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

(www.fcc.gov/comments, for any interested parties)

Oliver:

Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.

The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken, and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.

Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane...

Consider who would benefit from this change: Cable companies... These companies have Washington in their pockets...

The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.

Now let's look at what's happened since that broadcast. The first thing is what many of us hoped would happen. Via The Hill: Internet access debate unleashes firestorm. Good! It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a firestorm to raise hell over maintaining net neutrality.

An avalanche of net neutrality comments have been dumped on the Federal Communications Commission, highlighting the passions stirred over whether Internet service providers like Comcast should be allowed to charge companies more money for quicker delivery of their movies and television shows.

The 670,000 comments — many of them laced with profanity — are about half the number of complaints the FCC received when Janet Jackson’s breast flashed across tens of millions of televisions on Super Bowl Sunday.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency is “mining through” the submissions from lawmakers, content providers, public interest groups and citizens who have seen fit to tell the FCC what is on their mind.

The Hill published a second article about Senate Democrats pushing the FCC to regulate the Internets like telephones:

A group of 11 senators are pressuring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider the way it regulates Internet providers.

The FCC should reclassify Internet providers to treat them like more heavily-regulated phone companies rather than proceed with Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, the lawmakers said in a letter to Wheeler Tuesday.

Wheeler’s proposal — which critics say would allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users — “would end the Internet as we know it,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Tuesday, unveiling the letter.

Other signatories include Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Nice.

I also received an email from DemandProgress.org that included:

Just wanted to make sure you saw this. There's been such an overwhelming response to the FCC's net neutrality proceeding that their website that's supposed to receive comments has CRASHED.

Where's my bell? Ah, here it is:

ding ding dingAnd just as I finished reading that email, this one came in via Politico:

The FCC is extending the deadline for initial public comments on Chairman Tom Wheeler's controversial net neutrality proposal because of trouble with the commission's online comment system, the agency announced Tuesday. The deadline was set for midnight.

See what happens when we use our voices?

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"Cable company f*ckery: If you want to do something evil, do it inside something boring"

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net neutrality cable John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for internet speeds, but they're doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren't covering it.

John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

(www.fcc.gov/comments, for any interested parties)

Oliver knocked it out of the park on "Last Week Tonight." He outdid himself in a killer segment about net neutrality, a must-watch. Here are a few excerpts of how he blasted cable companies, monopolies, and those foxes who are looking after our Internet hen house:

Net neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are, "featuring Sting.”

I would rather listen to a pair of Dockers tell me about the weird dream it had.

Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.

The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken, and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.

Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane...

Recently Comcast was negotiating with Netflix. This graph shows Netflix download speeds on various providers:

net neutrality graph comcast netflix

That black line plummeting downwards was their speed on Comcast during the negotiation. See if you can guess when Netflix agreed to Comcast demands.... That has all the ingredients of a mob shakedown.

Consider who would benefit from this change: Cable companies... These companies have Washington in their pockets...

The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.

... Cable companies are basically monopolies now. ... You could not describe a monopoly more clearly if you were wearing a metal top hat, and driving a metal car, after winning second prize in a beauty contest.

net neutrality cable John Oliver monopoly

The cable companies have found out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring...

That's why advocates should not be talking about protecting net neutrality. They shouldn't even use that phrase. They should call it, "preventing cable company fuckery," because that is what it is.

net neutralitypreventing cable company fuckery john oliver

The Big Finale was right up my Twitter alley: Oliver reminded us that "there might be actually something you can still do" about all of this: leave a public comment on the FCC site. He put out the word to Internet trolls everywhere to do their thing.

"Good evening Monsters. THIS may be the moment you've spent your whole lives training for."

Indeed.

net neutrality cable fcc comments John Oliver

And if anyone can vouch for familiar trolly comments like this one...

net neutrality cable John Oliver troll comment

... 'tis yours truly. John Oliver is on to something. I never thought I'd say this, but, "Go trolls!"

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

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charter schools corporate

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.

charter schools privatization corruption

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Your complete guide to the murder of net neutrality. "Scream bloody murder!"

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net neutrality hands tied

If Internet service providers are allowed to charge content companies more for faster access to their subscribers, then we can kiss net neutrality good-bye. My favorite columnist at the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), says as much in his latest piece, which was a little unsettling. And by "a little" I mean extremely.

Tom Wheeler is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He's also a former telecommunications and cable lobbyist. And now he's proposing to make rich and powerful companies richer and more powerful. And, per Hiltzik, you'll be getting the bill.

Michael Hiltzik defines net neutrality as "the principle that Internet service providers can't discriminate among content providers trying to reach you online -- they can't block websites or services, or degrade their signal, slow their traffic or, conversely, provide a better traffic lane for some rather than others." That about covers it.

He goes on to warn us that the real threat to net neutrality is lack of competition in the ISP market.

And that threat will become a reality unless we fight back. Hard.

Hiltzik:

What makes this plan especially frightening is that it arrives at the same time as another major threat to net neutrality on which the FCC must vote: the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the nation's two biggest Internet service providers. [...]

It's this synergy between two anticompetitive developments that really spells danger for the open Internet, for innovators, for start-ups and for all consumers. As Tim Wu of Columbia Law School asserts, the Wheeler rule will leave bloggers, start-ups and nonprofits in Internet steerage. "They'll be behind in the queue, watching as companies that can pay tolls to the cable companies speed ahead," he wrote recently. The Internet's role as a facilitator of innovation will start to disappear.

Did someone say "bloggers"?

yikes!

The Wheeler plan vividly illustrates how Washington has been taken over by powerful businesses aligned against the public interest.

This whole 1% crushing the 99% thing is getting to be appallingly routine, which, as they say in the vernacular, sucks. What will happen to us peons if this deal goes through?

So here's what's in store for you. If the FCC approves the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, Comcast will have less incentive than ever to bring its customers the fastest Internet connection at the most reasonable price. If the FCC approves Wheeler's net neutrality proposal, Comcast will have more leeway than ever to squeeze content providers, and consequently the public, for more money for barely adequate service. And every other Internet service provider in the nation will take advantage of the rules to the max.

eek

So what are dinky little American like us supposed to do? How do we fight the behemoths? What are our options?

The public's only option is to scream bloody murder.

And you know what that means: Call your Congress members. Call the White House. President Obama has come out strongly in favor of "incredible equality" on the Internet. Let's remind him of that by doing as he has asked us to do so many times: Hold him accountable and urge him to go to bat for us. As Al Franken so aptly put it, "Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time."

net neutrality 2

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

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corporate money america

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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