Category Archives: Corpocracy

Chart of the day: Partisan views of institutions


Given the relentless endorsement of the Republican agenda by the nation’s leading news network, the GOP view of the press is rather ironic.

From the Pew Research Center:

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Suspicions confirmed; Brazil’s coup neoliberal


While we’ve noted that the demand for neoliberal reforms rather the urge to purge institutional corruption lay behind the legislative coup that ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, we now have conformatuion straight from the horses ass mouth.

From teleSUR English:

Brazilian President Michel Temer told a crowd of business leaders in New York that the parliamentary coup that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff was carried out in response to her opposition to a neoliberal program defended by his political party.

Temer had earlier claimed before the U.N. General Assembly that the coup that brought him to power followed the “constitutional order,” as it complied with the impeachment process outlined in the country’s constitution.

Rousseff was formally impeached over her budgeting practices, which were also widely exercised by previous presidents. Supporters of Rousseff sustained that the issue of budget practices was a smokescreen and that her impeachment was driven by political interests.

However, in his speech on Wednesday Temer did not mention Rousseff’s budget practices but instead talked about her opposition to the neoliberal policies promoted by his party.

>snip<

Temer’s coup government has pursued a hardline neoliberal program, which includes freezing spending in social areas for 20 years and plans to auction off 32 major resource and infrastructure projects.

The coup regime has been criticized for pursuing a political program rejected by Brazilians in the previous election that saw Rousseff re-elected in 2014. Temer’s cabinet includes many of the Workers’ Party’s political adversaries, including Jose Serra, whom Rousseff defeated in the 2010 election.

Graphic Representation: Scams you can bank on


When it comes to the fine art of fleecing their customers, one bank has ’em all beat.

First, from the editorial cartoonist of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Steve Breen: They do it in stages

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Next from the editorial cartoonist of the Kansas City Star:

Lee Judge: A case of highway robbery

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And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: Giddyup

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So what’s the big deal?

We’ll let the country’s leading exposer of financial shenangians explain it all.

From Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

Senator Elizabeth Warren questions Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at Banking Committee Hearing

Program notes:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s two round of questions for Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at the September 20, 2016 Senate Banking Committee hearing entitled: “An Examination of Wells Fargo’s Unauthorized Accounts and the Regulatory Response.”

The full hearings are posted here.

We leave the last word to the editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post:

Tom Toles: Even scarier close up

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Miami Beach Zika hot zone triples in size


Zika hot zones in the City of Miami, left, and Miami Beach, right, with the uppermost region just added to the hot zone by the Florida Department of Health.

Zika hot zones in the City of Miami, left, and Miami Beach, right, with the uppermost region just added to the hot zone by the Florida Department of Health.

Almost all of Miami Beach, the home of posh hotels and plush mansions, has been declared a Zika hot zone, the Florida Department of Health of Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

With Miami already reeling from from confirmed cases if tiurusts who contracted the disease on their Miami vacations, Friday’s announcement may well lead to a major decline in those tourist dollars so vital to the regional economy.

From Reuters:

State officials in Florida on Friday tripled the active Zika transmission zone in the trendy seaside community of Miami Beach after five new cases of the mosquito-borne virus believed to cause a severe birth defect were identified in the area.

The active transmission zone grew from 1.5 square miles to 4.5 square miles and consists of a large portion of the popular tourist destination, Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement on Friday evening.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told the Miami Herald that the city will begin truck-spraying of larvicide in the zone on Saturday.

“We have a serious problem,” he told the newspaper. “Once again, we must take all reasonable and safe action to eliminate this. This is a problem.”

More on the impacts from the Miami Herald:

By dramatically expanding the beach’s Zika zone, Scott has ramped up an area of caution that already has hotels warning of sharp slowdowns and elected leaders pleading with Florida and Washington for financial help if the region’s economy suffers the severe hit they fear might be coming.

Miami Beach began the day with some unsettling Zika news: two new cases in the original zone, south of 28th Street. Hours later, Scott announced the expanded zone and a total of five cases.

The number of locally transmitted cases is now 93, which includes at least 10 people who live outside the state but acquired the virus here.

>snip<

During an afternoon conference call between Miami Beach and county officials Friday, some local hotels reported their business has taken a serious hit in the past month. Many have lost group bookings.

The Fontainebleau hotel told the city manager’s office it has had its worst three weeks in 15 years. The Carillon Resort had lost $100,000 in short-term cancellations. And owners of the Mandarin Oriental — which is on Brickell Key, not Miami Beach — were concerned about bookings for Art Basel, which are not coming in at their usual pace. Art Basel is an annual art fair held in South Beach, a marquee event during the first week of December.

