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from the Hightower Lowdown

Quotes

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

Dakota Scum--email 9/12/16

Remember the corporation trying to build a pipeline through native land in Dakota?

They've bought a judge who has okayed their plans, despite tribal protests which are growing daily--the biggest gathering of native peoples in a century,

.... and issued an arrest warrant for Dr. Jill Stein, presidential candidate, who was participating in the protest. And now, today's news: Arrest Warrant Issued for Journalist Amy Goodman for Coverage of Dakota Access Pipeline.

As a big corporation, nothing is below these people.

"criminal, n. A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation": Howard Scott

"It is also in the interests of a tyrant to keep his people poor, so that they may not be able to afford the cost of protecting themselves by arms and be so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for rebellion."- Aristotle in Politics, J. Sinclair translation, pg. 226, 1962

"...it is a government by the corporations, for the corporations."--Rutherford B. Hayes19th President of the USA.

"Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.''-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy" ---John Pierpont Morgan

"But that's the whole point of corporatism: to try and remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run -which include production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything-are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public".- Professor Noam Chomsky, interviewed in Corporate Watch

"Can it be believed that the democracy which overthrew the feudal system and vanquished kings will retreat before tradesmen and capitalists?" Alexis de Tocqueville1805-1859

"A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that about 90 percent of the American public believes that big business has too much power" (Matthew Rothschild. "Condolences." The Progressive, Feb, 2006: 4).

"The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitations services and basic education to every person on the planet. And we wonder why terrorists attack us." - John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

"...consumer culture's pseudo-democratic claim that satisfying consumers' every desire was the equivalent of universal justice and fairness. By analyzing and weaving together the export, to Europe, of chain stores, big-brand goods, corporate advertising and PR, the Hollywood star system, the supermarket, and the ideal of the wife as "Mrs. Consumer," de Grazia makes us see the incremental yet sweeping success of consumer culture abroad" (Susan J. Douglas. "Our Favorite Books of 2005." The Progressive, Dec. 2005: 46).

"The ratio of average CEO pay (now $11.8 million) to worker pay (now $27,460) spiked up from 301-to-1 in 2003 to 431-to-1 in 2004, reports United for a Fair Economy. If the minimum wage had risen as fas as CEO pay since 1990, the lowest paid workers in the US would be earning $23.03 an hour today, not $5.15 an hour" ("CEO Inflation." The Progressive, Nov. 2005: 11).

PDA:
Issues Addressed by this Team
Wasteful military spending, nuclear proliferation, the expansion of US Special Forces operations, increasing use of drones for both strikes and surveillance, the continued growth of the US global military presence, human rights abuses, secret training camps, and the use of terrorism as an opportunity for global military expansion.


"Consumers, farmers, environmentalists, and other sane people ''t want the Monsantos to use us as their guinea pigs, so they have already gotten more than 100 local governments to ban GMO crops within their area. This has infuriated the corporate powers, who have spent tons of money to defeat these local bans--but lost. So, for the last couple of years, they've been sneaking off to state legislatures to pass laws (often with no debate) that take aaway our local control over this health issue. To date, 14 states have stripped this decision-making power from local people; corporate lobbyists are moving to take it away from local governments everywhere" (Jim Hightower. "Defense.com." Texas Observer, April 21, 2006: 15).


"I've come across the website of America's largest, oldest, busiest, and most successful corporation. At least, that's how this outfit defines itself. It's not Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, or GM--it's the Pentagon. Go to www.defenselink.mil and you'll find "DoD 101: An introductory overview of the Department of Defense." This official site present the US military not as a government agency, but as a corporation. The Pentagon puffs itself up like a corporation running an image ad. It brags that the DoD is "the nation's largest employer, and that it has the highest level of annual revenues of any company in the country. The site points out that DoD Inc. far outdistances such competitors as Wal-Mart, the number two employer and revenue generator...

"Excuse me, but our government is not a business. It's a government with broad and deep democratic responsibilities that no corporation can achieve. By their very nature, corporations are top-down, hierarchical operations that exist not to serve the public good, but to profit the few. They are anti-democratic, excluding the vast majority of people (including the shareholders) from decision-making. They operate in a closed culture of secrecy and are aggressive expansionists, relying on PR, lawyers, and lobbyists to cover up their waste, fraud, corruption, environmental contamination, and abuse of people. The corporate model is anathema to a free, just, democratic society" (Jim Hightower. "Defense.com." Texas Observer, April 21, 2006: 15).


"...a Kansas corporation called Westar Energy, Inc... wanted an exemption from a federal regulation and hoped to have its exemption slipped into an energy bill.. the [company] Veep bluntly named the price: "The total package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual) and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)." He then identified the four Congress critter who named the price--Reps. Tom DeLay, Joe Barton, Billy Tauzin, and Sen. Richard Shelby. The money was paid--and sure enough, Rep. Barton slipped Westar's exemption into the bill...

And Corporate Reform?

"We're really teaching those high-flying CEOs a lesson in corporate ethics, aren't we? The latest to have to take their medicine are six former top execs at Xerox Corporation. The SEC recently determined that they cooked the company books and illegally inflated profits by $1.4 billion over four years, fraudulently misleading investors and allowing themselves to pocket millions in undeserved personal pay. But the SEC regulators have now socked the slippery-fingered six with $22 million in penalties! But under the sweetheart corporation bylaws, $19 million of this legal assessment will be picked up not by the executives, but by Xerox and its insurance companies --plus, Xerox will pay the legal fees for the six.

"So it's you shareholders of Xerox and you ratepayers of the insurers who'll pick up the bulk of the tab. Ultimately we taxpayers will be hit for it, since Xerox can deduct a chunk from its corporate income tax as a cost of doing business. Crime pays! Paul Allaire, for example, was the Xerox CEO who presided over this shameful ripoff, and he has to pay a million-dollar fine out of his own pocket. That sounds like a serious bit of punishment... until you do the math. The SEC found that he had put $5.7 million worth of fraudulent gain in that pocket during the four-year scam. His haul is a net of $4.7 million--good work if you can get it!"


"That child [sent to Iraq] is ours. He does not belong to the neocons. They ''t care who these kids are. They demand warm bodies to send into this black hole they created. I will spend every breath of my life working to get that lowlife fratboy dragged out of the White House in chains.." (Letters. The Nation. April 5, 2004, 23).


"...while hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqies have died in the combat for dubious objectives, American corporate interests are rollicking as they count their war profits...

"The corporate free-for-all has proven to be quite expensive for U.S. taxpayers. We pay American engineers 10 times the amount normally charged by their Iraqi counterparts.

"...the administration... has jettisoned basic safeguards like competition and supervision that are needed to protect the public interest" ("A Corporate Free-For-All Becomes a Fee for All." The Washington Spectator. July 15, 2004: 1).

"Now five former employees and one former executive have come forward to describe serious examples of Halliburton's waste and fraud in Iraq...

"...brand-new trucks worth $85,000 were aban'ed if they got a flat tire or experienced minor mechanical problems.

"...employees spent weeks in Iraq with virtually nothing to do, they were instructed to bill 12-hour days 7 days a week on their time sheets.

"...rampant overcharging and mismanagement... the company refused to comply with the Army's request to move its employees from a five-star hotel in Kuwait -- which cost U.S. taxpayers about $10,000 a day -- into air-conditioned tent facilities that cost less than $600 a day... total losses due to waste and fraud... could amount to billions" ("A Corporate Free-For-All Becomes a Fee for All." The Washington Spectator. July 15, 2004: 3).


"Fact is that Nike doesn't lower the price on its shoes just because it pays workers in Indo-someplace a dollar a day, instead of the $10 an hour it used to pay U.S. workers. No, Nike simply pockets their savings. Also, if "Momma" hadn't had her middle-class job offshored by the likes of Nike, she wouldn't be poor---and then she could afford those $50 shoes made in America" (Jim Hightower. Hightower Lowdown. June 2004: 2).


"...Syracuse University analyzed IRS data and found a sharp decline in action against corporate tax cheats under Bush, with fewer audits, fewer prosecutions, and fewer penalties... IRS audits of the largest corporations have fallen almost by half" (Jim Hightower. The hightower Lowdown, June 2004:4).


"Every December for the past nineteen years, marchers in Bhopal, India, have paraded an iffigy of Warren Anderson through town and burned it. Anderson is despised because he was the CEO of Union Carbide on December 3, 1984, when an explosion at the company's Bhopal factory leaked deadly methyl isocyanate gas over the city's shantytowns in the worst industrial disaster in history. The exact death toll will never be known -- many corpses were disposed of in emergency mass burials or cremations without adequate documentation -- but the Indian government now puts the total at more than 22,000 and climbing...

"...Bee and Shukla are leading the fight to hold Union Carbide and its new owner, Dow Chemical, accountable for the Bhopal disaster, which the two women assert is still killing and injuring thousands of people a year through poisoned groundwater... A 1999 study commissioned by Greepeace International but conducted by independent scientists concluded that Bhopal's groundwater contains heavy metals, volatile chemicals and levels of mercury millions of timems higher than is considered safe...

"...an Indian court reinstated criminal charges against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson in 1991. When neither the corporation nor Anderson showed up for trial, they were declared fugitives from justice. The Indian government is now seeking their extradition, but Washington has not honored the request..." (Mark Hertsgaard. "Bhopal's Legacy." The Nation, May 24, 2004: 6-7).


"In early 2002, Erle Nye was the toast of the business world. As chief executive of TXU, he had managed to keep the Dallas-based, multibillion-dollar energy firm healthy and profitable at a time when many other energy companies stewed in disarray...

"But despite all the happy talk, TXU was actually careening toward bankruptcy. Just three months after that upbeat July earnings report, TXU abruptly disclosed that its European subsidiary had glaring financial problems. Executives were forced to sell off the European outfit at a $4 billion loss. The price of TXU stock plummeted 75 percent, and many elderly shareholders saw their life savings vanish in a matter of days...

"One of the lawsuits... is a whistleblower claim filed by a former TXU senior vice president. It is believed to be the first case to test the whistleblower protections of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed by Congress in response to the Enron fiasco. If the accusations are correct, then TXU violated the very laws designed to prevent another Enron..." (Dave Mann. "Power Players." Texas Observer, 9/10/04: 4-7)


"The coup d'etats of the twenty-first century will follow the Argentine model, in which the international banks seize the financial lifeblood of a nation, making the official presidential title holder merely inconsequential except as a factotum of the corporate agenda" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 199).

Venezuela represented a threatening example that could not be allowed to succeed" (199).

"An lastly, there is the all-important propaganda war aimed at U.S. citizens to ensure that Americans remain ignorant and quiescent when a democratically elected president is assassinated, overthrown or houded from office" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 200).


"America regulates industry like no other nation on Earth -- and for good reason. America tried it the other way, hoping the marketplace would reward enlightened producers and drive out the rogues. Not a chance...

"Andrew Jackson ran for president on the platform of outlawing that dangerous new concoction called the "corporations"" (227).

"Jackson and his ally, Thomas Jefferson, feared this faceless, heartless creature made of stock certificates. Before the advent of the stockholder corporation, business owners had names and faces. They could be held personally accountable for their evils before courts or mobs... But, ran Jackson's manifest, "Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn." President Jackson could not stop the corporate dreadnought. Instead... Jackson established government regulation as the means by which the democracy would impose a sense of morality upon these amoral entities" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 228).


"Victims' rights are under attack. Waving the banner of "Tort Reform," corporate America has funded an ad campaign portraying enterpreneurs held hostage by frivolous lawsuits. But proposed remedies stink of special exemptions from justice...

"The tort reformers' line is that fee-hungry lawyers are hawking bogus fears, poisoning Americans' faith in the basic decency of the business community..." (235).

"...the massive increase in litigation has a single cause: a corporate civil crime wave" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 233).


"Since 2001 corporate profits are up 70 percent, and CEOs are diverting America's investment capital into buying out their competitors, shrinking both jobs and consumer choice" (Ed. by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. "More Brand Names Behind the Bush Agenda." Hightower Lowdown, Feb., 2005: 3).


"These days, we tend to take the principle of limited liability [corporate owners and managers are not held responsible for the crimes they commit] for granted. However, for a few centuries after its invention in the sixteenth century... it tended to be regarded with great suspicion...

"Adam Smith argued that limited liability would lead to shirking by managers... an important cause of financial speculation. Britain banned the formation of new limited liability companies on these grounds with the Bubble Act of 1720...

"...limited liability provides one of the most powerful mechanisms to "socialize risk" [read "steal from the common people"], which has made possible investments in unprecedented scale. That is why, despite its potential to creatte "moral hazard," all societies have come to accept limited liability as a cornerstone of modern corporate governance" (86)...

Anti-Trust Laws

"Contrary to what is assumed in much current literature on the subject, corporate governance is not simply a matter internal to the corporation in question. Actions by very large firms with significant market power can have consequences for the whole economy... In this context, corporate governance becomes a matter for society as a whole...

"...the most easily identifiable institution of "societal" corporate governance, namely, competition law (anti-monopoly and/or anti-trust legislation)...

"The USA was the pioneer in "modern" competition law... the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890... it was in fact mainly used against labour unionsrather than against large corporations" (Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder: Developement Strategy in Historical Perspective. Lon': Anthem Press, 2002. page 91).


"The world's largest gold mining company has gone on trial in In'esia accused of dumping millions of tonnes of mercury and arsenic-based pollutants in a picturesque bay, causing villagers to develop skin diseases.

"The case against the US-owned Newmont Mining Company is being closely watched by investors and environmentalists, who are waiting to see whether the In'esian government will be prepared to punish a multinational company" (John Aglionby. "Gold mining giant in court." Guardian Weekly, Aug. 12, 2005: 10).


"Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, was jailed for 25 years for his role in the $11bn fraud that drove the US firm into the largest bankruptcy in corporate history...

"Enron agreed to pay up to $1.5bn to settl allegations that it manipulated the energy markets for its own gain during the blackout crisis of 2000-01 on America's west coast("News In Brief." Guardian Weekly, July 28, 2005: 27). [Corporations claimed legal personhood, so why isn't Enron--or at least its officers and board of trustees--in jail for such highjinks?]


"Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is buying Miami-based Ivax Corp for $7.4bn to create the world's largest generic drug company" ("News in Brief." Guardian Weekly, Aug.4, 2005: 25).


"The recent conflict over what America eats, and the way the government promotes food, is a disturbing example of how in Bush's America corporate interests trump public health, public opinion and plain old common sense...

"...July 14-15, when the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on childhood obesity and food marketing... FTC chair Deborah Majoras had declared beforehand that the commission will do absolutely nothing to stop the rising flood of junk food advertising to children. In June the Department of Agriculture denied a request from our group Commercial Alert to enforce existing rules forbidding mealtime sales in school cafeterias of "foods of minimal nutritional value"--ie., junk foods and soda pop...

"...late 2001, when a Surgeon General's report called obesity an "epidemic"...

"... the President's Council on Physical Fitness... partners with... Coca-Cola, Burger King, General Mills, Pepsico and other blue chip members of the "obesity lobby"...

"Not a lot of subtlety is required to understand what's driving Administration policy. It's large infusions of cash...

"For their money, the industry has been able to buy into a strategy on obesity and food marketing that mirrors the approach taken by Big Tobacco... denial that the problem (obesity) is caused by the product (junk food). Instead, lack of exercise is fingered as the culprit... the fault not of food marketers but of parents" (Gary Ruskin and Juliet Schor. "Junk Food Nation." The Nation, Sep. 5, 2005: 15-17).


"Over the course of about twenty years, Texaco dumped some 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste into Ecuador's lakes and streams, contaminating groundwater, rivers and fisheries and causing hundreds of Ecuadorians to die of strange cancers, according to the plaintiffs. Their lawyers and scientific experts insist it's the worst oil-related contamination in the world today--thirty times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill" (Daphne Eviatar. "The high cost of oil." The Nation, Aug. 8, 2005: 28).


"Within the corporate culture in general, achievement is no longer connected to reward or failure to punishment. CEOs routinely see their earnings rise by millions while their companies' stock plummets. Meanwhile, at lower levels in the hierarchy, white collar folks get laid off simply because they have been successful enough to make their salaries a tempting cost cut. Thus, the relationship between accomplishments and success seems to have been inverted. "Wall Stree has traditionally rewarded people who succeeded," a consultant on executive pay tole The New York Times. "Now they are rewarding people who fail"" (Barbara Ehrenreich. "Perverse Rewards." The Progressive, Sep. 2005: 20-21).


Getty Museum Knowingly Buys Stolen Art

"The world's richest art institution knowingly bought scores of archaeological treasures looted from Italy, it has been alleged.

"Despite being warned as far back as 1985 that dealers were selling stolen goods, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles continued to buy them. The practice continued for so long that, according to the museum's internal review, almost half the masterpieces in its antiquities collection are likely to have been acquired illegally.

"New evidence of the scale of what Italy is calling "the Getty scandal" emerged on Monday, painting a picture of the favulously wealthy institution riding roughshod over a ban on taking Italy's historic treasures out of the country" (Barbara McMahon. "Getty Museum 'knowlingly bought archaeological treasures stolen from Italy'". Guardian Weekly, Sep. 30: 7).






News Articles

The One-Choice Election

By Chris Hedges March 09, 2020 "Information Clearing House"

There is only one choice in this election. The consolidation of oligarchic power under Donald Trump or the consolidation of oligarchic power under Joe Biden. The oligarchs, with Trump or Biden, will win again. We will lose.

The oligarchs made it abundantly clear, should Bernie Sanders miraculously become the Democratic Party nominee, they would join forces with the Republicans to crush him. Trump would, if Sanders was the nominee, instantly be shorn by the Democratic Party elites of his demons and his propensity for tyranny. Sanders would be red-baited -- as he was viciously Friday in The New York Times’ “As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity” -- and turned into a figure of derision and ridicule. The oligarchs preach the sermon of the least-worst to us when they attempt to ram a Hillary Clinton or a Biden down our throats but ignore it for themselves. They prefer Biden over Trump, but they can live with either.

Only one thing matters to the oligarchs. It is not democracy. It is not truth. It is not the consent of the governed. It is not income inequality. It is not the surveillance state. It is not endless war. It is not jobs. It is not the climate. It is the primacy of corporate power -- which has extinguished our democracy and left most of the working class in misery -- and the continued increase and consolidation of their wealth.

It is impossible working within the system to shatter the hegemony of oligarchic power or institute meaningful reform. Change, real change, will only come by sustained acts of civil disobedience and mass mobilization, as with the yellow vests movement in France and the British-based Extinction Rebellion. The longer we are fooled by the electoral burlesque, the more disempowered we will become.

Time to Rebel, TruthDig

I was on the streets with protesters in Philadelphia outside the appropriately named Wells Fargo Center during the 2016 Democratic Convention when hundreds of Sanders delegates walked out of the hall. “Show me what democracy looks like!" they chanted, holding Bernie signs above their heads as they poured out of the exits. “This is what democracy looks like!"

Sanders’ greatest tactical mistake was not joining them. He bowed before the mighty altar of the corporate state. He had desperately tried to stave off a revolt by his supporters and delegates on the eve of the convention by sending out repeated messages in his name -- most of them authored by members of the Clinton campaign -- to be respectful, not disrupt the nominating process and support Clinton. Sanders was a dutiful sheepdog, attempting to herd his disgruntled supporters into the embrace of the Clinton campaign. At his moment of apostasy, when he introduced a motion to nominate Clinton, his delegates had left hundreds of convention seats empty.

After the 2016 convention, Sanders held rallies -- the crowds pitifully small compared to what he had drawn when he ran as an insurgent -- on Clinton’s behalf. He returned to the Senate to loyally line up behind Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose power comes from his ability to funnel tens of millions of dollars in corporate and Wall Street money to anointed Democratic candidates. Sanders refused to support the lawsuit brought against the Democratic National Committee for rigging the primaries against him. He endorsed Democratic candidates who espoused the neoliberal economic and political positions he claims to oppose. Sanders, who calls himself an independent, caucused as a Democrat. The Democratic Party determined his assignments in the Senate. Schumer offered to make Sanders the head of the Senate Budget Committee if the Democrats won control of the Senate. Sanders became a party apparatchik.

Sanders apparently believed that if he was obsequious enough to the Democratic Party elite, they would give him a chance in 2020, a chance they denied him in 2016. Politics, I suspect he would argue, is about compromise and the practical. This is true. But playing politics in a system that is not democratic is about being complicit in the charade. Sanders misread the Democratic Party leadership, swamp creatures of the corporate state. He misread the Democratic Party, which is a corporate mirage. Its base can, at best, select preapproved candidates and act as props at rallies and in choreographed party conventions. The Democratic Party voters have zero influence on party politics or party policies. Sanders’ naivete, and perhaps his lack of political courage, drove away his most committed young supporters. These followers have not forgiven him for his betrayal. They chose not to turn out to vote in the numbers he needs in the primaries. They are right. He is wrong.

We need to overthrow the system, not placate it.

Sanders is wounded. The oligarchs will go in for the kill. They will subject him to the same character assassination, aided by the courtiers in the corporate press, that was directed at Henry Wallace in 1948 and George McGovern in 1972, the only two progressive presidential candidates who managed to seriously threaten the ruling elites since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The feckless liberal class, easily frightened, is already abandoning Sanders, castigating his supporters with their nauseating self-righteousness and championing Biden as a political savior.

Trump and Biden are repugnant figures, doddering into old age with cognitive lapses and no moral cores. Is Trump more dangerous than Biden? Yes. Is Trump more inept and more dishonest? Yes. Is Trump more of a threat to the open society? Yes. Is Biden the solution? No.

March 09, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - There is only one choice in this election. The consolidation of oligarchic power under Donald Trump or the consolidation of oligarchic power under Joe Biden. The oligarchs, with Trump or Biden, will win again. We will lose. The oligarchs made it abundantly clear, should Bernie Sanders miraculously become the Democratic Party nominee, they would join forces with the Republicans to crush him. Trump would, if Sanders was the nominee, instantly be shorn by the Democratic Party elites of his demons and his propensity for tyranny. Sanders would be red-baited -- as he was viciously Friday in The New York Times’ “As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity” -- and turned into a figure of derision and ridicule. The oligarchs preach the sermon of the least-worst to us when they attempt to ram a Hillary Clinton or a Biden down our throats but ignore it for themselves. They prefer Biden over Trump, but they can live with either.

Only one thing matters to the oligarchs. It is not democracy. It is not truth. It is not the consent of the governed. It is not income inequality. It is not the surveillance state. It is not endless war. It is not jobs. It is not the climate. It is the primacy of corporate power -- which has extinguished our democracy and left most of the working class in misery -- and the continued increase and consolidation of their wealth. It is impossible working within the system to shatter the hegemony of oligarchic power or institute meaningful reform. Change, real change, will only come by sustained acts of civil disobedience and mass mobilization, as with the yellow vests movement in France and the British-based Extinction Rebellion. The longer we are fooled by the electoral burlesque, the more disempowered we will become.

I was on the streets with protesters in Philadelphia outside the appropriately named Wells Fargo Center during the 2016 Democratic Convention when hundreds of Sanders delegates walked out of the hall. “Show me what democracy looks like!" they chanted, holding Bernie signs above their heads as they poured out of the exits. “This is what democracy looks like!"

Sanders’ greatest tactical mistake was not joining them. He bowed before the mighty altar of the corporate state. He had desperately tried to stave off a revolt by his supporters and delegates on the eve of the convention by sending out repeated messages in his name -- most of them authored by members of the Clinton campaign -- to be respectful, not disrupt the nominating process and support Clinton. Sanders was a dutiful sheepdog, attempting to herd his disgruntled supporters into the embrace of the Clinton campaign. At his moment of apostasy, when he introduced a motion to nominate Clinton, his delegates had left hundreds of convention seats empty.

After the 2016 convention, Sanders held rallies -- the crowds pitifully small compared to what he had drawn when he ran as an insurgent -- on Clinton’s behalf. He returned to the Senate to loyally line up behind Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose power comes from his ability to funnel tens of millions of dollars in corporate and Wall Street money to anointed Democratic candidates. Sanders refused to support the lawsuit brought against the Democratic National Committee for rigging the primaries against him. He endorsed Democratic candidates who espoused the neoliberal economic and political positions he claims to oppose. Sanders, who calls himself an independent, caucused as a Democrat. The Democratic Party determined his assignments in the Senate. Schumer offered to make Sanders the head of the Senate Budget Committee if the Democrats won control of the Senate. Sanders became a party apparatchik.

Sanders apparently believed that if he was obsequious enough to the Democratic Party elite, they would give him a chance in 2020, a chance they denied him in 2016. Politics, I suspect he would argue, is about compromise and the practical. This is true. But playing politics in a system that is not democratic is about being complicit in the charade. Sanders misread the Democratic Party leadership, swamp creatures of the corporate state. He misread the Democratic Party, which is a corporate mirage. Its base can, at best, select preapproved candidates and act as props at rallies and in choreographed party conventions. The Democratic Party voters have zero influence on party politics or party policies. Sanders’ naivete, and perhaps his lack of political courage, drove away his most committed young supporters. These followers have not forgiven him for his betrayal. They chose not to turn out to vote in the numbers he needs in the primaries. They are right. He is wrong. We need to overthrow the system, not placate it.

Sanders is wounded. The oligarchs will go in for the kill. They will subject him to the same character assassination, aided by the courtiers in the corporate press, that was directed at Henry Wallace in 1948 and George McGovern in 1972, the only two progressive presidential candidates who managed to seriously threaten the ruling elites since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The feckless liberal class, easily frightened, is already abandoning Sanders, castigating his supporters with their nauseating self-righteousness and championing Biden as a political savior.

Trump and Biden are repugnant figures, doddering into old age with cognitive lapses and no moral cores. Is Trump more dangerous than Biden? Yes. Is Trump more inept and more dishonest? Yes. Is Trump more of a threat to the open society? Yes. Is Biden the solution? No.

Biden represents the old neoliberal order. He personifies the betrayal by the Democratic Party of working men and women that sparked the deep hatred of the ruling elites across the political spectrum. He is a gift to a demagogue and con artist like Trump, who at least understands that these elites are detested. Biden cannot plausibly offer change. He can only offer more of the same. And most Americans do not want more of the same. The country’s largest voting-age bloc, the 100 million-plus citizens who out of apathy or disgust do not vote, will once again stay home. This demoralization of the electorate is by design. It will, I expect, give Trump another term in office.

By voting for Biden, you endorse the humiliation of courageous women such as Anita Hill who confronted their abusers. You vote for the architects of the endless wars in the Middle East. You vote for the apartheid state in Israel. You vote for wholesale surveillance of the public by government intelligence agencies and the abolition of due process and habeas corpus. You vote for austerity programs, including the destruction of welfare and cuts to Social Security. You vote for NAFTA, free trade deals, de-industrialization, a decline in wages, the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs and the offshoring of jobs to underpaid workers who toil in sweatshops in China or Vietnam. You vote for the assault on public education and the transfer of federal funds to for-profit and Christian charter schools. You vote for the doubling of our prison population, the tripling and quadrupling of sentences and huge expansion of crimes meriting the death penalty. You vote for militarized police who gun down poor people of color with impunity. You vote against the Green New Deal and immigration reform. You vote for limiting a woman’s right to abortion and reproductive rights. You vote for a segregated public-school system in which the wealthy receive educational opportunities and poor people of color are denied a chance. You vote for punitive levels of student debt and the inability to free yourself of debt obligations through bankruptcy. You vote for deregulating the banking industry and the abolition of Glass-Steagall. You vote for the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical corporations and against universal health care. You vote for bloated defense budgets. You vote for the use of unlimited oligarchic and corporate money to buy our elections. You vote for a politician who during his time in the Senate abjectly served the interests of MBNA, the largest independent credit card company headquartered in Delaware, which also employed Biden’s son Hunter.

There are no substantial political differences between the Democrats and Republicans. We have only the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and their liberal apologists adopt tolerant positions on issues regarding race, religion, immigration, women’s rights and sexual identity and pretend this is politics. The right wing uses those on the margins of society as scapegoats. The culture wars mask the reality. Both parties are full partners in the reconfiguration of American society into a form of neofeudalism. It only depends on how you want it dressed up.

“By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes” that it can make their interests a priority, the Democratic Party “pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system," political philosopher Sheldon Wolin writes.

The Democrats will once again offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate totalitarianism. What the public wants and deserves will again be ignored for what the corporate lobbyists demand. If we do not respond soon to the social and economic catastrophe that has been visited on most of the population, we will be unable to thwart the rise of corporate tyranny and a Christian fascism.

We need to reintegrate those who have been pushed aside back into the society, to heal the ruptured social bonds, to give workers dignity, empowerment and protection. We need a universal health care system, especially as we barrel toward a global pandemic. We need programs that provide employment with sustainable wages, job protection and pensions. We need quality public education for all Americans. We need to rebuild our infrastructure and end the squandering of our resources on war. We need to halt corporate pillage and regulate Wall Street and corporations. We need to respond with radical and immediate measures to curb carbon emissions and save ourselves from ecocide and extinction. We don’t need a “Punch and Judy” show between Trump and Biden. But that, along with corporate tyranny, is what we seem fated to get, unless we take to the streets and tear the house down.

Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. https://www.truthdig.com/author/chris_hedges/

Corporations are Human Creations. We Can't Let Them Threaten Our Survival, 3-9-20

The concentration of corporate power is driving us toward catastrophe. We need new organizational models that serve the common good.

We live in a world in extreme crisis. By the estimates of the Global Footprint Network, the human species currently consumes at a rate 1.7 times what Earth’s regenerative systems can sustain. Yet billions of people face a daily struggle for survival that strips them of happiness and fulfillment of their human potential.

A growing concentration of financial wealth puts ever more political power in the hands of fewer and fewer people. According to Oxfam, twenty-six billionaires now hold personal financial assets greater than those of the poorest half of humanity (3.9 billion people).

This rapidly accelerating environmental and social crisis is a direct and predictable consequence of global rules that facilitate a concentration of economic and political power in corporations—rules that provide minimum accountability for the consequences of how they use that power to monopolize markets, evade taxes, and operate in whatever place offers the cheapest labor and least environmental protections.

As Allen White has correctly noted, appeals to corporations to exercise conscientious self-regulation do not work. The reason is simple. Mentally healthy living humans have a conscience. Corporations are constructs of law. They have no conscience beyond whatever responsibilities the law may require of them—backed by strict enforcement.

Corporations that are under the control of individual humans—rather than the financial markets—may act responsibly when those individuals possess a deep concern for the common good. Such corporations, however, are rare – at least among those of any consequential size.

Most large corporations are captives of financial markets that drive the pursuit of short-term financial gain with no concern for the social or environmental consequences. Not only do they fail to serve the common good, but they are also driving us all toward civilizational collapse. Indeed, they are driving us toward human self-extinction.

These conditions create an imperative for urgent structural change. Fortunately, corporations are entirely human creations. Indeed, there is no equivalent in nature. If they do not serve our needs, humans have both the right and the means to change—even eliminate—them.

Corporate purpose

Allen White notes there was a time in the early United States when corporations were chartered only for a specific length of time to fulfill a designated public purpose, such as to build a bridge or a canal. The former colonies had fought a brutal war to gain their freedom from the abuses of imperial rule, including the state-sanctioned monopoly power of the British East India Company. They were acutely aware of the potentials for abuse of corporate power, and they wanted none of it.

Despite that early public awareness, corporate interests have been able to mount a relentless drive for power that has, over time, reduced US democracy to little more than an aspiration. Indeed, the United States has become a global driver of the processes by which global corporations pursue with impunity the destruction of Earth’s capacity to support life. And ironically, they do so for the primary purpose of growing the fortunes of billionaires.

It is worth remembering that a corporation exists only when a government has issued a charter. There is no legitimate reason for any democratically accountable government to issue a corporate charter other than to serve a public purpose. Similarly, there is no legitimate reason why a corporation chartered by one government jurisdiction has any inherent right thereby to do business in any other jurisdiction unless granted that privilege by the people of that jurisdiction through their government.

That current law contradicts these simple truths is a consequence of corporate interests’ ability to manipulate the legal system.

Current rules governing corporate conduct encourage and reward what should be treated as criminal behavior. Consider the following examples:

1. They allow corporations to reap the rewards of their decisions without bearing the full costs. For example, when they evade paying taxes, they evade paying their fair share of the costs of infrastructure, education, or other essentials of doing business.

2. They allow the corporation to assess value only in terms of financial costs and returns, thus ignoring the need to secure the health of Earth’s regenerative systems on which all life depends.

3. They allow corporations to use their enormous financial resources and centralized decision-making to shape public opinion and pressure politicians to assure that laws favor corporate interests instead of public interests.

Calls for corporate responsibility generally assume that those who work for corporations, especially top management, are free to exercise moral responsibility on behalf of the corporation should they choose to do so. This ignores an important reality. Unless they own the corporation, those who lead a corporation only appear to be in charge. They serve only at the pleasure of financiers who compete for control of any corporation that is not taking full advantage of opportunities to maximize profits – which often means externalizing costs. Business in service to community

Science is coming to recognize what many indigenous people have long understood: life exists – can only exist – in diverse communities of living beings that self-organize to create and maintain the conditions of their own existence. The concept is captured by the South African term ubuntu, which translates to “I am because we are."

This basic frame of how life organizes is demonstrated in a very personal way by the human body. For each of us, our body consists of tens of trillions of cells and micro-organisms that self-organize beyond our conscious awareness to create and maintain the vessel of our consciousness and the vehicle of our agency. On a far grander scale, the countless living organisms that comprise Earth’s community of life similarly self-organize to create the conditions on this planet essential to life’s existence.

The purpose of all human institutions—including corporations—must be to serve human well-being and the health of the planet on which we all depend.

Trying to set and enforce rules at a global level to force transnational corporations to serve the people and planet they were created and designed to exploit would be an exercise as futile as a call for voluntary responsibility. Any global institution created to implement such rules will be subject to nearly instant co-option by the very corporations it is created to control.

A better solution is to break up transnational corporations and restructure them in ways that assure community accountability. How this might be done to best serve the well-being of people and Earth is a topic worthy of serious discussion, with implications well beyond the corporation.

With few exceptions, humans have fallen into a pattern of organizing around hierarchical institutions that centralize power. Capitalism vs. socialism is a false choice specifically because both, as currently understood and practiced, centralize rather than distribute power. Thus, they diminish local control and responsibility and suppress essential local adaptation to changing local conditions. Electing the leaders who head those institutions is only a partial corrective.

Our challenge in learning to function as a global society dependent on the health of a living Earth is to learn to organize as life organizes – within holonic structures that self-organize from the bottom up in response to constantly changing local conditions, with the support of higher system levels. It is a frame for which we barely have the language needed for a coherent discussion. Yet it is the way that life has organized since life first emerged. And it is the way we must now learn to organize.

The closest human approximations would probably be the organizational forms common to most indigenous societies. In the business sector of contemporary societies, they might be the varied forms of cooperative organization based on cooperative ownership.

The work of developing creative options would be a fitting challenge for schools of management interested in creating organizational models for the new human civilization we must now create together.

Dr. David Korten is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and PhD degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. - "Source"

V Top 10 Ridiculous Examples of Corporate Greed

Income inequality is rising so fast our data can’t keep up, 2-21-19

(Illustration by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post/Illustration
by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post)

Wages at the top of the income distribution continue to rise much more rapidly than wages for everyone else, according to an analysis of the latest federal data by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.

But the data are just as notable for what they don’t say, according to the report by EPI economist Elise Gould. Increases in wages at the top are outpacing economists’ ability to measure them because the federal survey tracking the wage data “top-codes” the highest earnings amounts: For confidentiality reasons, wages are fully recorded only up to a certain threshold. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, which jointly administer the survey, haven’t changed that threshold in 20 years, even as top incomes have skyrocketed. As a result, the survey is capturing less information on top pay than it used to.

Democratic Rep. Casten forces Wells Fargo CEO to admit Republican tax cuts covered fraud fines, 3-12-19 WP

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan is being questioned by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. Sloan is the first of probably many banking heads to be brought in to meet with the Democratically controlled House to discuss the economic status of the banking industry right now. Democratic Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois asked Sloan whether his bank’s series of fraudulent actions, costing U.S. citizens billions of dollars, were being washed away by the Republican tax cuts.

email from Corporate Accountability, 1-31-19

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Lagos, Nigeria, water corporations are looking to profit from our most basic and necessary right: clean water at affordable rates. And when corporations privatize water systems all too often rates go up, workers’ rights are trampled, and cost-cutting measures pad corporate profits while jeopardizing human health and safety.

That’s why we partnered with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria to convene a national summit on the human right to water that just wrapped up yesterday in Abuja, Nigeria.

Water justice campaigners, policy experts, allied organizations, and government officials from Nigeria, the U.S., and around the globe gathered to discuss strategies to ensure that corporations can’t profit from our most basic human right: water.

By connecting people and strategy from crucial sites for water justice around the world, we began to chart a path forward: for victory in Lagos and for the global campaign advancing the human right to water.

HOLDING EXXON ACCOUNTABLE

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected Exxon’s latest attempt to avoid accountability for its decades of climate deception. It ruled in favor of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, clearing the way for a probe of Exxon’s internal documents to unearth exactly how it misled the public and policymakers on climate change. This is a huge victory for the movement to protect democracy and our climate from Big Polluters -- and we need more states involved. Urge your state’s attorney general to join the investigation into what #ExxonKnew. Or, if you live in Massachusetts, thank Attorney General Healey for her leadership.

