Archive for federal regulation

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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VIDEO: David Gregory changes subject to save guest from Barney Frank's question on wealthy bankers' huge salaries

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tick tick tick bugs bunny

Happy fifth anniversary of the Wall Street Meltdown! Weeee! Could a financial crisis happen again? You bet.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Meet the Press host David Gregory came to the rescue of his own personal NBC damsel in distress, CNBC host Maria Bartiromo, who thinks Americans need to come down with collective amnesia and get past all the silly little antics of Wall Street.

Never mind the pain and suffering, the poverty, the GOP cutting programs that would keep people alive who can barely make ends meet and who were cut off at the wallet by those poor, put-upon Big Banks.

Instead, Gregory's priority was to swoop in and end the awkward silence and nervous giggling that followed Barney Frank's question, "Why are bankers paying themselves so much money?" The panelists who are oh so into Wall Street were suddenly oh so silent:

Maria Bartiromo: We need to get beyond the conversation of, Is Wall Street evil?" Are the bankers evil and causing pain? And toward the conversation of, how do you create sustainable economic growth? That will answer the issue of inequality. Because with growth comes jobs. [...]

Barney Frank: I do want to add one thing, though, to your question about those poor beleaguered bankers who have been forced to do so much to keep from not being able to pay their debts they can’t lend money. If they really are running businesses that are so stressed that they can’t do their basic work, why are they paying themselves so much money? Where did these enormous salaries come from if they were in fact in such serious trouble?

pregnant pause

Maria Bartiromo: (laughing) Thank you for giving me that one. Okay.

David Gregory: But your point is to get beyond — to get beyond some of the resentment of the bankers and get to a place where we actually have more hiring going on, more investment going on and Washington plays a more constructive role beyond whether it was the bailout of the banks which changed our politics.

Think Progress:

(Nevermind that the deregulation of the financial sector is a primary driver of inequality in the U.S.) [...]

It would have been interesting to hear Bartiromo’s response had Gregory not intervened to prevent anyone answering Frank’s question. Wall Street executive pay seems difficult to defend five years on from the crisis. It isn’t just that banker bonuses and bank profits have returned to or even surpassed pre-crisis highs. It’s that a third of the highest-paid executives of the past 20 years have been failures or frauds. It’s that companies routinely manipulate performance-based compensation schemes to effectively guarantee executive payouts. It’s that taxpayers subsidize payments in the form of stock, which also give executives incentive to the sorts of fraud and risk-taking that created the financial crisis.

Here is the entire segment:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Could a financial crisis happen again? You bet.

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banghead gif

Michael Hiltzik has yet another splendid column in today's Los Angeles Times. This one asks the question, "Could a financial crisis happen again?" His answer: "You bet."

Hiltzik, as he is wont to do, goes into some detail to support his case, so it's well worth reading the entire piece, but a few key points stood out. One is his reminder that no high-level executive of any major bank has faced trial, and most of them are still filthy rich. To rub salt into that wound, "no top executive of Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo or JPMorgan has even been sued personally by the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Depressed yet? Angry yet? Banging your head against that nearby wall yet? Allow me to exacerbate your pain. Hiltzik recaps the Barclays tale of how that British-based bank paid a $450,000,000 price for manipulating interest rates for borrowers and is looking at a similar fine for rigging California's electricity market. However:

[Barclays] seems to have no trouble getting in the door of the Fed. How would you feel if your local D.A. took meetings with convicted felons to get their thoughts on how our tough criminal laws should be eased up? That's not far from what the Fed and Barclays are up to.

Feeling more secure? Me neither. Think things have changed? Me neither. Think Big Banks have watered down what should have been strict rules and are taking advantage of loopholes that benefit their bottom line at our expense? Hey, me too!

The banks today still fight regulation by claiming that tying their hands will hobble economic growth. This is one of those balancing tests where all the weights seem to have been piled on one side. What's left off is the cost of inaction.

[Per economists], the Great Recession cost the U.S. as much as $14 trillion in economic output, or up to $120,000 for every household in the country. That comes to a lot more than the cost of keeping a few bankers from collecting their bonuses through risky, manipulative financial deals.

The targets of regulation always squeal that trampling on their freedom of action will have economic costs. But the reality is that the cost of lax regulation is always higher than the cost of making a system safe. The U.S. understood that reality in the Thirties. What keeps us from understanding it now?

That wall you head is looking for is to your left. Bang away.

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3/4 of Senate GOP want to bar any new legislation that would help workers, regulate workplace conditions

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stfu omg

Our own David Garber previously posted "Tom Coburn Isn’t An Idiot, He Just Plays One In The Senate":

Senator Tom Coburn, the firebrand senator from Oklahoma has his priorities on backwards. He believes in punishing the worker bee to get to the queen — in this case the Affordable Care Act. Silly man. Stupid Man. Dangerously idiotic man.

