Archive for the ‘Corporate takeover of Government’ Category

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

– I rave a lot about the evil that multinational corporations are in our world.  The central complaint is that these hugely powerful entities (of the 100 largest economies in the world today, 53 are corporations) have only a single goal and that is to maximize the return on investment for their share-holders.  

– You’ll need to think about that for awhile to realize just how deeply dysfunctional that is for our world.  

– If you want to see how it works in detail in just one domain; food, then reading this will provide you with an excellent and sobering education.

– dennis

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On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

– to the original:

– research thanks to Rolf A.

 

 

Secrets of the Rich

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

– Another brilliant piece by George Monbiot of the UK’s Guardian.   I just cannot applaud him enough.

– dennis

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Billionaires are hiding behind a network of “independent” groups, who manipulate politics on their behalf.

Conspiracies against the public don’t get much uglier than this. As the Guardian revealed last week, two secretive organisations working for US billionaires have spent $118m to ensure that no action is taken to prevent manmade climate change(1). While inflicting untold suffering on the world’s people, their funders have used these opaque structures to ensure that their identities are never exposed.

The two organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – were set up as political funding channels for people handing over $1m or more. They have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss climate science or downplay the need to take action. The large number of recipients creates the impression that there are many independent voices challenging climate science. These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen. Now they’re seeking to prevent the US president from trying again(2).

This covers only part of the funding. In total, between 2002 and 2010 the two identity-laundering groups paid $311m to 480 organisations(3), most of which take positions of interest to the ultra-rich and the corporations they run: less tax, less regulation, a smaller public sector. Around a quarter of the money received by the rightwing opinion swarm comes from the two foundations(4). If this funding were not effective, it wouldn’t exist: the ultra-rich didn’t get that way by throwing their money around randomly. The organisations they support are those which advance their interests.

A small number of the funders have been exposed by researchers trawling through tax records. They include the billionaire Koch brothers (paying into the two groups through their Knowledge and Progress Fund) and the DeVos family (the billionaire owners of Amway)(5). More significantly, we now know a little more about the recipients. Many describe themselves as free market or conservative think tanks.

Among them are the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Mont Pelerin Society and the Discovery Institute(6). All of them pose as learned societies, earnestly trying to determine the best interests of the public. The exposure of this funding reinforces the claim by David Frum, formerly a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, that such groups “increasingly function as public-relations agencies”(7).

One name in particular jumped out at me: American Friends of the IEA. The Institute of Economic Affairs is a British group which, like all the others, calls itself a free market thinktank. Scarcely a day goes by on which its staff are not interviewed in the broadcast media, promoting the dreary old billionaires’ agenda: less tax for the rich, less help for the poor, less spending by the state, less regulation for business. In the first 13 days of February, its people were on the BBC ten times(8).

Never have I heard its claim to be an independent thinktank challenged by the BBC. When, in 2007, I called the institute a business lobby group, its then director-general responded, in a letter to the Guardian, that “we are independent of all business interests”(9). Oh yes?

The database, published by the Canadian site desmogblog.com, shows that American Friends of the IEA has received (up to 2010) $215,000 from the two secretive funds(10). When I spoke to the IEA’s fundraising manager, she confirmed that the sole purpose of American Friends is to raise money for the organisation in London(11). She agreed that the IEA has never disclosed the Donors’ Trust money it has received. She denied that the institute is a sockpuppet organisation: purporting to be independent while working for some very powerful US interests.

Would the BBC allow someone from Bell Pottinger to discuss an issue of concern to its sponsors without revealing the sponsors’ identity? No. So what’s the difference? What distinguishes an acknowledged public relations company taking money from a corporation or a billionaire from a so-called thinktank, funded by the same source to promote the same agenda?

The IEA is registered with the Charity Commission as an educational charity(12). The same goes for Nigel Lawson’s climate misinformation campaign (the Global Warming Policy Foundation(13)) and a host of other dubious “thinktanks”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is outrageous that the Charity Commission allows organisations which engage in political lobbying and refuse to reveal their major funders to claim charitable status(14).

This is the new political frontier. Corporations and their owners have learnt not to show their hands. They tend to avoid the media, aware that they will damage their brands by being seen to promote the brutal agenda that furthers their interests. So they have learnt from the tobacco companies: stay hidden and pay other people to do it for you(15).

They need a network of independent-looking organisations which can produce plausible arguments in defence of their positions. Once the arguments have been developed, projecting them is easy. Most of the media are owned by billionaires, who are happy to promote the work of people funded by the same class(16). One of the few outlets they don’t own – the BBC – has been disgracefully incurious about the identity of those to whom it gives a platform.

By these means the ultra-rich come to dominate the political conversation, without declaring themselves(17,18). Those they employ are clever and well-trained. They have money their opponents can only dream of. They are skilled at rechannelling the public anger which might otherwise have been directed at their funders: the people who have tanked the economy, who use the living planet as their dustbin, who won’t pay their taxes and who demand that the poor must pay for the mistakes of the rich. Anger, thanks to the work of these hired hands, is instead aimed at the victims or opponents of the billionaires: people on benefits, the trade unions, Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union.

The answer, as ever, is transparency. As the so-called thinktanks come to play an ever more important role in politics, we need to know who they are working for. Any group – whether the Institute of Economic Affairs or Friends of the Earth – which attempts to influence public life should declare all donations greater than £1000. We’ve had a glimpse of who’s paying. Now we need to see the rest of the story.

– To the original and its references:  

Anonymous Hacks US Government Site, Threatens Supreme ‘Warheads’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

– This YouTube video makes for interesting viewing and it sets out a number of  grievances Anonymous has with the U.S. government’s escalating abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens.   It’s well worth a watch.