STOPPING BIG COAL'S TAKEOVER OF THE EPA

Andrew Wheeler, Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is yet another corporate shill, this time for none other than the coal industry. He spent years working as a lobbyist for the largest coal mining conglomerate in the United States. On his watch, the EPA will complete its transformation into the Environmental Pollution Agency, allowing polluters to destroy our planet for profit. You can stop Big Polluters’ takeover of the EPA. Urge your senator: Vote NO on Andrew Wheeler.

RAISING OUR VOICES TO RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE

While huge corporations rake in record profits, their workers struggle to make ends meet. Corporations, and the politicians they hold sway over, have blocked any attempt to raise the U.S. federal minimum wage for over 10 years, resulting in wages that don’t keep pace with the cost of living. But a growing movement of workers has raised their voices to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage. And thanks to their organizing, there’s a bill in Congress right now that would do just that. Urge your members of Congress to take action and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Where Is The Outrage Over Corporate Welfare? Forbes by David Brunori

I recently read the February 24 Good Jobs First report, “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent," by Philip Mattera, a respected thought leader in our business. It says that three-quarters of all state economic development subsidies went to just 965 corporations since the beginning of the study in 1976. The Fortune 500 corporations alone accounted for more than 16,000 subsidy awards, worth $63 billion – mostly in the form of tax breaks.

Think about that. The largest, wealthiest, most powerful organizations in the world are on the public dole. Where is the outrage? Back when I was young, people went into a frenzy at the thought of some unemployed person using food stamps to buy liquor or cigarettes. Ronald Reagan famously campaigned against welfare queens. The right has always been obsessed with moochers. But Boeing receives $13 billion in government handouts and everyone yawns, when conservatives should be grabbing their pitchforks.

According to Good Jobs First, there are 514 economic development programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 245,000 awards have been granted under those programs. I ask again, where is the outrage? The system is antithetical to the idea of free markets. A quarter of a million times, state governments decided what is best for producers and consumers. That should make us cringe.

But more importantly, those 514 economic development programs are almost all the result of insidious cronyism. Narrow business interests manipulate government policymakers, and those interests prosper to the detriment of everyone else. Free markets be damned.

And while I’m looking for outrage, where are the liberals? The 965 companies in the report received over $110 billion of public money. Berkshire Hathaway, a company with $485 billion in assets and $20 billion in profits, received over $1 billion of that money. Its chair, Warren Buffett, is worth about $58 billion. Buffett, by the way, is still a darling of the left. He has some nerve to call for higher taxes. The billion dollars his companies took would pay for a lot of teachers, healthcare, and other public goods.

I don’t blame the corporations. They act rationally. If someone gives you $1 billion, you take it. The blame lies with us. The sheer size of the corporate welfare system should spark outrage whether we are conservatives, liberals, or libertarians. And that outrage should be reflected in how we vote. In the meantime, kudos to Good Jobs First for continuing to highlight this problem.

The Monsanto–Bayer tie-up is just one of seven; Mega-Mergers and Big Data Domination Threaten Seeds, Food Security GMI

Policymakers could still block the agribiz mergers; peasants and farmers will continue the fight for seeds and rights.

Wednesday’s confirmation that Monsanto and Bayer have agreed to a $66 billion merger is just the latest of four M&A announcements, but at least three more game-changing mergers are in play (and flying under the radar). The acquisition activity is no longer just about seeds and pesticides but about global control of agricultural inputs and world food security.

Anti-competition regulators should block these mergers everywhere, and particularly in the emerging markets of the Global South, as the new mega companies will greatly expand their power and outcompete national enterprises. Four of the world’s top 10 agrochemical purchasing countries are in the global South and account for 28% of the world market.[1] If some of these throw up barriers, shareholders will rebel against the deals regardless of decisions in Washington or Brussels.

"These deals are not just about seeds and pesticides, but also about who will control Big Data in agriculture," says Pat Mooney of ETC Group, an International Civil Society Organization headquartered in Canada that monitors agribusiness and agricultural technologies. "The company that can dominate seed, soil and weather data and crunch new genomics information will inevitably gain control of global agricultural inputs – seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and farm machinery."

Neth Daño, ETC's Asia Director, continues, "Farmers and regulators should be watching out for the seventh M&amb;A – John Deere and Company’s bid to merge its Big Data expertise with Monsanto-owned Precision Planting LLD. After the Bayer-Monsanto merger, it's not clear whether Precision Planting will go to Deere and Co. or if Bayer will protect its future in agricultural data." Daño, based in the Philippines, points out that "Deere started connecting its farm machinery to GPS in 2001 and since then has invested heavily in sensors that can track and adjust seed, pesticide and fertilizer inputs meter by meter. The company has 15 years of historic data as well as access to terabytes of other weather, production and market data. Quite literally, Deere and the other farm machinery companies (the top three account for half of the world market) own the box in which the other input enterprises have to dump their products. That means Deere also owns the information."

Silvia Ribeiro, Director of ETC's Latin American office, agrees that the latest news confirming Monsanto agreement has "created alarm throughout Latin America and raised big concerns about increased input prices, more privatization of research and huge pressure from these Giant companies to make laws and regulations in our countries that allow them to dominate markets, crush farmers' rights and make peasant seeds illegal."

Ethiopia – A Case Study in Take-Over by Western Interests By Peter Koenig, September 11, 2018

Ethiopia is a landlocked country, bordering on Somalia which is dominating the Horn of Africa. Due to several border conflicts during the past decades with Somalia, many of them supportive of Ethiopia by the US military, the border between the two countries has become porous and ill-defined. Ethiopia is also bordering on Djibouti, where the United States has a Naval Base, Camp Lemonnier, next to Djibouti’s international airport. The base is under AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s African Command. AFRICOM has its boots in Ethiopia, as it does in many other African countries.

Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has already demonstrated that he is poised to hand over his country to western interests, vultures, such as the World Bank, IMF and eventually the globalized Wall Street banking clan. In fact, it looks like these institutions were instrumental in manipulating parliamentary maneuvers, with arm-twisting of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to make Mr. Abyi the new Prime Minister, succeeding Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, who rather suddenly was forced to resign in February 2018, amidst endless foreign induced protests and violent street demonstrations. With EPRDF Ethiopia is a de facto one-party state. EPRDF is a coalition of different regional representations.

Proud Ethiopia, has never been colonized by western powers per se, except for a brief Italian military occupation (1935 – 1939) by Mussolini. And now, in the space of a few months, since Mr. Abiy’s ascent to power, the country is being enslaved by the new western colonial instruments, the so-called international development institutions, the World Bank, IMF – and others will follow.

Mr. Abiy is an Oromo leader; Oromia being a disputed area between Ethiopia and Somalia. The latter is effectively controlling the Horn of Africa, overseeing the Gulf of Aden (Yemen) and the entire Iran controlled Persian Gulf area. Control over the Horn of Africa is on Washington’s strategic wish list and may have become an attainable target, with the Oromo leader and new PM, Abiy Ahmed.

Think about it – Yemen, another ultra-strategic location, being bombed to ashes by the Saudis on behalf of the western powers, primarily the US and the UK, being subdued for domination by the west wanting to control the Gulf area, foremost Iran and her riches. On the other hand, Ethiopia, a prime location as an assault basis for drones, war planes and ships.

The Lords of Creation: The History of America's 1 Percent by Frederick Lewis Allen

A “stimulating” account of the capitalists who changed America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, setting the stage for the 1929 crash and Great Depression (Kirkus Reviews).

In the decades following the Civil War, America entered an era of unprecedented corporate expansion, with ultimate financial power in the hands of a few wealthy industrialists who exploited the system for everything it was worth. The Rockefellers, Fords, Morgans, and Vanderbilts were the “lords of creation” who, along with like-minded magnates, controlled the economic destiny of the country, unrestrained by regulations or moral imperatives. Through a combination of foresight, ingenuity, ruthlessness, and greed, America’s giants of industry remolded the US economy in their own image. They established their power and authority, ensuring that they—and they alone—would control the means of production, transportation, energy, and commerce—creating the conditions for the stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

As modern society continues to be affected by wealth inequality and cycles of boom and bust, it’s as important as ever to understand the origins of financial disaster, and the policies, practices, and people who bring them on. The Lords of Creation, first published when the catastrophe of the 1930s was still painfully fresh, is a fascinating story of bankers, railroad tycoons, steel magnates, speculators, scoundrels, and robber barons. It is a tale of innovation and shocking exploitation—and a sobering reminder that history can indeed repeat itself.

us against corporate power, email from Tricia Rich, SumOfUs.org, 8/20/18

What a year we’re having. It doesn’t matter which way you turn, in 2018 corporations have been using their money and might to trample over communities, democracy, and our planet.

From Facebook’s blatant disregard for our privacy and our democracy. To Bayer’s court battle to keep profiting from bee-killing pesticides.

From Microsoft coining it in off the back of the most heinous treatment of migrants in the US. To PepsiCo still guzzling palm oil at the expense of the last remaining orangutans.

Is Capitalism Killing Us? By Paul Craig Roberts August 17, 2018

A strong case can be made that this is the situation we currently face.

Ecological economists, such as Herman E. Daly, stress that as the external costs of pollution and resource exhaustion are not included in Gross Domestic Product, we do not know whether an increase in GDP is a gain or a loss.

External costs are huge and growing larger. Historically, manufacturing and industrial corporations, corporate farming, city sewer systems, and other culprits have passed the costs of their activities onto the environment and third parties. Recently, there has been a spate of reports with many centering on Monsanto’s Roundup, whose principle ingredient, glyphosate, is believed to be a carcinogen.

A public health organization, the Environmental Working Group, recently reported that its tests found glyphosate in all but 2 of 45 children’s breakfast foods including granola, oats and snack bars made by Quaker, Kellogg and General Mills.

In Brazil tests have discovered that 83% of mothers’ breast milk contains glyphosate.

The Munich Environmental Institute reported that 14 of the most widely selling German beers contain glyphosate

Glyphosate has been found in Mexican farmers’ urine and in Mexican ground water.

Scientific American has reported that even Roundup’s “inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells."

A German toxicologist has accused the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the European Food Safety Authority of scientific fraud for accepting a Monsanto-led glyphosate Task Force conclusion that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

Controversy about these findings comes from the fact that industry-funded scientists report no link between glyphosate and cancer, whereas independent scientists do. This is hardly surprising as an industry-funded scientist has no independence and is unlikely to conclude the opposite of what he is hired to conclude.

The point is that if glyphosate is carcinogenic, the cost of the lost lives and medical expenses are not borne by Monsanto/Bayer. If these costs were not external to Monsanto, that is, if the corporation had to bear these costs, the cost of the product would not be economical to use. Its advantages would be out-weighed by the costs.

It is very difficult to find the truth, because politicians and regulatory authorities are susceptible to bribes and to doing favors for their business friends. In Brazil, lawmakers are actually trying to deregulate pesticide use and to ban the sale of organic food in supermarkets.

In the case of glyphosate, the tide might be turning against Monsanto/Bayer. The California Supreme Court upheld the state’s authority to add the herbicide glyphosate to its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.

Last week in San Francisco jurors awarded a former school groundkeeper $289 million in damages for cancer caused by Roundup. Little doubt that Monsanto will appeal and the case will be tied up in court until the groundkeeper is dead. But it is a precedent and indicates that jurors are beginning to distrust hired science. There are approximately 1,000 similar cases pending.

What is important to keep in mind is that if Roundup is a carcinogen, it is just one product of one company. This provides an idea of how extensive external costs can be. Indeed, glyphosate’s deletarious effects go far beyond those covered in this article.

GMO feeds are also taking a toll on livestock.

Now consider the adverse effects on air, water, and land resources of chemical agriculture. Florida is suffering algae blooms from chemical fertilizer runoff from farmland, and the sugar industry has done a good job of destroying Lake Okeechobee.

Fertilizer runoffs cause blue-green algae blooms that kill marine life and are hazzardous to humans. Currently the water in Florida’s St. Lucie River is 10 times too toxic to touch.

Red tides can occur naturally, but fertilizer runoffs fuel their growth and their persistance. Moreover, pollution’s contributions to higher temperatures also contribute to red tides, as does draining wetlands for real estate development, which results in water moving quickly without natural filtration.

As water conditions deteriorated and algae blooms proliferated, Florida’s response was to cutback its water monitoring program

When we consider these extensive external costs of corporate farming, clearly the values attributed to sugar and farm products in the Gross Domestic Product are excessive. The prices paid by consumers are much too low and the profits enjoyed by corporate agriculture are far too high, because they do not include the costs of the massive marine deaths, the lost tourist business, and the human illnesses caused by the algae tides that depend on chemical fertilizer runoff.

In this article I have barely scratched the surface of the problem of external costs. Michigan has learned that its tap water is not safe. Chemicals used for decades on military bases and in the manufacture of thousands of consumer items are in the water supply.

As an exercise, pick any business and think about the external costs of that business. Take, for example, the US corporations that offshored Americans’ jobs to Asia. The corporations’ profits rose, but the federal, state, and local tax bases declined. The payroll tax base for Social Security and Medicaid declined, putting these important foundations of US social and political stability into danger. The tax base for school teachers’ and other government employees’ pensions declined. If the corporations that moved the jobs abroad had to absorb these costs, they would have no profits. In other words, a few people gained by shoving enormous costs on everyone else.

Or consider something simple like a pet store. All the pet store owners and customers who sold and purchased colorful 18 to 24 inch pythons, boa constrictors, and anacondas gave no thought to the massive size these snakes would be, and neither did the regulatory agencies that permitted their import. Faced with a creature capable of devouring the family pet and children and suffocating the life out of large strong adults, the snakes were dumped into the Everglades where they have devastated the natural fauna and now are too numerous to be controlled. The external costs easily exceed many times the total price of all such snakes sold by pet stores.

Ecological economists stress that capitalism works in an “empty economy," where the pressure of humans on natural resources is slight. But capitalism doesn’t work in a “full economy” where natural resources are on the point of exhaustion. The external costs associated with economic growth as measured by GDP can be more costly than the value of the output.

A strong case can be made that this is the situation we currently face. The disappearance of species, the appearance of toxins in food, beverages, water, mothers’ breast milk, air, land, desperate attempts to secure energy from fracking which destroys groundwater and causes earthquakes, and so forth are signs of a hard-pressed planet. When we get right down to it, all of the profits that capitalism has generated over the centuries are probably due to capitalists not having to cover the full cost of their production. They passed the cost on to the environment and to third parties and pocketed the savings as profit.

Update: Herman Daly notes that last year the British medical journal, Lancet, estimated the annual cost of pollution was about 6 % of the global economy whereas the annual global economic growth rate was about 2 percent, with the difference being about a 4% annual decline in wellbeing, not a 2 percent rise. In other words, we could already be in the situation where economic growth is uneconomical.

Corporate Hall of Shame

email from People For the American Way, 8/18/18

Here are just a few of the nominees on the ballot:

Koch Industries -- for working to dismantle the EPA in the name of fossil fuel profits, while the Koch Brothers' network aims to pour a record-breaking $400 million into influencing the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

Goldman Sachs -- for continuing to exploit people in Puerto Rico, despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, through predatory loans that squeeze maximum corporate profits from the island and its people.

GEO Group (one of the nation's largest private prison companies) -- for profiting from the mass incarceration of people of color and immigrants at its private prisons, while spending millions on lobbying and elections to pass laws that enable its profiteering.

Beretta -- for profiting richly from manufacturing weapons and using those profits to fund the NRA and its obstruction of popular, commonsense gun safety measures that would save countless lives.

Here’s a good corporate tax rate: ZeroBy Megan McArdle July 31, 2018

about 40 percent of multinational profits, according to a recent economic paper, are sequestered in various tax havens.

To anyone who draws a salary and thus can’t reincorporate in Bermuda to avoid payroll taxes, this corporate tax avoidance might seem outrageous. Governments just need to get really tough, right? The problem is that rich-world governments already are, broadly speaking, pretty tough on large corporations -- at least if “tough” means “deploying armies of tax collectors to extract every penny the companies legally owe."

And trying to force companies to disgorge even more in taxes is an expensive proposition for both companies and the public. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation estimates that the labor involved in preparing corporate tax returns takes $150 billion out of the U.S. economy annually. And that doesn’t count the distortions that the corporate tax code introduces, as companies try to structure operations to lower their tax burden even if that doesn’t make the most business sense. Nor does it include the time and money spent lobbying Congress for a more favorable tax code.

All this is very frustrating. Here’s a solution: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Or lower it to some token rate, such as 1 percent, that wouldn’t be worth the effort to avoid.

the truth is that they have never paid tax -- no, not even when rates were higher and IRS agents meaner. Those who insist that companies pay their “fair share," just as wealthy people should pay their “fair share," misunderstand what corporations are. They’re imagining a corporation as something like a really rich person. But a corporation is just a legal fiction that temporarily holds money ultimately destined for real people. And it’s those people -- shareholders, employees, customers -- who end up paying any tax levied on a corporation.

Unfortunately, you can’t pick the people who will pay. Sure, a heavy corporate income tax on Walmart will cost the Walton family some money. But it will also cost retirees whose pension fund invested in the company … and people who work in Walmart stores … and people who shop there. The corporate income tax is at least somewhat progressive, but it’s probably not as progressive as its boosters imagine.

The thing is, we already have an excellent tool for taxing rich people who own stock or manage companies: the personal income tax. Yes, people do also try to avoid paying their personal taxes -- but these efforts are actually aided by the corporate income tax. That’s because high corporate taxes create a problem: Government ends up taxing the same income twice, once when the corporation earns it and again when it’s paid to individuals as dividends or capital gains. To keep the combined tax rate from getting too high, and thus discouraging savings and investment, the government created a special low, flat rate for dividends and capital gains. High earners, aiming to lower their tax rate, respond by taking as much of their compensation as possible in the form of dividends or capital gains.

Why not devise a compromise package to reduce the inefficiencies created by the corporate tax code and actually make the code more progressive? Lower the corporate income tax to a token amount, just enough to generate the records the Internal Revenue Service uses to keep wealthy business owners from declaring personal consumption as business expenses. But also eliminate the special treatment for capital income, so that the wealthy no longer benefit from taking income in the form of capital gains and dividends. And if this arrangement turns out to cost the Treasury Department money, then nudge the top rate up to compensate.

We’d have a more progressive tax code, a more attractive environment for businesses making location decisions and, best of all, a horde of unemployed lobbyists and tax specialists forced to pursue a more productive line of work. Which seems infinitely better for everyone than pouring more effort into an unwinnable tax war.

GreenMedInfo 2018-08-06

'Poverty Is Criminalized, Wealth Is Immunized': Report Shows Corporate Crime Enforcement Has Plummeted Under Trump "The message to big business couldn't be more clear: Feel free to run roughshod over rules that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat."


In addition to padding the bottom lines of America's largest corporations by cutting their taxes and eliminating scores of longstanding regulations, President Donald Trump is also protecting major companies' profits by refusing to punish them for ripping off consumers and trampling federal rules that safeguard the planet.

That is the central conclusion of a new Public Citizen analysis out Wednesday, which finds that corporate America has largely been exempt from Trump's so-called "law-and-order" agenda. Titled Corporate Impunity (pdf), the report shows that enforcement actions carried out by major government agencies declined drastically during Trump's first year in the White House.

"When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly 'tough-on-crime' Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to Public Citizen, the largest drop in enforcement actions came at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler after previous agency chief Scott Pruitt resigned amid an ever-growing mountain of scandals.

The consumer group's new analysis shows that EPA penalties against corporate criminals has dropped a staggering 94 percent since Trump took office last year.

In Trump’s first year, EPA penalties dropped 94 percent -- the most of any federal agency. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA decreased penalty sums against polluters from $23 billion in Obama’s last year to $1.4 billion in Trump’s first. - Public Citiaen

The decline in penalties leveled by other White House agencies has been similarly striking.

Trump's Department of Justice (DOJ), for instance, imposed $4.9 billion in penalties against major corporations for violating the law. In contrast, during the last year of the Obama administration—which could hardly be described as tough on corporate crime—the DOJ imposed $51.5 billion in fines against businesses.

"The greedy leader sets the pace," noted legal scholar Jennifer Taub in response to Public Citizen's figures. "Under the Trump doctrine, it's corruption without accountability all the way down."

Correction: K's in graphic should be M's. All percentages are still accurate. - Public Citizen

Because the Trump administration has demonstrated that it is not interested in holding corporations accountable for defrauding consumers and wrecking the environment, Public Citizen argues in its report that we can expect an even larger wave of corporate crime in the near future."

"If the chances of being prosecuted for lawbreaking drop and the penalties when caught are slight, we should expect a surge in corporate wrongdoing," the analysis notes. "That means more workers needlessly injured and killed on the job. It means more consumers ripped off by predatory lenders... It also means a greatly increased chance of corporate catastrophes, on the scale of the BP Gulf oil disaster and the 2008 financial crash, both of which can be traced directly to regulatory enforcement failures.""

Succinctly summarizing America's two-tiered justice system—which Trump has tilted even further in favor of the rich by letting corporations run "roughshod"—Public Citizen's Rick Claypool wrote, "While poverty is criminalized, wealth is immunized."

email From Matt Nelson, Presente.org: ICE: brought to you by Microsoft and Salesforce

Right now, some of the largest technology companies in the world are engaged in the ultimate hypocrisy: their CEOs are speaking out, saying they support human rights, while they’re quietly building and selling technology that the government is using to cage children and families.

Despite widespread outcry over the government's inhumane treatment of immigrant families, behind our backs, many of these companies have major contracts with agencies like ICE:

Microsoft’s contract with ICE is $19.4 million, to provide dangerous and invasive facial recognition software

Dell’s contract is $22 million

Motorola’s contract is $15 million

Hewlett Packard Enterprises’ is $76 million

Salesforce has a contract with Border Patrol to make border activities “more efficient”

We've partnered with a growing coalition of grassroots advocacy groups that are demanding that Microsoft, Salesforce, and other large tech companies drop their contracts with immigration enforcement agencies like ICE and Border Patrol. After public upheaval regarding the brutality at the border, Microsoft has issued a statement denying responsibility.3 But immigrants are still being detained by ICE and kept in camps -- and companies like Microsoft are still getting paid for their role in helping create this human rights crisis.

10 Companies That Act Like They Hate Their Customers COMCAST CABLE: One Philly resident after another described Comcast as an appalling combination of high prices and terrible customer service... Consumerist named Comcast “Worst Company in America” thanks to its ever-increasing prices and endless stream of consumer complaints.; TIME WARNER CABLE: Deceptive marketing and misleading promotions, billing practices--they were ridden with questionable or bogus fees; VERIZON: Verizon agreed to pay a $90 million penalty after the FCC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went after it for cramming, the unethical practice of adding unauthorized third-party charges to a customer’s bill in exchange for a commission.; AT&T: The most common complaints included slow data connections, dropped calls and billing errors, and exorbitant fees for early termination. UNITED AIRLINES: there have been so many mergers that only four airlines—United, American, Southwest and Delta—now control 85% of domestic air travel. The result of all this consolidation: higher fares and worse customer service. AMERICAN AIRLINES: Canceled flights were a common complaint in OSPIRG’s report, while “other top problems were about baggage, customer service” and “issues with reservations, bookings, and boarding." BANK OF AMERICA: Two-thirds of those complaints, CFPB found, involved debt collection, loan modifications and foreclosures. WELLS FARGO: In both lawsuits, Wells Fargo is accused of exploiting customers by opening unwanted accounts in order to generate fees. AETNA: has a long history of raising premiums considerably while subjecting Americans to abysmal customer service. ANTHEM BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD: In 2011, the American Medical Association reported that 19.3% of health insurance claims were being processed incorrectly in the U.S. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, aka Anthem, Inc., was among the worst offenders: only 61% of its claims were being processed correctly. But despite its bungling and atrocious customer service, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield wasn’t exactly known for reasonable prices.

This Is Your Brain on Money: Why America’s Rich Think Differently Than the Rest of Us Economist Chris Dillow cites research by Cameron Anderson and Sebastien Brion, showing that overconfident individuals are seen by others as more competent. He argues that, “overconfident people are more likely to be promoted. And this could have positive feedback effects. Higher status will itself breed even more overconfidence. (E.g. “I got the job so I must be good.") And if bosses employ like-minded subordinates, the result could be entire layers of management which are both over-confident and engaged in groupthink." Many other studies cited.

Chomsky: There's an Overt Corporate Effort to Indoctrinate American Children education and indoctrination... and the way "capitalism" actually works in the United States.

The Crisis of Democracy was published in 1975, and it was a discussion of the destructive effect of the 1960s. The destructive effect was that it called for too much democracy. You have to read it to believe it. The picture was that before, people were mostly passive and obedient and they did what they were told and democracy functioned fine.

Anyone who looked at the media could see that it's overwhelmingly conformist. But there was some criticism. I mean, there were people in the media who were saying, "The war's too costly. Maybe we shouldn't continue with it" and so on. And they said even that's too much. You can't have the media being this oppositional and critical of power. So maybe the state should step in with some form of censorship and control over the media.

Email from Economic Policy Institute, 8/13/17

Corporations pay far less than the statutory tax rate

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As the GOP pushes to pass tax reform, policymakers will begin debating whether the corporate tax rate—which is set at 35 percent—is too high or too low. But in a new Economic Snapshot, EPI’s Hunter Blair explains that, because of various loopholes, corporations actually pay between 13 and 19 percent in taxes, far lower than the official 35 percent rate. Blair says that if policymakers want meaningful tax reform that helps working people, they should close corporate tax loopholes and make corporations pay their fair share.

FCC determined to kill neutrality of Internet and boost corp. profits

Trump’s Worst Collusion Isn’t With Russia -- It’s With Corporations By Peter Certo [the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of OtherWords.org. ] July 14, 2017 "Information Clearing House"

The billionaires who backed Trump are making out a lot better than Putin.

“The effects of the crime are undetectable," the legendary social critic Noam Chomsky says of the alleged Russian meddling, “unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth."

The top priority in Congress right now is to move a health bill that would gut Medicaid and throw at least 22 million Americans off their insurance -- while loosening regulations on insurance companies and cutting taxes on the wealthiest by over $346 billion.

Meanwhile, majorities of Americans in every single congressional district support efforts to curb local pollution, limit carbon emissions, and transition to wind and solar. And majorities in every single state back the Paris climate agreement.

Yet even as scientists warn large parts of the planet could soon become uninhabitable, the fossil fuel-backed Trump administration has put a climate denier in charge of the EPA, pulled the U.S. out of Paris, and signed legislation to let coal companies dump toxic ash in local waterways.

Meanwhile, as the administration escalates the unpopular Afghan war once again, Kushner invited billionaire military contractors -- including Blackwater founder Erik Prince -- to advise on policy there.

Elsewhere, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other architects of the housing crash are advising Trump on financial deregulation, while student debt profiteers set policy at the Department of Education.

Chomsky complains that this sort of collusion is often “not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy." While Trump has taken it to new heights, it’s certainly a bipartisan problem.

The Death of the Republic By Chris Hedges [best journalist extant in my opinion] May 22, 2017 "Information Clearing House"

Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country.

Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.

One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.

Slavehood 2017 By Peter Koenig [an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America.] May 04, 2017 "Information Clearing House"

When in the 18th and 19th Century African slaves did not ‘behave’, they were cruelly beaten sometimes to death as a deterrent for others. They were deprived of food for their families. Their women were raped. They were traded to even harsher white masters. Their lives were worth only what their labor could produce. They were treated as subjects, devoid of human warmth.

Today we have become all slaves; slaves to the powers of mafia bankster of finance; slaves to the western lie-propaganda; to the lobbies and their giant all dominating corporations – to the war-industry, because we happily believe what we are told about ever-increasing terrorism that needs to be fought with eternal wars; slaves to the environment-destructive hydrocarbon industry; to the pharma-industry; to the Monsanto-ized agroindustry; to senseless consumerism – and foremost – and summing it all up: to greed, endless greed that drives endless growth, nurturing endless competition fomenting adversity, destroying solidarity, instead of amical cooperation for a harmonious human cohabitation.

As people of western nations, we are enslaved to an all-engulfing neoliberal fascism – to a predatory economy. Corporate lie propaganda drip-feds our brains. We haven’t even noticed it. We are enslaved to so-called ‘leaders’, put in office by obscure foreign masters of deceit – the ever-stronger corporate controlled propaganda machine – the six all controlling Zion-Anglo media, whom we believe whatever lie they vomit – because it is more comfortable to believe a lie than to confront the truth – that’s self-imposed slavehood.

That’s how far we have gone. Because we are clearly on an almost irreversible downward track – sliding and running towards our own demise – into darkness – the darkness of chaos and bloody wars, endless wars against self-invented terrorism; wars that keeps our western economy running – and our armchair politics alive. Wars that kill and slaughter millions and millions – but all in ‘far-away’ lands. We are told we are protected. Our police and military watch over us. The new gods – money and military.

Although ‘pride’ was never an appropriate term to integrate our soul and minds, as we the western powers – have for centuries enslaved, raped, exploited and slaughtered the indigenous people, those who have for millennia, for history of mankind survived and passed on our human genes from one murderous civilization to another, always in the hope that the new one would see the light.

We can only hope that the patience of these native people, the survivors, our saviors – will prevail, that before we disappear in darkness, in the void of a manmade blackhole, we will awake, open our eyes and seek the light – become finally human, the term we have fraudulently applied to ourselves – the western civilization.

Independent thinking has become a crime, as it impedes the advancement of slavehood. Education is designed to kill individual thinking and the wide range of inventiveness – because it’s dangerous – for those who enslave and control us. ‘New-speak’ education has to make us thinking what the system wants us to think. That’s what western education has become in the last 50 years – a farce to keep us as non-thinking idiots.

Idiots are easily enslaved and exploited and sent to wars – to steal foreign resources to satisfy the greed of a few. We love to be cannon fodder, as we were told – enslaved – to believe that good patriots love to die for their country. We are blinded and avoid seeing that we are dying fighting to satisfy puppet leaders’ greed for power and money – whose power is nothing more than that allowed them by the Masters who control the world and who pull the strings on their marionettes.

Chris Hedges: The Mexicanization of the United States The neoliberal ideology that is the engine of corporate capitalism spews its poison around the globe. Constitutions are rewritten by judicial fiat in a mockery of democracy. Laws and regulations that impede corporate exploitation are abolished. Corporations orchestrate legally sanctioned tax boycotts. Free-trade deals destroy small farmers and businesses along with labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders. The press is transformed into an echo chamber for the corporate elites. Wages stagnate or decline. Unemployment and underemployment soar. Social services are curtailed or abolished in the name of austerity. The political system becomes a charade. Dissent is criminalized. The ecocide by the fossil fuel industry accelerates. State enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations. The educational system mutates into vocational training. Culture and the arts are replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. Infrastructures crumble.

The working poor—sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and suffering job losses, bankruptcies, foreclosures, harassment and arrest—watch helplessly as their dreams for themselves and their children evaporate. Some are forced into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. Some turn to opiates to blunt the despair. (Heroin use in the United States has doubled since 2007.) Suicides mount. (There are more than 40,000 a year in the U.S.) Hunger spreads. (Some 48.1 million Americans, including 15.3 million children, live in food-insecure households.) The state, to prevent unrest, militarizes the police agencies and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons.

From Mexico to Greece to the United States, the scenario is the same, varying only in degree. Neoliberalism and globalization create a vast race to the bottom. Duplicitous political elites, epitomized by Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, are or will be highly compensated for doling out trillions in “quantitative easing” to banks and other financial firms while delivering credulous voters to the corporate guillotine. Everyone and everything, including the natural world, is transformed into a commodity to exploit for profit.

The corporate pillage, as the Argentines have recently discovered, is limitless. The new Argentine president, the right-wing Mauricio Macri—put in office by corporate backers—has agreed to pay billions to a handful of hedge funds that bought up the country’s debt for a pittance and then demanded full repayment. Paul Singer’s Elliott Management alone will make $2.4 billion, as much as 15 times its initial investment.

The corporate looting is impervious to regulation or reform. It will continue until there is nothing left to exploit or is halted by popular revolt... Mexico is not an anomaly. Mexico is the future.

In the U.S. there is the added dead weight of the war industry. We have spent or obligated $4.4 trillion for the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. In 15 years of war we have produced hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, wholesale devastation in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Islamic terrorists, a series of failed states that stretches from Iraq and Syria to Libya, and obscene profits for the arms manufacturers, who constitute the only real reason these wars are still being fought. The national treasury is being drained for military adventurism that makes us one of the most reviled nations on earth.

The continued reliance on established mechanisms of political participation and reform—the chief mistake made by the supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—will not work. The entire system has to be demolished, as radicals in parties such as Syriza and Podemos understand. The effort is not only a war to bring down financial systems. It is a war to bring down political systems. It is a war that requires widespread and sustained popular revolt dedicated to overthrowing all the mechanisms of corporate power.

VIDEO: ‘Days of Revolt’: Chris Hedges and Jill Stein Confront the ‘Corporate Leviathan’

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History Chris Hedges. Posted on Nov 6, 2015

The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history," Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws."

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

There will be a mass mobilization Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.

The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.

The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.

The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.

The way to stop corporate lawbreaking is to prosecute the people who break the law says Robert Reich ".. calls for holding more corporate executive lawbreakers criminally liable for corporate crimes.

"After reviewing allegations that GM, Credit Suisse, and Arthur Anderson broke the laws, receiving relatively trivial fines, which they consider part of the cost of doing business, Robert Reich notes that no executives have been charged with any crimes and suggests that until we start putting senior corporate executives in jail, we will see no diminution of corporate wrong doing.

"The truth is, corporations aren't people -- despite what the Supreme Court says. Corporations ''t break laws; specific people do. In the cases of GM and Credit Suisse, the evidence points to executives at or near the top.

"Conservatives are fond of talking about personal responsibility. But when it comes to white-collar crime, I haven't heard them demand that individuals be prosecuted.

"Yet the only way to deter giant corporations from harming the public is to go after people who cause the harm."







Corporate Personhood?

Reclaim Democracy "restoring citizen authority over corporations
Alliance for Democracy "progressive populist movement--not a political party--setting forth to end corporate domination, to establish true political democracy and to build a just society with a sustainable, equitable economy"

10 Companies That Act Like They Hate Their Customers COMCAST CABLE: One Philly resident after another described Comcast as an appalling combination of high prices and terrible customer service... Consumerist named Comcast “Worst Company in America” thanks to its ever-increasing prices and endless stream of consumer complaints.; TIME WARNER CABLE: Deceptive marketing and misleading promotions, billing practices--they were ridden with questionable or bogus fees; VERIZON: Verizon agreed to pay a $90 million penalty after the FCC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went after it for cramming, the unethical practice of adding unauthorized third-party charges to a customer’s bill in exchange for a commission.; AT&T: The most common complaints included slow data connections, dropped calls and billing errors, and exorbitant fees for early termination. UNITED AIRLINES: there have been so many mergers that only four airlines—United, American, Southwest and Delta—now control 85% of domestic air travel. The result of all this consolidation: higher fares and worse customer service. AMERICAN AIRLINES: Canceled flights were a common complaint in OSPIRG’s report, while “other top problems were about baggage, customer service” and “issues with reservations, bookings, and boarding." BANK OF AMERICA: Two-thirds of those complaints, CFPB found, involved debt collection, loan modifications and foreclosures. WELLS FARGO: In both lawsuits, Wells Fargo is accused of exploiting customers by opening unwanted accounts in order to generate fees. AETNA: has a long history of raising premiums considerably while subjecting Americans to abysmal customer service. ANTHEM BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD: In 2011, the American Medical Association reported that 19.3% of health insurance claims were being processed incorrectly in the U.S. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, aka Anthem, Inc., was among the worst offenders: only 61% of its claims were being processed correctly. But despite its bungling and atrocious customer service, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield wasn’t exactly known for reasonable prices.

You deserve the facts Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, "People '’t go hungry in a capitalist economy." There are 16 million children on food stamps in America... Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children, who average about $5 a day for their meals. Yet the 2014 farm bill cut almost a billion dollars a year from the food stamp program...

Even more disturbing is the reality of homeless children. As America's wealth was growing by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion, the number of children without homes was also growing by 60 percent. For every two homeless children in 2006, there are now three... From a global perspective, the U.S. has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world.

Our nation ranks near the bottom of the developed world in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education. Yet Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history... Most Americans express shock upon hearing these figures. They should be shocked. And the media should be reporting the facts, no matter how unpleasant they may be.

Could Veganism End World Hunger? The World Health Organization calls malnutrition "the silent emergency", and says it is a factor in at least half the 10.4 million child deaths which occur every year.

If you’re concerned about animal rights, water conservation, clean air and health then you may already be on the road to becoming vegan – so why not take five minutes and find out how veganism could end world hunger?

There is more than enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world twice over.

The problem is, our meat-based diet means that land, water, and other resources that could be used to grow food for human beings are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead.

70% of U.S. grain production is fed to livestock.

One-third of the world's fish catch is fed directly to livestock.

In cycling our grain through livestock, we waste 90% of its protein and 96% of its calories.

An acre of cereal can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production. Legumes [beans] can produce ten times as much.

"Those who consume livestock products and fish are competing directly with those who need grain for food." (Lester Brown, president of Worldwatch)

The truth can no longer be dodged. Livestock farming gobbles up agricultural land, water and energy that could be far more efficiently devoted to growing food for people.