Here’s what Tom Terrific is doing. He doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act. So he’s going to be placing a hold on an administration executive nomination, in this case Katherine Archuleta, nominated to head the Office of Personnel Management....

It’s about pettiness. It’s about poor sportsmanship. It’s about “If I can’t pitch, I’m taking my baseball home and then nobody can play.” It’s attitude. Childish at that.

David's post was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Check out what Coburn and Rand Paul are up to now, but first take a swig of anything alcoholic and/or pop a Tums. Think Progress:

More than three-quarters of the Senate Republican caucus signed onto legislation introduced Wednesday by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that could render it virtually impossible for Congress to enact any legislation intended to improve working conditions or otherwise regulate the workplace. Had their bill been in effect during the Twentieth Century, for example, there would likely be no nationwide minimum wage, no national ban on workplace discrimination, no national labor law and no overtime in most industries. [...]

Coburn and Paul’s bill appears to be an attempt to restore the constitutional regime that prohibited child labor regulation and other such nationwide regulation of the American workplace. [...]

What is somewhat surprising, however, is the sheer breadth of support for Coburn and Paul’s discredited view of the Constitution within the Senate Republican Caucus. According to Coburn’s press release, their bill is cosponsored by “Senators Ayotte (R-NH), Barrasso (R-WY), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coats (R-IN), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Cruz (R-TX), Enzi (R-WY), Fischer (R-NE), Flake (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johnson (R-WI), Lee (R-UT), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Moran (R-KS), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-SC), Sessions (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Toomey (R-PA), Vitter (R-LA), and Wicker (R-MS).”

See how deeply these right wing extremists care about small businesses? Growing businesses? Employees? Jobs? Job safety? Equal rights? Equal pay? Health and welfare? Democracy? You? They say they do, they campaign like they do, but all they really care about is profit and power on the backs of ordinary working Americans.

We simply don't matter. At all. They convince people to donate to them and then vote them into office. Then once they're elected, this is how they want to treat you and your families... which leads me to get down on my knees and plead to you to register, to vote, and to help others do the same, in a huge way.

These self-serving, duplicitous skunks don't want to just "rebrand" their party (or as I like to call it, "destroy"), they want to rebrand the U.S. Constitution. They will have failed at both. "Dangerously idiotic" indeed.

But what do they care, as long as they appeal to their base. What a perfect word to describe anyone who would support them: base.

opposite world

backwards

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"JPMorgan's manipulation of energy markets is nothing short of criminal." Yet nobody's going to prison.

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big banks lock them up

I recently posted JPMorgan manipulated CA’s energy market to great profit, lied about it. Penalty? Chump change (1 day’s revenue).  Please link over, because Michael Hiltzik's take is worth a read.

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

Re "Energy market rigging case is settled," and "Bank's penalty? Chump change," Column, July 31

Why do we so seldom hear about any of these hundreds of guilty market manipulators — all cherished employees of large corporations — going to prison? They never admit any wrongdoing, and seldom do we see their heads bowed to express shame as destroyers of America's social contract.

Michael Hiltzik reminds us that a $421-million fine is pocket change to JPMorgan Chase & Co. against total annual net revenue of $97 billion. No wonder its spokesman is "pleased to put this matter behind us."

Contrary to what federal regulators say, this ridiculous slap on the wrist will never be a strong deterrent to continuing big-money corruption. Nor will it result in any "material impact" on the secretive culture of yet another Wall Street giant that exalts profit over morality — at the expense of the rest of us.

June Maguire

Mission Viejo

***

JPMorgan's manipulation of energy markets is nothing short of criminal.

The fact that no one will go to prison for this crime, and that the manipulators see fines as the cost of doing business, reminds me of my childhood in San Francisco, where the bookies to whom I sold newspapers told me they weren't worried about being arrested for illegal gambling; they just paid the fine and came back the next day, where they cooked the books once more — or paid off the arresting officer.

That area of San Francisco was called the Tenderloin District. It seems we have our own Tenderloin, but on a national level — it's called "investment banking."

Patrick O'Brien

San Juan Capistrano

***

I think of myself as an informed citizen. After 68 years of life, I am starting to think "the fix is in."

Major corporations — contributors to both parties — write the rules for their benefit. Politicians are now professionals, not citizens doing their civic duty like our founders envisioned.

As Will Rogers said, we have the best politicians money can buy.

Ed Sinderman

Porter Ranch

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JPMorgan manipulated CA's energy market to great profit, lied about it. Penalty? Chump change (1 day's revenue)

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inexcusable

Michael Hiltzik nailed it again. His column in today's Los Angeles Times pointed out what TV news shows fail to mention: Once again, Corporate America skates and the little guy can't do a thing about it. Or as I like to call it, injustice.