– Will it cause the U.S. government to change its ways?   I doubt it.  Most of the people involved on the U.S. government side are simple people doing their jobs who haven’t the courage or the imagination to see that the jobs they are increasingly doing are not in defense of the principles upon which the U.S. was founded but rather in defense of those powerful forces who are in the processing of capturing the U.S. system for their own gains.

– dennis

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The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked the U.S. federal sentencing website early Saturday, [January 26th, 2013] using the page to make a brazen and boisterous declaration of “war” on the U.S. government.

The group claims mysterious code-based “warheads,” named for each of the Supreme Court Justices, are about to be deployed.

As of midnight Pacific time, the front page of Ussc.gov — the Federal agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts — is filled with a long screed in green on black, together with this YouTube video:  ➡

 – research thanks to Mashable

A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

By Senator Bernie Sanders
February 9, 2013

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country – and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.

On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.

Offshore tax abuse is not just limited to Wall Street. Each and every year corporations and the wealthy are avoiding more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes by sheltering their income offshore.

Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. But, during tax season, Eli Lilly and Pfizer shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Apple wants all of the advantages of being an American company, but it doesn’t want to pay American taxes or American wages. It creates the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod, and iTunes in the United States, but manufactures most of its products in China so it doesn’t have to pay American wages. Then it shifts most of its profits to Ireland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Without such maneuvers, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States would have been $2.4 billion higher in 2011.

Offshore tax schemes have become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

This tax avoidance does not just reduce the revenue that we need to pay for education, healthcare, roads, and environmental protection, it is also costing us millions of American jobs. Today, companies are using these same tax schemes to lower their tax bills by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. These tax breaks have contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000. That also has got to change.

At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high; it is past time for Wall Street and corporate America to pay their fair share.

That’s what the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) that I have introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is all about.

This legislation will stop profitable Wall Street banks and corporations from sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It will also stop rewarding companies that ship jobs and factories overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in this bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As Congress debates deficit reduction, it is clear that we must raise significant new revenue. At 15.8 percent of GDP, federal revenue is at almost the lowest point in 60 years. Our Republican colleagues want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, the veterans and the most vulnerable by making massive cuts. At a time when the middle class already is disappearing, that is not only a grossly immoral position, it is bad economics.

We have a much better idea. Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes.

Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.

 

Profiting from injustice

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

How law firms, arbitrators and financiers are fuelling an investment arbitration boom

A small club of international law firms, arbitrators and financial speculators are fuelling an investment arbitration boom that is costing taxpayers billions of dollars and preventing legislation in the public interest, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory.

Investment arbitration cases are brought by foreign investors against governments following alleged breaches of international investment agreements. Emblematic cases include tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Uruguay and Australia over health warnings on cigarette packets; and Swedish energy multinational Vattenfall seeking $3.7bn from Germany following that country’s decision to phase-out nuclear energy.

Profiting from Injustice uncovers a secretive but burgeoning legal industry which benefits from these disputes – at the expense of taxpayers, the environment and human rights. Law firms and arbitrators, who are making millions from investment disputes against governments, are actively promoting new cases and lobbying against reform in the public interest.

Download a PDF of the full report:

New Category added to Samadhisoft

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’ve added a new category under which I can classify posts here in Samadhisoft.  It is:

Corporate takeover of government

I’ve been realizing for sometime that in their efforts to maximize profits for their shareholders, corporations have been working to control our governments in order to diminish the power those governments to make the laws that limit their actions and opportunities.

This is a major factor in the way human history is progressing now in the early 21st century.

We, as a species, should be deep into the realizations now that if we do not change directions, we are going to experience a calamity of truly historic proportions.  I call this the Perfect Storm.  A calamity so huge, in fact, that it will make all the other major ‘events’ of human history pale.

So, what makes us press on so heedlessly when the danger signs are growing so prolifically around us?

Some of it is our human nature.

But another very significant part is the fact that corporations have gotten so powerful that they are directly or indirectly controlling our governments for their own aims.  And, as those aims are solely about maximizing profits for their shareholders, those aims do not include considerations about the future of our species or the health of the planet.   In many cases (as you will see in the links, below), corporations are working actively to defeat the very things we should be doing for own own survival. And they do this because if we are allowed to do these things, it would interfere with their profits.

To get an idea of the size and tenacity of the problem, consider that of the 100 most powerful economies on the planet, 51 of them are corporations.

In honor of the new category  and to review for you some of the stories and perceptions that have led me to this POV, I’ve listed below a number of stories and pieces I’ve written or reported on here that bear on this subject:

 

 – The Corporate “Heist” of the United States Government Began With a Memo in 1971

– Forbidden Planet – George Monbiot

– Tobacco and the manipulation of public perception for corporate profit

 – The new face of how corporations dominate governments

– The Greedy are everywhere…

– Myth of Perpetual Growth is killing America

– Top (American) CEO pay equals 3,489 years for typical worker

– Why increasing corporate control of our world is bad

– Obama tries again to end oil subsidies

– Corporate Margins and Profits are Increasing, But Workers’ Wages Aren’t

– Plutocracy, Pure and Simple – George Monbiot

– Syngenta PR’s Weed-Killer Spin Machine: Investigating the Press and Shaping the “News” about Atrazine

– Ohio Lawmakers Introduced 33 Bills Last Year Based on ALEC Model Legislation

– Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report
– Financial world dominated by a few deep pockets
– As Verizon Demands Huge Cuts to Worker Benefits, Its Profits Soar and Its CEO Gets $18 Million in Compensation
– America in Decline – Noam Chomsky
 – Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care
 – Lobbying Firm Advising Corporate Clients How to Take Advantage of Campaign Finance Ruling
 – We’re having the wrong conversations

– The Supreme Court and Corporations

– Corporations Are Citizens – What Are We?