The cost of an 8 ounce steak will fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains.

Livestock now outnumber humans by almost three to one. In the last 40 years, the number of cattle has doubled and the fowl population has trebled.

The meat and dairy industry is also putting a huge strain on our water supply.. it is unsustainable.

"The American fast food diet and the meat-eating habits of the wealthy around the world support a world food system that diverts food resources from the hungry" [Dr. Waldo Bello].

It would take just 40 million tons of food to eliminate most world hunger, yet a staggering 760 million tons of grain will be used to feed farmed animals this year.

An individual can make a huge difference. They can stop supporting the meat, fish, egg and dairy industries. They can become vegan.

In the U.S., 64% of cropland produces feed for animals, while only 2% grows fruit and vegetables.

It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater.

Fact: You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.

Veganism is about wanting something better.. for the future of our children and the world as a whole.

Veganism is about making the world we live in a better place for people and animals alike.







Links

Diet and Global Warming If one takes the threat of global warming seriously, the most powerful personal step you can take may well be choosing a vegetarian diet.

A Scientific Economic Paradigm Project What I say or write about is not compromised by funding from business or government. I only seek and speak the truth as a scientist, without political ideology or preconceived Utopian dreams. The truth will set us free - we are shackled by too many economic fallacies.

Why this blog?

With so many blogs already in existence, why yet another?

The global financial crisis is also a crisis in economic education. University graduates who populate the ranks of business and government have made decisions and implemented policies which are destroying our economies.

The fallacies contained in economic textbooks have been taught as scientific facts which have guided decisions and policies everywhere. The consequence is a global economic system which is collapsing.

All State Insurance Sucks
Amex Sucks
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR) MOVEMENT
Costco: "A Corporation That Breaks the Greed Mold" by Jim Hightower
Delocator find locations in cities where Starbucks is not and where good independent houses are... a direct way for anyone to strike a blow against the corporate machine
Monsters, Inc. "According to the DSM-IV, the corporation is ... a prototypical psychopath"
Paypal Sucks
United Package Smashers (UPS)
Verizon Pathetic
WAL-MART lot of quotes on them
Wal-Mart Blows
War Profiteers Exactly one year after the United States launched the dawn invasion of Iraq, war profiteering by multinational companies is at an all-time high with military contractors dramatically boosting revenues
Corporate Accountability International John Stewart. WE protect human rights, public health and the environment from corporate greed and abuse around the world.

The Shocking Tax Loophole for Corporations that Commit Crimes This is how taxpayers end up subsidizing corporate criminals. Jim Hightower







Oil Spills, Mining

Will the Gulf of Mexico Remain a Dumping Ground for Offshore Fracking Waste? Federal documents obtained this year by the Center for Biological Diversity revealed that the Obama administration approved more than 1,200 offshore fracks in 630 different wells in the Gulf from 2010 to 2014. The fracking took place off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- with no public involvement or site-specific tests 'e beforehand to evaluate the environmental impact.

Map of Fracked Wells in the Gulf of Mexico

Given that it takes millions of gallons of water to frack a single well, and that on its way into the earth to force out oil or gas reserves the water becomes contaminated with radioactive elements, heavy metals and other toxic compounds, you might wonder: Where is all that offshore fracking wastewater going?

Directly into the Gulf, as it turns out.

How You Can Support Standing Rock This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.

I am a settler on this land but have spent the past couple of years supporting indigenous battles against new oil pipelines. These are the front lines of the struggle to end the desecration of Mother Earth, the catastrophes of climate change, and the ongoing genocidal occupation of Indigenous lands that makes that all possible.


Sunrise on the Cannonball River and the Oceti Sakowin camp, Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Photo by Thane Maxwell.

Across the continent, Big Oil is pushing a massive new network of oil and gas infrastructure, retooling in a desperate attempt to extract the dirtiest fuels on the planet and squeeze the last few drops of profit out of an era that clearly needs to end. Without exception, these projects threaten tribal lands, and without exception, they face bold Indigenous resistance.

A historic new chapter in this story is now unfolding on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of people from hundreds of tribes and First Nations have gathered in solidarity to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. I am one of the organizers helping to leverage resources and coordinate the campaign, and every day I hear from allies across the continent asking how to support the movement.

Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years Even as the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in Standing Rock has galvanized Native Americans across the U.S., a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Utah Republican Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz seeks to take 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands and hand them over to oil and mining companies.

The proposed bill also seeks to remove protection from 18 million acres of land in eastern Utah and prevent President Obama from designating the Bears Ears area a national monument.

Adjoining Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Bears Ears is an unprotected culturally significant region that contains more than 100,000 Native American archeological sites. These sacred sites are subject to continual looting and desecration. More than a dozen serious looting cases were reported between May 2014 and April 2015.

The area has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years. Many Southwestern tribes have longstanding connections to this land, including Navajo, Ute and Paiute peoples. The Navajo Nation and the White Mesa Ute Reservation border Bears Ears. Rock paintings and petroglyphs are found throughout the area.







"Capitalism" & Globalization

Controlled Demolition By Paul Edwards November 24, 2020 "Information Clearing House"

My first thought for a title was “A House Divided…”, but, even in Nixon-Kennedy days that would have been dishonest. Pace, Abe Lincoln, America has always been a House Divided, yet it has stood, propped up and constantly refitted by a political system that kept an ignorant, gullible people baffled for decades while power and privilege stripped them of the phenomenal bounty that, by rights and law, was theirs.

What’s new in our beleaguered country is not the division of our house but its total fragmentation. The structure held deceptively intact for so long by constant applications of partisan bullshit, rhetorical spit, legislative baling wire and executive duct tape, is now so fissured and faulted as to be more standing rubble than viable edifice. We are not simply split in our politics, we are pulverized, in every aspect of our reality. Start anywhere.

Economically, we’re the most wildly inequitable of wealthy nations where 10% have more money than 90%, three men have more than half of us, and the richest take everything from everybody. The bitter resentment of each for the other is intensified by being suppressed as impermissible.

In religion nearly half the population rejects irrefutable science in favor of an embarrassing porridge of myth, magic and risible lies that has rotted for two millennia, invulnerable to reason, and fealty to the wacky formulas of Christian dogma is obligatory from politicians, while those who have at last shrugged off that yoke still have to pretend otherwise lest they be beaten with the stupid stick of empowered, imbecile “end times” millennialism.

In race relations, at least half the white population is deeply, morbidly racist and openly prejudiced against blacks and people of color while the other half struggles with its unconscious bias to be inclusive, without any idea of how to practically relate to those it vows, in theory, to support.

In ecological questions, there is fierce opposition between the powerful camp that sides with raping Capitalist extractive industries and a growing minority who condemn them. On climate change, Capitalist industry and its great mass of slaves and flacks deny it and obstruct any mitigation, indifferent to the coming extinction of many species, including our own.

On foreign policy, there is acrimonious conflict between the Exceptionalist mob and the War Machine that sells that rot, and Americans of all levels of wealth and education who are passionately against our Imperial, militarist drive to brutally bully the world and its peoples. That timid anti-war faction is silenced and repressed while forced to finance the endless, blundering, military failures that enrich the massive merchants of death and murder.

On Labor regulations, supporters of unionization, collective bargaining and defense of workers’ rights have been driven nearly out of the game by the coalition of Big Industry and a majority unskilled labor pool which angrily rejects organization in favor of the new serfdom and the gig economy.

In the battleground of immigration, the hard lines are between those who favor a lenient policy on illegals and refugees with pathways to residency and eventual citizenship, and those who would criminalize undocumented entry and demand that illegals be rounded up, jailed, and deported.

In sexual mores, one faction defends the rights to free choice in matters of sex orientation, physiology, marital rights, abortion, and pregnancy, and the other opposes fiercely all such personal sovereignty while contending fiercely that it is exactly that individual liberty they will defend to the death.

In medical policy, the majority who see healthcare as a human right that should be provided as a federal service with emphasis on genuine care, are bitterly fought by the combined power of the insurance/drug/hospital cabal that sell medical services for profit and their faithful, who damn the “socialized medicine” that would affordably and efficiently serve them.

Even in regard to government and its function there is irreconcilable disagreement between those who believe it should be empowered to protect and serve the people, and the many, allied with the juggernaut of Capitalist exploitation, who see government itself as the enemy and seek to dismantle all regulation that mitigates against industry’s brute power.

A House Divided..? This is a House shattered, dismantled, atomized. This is inexorable disintegration, the inevitable consequence of a continuous, uninterrupted, controlled demolition.

Whose plan was it? It was Capitalism’s. Not, of course, the plan they thought they were implementing. All these percolating disasters are unintended consequences of an economic system the sole purpose of which is to grind the living world to powder for money; a system without one single provision for the care and preservation of life in any form other than as a source of monetary gain. It is a system for which life itself has no intrinsic value. With this as its foundational principle, it followed that whatever was done to humanity and the living world was of no concern to Capitalism. And it hasn’t been. The fouling and pillaging of the living world and the evisceration of our society are simply collateral damage.

This last, ongoing, Presidential election idiocy—we have been instructed— is one of supreme, indeed, unparalleled importance. On the outcome, the fate of our “democracy” depends, we’re told. Its result will save or sink us, is the cry from both factions. The fact is that neither will do anything but accelerate the process of our implosion and devolution. The notion that either of these grotesques od the farcical, juvenile, Mad Hatter Parties that offered them up to a blithered automaton electorate could make an iota of difference in the vector or velocity of our catastrophe is beyond absurd.

There will be no “coming together”; no “healing of wounds”. No “long, national nightmare” will be over.

The lesions that unrestrained Capitalism has inflicted and left raw and festering on the body politic are not healable, and are fatal. The abject lunacy with which it has inseminated the insect brain of the American people will not abate and is not educationally or psychologically treatable. The emotional and cognitive confusion and incapacity that relentless subjection to poisoning by the virulently noxious propaganda of Capitalism cannot now be reversed or diluted.

The end of the pathetic, ridiculous stalemate will come and another set of dimwitted, visionless imperial maniacs and hysterics will assume their positions. One vacuous moral cripple will assemble his cadre of clowns and jesters and, facing a bifurcated Congress almost entirely composed of loons, throwbacks, hicks, and flimflam men, will do his damndest to take us hurtling down the fast lane to chaos and dissolution.

A hundred years ago, the poet Robinson Jeffers wrote a heartbroken love letter to his country. He called it, “Shine, Perishing Republic”. It has taken this long for his worst fears to come to full fruition. He wept to foresee it: it remains for us to live it.

Arundhati Roy Confronts the Tyranny of the Free Market Perhaps the most revealing words on the topic of globalization in recent years came not from the pen of Thomas Piketty, nor were they written by Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman -- rather, they can be found in the pages of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, written by the notorious New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

“The hidden hand of the market," Friedman notes in a particularly telling fragment, “will never work without a hidden fist. Mc'ald’s cannot flourish without Mc'nell Douglass, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps."

Friedman isn’t known for his subtlety or sincerity, but the above passage strikes at a crucial truth. So much so, in fact, that Arundhati Roy christened it “the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporate globalization that I have read."







Highlights from Gods of Money, by F. William Engdahl

it is a history of power, more precisely, of the colossal abuse of power in the hands of a tiny elite who have constituted themselves as the “Gods of Money."

a history of the tiny clique of international bankers who created Wall Street and who control it today, as they did the City of Lon' until the First World War.

the Federal Reserve Act. It was passed by an almost empty Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson—a crony of Wall Street—on Christmas Eve, 1913. bankers’ coup d’état:

The Money Trust of Wall Street saw war as the entrée to financial influence in Europe, filling the vacuum left by a bankrupt Britain.

the Rockefeller group and their banks emerged as the unchallenged leaders of the emerging American domination of the globe,

Since 1945 American hegemony, or more accurately an American imperium, has rested on two firm pillars of support. The first pillar has been the role of the dollar as unchallenged world reserve currency in which New York’s Wall Street is the center of global finance, the “banker to the world." The second and complementary pillar has been the role of the Pentagon and the unchallenged dominance of American military power. What is poorly understood is how the two pillars fit together seamlessly within one and the same power structure, a power structure that is driven by the money interests.

The book is the result of some thirty years of research and writing on the theme of money and power.

Henry Kissinger, a protégé of the powerful Rockefeller circles. He declared, “If you control the oil, you control entire nations; if you control the food, you control the people; if you control the money, you control the entire world."

On July 29, 2007 emergency rescue of Germany’s IKB Deutsche Industriebank. IKB was a bank originally set up in 1924 to facilitate payment of German industrial war reparations under the Dawes Plan.

Since the adoption of the US Constitution in 1787, the United States of America had had two abortive experiences with central banks

The first national bank was designed by the nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. In 1791,

In 1791, Hamilton proposed the establishment of a Bank of the United States, modeled, however, on the privately-owned Bank of England. Benjamin Franklin, being familiar with the Bank of England, understood all too well the dangers of a privately owned central bank controlling the issue of the nation’s currency. Franklin effectively blocked the chartering of a privately-owned central bank until his death in 1791.

By its charter, it was 80% owned by private investors,

Nathan Rothschild, at the time Lon'’s and the world’s most powerful banker, invested heavily in the first Bank of the United States, becoming by some accounts its largest shareholder.

The US Government in effect handed over to private bankers control over its money and agreed to pay those bankers interest to boot on money it borrowed. Thomas Jefferson vehemently opposed the bill to create a privately controlled central bank. Nevertheless, George Washington signed it into law on February 25, 1791.

Thomas Jefferson vehemently opposed the bill to create a privately controlled central bank. Nevertheless, George Washington signed it into law on February 25, 1791.

USA declared war against Britain. To finance the War of 1812 as it became known, the US Government went deeply into debt.

In 1816, Congress acquiesced and created the Second Bank of the United States, The Second Bank was controlled by Nicholas Biddle, a wealthy Philadelphian and the bank’s President

President Andrew Jackson vetoed the bill to re-charter the Second Bank in 1832. Biddle’s blackmail attempt failed. On January 8, 1835, Jackson paid off the final installment on the US National Debt for the first time in America’s history.

Lon' bankers control the US bank The Rothschild banking dynasty in Europe,

Enter Lon'’s powerful Rothschilds. sent August Belmont, Sr. to America, as his private agent.

Belmont was so effective in protecting Rothschild’s financial interests that he later became a financial advisor to US Presidents and head of the Democratic Party, all the while taking extraordinary measures behind the scenes to foment the American Civil War. (Belmont’s son, August Belmont, Jr., would later work with J.P. Morgan to create the Panic of 1893, paving the way for the third Bank of the United States— which would be called the Federal Reserve System.)

The Southern secession had been discreetly encouraged by August Belmont, still serving as Rothschild’s personal agent in the United States, and now a major figure in American politics. Belmont regarded Lincoln’s protectionist policies as anathema.

Lincoln followed famous German economist, Friedrich List.

Rather than establish a new Third Bank of the United States -- again to be controlled by private bankers, as leading Lon' and allied New York bankers wished -- Lincoln used the powers of the Constitution to convince Congress to authorize the issue of interest-free Legal Tender Notes nicknamed “Greenbacks”

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on State Paper Currency, Greenbacks enabled the Union to finance the Civil War independent of the Lon' banks and their New York partners. It likely provoked his assassination hours after the end of the war.

The Greenbacks allowed Lincoln to finance war costs independent of Lon' or New York bankers who were demanding an exorbitantly high interest rate – as high as between 24% and even 36%.

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, There was no serious Congressional investigation into the issue of conspiracy and who might have been behind the assassination. Lincoln was killed as a result of his monetary policies. Lincoln was viewed as a threat to the Rothschilds’ established order of things,

The evidence was provided to McGeer by Secret Service Agents after Booth’s death; it showed that John Wilkes Booth was a mercenary working for the international bankers.

At that time, most of the world’s central bank gold was in the hands of the Bank of England and the Lon' banks. In 1875, under pressure by East Coast bankers advocating the gold redemption of Greenbacks and the future issue exclusively of gold-backed US Government notes, the US Congress passed the Specie Resumption Act.

Powerful American industrial and banking families grouped around J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller concentrated the wealth and control of American industry

the Morgan and Rockefeller interests deployed fraud, deceit, violence, and bribery -- and they deliberately manipulated financial panics. Each financial panic, brought about through their calculated control of financial markets and banking credit, allowed them and their closest allies to consolidate ever more power into fewer and fewer hands.

Aristotle used the term “oligarchy” to describe rule by the wealthiest families

Like Britain around the time of the founding of the private Bank of England in 1694, this “open admissions” aristocracy would turn out to be a key factor in the dynamism of the emerging American empire—the

This oligarchy used its immense economic power, often secretly and in coordinated fashion, to orchestrate events that generated waves of bankruptcies and severe economic depressions, even panics.

Those interests were served by wars their captive press helped trigger,

The gold hoarding Panic of 1893 resulted in a contraction of bank credit across America that triggered the worst economic depression in US history up to that time.

Most of the great railroad lines were built not with Morgan money but with public taxes and gifts of public lands. J.P. Morgan then captured these railways and thereby achieved vital control over the entire United States economy.

60 families—names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Dodge, Mellon, formed a close network of plutocratic wealth that manipulated, bribed, and bullied its way to control the destiny of the United States.

The list of American fortunes built on such fraud, corruption and bribery of government officials was long.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act never in the least hindered Harriman or the other corporate giants. The law was a political charade to defuse public anger. Egregiously, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was also turned into a weapon to block the expansion of trade unions in the US, as the Supreme Court ruled that striking unionists were a ‘combination in restraint of trade.’

No American business giant of that day could hold a candle to the greatest fraudster and swindler in American financial history at that time— Junius Pierpont Morgan.

J.P. Morgan was behind the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. Morgan and Rockefeller Engineer the ‘Panic Of 1907’

The panic of 1893, it will be recalled, was caused by a run on gold engineered by the bankers themselves. J. Pierpont Morgan had used the crisis to gain control of the most strategic steel and railroad industries of the United States. In 1901 he gained control of US Steel,

Meanwhile, Stillman’s National City Bank (Citigroup), the bank of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, had emerged as the largest commercial bank in the United States.

By 1907, the Morgan and Rockefeller financial groups were ready to launch their next financial attack on the country’s economy -- what came to be called the Panic of 1907. This was to be the needed final push to their greatest coup of all—passage in 1913 of the Federal Reserve Act in which a largely unwitting US

Congress turned control of its power to print money over to a consortium of private bankers.

Rockefeller had unloaded millions of pounds of copper onto the market, precipitating a collapse of copper prices. false rumors deliberately planted by Morgan cronies in newspapers they controlled,

The country was plunged into yet another severe economic depression

Rarely mentioned in the debate about the recurring bank panics was the fact that the Government of the United States of America, through its Secretary of the Treasury, already had the power to step in and lend to the credit-starved banks. The Treasury could easily have played the role of lender of last resort and kept the nation’s credit process under federal guidance and public control, as was explicitly mandated in Article 1 of the United States Constitution.

The Bankers’ Coup D’état In 1908
the most powerful bankers in America met in highest secrecy to draw up plans for the greatest financial and political coup d’état in the history of the United States. The plan was to rob from the US Congress its constitutionally mandated powers to create and control money.

By the nature of the business, international bankers were not loyal to any fixed national space. They had discovered over centuries, going back to the Venetian Empire, that lending to governments or monarchs was far more profitable than lending to private borrowers, not least because the subject loan was backed by the power of the state to tax its citizens to guarantee debt repayment.

They operated in absolute secrecy, lest the general public understand how the banks’ money manipulated political decisions behind the scenes, including decisions to go to war or to keep the peace.

Chase National Bank. The latter, named for Treasure Secretary Chase, became the bank of the Rockefeller Standard Oil empire.

The name of Central Bank is carefully avoided, but the ‘Federal Reserve Association’, the name given to the proposed central organization, is endowed with the usual powers and responsibilities of a European Central Bank.

twelve member banks of the Federal Reserve Association, as he called it, would be owned by private stockholders. The private stockholders in turn could use the credit of the US Government for their own private profit... it was a bank of issue, meaning it could create currency or money at will.

The Bank of England had been granted a royal charter in 1694, A perpetual money machine for the British Government was created. The idea of a permanent National Debt was born.

Fractional reserve banking was first introduced at the Bank of Amsterdam in the middle of the Seventeenth Century. It was 'e in strict secrecy, lest a depositors’ panic ensue, which it ultimately did.

Soon the bankers of Amsterdam realized that at any one time only a small portion of their deposits were withdrawn. So they secretly set out to determine the minimum deposits needed to meet that demand on average, and to lend out the rest in order to make money on their borrowed deposits.

Were the general public to learn that only 50% of their gold was in safe deposit with the Bank, a panic would ensue -- which it did in 1791, ending the Bank.

The essence of fractional reserve banking drives banks to lend to the maximum to maximize earnings until credit excess leads to a market collapse. Because the bank lends funds it does not own, the credit mechanism leads to creation of money ex nihilo—out of nothing— through simple bookkeeping entries. Such was the history of the repeatedly engineered bank panics

the Democrats’ version of a national bank act, the Owen-Glass Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

The Pujo hearings were used to manipulate public opinion to back passage of the fateful Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution permitting the Federal Government, in divergence with the Constitution, to levy a direct personal income tax, something that was to prove decisive later in financing US entry into World War I and beyond.

Effectively, the Federal Reserve System ceded the Congress’ right to print money to a legalized cartel of private banks, affiliated with the banks of the City of Lon', above all N.M. Rothschild

It was Morgan and Rockefeller money that put ‘reform’ Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the White House in 1912.

The Republican controlled Senate pushed the bill through when many members of the US Congress were home for the Christmas holiday. Democratic President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law one hour after it was passed by the Congress.

the primus inter pares or first among equals of the twelve.

The key provision of the Federal Reserve Act stipulated that decisions of the Federal Reserve were not to be ratified by the President, or anyone else in the Executive branch of the United States Government or the Congress.

The amendment would allow the newly-established central bank to destroy money as well as to create it. With that, the way was now clear for the Federal Reserve and the private bankers controlling its policies to create economic boom periods, mobilize the economy for wars, and to create deflationary recessions and depressions,

Rhodes and Milner and an elite circle of Empire strategists founded a secret society in 1910 whose purpose was to revitalize a flagging British imperial spirit. The society, many of whose members were graduates of All Souls College at Oxford University, would secretly steer the strategic policies of the British Empire up until the end of the Second World War. They called their group the Round Table,

The British won the Boer War. But in the course of events, they lost their Empire.

England’s nominal victory in the end was pyrrhic. It demonstrated to the entire world that the mightiest Empire on the earth was unable to defeat a small, inferior fighting force determined to defend their homeland, a lesson the American elite was to learn bitterly in Vietnam in the 1970s.

in 1900, Germany’s industrial growth, its educational system and its science were already leaving England far behind.

Frederick Jackson Turner argued that America’s uniqueness was the product of an ever-expanding frontier. It was a precursor of a later German notion of Lebensraum, but one imbued with a messianic religious veneer of America’s ‘God-given’ mission.

Adams and Turner were social Darwinists, as were Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and most of the American plutocrats. They extended the 19th Century notion of America’s ‘Manifest Destiny’ of God-willed expansion across the Continent to the 20th Century task of an American domination of the rest of the world, just as the sun was setting on the decadent and moribund British Empire.

It was the result of a strategic decision taken well beforehand in Whitehall and Ten Downing Street, first with France in 1904, followed by an entente with Czarist Russia in 1907. The aim of this emerging Triple Entente was the military encirclement and isolation of their mutual foe, Germany.

On the outbreak of war in Europe, more than one-third of all Americans were immigrants,

In 1915, at the beginning of the European war, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. of Delaware received $100,000,000 of British money through J.P. Morgan... Monsanto Chemical Company grew accordingly.

In 1916 alone American industry, despite the nation’s official neutrality, exported a staggering $1,290,000,000 worth of war munitions to England and France.

Senator Gerald Nye, a North Dakota Progressive Republican, held hearings to investigate the role of the munitions industry and finance in dragging the United States into the First World War. Nye called the war industries “merchants of death."

Lenin, threatened to take power and withdraw Russia from the war... the Germans decided to transport Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership—then in exile in Switzerland—in a special sealed railcar from their Swiss exile by train back to Russia, together with enough gold bars to fund a revolution against the Czar.

the alternative to war [I] was domestic collapse of the US economic and financial structure.

From the time of its official entry into the European war in April 1917 until the signing of armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, the United States Government lent the European Allied Powers what Lamont had called a “really stupendous” sum: $9,386,311,178.

the Wilson White House created the most impressive propaganda bureau the world had ever seen. On April 13, 1917 Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information (CPI). Under the leadership of a journalist crony of Wilson named George Creel, shrewdest propagandists in American history, a young Viennese-born naturalized American named Edward Bernays.

Using Creel’s muckraking journalism and Bernays’ Freudian psychology – with its analysis of unconscious needs and drives -- the Government’s Committee on Public Information assaulted the unwitting American public with a calculated barrage of lies, jingoistic epithets

instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Radical newspapers, such as the socialist Appeal to Reason, were silenced by wartime limitations on dissent.

it was Bernays’ unique, perverse genius for fusing mob psychology and mass media techniques to manipulate specific human emotions on a large scale. He had learned these keys to influencing human behavior through the work of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

The CPI’s domestic division was composed of 19 sub-divisions, and each focused on a particular type of propaganda.

Count von Bernstorff, a German diplomat, made a similar observation from another perspective: “The outstanding characteristic of the average American is rather a great, though superficial, sentimentality."

So great are the psychological resistances to war in modern nations that every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor. There must be no ambiguity about who the public is to hate.

A particularly effective strategy for demonizing Germans was the use of atrocity stories... It has been employed with unvarying success in every conflict known to man."






Smart Meters

Smart Utility Meters Josh at GreenMedInfo

At a time when divisive political battles rage on, some things closer to home perhaps deserve more attention. The concept of looking higher than the mainstream narrative is something that GreenMedInfo readers are well accustomed to, so I will dive right in.

One such close-to-home focus is that of 'smart' utility meters, a highly-invasive technology that is positioned to be integrated with big telecom's 5G plans. The innocuous-sounding 'smart' meter has been shown to facilitate in-home surveillance, health risks, unjust billing increases, thousands of house fires, and hacking vulnerability.

While utility metering doesn't sound sexy, when you watch Take Back Your Power 2017, you'll see the critical nature of the 'smart' meter situation and story. But the ending remains unwritten, since there are new, effective solutions people are using to fight back to protect their families.

The profitability of spying on your home and family is such that a NARUC director has admitted that the value of the data harvested by the meters without your consent – data of what you do in your own home – will be "worth a lot more than the commodity [electricity] that's being consumed to generate the data."

This is being undertaken by global elitists under the guise of climate action, though the meters do nothing to reduce energy consumption or help the environment. Hundreds of local governments have issued moratoriums or bans, and well over a million energy customers in North America have written their utility to decline a 'smart' meter on their homes. As a response, pioneers at InPower Movement have initiated a mass action of liability, with positive initial results.

Here's what you need to know

Back in 2008, President Barack Obama's first major move after his election was asking for $100B to fund a 'smart' grid. That program incentivized utilities – with grants up to $200m each – to install the new digitized wireless meters – for electricity, water and gas. Utilities only received these funds if they complied with the agenda.

Approximately 60-65% of Americans now have 'smart' utility meters. As this is part of widespread plan intended to reap billions of dollars and further centralize control, other nations and utilities have followed suit.

So, what's the big deal about 'smart' meters? Our grid needed an upgrade, right? The film you're about to watch documents 5 major problems with 'smart' meters:

In-home spying. The 'smart' meters are designed to function as a "collector hub" for any devices or 'smart' appliances emitting wireless signals in your home. They transmit this data to the next house, which eventually transmits back to the utility (or whomever intercepts the data). Knowing what you are doing in your home is an entirely new way to increase profit and control; and this is all being done without your consent or knowledge. This is against the law, but according to a judge in Illinois, legally we are deemed to have accepted these terms of service, because we have signed up for electrical service. Apparently, it's just business.

Health risks. 'Smart' meters emit pulsed microwave radiation typically every few seconds, and as much as 190,000 times per day. The strength of each microsecond-pulse is at least hundreds of times higher than the radiation emitted by a typical cell phone call. Potentially an even greater risk, however, is what's known as "dirty electricity" generated by the 'smart' meter's switch-mode power supply (SMPS). Health problems have been reported to utilities by perhaps hundreds of thousands of customers, but most people are not yet aware that their utility meter could very well be a culprit causing an increase in symptoms.

Unjust billing increases. 'Smart' meters mean higher bills. Utilities such as ComEd raised base rates 38% to pay for 'smart' meter programs. The meters are admitted to be less accurate, and have racked up bills even with power to the home turned off. In addition, utilities will also increase rates based on "time of use" – so you pay more during peak times. Each 'smart' meter costs hundreds of dollars and is designed to last 5-7 years. Analog meters cost 80-90% less and last 30-40 years. Who pays? We do.

Thousands of house fires and explosions. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents of house fires related to "upgraded" meters. In once incident in Stockton, California, hundreds of 'smart' meters exploded simultaneously, and 5,800 homes were left without power. 'Smart' meters have caused fatal fires in Dallas (Texas), in Vacaville (California), very likely in Reno (Nevada) and in other undocumented sites. More than 500,000 faulty 'smart' meters have been replaced by various utilities because of these fire risks.

Hacking vulnerability. The level of access and hackability facilitated by 'smart' meters is indeed a very big problem. They effectively create an open door into your home, making you vulnerable to remote interference or power shutoffs. High-ranking officials, such as a former CIA director and a former NSA insider, have lambasted the technology as harmful and potentially catastrophic.

The depth of what's at stake is the reason why I'm releasing this updated 2017 edition of Take Back Your Power, permanently free and on YouTube for the first time ever. The world needs to know about 'smart' meters, about big telecom's new '5G' wireless assault, and what you can do. Let us reach the tipping point in awareness, say "no" effectively, and chart a better course, together.

How Your Constitutional Right to Privacy Just Became a "Privilege" in the Eyes of Courts A Federal Appeals Court in Illinois has ruled that “smart” meters facilitate government search – but called this practice “reasonable”. This story involves a collusion between big corporations, courts and a fake-grassroots organization.

Over the past couple weeks, I've been hearing from several sources about this supposed “win” against utilities pushing “smart” meters. This report, disseminated by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is about a recent Federal Appeals Court ruling on “smart” meter surveillance, in Naperville, Illinois. This so-called journalism by EFF is titled, “Win! Landmark Seventh Circuit Decision Says Fourth Amendment Applies to Smart Meter Data."

But having seen how it was positioned exactly polar opposite of this report from K.T. Weaver - who lives in Naperville and has been reporting independently on “smart” meter harm for several years - I needed to figure out just what the hell is going on. The title of K.T.'s article is “Federal Court Rules against Consumers on Smart Meters and Privacy Rights." So, why are the reports so different?

My "aha!" moment on EFF came when, in corresponding with K.T., he sent me this Brasscheck interview with Yasha Levine, a respected truth-teller and author of Surveillance Valley. I have been following some of Yasha's work for several years with great interest.

Before we get into examining Yasha’s claim that the EFF is a giant piece of astroturf, let's dive straight into the facts of the recent court ruling on “smart” meters and privacy.

This development has everything to do with our basic human rights, how legal strategies are being implemented to work against the people, and whom we can and cannot trust when seeking justice.

On August 16, 2018, your 4th Amendment right to privacy in your home just became a "privilege"

K.T. Weaver has a multi-year history of independently reporting the facts about “smart” meters on his website SmartGridAwareness.org. As such, we will refer primarily to his posted research and to first-hand quotes from the actual case.

Smart Grid Awareness Federal Court Rules against Consumers on Smart Meters and Privacy Rights

To start with, in 2015 a Naperville District Court had ruled that utility customers who accept a “smart” meter are deemed to have consented to privacy violations as recognized in the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. Since most utilities are extorting their own customers who do not want a “smart” meter on their home, this ruling is baseless and corrupt.

Mark this as flag #1, for those of you wondering why we are not getting justice in courts.

Now, on August 16, 2018, this Federal Appeals Court ruling has conceded that with “smart” meters, occupants are being subjected to a government search every 15 minutes - without their voluntary consent.

But here's where it gets even more maddening.

Rather than ruling against utilities right then and there, the Federal Appeals Court blatantly took direction from industry lawyers', who requested that it be determined whether the government searches are legally "reasonable".

From industry proponents' amicus brief submitted to the court:

"The reasonableness of a search under the Fourth Amendment is determined by balancing its intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests."

Taking the cue, the Federal Appeals Court in Naperville, Illinois assumed an initial position of advocating for the government, stating that "the government’s interest in smart meters is significant."

In their analysis, the court first legitimized the false supposition that:

"Smart meters allow utilities to reduce costs, provide cheaper power to consumers, encourage energy efficiency, and increase grid stability. We hold that these interests render the city’s search reasonable, where the search is unrelated to law enforcement, is minimally invasive, and presents little risk of corollary criminal consequences."

This perspective is patently false. Bills go up, energy usage is not reduced, and grids are made vulnerable to hacking. Those pushing “smart” meters have let it slip over and over that the purpose of “smart” meters is to collect information so invasive and granular in nature it will reap billions. And in the eyes of a senior NARUC official, “smart” meter data will “be worth a lot more than the commodity that’s being consumed to generate the data” – electricity – which is a $2.2 trillion annual enterprise.

The house fires (including fatalities), health damage (from EMF and dirty electricity), and security risk to all of us are seen as just a cost of doing the data-harvesting business. And the inexplicable billing increases & “time-of-use” schemes are most definitely seen as an added benefit.

The court then exposed more of its true colors:

"[S]ince these searches are not performed as part of a criminal investigation, … we can turn immediately to an assessment of whether they are reasonable, ‘by balancing its intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate government interests’."

As K.T. points out, does that language sound familiar? Then, this:

"[P]rivacy interest must be weighed against the government’s interest in the data collection."

K.T. Weaver summarizes the effect of this case, going forward in the "legal" world:

"This Court ruling appears merely to have had the effect of advancing from the District Court opinion of 'deemed' consent for data collection to an Appeals Court opinion of 'deemed' legitimate government interest for data collection. Either way, smart meter privacy invasions continue to occur, just now as an official governmental 'search.'"

Do you see what just happened here?

Your constitutional rights are now legally being weighed against the desires of the government. This, right here, is a marker for where your rights have officially, legally become recognized as privileges.

Now you see the game that courts and industry are playing together. Setting legal precedents and creating “the new normal”. It’s just business.







Corporate Welfare

Where Is The Outrage Over Corporate Welfare? Forbes by David Brunori

I recently read the February 24 Good Jobs First report, “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent," by Philip Mattera, a respected thought leader in our business. It says that three-quarters of all state economic development subsidies went to just 965 corporations since the beginning of the study in 1976. The Fortune 500 corporations alone accounted for more than 16,000 subsidy awards, worth $63 billion – mostly in the form of tax breaks.

Think about that. The largest, wealthiest, most powerful organizations in the world are on the public dole. Where is the outrage? Back when I was young, people went into a frenzy at the thought of some unemployed person using food stamps to buy liquor or cigarettes. Ronald Reagan famously campaigned against welfare queens. The right has always been obsessed with moochers. But Boeing receives $13 billion in government handouts and everyone yawns, when conservatives should be grabbing their pitchforks.

According to Good Jobs First, there are 514 economic development programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 245,000 awards have been granted under those programs. I ask again, where is the outrage? The system is antithetical to the idea of free markets. A quarter of a million times, state governments decided what is best for producers and consumers. That should make us cringe.

But more importantly, those 514 economic development programs are almost all the result of insidious cronyism. Narrow business interests manipulate government policymakers, and those interests prosper to the detriment of everyone else. Free markets be damned.

And while I’m looking for outrage, where are the liberals? The 965 companies in the report received over $110 billion of public money. Berkshire Hathaway, a company with $485 billion in assets and $20 billion in profits, received over $1 billion of that money. Its chair, Warren Buffett, is worth about $58 billion. Buffett, by the way, is still a darling of the left. He has some nerve to call for higher taxes. The billion dollars his companies took would pay for a lot of teachers, healthcare, and other public goods.

I don’t blame the corporations. They act rationally. If someone gives you $1 billion, you take it. The blame lies with us. The sheer size of the corporate welfare system should spark outrage whether we are conservatives, liberals, or libertarians. And that outrage should be reflected in how we vote. In the meantime, kudos to Good Jobs First for continuing to highlight this problem.

Corporate Welfare Corporate welfare is a general term that refers to financial assistance, tax advantages, or other support given to corporations and other business entities by the United States government. Unlike welfare payments given to individuals, corporate welfare system is not intended to prevent poverty or raise the standard of living. Instead the federal government awards payments to specific industries or companies in the form of subsidies, grants, contracts, and other aid. Due to the wide range of interests, the system is not monitored or controlled by a single Congressional committee. In addition, since many Americans have mixed views on corporate welfare, this practice is sometimes an area of great debate.

The corporate welfare system in the US is extremely complex and widespread and often includes both direct subsidies and indirect subsidies. The direct subsidies are awarded to numerous fields and programs and used for specific projects or plans. For example, funds may be contributed to areas of agriculture, economic development, transportation, energy, research, and technology. Indirect subsidies usually support the promotion of US goods and services in foreign countries as well as attempts to resurrect failing businesses. Corporate welfare benefits may be short or long term and can vary greatly among different areas of commercial interest.