The governor’s cash pitch

From Scott’s announcement:

“While we’ve learned that we’re expanding the impacted area in Miami Beach, the good news is that we expect to lift the zone in Wynwood on Monday because of our aggressive mosquito control measures, outreach to the community, education efforts and the vigilant actions of the residents and businesses in Wynwood. The expansion of the Miami Beach area where local transmission is occurring highlights the need for continued aggressive mosquito control measures and for Congress to immediately approve federal funding to combat Zika. I went to Washington this week to meet with Congressional leaders and urge them to immediately provide funding for this national crisis. Every minute that passes that Congress doesn’t approve funding means more time is lost from researching this virus to find a vaccine to help pregnant women and their developing babies.

“Due to the inaction by Congress, I authorized an additional $10 million in state funds today to continue fighting Zika. I am also continuing to call on Congress to hold a field hearing in Miami on Zika preparedness and prevention by October 1. I know many members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation are fighting for Zika funding and it is critically important that members come to Miami and hear directly from those who are on the frontlines of batting this virus.

“Following today’s news, I am asking the CDC to provide Florida with an additional epidemiologist to support DOH’s efforts to combat and contain Zika and host a call with community leaders and clinicians in Miami Beach to answer questions and provide the latest guidance on Zika. In August, I asked the CDC to send additional lab support to Florida and while they have provided some resources, we need much more. That is why earlier this week I asked the CDC for more lab support. Additionally, I am renewing my call to the Obama Administration to provide 10,000 Zika Prevention Kits to protect pregnant women and a detailed plan on how they would like us to work with FEMA now that Zika is mosquito-borne in our state. We have continued to call on the CDC to quickly respond to these requests, and pregnant women who are most at-risk for the Zika virus deserve to have these requests immediately fulfilled.”

The governor stands to reap rewards

Cynics might think the Florida governor’s call for a major federal cash infusion to fight the disease-carrying mosquitoes, given a story reported 17 August by the investigative journalism website FloridaBulldog:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has an undisclosed financial interest in a Zika mosquito control company in which his wife, Florida First Lady Ann Scott, owns a multi-million dollar stake through a private investment firm she co-owns.

The company is Mosquito Control Services LLC of Metairie, LA. According to its web site, MCS “is a fully-certified team of mosquito control experts – licensed throughout the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.”

On June 23, Gov. Scott signed an executive order allocating $26.2 million in state emergency funds for Zika preparedness, including “mosquito surveillance and abatement, training for mosquito control technicians and enhanced laboratory capacity.”

It is not known whether MCS, whose services include monitoring and aerial spraying, stands to benefit from Florida government funds. Company manager Steven Pavlovich holds an active Florida “public health applicator” license with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services through April 2019, but MCS is not a registered state vendor. The Department of Health contracts with two other two mosquito control vendors.

MCS did not respond to two requests for comment.

Headline of the day II: He spies on you, but. . .


Facebook, the most popular social media platform in history, requires users to let the software spy on their most intimate habits.

But don’t you day try to do the same to the guy who runs it, because he’ll spend millions to stop you.

Irony, anyone?

From the London Daily Mail:

Palo Alto REJECTS Mark Zuckerberg’s bid to demolish neighboring homes and create a family compound after he spent $30m on properties next to his house

  • Facebook founder filed paperwork with the city of Palo Alto in May, stating his intentions to tear down and rebuild four neighboring homes
  • Architectural review board rejected the plans saying a giant compound will violate zoning codes and ideal land use 
  • Plans shows that Zuckerberg will tear down the four homes and rebuild them as smaller properties
  • Zuckerberg bought the four properties in 2013, after a developer threatened to build a house with views right into the billionaire’s bedroom

The real business of America. . .is religion


While the founders believed they were a creating a nation where Church and State were separate, including in the Constitution an Establishment Clause declaring that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” that First Amendment phrase has been subject to Supreme Court rulings allowing for churches to gain increasing power over the nation’s political institutions.

Among those rulings are decisions mandating the expenditure of tax revenues for religious schools, including direct funding through vouchers, payment for textbooks and computers, and even provision of funds for busing students to church schools and direct payments for educating students in charter schools and religious colleges. For a comprehensive review, begin here, here, here, here, and here.]

In addition, churches and their institutions receive massive tax breaks, with exemptions from income and property taxes, while salaries they pay may be exempt from Social Security and unemployment taxes.

Added to all those tax-exempt contributions from the faithful, the resulting picture is one of an institution with unparalleled economic and political clout.

No wonder that there are calls for an end of the religious tax exemptions. . .

And it’s a trillion-dollar business. . .

Just how much economic clout does organized religion wield.

In a word, huge.

From the Guardian:

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis [open access] calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.

More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

Twenty of the top 50 charities in the US are faith-based, with a combined operating revenue of $45.3bn.

Businesses with a religious twist

In addition to churches, schools, and religion-based NGOs, the paper also identifies major corporations with a strong religious link, including programs devoting to furthering religious agendas — programs that are also, in most cases, tax-exempt.

