Category Archives: Wealth

Headline of the day: Laws? Who needs ’em?


White House counselor and spokesperson Kellyanne Conway may break the law, but business is business when it comes to the Trumps.

From the London Daily Mail:

‘Go buy Ivanka’s stuff’: Kellyanne breaks federal regulations to shamelessly plug Trump daughter’s fashion line during TV interview after Nordstrom pulled plug on her label

  • White House counselor Kellyanne Conway urged people to purchase Ivanka Trump’s products after Nordstrom pulled the plug on her product line
  • She made her comments from inside the White House 
  • President Donald Trump tweeted this week about Nordstrom treating his daughter Ivanka Trump ‘so unfairly’
  • Last week Nordstrom announced it would not be buying items from Ivanka Trump’s collection for the next season

Citizens United lawyer seeks state law overthrow


Since the infamous Citizens United decision, corporations have been handed a blank check to buy federal elections, and now the attorney who led that legal battle is taking aim at state campaign laws.

If he  wins, laws blocking corporate  contributions in nearly half the nation’s states could be overturned.

And so it becomes clear, in part at least, why the GOP block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

They want it all.

From the Associated Press:

A case involving political “dark money” and the founder of an organization tied to President Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud could lead to a crush of anonymous cash infiltrating elections in the country’s second-largest state, a Democratic lawyer warned the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The nine Republican justices on Texas’ highest civil court heard arguments involving the legality of the state’s ban on corporate contributions, disclosure requirements for political action committees and the question of when a politically active nonprofit should have to disclose its donors like a traditional PAC. Some believe that the case ultimately could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially reshape campaign finance regulations nationwide.

Houston tea party group King Street Patriots, started by Catherine Engelbrecht, has been the focus of a longstanding lawsuit by the Texas Democratic Party accusing the organization of violating state campaign finance laws by engaging in political behavior when it dispatched poll watchers on behalf of the Texas Republican Party during the 2010 election.

But the nonprofit, represented by Indiana attorney James Bopp Jr. — architect of the landmark Citizens United case that opened the door for corporations and unions to make unlimited independent expenditures in U.S. elections — has fired back with a counterclaim challenging numerous provisions of Texas campaign finance law.

Twenty-two states currently prohibit corporations from contributing money to campaigns and candidates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas has no limit on what individuals or political committees can donate to candidates. Corporations statewide, however, are barred from giving money directly to a campaign, though they are allowed to contribute to a political committee set up for a ballot measure or to a state-level Super PAC, which is only allowed to make expenditures independent of candidates.

Headline of the day: Just another boring story


As in boring tunnels.

Beneath Los Angeles.

From the London Daily Mail:

The billionaire so tired of being stuck in traffic he is creating a TUNNEL under LA to get to work: Elon Musk reveals first image of his giant boring machine that will beat congestion

  • He posted the photo with a reference to the popular video game Minecraft
  • Musk first announced the plans while stuck in heavy traffic in December
  • He tweeted: ‘Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging’
  • Musk began digging a trench at SpaceX’s headquarters in California last week
  • Test trench reportedly measures 30 feet (9 metres) wide, 50 feet (15 metres) long, and 15 feet (4.5 metres) deep

And here’s the tweet in question:

blog-musk

After five months living in Los Angeles, we can sympathize with Musk’s road rage, given that a trip to see granddaughter Sadie Rose can take anywhere from twenty minutes to three hours, depending on that state of coagulation on regional freeways.

Quote of the day: The nature of American fascism


From Henry A. Wallace, American’s most progressive vice president, writing in the 9 April 1944 edition of the New York Times, while he was serving as second in command to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Via The Living New Deal:

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

>snip<

In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. . . .The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

Protesters win Mexican gas price hike delay


Following privatization of large parts of the state-owned national oil company, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gave his people a New Year’s present — a twenty percent hike in the price of gasoline.

First, some background.

Big Oil is still smarting over the 18 March 1938 decision of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas to nationalize foreign oil company holdings in the midst of a sometimes violent strike by Mexicans employed by U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil companies.

The result was the creation of Petróleos Mexicanos, better known as Pemex.

In recent decades, as the neoliberal ideology metastasized, aging infrastructure and politically backed corruption took their toll, as new corporate extraction technologies and aging oil fields caught Pemex in a double bind.

Neoliberalism dictated the solution: Privatize.

So in 2014 Peña won congressional backing to sell off the rights to all new oil fields, leaving Pemex with the aging existing fields and those rapidly obsolescing pipelines and refineries.

Stuck with the increasingly costly side of the deal, Peña ordered the price hike.

The gasolinazo [gasoline punch], which now meant a tank of gas cost more than a minimum wage worker’s daily pay, sent Mexicans pouring into the streets, blocking off roads, barricading the U.S. border, and engaging in violent, sometimes lethal, confrontations with police and the military.

And now their actions have borne fruit.

From teleSUR English:

The Mexican government announced late Friday that it would postpone a second scheduled hike in gas prices, known as the ‘gasolinazo’, in response to the massive protests which have taken place since the first price hike at the start of January.

The Secretariat of Finance and Public credit declared that for the next two weeks the maximum prices for both regular gasoline and diesel fuel will remain the same since prices here hiked upwards of 20 percent on Jan. 1 2017.