The largest direct subsidies of the welfare system are regularly given to the field of agribusiness or, more specifically, for crops and farming. There are a variety of opinions on this particular topic. While supporters of corporate welfare for farmers maintain that farming must make up a substantial portion of the US economy in order for it to remain strong, others argue that technological advances have changed the business of agriculture to one that does not require as much money to operate as it once did. Yet many farmers often have higher incomes and lower expenses than other households in the US, giving rise to the issue of responsible disbursement of funds.

Ten Examples of Welfare for the Rich and Corporations HuffPost by Bill Quigley

Here are the top 10 examples of corporate welfare and welfare for the rich. There are actually thousands of tax breaks and subsidies for the rich and corporations provided by federal, state and local governments, but these 10 will give a taste.

1. State and local subsidies to corporations: An excellent New York Times study by Louise Story calculated that state and local government provide at least $80 billion in subsidies to corporations. Over 48 big corporations received over $100 million each. GM was the biggest, at a total of $1.7 billion extracted from 16 different states, but Shell, Ford and Chrysler all received over $1 billion each. Amazon, Microsoft, Prudential, Boeing and casino companies in Colorado and New Jersey received well over $200 million each.

2. Direct federal subsidies to corporations: The Cato Institute estimates that federal subsidies to corporations cost taxpayers almost $100 billion every year.

3. Federal tax breaks for corporations: The tax code gives corporations special tax breaks that have reduced what is supposed to be a 35-percent tax rate to an actual tax rate of 13 percent, saving these corporations an additional $200 billion annually, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

4. Federal tax breaks for wealthy hedge fund managers: Special tax breaks for hedge fund managers allow them to pay only a 15-percent rate while the people they earned the money for usually pay a 35-percent rate. This is the break where the multimillionaire manager pays less of a percentage in taxes than her secretary. The National Priorities Project estimates this costs taxpayers $83 billion annually, and 68 percent of those who receive this special tax break earn more than $462,500 per year (the top 1 percent of earners).

5. Subsidies to the fast food industry: Research by the University of Illinois and UC Berkeley documents that taxpayers pay about $243 billion each year in indirect subsidies to the fast food industry because they pay wages so low that taxpayers must put up $243 billion to pay for public benefits for their workers.

6. Mortgage deduction: The home mortgage deduction, which costs taxpayers $70 billion per year, is a huge subsidy to the real estate, banking and construction industries. The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that 77 percent of the benefit goes to homeowners with incomes over $100,000 per year.

7. The billions above do not even count the government bailout of Wall Street, while all parties have done their utmost to tell the public that they did not need it, that they paid it back, or that it was a great investment. The Atlantic Monthly estimates that $7.6 trillion was made available by the Federal Reserve to banks, financial firms and investors. The Cato Institute estimates (using government figures) the final costs at $32 to $68 billion, not including the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which alone cost more than $180 billion.

8. Each major piece of legislation contains new welfare for the rich and corporations. The Boston Globe analyzed the emergency tax legislation passed by Congress in early 2013 and found it contained 43 business and energy tax breaks, together worth $67 billion.

9. Huge corporations that engage in criminal or other wrongful activities protect their leaders from being prosecuted by paying huge fees or fines to the government. You and I would be prosecuted. These corporations protect their bosses by paying off the government. For example, Reuters reported that JPMorgan Chase, which made a preliminary $13-billion mortgage settlement with the U.S. government, is allowed to write off a majority of the deal as tax deductible, saving the corporation $4 billion.

10. There are thousands of smaller special breaks for corporations and businesses out there. There is a special subsidy for corporate jets, which cost taxpayers $3 billion a year. The tax deduction for second homes costs $8 billion a year. Fifty billionaires received taxpayer-funded farm subsidies in the past 20 years.

f you want to look at the welfare for the rich and corporations, start with the federal Internal Revenue Code. That is the King James Bible of welfare for the rich and corporations. Special breaks in the tax code are the reason that there are thousands of lobbyists in the halls of Congress, hundreds of lobbyists around each state legislature and tens of thousands of tax lawyers all over the country.

CATO Institute: Corporate Welfare How much do we spend on corporate welfare?

Corporate Welfare. Corporate welfare is one manifestation of the special-interest spending problem. The budget contains many subsidies that aid some businesses at the expense of taxpayers and the overall economy. The government spends about $100 billion annually on corporate welfare, according to a 2012 Cato study.

Corporate Socialism and Hollowing of America Most people understand and assume that government income redistribution, where higher incomes are taxed and transferred to those with lower incomes, is a way of achieving greater income equality. But few people are aware of the extent of corporate socialism which is defined here as the transfer of capital, by government to corporations.

In the heat of the GFC [Great Financial Crisis?], corporate socialism was blatant as there was no need to hide the fact that financial corporations needed to be saved by the government’s injecting trillions of dollars into them to maintain liquidity and solvency of the financial system. The income inequality created by corporate socialism was equally blatant, making billionaires of executives such as Lloyd Blankfein (in July 2015), CEO of Goldman Sachs, a bank which was central to the fraudulent dealings of subprime mortgage derivatives triggering the GFC.

The close connection between the US government and the financial sector through the operations of the US Federal Reserve is perhaps well understood. But less well understood is how corporate socialism has been operating less blatantly by the government over the decades, not just recently. For example, nearly 6 percent of GDP collected annually in indirect taxes comes substantially from import duties, which protect corporations from foreign competition at the expense of consumers. American corporations can charge the consumers more than otherwise for their products – an outcome which would be contrary to advice from neoclassical economics.

But neoclassical economics would recommend government policy to deregulate the labour market to provide more flexible wages and salaries in order to increase employment. Wage flexibility is a euphemism for lower wages, because it is assumed that lower wages enable employers to hire more staff. The downward pressure on wages came from technology, globalization (liberalization of international trade), outsourcing and de-unionization of the private sector workforce, which fell from 35 percent membership to about 6.5 percent over 50 years.

Globalization has led to cheaper products, but also to greater competition for corporate profits. Lower wages enable higher corporate profits, because labour is usually the most significant cost to business operations; higher profits would result if the business captures the benefit of lower wages by not increasing its labour hire. Deregulation of the labour markets started in the UK under Thatcher, and in the US under Reagan, in the early 1980s, with the breaking of labour union strikes. The impact of this government policy took about a decade to be seen in the economic data, as the following chart shows.


Since the early 1990s, there has been a rising trend of corporate profits by about 5 percent of GDP and a continued falling trend of wages and salaries by about 3 percent of GDP. The development of such disequilibrium trends of falling employee compensation would have been unsustainable for the past 25 years, had it not been for government intervention with social welfare to compensate for falling pay of workers.

Income Inequality

The chart below shows the share of the top one percent of US income earners using the data from The World Wealth and Income Database (Alvaredo et al., 2015), compared with pre-tax corporate profits.


While corporate profits have increased in the past 25 years, but only to post-war levels relative to GDP, income inequality measured by the share accrued to the top one percent has increased dramatically. This suggests that current income inequality is not caused by the level of corporate profits, which are the same as after WW2 when inequality was much lower. This fact, and the fact that capital income has been relatively constant as a percentage of GDP and as a component of personal income, suggests that the income inequality is caused by corporate profits benefiting relatively fewer people. Therefore, the cause is the narrowing of the distribution of corporate profits, rather than greater corporate profits, greater capital income or higher return on capital.

Hollowing of America

It has been shown so far that US government policy can be characterized by welfare for corporations and for low-income households. This welfare policy has been the consequence of allowing the suppression of wages and salaries in the labour market. Stagnant wages and salaries contain costs relative to growing revenue for companies, thus increasing profits and boosting share prices. For low-income households with stagnant wages, real income has been augmented by increasing social welfare and deficit spending by the government.

Since wealth redistribution by government expenditure favours both the low end and the high end of the income spectrum, the middle class effectively shoulders a substantial burden by paying more taxes than it receives in benefits. This policy limits the economic viability of parts of the middle class and is responsible for the hollowing of America. The middle class – consisting of small and medium enterprises of entrepreneurs, professionals and family businesses – is the major employer and the real engine of economic growth under capitalism.


Recycling

Let's call recycling what it is- a fraud, a sham, a scam perpetrated by big business on the citizens and municipalities of America…Recycling is simply the transfer of producer responsibility for what they produce to the taxpayer who has to pick it up and take it away.

Now that China is refusing to take our waste, the whole system is breaking down. That's why it's time for zero waste and deposits on everything. - Treehugger

Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day

Lets call recycling what it is- a fraud, a sham, a scam perpetrated by big business on the citizens and municipalities of America. Look who sponsors the National Recycling Coalition: behind America Recycles Day: Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Owens-Illinois, International Bottled Water Association, the same people who brought you that other fraud, Keep America Beautiful.

Recycling is simply the transfer of producer responsibility for what they produce to the taxpayer who has to pick it up and take it away.

Heather Rogers wrote in "Message in a bottle" about how they did this. The Keep America Beautiful campaign started a few years after the introduction of disposable bottles in the early 1950s. Soon bottles were everywhere and states were considering bans on disposables. So American Can, Owens-Illinois and Coke got together to basically invent the concept of litter. They said "packages don't litter, people do." (sound familiar?)

"KAB downplayed industry's role in despoiling the earth, while relentlessly hammering home the message of each person's responsibility for the destruction of nature, one wrapper at a time. ....KAB was a pioneer in sowing confusion about the environmental impact of mass production and consumption."

Now that China won't take plastic waste, what's the U.S. doing?

A new investigation by Greenpeace delves into the ongoing environmental devastation caused by our recycling habits.

It has been ten months since China closed its doors to the world's recycling waste. For the past twenty years, it had taken enormous quantities of plastic and other recyclable materials from countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States. 'Enormous quantities' is not an understatement: the UK shipped two-thirds of its waste to China and the U.S. sent 70 percent. Overall, China used to take in 45 percent of the planet's recycling waste.

Needless to say, the decision threw the recycling industry into total chaos because most countries do not have the proper infrastructure in place to deal with their own recycling waste. As a result, many cities and municipalities have limited their recycling capabilities and begun landfilling or incinerating a greater number of products that formerly were recyclable.

Curious about what has happened behind the scenes this year, as U.S. recyclers struggle to adjust to the change, Greenpeace conducted an investigation titled 'Unearthed.' It found that plastic scrap exports from the U.S. plummeted by one third in the first half of 2018 and that other markets have been found in southeast Asia. Exports to Thailand increased by nearly 2,000 percent, in Malaysia by 273 percent, and in Vietnam by 46 percent. Vietnam has been so overwhelmed that it temporarily banned imports between June and October, and a plastics processing facility in Kuala Lumpur was forced to shut down due to residents complaining of air and water pollution.

Unearthed says there is still 280,000 metric tons of plastic not being exported from the U.S. but unaccounted for, leading investigators to suspect it's being incinerated or sent to landfill.

The rise in new markets is concerning for a number of reasons. As Robin Wiener, CEO of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, told Unearthed investigators,

"Some of these countries just don’t have the infrastructure in ports or roads to deal with an increase in volume of material. Pop-up recyclers are trying to take advantage of these shifting markets but they are not doing it properly. They are not following industry standards when it comes to environmental, health, and safety practices."

Faced with rising bills, it's not a stretch to imagine that some cities will choose to landfill their waste, rather than pay to have it recycled. Residents may be expected to foot the bill for their own waste, either in the form of higher taxes or, as one town in Vermont is planning to do, being charged for their recycling -- which, I must say, sounds like a smart idea.

I've always maintained that, if we didn't have the ability to send waste away to some nebulous, distant place, and if we had to stash it all in our own backyards indefinitely, moving to zero-waste and reusable packaging would become an obsession. The fact that we've been able to offshore the majority of our waste processing has caused us as consumers to grow complacent and lazy.

This report underscores what we've been arguing on TreeHugger for years -- that recycling doesn't work. It is not the feel-good, environmentally-friendly solution that people like to believe it is. What we need is to stop throwing things away, whether it's in the garbage or the blue bin (compost heap excepted). This means making smart, sustainable choices as consumers, and applying pressure on manufacturers to come up with circular packaging solutions.









Wells Fargo

Former Wells Fargo chief executive barred from banking industry

Wells Fargo admits it incorrectly foreclosed on 545 homeowners it should have helped

WP 11-7-18

Wells Fargo acknowledged Tuesday that, because of a calculation error, it had improperly foreclosed on 545 distressed homeowners after they asked for help with their mortgages.

Overall, 870 homeowners were denied help for which they qualified -- with more than half losing their homes afterward, Wells Fargo said.

The acknowledgment is sure to increase pressure on the San Francisco-based bank, which has been struggling to repair its image after a series of missteps. It has already paid more than $1 billion in fines to various regulators for opening up sham accounts people did not want and improperly repossessing thousands of cars.


Sanctions of Mass Destruction: America's War on Venezuela

By Garikai Chengu, January 31, 2019 "Information Clearing House"

Prior to American sanctions, socialism in Venezuela had reduced inequality and poverty whilst pensions expanded..

American economic sanctions have been the worst crime against humanity since World War Two. America’s economic sanctions have killed more innocent people than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the history of mankind.

The fact that for America the issue in Venezuela is oil, not democracy, will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves on the planet.

America seeks control of Venezuela because it sits atop the strategic intersection of the Caribbean, South and Central American worlds. Control of the nation, has always been a remarkably effective way to project power into these three regions and beyond.

From the first moment Hugo Chavez took office, the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist movement by using sanctions, coup attempts, and funding the opposition parties. After all, there is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’état.

United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, recommended, just a few days ago, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity perpetrated by America.

Over the past five years, American sanctions have cut Venezuela off from most financial markets, which have caused local oil production to plummet. Consequently, Venezuela has experienced the largest decline in living standards of any country in recorded Latin American history.

Prior to American sanctions, socialism in Venezuela had reduced inequality and poverty whilst pensions expanded. During the same time period in America, it has been the absolute reverse. President Chavez funneled Venezuela’s oil revenues into social spending such as free+6 healthcare, education, subsidized food networks, and housing construction.

In order to fully understand why America is waging economic war on the people of Venezuela one must analyse the historical relationship between the petrodollar system and Sanctions of Mass Destruction: Prior to the 20th century, the value of money was tied to gold. When banks lent money they were constrained by the size of their gold reserves. But in 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon took the country off the gold standard. Nixon and Saudi Arabia came to an Oil For Dollars agreement that would change the course of history and become the root cause of countless wars for oil. Under this petrodollar agreement the only currency that Saudi Arabia could sell its oil in was the US dollar. The Saudi Kingdom would in turn ensure that its oil profits flow back into U.S. government treasuries and American banks.

In exchange, America pledged to provide the Saudi Royal family’s regime with military protection and military hardware.

It was the start of something truly great for America. Access to oil defined 20th-century empires and the petrodollar agreement was the key to the ascendancy of the United States as the world’s sole superpower. America’s war machine runs on, is funded by, and exists in protection of oil.

Threats by any nation to undermine the petrodollar system are viewed by Washington as tantamount to a declaration of war against the United States of America.

Within the last two decades Iraq, Iran, Libya and Venezuela have all threatened to sell their oil in other currencies. Consequently, they have all been subject to crippling U.S. sanctions.

Over time the petrodollar system spread beyond oil and the U.S. dollar slowly but surely became the reserve currency for global trades in most commodities and goods. This system allows America to maintain its position of dominance as the world’s only superpower, despite being a staggering $23 trillion in debt.

With billions of dollars worth of minerals in the ground and with the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela should not only be wealthy, but her people the envy of the developing world. But the nation is essentially broke because American sanctions have cut them off from the international financial system and cost the economy $6 billion over the last five years. Without sanctions, Venezuela could recover easily by collateralizing some of its abundant resources or its $8 billion of gold reserves, in order to get the loans necessary to kick-start their economy.

In order to fully understand the insidious nature of the Venezuelan crisis, it is necessary to understand the genesis of economic sanctions. At the height of World War Two, President Truman issued an order for American bombers to drop “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 140,000 people instantly. The gruesome images that emerged from the rubble were broadcast through television sets across the world and caused unprecedented outrage. The political backlash forced U.S. policy makers to devise a more subtle weapon of mass destruction: economic sanctions.

The term "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) was first defined by the United Nations in 1948 as

"atomic explosive weapons, radioactive material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive effect to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above."

Sanctions are clearly the 21st century’s deadliest weapon of mass destruction.

In 2001, the U.S. administration told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; Iraq was a terrorist state; Iraq was tied to Al Qaeda. It all amounted to nothing. In fact, America already knew that the only weapons of mass destruction that Saddam had were not nuclear in nature, but rather chemical and biological. The only reason they knew this in advance was because America sold the weapons to Saddam to use on Iran in 1991.

What the U.S. administration did not tell us was that Saddam Hussein used to be a strong ally of the United States. The main reason for toppling Saddam and putting sanctions on the people of Iraq was the fact that Iraq had ditched the Dollar-for-Oil sales.

The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million Iraqis died due to Bill Clinton’s sanctions; 500,000 of whom were children. In 1996, a journalist asked former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, about these UN reports, specifically about the children. America’s top foreign policy official, Albright, replied:

"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."

Clearly, U.S. sanctions policies are nothing short of state-sanctioned genocide.

Over the last five years, sanctions have caused Venezuelan per capita incomes to drop by 40 percent, which is a decline similar to that of war torn Iraq and Syria at the height of their armed conflicts. Millions of Venezuelans have had to flee the country. If America is so concerned about refugees, Trump should stop furthering disastrous foreign policies that actually create them. Under Chavez, Venezuela had a policy of welcoming refugees. President Chavez turned Venezuela into the wealthiest society in Latin America with the best income equality.

Another much vilified leader who used oil wealth to enrich his people, only to be put under severe sanctions, is Muammar Gaddafi. In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa; however, by the time he was assassinated, Gaddafi had turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation. Perhaps, Gaddafi’s greatest crime, in the eyes of NATO, was his quest to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. Dollars and denominate crude sales in a new gold backed common African currency. In fact, in August 2011, President Obama confiscated $30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold-backed Dinar currency.

Africa has the fastest growing oil industry in the world and oil sales in a common African currency would have been especially devastating for the American dollar, the U.S. economy, and particularly the elite in charge of the petrodollar system.

It is for this reason that President Clinton signed the now infamous Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which the United Nations Children’s Fund said caused widespread suffering among civilians by “severely limiting supplies of fuel, access to cash, and the means of replenishing stocks of food and essential medications." Clearly, U.S. sanctions are weapons of mass destruction.

Not so long ago, Iraq and Libya were the two most modern and secular states in the Middle East and North Africa, with the highest regional standards of living. Nowadays, U.S. Military intervention and economic sanctions have turned Libya and Iraq into two of the world’s most failed nations.

"They want to seize Libya's oil and they care nothing about the lives of the Libyan people," remarked Chavez during the Western intervention in Libya in 2011.

In September 2017, President Maduro made good on Chavez’s promise to list oil sales in Yuan rather than the US dollar. Weeks later Trump signed a round of crippling sanctions on the people of Venezuela.

On Monday, U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton announced new sanctions that essentially steal $7 billion from Venezuela’s state owned oil company. At that press conference Bolton brazenly flashed a note pad that ominously said “5,000 troops to Colombia”. When confronted about it by the media, Bolton simply said,

"President Trump stated that all options are on the table."

America’s media is unquestionably the most corrupt institution in America. The nation’s media may quibble about Trump’s domestic policies but when it comes to starting wars for oil abroad they sing in remarkable unison. Fox News, CNN and the New York Times all cheered the nation into war in Iraq over fictitious weapons of mass destruction, whilst America was actually using sanctions of mass destruction on the Iraqi people. They did it in Libya and now they are doing it again in Venezuela. Democracy and freedom have always been the smoke screen in front of capitalist expansion for oil, and the Western Media owns the smoke machine. Economic warfare has long since been under way against Venezuela but military warfare is now imminent.

Trump just hired Elliot Abrams as U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela, who has a long and torrid history in Latin America. Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran Contra affair, which involved America funding deadly communist rebels, and was the worst scandal in the Reagan Era. Abrams was later pardoned by George Bush Senior. America’s new point man on Venezuela also lied about the largest mass killing in recent Latin American history by U.S. trained forces in El Salvador.

There is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’état. A UN Human Rights Council Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, pointed out that America’s aim in Venezuela is to “crush this government and bring in a neoliberal government that is going to privatise everything and is going to sell out, a lot of transitional corporations stand to gain enormous profits and the United States is driven by the transnational corporations."

Ever since 1980, the United States has steadily devolved from the status of the world’s top creditor country to the world’s most indebted country. But thanks to the petrodollar system’s huge global artificial demand for U.S. dollars, America can continue exponential military expansion, record breaking deficits and unrestrained spending.

America’s largest export used to be manufactured goods made proudly in America. Today, America’s largest export is the U.S. dollar. Any nation like Venezuela that threatens that export is met with America’s second largest export: weapons, chief amongst which are sanctions of mass destruction.

This article was originally published by "Global Research"










Propaganda

Break Free From The Corporate Prison, February 15, 2019, By Caitlin Johnstone

This is not a sane way for people to live. They herd us into classrooms where our minds are pressed into uniform shapes learning lessons which organize clean-cut, authorized thoughts into neat little boxes, then they herd us into cubicles where we turn gears to turn millionaires into billionaires.

We go home and our minds are herded into advertising that makes us want to consume, news media that makes us believe our government is virtuous, and TV shows where paid actors play out scenes which convince us that capitalism is working out perfectly fine. Try to get away from the phoniness by talking to a real person, and it turns out they’ve been processed through the same system.

But the rewards of moving inside their painted lanes are so great, and the penalties for stepping outside them are so severe. The closest most ever come to authenticity is learning how to fake their way through society while secretly knowing it’s all bullshit.

But we also can’t keep living like this. This machine we keep fueling is filling the oceans with poison and filling the air with greenhouse gasses while killing the trees and driving humanity toward nuclear war. The lanes they have painted for us have formed a funnel into our own extinction.

So those lanes are necessarily going to have to become moot. All the societal structures which have been put in place to incentivize us toward producing and consuming are going to have to fall away. Either because society collapses or because we changed our ways quickly and drastically enough to avert disaster. Either way, this march away from our own authenticity is about to end.

So why not start now? Why not take off that tight suit and stop acting out this masochistic charade?

Stop marching inside their lines to the beat of their drum. Stop relating to life using dead ideas you were handed by other people for the convenience of the powerful. Start dancing your own dance in your own way.

I don’t know how to dance your authentic dance, so I can’t tell you how to do that. But you do. You know. Underneath all the societal impositions and expectations and pressures and demands and fear and aversion and uncertainties, you know. The instructions are written upon the core of your being, and if you get sincerely curious about them, they will show themselves to you bit by bit, as needed.

Once you move past all the voices telling you you mustn’t and you shouldn’t, you will find that your own inner truth is so much wiser and healthier than society’s dead ideas about how we all ought to live.

Trust yourself to be bravely and defiantly true to the truth, clear-eyed rebel. I trust you. Life trusts you. You can trust yourself.

Climb up over that slaughterhouse rail and go live a life uninhibited by the painted lanes of a servile society, for the good of our species and for the honor of your own majesty. Leave the cage they built for you in a ditch by the freeway and stride out boldly into uncharted lands beneath the open sky.

Caitlin's articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast, throwing some money into her hat on Patreon or Paypal, or buying her book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. https://caitlinjohnstone.com

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Mines

Mining company leaves taxpayers with a $100 million cleanup bill—and it's just one of many, Daily Kos, Mark Sumner, March 18, 2019

There are many ways in which Donald Trump has rewarded companies while eroding environmental policies, but the mining industry in particular has benefited spectacularly. Not only have there been specific gifts to the coal industry in terms of relaxing rules around coal ash retention ponds and completely scrapping the Clean Power Plan, but mining in general has been handed giant cash grabs in the form of additional public lands opened to mining and relaxed rules around dumping mining waste in streams. And those are just the big, easily visible changes. CNN also found that there has been a 60 percent drop in inspections and an even larger decrease in the number of cases forwarded to the Justice Department for prosecution.

For polluters, Donald Trump represents a free lunch. For taxpayers, not so much.

As Mother Jones reports, the potential environmental damage caused by mining is immense. And since rules around cleanup have often allowed companies to “self bond”—making a promise to conduct a proper clean up without actually acquiring insurance to cover that future cost—failing companies can leave taxpayers holding both the bill and an environmental disaster. For example, a single abandoned gold mine in the mountains south of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana has left the area with a legacy of discolored water so polluted with acid that contact with it “makes skin burn and turn red." After 20 years of attempted cleanup, the bill for dealing with this single mine is approaching $100 million, and the cleanup is still in early stages. The final bill is inestimable, and no approach is likely to restore the pristine water the area enjoyed previous to mining.

Before mining begins, companies are expected to set aside money to cover reclamation, based on cost estimates made by the Interior Department. Experience has demonstrated that the number provided is often far too low to begin with, but companies have routinely appealed before agreeing to even lower numbers in arbitration or in court. And even then, the ability of larger companies to “self bond” can mean that the supposed money set aside can amount to nothing at all when the bill comes due.

The total of reclamation costs already carried by taxpayers is in the billions, and the issue is only getting worse as deregulatory efforts like those instituted by Trump make it easy to centralize the gains, and externalize the costs.

Whether its health and climate effects from burning coal, or the acid and toxins spread in recovering metals, the mining industry is utterly dependent on the ability to collect its gains and dodge the real costs. “Hard rock” mining for metals can leave streams not just filled with skin-burning acid, but saturated with lead, mercury, and other metals. While those things are picked up as the acidic water flows through the leftover rubble of the mining, another extremely toxic metal—arsenic—is directly used in recovering gold from ore. An ounce of gold may already seem costly, but the real cost can be measured in vanished fish, dead wildlife, and mountain landscapes turned into toxic horrors.

The sheer scale of some mining operations has so far covered up the size of the difference between what’s been put aside and what’s actually needed. Copper mines in Utah and Arizona have been in near continuous operation since the 1870s. The waste in both areas is measured in the hundreds of billions of tons. How close is either of these states to having even a small fraction of what it would take to attempt to clean up these sites? It’s hard to tell. Most states are allowed “primacy," the ability to manage their own reclamation programs, and the accounts on what’s been set aside and how it’s been secured are far from consistent.

But while those huge old mines hang out there, the huge new mines are no better, not when rules allow them to pick up federal lands at bargain prices, and mine them with not just reduced concern about environmental issues, but almost no chance of having to pay for it in court even if they’re caught. More permits, fewer inspections, even fewer prosecutions, and companies allowed to walk away from the reclamation cost after owners have pocketed the profits: It’s no wonder these companies love Donald Trump.










Big Pharma

Purdue Pharma agrees to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in settlement over opioid crisis, 10/21/2-0

As overdoses soared, nearly 35 billion opioids -- half of distributed pills -- handled by 15 percent of pharmacies

How a remote valley was flooded with opioids

Video: In rural Virginia, 'ground zero' for America's opioid crisis

NORTON, Va. -- Pills by the tens of thousands, then by the hundreds of thousands and ultimately by the millions found their way to this remote city tucked amid rugged, lush mountains in southwestern Virginia’s coal country. They were opioids, manufactured in bulk, prescribed by doctors promiscuously, prosecutors say.

They were sold liberally to pharmacies. Over the course of seven years, from 2006 through 2012, the big Walmart on the four-lane road at the edge of this city received more than 3.5 million opioids. The CVS at the end of the main street through town received more than 1.3 million.

Those numbers come from a Washington Post analysis of a newly released Drug Enforcement Administration database that tracked the manufacture and sale of opioids across the United States, and it shows that the pharmaceutical industry pumped out 76 billion pills over that seven-year period.

"It’s outrageous," Charles Slemp, the commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Norton and surrounding Wise County, said Wednesday in his office. “It’s unfortunate that there’s that number of prescription drugs flooding the market. It is extremely disappointing that substances that are manufactured to help an individual are being sold and distributed at proportions that are poisoning not just individuals but an entire community."

Prosecutors bring rare criminal charges against Ohio opioid distributor, 7-18-19

Federal prosecutors in Cincinnati filed criminal charges Thursday against an opioid distributor and two of its former executives, accusing them of conspiring with doctors and pharmacies to pour millions of addictive pain pills into Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The indictment of Miami-Luken, its former president and its former compliance officer was the second time in three months that federal prosecutors have used criminal laws against a drug distributor in their efforts to stem the prescription opioid epidemic. That is a more aggressive posture than the Justice Department has adopted since 2007, when it began using civil and administrative actions to enforce laws against drug distributors.

"There’s a need, in my opinion, to devote sufficient charges right here and now to stop the dying," U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman said.

The single count of the grand jury indictment accused former Miami-Luken president Anthony Rattini and former compliance officer James Barclay of knowingly distributing powerful narcotic painkillers for other than medical reasons. The company itself, which went out of business late last year, also was charged.

Two West Virginia pharmacists, Devonna Miller-West and Samuel R. Ballengee, who owned small-town drugstores that allegedly received millions of pills, were also charged. All face as much as 20 years in prison.

The Washington Post could not reach the four people indicted via telephone or email, or identify their attorneys. Richard Blake, an Ohio attorney, said he represents the defunct company.

The indictment says Miami-Luken ignored “obvious signs” that drugs were being diverted to illegal users and dealers between 2011 and 2015. Prosecutors said the company sent 4.9 million pills to Miller-West’s drugstore in Oceana, W.Va., where the population is 1,394.

Miami-Luken sent more than 6 million pills between 2008 and 2014 to Ballengee’s Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson, W.Va., where about 2,800 people live, according to the charges. The pharmacy is now closed.

Glassman said investigators found “many overdose deaths that could arguably be linked to the conduct” of people accused in the conspiracy, but did not obtain enough evidence to charge anyone.

The conspirators “unlawfully enriched themselves” by “distributing and dispensing large amounts of opioids to known pill mills," prosecutors charge. The conduct continued, the indictment alleges, even after warnings from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Some of the drugs went to other unnamed pharmacists and physicians, the indictment alleges. Starting in 2008, for example, the company sent more than 750,000 pills to a physician despite knowing the doctor was under DEA investigation for illegal drug distribution.

In 2016, The Post reported that a Wheelersburg, Ohio, physician ordered large amounts of oxycodone from Miami-Luken the company did not investigate, according to the DEA.

Miami-Luken was a midsize drug distributor that shipped pharmaceuticals to more than 200 locations in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, some of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

In April, the U.S. attorney in New York brought criminal charges against Rochester Drug Cooperative, another opioid distributor, in the first use of that tactic against a middleman in the drug supply chain.

Under federal law, those wholesalers are required to monitor the flow of controlled substances and alert the DEA when they identify suspicious purchases that could indicate pills are being diverted to the black market. But many companies ignored that responsibility as profits soared, authorities allege.

The Post and “60 Minutes” reported in 2017 that DEA investigators wanted criminal charges filed against executives of the largest drug distributor, McKesson Corp., after they built a case against the firm involving suspicious orders from drugstores across the country. But they were rebuffed by federal prosecutors and the Justice Department, which settled with the company and fined it $150 million.

The Post revealed this week that previously undisclosed DEA data shows drug distributors saturated the country with 76 billion opioid pills between 2006 and 2012, many more than previously known.

Five takeaways from the DEA’s pain pill database

For the first time ever, a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States -- from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city -- is being made public. The data was released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history and provides an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths from 2006 through 2012.

Here are The Post’s biggest takeaways:

1. The national database has never been released publicly.

The database is based on previously unreleased company data supplied to the DEA and reveals what each company knew about the number of pills it was shipping and dispensing, year by year, town by town. It is a virtual road map to the opioid epidemic. The drug companies, along with the DEA and the Justice Department, have fought furiously against the public release of the database, the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, known as ARCOS.

2. The companies flooded the nation with pills as the opioid epidemic raged.

A Washington Post analysis of the database shows that America’s largest drug companies distributed 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodonepain pills across the country between 2006 and 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control.

About two dozen companies are being sued in federal court in Cleveland by nearly 2,000 cities, towns and counties alleging that they conspired to flood the nation with opioids. The companies, in turn, have blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by doctors and pharmacies, and on customers who abused the drugs. The companies say they were working to supply the needs of patients with legitimate prescriptions desperate for pain relief.

3. A handful of companies manufactured and distributed most of the opioids.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills -- oxycodone and hydrocodone -- during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post.

Three companies manufactured about 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

4. The number of pills distributed skyrocketed over seven years.

The volumes of the pills handled by the companies climbed as the epidemic surged, increasing 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. By contrast, doses of morphine, a well-known treatment for severe pain, averaged slightly more than 500 million a year during the same period.

The numbers of pills the companies sold during the seven-year time frame are staggering, far exceeding what has been previously disclosed in limited court filings and news stories.

The opioid epidemic began with prescription pills, spawned increased heroin use and then resulted in the current fentanyl crisis, which added more than 67,000 to the death toll from 2013 to 2017.

5. Some states and rural areas were saturated.

The states that received the highest concentrations of pills per person per year were: West Virginia with 66.5, Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7. West Virginia also had the highest opioid death rate from 2006 through 2012.

Rural areas with the greatest number of pills shipped per person per year were: Norton, Va., with 306; Martinsville, Va., with 242; Mingo County, W.Va., with 203; and Perry County, Ky., with 175.

New opioid data spurs widespread condemnation, calls for action

The Washington Post recently published a massive database that tracks the distribution of opioids in the United States from 2006 to 2012, specifically where -- and how many -- drugs materialized. During that period, 76 billion prescription pain pills were manufactured and shipped to pharmacies all over the country, fueling a public health epidemic that killed 100,000 Americans in those seven years.

Drilling into the DEA’s pain pill database

Policymakers, media outlets and others are using this data to understand the sheer scope of the crisis, and many are demanding accountability.

Those who push poison into our kids and communities will be held to account

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway touted the president’s efforts to tackle the opioid crisis, arguing in a statement Monday that the Trump administration “has tackled it head on” while the Obama administration “ignored the growing drug crisis roiling this country."

Conway said the White House is “watching as authorities name and shame those responsible” for the crisis.

“Those who push poison into our kids and communities will be held to account," she said. “The sheer number of pills flooding numerous corners of this country while politicians looked the other way is an alarming disgrace that has cost thousands of lives and ruined many more."

'Corporate greed:’ 2020 Democratic presidential candidates demand action

Senators and Democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), as well as former housing secretary Julián Castro and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, tweeted about the data.

Warren and Castro accused Big Pharma of “corporate greed." Warren also promoted her legislation to invest $100 billion over 10 years to combat the epidemic, which hasn’t gained any traction in Congress. Harris said, “It’s past time we hold pharmaceutical companies accountable." Klobuchar called it “disturbing” and shared a quote from internal emails included in a court filing showing a drug company employee comparing the pills to “Doritos” that people “keep eating."

Bullock focused his ire on the influence that Big Pharma’s deep pockets have on Washington.

Bullock tweet: As Big Pharma was spending Big Money to influence our elections, they were flooding our country with billions of opioids. We can’t turn a blind eye to how these companies cut big checks to wield political power.

'My Department of Justice will go after these folks'

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is also running for president, was asked about the data during a Washington Post Live event, specifically whether he’d want his Justice Department to prosecute drug companies.

"My Department of Justice will go after these folks, these pharmaceutical companies that have been fueling this opioid crisis, where it was an intentional strategy to juice the addiction of Americans to this drug, causing our life expectancy as a nation to go down," Booker said. “This is criminal behavior, immoral behavior, and my DOJ will go after it."

'It got worse and worse and worse over time'

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow dedicated a lengthy segment on Friday night to the searchable county-by-county opioid database. Maddow broke down some of the statistics for her viewers, saying “it got worse and worse and worse over time."

“As the opioid crisis lit the country on fire and the death rates started skyrocketing and the country started freaking out about it, over the course of those seven years from 2006 to 2012, while 100,000 Americans were killed from those drugs, we can now tell they kept upping the number they were shipping every year," Maddow said.

"By 2012, they were shipping on average 36 highly addictive pain pills for every man, woman and child and baby in the United States," Maddow added.

McConnell challenger turns opioids data political

Amy McGrath, the Democrat hoping to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, used the database Thursday to assail McConnell’s ties to drug companies.

Amy McGrath tweet:

Opioids are ravaging Kentucky and destroying our families.

The pharmaceutical industry flooded our state with almost 2 billion prescription pain pills over six years.

Mitch McConnell has taken $1.34 million from pharmaceutical companies.

Do the math

McConnell, who has been majority or minority leader since 2007, did not comment on The Post’s database. But about 90 minutes after McGrath’s tweet, he shared news that drug overdose deaths fell in Kentucky in 2018, the same year Congress passed its first comprehensive bipartisan opioid legislation and 12 years since the drug companies opened the floodgates.

Local media digs into data

Reporters from coast to coast used the database to expose the amount of prescription opioid pills that flowed to their communities.

For example, Kenny Choi of KPIX-TV in San Francisco tweeted:

These numbers are staggering from Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa County #bayarea #OpioidCrisis ?CHECK how many pain pills supplied in your county via @washingtonpost?

Christine Kennedy, a nurse and academic dean at the University of Virginia, shared a local newspaper article that, using the database, reported that a small pharmacy in a town of 1,000 people had acquired 7.7 million pills.

'Sociopathic fashion'

Experts who have been following the opioid crisis closely for years offered their view of what the database adds to the nation’s understanding of how and why it got so bad.

Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who advised Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on drug policy, said the database reminds him of the documents related to tobacco litigation, but worse.