The following table from the study lists some of those major business entities:

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More from the study:

In 2014, a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court determined that the closely held for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby is exempt from a law that its owners religiously object to, as long as there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. That ruling was the first time the Supreme Court recognized a for-profit business’s claim of religious belief. While the ruling was limited to closely held corporations, it sets up the situation where the boundaries of faith and business are clearly not absolute. It is therefore reasonable in any valuation of the role of faith to the U.S. economy to recognize businesses that have religious roots. This expands our purview beyond companies that have a specific religious purpose, such as producing traditional halal or kosher foods, to companies that have religion as a part of their corporate culture or founding.

To identify such companies, this second estimate includes companies identified recently as having religious roots. For instance, Deseret News recently identified 20 companies with religious roots, and CNN produced a list of religious companies besides Chick-fil-A. Also, the recent book by Oxford University business professor Theodore Malloch produced a global list of such faith-inspired companies. Not all of these would identify specifically as being faith-based. But faith is part of the founding and operating ethos. Malloch notes that although the commercial success of Walmart is well known, “less well known are Walmart’s connections to the distinct religious world of northwest Arkansas and rural America … [and its] corporate culture and how specific executives incorporated religious culture into their managerial philosophy”. . . Likewise, although the Marriot Hotels are not religiously run, John Willard Marriott, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded the chain and supplied many of the rooms with not only the Bible but The Book of Mormon.

Some other companies listed, however, have a more overt religious identity. Tyson Foods company, founded by John Tyson, provides 120 office chaplains for employees, ministering to the personal and spiritual needs regardless of the employee’s faith or non-faith, as the case may be. The Deseret News story notes that Tyson speaks openly about the company’s aspiration to honor God and be a faith-friendly company. Also, as a further indication of the company’s faith-orientation, Tyson recently financed the launch of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas.

And to close, here’s John Oliver. . .

In a repost of a segment he did a year ago on America’s ,egachurches and their egregious tax exemptions.

From Last Week Tonight:

Televangelists: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

U.S. tax law allows television preachers to get away with almost anything. We know this from personal experience.

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption will not be able to accept donations from Church supporters from the states of Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, or South Carolina. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Monsanto buys Bayer; Big Agra consolidates


In a move that should chill the hearts of farmers across the globe, the two leading manufacturers of pesticides and herbicides, as well as dozens of GMO crops, are merging, with German-based Bayer taking over the U.S. giant Monsanto.

The takeover is the largest corporate consolidation of the year, and is certain to face critical scrutiny from governments and NGOs.

From Deutsche Welle:

After four months of public negotiations, US seed and weedkiller maker Monsanto agreed on Wednesday to be bought by German drug and farm chemical company Bayer.

The $128-a-share deal, up from Bayer’s previous offer of $127.50 a share, has emerged as the signature deal in a consolidation race that has roiled the agribusiness sector in recent years, due to shifting weather patterns, intense competition in grain exports and a souring global farm economy.

“Bayer’s competitors are merging, so not doing this deal would mean having a competitive disadvantage,” said fund manager Markus Manns of Union Investment, one of Bayer’s top 12 investors.

Grain prices are hovering near their lowest levels in years amid a global supply glut, and farm incomes have plunged.

“The combination with Monsanto represents the kind of revolutionary approach to agriculture that will be needed to sustainably feed the world,” Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann told investors in a conference call.

As Brad Plummer notes in a critical commentary for Vox:

That would put the new firm in a commanding position vis-à-vis our food supply. Which is why European Union regulators and the US Department of Justice are likely to scrutinize this deal more closely than usual, to make sure it doesn’t create an all-consuming monopoly that can crank up prices on farmers and shoppers. The deal comes amid a blurry rush of agribusiness consolidation in recent months, with ChemChina-Syngenta and DuPont-Dow Chemical forming their own multibillion-dollar Voltrons.

Some onlookers are fretting that the reduced competition could shrivel up innovation, leading to slower improvements in crop yields. Others worry that these new agricultural giants may have outsize political power. “They’ll have more ability to lobby governments,” says Phil Howard of Michigan State University, who studies consolidation in the food industry. “They’ll have a lot more power to shape policies that benefit themselves at the expense of consumers and farmers.”

It’s a big story, and not just because Monsanto is such a famous (or infamous, if you prefer) brand. The consolidation of the world’s seed, chemical, and fertilizer industries over the past two decades has been astonishing, with potentially large ripple effects for farms and food systems all over the globe.

Back in 1994, the world’s four biggest seed companies controlled just 21 percent of the market. But in the years since, as crop biotechology advanced, companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and Dupont went on a feeding frenzy, buying up smaller companies and their patents. Today, the top four seed companies and top four agrochemical firms command more than half their respective markets.

The merged corporate giant will exercise even more control of the political and regulatory processes of nations across the globe, something that should worry all of us.