The announcement came after protests continued to rock Mexico this week over the massive spike in gas prices which has crippled much of Mexico’s economy and led to massive social upheaval.

Since the Jan. 1 ending of fuel subsidies which led to the price hike, more than 500 people have been arrested throughout the country during protests which saw tens of thousands of people taking the streets, hundreds of gas stations closed, and a reported 250 stores looted.

Protests continued Friday and more were expected for Saturday in anticipation of the hike.

“The austerity measures already announced by the Government of the Republic, as well as the recent evolution of the exchange rate and the international price of gasoline, have created the conditions to keep the maximum prices unchanged during the indicated period,” the secretariat said in a statement release on Friday.

Critics have accused Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and other government officials of ransacking Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, which has undergone a gradual privatization process in recent years that has broken up the longstanding monopoly.

Austerity forces Greeks to sell assets abroad


We have consistently held that the whole purpose of austerity regimes implemented and enforced by the world’s institutional lenders has but one goal: The concentrate wealth at the top.

The latest example comes from Greece, where the Troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European Commission have forced the sales of nationally owned transportation systems, healthcare programs, the electric power grid, ports, islands, and other assets.

The austerity regime also forces Greeks to pay more in taxes and fees, while mandating public and private sector pay, pension, and benefit cuts.

So it should come as now surprise that Greeks are being forced to sell their homes, businesses, and other assets to foreing buyers,

From Kathimerini:

The mergers and acquisitions (M&A) chart of Greece in 2016 that PricewaterhouseCoopers presented on Wednesday showed that foreigners have been acquiring assets in Greece while Greeks have generally been selling.

In total last year assets with a combined value of 4.4 billion euros changed hands in 38 transactions. The value level is about two-and-a-half times that recorded in 2015. Sixty-two percent of that amount came from National Bank’s sale of Finansbank in Turkey.

Last year’s M&A crop was dominated by what PwC dubbed “divestment of the systemic banks from their non-core assets.” This divestment fetched about 3.3 billion euros, or 75 percent of all transactions’ value. When the 500 million euros from privatizations (Piraeus Port Authority, Astir Palace etc) are added, then 2016 can be seen as the year of almost compulsory divestment. Without that, the M&A transaction volume would have come to just 600 million euros.

In recent years the M&A cycle has been “incoming,” with PwC analysts noting that foreign buyers are trying to take advantage of the drop in the value of Greek assets, as three in five transactions last year concerned acquisitions of Greek assets by foreign investors.

Republicans rush to sell off our public lands


UPDATE: We found the perfect accompaniment for our story in this editorial cartoon from the Salt Lake Tribune:

Pat Bagley: This Land Was Our Land. . .

BLOG Land.jpg

Donald Trump, who never saw a piece of magnificent scenery as anything other than the site of the next TrumpErection™, some of the nation’s most cherished landscape is merely opportunity waiting to happen.

And so it is that his rapacious Republican cohorts are moving on his campaign promise to see off a hunk chunk of the national commons.

Back on 18 November,m the New York Times reported:

Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.

To environmental groups, it would be a nightmare. To miners, loggers, ranchers and conservative politicians in resource-dependent areas, it would be about time. Either way, Donald J. Trump’s election presages huge potential change on America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands, from the deep seas east of Maine to the volcanic coasts of Hawaii.

“Into a new world,” said Bruce Babbitt, who ran the Interior Department under President Bill Clinton.

In Western states, where about half of all land is controlled by federal agencies, Mr. Trump’s supporters hope the pendulum swings back from what they say are overbearing Obama administration regulations that put sage grouse and owls ahead of economic growth.

Congress rushes to act

Then this on 19 January from the Guardian:

Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.

At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.

In addition to economic stimulus from outdoor activities, federal land creates revenue through oil and gas production, logging and other industrial uses. According to the BLM, in 2016, it made $2bn in royalty revenue from federal leases. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates federal tax revenue from the recreation economy at almost $40bn.

Ignoring those figures, the new language for the House budget, authored by Utah Republican representative Rob Bishop, who has a history of fighting to transfer public land to the states, says that federal land is effectively worthless. Transferring public land to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”

And another blow falls

And then came this, posted 30 January by the Guardian:

Now that Republicans have quietly drawn a path to give away much of Americans’ public land, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced what the Wilderness Society is calling “step two” in the GOP’s plan to offload federal property.

The new piece of legislation would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”.

But many in the 10 states that would lose federal land in the bill disagree, and public land rallies in opposition are bringing together environmentalists and sportsmen across the west.

Set aside for mixed use, BLM land is leased for oil, gas and timber, but is also open to campers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts. As well as providing corridors for gray wolves and grizzly bears, low-lying BLM land often makes up the winter pasture for big game species, such as elk, pronghorn and big-horned sheep.

snip<

Chaffetz introduced the bill alongside a second piece of legislation that would strip the BLM and the US Forest Service of law enforcement capabilities, a move in line with the Utah delegation’s opposition to all federal land management.

“The other bill hamstrings our ability to manage and ensure that our public lands are being kept safe,” said Bobby McEnaney of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “When you have those two combined, it’s a fairly cynical approach to how public lands can be managed.”

We spent the happiest years of our childhood exploring public lands in Colorado, Wyoming,, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, camping out under the stars of in the homemade camper on the back of a Chevrolet pickup.

To see those lands sold off to the looters brings tears to tired old eyes.