"The number of people who conducted themselves in a sociopathic fashion was large but also the number of people who failed to do their jobs: doctors, pharmacists, regulators, DEA agents," he said. “It really, unfortunately will, I think, confirm in the minds of people who think that nobody cares about them that, in fact nobody cares about them … the people who are supposed to watch over you."

Daniel Ciccarone, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco who studies drug abuse, said the database shows the complex nature of how this epidemic -- which is now on its third wave with fentanyl -- started.

"We love to know that there’s one problem with one culprit and one solution and it is simply not true in the opioid epidemic. In Wave 1 is it all Purdue Pharma? No. it’s Walgreens, it’s McKesson, all involved in excess prescribing and distribution of pills," he said. “The epidemic itself is far more complicated."

Follow The Post’s investigation of the opioid epidemic

76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic

America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history.

The information comes from a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States -- from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city. The data provides an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths from 2006 through 2012.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Purdue Pharma, which the plaintiffs allege sparked the epidemic in the 1990s with its introduction of OxyContin, its version of oxycodone, was ranked fourth among manufacturers with about 3 percent of the market.

The volume of the pills handled by the companies skyrocketed as the epidemic surged, increasing about 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. By contrast, doses of morphine, a well-known treatment for severe pain, averaged slightly more than 500 million a year during the period.

Those 10 companies along with about a dozen others are now being sued in federal court in Cleveland by nearly 2,000 cities, towns and counties alleging that they conspired to flood the nation with opioids. The companies, in turn, have blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by doctors and pharmacies and on customers who abused the drugs. The companies say they were working to supply the needs of patients with legitimate prescriptions desperate for pain relief.

wpo

The database reveals what each company knew about the number of pills it was shipping and dispensing and precisely when they were aware of those volumes, year by year, town by town. In case after case, the companies allowed the drugs to reach the streets of communities large and small, despite persistent red flags that those pills were being sold in apparent violation of federal law and diverted to the black market, according to the lawsuits.

Plaintiffs have long accused drug manufacturers and wholesalers of fueling the opioid epidemic by producing and distributing billions of pain pills while making billions of dollars. The companies have paid more than $1 billion in fines to the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration over opioid-related issues, and hundreds of millions more to settle state lawsuits.

But the previous cases addressed only a portion of the problem, never allowing the public to see the size and scope of the behavior underlying the epidemic. Monetary settlements by the companies were accompanied by agreements that kept such information hidden.

The drug companies, along with the DEA and the Justice Department, have fought furiously against the public release of the database, the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System, known as ARCOS. The companies argued that the release of the “transactional data” could give competitors an unfair advantage in the marketplace. The Justice Department argued that the release of the information could compromise ongoing DEA investigations.

Until now, the litigation has proceeded in unusual secrecy. Many filings and exhibits in the case have been sealed under a judicial protective order. The secrecy finally lifted after The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, waged a year-long legal battle for access to documents and data from the case.

On Monday evening, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster removed the protective order for part of the ARCOS database.

Lawyers for the local governments suing the companies hailed the release of the data.

“The data provides statistical insights that help pinpoint the origins and spread of the opioid epidemic -- an epidemic that thousands of communities across the country argue was both sparked and inflamed by opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies," said Paul T. Farrell Jr. of West Virginia, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

In statements emailed to The Post on Tuesday, the drug distributors stressed that the ARCOS data would not exist unless they had accurately reported shipments and questioned why the government had not done more to address the crisis.

“For decades, DEA has had exclusive access to this data, which can identify the total volumes of controlled substances being ordered, pharmacy-by-pharmacy, across the country," McKesson spokeswoman Kristin Chasen said.

A DEA spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday “due to ongoing litigation."

Cardinal Health said that it has learned from its experience, increasing training and doing a better job to “spot, stop and report suspicious orders," company spokeswoman Brandi Martin wrote.

AmerisourceBergen derided the release of the ARCOS data, saying it “offers a very misleading picture” of the problem. The company said its internal “controls played an important role in enabling us to, as best we could, walk the tight rope of creating appropriate access to FDA approved medications while combating prescription drug diversion."

While Walgreens still dispenses opioids, the company said it has not distributed prescription-controlled substances to its stores since 2014. “Walgreens has been an industry leader in combatting this crisis in the communities where our pharmacists live and work, " said Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesman.

Mike DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, said the plaintiffs’ allegations about the company have no merit and CVS is aggressively defending against them.

Walmart, Purdue and Endo declined to comment about the ARCOS database.

A Mallinckrodt spokesman said in a statement that the company produced opioids only within a government-controlled quota and sold only to DEA-approved distributors.

Actavis Pharma was acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in 2016, and a spokeswoman there said the company “cannot speak to any systems in place beforehand."

A virtual road map

The Post has been trying to gain access to the ARCOS database since 2016, when the news organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DEA. The agency denied the request, saying some of the data was available on its website. But that data did not contain the transactional information the companies are required to report to the DEA every time they sell a controlled substance such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The drug companies and pharmacies themselves provided the sales data to the DEA. Company officials have testified before Congress that they bear no responsibility for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The numbers of pills the companies sold during the seven-year time frame are staggering, far exceeding what has been previously disclosed in limited court filings and news stories.

Three companies distributed nearly half of the pills: McKesson with 14.1 billion, Walgreens with 12.6 billion and Cardinal Health with 10.7 billion. The leading manufacturer was Mallinckrodt’s SpecGx with nearly 28.9 billion pills, or nearly 38 percent of the market.

The states that received the highest concentrations of pills per person per year were: West Virginia with 66.5, Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7. West Virginia also had the highest opioid death rate during this period.

Rural areas were hit particularly hard: Norton, Va., with 306 pills per person; Martinsville, Va., with 242; Mingo County, W.Va., with 203; and Perry County, Ky., with 175.

In that time, the companies distributed enough pills to supply every adult and child in the country with 36 each year.

The database is a virtual road map to the nation’s opioid epidemic that began with prescription pills, spawned increased heroin use and resulted in the current fentanyl crisis, which added more than 67,000 to the death toll from 2013 to 2017.

The transactional data kept by ARCOS is highly detailed. It includes the name, DEA registration number, address and business activity of every seller and buyer of a controlled substance in the United States. The database also includes drug codes, transaction dates, and total dosage units and grams of narcotics sold.

The data tracks a dozen different opioids, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, which make up three-quarters of the total pill shipments to pharmacies.

Under federal law, drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies must report each transaction of a narcotic to the DEA, where it is logged into the ARCOS database. If company officials notice orders of drugs that appear to be suspicious because of their unusual size or frequency, they must report those sales to the DEA and hold back the shipments.

As more and more towns and cities became inundated by pain pills, they fought back. They filed federal lawsuits against the drug industry, alleging that opioids from the companies were devastating their communities. They alleged the companies not only failed to report suspicious orders, but they also filled those orders to maximize profits.

As the hundreds of lawsuits began to pile up, they were consolidated into the one centralized case in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The opioid litigation is now larger in scope than the tobacco litigation of the 1980s, which resulted in a $246 billion settlement over 25 years.

Where the virus grew

Judge Polster is now overseeing the consolidated case of nearly 2,000 lawsuits. The case is among a wave of actions that includes other lawsuits filed by more than 40 state attorneys general and tribal nations. In May, Purdue settled with the Oklahoma attorney general for $270 million.

In the Cleveland case, Polster has been pressing the drug companies and the plaintiffs to reach a global settlement so communities can start receiving financial assistance to mitigate the damage that has been done by the opioid epidemic.

To facilitate a settlement, Polster had permitted the drug companies and the towns and cities to review the ARCOS database under a protective order while barring public access to the material. He also permitted some court filings to be made under seal and excluded the public and press from a global settlement conference at the outset of the case.

Last June, The Post and the Charleston Gazette-Mail asked Polster to lift the protective order covering the ARCOS database and the court filings. A month later, Polster denied the requests, even though he had said earlier that “the vast oversupply of opioid drugs in the United States has caused a plague on its citizens” and the ARCOS database reveals “how and where the virus grew." He also said disclosure of the ARCOS data “is a reasonable step toward defeating the disease."

Lawyers for The Post and the Gazette-Mail appealed Polster’s ruling. They argued that the ­ARCOS material would not harm companies or investigations because the judge had already decided to allow the local government plaintiffs to collect information from 2006 through 2014, withholding the most recent years beginning with 2015 from the lawsuit.

"Access to the ARCOS Data can only enhance the public’s confidence that the epidemic and the ensuing litigation are being handled appropriately now -- even if they might not have been handled appropriately earlier," The Post’s lawyer, Karen C. Lefton, wrote in her Jan. 17 appeal.

The lawyers also noted the DEA did not object when the West Virginia attorney general’s office provided partial ARCOS data to the Gazette-Mail in 2016. That data showed that drug distribution companies shipped 780 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone into the state between 2007 and 2012.

On June 20, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio sided with the news organizations. A three-judge panel reversed Polster, ruling that the protective order sealing the ARCOS database be lifted with reasonable redactions and directed the judge to reconsider whether any of the records in the case should be sealed.

On Monday, Polster lifted the protective order on the database, ruling that all the data from 2006 through 2012 should be released to the public, withholding the 2013 and 2014 data.

Prescription tourists

The pain pill epidemic began nearly three decades ago, shortly after Purdue Pharma introduced what it marketed as a less addictive form of opioid it called OxyContin. Purdue paid doctors and nonprofit groups advocating for patients in pain to help market the drug as a safe and effective way to treat pain.

But the new drug was highly addictive. As more and more people were hooked, more and more companies entered the market, manufacturing, distributing and dispensing massive quantities of pain pills.

Purdue ending up paying a $634 million fine to the Food and Drug Administration for claiming OxyContin was less addictive than other pain medications.

Annual opioid sales nationwide rose from $6.1 billion in 2006 to $8.5 billion in 2012, according to industry data gathered by IQVIA, a health care information and consulting company.

Individual drug company revenues ranged in single years at the epidemic’s peak from $403 million for opioids sold by Endo to $3.1 billion in OxyContin sales by Purdue Pharma, according to a 2018 lawsuit against multiple defendants by San Juan County in New Mexico.

During the past two decades, Florida became ground zero for pill mills -- pain management clinics that served as fronts for corrupt doctors and drug dealers. They became so brazen that some clinics set up storefronts along I-75 and I-95, advertising their products on billboards by interstate exit ramps. So many people traveled to Florida to stock up on oxycodone and hydrocodone, they were sometimes referred to as “prescription tourists."


The route from Florida to Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio became known as the “Blue Highway." It was named after the color of one of the most popular pills on the street -- 30 mg oxycodone tablets made by Mallinckrodt, which shipped more than 500 million of the pills to Florida between 2008 and 2012.

When state troopers began pulling over and arresting out-of-state drivers for transporting narcotics, drug dealers took to the air. One airline offered nonstop flights to Florida from Ohio and other Appalachian states, and the route became known as the Oxy Express.

A decade ago, the DEA began cracking down on the industry. In 2005 and 2006, the agency sent letters to drug distributors, warning them that they were required to report suspicious orders of painkillers and halt sales until the red flags could be resolved. The letter also went to drug manufacturers.

Even just one distributor that fails to follow the law “can cause enormous harm," the 2006 DEA letter said.

DEA officials said the companies paid little attention to the warnings and kept shipping millions of pills in the face of suspicious circumstances.

As part of its crackdown, the DEA brought a series of civil enforcement cases against the largest distributors.

The corporations to date have paid nearly $500 million in fines to the Justice Department for failing to report and prevent suspicious drug orders, a number that is dwarfed by the revenue of the companies.

But the settlements of those cases revealed only limited details about the volume of pills that were being shipped.

In 2007, the DEA brought a case against McKesson. The DEA accused the company of shipping millions of doses of hydrocodone to Internet pharmacies after the agency had briefed the company about its obligations under the law to report suspicious orders.

“By failing to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that it received from rogue Internet pharmacies, the McKesson Corporation fueled the explosive prescription drug abuse problem we have in this country," the DEA’s administrator said at the time.

In 2008, McKesson agreed to pay a $13.25 million fine to settle the case and pledged to more closely monitor suspicious orders from its customers.

[Just the cost of doing business. Put people in JAIL]

That same year, the DEA brought a case against Cardinal Health, accusing the nation’s ­second-largest drug distributor of shipping millions of doses of painkillers to online and retail pharmacies without notifying the DEA of signs that the drugs were being diverted to the black market.


Cardinal settled the case by paying a $34 million fine and promising to improve its suspicious monitoring program.

Some companies were repeat offenders.

In 2012, the DEA began investigating McKesson again, this time for shipping suspiciously large orders of narcotics to pharmacies in Colorado. One store in Brighton, Colo., population 38,000, was ordering 2,000 pain pills per day. The DEA discovered that McKesson had filled 1.6 million orders from its Aurora, Colo., warehouse between 2008 and 2013 and reported just 16 as suspicious. None involved the Colorado store.

DEA agents and investigators said they had amassed enough information to file criminal charges against McKesson and its officers but they were overruled by federal prosecutors. The company wound up paying a $150 million fine to settle, a record amount for a diversion case.

Also in 2012, Cardinal Health attracted renewed attention from the DEA when it discovered that the company was again shipping unusually large amounts of painkillers to its Florida customers. The company had sold 12 million oxycodone pills to four pharmacies over four years.

In 2011, Cardinal shipped 2 million doses to a pharmacy in Fort Myers, Fla. Comparable pharmacies in Florida typically ordered 65,000 doses per year.

The DEA also noticed that Cardinal was shipping unusually large amounts of oxycodone to a pair of CVS stores near Sanford, Fla. Between 2008 and 2011, Cardinal sold 2.2 million pills to one of the stores. In 2010, that store purchased 885,900 doses -- a 748 percent increase over the previous year. Cardinal did not report any of those sales as suspicious.

Cardinal later paid a $34 million fine to settle the case. The DEA suspended the company from selling narcotics from its warehouse in Lakeland, Fla. CVS paid a $22 million fine.

As the companies paid fines and promised to do a better job of stopping suspicious orders, they continued to manufacture, ship and dispense large amounts of pills, according to the newly released data.

“The depth and penetration of the opioid epidemic becomes readily apparent from the data," said Peter J. Mougey, a lawyer for the plaintiffs from Pensacola, Fla. “This disclosure will serve as a wake up call to every community in the country. America should brace itself for the harsh reality of the scope of the opioid epidemic. Transparency will lead to accountability."

Aaron Williams, Andrew Ba Tran, Jenn Abelson, Aaron C. Davis and Christopher Rowland contributed to this report.

FIGHTING FENTANYL Trump called the opioid epidemic a priority, but fentanyl deaths soar as resources fail to keep pace

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, OHIO -- In a dungeon-like jail in the center of this depressed farming town, 18 women in orange-and-white-striped prison uniforms are crammed into a two-story cellblock. Many of them are withdrawing from fentanyl.

The jail, built in 1884 to hold 24, now houses 55 men and women, a number that can swell to as many as 90. The inmates are sprawled on metal bunk beds and mattresses that line the floors as they wait for court appearances or serve time on low-level drug offenses.

The medical exam room, used to treat minor ailments, is tucked into a broom closet beneath a concrete stairwell. With few drug treatment options, prisoners strung out on fentanyl go through days of withdrawal with little help, shivering and curled up on the beds and floors of the jail.

“It’s definitely our detox center right now. They just sit there, and they withdraw there," Fayette County Deputy Health Commissioner Leigh N. Cannon said. “Treatment is where we need help. We keep hearing that money is coming, but we haven’t really seen it."

The inmates here are at least alive -- unlike so many drug users in this part of central Ohio, 40 miles southwest of Columbus. Fayette County has the seventh-highest number of fentanyl overdose deaths per capita in the nation, according to internal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained and analyzed by The Washington Post.

While the Trump administration has made the opioid epidemic a priority, people in communities across the country continue to die in record numbers from fentanyl, and health officials are struggling to provide treatment for tens of thousands more, like the men and women warehoused inside this jail.

President Trump has taken a number of steps to confront the crisis, stem the flow of fentanyl into the country from China and Mexico, and step up prosecutions of traffickers. Congress also has increased spending on drug treatment.

"Everyone here today is united by the same vital goal -- to liberate our fellow Americans from the grip of drug addiction and to end the opioid crisis once and for all," Trump said at a drug abuse summit in Atlanta on April 24. “It’s happening. It’s happening."

But health policy experts say drug treatment funding is not nearly enough, and the administration’s response was hobbled by the failure to appoint a drug czar in its chaotic first year and confusion over who was in charge of drug policy. The depth of the problem continues to overwhelm the government’s response, and the administration has yet to produce a comprehensive strategy that is legally required by Congress.

John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration, said that after two years and a presidential commission to study the problem, the Trump administration is still struggling to confront the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history and is not dedicating nearly enough federal resources.

"What other threat that is preventable is going to kill tens of thousands of Americans?" Walters said. “We’re spending much more money on terrorism, as we should, but we’re not spending a similar amount on the source of death to many more Americans right now."

In 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency, a record 28,869 people died from synthetic-opioid-related overdoses, a 46.4 percent increase from the year before. Most were from fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Estimates for the first eight months of 2018, the most recent available, show that an additional 20,537 Americans died -- a toll on pace to exceed the previous year’s.

“The scale of death here is really unprecedented, and so you have to judge the response against the scale of the problem," said Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “You can have some progress, but it’s really insufficient if you are not up to the scale of the problem."

Sharfstein and other public health experts also note that the administration is seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years from Medicaid. More than 500,000 people addicted to opioids could lose their drug treatment coverage if the ACA is repealed, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The proposed Medicaid cuts could further reduce coverage.

Trump officials said they are making progress against the epidemic on a range of fronts, including interdiction, prosecution and treatment, but they acknowledge that it remains a huge challenge.

“We didn’t get into this crisis overnight. We’re not going to get out overnight," Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president and the administration’s leading voice on the epidemic, said in an interview.

Conway said Trump views his handling of the crisis as a “legacy issue” and continually asks her for updates about what is taking place in the states.

"It can’t all be gloom and doom. You can’t just have the negative, harrowing, so-sad statistics of grief and loss and devastation. We have to start talking about solutions," she said. “The battleship is starting to turn in the other direction."

The CDC data obtained by The Post documents for the first time the 10 places with the highest per capita fentanyl-related overdose death rates: five counties in Ohio, two in West Virginia and one in Kentucky and the cities of Baltimore and St. Louis. Local health officials told The Post they are still not receiving enough federal money to fund drug treatment programs to wean people off highly addictive opioids or launch prevention programs to warn people of the dangers of fentanyl.

In Cabell County, W.Va., the county with the highest fentanyl overdose death rate in the nation, there are long waiting lists for treatment.

"When somebody is saying, ‘I’m ready for treatment’ and they want help, they shouldn’t have to wait six months, six weeks or six days," said Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington, the county seat of Cabell. “They should be able to get in a treatment program within six hours."

In Ohio, deaths from fentanyl have ravaged vast sections of the state. In 2015, there were 1,255 synthetic-opioid-related deaths, most from fentanyl. By the end of 2017, that number had nearly tripled to 3,572.

In rural counties of Ohio, federal money recently appropriated by Congress has started to arrive, but health officials there say it is not enough.

"The situation four years ago was looking desperate. Today, it’s looking dire," said Scott Gehring, president of the Community Health Alliance, a drug treatment facility in Butler County, Ohio, which has the ninth-highest fentanyl overdose death rate in the nation. “People are sicker. More people are dying."

In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Trump promised to halt the flow of heroin into the United States. He mentioned that drug, not fentanyl, at least 57 times during his speeches and appearances, and he tied the crisis to the need to build a wall along the border with Mexico. On the campaign trail, Trump was moved by the people he met who had lost family members to the epidemic, Conway said. As he left one stop, someone called out: “Please follow through on the drugs and opioids. You promised."

Trump also said addiction was a deeply personal issue for him. His older brother, Fred Jr., who suffered from alcoholism, died in 1981 at age 43.

On March 29, 2017, two months after his inauguration, Trump invited then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the White House.

Christie had told Trump that his administration was inheriting an out-of-control opioid epidemic that blew up with the arrival of fentanyl during the Obama administration -- between 2013 and 2017, more than 67,000 people died from the synthetic drug.

The opioid epidemic had begun in the late 1990s when a generation of Americans became addicted to prescription pain pills. After the government started to crack down on doctors, pain clinics, and drug manufacturers and distributors in the mid-2000s, addicts turned to heroin and then fentanyl.

What is fentanyl? The powerful painkiller is the leading cause of overdose deaths in America.

Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller developed nearly 60 years ago, has triggered the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have claimed the lives of more than 67,000 people -- more than the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

One of the greatest dangers of fentanyl is its potency. A few grains of the drug can cause an overdose. Deaths from the drug began to climb in 2013, when traffickers began to mix street heroin with illicit fentanyl. In just a few years, fentanyl began to rival heroin as the deadliest opioid in the United States, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a nationwide public health advisory. The alert received little national attention.

In just a few years, the synthetic painkiller became the deadliest drug ever to hit U.S. streets. Manufactured in Chinese and Mexican labs, illicit fentanyl has played a significant role in reducing the overall life expectancy of Americans. It is so powerful, just a few flecks the size of grains of salt can cause acute respiratory failure and rapid death.

Obama administration officials were slow to address the fentanyl epidemic. The administration saw fentanyl as an add-on to the overall opioid crisis, rather than a singular danger that required a strategy of its own because it was so deadly and was coming into the country largely unimpeded through the mail. Senior White House and Justice Department officials, motivated by a desire to rectify racial inequality in sentencing, emphasized drug treatment over incarceration, and drug prosecutions fell off as fentanyl coursed through sections of the country.

By the time Trump came into office, the dangers of fentanyl were well known. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the CDC had issued numerous warnings. The fatal overdose rate was staggering.

“I said to [Trump] that I thought there was a lack of urgency to the way President Obama’s administration had dealt with this issue, and that as a result, the problem had gotten worse," Christie recalled in an interview. “We needed to go after this in a really aggressive way."

Trump signed an executive order establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

He put the New Jersey governor in charge.

“Let’s do it," the president told Christie that day.

At the Justice Department, Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, launched his own assault on fentanyl.

For Sessions, fentanyl could be met only by the kind of tough law-and-order tactics he deployed as a federal prosecutor in Alabama during the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s and 1990s. While a member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years, Sessions was one of the few lawmakers to rail against bipartisan efforts to roll back the harsh drug sentencing policies of that era.

Sessions promised to make fentanyl a signature issue after his first trip to New Hampshire, a state that had experienced one of the highest fentanyl-related death rates in the country. He attended a “youth summit” on opioids at Manchester’s downtown arena with Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on March 7, 2017.

"One of the most dramatic moments for me was the first trip to New Hampshire where Governor Sununu had 8,000 high school students gathered and 50 mothers stood before them holding large pictures of their children who died from drug overdoses," Sessions said in an interview.

On May 12 that year, in one of his first actions, Sessions reversed what had become known as the “Holder Memo." The 2013 document written by then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. directed federal prosecutors to stop pursuing low-level, nonviolent drug charges that would trigger mandatory minimum prison sentences. Over decades, U.S. drug policy had resulted in long prison terms and increased incarceration for first-time offenders, most of them young black men, and Holder wanted to reverse what he saw as a historic injustice.

Sessions directed his prosecutors to give high priority to drug cases, particularly aiming at fentanyl. Those found guilty would face the most severe penalties possible, according to a memo he sent to each U.S. attorney.

In July 2017, the Justice Department shut down the largest dark-web distributor of illicit drugs. Called AlphaBay, the site allowed users to sell and buy drugs, including fentanyl. At the time of the takedown, there were 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on the site, according to the Justice Department.

That fall, the department brought its first criminal charges against Chinese nationals accused of selling fentanyl to Americans over the Internet in cases that were filed in federal courts in North Dakota and Mississippi.

Sessions used an emergency declaration to make all chemical variants of fentanyl, known as analogues, illegal on a temporary basis; Congress must pass legislation to make the ban permanent. Chinese and Mexican chemists and drug traffickers in the United States had been evading the law by tweaking the chemical compounds that make up fentanyl and producing products that don’t fit the precise chemical formula for a banned substance.

Sessions also ramped up federal prosecutions of all fentanyl offenses and sent additional prosecutors to 10 areas in the country with the highest number of overdoses.

Christie, however, was growing frustrated with Sessions’s exclusive focus on law enforcement actions. He said he called the attorney general several times, inviting him to speak at the commission’s public hearings. Instead, Sessions sent his deputy attorney general.

Sessions said he has long believed in prevention and treatment programs, but as the attorney general, he was responsible for focusing on drug trafficking cases.

"I didn’t find him helpful at all on the issue," Christie said. “He only had one tune, which was enforcement. He didn’t want to talk about the other parts of the issue. I wanted him to engage on treatment, on drug courts, and he had no interest in engaging in that. So, after a while, I just stopped calling because, what was the use?

"He was a one-trick pony."

'Reinventing the wheel’

During Trump’s first months in office, the administration shunted aside its White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The office, whose director is known as the “drug czar," is responsible for coordinating anti-drug efforts across 16 federal agencies and producing the National Drug Control Strategy, an annual drug policy plan mandated by Congress.

Former Trump administration officials said the White House did not trust the career staffers at the office. One former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the president and his aides wanted to “transcend the drug czar” and “raise the issue to a higher level."

White House officials treated the drug czar’s office as a backwater. They staffed it with political operatives who had little or no drug policy experience and installed a 24-year-old campaign worker as the deputy chief of staff. Senior staffers with years of experience were sidelined. In May 2017, the administration proposed cutting the office’s budget by 95 percent.

Ohio’s Butler County has the ninth-highest number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths per capita in the United States, according to CDC data. Four other Ohio counties are in the top 10.

No one was immediately nominated to become the drug czar. As the Trump presidency entered its seventh month, there was no permanent official in charge of coordinating drug policy across myriad federal agencies -- the CDC, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were growing impatient with the administration’s lack of plans to confront the opioid epidemic. On July 26, the House Oversight and Reform Committee summoned then-acting drug czar Richard Baum, who had been in his job for four months, to explain why he had not submitted a comprehensive plan to operate and fund the office.

“Any idea when it might be submitted?" Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) asked Baum.

"I don’t want to give you a timeline," Baum replied. “But I can tell you this. I’ve studied the issue very closely."

“Likewise, we need a strategy," Connolly said. “Any idea when a strategy will be submitted to the Congress?"

“We’re developing a strategy now," Baum said.

The opioid overdose death rate, by then almost entirely fueled by illicit fentanyl, continued to climb. In 2017, fentanyl for the first time became the leading cause of overdose deaths in America.

Distributors, pharmacies and manufacturers respond to previously unreleased DEA data about opioid sales

A yearlong legal battle waged by The Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, resulted in a ruling Monday releasing government data tracking sales of billions of opioid pills in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012.

The data in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Drug Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, known as ARCOS, reveals what each company knew about the number of pills it was shipping and dispensing and precisely when they were aware of those volumes, year-by-year, town-by-town.

Lawsuits against the drug companies now allege they allowed some of the highly addictive drugs to reach the streets of communities large and small, despite persistent red flags that those pills were being sold in apparent violation of federal law and diverted to the black market.

The Post on Tuesday asked opioid distributors, pharmacies and manufacturers to respond to information contained in the database. The paper also asked them to respond to three major allegations made by plaintiffs in ongoing lawsuits:

1. That your company helped fuel the opioid epidemic by manufacturing, distributing or dispensing hundreds of millions of pain pills?

2. That your company along with other companies conspired to flood the nation with opioids?

3. That your company failed to report suspicious orders to the DEA and filled those orders to maximize profits?

The Post also asked for comment from the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, an industry trade group.

These were their public statements to The Post:

DISTRIBUTORS

AmericansourceBergen:

“Broadly providing retroactive DEA data to plaintiffs’ law firms solely for litigation purposes offers a very misleading picture regarding efforts being made around diversion. This data has never previously been given to anyone outside DEA, and therefore has not been available to inform the order monitoring programs and decision-making of distributors like AmerisourceBergen.

"After providing daily order reports to DEA, distributors such as AmerisourceBergen have at no time been privy to how this information was used by DEA, despite consistently seeking guidance on how to most effectively walk the tightrope of providing access to needed, FDA-approved medications while playing a role – however limited, given lack of interaction with patients – in combating the diversion of these same medications.

“Only recently did DEA share any of this data with distributors or manufacturers, when it was compelled to through the passage of the SUPPORT Act in late 2018 to make limited information from the database available to distributors.

"The fact that our market share of these controlled substances seems to be far smaller than our total market share is a testament to the fact that our controls played an important role in enabling us to, as best we could, walk the tight rope of creating appropriate access to FDA approved medications while combatting prescription drug diversion."

Cardinal Health:

"Cardinal Health is an intermediary in the pharmaceutical supply chain and plays an important but limited and specific role: to provide a secure channel to deliver medications of all kinds from the hundreds of manufacturers that make them to our thousands of hospital and pharmacy customers licensed to dispense them to patients, and to work diligently to spot, stop and report suspicious orders of medications.

"Cardinal Health is proud to operate a constantly adaptive and rigorous system to combat controlled substance diversion. We have learned from our experience and the threats the pharmaceutical supply chain faces, and as a result our anti-diversion program today is stronger and more effective as it continues to evolve. We have increased the size of our anti-diversion team, including bringing in personnel with additional regulatory, pharmaceutical, and law enforcement experience. We have developed an analytical model to evaluate our pharmacy customers, assigned threshold ordering limits to them, created a centralized database to store and track data on customers and orders, and enhanced policies and procedures for anti-diversion personnel. Over the years, we have trained thousands of our people on anti-diversion practices. Our people operate in good faith, our goal is to get it right, and we have stopped suspicious orders for the shipment of hundreds of millions of dosage units of controlled substances over the last decade.

“As we fulfil our role in the closed supply chain, we are in full compliance with all applicable federal and state laws, which include the requirement to report to state and federal regulators those orders deemed suspicious, despite there being only vague guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration on what constitutes an unusual, or suspicious, order.

"We report those suspicious orders to state boards of pharmacy and to the DEA, but we do not know what these government entities do with those reports, if anything. Distributors have no law enforcement power and, unlike the regulators which oversee and regulate the manufacture, distribution, prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, cannot stop physicians from writing prescriptions for medication nor take unilateral action to block DEA- and state-licensed pharmacies’ ability to dispense medication.

"Cardinal Health shares the judgment of top policymakers that too many prescriptions have been written for too many opioid pills over the past decade, a trend that began with changes in the medical community’s attitudes toward managing pain. The DEA, the only entity with the ability to limit production of prescription opioids as it sets an annual quota of the amount allowed to be manufactured, also until recently continuously raised these annual production quotas. From 2006 to 2014, the DEA’s authorized quota rose 140%. Thus, the quantity of opioid pills sold is a direct reflection of the number of prescriptions written by healthcare providers and filled by licensed dispensers, neither of which wholesale distributors can influence.

"Cardinal Health cares deeply about the opioid epidemic and takes seriously our commitment, in cooperation with everyone else in the prescription drug supply chain – state and federal government regulators, pharmaceutical manufacturers, doctors and other healthcare providers, insurers and pharmacies – to find and support solutions to this national challenge.

"In addition, Cardinal Health will continue, as we have for over a decade, to make a meaningful difference by raising awareness about the dangers of overprescribing and actively supporting efforts to address it. We also will continue to vigorously defend ourselves in all opioid-related legal matters."

McKesson Corp.:

"As the ARCOS data demonstrates, McKesson has consistently disclosed controlled substance transactions to the DEA. For decades, DEA has had exclusive access to this data, which can identify the total volumes of controlled substances being ordered, pharmacy-by-pharmacy, across the country.

“McKesson distributes prescription opioids and other medications in response to orders placed by state-licensed and DEA-registered pharmacies, and those pharmacies may only dispense these medications to patients with a valid prescription written by a government-licensed health care provider.

"The allegations made by the plaintiffs are just that – allegations. They are unproven, untrue and greatly oversimplify the evolution of this health crisis as well as the roles and responsibilities of the many players in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Any suggestion that McKesson influenced the volume of opioids prescribed or consumed in this country would reflect a misunderstanding of our role as a distributor."

PHARMACIES

CVS:

“The plaintiffs’ allegations about CVS in this matter have no merit and we are aggressively defending against them. The fact is that we are committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices, including complying with all federal and state laws governing the dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions.

“We are also dedicated to helping reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion. We have stringent policies, procedures and tools to help ensure that our pharmacists properly exercise their professional responsibility to evaluate controlled substance prescriptions before filling them.

“Over the past several years, we have taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation’s opioid epidemic. This includes millions of hours training our pharmacy teams about responsibilities and best practices regarding controlled substances.

“When reviewing information in the ARCOS database about CVS, it is important to keep the following in mind for context:

“We did not, and still do not, distribute Schedule II controlled substances such as oxycodone and fentanyl. We only distribute Schedule III-V controlled substances to our retail pharmacies.

“CVS Pharmacy is one of the two largest retail pharmacies in the nation. During the covered time period of 2006-2012, CVS had an average market share of over 18% for all retail prescriptions dispensed in the country. During those last two years, our market share for all retail prescriptions dispensed nationally was 20-21%.

"We dispensed over 4.2 billion retail prescriptions during that time period and opioid medications were a very small percentage of that total.

“Pharmacies dispense medication, including controlled substances, to patients who have authorized prescriptions written by doctors, physicians and other prescribers."

Walgreens:

"Walgreens pharmacists are highly trained professionals committed to dispensing legitimate prescriptions that meet the needs of our patients. Walgreens has not distributed prescription controlled substances since 2014 and before that time only distributed to our chain of pharmacies. Walgreens has been an industry leader in combatting this crisis in the communities where our pharmacists live and work."

Walmart:

Declined to comment.

MANUFACTURERS

Actavis Pharma:

“Teva acquired Actavis in 2016 and cannot speak to any systems in place beforehand. I can also not confirm any of your statistics without more specificity on medicines, locations and additional detail.

“That said, overall, generic medicines automatically replace branded medicines at the pharmacy with absolutely no influence from Teva. Teva has not conspired, failed to report suspicious orders or contributed to the abuse of opioids in the U.S. in any way. We maintain a comprehensive and robust system to prevent suspicious orders from ever entering the market."

Endo Pharmaceuticals:

"Regarding the lawsuit, it is Endo’s policy not to comment on current litigation. Our comments regarding the topic of opioids can be found on our website. In the letter, Endo states:

“Since its founding as a family business in 1920, Endo has evolved into a generics and specialty branded pharmaceutical company whose products help millions of patients lead healthier lives. We are deeply concerned about the opioid abuse crisis, a public health challenge unprecedented in scope, severity and complexity. We believe this crisis can only be solved through intensive collaboration among the multiple stakeholders involved in our healthcare system.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has worked to balance access to pain care medications for appropriate patients while aggressively mitigating the risks of opioid abuse. Endo supports these efforts and has taken parallel actions. Since our new Executive Leadership Team began working together in September 2016, Endo voluntarily stopped promoting opioid products to healthcare professionals and eliminated the Company’s entire pain product salesforce. Endo also voluntarily withdrew Opana® ER from the market, discontinued the research and development of new opioid products and implemented additional anti-diversion measures, including product serialization aimed at thwarting counterfeiting and theft to protect patient safety.

"While we are proud of Endo’s actions, neither we nor any other single actor can solve the opioid abuse crisis. Instead, any solution must be multifaceted and consider not only the product supply chain, but also individual risk factors and other factors affecting utilization decisions, together with scientific, legislative and regulatory measures, training, treatment and education. Criminal trafficking of opioids (including heroin and fentanyl), illegal Internet sales and importation must also be addressed. Finally, the legitimate access needs of the millions of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain who rely on opioid medications must be considered. We remain committed to working collaboratively and proactively on a comprehensive solution to the opioid abuse crisis and to continuing Endo’s longstanding mission of improving patients’ lives."

Mallinckrodt:

“The Drug Enforcement Administration determines the total quantity of Schedule II opioids needed each year to meet legitimate medical, scientific and research needs in the U.S. Our DEA registrant company, SpecGx LLC, cannot and does not produce more opioids than the annual limit set for the company by the DEA. SpecGx sells only to DEA-approved distributors and other entities, who are themselves registered with and monitored by the DEA. In addition, through its ARCOS database, DEA monitors the flow of these DEA controlled substances from their point of manufacture through commercial distribution channels to point of sale or distribution at the dispensing/retail level.

"Mallinckrodt has for years been at the forefront of preventing prescription drug diversion and abuse, and has invested millions of dollars in a multi-pronged program to address opioid abuse. Those efforts include the purchase and donation of nearly two million drug disposal pouches, and working with policymakers, community leaders, law enforcement and industry partners to ensure the responsible use of pain medication and preventing unused medications from ending up in the wrong hands. The company will continue to support these efforts. For more information on Mallinckrodt’s work to combat prescription drug abuse and misuse, please visit www.mallinckrodt.com/solutions [mallinckrodt.com]."

Purdue Pharma:

“We have no further comment on the release of the ARCOS data beyond what was stated in our brief.

“Purdue Pharma vigorously denies the claims brought forth in the MDL, which are based on mischaracterizations and allegations we believe are without merit. We are confident in the strength of our legal arguments, and will continue to defend ourselves in the litigation."