JPMorgan Chase was fined $410-million for manipulating energy markets in California and the Midwest. Period. That's it. No arrests, not a seriously "historic" penalty, no deterrent to speak of, just a measly few hundred million for ripping us off. Seems like a lot to the rest of us, right? But to them? Pfft.

Hiltzik:

It's chicken feed. A pittance.

It will have no more deterrent effect on white-collar wrongdoing at JPMorgan or anywhere else than telling its traders they've got to take the Ferrari to work instead of the Lamborghini, though they can still take the Lambo to the beach house. Our top regulators actually think they've gotten the better of a huge illegal enterprise, which is a good sign that they're delusional. They didn't even get Morgan to admit that it had done anything wrong.

Look at the numbers. Of the $410 million, $125 million represents the disgorgement of illicit profits from Morgan's scheme — money the bank wouldn't have collected at all if it operated within the law. (The sum is supposed to be returned to ratepayers.) So that doesn't count. The real punishment is the balance of $285 million. How badly will that hurt JPMorgan Chase? Well, the big bank collected $97 billion in net revenue last year, so it represents a little more than a single day of intake... [T]here's no indication that these individuals will suffer any consequences for this rip-off. They're not the ones paying the penalties; Morgan's shareholders are. [...]

As the FERC documents make clear, Morgan was worse than Enron — because despite the lessons of Enron, it engaged in this manipulative behavior anyway.

But just when I thought Hiltzik's analysis couldn't possibly get me any angrier, he added this at the end:

The only remedy is to take the market out of the electricity business, returning to the regulated utility model that served American ratepayers for decades. The markets clearly don't work to consumers' benefit, because the regulators can't handle the task of staying ahead of the gamers.

The question is, do they even want to regulate? FERC Commissioner Clark praised Tuesday's settlement ... [and] pointed out that by settling, the government closes the case "without expending further resources."

Is that what we pay our regulators for — justice on the cheap? JPMorgan's behavior was disgusting, but FERC's decision to let the bank get off for pennies on the dollar is inexcusable.

Please read the entire column, and please share it with FERC. They might learn something.

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VIDEO: Safety of alternative meds vs. conventional meds reminiscent of George Carlin's "Baseball vs. Football"

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george carlin baseball v football

Maybe it's because I've been feeling like a truck ran over me for the past week or so, or maybe it's because I was raised by a superb internist who regularly gave me insight into this very subject, but a Sunday L.A. Times op-ed stuck out like a sore thumb... a sore thumb that shouldn't be treated with unregulated meds.

It starts out with a comparison to one of my all time favorite George Carlin routines, "Baseball vs. Football" (a must-watch video if you've never seen it before) in which he says, "Football has hitting … and unnecessary roughness and personal fouls. Baseball has the sacrifice... in baseball, the object is to go home! And to be safe!"

These days, at least as it relates to the political priorities of all too many lawmakers, safety is vastly underrated:

Some might say the same can be said for conventional and alternative remedies. Conventional medicine has chemotherapy; alternative medicine has aromatherapy... Orthopedists operate; chiropractors adjust.

Then it gets to the heart (literally) of the matter. Please take a moment to read the entire piece, because too many people don't seem to be aware of many of the dangers associated with remedies that are not subject to government oversight. For example:

Unfortunately, because of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so companies are under little obligation to support their claims or admit their harms.

For example, blue cohosh can cause heart failure; nutmeg can cause hallucinations; comfrey, kava, chaparral and valerian can cause inflammation of the liver; monkshood and plantain can cause heart arrhythmia; wormwood can cause seizures; stevia leaves can decrease fertility; concentrated green tea extracts can damage the liver; milkweed seed oil and bitter orange can cause heart damage; thujone can cause neurological damage; and concentrated garlic can cause bleeding.

In 1992, one of the worst dietary supplement disasters in history occurred when about 100 people developed kidney failure from a "slimming" mixture that contained the plant Aristolochia. At least 70 people required kidney transplants or dialysis; many later developed bladder cancers.

Memo to GOP: Regulation exists for a reason, and that reason is to keep us safe in any number of ways. "Big government" isn't always a bad thing (forced trans-vaginal ultrasounds being one major exception), and the insistence by some conservatives that corporate profit should trump the health and welfare of Americans is as absurd as it is dangerous.

More from George Carlin (with whom I had a few awesome personal encounters):

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying. [...]

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - We might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

In the world of medicine, it should be obvious to our elected officials that sudden death is something we should go out of our way to avoid, not encourage via willful negligence.

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