TRADE GROUP:

Healthcare Distribution Alliance:

“The ARCOS data show that distributors have consistently reported sales of opioid-based medications, along with the quantity of the order and the identity of the receiving pharmacy to the DEA. Distributors only recently received access to the full set of data with information about the total shipment of opioid medicines a particular pharmacy received from all distributors. The DEA has been the only entity to have all of this data at their fingertips and it could have used the information to consistently monitor the supply of opioids and when appropriate, proactively identify bad actors. Unlike the DEA, distributors have no authority to stop physicians from writing prescriptions, nor can they take unilateral action to halt pharmacies’ ability to dispense medication."

Drilling into the DEA’s pain pill database

For the first time, a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States -- by manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city -- has been made public.

The Washington Post sifted through nearly 380 million transactions from 2006 through 2012 that are detailed in the DEA’s database and analyzed shipments of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of the total opioid pill shipments to pharmacies. The Post is making this data available at the county and state levels in order to help the public understand the impact of years of prescription pill shipments on their communities.

These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012.

A county-level analysis of the cumulative data shows where the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country over that time: more than 76 billion in all.


The Post gained access to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, known as ARCOS, as the result of a court order. The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, waged a year-long legal battle for access to the database, which the government and the drug industry had sought to keep secret.

The version of the database published by The Post allows readers to learn how much hydrocodone and oxycodone went to individual states and counties, and which companies and distributors were responsible.

Find the data for where you live

Interactive info... see article

For Bexar County, Texas, these results were shown:

From 2006 to 2012 there were 326,745,638 prescription pain pills, enough for 28 pills per person per year, supplied to Bexar County, Tex.

96,900,460 of the pills were distributed by Walgreen Co and 145,091,620 were manufactured by Actavis Pharma, Inc.

NEIGHBORCARE PHARMACY SERVICES INC, SAN ANTONIO pharmacy received the highest number of pills. Walgreens.

The Post believes this is a critically important set of data, which is why we are making it public and accessible to readers and other journalists. We think there are hundreds of stories within this data set and need your help to understand what it means to you and your community.

The Post analysis shows that the volumes of the pills handled by the companies climbed as the epidemic surged, increasing 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. Yearly county-level maps show how the influx of pills spread.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills -- oxycodone and hydrocodone -- during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post.

[table]
Three companies manufactured about 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

[table]
Comparing county-level maps of opioid overdose deaths and pill shipments reveal a virtual opioid belt of more than 90 counties stretching southwest from Webster County, W.Va., through southern Virginia and ending in Monroe County, Ky. This swath includes 18 of the top 20 counties ranked by per-capita prescription opioid deaths nationwide and 12 of the top 20 counties for opioid pills distributed per capita.


As lawyers zero in on drug companies, a reckoning may be coming

For two decades, as 200,000 opioid overdose deaths piled up across America, there was always someone else to blame. Families blamed drug companies. Drug companies blamed doctors. Everyone blamed the government.

More than half the public continues to see drug addiction as a moral failing, blaming substance abusers themselves for the epidemic, at least in part, according to recent polling.

But now the effort to hold someone to account for the worst drug crisis in U.S. history is narrowing to a few dozen drug companies whose day in court has come or will soon arrive. Virtually every state and nearly 2,000 towns, cities and counties have demanded those firms, which include some of America’s most trusted brands, be forced to pay up to help stop the epidemic.

"It is a drug company crisis, and it begins and should end with them," Oklahoma attorney Bradley Beckworth told a judge this week in the first state drug trial of the opioid era. The state is seeking $17.5 billion from the health care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to address the costs of addiction.

Five years after the earliest lawsuits were filed, that trial concluded Monday, with a judge expected to decide by the end of August whether the company had a major role in the epidemic. Test cases of how municipalities may fare in federal court -- involving two Ohio counties -- are scheduled for trial in October.

Lined up behind them are 48 more trials in state courts around the country, with start dates beginning early next year, according to Mike Moore, an attorney aiding four of those states.

As that litigation proceeds, negotiations for a possible nationwide settlement are continuing. Moore is hopeful there will be an all-encompassing deal this year, though he predicts it will be nowhere near the size of the $206 billion agreement in the landmark 1998 settlement with tobacco companies.

"I think people are coming to their senses," said Moore, who led the legal battle in that case. “People are realizing that this is a public health crisis and not so much about litigation and lawyers. It needs to be treated as ‘we have a public health crisis.'"

Though the litigation is following the trail blazed by the tobacco and asbestos cases of the last century, plaintiffs are seeking even more staggering sums: $17.5 billion in sparsely populated Oklahoma; $7.2 billion for Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio; $483 billion for a nationwide settlement, according to an expert witness for plaintiffs cited by Reuters.

Nora Freeman Engstrom, a professor at Stanford University Law School who is closely monitoring the litigation, said such demands may be unrealistic.

"The tobacco manufacturers came to the settlement table backed by massive financial resources," she said. “Opioid manufacturers’ pockets are shallow by comparison. You can’t get blood from a turnip, and at a certain point, financial limitations will affect settlement options."

Tobacco revenue exceeded $93 billion in 2016. U.S. sales of prescription opioids peaked at around $8 billion to $9 billion earlier this decade, according to industry data.

The economic damages from tobacco use were also far greater than for opioid abuse. If the same payout-to-damages ratio from that agreement were applied to opioids, a global settlement might fall in the range of $30 billion to $55 billion, according to a recent analysis by Nephron Research, an independent health care investment research firm.

On Monday, The Washington Post published previously undisclosed government data that revealed the breadth of the epidemic of legal opioid use. A handful of companies saturated the country with 76 billion pain pills between 2006 and 2012, fueling the prescription opioid epidemic, the data shows.

The numbers reveal “clear heinous, criminal distribution that has visibly contributed, if not caused, the crisis our country is facing with opioid use disorder," the anti-drug group Shatterproof said in a statement. “Sadly, we cannot change the past. We can only focus on the millions of Americans who now have OUD and their families, and create strategies and actions that will prevent this for generations to come."

Purdue Pharma ranked fourth on the government database of manufacturers of products containing oxycodone and hydrocodone. Johnson & Johnson is not on the list of companies that made those products from 2006 to 2012.

By the end of summer, there may be some indication of whether the companies will have to help abate the drug crisis. In the first state case to come to trial, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) asked a judge to make Johnson & Johnson pay as much as $17.5 billion over 30 years to stem the epidemic through treatment, education, prevention and other measures.

Oklahoma already has settled out of court with two other defendants, securing $270 million from Purdue, most of which went toward a treatment and research center, and $85 million from Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Purdue said at the time of the March settlement that it sees “this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis."

Teva said it “has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way” when it settled in May.

West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest rate of opioid overdose deaths, has also settled with some of the drug distribution companies that poured opioids into the state, recouping $84 million in recent years.

But those results don’t mean settlements or court victories for plaintiffs are likely. Johnson & Johnson and many drug manufacturers and distributors populate the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies. They have steadfastly denied culpability for the drug crisis and have the resources to wage protracted legal battles.

Johnson & Johnson, for example, has paid a small army of attorneys since Oklahoma filed its lawsuit in 2017, opting to battle the state in a seven-week trial that just ended in a Norman courtroom.

“Johnson & Johnson has been, in a bunch of cases, not afraid to litigate," said Alexandra Lahav, professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. “This is not the only mass tort they’re dealing with, and they have been pretty aggressive in their litigation strategy," she said, citing the company’s defense against lawsuits from women who claimed that asbestos in the company’s talc products gave them cancer.

As Purdue and Teva reached out-of-court settlements with Oklahoma (both denied wrongdoing), Johnson & Johnson took its chances at trial. It rejected state claims that it had minimized the risks of its opioid products and that it was a “kingpin" supplier of raw narcotic ingredients for other manufacturers.

"When you’re right, you fight," the company’s lead attorney, Larry Ottaway, told Judge Thad Balkman more than once during the trial.

The major manufacturers, distributors and dispensers of opioids, including Johnson & Johnson, have offered a variety of defenses: They sell legal, highly regulated painkillers to willing customers; the Drug Enforcement Administration sets annual quotas for the quantities each company can produce; doctors sparked the epidemic by overprescribing opioids to address their patients’ pain.

Whichever side loses may be inclined to appeal.

Moore, for one, believes that public revelations of the astonishing numbers of painkillers shipped to communities across the United States will put added pressure on companies to settle.

"What they have done over all these years is now front-page news," he said. “There’s no place to hide. It is the oversupply that caused the opioid epidemic. No doubt."

Lahav is not so sure. At the moment, she said, there is too little information from the Oklahoma or Ohio cases to predict anything. And every case involves different plaintiffs, companies, legal theories and laws.

In May, a North Dakota judge threw out a government lawsuit against Purdue, rejecting the same legal theory that Oklahoma used in its trial.

“Everybody’s got their own laws. They’ve got their own lawyers, and they’ve got their own agendas," she said. “It’s really an interesting thing how they’re going to herd all these cats together."

The biggest civil trial in U.S. history will start with these Ohio counties

PARMA, Ohio -- At Knuckleheads Bar & Grill, the subject on a sweltering Saturday afternoon was the drug crisis. More specifically, the recent disclosure that the CVS across the street received more pain pills -- 6.4 million -- over a seven-year period than any other drugstore in Cuyahoga County.

“Location, location, location," said Mike Gorman, 37, who was drinking and hanging out with friends. “It’s right near the highway, which makes it easy to access” from Cleveland.

And there was the homeless encampment just beyond the CVS, over by the train tracks, behind the strip mall. It’s popular with heroin users, the regulars at the sports bar said.

“It’s a terrible thing, but I don’t blame CVS," Gorman said, contending that drug companies made large profits and encouraged doctors to prescribe opioids.

The CVS in this white working-class suburb of Cleveland is a three-hour drive and, culturally, even farther from the southern Ohio section of Appalachia that has become widely associated with the opioid epidemic.

But last week’s revelation that drug companies saturated the United States with 76 billion pain pills over seven years shows that no corner of the country escaped the drug crisis. Two other drugstores in this city of 80,000 placed second and fifth on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of Cuyahoga County locations. Wholesalers shipped opioids at 5.4 million and 3.7 million doses respectively to those. The list was disclosed by The Washington Post last week.

Cuyahoga County and nearby Summit County soon will be at the center of the most important legal test of how much responsibility drug companies bear for the opioid epidemic. Barring a settlement, the two counties are scheduled to go to trial in October as the first case among the consolidated lawsuits brought by about 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other plaintiffs.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is presiding over the consolidated case in Cleveland, selected the counties to represent the legal arguments that other plaintiffs have made. The two counties alone are asking for billions of dollars from companies to help stem the crisis.

In a statement to The Post Sunday, Mike DeAngelis, senior director for corporate communications at CVS, defended the company’s actions.

“In the period of time covered by the ARCOS data (2006-2012), our shipments of hydrocodone combination products comprised only 2% of the prescription drugs we shipped to our pharmacies," he said. “As soon as the DEA reclassified these drugs as Schedule II in October 2014, we stopped distributing them immediately.

“The DEA possesses data on every single shipment of hydrocodone combination products we shipped to our pharmacies. It did not identify a single shipment to a single CVS Pharmacy in Cuyahoga or Summit Counties as improper."

In a court filing released Friday, lawyers for the two counties accuse some of the biggest names in the drug industry of creating a “public nuisance” that endangered the health of residents by failing to control the drug flow, even when they knew, or should have known, that some painkillers were being diverted to illegal use.

"There can be little doubt that the opioid crisis -- the epidemic of opioid availability and use -- significantly interferes with the public health and constitutes a public nuisance in both Cuyahoga and Summit counties," they argued in a request that Polster rule in their favor on that issue even before trial.

To bolster that argument, they offered an array of statistics that may be critical in the case. In 2016, they said, the death rate from pharmaceutical opioids in Cuyahoga County was 3.26 times higher than the national average. In 2017, county emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,191 people with drug-related health problems, a 21 percent increase over the previous year.

As the government cracked down on the diversion of pills to the black market, heroin and fentanyl took their place. By March 2016, two people died of a heroin or fentanyl overdose in Cuyahoga County every day, the lawyers alleged.

In Summit County, whose biggest city is Akron, the surge in overdose deaths was so rapid that the county medical examiner brought in a mobile morgue in 2017 to handle the bodies, the plaintiffs wrote.

The rate of infants born addicted to opioids there rose from 2.9 per 1,000 births between 2004 and 2008 to 13.6 per 1,000 births between 2011 and 2015, they alleged.

The defendants in the case include giant drug distribution companies such as McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Walgreens and Walmart, and manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt.

The companies have generally blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by doctors, over-dispensing by pharmacies and on drug abuse by customers. The companies say they were working to supply patients in desperate need of pain relief with legal, highly regulated drugs.

"We maintain stringent policies, procedures and tools to help ensure that our pharmacists properly exercise their professional responsibility to evaluate controlled substance prescriptions before filling them," DeAngelis, the CVS spokesman, said Sunday. “Keep in mind that doctors have the primary responsibility to make sure the opioid prescriptions they write are for a legitimate purpose.

“Over the past several years, we have taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation’s opioid epidemic that has resulted in a 30% reduction in the amount of controlled substances that our retail pharmacies dispense."

The public nuisance argument is the same one made by the state of Oklahoma in a seven-week trial against Johnson & Johnson that concluded last week. The state asked a judge to make the company pay as much as $17.5 billion over 30 years to clean up the drug crisis. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said he would rule around the end of August.

Another 48 states have sued drug companies and are lined up behind Oklahoma in a legal track that runs parallel to the enormous federal “multi-district litigation” in Ohio.

The intersection where CVS and Knuckleheads sit is typical for the outskirts of Cleveland, whose border is just a few hundred feet away. It has strip malls occupied by discount stores, and a mom-and-pop lunch counter threatened by the Burger King down the road.

Knuckleheads itself, like its patrons, appears transported here from Cleveland in the exodus to the suburbs that began decades ago. It is a squat stone building with signs promising cheap domestic beer, bar food and a Cleveland Indians game on TV. The men inside drain pints of Budweiser and Miller Lite between smoke breaks in the alley behind a black metal side door.

The pharmacist on duty at the CVS on Saturday declined to comment on the volume of pills sold there, citing company policy.

But Frank Cimperman, 58, Knuckleheads’ owner, said he believes “it’s only number one because of the highway, and because you can get a prescription filled there 24 hours a day."

Drugstores with easy access to highways have drawn authorities’ interest in the past, including two CVS stores in Sanford, Fla., that were raided and shut down by the DEA in 2012.

At a Rite Aid in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood of Cleveland, an inner-city community of low-income whites and Hispanics, pharmacy manager Ben Swartz was surprised to learn that his branch ranked third in Cuyahoga County on the DEA database.

“Wow," said Swartz, whose store received 4.8 million pills between 2006 and 2012. But he said he is confident that in recent years stricter practices have been put into place.

“We vet all the prescriptions that come in here," he said. Extra measures, including verifying diagnoses with doctors, are used for about one in 10 prescriptions, he said.

"We look for prescribing trends," Swartz said. “If a doctor’s giving everyone the same drug in the same quantities, we won’t associate with them. We also scrutinize prescriptions for high strength and high quantities, and people using multiple pharmacies and multiple prescribers."

Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week showed that drug overdose deaths nationally declined about 5 percent in 2018, the first drop in decades. While deaths from fentanyl are skyrocketing, fatalities from prescription opioids are falling, the data show.

Residents on the blocks surrounding the Rite Aid spoke of a high rate of heroin use in the area. One person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified as disparaging the area, said the sidewalk in front of an abandoned factory a block south was a “shooting gallery” until two years ago.

“We used to find hundreds of needles on the sidewalk here," he said. “But I haven’t seen any in two years, so I think it’s getting better."

Internal drug company emails show indifference to opioid epidemic

In May 2008, as the opioid epidemic was raging in America, a representative of the nation’s largest manufacturer of opioid pain pills sent an email to a client at a wholesale drug distributor in Ohio.

Victor Borelli, a national account manager for Mallinckrodt, told Steve Cochrane, the vice president of sales for KeySource Medical, to check his inventories and "[i]f you are low, order more. If you are okay, order a little more, Capesce?"

Then Borelli joked, “destroy this email.?.?.Is that really possible? Oh Well..."

Previously, Borelli used the phrase “ship, ship, ship” to describe his job.

Those email excerpts are quoted in a 144-page plaintiffs’ filing along with thousands of pages of documents unsealed by a judge’s order Friday in a landmark case in Cleveland against many of the largest companies in the drug industry. A Drug Enforcement Administration database released earlier in the week revealed that the companies had inundated the nation with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2006 through 2012. Nearly 2,000 cities, counties and towns are alleging that the companies knowingly flooded their communities with opioids, fueling an epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 since 1996.

The filing by plaintiffs depict some drug company employees as driven by profits and undeterred by the knowledge that their products were wreaking havoc across the country. The defendants’ response to the motion is due July 31.

In January 2009, Borelli told Cochrane in another email that 1,200 bottles of oxycodone 30 mg tablets had been shipped.

“Keep ’em comin’!" Cochrane responded. “Flyin’ out of there. It’s like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are..."

Borelli responded: “Just like Doritos keep eating. We’ll make more."

Borelli and Cochrane did not return calls for comment Friday night.

"In a statement Friday night, a spokesman for Mallinckrodt sought to distance the company from Borelli’s email: “This is an outrageously callous email from an individual who has not been employed by the company for many years. It is antithetical to everything that Mallinckrodt stands for and has done to combat opioid abuse and misuse.

An attorney for KeySource Medical on Saturday declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

The Controlled Substances Act requires drug companies to control against diversion, and to design and operate systems to identify “suspicious orders," defined as “orders of unusual size, orders deviating substantially from a normal pattern, and orders of unusual frequency." The companies are supposed to report such orders to the DEA and refrain from shipping them unless they can determine the drugs are unlikely to be diverted to the black market. The plaintiffs, in the filing, allege that the companies ignored red flags and failed at every level.

At Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s largest drug distributors, then-CEO Kerry Clark in January 2008 wrote in an email to Cardinal senior officials that the company’s “results-oriented culture” was perhaps “leading to ill-advised or shortsighted decisions," the filing contends.

In the previous 18 months, Cardinal had been hit with nearly $1 billion in “fines, settlements, and lost business as a result of multiple regulatory actions," the filing alleges, including the suspension of licenses at some of its distribution centers for failing to maintain effective controls against opioid diversion.

Cardinal Health did not immediately return a request for comment Friday night.

On Aug. 31, 2011, McKesson Corp.’s then-director of regulatory affairs, David B. Gustin, told his colleagues he was concerned about the “number of accounts we have that have large gaps between the amount of Oxy or Hydro they are allowed to buy (their threshold) and the amount they really need," according to the filing, which cites Gustin’s statements. “This increases the ‘opportunity’ for diversion by exposing more product for introduction into the pipeline than may be being used for legitimate purposes."

According to the filing, he had earlier noted to his colleagues that they “need to get out visiting more customers and away from our laptops or the company is going to end up paying the price ... big time."

Another McKesson regulatory affairs director responded: “I am overwhelmed. I feel that I am going down a river without a paddle and fighting the rapids. Sooner or later, hopefully later I feel we will be burned by a customer that did not get enough due diligence," according to the filing.

McKesson is the largest drug distributor in the United States. It distributed 14.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2006 to 2012, about 18 percent of the market, according to the DEA database.

"Suggesting that these two employees’ emails from nearly a decade ago are evidence of wrongdoing ignores the context in which McKesson and our employees were operating," McKesson spokeswoman Kristin Chasen said in a statement Friday. “Doctors around the country were writing millions of additional opioid prescriptions year over year. Our regulator, the DEA, consistently raised the annual quota of pills that could be produced and distributed, which was a clear statement that the increase in prescriptions was appropriate, expected, and medically necessary. To imply that distributors should have second-guessed or overruled those decisions by the government and the medical community reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of our role. For decades, McKesson has consistently reported opioid transactions to the DEA. We have also invested heavily in further strengthening our anti-diversion program."

Until Friday, the documents had been sealed under a protective order issued by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster. The order was lifted a year after The Washington Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, filed a lawsuit for access to the documents and a DEA database tracking opioid sales, known as the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS.

The drug companies and the DEA strenuously opposed the release of the data and the documents, and Polster agreed with them. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Ohio ordered that some of the information should be released with reasonable redactions and the database should be made public.

By consolidating cases from around the nation, the Cleveland case, for the first time, provides specific information about how and in what quantity the drugs flowed around the country, from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies. The case also brings to light internal documents and deliberations by the companies as they sought to promote their products and contend with enforcement efforts by the DEA.

The local and state government plaintiffs in the case argue that the actions of some of America’s biggest and best-known companies -- including Mallinckrodt, Cardinal Health, McKesson, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Purdue Pharma -- amounted to a civil racketeering enterprise that had a devastating effect on the plaintiffs’ communities.

The case is a civil action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, making use of a law originally developed to attack organized crime.

In statements to The Post on Tuesday in response to the release of the DEA database, the drug companies issued broad defenses of their actions during the opioid epidemic. They have said previously that they were trying to sell legal painkillers to legitimate pain patients who had prescriptions. They have blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by physicians and also on corrupt doctors and pharmacists who worked in “pill mills” that handed out drugs with few questions asked. The companies also said they should not be held responsible for the actions of people who abused the drugs.

The companies said that they were diligent about reporting their sales to the DEA and that the agency should have worked with them to do more to fight the epidemic, a point former DEA agents dispute. The companies also note that the DEA set the quotas for opioid production.

“We report those suspicious orders to state boards of pharmacy and to the DEA but we do not know what those government entities do with those reports, if anything," Cardinal Health said in a statement.

The companies issued statements rejecting the plaintiffs’ allegations.

McKesson said in its statement: “The allegations made by the plaintiffs are just that -- allegations. They are unproven, untrue and greatly oversimplify the evolution of this health crisis as well as the roles and responsibilities of the many players in the pharmaceutical supply chain."

Mallinckrodt said the company “has for years been at the forefront of preventing prescription drug diversion and abuse, and has invested millions of dollars in a multipronged program to address opioid abuse."

'Kingpin within the drug cartel'

One of the biggest points of contention in the lawsuit is whether the nation’s largest drug companies did enough to identify suspicious orders of opioids. What exactly constitutes a suspicious order is at the heart of the case.

The DEA has long said there should be no confusion because the agency has given frequent guidance and briefings to the industry, and repeatedly defined what constitutes a suspicious order.

The plaintiffs argue that the companies failed to “design serious suspicious order monitoring systems that would identify suspicious orders to the DEA” and shipped the drugs anyway.

"Their failure to identify suspicious orders was their business model: they turned a blind eye and called themselves mere ‘deliverymen’ with no responsibility for what they delivered or to whom," according to the plaintiffs’ filing.

Between 1996 and 2018, the plaintiffs alleged in the filing, drug companies shipped hundreds of millions of opioid pills into Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio, filling orders that were suspicious and “should never have been shipped."

“They made no effort actually to identify suspicious orders, failed to flag orders that, under any reasonable algorithm, represented between one-quarter and 90 percent of their business, and kept the flow of drugs coming into Summit and Cuyahoga Counties," the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

In 2007, the DEA told Mallinckrodt that the numeric formula it used to monitor suspicious orders was insufficient, the filing contended. It alleges the company’s suspicious order monitoring program from 2008 through 2009 consisted of solely verifying that the customer had a valid DEA registration and that the order was accurately logged into the DEA’s tracking database.

From 2003 to 2011, Mallinckrodt shipped a total of 53 million orders, flagged 37,817 as suspicious but stopped only 33 orders, the plaintiffs’ filing states.

A Mallinckrodt employee said in a deposition that the DEA had described the company as the “kingpin within the drug cartel” in a meeting with the agency in July 2010, according to a footnote in the filing.

In 2011, the filing cites a Justice Department document in which the DEA alleged that Mallinckrodt “sold excessive amounts of the most highly abused forms of oxycodone, 30 mg and 15 mg tablets, placing them into a stream of commerce that would result in diversion."

According to the DEA, the filing states, “even though Mallinckrodt knew of the pattern of excessive sales of its oxycodone feeding massive diversion, it continued to incentivize and supply these suspicious sales," and never notified the DEA of the suspicious orders.

In a settlement with the DEA, Mallinckrodt agreed that from Jan. 1, 2008, through Jan. 1, 2012, “certain aspects of Mallinckrodt’s system to monitor and detect suspicious orders did not meet the standards” outlined in letters from the DEA deputy administrator for diversion control.

Mallinckrodt was the nation’s leading manufacturer of oxycodone and hydrocodone, with 28.8 billion pills from 2006 to 2012, 37.7 percent of the market, according to the DEA database. It has since created a subsidiary for its generic opioids called SpecGx.

The Post reported in 2017 that federal prosecutors said 500 million of the company’s 30 mg oxycodone pills wound up in Florida between 2008 and 2012 -- 66 percent of all oxycodone sold in the state. Pills at that dosage are among the most widely abused.

Prosecutors said the company failed to report suspicious orders, and Mallinckrodt that year settled the case by paying a $35 million fine.

“Mallinckrodt’s actions and omissions formed a link in the chain of supply that resulted in millions of oxycodone pills being sold on the street," then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time.

McKesson Corp., the nation’s largest opioid distributor, doled out 14.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2006 to 2012, about 18 percent of the market, according to the newly released DEA database. (Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA)

'Business as usual'

The same year that Mallinckrodt paid its fine, McKesson, the nation’s largest drug distributor, was fined a record $150 million by the Justice Department.

According to allegations in the new court filing, McKesson frequently increased the amount of opioid pills it sent to its pharmacy customers.

“McKesson has a long history of absolute deference to retail national account customers when it comes to [opioid] threshold increases," the plaintiffs argue in their filing, citing a deposition of McKesson’s senior director of distribution operations.

McKesson had set limits on the amount of opioids its customers could order, the filing contends, but those limits were often lifted.

"In August 2014, DOJ noted that McKesson appeared to be willing to approve threshold increases for opioids for the flimsiest of reasons," the filing contends.

For shipments to pharmacies in Summit and Cuyahoga counties, McKesson did not report a single suspicious order between May 2008 and July 2013, the filing says. During that time, McKesson filled 366,000 opioid orders in those two counties.

McKesson reached its settlement with the government in January 2017 for allegations of failing to report suspicious orders. It was the second time the company was fined over suspicious orders. Nine years earlier, it paid $13 million.

The government said in 2017 that McKesson “failed to design and implement an effective system to detect and report ‘suspicious orders.’?" The company shipped more than 1.6 million orders of opioid pills between 2008 and 2013 but reported just 16 as suspicious, according to the Justice Department.

However, “before the ink of the settlement agreement was even dry," the new filing argues , McKesson was already reassuring customers who were concerned that the flow of opioids would be curtailed that it would remain “business as usual” at the company. McKesson sent more than 68 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to those counties between 2006 and 2012, according to DEA tracking data analyzed by The Post.

Gustin, McKesson’s former director of regulatory affairs, was recently indicted in federal court in Kentucky on a charge of illegally distributing opioids. His attorney wrote in a court filing that the allegations against his client stem from his job at McKesson and “seem to focus on the manner by which he performed his former position as Director of Regulatory Affairs."

Gustin’s lawyer and the prosecutor in the case did not return calls for comment.

The southwest Virginia city of Norton, with a population of about 4,000, saw millions of prescription opioids arrive in seven years, with the city’s CVS pharmacy receiving 1.3 million opioids from 2006 through 2012, according to the DEA database. (Charles Mostoller for The Washington Post)

Pickers and packers

The plaintiffs in the Cleveland case alleged that CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, did not implement required controls to identify suspicious orders from 2006 until early to mid-2009.

The CVS compliance coordinator said that her title “was only for reference and not her real job position and that the only thing she ever did related to suspicious order monitoring was to update the [Standard Operating Procedures Manual]," the plaintiffs allege.

A system that CVS used to monitor suspicious orders was known as “Pickers and Packers," according to the filing.

The pickers and packers were workers in the distribution centers who would pick and pack opioid orders. A CVS official testified that the company did not have any written policies, guidance or training programs to teach the pickers and packers how to detect suspicious orders, according to the filing.

“Instead, the Pickers and Packers would identify orders based on a gut feeling or a crude rule of thumb that essentially can be summarized that they believed the order was simply too large," the filing states. “One of the Pickers and Packers .?.?. testified that she was trained by another Picker and Packer in 1996 and that as a rule a Picker and Packer should not send out more than 12 of the small bottles, six of the larger bottles and two or three of the largest bottles. She used this rule of thumb for her entire career."

CVS’s system flagged few orders, the filing contends : A CVS distribution center in Indianapolis flagged two orders per year from 2006 through 2014.

CVS rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments.

“As part of our response in this case, we will be presenting the expert opinion of a former high-ranking DEA official who concluded independently that our systems were compliant and that the plaintiffs’ analysis is unfounded," CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said.

Obvious signs of diversion

Walgreens used a formula to identify thousands of pharmacy orders as suspicious but shipped them anyway, the filing alleges. The orders were reported to the DEA after they had been shipped, according to agency documents quoted in the filing.

“Suspicious orders are to be reported as discovered, not in a collection of monthly completed transactions," the DEA wrote in an immediate suspension order issued against Walgreens in 2012. “Notwithstanding the ample guidance available, Walgreens has failed to maintain an adequate suspicious order reporting system and as a result, has ignored readily identifiable orders and ordering patterns that, based on the information available throughout the Walgreens Corporation, should have been obvious signs of diversion."

In one case, Walgreens’s suspicious order report to the DEA was 1,712 pages long and contained six months’ worth of orders, including reports on 836 pharmacies in more than a dozen states and Puerto Rico, the filing alleges.

The filing also alleges that Walgreens stores could “place ad hoc ‘PDQ’ (“pretty darn quick”) orders to controlled substances outside of their normal order days and outside of the [suspicious order monitoring] analysis and limits."

The Post has previously reported that Kristine Atwell, who managed distribution of controlled substances for the company’s warehouse in Jupiter, Fla., sent an email on Jan. 10, 2011, to corporate headquarters urging that some of the stores be required to justify their large quantity of orders.

"I ran a query to see how many bottles we have sent to store #3836 and we have shipped them 3271 bottles between 12/1/10 and 1/10/11," Atwell wrote. “I don’t know how they can even house this many bottle[s] to be honest. How do we go about checking the validity of these orders?"

A bottle sent by a wholesaler generally contains 100 pills.

Walgreens never checked, the DEA said. Between April 2010 and February 2012, the Jupiter distribution center sent 13.7 million oxycodone doses to six Florida stores, records show, many times the norm, the DEA said.

Walgreens ranked second among distributors in the nation, with 13 billion pills and 16.5 percent of the market for oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2012, the DEA database shows. It stopped distributing opioids to its stores in 2014, but continues to dispense controlled substances.

As part of a settlement with the DEA in June 2013, Walgreens said that its “suspicious order reporting for distribution to certain pharmacies did not meet the standards identified by DEA." The company paid an $80 million fine to the government.

In a statement to The Post earlier in the week, Walgreens defended its operations, saying, “Walgreens has been an industry leader in combating this crisis in the communities where our pharmacists live and work."

Internal drug company emails show indifference to opioid epidemic

As lawyers zero in on drug companies, a reckoning may be coming

For two decades, as 200,000 opioid overdose deaths piled up across America, there was always someone else to blame. Families blamed drug companies. Drug companies blamed doctors. Everyone blamed the government.

More than half the public continues to see drug addiction as a moral failing, blaming substance abusers themselves for the epidemic, at least in part, according to recent polling.

But now the effort to hold someone to account for the worst drug crisis in U.S. history is narrowing to a few dozen drug companies whose day in court has come or will soon arrive. Virtually every state and nearly 2,000 towns, cities and counties have demanded those firms, which include some of America’s most trusted brands, be forced to pay up to help stop the epidemic.

"It is a drug company crisis, and it begins and should end with them," Oklahoma attorney Bradley Beckworth told a judge this week in the first state drug trial of the opioid era. The state is seeking $17.5 billion from the health care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to address the costs of addiction.

"I think people are coming to their senses," said Moore, who led the legal battle in that case. “People are realizing that this is a public health crisis and not so much about litigation and lawyers. It needs to be treated as ‘we have a public health crisis.’”

Though the litigation is following the trail blazed by the tobacco and asbestos cases of the last century, plaintiffs are seeking even more staggering sums: $17.5 billion in sparsely populated Oklahoma; $7.2 billion for Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio; $483 billion for a nationwide settlement, according to an expert witness for plaintiffs cited by Reuters.

Opioid death rates soared in communities where pain pills flowed

Death rates from opioids soared in the towns, cities and counties that were saturated with billions of prescription pain pills from 2006 through 2012, according to government death data and a previously undisclosed database of opioid shipments made public this week.

The highest per capita death rates nationwide from opioids during those years were in rural communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. In those seven years, those communities also were flooded with a disproportionate share of the 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from some of the country’s largest drug companies, an analysis by The Washington Post reveals.

The national death rate from opioids was 4.6 deaths per 100,000 residents. But the counties that had the most pills distributed per person experienced more than three times that rate on average. Thirteen of those counties had an opioid death rate more than eight times the national rate, according to the government data. Seven of them were in West Virginia.


Private Equity

Warren’s latest plan highlights the economic hypocrisy on both sides, 7-18-19

Earlier this week, the Edmund Burke Foundation, a new conservative think tank, held its debut conference in Washington. I spent two days poking in and out of it, listening to everything from University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax rant about immigrants to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) call for an end to elites who prize their own economic gains ahead of that of the American middle class. One subject -- or should I say name -- that came up not infrequently was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

And, no, not all of the mentions were negative.

Warren’s overarching theme is that American capitalism, in its current form, runs roughshod over Americans workers, families and communities. That resonates in certain conservative circles, where people like to view themselves as defenders of traditional values.

During the conference, one attendee asked Tucker Carlson, who spoke at a Monday keynote, if Warren could be a potential ally. That’s likely because last month, Carlson declared Warren’s “Plan for Economic Patriotism," which argues for a government investment in green energies and an economic policy to encourage American exports, to be something that “sounds like Donald Trump at his best." Carlson, if you are wondering, said no but added that he considered Warren’s book “The Two-Income Trap” one of the best books on economics he’s ever read.

It will be interesting to see if Carlson has anything to say about Warren’s latest plan. On Thursday morning, Warren, along with a bevy of co-sponsors, including Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), released another one in her series of policy proposals, a piece of legislation designed to rein in the private equity sector’s many, many abuses.

Private equity, as I pointed out in a piece earlier this week, is a benign way to describe an often heinous practice. Privately owned investment companies use a combination of their own resources and borrowed money to buy other firms. They then, all too often, transfer the responsibility for paying that debt to the firm they just purchased.

The defenders of PRIVATE EQUITY argue that their business expertise allows them to wring efficiencies out of the operations that others have missed, and with this savings, their newly purchased companies can pay off their bills. But all too often, they ARE INVESTMENT VAMPIRES, sucking the life out of their companies. The profits accrue to the investors, as the company they are supposedly saving slowly sinks, shedding jobs and offering increasingly inferior service to consumers. We lost Toys R Us this way. Sears too. Others -- like, say, Digital First Media‘s newspaper properties such as the Denver Post -- continue on but are a shadow of their former selves.

Warren’s plan would crack down on a host of practices that make private equity strip mining as lucrative as it is, eliminating many of the economic incentives for it. She would demand private equity companies share in the risks of their purchase, by making them partially responsible for the debt they would otherwise load on the hapless companies they control. If one of the firms they own makes a decision that harms consumers, courts could find them liable, something that is not true now.

Warren’s bill would also ban the purchased company from paying dividends to investors for two years past the leveraged buyout, cutting into immediate profits. Should the company land in bankruptcy court, she would double the amount due to employees in owed wages and severance that is placed before the interests of the bondholders, something that would make a filing less lucrative to private equity.

And ever the personal finance guru, she’s even onto how company’s skip out on their obligations to consumers possessing their gift cards. She’s demanding they receive more protection in bankruptcy court than they currently do, too. And while she’s at it, she’s demanding an end to the carried interest loophole, the tax dodge beloved by hedge fund managers and private equity investors alike.

None of this is likely to go anywhere in the current environment. Republicans control the Senate, and it’s not even clear how many Democrats will support it. The lure of private equity is, alas, bipartisan.

But what Warren’s bill does do is highlight a certain hypocrisy. If you are a Democrat, it makes it harder for you to claim you are a progressive because you support raising the minimum wage and decriminalizing illegally entering the country if you cannot address the blight that is private equity.

And it calls people such as Tucker Carlson and other attendees at the Burke Foundation event on their own stated values. If you want to help American families, you need to attack ALL the financial practices that are harming them, not just the ones that Trump thinks are damaging.

At least one person at that conference got the exact nature of Warren’s threat to the right wing. Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel, another speaker at the event, joined Carlson on his nightly Fox News television show Monday night. “I’m most scared by Elizabeth Warren," he told Carlson when asked about the Democratic presidential field. “I think she’s the one who’s actually talking about the economy."

Julián Castro and the predatism of private equity

Of all the places for an aspiring Democratic candidate to muff a question about private equity firms, close to the worst right now would be Philadelphia, host of the recent Netroots Nation conference. Many conference attendees joined a rally Thursday to protest the scheduled closing of the city’s Hahnemann University Hospital. The hospital’s crime? It’s low income population apparently isn’t lucrative enough for the private equity firm that owns it. It’s also widely rumored the site would make its owner more money if sold off for the value of its real estate. About 2,000 people are expected to lose their jobs.

So when former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro took questions at the event’s Saturday presidential forum, surely he should have had an answer at the ready for attendee Sarah Woodhams, a former employee of Toys R Us, another company gutted by private equity firms, who asked, “As president, what would you do to hold hedge funds and private equity accountable for destroying our communities and our livelihoods?"

He did not. “I don’t believe any bank or company is too big to fail," Castro responded, before going off on a tangent discussing how he would hold Wall Street accountable if there is another housing crisis. None of this, needless to say, has anything to do with why Woodhams lost her job or why Hahnemann University Hospital may close: Companies such as Toys R US and institutions such as Hahnemann are being set up to fail so the wealthy can make a buck.

Castro’s non-answer generated few headlines. Yet it’s worth taking a moment to think about why it matters that a Democratic candidate for president, one considered well within the progressive mainstream, couldn’t or wouldn’t adequately answer the plaintive plea of a woman who lost her job because of the predations of private equity firms.

Private equity firms put money in a company to make money from their investment. On paper, of course, there is nothing wrong with that. The issue comes when, as happens all too often, making money is prioritized over the health of the business and/or the community.

Here the Toys R Us saga is instructive. The company is often popularly thought to be a victim of the move to Internet shopping combined with the growth of all-purpose big-box retailers such as Walmart. But that’s not quite what happened. In 2005, Toys R Us was purchased by two private-equity firms and a real estate firm. (One of the buyers was Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney.) The firms took on billions in debt to purchase the company -- debt they promptly moved off their own books by loading it onto Toys R Us.

The funds the company needed to service the additional debt prevented it from making needed improvements in both its physical stores and Internet marketing. It also interfered with its ability to reliably pay suppliers. Eventually, it filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Even then, prospects for reorganization initially looked promising. But then a group of bondholders stepped in who could make more money by letting the company fail, in part because they believed the company could raise enough money to pay them off more quickly via going-out-of-business sales. About 33,000 people lost their livelihood, including Woodhams. They only received a portion of their promised severance after the intervention of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with fellow presidential candidates Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.).

Toys R Us is a particularly extreme example, but private equity is exercising an increasingly baleful influence over broad swaths of the business sector. It’s at play in the newspaper business, where outfits such as Digital First Media are an increasingly controversial presence, and in the film industry, where private equity ownership of a number of the largest talent firms is thought to be one of the factors in the Hollywood battle between agents and the writers who say they no longer represent them properly. In the retail sector, its investment in a company makes it less likely the company can survive the seismic shifts occurring in the sector.

There is lots that can be done to temper this. Leveraged buyouts weren’t even legal till the early 1980s. Regulations could limit the amount of debt a would-be purchaser could place on a company. Mandatory severance payments would make it much more financially difficult to profit by forcing companies out of business. But as Bryce Covert pointed out last year in the Atlantic, private equity has its tentacles in both major political parties. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, for example, founded his own private equity firm (with a track record of sketchy behavior) while former treasury secretary Timothy F. Geithner works for another such firm, Warburg Pincus. (Geithner’s employer also owns, among other investments, Mariner Finance, a company that offers desperate working class men and women dodgy, deceptive high-interest loans by mailing them unsolicited checks.)

All of this presents a particular problem for the Democratic Party because, of course, they traditionally stood up for the interests of working people. It also is one of the things that leaves an opening for more conservative interests to pose as working-class champions. In a speech Tucker Carlson gave Monday to the Edmund Burke Foundation’s conference on national conservatism, he said that left-wing identity politics is simply a “a distraction” designed to cover up who is getting rich in the current environment. That’s a ridiculous claim coming from Carlson. But it’s the seeming obliviousness of politicians such as Castro who widen the opening to make that ludicrous argument.

How PE Firms Are Flipping Drugs in Price-Gouging Scheme that Cannibalizes the Entire US Economy They don’t care. And they’re not required to care.

The ravenous price increases that pharmaceutical companies slap on their medicines are part of the reason the US health care system is eating an ever larger slice of consumer, corporate, and government spending, and why the rest of the economy has trouble moving forward. Some of the price increases have turned into scandals with plenty of mouth-wagging by politicians.

Mylan got raked over the coals in Congress for raising the price of its autoinjector EpiPen seven-fold since buying it in 2007. Last year, Turing Pharmaceuticals, under Martin Shkreli, got into hot water over raising the price of just-acquired Daraprim 50-fold.

Private equity firms have figured this out. You can make a ton of money with a basic formula: Fund a newly created outfit that buys the rights to a prescription drug with little or no competition and with stagnant or declining sales, jack up the price of the drug, then flip the company at an enormous profit.

This has become the latest way of wringing out the American economy without contributing anything to it, and at the expense of everyone else. So Bloomberg dug into the role private equity firms play in these schemes.










Ayn Rand

Think you already detest Ayn Rand? Here's an abso-freakin'-lutely amazing story that'll have you...

...looking for new adjectives to express your disgust.

Thom Hartmann has written a really fascinating article over at alternet. If I were you I’d just click on it right now and read it fresh, as there is no way I can do it justice here.

The right-wing love affair with Ayn Rand ties conservatism to one of the most disturbing sociopathic killers

Written by Thom Hartmann / Independent Media Institute August 12, 2019

There's a direct link between a sociopathic killer in 1927 and the GOP's willingness to embrace a sociopathic president like Trump. That link runs through the work of Ayn Rand.

When Donald Trump was running for the GOP nomination, he told USA Today's Kirsten Powers that Ayn Rand's raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, The Fountainhead, was his favorite book.

"It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions," he told Powers. "That book relates to … everything."

Trump probably knew that anything by Rand would be the right answer for Republicans; the party has embraced her for decades, to the point that Paul Ryan required interns to read her books as a condition of employment.

Powers added, "He [Trump] identified with Howard Roark, the novel's idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment." Roark raged so much in the novel that he blew up a public housing project with dynamite just to get his way.

Rand was quite clear about the characteristics she wrote into her heroes, and in particular Howard Roark. In her Journals, she writes of the theme of the book, "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself. Fine!"

On Howard Roark, she writes that he "has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world. He knows what he wants and what he thinks. He needs no other reasons, standards or considerations. His complete selfishness is as natural to him as breathing."

Roark seems like the kind of man who would brag about grabbing women by the genitals because, "When you're a star, they let you do it." But this was long before Donald Trump was on the scene.

Instead, the man who so inspired Ayn Rand's fictional heroes was a real sociopath named William Edward Hickman, who lived in Los Angeles.

Ten days before Christmas, in 1927, Hickman, a teenager with slicked dark hair and tiny, muted eyes, drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High School in Los Angeles, California, and kidnapped Marion Parker—the daughter of a wealthy banker in town.

Hickman held the girl ransom, demanding $1,500 from her father—back then about a year's salary. Supremely confident that he would elude capture, Hickman signed his name on the ransom notes, "The Fox."

After two days, Marion's father agreed to hand over the ransom in exchange for the safety of his daughter. What Perry Parker didn't know is that Hickman never intended to live up to his end of the bargain.

The Pittsburgh Press detailed what Hickman, in his own words, did next.

"It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me," he said. "I just couldn't help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then, before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly."

Hickman didn't hold back on any of these details: he was proud of his cold-bloodedness.

"I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead."

But Hickman wasn't finished. "After she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out"

Hickman then dismembered the child piece-by-piece, putting her limbs in a cabinet in his apartment, and then wrapped up the carved-up torso, powdered the lifeless face of Marion Parker, set what was left of her stump torso with the head sitting atop it in the passenger seat of his car, and drove to meet her father to collect the ransom money.

He even sewed open her eyelids to make it look like she was alive.

On the way, Hickman dumped body parts out of his car window, before rendezvousing with Marion Parker's father.

Armed with a shotgun so her father wouldn't come close enough to Hickman's car to see that Marion was dead, Hickman collected his $1,500, then kicked open the door and tossed the rest of Marion Parker onto the road. As he sped off, her father fell to his knees, screaming.

Days later, the police caught up with a defiant and unrepentant Hickman in Oregon. His lawyers pleaded insanity, but the jury gave him the gallows.

To nearly everyone, Hickman was a monster. The year of the murder, the Los Angeles Times called it "the most horrible crime of the 1920s." Hickman was America's most despicable villain at the time.

But to a young Russian idealist just arriving in America, Hickman was a hero.

And while Hickman the man has, today, been largely forgotten, Hickman the archetype has lived on and influenced our nation in a profound fashion, paving the way for Donald Trump, a man with no empathy or consideration of social norms, to one day occupy the White House.

The kind of man who would pose with a tiny baby, the youngest survivor of a slaughter that he, himself encouraged with his hateful rhetoric, and mug for the camera with a thumbs-up sign.

Two years before William Edward Hickman was sentenced to death, a 21-year-old Russian political science student named Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum arrived in New York Harbor on a French ocean liner. The year was 1926, and she was on the last leg of her dream trip to the Land of Opportunity, scurrying across the Soviet Union, Germany, and France before procuring a first-class cabin aboard the S.S. De Grasse, bound for the United States.

Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. And etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.

She had just departed Leninist Russia where, almost a decade earlier, there was a harsh backlash against the Russian property owners—the people who were rich with Russian money like Donald Trump—by the Bolsheviks. Alissa's own family was targeted, and at the age of 12 she witnessed Bolshevik soldiers burst into her father's pharmacy business, loot the store, and plaster on the doors the red emblem of the state indicating that his private business now belonged to "the people."

That incident left such a deep and burning wound in young Alissa's mind, that she went to college to study political science and vowed one day she'd become a famous writer to warn the world of the dangers of Bolshevism.

Starting afresh in Hollywood, she anglicized her name to Ayn Rand, and moved from prop-girl to screenwriter/novelist, basing the heroes of several of her stories on a man she was reading about in the newspapers at the time. A man she wrote effusively about in her diaries. A man she hero-worshipped.

He was the most notorious man in American in 1928, having achieved a level of national fame she craved—William Edward Hickman.

What young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman that would encourage her to base a novel, then her philosophy, then her life's work, on him was quite straightforward: unfeeling, unpitying selfishness.

He was the kind of man who would revel in the pain parents would feel when their children were ripped from their arms and held in freezing cages for over a year.

In Hickman, Ayn Rand wrote that she had finally found the new model of the Superman (her phrase, likely borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche). Only a worldview held by a man like Hickman, she believed, could ever prevent an all-powerful state from traumatizing another generation of small businesspeople and their children as the Bolsheviks had her family.

Hickman's words as recounted by Rand in her Journals, "I am like the state: what is good for me is right," resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else—even above friends, family, or nation—the result would be utopian.

She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman's were, "the best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I ever heard.

Hickman—the monster who boasted of how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl—had Rand's ear, as well as her heart. She saw a strongman archetype in him, the way that people wearing red MAGA hats see a strongman savior in Donald Trump.

As Hickman’s murder trial unfolded, Rand grew increasingly enraged at how the mediocre American masses had rushed to condemn her Superman, much like today people Trump calls mediocre condemn him and the killings that may have emerged from his rhetoric, from Charleston to Charlottesville to El Paso.

"The first thing that impresses me about the case," Rand wrote in reference to the Hickman trial in early notes for a book she was working on titled The Little Street, "is the ferocious rage of the whole society against one man."

Astounded that Americans didn't recognize the heroism Hickman showed when he proudly rose above simply conforming to society's rules, Rand wrote, "It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. .. It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, with a consciousness all his own."

In other words, a man who lives exclusively for himself. A narcissistic psychopath. A man who could sell out his own country to foreign powers, tearing apart his nation's people, just for his own enjoyment.

Rand explained that when the masses are confronted with such a bold actor, they neither understood nor empathized with him. Thus, "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy [was] turned [by the media] into a purposeless monster."

The protagonist of the book that Rand was writing around that time was a boy named Danny Renahan. In her notes for the book, she wrote, "The model for the boy [Renahan] is Hickman." He would be her ideal man, and the archetype for a philosophical movement that could transform a nation.

"He is born with the spirit of Argon and the nature of a medieval feudal lord," Rand wrote in her notes describing Renahan. "Imperious. Impatient. Uncompromising. Untamable. Intolerant. Unadaptable. Passionate. Intensely proud. Superior to the mob… an extreme 'extremist.' … No respect for anything or anyone."

The kind of man who would tell over 12,000 lies in two and a half years, who would daily lie to the press and his nation, just because he could—and would revel in it.

Rand wanted capitalism in its most raw form, uncheck by any government that could control the rules of the market or promote the benefits of society. Such good intentions had, after all, caused the hell she'd experienced in the Bolshevik Revolution, just like they'd caused Fred Trump to be arrested and fined for refusing to maintain apartments that black people had moved into.

Ayn Rand, like Hickman, found in the extremes her economic, political, and moral philosophy. Forget about democratic institutions, forget about regulating markets, and forget about pursuing any policies that benefit the majority at the expense of the very rich—the rule-makers and rule-enforcers could never, ever do anything well or good. Only billionaires should rule the world, as Trump has suggested.

Trump personifies this, putting an advocate of destroying public schools in charge of public schools, a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA, an oil lobbyist in charge of our public lands, and a billionaire described by Forbes as a "grifter" in charge of the Commerce Department. His chief of staff said that putting children in cages (where seven so far have died) would actually be a public good. Don't just ignore the rules; destroy them.

Welfare and other social safety net programs were, as Rand saw it, "the glorification of mediocrity" in society. Providing a social safety net for the poor, disabled, or unemployed, she believed, were part of a way of thinking that promoted, "satisfaction instead of joy, contentment instead of happiness… a glow-worm instead of a fire."

She, like Trump, lived a largely joyless life. She mercilessly manipulated people, particularly her husband, and, like Trump, surrounded herself with cult-like followers who were only on the inside so long as they gave her total, unhesitating loyalty.

Like Trump and his billionaire backers, she believed that a government promoting working-class "looters" instead of solely looking out for capitalist "producers" was throwing its "best people" under the bus.

In Rand's universe, the producers had no obligations to the looters. Providing welfare or sacrificing one nickel of your own money to help a "looter" on welfare, unemployment, or Social Security—particularly if it was "taken at the barrel of a gun" (taxes)—was morally reprehensible.

Like Trump saying, "My whole life I've been greedy," for Rand looking out for numero uno was the singular name of the game—selfishness is next to godliness.

Later in Rand’s life, in 1959, as she gained more notoriety for the moral philosophy of selfishness that she named "Objectivism" and that is today at the core of libertarianism and the GOP, she sat down for an interview with CBS reporter Mike Wallace.

Suggesting that selfishness undermines most American values, Wallace bluntly challenged Rand.

"You are out to destroy almost every edifice in the contemporary American way of life," Wallace said to Rand. "Our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, our rule by the majority will... you scorn churches, and the concept of God… are these accurate criticisms?"

As Wallace was reciting the public criticisms of Rand, the CBS television cameras zoomed in closely on her face, as her eyes darted back and forth between the ground and Wallace's fingers. But the question, with its implied condemnation, didn't faze her at all. Rand said with confidence in a matter-of-fact tone, "Yes."

"We’re taught to feel concerned for our fellow man," Wallace challenged, "to feel responsible for his welfare, to feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under God and responsible one for the other—now why do you rebel?"

"That is what in fact makes man a sacrificial animal," Rand answered. She added, "[man's] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness."

Rand's philosophy, though growing in popularity on college campuses, never did—in her lifetime—achieve the sort of mass appeal she had hoped. It was confined to college coffee shops, intellectual conferences, and true-believer journals, but never hit the halls of Congress, the mainstream television airwaves, or water-cooler political debates. There were the handful of "true believers," but that was it... until today.

Now, Ayn Rand's philosophy is a central tenet of today's Republican Party and the moral code proudly cited and followed by high-profile billionaires and the president of the United States.

Ironically, when she was finally beginning to be taken seriously, Ayn Rand became ill with lung cancer, and went on Social Security and Medicare to make it through her last days. She died a "looter" in 1982, unaware that her sociopathic worldview would one day validate an entire political party's embrace of a sociopathic narcissist president.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.










Carbon Industries - Oil and Gas

Oil and gas giant Shell told workers to show up and cheer for Trump if they wanted to get paid.

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of occasions on which Donald Trump has been seen standing in front of rooms with cheering men—and it’s almost always men—in hardhats. It’s such a common sight that when word comes down that coal miners are dying from the worst form of black lung in record numbers, or steel jobs are being crushed by Trump’s tariffs, it’s easy to sneer that these are people who “got what they asked for."

But appearances can be more than deceiving. They can be dead wrong.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, worker at Shell’s petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania were clearly informed that they didn’t have to appear at Trump’s rally last Tuesday. It was “not mandatory." It was just that if they didn’t show up, they had to “take the day off with no pay." This didn’t just apply to people working directly for Shell, but also for those who work for dozens of union contractors involved in construction at the site.









Corporate Debt

Corporate debt nears a record $10 trillion, and borrowing binge poses new risks

By David J. Lynch November 29, 2019, WaPo

Little more than a decade after consumers binged on inexpensive mortgages that helped bring on a global financial crisis, a new debt surge -- this time by major corporations -- threatens to unleash fresh turmoil.

A decade of historically low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S. corporate debt to nearly $10?trillion, or a record 47?percent of the overall economy.

In recent weeks, the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund and major institutional investors such as BlackRock and American Funds all have sounded the alarm about the mounting corporate obligations.

The danger isn’t immediate. But some regulators and investors say the borrowing has gone on too long and could send financial markets plunging when the next recession hits, dealing the real economy a blow at a time when it already would be wobbling.

Some of America’s best-known companies, including AT&T, General Motors and CVS Health, have splurged on borrowed cash. This year, the weakest firms have accounted for most of the growth and are increasingly using debt for “financial risk-taking," such as investor payouts and Wall Street dealmaking, rather than new plants and equipment, according to the IMF.

Amid the avalanche of debt, the sharp growth in lower-quality corporate bonds, just one notch above junk, represents a special concern. Investors hold nearly $4?trillion in these bonds, including $2.5?trillion from U.S. companies, according to the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

Since Oct.?1, familiar names like Hasbro, Nordstrom, Marriott and Hyundai all have tapped investors for cash by selling near-junk bonds that S&P labels “BBB."

This low-quality corporate debt bulge, by itself, is unlikely to cause a recession, according to economists and investors. But it could make the next one much worse.

“We are sitting on the top of an unexploded bomb, and we really don’t know what will trigger the explosion," said Emre Tiftik, a debt specialist at the Institute of International Finance, an industry association.

The corporate worries darken an otherwise bright economic picture. On Wednesday, there was a flurry of upbeat reports, including rising orders for big-ticket items and a decline in first-time claims for unemployment aid.

With abundant jobs and rising wages, Americans seem to have dodged this summer’s recession fears. Growth is steady, if far short of the dramatic uptick President Trump promised.

The root cause of the debt boom is the decision by the Federal Reserve and other key central banks to cut interest rates to zero in the wake of the financial crisis and to hold them at historic lows for years.

The low rates were needed to encourage companies to invest and hire as the nation recovered from the worst economic collapse in 70 years.

Cutting interest rates is the standard answer to a troubled economy. But rates have never been this low for this long, and the side effects from too much easy money are becoming clear as central bankers struggle to return interest rates to traditional levels.

“This is part of a much bigger issue: an increased amount of collateral damage and the unintended consequences of an excessive reliance on central bank liquidity," said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz, the German financial services giant.

The president, who borrowed heavily as a private businessman in the real estate industry, has cheered the low-rate environment and demanded further Fed action that would encourage even more borrowing.

The United States is outperforming other advanced economies in Europe and Japan. But over the past four quarters, the economy grew at just a 2.1?percent annual rate, virtually unchanged from its 2.2?percent average since the recession ended in mid-2009.

El-Erian and others worry that an artificial environment of near-free money is masking serious underlying ailments and may be storing up problems for a future reckoning. This era of perpetually cheap money has kept alive some debt-ridden “zombie” companies that would have failed if rates were at traditional levels; widened the wealth gap between rich and poor; and distorted financial decisions, he said.

Indeed, today’s environment remains an alien world for financial market veterans. Low-rated companies can borrow at rates that only the most financially sound corporations enjoyed just a few years ago.

That could change quickly if the economy unexpectedly deteriorates. Though most economists now expect the United States to continue growing through next year, an unexpected shock -- from a breakdown in U.S.-China trade talks or perhaps a military conflict in the Persian Gulf -- could derail those forecasts.

Credit rating agencies would likely react to a slowing economy by downgrading companies that have issued the lower-quality bonds, turning those suspected of being unable to cover their interest payments into “fallen angels."

That would force some mutual funds, insurance companies and pension officials -- which are allowed to hold only investment-grade bonds -- to unload their holdings.

In a flash, as all those fallen angels fell into junk territory, there would be too much speculative-grade debt for the market to absorb. Companies that already would be seeing profits shrivel from the downturn would suddenly face higher interest rates, chilling investment, forcing layoffs and spreading pain throughout the economy.

“You can definitely think of an Armageddon scenario," said Gregory Venizelos, senior credit strategist for AXA Investment Managers in London.

Earlier this week, Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, told CNBC that just “two or three downgrades” could cause investors to demand higher interest rates to buy corporate bonds. That would depress an already sluggish economy.

“We’re more vulnerable to that now with this amount of corporate debt," said Kaplan, a former Goldman Sachs banker.

If downgrades occurred at the same rate as during the 2009 crisis, the volume of debt hitting the market could be well above the normal daily sales, the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, warned earlier this year.

Rather than reducing their risky debts, companies are adding to them. With the Fed having cut rates twice since July, companies continue to tap investors for enormous sums of money. In September, U.S. corporations issued $220?billion in new bonds, the largest single monthly figure in more than two years, according to the Fed.

Lured by low rates, companies have splurged on debt to repurchase their own shares, pay higher dividends to investors and fund acquisitions, the IMF noted last month, contrasting those increases with what it called “subdued” capital investment. Corporations have spent more than $3?trillion over the past five years buying back their own stock, according to S&P.

Earlier this month, for example, Hasbro issued $2.4?billion worth of bonds, with interest rates as low as 2.6?percent, to help fund its acquisition of a London-based entertainment company. Since 2009, Hasbro has increased its total debt by almost 60?percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In documents prepared for investors, Hasbro justified the borrowing by saying the acquisition would provide “meaningful financial benefits," including higher earnings.

Last month, in its twice-yearly financial stability report, the Fed warned about the potential consequences of the market’s failure to police the rapid increase in risky corporate debt.

During the 2009 crisis, “BBB-rated” companies -- the lowest rung of investment-grade -- faced borrowing costs almost 7?percentage points higher than higher-quality companies. Today, the difference, or “spread," is just 1.4?percentage points.

The risk of fire sales by institutional investors is real. Mutual funds have tripled their corporate bond holdings over the past decade. At $1.5?trillion, they now amount to about one-sixth of all corporate bonds on the market, according to the Fed.

In a crisis, mutual fund investors and managers will be operating at different speeds. Individuals can pull their money at the end of each trading day, but fund managers won’t be able to sell the actual bonds that quickly. This mismatch “creates conditions that can lead to runs on these funds in times of stress," the Fed warned last month.

If the junk market were to be sufficiently disrupted, companies could be forced to default on their debts. That would likely force massive layoffs and sharp reductions in business investment, turning the financial market’s headache into a punishing economic ill, economists and money managers said.

“It’s going to amplify everything," said Krista Schwarz, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s going to make everything happen faster, larger, worse. The recession would just be that much deeper."

Some analysts play down the risks. Much of the rise in the amount of BBB bonds stems from deep-pocketed companies that were downgraded as the result of strategic choices rather than poor financial management.

“The financial crisis created a lower-cost borrowing environment," said Gibson Smith, a prominent bond fund manager with Denver-based Smith Capital Investors. “Companies have done the rational thing. If you tell them they can borrow cheap and borrow long, they will take advantage of it."

The bond market should be able to absorb whatever downgrades result from a poor-performing economy, Smith said.

Other companies issuing the low-rated bonds, such as AT&T, are financially sound and could meet any crisis by cutting dividends or capital expenditures, or selling assets, some analysts said. The telecommunications giant is more likely to win a higher credit rating than to suffer a downgrade, Smith said.

Whenever the easy-money era ends, investors will be left to decide how much of the historic debt run-up was well spent.

“We’ve tried to keep things going by encouraging debt," said AXA analyst Venizelos. “Perhaps in hindsight, it should have been used better for capital expenditures and productivity, and that’s what concerns us."


Taxes

Tax cheats deprive governments worldwide of $427 billion a year, crippling pandemic response: study

U.S. loses the most, $90 billion, according to first country-by-country breakdown of the impact of companies and wealthy elites abusing the tax system. By Jeanne Whalen November 19, 2020

Governments around the world are losing $427 billion each year to tax avoidance and evasion as companies and wealthy individuals shift their money to tax havens, according to a comprehensive new report that urges an overhaul of the “broken” tax system.

The United States government is the single biggest loser in absolute terms, missing out on about $90 billion in tax revenue a year, according to the report, which offers the first detailed breakdown of losses at the country level.

Poorer countries, meanwhile, are losing a larger share of their total tax revenue to the abusive practices -- about 5.8 percent vs. 2.5 percent in high-income countries, according to the report, which analyzed data from 2016 and 2017.

The missing tax revenue is particularly harmful during the coronavirus crisis, when many countries are struggling to combat infections and support ailing economies and workers, according to the report from the Tax Justice Network, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice and a trade-union group called Public Services International.

“With the coronavirus pandemic shining a harsh light on the grave cost of underfunded health and public services around the world … these figures represent a tragedy," the authors wrote. “Tax abuse is depriving countries of billions and billions in urgently needed tax and holding us all back from building better, healthier, fairer societies."

The lost money would be enough to pay the salaries of 34 million nurses a year, the researchers found.

Blame lies not only with multinational companies and wealthy individuals, but with high-income countries that have “stalled meaningful reform of the broken, international tax system and have actively hid the scale and extent of international tax abuse from their populations," they said.

Alex Cobham, an economist and chief executive of the U.K.-based Tax Justice Network, said in an interview that global tax laws must be overhauled to stop companies from shifting profits to low-tax havens, to expose the size and provenance of the huge private fortunes held offshore, and to protect every country’s right to collect tax from the profit generated within its borders.

The paper is the first to make use of new data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, showing how much profit and revenue multinational companies report in each country, how many employees and assets they have, and how much tax they pay.

The data allowed the researchers to pinpoint where companies are underreporting profit and underpaying taxes based on their real economic activity. The data are aggregated, meaning companies are lumped together in composite figures in each country, so individual corporate behavior isn’t discernible.

The report found that corporations are shifting $1.38 trillion worth of profit each year into tax havens that charge little-to-no tax, causing the governments where that profit is actually earned to miss out on $245 billion in annual revenue.

Using different data sets, the researchers found that countries are losing an additional $182 billion a year from wealthy individuals hiding their fortunes in tax havens.

Hiding income from the tax authorities is illegal, Cobham said. Companies often argue that their profit-shifting and tax-avoidance strategies adhere to the letter of the law, but sometimes wind up in disputes with the tax authorities, he said.

“Whether or not it crosses the line of criminality," there is a stigma attached to it, he said. “Companies don’t want to publish country by country reporting because it shows profit-shifting … and they know the public at large thinks it’s not okay."

The OECD has been leading multilateral negotiations aimed at updating the 3,000-odd bilateral treaties that regulate global taxation. A big goal of the drawn-out negotiations is to “prevent income from not being taxed anywhere," said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a law professor and tax expert at the University of Michigan.

Fair-tax campaigners say legislation making its way through Congress would help crack down on tax evasion by putting an end to anonymous shell companies.

The measure, which has been rolled into an annual defense spending bill, would require companies established in the United States to disclose their real owners to the Treasury Department, making it harder for criminals to evade taxes or anonymously launder money.

Nearly 2 million corporations and limited-liability companies are registered each year in the United States, at the state level. Few states today require companies to disclose their true owners, with Delaware and a few others turning the registration of anonymous companies into big business.

This tolerance for corporate secrecy in the United States undermines the global fight against tax abuse, the new report says.

The researchers also point a finger at the U.K. and its tax-haven territories and crown dependencies, including Bermuda, Cayman, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands. This network is responsible for 37 percent of all losses governments suffer from corporate and private tax abuse, the report says.

When it comes to corporate tax avoidance, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg are also big enablers, the researchers said.

Kimberly Clausing, an economics professor and tax expert at Reed College, said the new report helps flesh out the scale of the problem across countries and regions.

The researchers found that Africa loses about $25 billion a year, mostly from corporate tax abuse. That equals about 7 percent of the continent’s average tax revenue each year.

Europe loses $184 billion a year, more than half of which is from private tax evasion. The losses equal about 3.4 percent of the region’s average tax revenue.

Asia loses about $73 billion, or about 1.5 percent of the region’s annual tax revenue. North America loses $95 million, or about 2.3 percent.

If business leaders are serious about doing good, they can start by paying their taxes










Unions

Silencing Corporate Bullies

John Tate felt betrayed when Materion unilaterally cut retirement and vacation benefits at its Elmore, Ohio, plant. He’d devoted 10 years to the company and believed that it owed him and his co-workers a modicum of respect.

So Tate turned to the protections that unions provide and helped lead an organizing campaign with the United Steelworkers (USW). Despite widespread enthusiasm at the outset, the effort ultimately failed after Materion forced workers into mandatory company meetings where union-busting consultants bullied and threatened them.

A bill due for a vote next week in the U.S. House—the Protecting the Right to Organize Act—would outlaw mandatory anti-union meetings and other abusive tactics that corporations regularly use to thwart union drives. Making it easier for grassroots activists like Tate to organize will help rebuild a middle class decimated by corporate greed and curb the runaway income equality that imperils American democracy.

Labor organizers emphasize solidarity—strength through collective action—while union-busters deliberately sow discord and prey on workers’ fears for their individual livelihoods.

Tate noticed that difference when Materion, a producer of beryllium-based metals, brought in the hired-gun “union-avoidance” consultants and forced about 440 workers to attend multiple anti-union meetings. The consultants belittled workers—even questioned their intelligence for wanting to join a union—during meetings that lasted two to four hours.

“It was rough to watch," Tate said.

The consultants told their hostage audiences that companies struggle once workers organize. They warned that Materion might never agree to a contract and that the company had the option of hiring permanent replacements for workers who strike. When workers made positive comments about unions, the consultants bullied them into silence.

[...]

Corporations that refuse to give workers pay raises will happily spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on anti-union consultants like Materion used. Unions level the playing field for workers and force companies to share their profits. That’s why companies work so hard to keep unions out.

These consultants, ranging from big law firms to small companies, help to enrich corporations on the backs of workers. In the process, the consultants line their own pockets.










CEO Pay

Bizarro by Dan Pizaro, 4/11/20










Covid-19

Coronavirus - The Aftermath. A Coming Mega-Depression... By Peter Koenig

What will be next? Is a question on many people’s minds. Very likely the world will never be the same again. That might be good, or not so good, depending on how we look at this disastrous, “pandemic” which by all serious accounts does not deserve the term “pandemic”, that was unwittingly attributed to the SARS-2-CoV, or 2019-nCoV, renamed by WHO as COVID-19.

On March 11, Dr. Tedros, WHO’s Director General called it a pandemic. This decision was already taken by the WEF (World Economic Forum) in Davos, from 20 -24 January 2020, when the total COVID19 cases outside of China were recorded by WHO as 150. On January 30, the WHO Director General determines that the outbreak outside of Mainland China constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This was a first indication that there was something not quite right, that there is another agenda behind the “outbreak” of the COVID-19 disease.

On March 26, in a peer-reviewed article in the highly reputed New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the US National Institutes of Health – NIH), likened COVID19 to a stronger than usual common flu:

If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively. nejm.org

This scientific assessment in the New England Journal of Medicine has not prevented Dr. Fauci from saying exactly the opposite, when interviewed by the mainstream media: see below.

Health and Science

Top US Health Official says the coronavirus is 10 times 'more lethal' than the seasonal flu

In the meantime, other high-ranking scientists, microbiologists and medical doctors from all over the world, are questioning the draconian worldwide shutdown because of the corona virus. They all say, these draconian measures are not necessary to contain a pandemic with a relatively low fatality rate.

Even in Italy, if the counting and accounting was done more carefully, more according to true statistical norms, the fatality rate would be perhaps 1%, or less. On March 23, Italy’s civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli, told La Repubblica newspaper, it was credible that for every officially reported case, there may be at least 10 infected cases not reported, asymptomatic cases, not requiring a doctor’s visit. If this were true, the actual mortality rate would in a stroke become one percent instead of ten percent.

What the world is experiencing, resembles a well-planned worldwide declaration and implementation of Martial Law with socio-economically disastrous consequences, far worse than the disease itself. Nobody moves. The economy comes to an almost standstill.

This begs the question, what is behind it, and what comes next?

Let’s first look at a not-so-good scenario.

Al-Jazeera reports on 2 April that Global Coronavirus cases top 1 million with 50,000 deaths. Politico said on April 2 that only two weeks into the corona lockdown almost 10 million workers in the US are without a job.

“The total job losses in just two weeks -- almost 10 million Americans -- amounts to a staggering, sudden blow to American workers never seen before in the U.S. economy. The labor market in the coming weeks could blow past the 15 million jobs lost at the peak of the 18-month Great Recession from 2007 to 2009."

On March 31, the FED predicted an alarming forecast: 32% unemployment and 47 million out of work for the next quarter as the coronavirus continues to spread. Bankruptcies, especially of small and medium-size enterprises may be spiraling out of control within a month or two. This would have a further domino effect on unemployment.

Goldman Sachs – GS (on 20 March 2020)

“sees unprecedented stop in economic activity, with 2nd quarter GDP contracting 24% Goldman Sachs economists forecast a historically sharp and swift recession, with second-quarter GDP sinking a stunning 24% after a 6% decline in the first quarter." GS economist predict a further GDP decline of 5% in the second quarter

“Home lenders brace for up to 15 million US mortgage defaults." So, says Bloomberg (April 2), adding that “Mortgage Defaults Could Pile Up at Pace That Dwarfs 2008”. Mortgage lenders are preparing for the biggest wave of delinquency in history

All of this is already happening. These figures cover only the United States, and do not yet account for Europe and the rest of the world. Such figures for Europe are not yet available, but predictions are that they may be similarly grim.

Looking at Asia, except for China, Africa and Latin America, they have a large informal sector which is difficult to control, but which most certainly is slipping through any flimsy social safety net countries may have.

Reliable statistics are not available. But “guestimates” have it, for example in Peru, that in good times, the informal sector may amount to as much as one third of the economy. In hard times, like now, possibly up to 50%, or even higher.

The picture of a coming mega-depression, that never existed in recent history, may continue as many of the bankrupt small and medium size enterprises – including airlines, tourist industries – et al, will be bought up by huge monopolies, that already exist, (e.g.Google, Amazon, AliBaba and more). Mergers of gigantic proportions may take place. It may be the last shift of capital from the bottom to the top in our era of civilization as we know it.

5G and Artificial Intelligence

In the meantime, G5 and soon to come, 6G will be rolled out to drive Artificial Intelligent (AI) which may push ahead the development of these colossal corporations, their production, distribution and ultimately the peoples’ consumption around the world.

Telecom companies are already flooding the world with electromagnetic fields (EMF), so poisonous that many people will be affected. The plan is to increase its intensity by tens of thousands of satellites to cover by 2030 every centimeter of the planet. But get this, none of the health impacts of 5G have been officially studied. Not in the US, not in Europe and not in China. The impact may be disastrous on human life, and on life on Mother Earth in general.

Numerous scientists have written about it, warned governments of the potentially disastrous effects on life – and have launched petitions to stop the launch of 5G, or to put a moratorium on 5G until serious studies have been carried out. See EU 5G Appeal – Scientists warn of potential serious health effects of 5G . The organization in charge of health and of prevention of health damage, is the UN-agency, World Health Organization (WHO). Yes, the same that has declared COVID-19 a global health emergency, in early February 2020, when there were less than 200 official “confirmed cases” worldwide, outside of China.

As of this day, WHO has strangely kept silence on the issues related to 5G. Why? – There are unproven suspicions voiced, including from some renown scientists that the severity of COVID-19 may, at least in some cases, have to do with 5G.

5G has already been rolled out in Northern Italy, Rome and Napoli – and in New York City

A Parenthesis. Contradictory Report

According to the WHO, COV-19 is akin to influenza.

In this regard, New York Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell, suggests that his assessments do not correspond to the normal pattern of COV-19 as defined by the WHO.

Dr. Kyle Sidell is an emergency medicine physician based in Brooklyn, New York, affiliated with the Maimonides Medical Center. According to Dr. Kyle Sidell, COVID-19 is an “Oxygen Deprivation Disease” dissimilar from Pneumonia. All locations report severe cases of respiratory blockages that cannot be resolved with the common respirators. In fact, they are made worse by respirators. – What are the underlying causes.

Video: A Doctor from ICU talks about the effects/symptoms....

Coronavirus – The Aftermath. A Coming Mega-Depression... By Peter Koenig April 12, 2020

What will be next? Is a question on many people’s minds. Very likely the world will never be the same again. That might be good, or not so good, depending on how we look at this disastrous, “pandemic” which by all serious accounts does not deserve the term “pandemic”, that was unwittingly attributed to the SARS-2-CoV, or 2019-nCoV, renamed by WHO as COVID-19.

On March 11, Dr. Tedros, WHO’s Director General called it a pandemic. This decision was already taken by the WEF (World Economic Forum) in Davos, from 20 -24 January 2020, when the total COVID19 cases outside of China were recorded by WHO as 150. On January 30, the WHO Director General determines that the outbreak outside of Mainland China constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This was a first indication that there was something not quite right, that there is another agenda behind the “outbreak” of the COVID-19 disease.

On March 26, in a peer-reviewed article in the highly reputed New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the US National Institutes of Health – NIH), likened COVID19 to a stronger than usual common flu:

If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively. nejm.org

Back to the economic calamity that is already upon the world’s population.

It is even worse for the people of the informal sector. They have no firm employment, they depend on day-to-day labor, or even hourly work. They live from one day to the next, they have no savings. Their sheer survival depends on these sporadic jobs and meek incomes – incomes way below the minimum wage that allow them barely to survive- and often not.

They suffer famine, disease – as they have no fixed homes, no money to pay rent – they may die of famine or sheer despair.

Delinquency and crime may also increase exponentially. Hungry people have nothing to lose. They may raid supermarkets and drug stores. It has also been reported that bodies were found in the streets of large cities in Latin America.

They could have died from all sorts of reasons related to the economic shut-down: hunger, diseases, desolation, suicide. Is their infection (or death) ascribed to COVID-19? What this would result in is a process of inflation of the estimates pertaining to those people who have allegedly died from the virus, thereby contributing to more fear and more panic.

Is that the goal? Make everybody afraid. People in fear and panic can easily be manipulated.

People will ask for police protection from an invisible enemy. The size of the COVID-19 virus is 70 to 90 billionth of a meter, or nano meter- nm (one nm = 0.000000001 m). Scary. You don’t see it, but people could transmit it – invisibly too. They could be deadly – in the case of COVID-19, their lethality is relatively low. Depending on how you measure the infection and death rate (see paras. 2 and 3, above). But the fear factor may be more important than the virus itself.

This doomsday scenario is not a fiction, its real. Its already happening now.

And what we see, might be just a tiny tip of the iceberg.

We may be looking at a complete collapse of our western economy, and growing misery- for the masses. –

What will happen to these people, without jobs, without incomes, many of them may also lose their homes, as they will not be able to pay their mortgages or rents?

Reduction of Population

In 1974, under the Nixon administration, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was entrusted –under the auspices of the National Security Council– to outline the contours of a “depopulation program” largely targeting Third World countries. A Document entitled NSC Study Memorandum 200 was drafted.

The Depopulation Agenda has remained an integral part of US foreign policy. It was also endorsed by several corporate charities and foundations. In this regard, the Bill and Melinda Gates and the Rockefeller foundations have addressed the relationship between extreme poverty and depopulation.

Is population reduction part of this ongoing pandemic exercise which may be followed by a compulsory vaccination program?

Bill Gates in a 2010 TED show talked about a 10% to 15% population reduction (circa 1 billion people) through global vaccination, health care, etc.

According to William Engdahl:

"Gates made his remarks to the invitation-only Long Beach, California TED 2010 Conference, in a speech titled, "Innovating to Zero!." Along with the scientifically absurd proposition of reducing manmade CO2 emissions worldwide to zero by 2050, approximately four and a half minutes into the talk, Gates declares, "First we got population. The world today has 6.8 billion people. That's headed up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent." (Ref. Bill Gates, "Innovating to Zero!", speech to the TED2010 annual conference, Long Beach, California, February 18, 2010).

Video: Bill Gates Innoivating to Zero!

Vaccination

The Gates Foundation has for the last 20 years carried out intensive children vaccination programs in Africa.

In 2014 and 2015 Kenya carried out a massive tetanus vaccination program, sponsored by WHO and UNICEF. The Government administered a vaccine of tetanus toxoid impregnated with beta human chorionic gonadotropin (BhCG) that causes permanent infertility among girls and women, to about 500,000 girls and women between the ages 14 and 49.

An organization called GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) is a public-private partnership; the public part being WHO and UNICEF; the private partners are a series of pharma-giants. GAVI is handing out free vaccines to poor countries, like Kenya.

If a vaccine can be implanted with a sterilization agent, any other health or DNA affecting molecule or protein can be put into a vaccination cocktail. (See these references Kenya: Thousands infertile after govt-sponsored vaccination and “Mass Sterilization”: Kenyan Doctors Find Anti-fertility Agent in UN Tetanus Vaccine?

Event 201. The Pandemic Simulation Exercise

There is another important factor which may all be linked the COVID-19 outbreak, curiously right at the beginning of the decade 2020, and only a few weeks after Event 201 on October 18, in NYC, sponsored by – you guessed it, Bill Gates, The Johns Hopkins University Health Institute (founded by the Rockefeller Foundation), and the WEF (World Economic Forum), that meets every year in January in Davos Switzerland).

One of the agenda items of Event 201, was a simulation of a pandemic – curiously called 2019-nCoV – the current corona virus pandemic. The simulation results were after 18 months 65 million deaths, a stock market crash of at least 30%, massive bankruptcies and massive unemployment – in short, an economic collapse which the world has never experienced in recent history. That was the simulation. – Is this the direction we are headed for now?

Agenda ID2020

Strangely in order to carry out and monitor these various components of a larger game plan or picture, there is this little-heared-of Agenda ID2020 – also a creation of the Gates Foundation. One of the Cabal’s ideas is to have every citizen of the world equipped with an electronic identity, so he can be followed and his words and actions monitored everywhere. This is one of the Agenda ID2020 tasks, to be first tested – currently ongoing – in Bangladesh.

The idea is, in due time (whenever the program is ready) – to use the vaccination program, possibly forced, to inject along with the vaccine also a nano-chip, that can be injected along with the vaccination program. It could be done without the person’s knowledge and later remotely uploaded with personal data, from health records, to criminal records, to bank accounts. In fact, the Gates Foundation, together with GAVI has already developed a tattoo-like chip which would be used for both, vaccination and electronic ID.

To implement, monitor and control these multiple-purpose programs strong electromagnetic waves are needed.

That’s why 5G – totally unstudied, untested – in uncharted waters is necessary. No time to be lost in testing. Because the target for this program to be completed is 2030, the same as the target for the UN-declared Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG)

In fact. Agenda 2020 is intimately linked to the SDG’s, specifically to SDG 16 which is basically promoting the rule of law.

During a special Summit in May 2016 in New York, inspired by the Gates Foundation, the United Nations Office for Partnership (UNOFP), the SDG 16.9 was created, fitting the purpose of Agenda ID2020:

“Provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030 …. harnessing Digital Identity for the Global Community…. Around one-fifth of the world’s population (1.8 billion people) is without legal identity, which deprives them of access to healthcare, schools, shelter."

Also see

Coronavirus – No Vaccine Is Needed to Cure It, Global Research 4/1/20/20

The New York Times reported on 30 March that President Trump retreated from his earlier statement that by 12 April the COVID-19 lock-down should be over and its “back-to-work” time. Instead he said that an extension to the end of April was necessary – and possibly even to June. This, he said, was following the guidance of his advisors, of whom Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), within the National Institute for Health (NIH), is one.

Virus COVID-19 has so far caused far less infections and death than the common flu in past years.

WHO reports on 30 March worldwide 750,000 infections with a death toll of 36,000. In the US about 161,000 cases and 3,000 deaths. Yet, alarmist Fauci claims that there may be millions of US coronavirus cases and 100,000- 200,000 deaths. And, coincidentally, so does Bill Gates, using pretty much the same figures.

All with the idea of pushing a vaccine down the throat of the public.

A multibillion dollar vaccine is not necessary.

The NIAD and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are collaborating with a view to developing a COVID-19 Vaccine.

China has proven that COVID-19 could be brought under control at rather low-cost and with strict discipline and conventional medication. The same medicines and measures have been used for centuries to prevent and cure successfully all kinds of viral diseases.

First, a vaccine against COVID-19, or coronaviruses in general, is a flu vaccine. Vaccines don’t heal. In the best case, flu-vaccines may prevent the virus from affecting a patient as hard as it might without a vaccine. The effectiveness of flu vaccines is generally assessed as between 20% and 50%. Vaccines are foremost a huge money-making bonanza for Big Pharma.

Second, here are a myriad of remedies that have proven very successful. See also this and this.

::French Professor Didier Raoult, who is one of the world’s top 5 scientists on communicable diseases, suggested the use of HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE (CHLOROQUINE OR PLAQUENIL), a well-known, simple, and inexpensive drug, also used to fight Malaria, and that has shown efficacy with previous coronaviruses such as SARS. By mid-February 2020, clinical trials at his institute and in China already confirmed that the drug could reduce the viral load and bring spectacular improvement. Chinese scientists published their first trials on more than 100 patients and announced that the Chinese National Health Commission would recommend Chloroquine in their new guidelines to treat Covid-19.

::China and Cuba are working together with the use of INTERFERON ALPHA 2B, a highly efficient anti-viral drug developed in Cuba some 39 years, but little known to the world, because of the US imposed embargo on anything from Cuba. Interferon has also proven to be very effective in fighting COVID-19 and is now produced in a joint-venture in China.

""There is an old natural Indian / Ayurveda medicine, CURCUMIN, that comes in capsules as C90. It is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound that has been successfully used to treat cancer, infectious diseases and, yes, coronaviruses.

::Other simple, but effective remedies include the use of heavy doses of Vitamin C, as well as Vitamin D3, or more generally the use of Micronutrients essential to fight infections, include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E.

::Another remedy that has been used for thousands of years by ancient Chinese, Romans and Egyptians, are COLLOIDAL SILVER PRODUCTS. They come in forms to be administered as a liquid by mouth, or injected, or applied to the skin. Colloidal silver products are boosting the immune system, fighting bacteria and viruses, and have been used for treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye ailments, prostatitis – and COVID-19.

::A simple and inexpensive remedy, to be used in combination with others, is menthol-based “Mentholatum”. It’s used for common flu and cold symptoms. Rubbed on and around the nose, it acts as a disinfectant and prevents germs to enter the respiratory track, including corona viruses.

::Northern Italy and New Orleans report that an unusual number of patients had to be hospitalized in Intensive Care Units (ICU) and be put 24×7 on a 90%-strength respirator, with some of the patients remaining unresponsive, going into respiratory failure. The reported death rate is about 40%. The condition is called acute respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS. That means the lungs are filled with fluid. When this description of ARDS episodes applies, Dr. Raoult and other medical colleagues recommend COVID-19 patients to "SLEEP SITTING UP" UNTIL THEY ARE CURED. This helps drain the liquid out of the lungs. The method has been known to work successfully since it was first documented during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.

::Finally, Chinese researchers in cooperation with Cuban and Russian scientists are also developing a vaccine which may soon be ready for testing. The vaccine would attempt to address not just one strand of coronaviruses, but the basic coronaviral RNA genome (RNA = Ribonucleic Acid), to be applied as a prevention of new coronavirus mutations. In contrast to the west, working exclusively on profit-motives, the Chinese-Cuban-Russian vaccine would be made available at low cost to the entire world.

These alternative cures may not be found on Big Pharma controlled internet. Internet references, if there are any, may advise against their use. At best, they will tell you that these products or methods have not proven effective, and at worst, that they may be harmful. Don’t believe it. None of these products or methods are harmful. Remember, some of them have been used as natural remedies for thousands of years. And remember, China has successfully come to grips with COVID-19, using some of these relatively simple and inexpensive medications.

Few doctors are aware of these practical, simple and inexpensive remedies. The media, under pressure from the pharma giants and the compliant government agencies, have been requested to censoring such valuable information. The negligence or failure, to make such easily accessible remedies public knowledge is killing people.

The Role of Bill Gates and the Lockdown

Bill Gates may have been one of Trump’s ‘advisors’, suggesting that he should extend the “back-to-work” date to at least end April, and, if Gates has his way, to at least June. That still remains to be seen. Gates is very-very powerful:

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants businesses to open by Easter, April 12, to soften the economic impact. … Gates acknowledged Tuesday that self isolation will be "disastrous" for the economy, but "there really is no middle ground." He suggested a shutdown of six to 10 weeks. (CNBC, March 24, 2020)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will drive the mass vaccination effort which is scheduled to be launched in the period after the lockdown.

The vaccination association includes, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a semi-NGO, to which NIH / NIAID outsourced oversight of the vaccination program – supported by Bill Gates; GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization – also a Bill Gates creation, supported by WHO, also amply funded by the Gates Foundation; the World Bank and UNICEF; plus a myriad of pharmaceutical partners.

Bill Gates also strongly suggests that travelers must have in their passport a vaccination certificate before embarking on a plane, or entering a country.

The program implementation, including a related global electronic identity-program, possibly administered with nano-chips that could be embedded in the vaccine itself, would be overseen by the little-know agency Agenda ID2020 which is also a Bill and Melinda Gates foundation initiative.

Bill Gates is also known as a strong proponent of drastic and selective population reduction. Knowing what we know, who would trust any vaccine that carries Bill Gate’s signature. Hope that this evil endeavor will not succeed is omnipresent. We must hope to the end, then the end will never come – and gradually Light will drown Darkness

For further details on Agenda ID2020, see

The Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic: The Real Danger is “Agenda ID2020”

What is the infamous ID2020? It is an alliance of public-private partners, including UN agencies and civil society. It’s an electronic ID program that uses generalized vaccination as a platform for digital identity.

This is a scenario on which we must reflect.

Now let’s look at a good scenario, one that we the people have the power to make good.

First, no complex projection of the type described before can ever be modeled and implemented over time, because dynamics take over. The world is alive. Anything that is alive cannot be directed by linearism (modelling is linear), but is subject to the laws of dynamics.

Second, we have the power to reverse this nefarious game plan which threaten Humanity and Mother Earth. It’s a question of waking up. And many people start seeing the light -perhaps in part because of this absurdity, this worldwide lockdown, this insanity of an endless thirst and greed for power and money by a few. Mother Earth is sick and tired of this abuse of the upper crust of society. She is stronger than the 0.01%. We, the people, can join Mother Earth, be on her side, and be safe.

People start seeing the thought of utter destruction behind this fake epidemic, or according to WHO’s highly questionable leadership, a pandemic – a fear-mongering pandemic. We might as well call the corona virus, Virus “F” – for Fear. And yes, people can die of fear. WHO is dancing to the tune of the powerful, of Bill Gates, the Rockefellers, the pharma giants – and the behind-the-door (invisible) WEF-politicians and bankers. All this, under the pretext of saving the world from the invisible corona virus, from a pandemic that isn’t.

As this neoliberal corrupt system comes crashing down, there will be many victims, sadly, many may not survive – a lot of misery, desolation and suffering. We, as a society should act in solidarity and do whatever we can to help the victims, to reduce the damage, to the extend our hands, arms and souls with all our positive spirits and actions. And the will-power of solidarity is enormous, almost endless.

The World Bank and the IMF have already offered help with large low-cost loans and even some grants for the poorest of the poor countries. Initial figures of the WB were US$ 12 billion and by the IMF US$ 50 billion for corona damage-alleviating lines of credits. In the meantime, both have upped the ante. In the case of the IMF, they are talking of up to a trillion dollars. Some IMF Board members have called for a Special SDR (Special Drawing Rights) Fund of up to 4 trillion SDRs.

This shows how much the ruling elite doesn’t want to lose their handle on globalization. More than 60 countries have apparently already applied for “help” (sic) from the IMF.

These governments are committing their countries’ and their peoples’ soul to enslavement, to the ever-bolder elite economic and monetary tyranny. These loans are conditional, similar to what was earlier called “structural adjustments” – privatization of social services and infrastructure – what’s left of it – and concession to foreign corporations to exploit their natural resources oil, gas, minerals…. What ever the west covets to forge forwards towards full domination of planet earth.

My advice to all countries and peoples who want to use this economic holocaust to restructure their economy, to regain their financial and monetary sovereignty, stay away from the IMF, the World Bank and all the regional development banks, even the various UN funding mechanisms.

Become self-sufficient, autonomous to the extent possible, applying the simple principle of – Local production for local consumption with local money and local public banks that work for the development of the local economy. Use local money, and local debt for your economic development. No outsider will be able to claim repayment of your local internal debt. That you will manage internally at YOUR own terms and conditions.

China and other nations have applied this principle. This is what makes countries immune against predatory financing. You may enter into solidarity pacts with like-minded countries, for example, à la ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), an alliance of Latin American and Caribbean countries based on the idea of social, political and economic integration.

Conclusion

We have enormous spiritual powers within us which we can mobilize to stem against the propaganda stream. In fact, the reason we are exposed to this type of ferocious propaganda, is precisely because the masters know about that strength of the human mind. And the way to immobilize it is through fear. That’s what’s happening.

The longer this pathetic and oppressive Martial Law situation lasts (yes, in many countries, even Europe, Martial Law has become the state of the affair), the more this inner power and conviction of Self, of us, Sovereign Selves that we are, will resurface in humanity and displace the fear – to become a force to stand up against the evil forces, stand up for justice and for human equality, for human dignity – and ultimately for solidarity and love.

Love is what makes us overcome this diabolical plan.

That is the scenario of hope and love. Endless hope is hoping and creating to the end, then the end will never come. And as we hope and create endlessly, avoiding conflict, we see the light emerging from the dark – a harmonious flow of peaceful creation.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.










BlackRock

Meet BlackRock, the new great vampire squid, 6/23/20

If the corporate oligarchs are too big and strategically important to be broken up under the antitrust laws, rather than bailing them out they should be nationalized and put directly into the service of the public.

BlackRock is a global financial giant with customers in 100 countries and its tentacles in major asset classes all over the world; and it now manages the spigots to trillions of bailout dollars from the Federal Reserve. The fate of a large portion of the country’s corporations has been put in the hands of a megalithic private entity with the private capitalist mandate to make as much money as possible for its owners and investors; and that is what it has proceeded to do.

To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through “passive” investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called “the most powerful institution in the financial system," “the most powerful company in the world” and the “secret power." It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank," larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called “the fourth branch of government” and “almost a shadow government”, but no part of it actually belongs to the government. Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had “cozy” relationships with government officials.

BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature). They proposed that the central bank maintain a “Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility” that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an “independent expert” appointed by the central bank.

The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the U.S., with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the “fourth branch of government," managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money. How did that happen and what are the implications?

Rising from the Shadows

BlackRock was founded in 1988 in partnership with the Blackstone Group, a multinational private equity management firm that would become notorious after the 2008-09 banking crisis for snatching up foreclosed homes at firesale prices and renting them at inflated prices. BlackRock first grew its balance sheet in the 1990s and 2000s by promoting the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that brought down the economy in 2008. Knowing the MBS business from the inside, it was then put in charge of the Federal Reserve’s “Maiden Lane” facilities. Called “special purpose vehicles," these were used to buy “toxic” assets (largely unmarketable MBS) from Bear Stearns and American Insurance Group (AIG), something the Fed was not legally allowed to do itself.

BlackRock really made its fortunes, however, in “exchange traded funds” (ETFs). It gained trillions in investable assets after it acquired the iShares series of ETFs in a takeover of Barclays Global Investors in 2009. By 2020, the wildly successful iShares series included over 800 funds and $1.9 trillion in assets under management.

Exchange traded funds are bought and sold like shares but operate as index-tracking funds, passively following specific indices such as the S&P 500, the benchmark index of America’s largest corporations and the index in which most people invest. Today the fast-growing ETF sector controls nearly half of all investments in U.S. stocks, and it is highly concentrated. The sector is dominated by just three giant American asset managers – BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, the “Big Three” – with BlackRock the clear global leader. By 2017, the Big Three together had become the largest shareholder in almost 90% of S&P 500 firms, including Apple, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Electric and Coca-Cola. BlackRock also owns major interests in nearly every mega-bank and in major media.

In March 2020, based on its expertise with the Maiden Lane facilities and its sophisticated Aladdin risk-monitoring software, BlackRock got the job of dispensing Federal Reserve funds through eleven “special purpose vehicles” authorized under the CARES Act. Like the Maiden Lane facilities, these vehicles were designed to allow the Fed, which is legally limited to purchasing safe federally-guaranteed assets, to finance the purchase of riskier assets in the market.

Blackrock Bails Itself Out

The national lockdown left states, cities and local businesses in desperate need of federal government aid. But according to David Dayen in The American Prospect, as of May 30 (the Fed’s last monthly report), the only purchases made under the Fed’s new BlackRock-administered SPVs were ETFs, mainly owned by BlackRock itself. Between May 14 and May 20, about $1.58 billion in ETFs were bought through the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF), of which $746 million or about 47% came from BlackRock ETFs. The Fed continued to buy more ETFs after May 20, and investors piled in behind, resulting in huge inflows into BlackRock’s corporate bond ETFs.

In fact, these ETFs needed a bailout; and BlackRock used its very favorable position with the government to get one. The complicated mechanisms and risks underlying ETFs are explained in an April 3 article by business law professor Ryan Clements, who begins his post:

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are at the heart of the COVID-19 financial crisis. Over forty percent of the trading volume during the mid-March selloff was in ETFs ….

The ETFs were trading well below the value of their underlying bonds, which were dropping like a rock. Some ETFs were failing altogether. The problem was something critics had long warned of: while ETFs are very liquid, trading on demand like stocks, the assets that make up their portfolios are not. When the market drops and investors flee, the ETFs can have trouble coming up with the funds to settle up without trading at a deep discount; and that is what was happening in March.

According to a May 3 article in The National, “The sector was ultimately saved by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pledge on March 23 to buy investment-grade credit and certain ETFs. This provided the liquidity needed to rescue bonds that had been floundering in a market with no buyers."

Prof. Clements states that if the Fed had not stepped in, “a ‘doom loop’ could have materialized where continued selling pressure in the ETF market exacerbated a fire-sale in the underlying [bonds], and again vice-versa, in a procyclical pile-on with devastating consequences." He observes:

There’s an unsettling form of market alchemy that takes place when illiquid, over-the-counter bonds are transformed into instantly liquid ETFs. ETF “liquidity transformation” is now being supported by the government, just like liquidity transformation in mortgage backed securities and shadow banking was supported in 2008.

Working for Whom?

BlackRock got a bailout with no debate in Congress, no “penalty” interest rate of the sort imposed on states and cities borrowing in the Fed’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, no complicated paperwork or waiting in line for scarce Small Business Administration loans, no strings attached. It just quietly bailed itself out.

It might be argued that this bailout was good and necessary, since the market was saved from a disastrous “doom loop," and so were the pension funds and the savings of millions of investors. Although BlackRock has a controlling interest in all the major corporations in the S&P 500, it professes not to “own” the funds. It just acts as a kind of “custodian” for its investors -- or so it claims. But BlackRock and the other Big 3 ETFs vote the corporations’ shares; so from the point of view of management, they are the owners. And as observed in a 2017 article from the University of Amsterdam titled “These Three Firms Own Corporate America," they vote 90% of the time in favor of management. That means they tend to vote against shareholder initiatives, against labor, and against the public interest. BlackRock is not actually working for us, although we the American people have now become its largest client base.

In a 2018 review titled “Blackrock – The Company That Owns the World”, a multinational research group called Investigate Europe concluded that BlackRock “undermines competition through owning shares in competing companies, blurs boundaries between private capital and government affairs by working closely with regulators, and advocates for privatization of pension schemes in order to channel savings capital into its own funds."

Daniela Gabor, Professor of Macroeconomics at the University of Western England in Bristol, concluded after following a number of regulatory debates in Brussels that it was no longer the banks that wielded the financial power; it was the asset managers. She said:

We are often told that a manager is there to invest our money for our old age. But it’s much more than that. In my opinion, BlackRock reflects the renunciation of the welfare state. Its rise in power goes hand-in-hand with ongoing structural changes; in finance, but also in the nature of the social contract that unites the citizen and the state.

That these structural changes are planned and deliberate is evident in BlackRock’s August 2019 white paper laying out an economic reset that has now been implemented with BlackRock at the helm.

Public policy is made today in ways that favor the stock market, which is considered the barometer of the economy, although it has little to do with the strength of the real, productive economy. Giant pension and other investment funds largely control the stock market, and the asset managers control the funds. That effectively puts BlackRock, the largest and most influential asset manager, in the driver’s seat in controlling the economy.

As Peter Ewart notes in a May 14 article on BlackRock titled “Foxes in the Henhouse," today the economic system “is not classical capitalism but rather state monopoly capitalism, where giant enterprises are regularly backstopped with public funds and the boundaries between the state and the financial oligarchy are virtually non-existent."

If the corporate oligarchs are too big and strategically important to be broken up under the antitrust laws, rather than bailing them out they should be nationalized and put directly into the service of the public. At the very least, BlackRock should be regulated as a too-big-to-fail Systemically Important Financial Institution. Better yet would be to regulate it as a public utility. No private, unelected entity should have the power over the economy that BlackRock has, without a legally enforceable fiduciary duty to wield it in the public interest.










Pesticides

Here’s what we just learned about pesticides in our food

email from Friends of the Earth, 8/13/20

We just released a groundbreaking study about glyphosate, and the results are eye-opening. We found the toxic weed-killer glyphosate (aka Bayer Monsanto’s Roundup®) in every person we tested -- and our study showed that food is the primary way most of us are exposed to this toxic pesticide. But here’s the good news: we found that glyphosate levels dropped 70% after just six days on an organic diet! It’s clear: We urgently need to shift to a just, sustainable, organic food system for everyone.

Bayer Monsanto’s Roundup® is the most widely used pesticide in the world -- and it is downright dangerous to our health. From breakfast to dinner, it is likely that you eat glyphosate-contaminated food several times a day. In addition to cancer, glyphosate has been linked to kidney and liver disease, shortened pregnancy, hormone disruption, and other serious health problems.

Moreover, glyphosate is a key culprit in the massive decline of monarch butterflies and other pollinators over the past few decades. Today, 40% of all wild invertebrate pollinators are on the brink of extinction.

Glyphosate and other toxic pesticides are part of a “perfect storm”: A rapid decline in pollinators, a deliberate rollback of environmental protections designed to benefit Big Ag, a food system that is increasingly contaminated by harmful chemicals, and a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts communities of color and working class communities -- the same communities who are more likely to be exposed to pesticides. This disastrous combination sets us up for massive food security problems, escalating health impacts, and ecosystem collapse beyond anything we’ve seen before.

Our latest peer-reviewed study on glyphosate only adds to the overwhelming scientific consensus: With ecological methods of farming, like organic, we don’t need to rely on toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to produce abundant and healthy food for everyone. That’s great news for people, pollinators, and all living things.










Corporate Media

Media Freedom? Show me the MSM Journalist Opposing the Torture of Assange By Craig Murray 9/7/20

" Today, the corporate media that cried “Media freedom” when Extinction Rebellion blocked the billionaire owned propaganda presses, is silent as Julian Assange’s Calvary for bringing real truth unfiltered to the public moves on to its next station; the macabre Gothic architecture of the Old Bailey.

The Tories appeared remarkably tolerant in the days when Extinction Rebellion were causing general disruption to the public. But to threaten the interests of billionaire paymasters is something against which the entire political class will unite. At a time when the government is mooting designating Extinction Rebellion as Serious Organised Crime, right wing bequiffed muppet Keir Starmer was piously condemning the group, stating: “The free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it."

It is surely time we stopped talking about “free press”, as if it was Thomas Paine or William Cobbett distributing pamphlets. Print media is now the subject of phenomenonal ownership concentration. It broadcasts the propaganda of some very nasty billionaires to a shrinking audience of mostly old people. The same ownerships have of course moved in to TV and Radio and increasingly into new media, and have a political stranglehold over those who control state media. At the same time, the corporate gatekeepers of Facebook and Twitter purposefully strangle the flow of readers to independent online media. The idea of a “free press” as an open marketplace of democratic ideas has no real meaning in modern society, until anti-monopoly action is taken. Which is the last thing those in power will do.

Quite the opposite, they are actively seeking to eliminate dissent even from the internet.

I do not want permanently to close down the Sun or the Telegraph; neither do Extinction Rebellion. But their excellent action is an important opening to the debate about controlled public narrative, not least on climate change. The highly paid stenographers to power have been quick to protest. Murdoch mouthpiece David Aaronovitch tweeted out that in fact 99% of the time there was no editorial interference from Murdoch. But that is the point. Murdoch employs reliable right wingers like Aaronovitch; he does not need to tell them what to write.

David Aaronovitch tweet

It's really complicated by the alternative scenarios. I'm pretty persuaded that we would be two or three titles lighter in this country if not for RM. And as I ought to know there is no direct command structure for the editorial line 99% of the time.

leftworks tweet

There's no need if the right people are picked. You can be relied upon to parrot Establishment bullshit 99% of the time, for example

Show me the Murdoch journalist who has more than once published about the human rights abuses against the Palestinians. Murdoch ejected his own son from his media empire because James was insufficiently enthusiastic about the slow genocide of the Palestinians, and does not believe that the market will magically fix climate change.

The corporate media selects its mouthpieces. Scotland has become an extreme example, where 55% of the population support Independence, but only about 5% of state and corporate media “journalists” support Independence.

Julian Assange has been a light in this darkness. Wikileaks have opened a window into the secret world of war crime, murder and corruption that underlies so much of the governance we live under throughout the “free” world. Coming in the wake of the public realisation that we had been blatantly lied into the destruction of Iraq, there was a time when it seemed Assange would lead us into a new age where whistleblowers, citizen journalists and a democratic internet would revolutionise public information, with the billionaire stranglehold shattered.

That seems less hopeful today, as the internet world itself corporatised. Julian is in jail and continuing today is an extradition hearing that has been one long abuse of process. The appalling conditions of solitary confinement in which he has been kept in the high security Belmarsh Prison, with no access to his legal team or a working computer, to his papers or to his mail, have taken a huge toll on his physical and mental health. The UN Special Representative has declared he is subject to torture. A media which is up in arms about the very dubious attack on Navalny, has no emotion for state torture victim Assange other than contempt.

It is constantly asked by Julian’s supporters why the media do not see the assault on a publisher and journalist as a threat to themselves. The answer is that the state and corporate media are confident in their firm alliance with the powers that be. They have no intention of challenging the status quo; their protection from those kicking Assange lies in joining in with the kicking.

I hope to be in court today, and throughout the extradition hearing. The public gallery of 80 has been reduced to 9 “due to Covid”. 5 seats are reserved for Julian’s family and friends, and I have one of these today, but not guaranteed beyond that. There are just 4 seats for the general public.

Journalists and NGO’s will be following the hearing online – but only “approved” journalists and NGO’s, selected by the Orwelian Ministry of Justice. I had dinner last night with Assange supporters from a number of registered NGO’s, not one of which had been “approved”. I had applied myself as a representative of Hope Over Fear, and was turned down. It is the same story for those who applied for online access as journalists. Only the officially “approved” will be allowed to watch.

This is supposed to be a public hearing, to which in normal times anybody should be able to walk in off the street into the large public gallery, and anyone with a press card into the press gallery. What is the justification for the political selection of those permitted to watch? An extraordinary online system has been set up, with the state favoured observers given online “rooms” in which only the identified individual will be allowed. Even with approved organisations, it is not the case that an organisation will have a login anyone can use, not even one at a time. Only specifically nominated individuals have to login before proceedings start, and if their connection breaks at any point they will not be readmitted that day.

Given these restrictions, I was very conscious I may need to queue from 5am tomorrow, to get one of the 4 public places, if I drop off the family list. So I went this morning at 6am to the Old Bailey to check out the queue and work out the system. The first six people in the queue were all people who, entirely off their own bat, without my knowledge and with no coordination between them, had arrived while London slept just to reserve a place for me. I was swept up by their goodness, their trust in me and by their sheer humanitarian concern about Julian and the whole miscarriage of justice. I chatted cheerily with them for a while, then came back to write this, but just got round the corner when I burst into floods of tears, overwhelmed by all this kindness.

I have to pull myself together now and get into that court.

Craig John Murray is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which time he exposed the violations of human rights in Uzbekistan by the Karimov administration.










Articles

Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling 10/22/20










Cash Laundering

Congress bans anonymous shell companies after long campaign by anti-corruption groups. Bipartisan measure requires companies established in the U.S. to disclose their real owners. By Jeanne Whalen Dec. 11, 2020

A groundbreaking measure to ban anonymous shell companies in the United States cleared Congress on Friday as the Senate joined the House in passing a defense-spending bill with a veto-proof margin.

The Corporate Transparency Act, which was tacked onto the defense bill, would require corporations and limited liability companies established in the United States to disclose their real owners to the Treasury Department, making it harder for criminals to anonymously launder money or evade taxes. The rule applies to future and existing entities alike.

The measure passed the Senate with an 84-to-13 vote as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which cleared the House earlier this week. Trump pledged to veto the defense bill -- one of few laws that passes every year -- because it doesn’t include his demand to repeal liability protections for social media companies. Trump also opposes a clause that orders military bases named for Confederate leaders to be renamed.

The anonymous-shell-company ban was years in the making, as supporters slowly built a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, law-enforcement officials and even business groups that originally opposed the idea, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We are on the verge of celebrating the most significant anti-money-laundering victory in a generation due in large part to the widespread and growing support for reform," said Clark Gascoigne, senior policy adviser at the FACT Coalition, an alliance of anti-corruption groups that helped push for the legislation.

Criminals and kleptocrats will find it harder to launder money in U.S. if bill passes

Nearly 2 million corporations and limited liability companies are registered each year in the United States, at the state level. Few states today require companies to disclose their true owners, with Delaware and a few others turning the registration of anonymous companies into big business.

That’s one reason the U.K.-based Tax Justice Network has named the United States the globe’s second most financially secretive jurisdiction, behind the Cayman Islands and ahead of Switzerland.

Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock last year endorsed the Corporate Transparency Act, calling it a “fair, bipartisan compromise” that would make it the federal government’s responsibility to collect the ownership data, which he said was better than a “piecemeal” state-by-state approach.

Tolerance of anonymous shell companies has long helped drug- and human- traffickers, organized crime groups and foreign kleptocrats launder their ill-gotten gains through the U.S. financial system, supporters of the legislation say. It took Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, only a few days to set up and use an anonymous Delaware LLC to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels, in violation of campaign finance laws.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), who introduced the legislation to the House in 2009, and continued resubmitting it each year, said U.S. shell companies have helped corrupt foreign leaders and criminals anonymously buy luxury real estate in her district, which includes Manhattan.

“If you drive through my district at night you will find a lot of apartment buildings with absolutely no lights on," Maloney said during a news conference this week to mark the House passage. “They were purchased purely to hide money and act as a bank account."

To combat dirty money, Britain asks: How did you pay for that mansion?

The law requires anyone registering a new company to disclose the name, address and date of birth of the real owners, and an identification number for each owner, such as a driver’s license or passport number. Corporations and LLCs that already existed before the law’s adoption must disclose their ownership information to the Treasury Department within two years.

Anyone willfully providing false information, including lawyers helping with corporate-registration paperwork, will be liable for fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of up to two years.

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network will collect the data and provide ownership details to law-enforcement agencies and banks upon request.

The legislation has limitations. The general public won’t have access to the ownership data, a disappointment to anti-corruption campaigners, who say public scrutiny would help combat criminal activity.

Bullock, the Delaware secretary of state, said these limits on access to the data were one reason the state supported the legislation.

Tax cheats deprive governments worldwide of $427 billion a year

In some cases, allied nations will be able to request ownership details to aid their own investigations, said Gary Kalman, director of the U.S. office of Transparency International, a big backer of the legislation.

In another transparency setback, the law also exempts some entities from the disclosure requirements, including domestic investment funds that are advised and operated by a registered investment adviser. Gascoigne said that exemption was the result of lobbying by the private-equity and hedge-fund sectors.

The database is likely to help prosecutors nationwide build cases against criminal groups, said Frank Russo, director of government and legislative affairs at the National District Attorneys Association.

The lack of such a database today is undermining efforts in Florida to combat human-trafficking networks at illicit massage parlors, Russo said.

Investigators “can’t figure out who is financing and paying for these operations” because the ringleaders hide behind anonymous shell companies, he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a key backer of the Senate bill, along with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and others, said shell companies have enabled everything from sex trafficking to fentanyl pushers in his state.

“This is a really big deal to get this passed, and as you know it took a long time," Brown said during the news conference Thursday, adding that he hoped Republican senators would “stand strong” and vote to override any Trump veto, if necessary.

The banking industry became an important supporter of the legislation in recent years, after realizing it would help banks identify the real owners of all accounts, as required under Obama-era regulation.

The legislation will give banks access to the Treasury ownership database to verify information on new customers requesting accounts.

Other developed nations are also cracking down on anonymous shell companies, responding to fears about terrorist financing, and public outrage about corruption and tax evasion. The European Union instructed all member countries to create public databases by 2020 that disclose companies’ true owners. Britain mandated the same in 2016.










Pandemic

America’s biggest companies are flourishing during the pandemic and putting thousands of people out of work. By Douglas MacMillan, Peter Whoriskey and Jonathan O'Connell Dec. 16, 2020

A Post analysis found 45 of the 50 biggest U.S. companies turned a profit since March. The majority of firms cut staff and gave the bulk of profits to shareholders.

As the coronavirus pandemic devastated small businesses and plunged millions of Americans into poverty this summer and fall, executives at some of the country’s largest corporations sounded surprisingly upbeat.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been more excited or energized about our prospects," PayPal finance chief John Rainey said on a November conference call.

“These are times when the strong can get stronger," Nike chief John Donahoe told analysts in September.

“With all that’s happening around the world, it’s really unfortunate," said Jensen Huang, chief executive of graphics chip maker Nvidia, during an August earnings call. “But it’s made gaming the largest entertainment medium in the world."

With few exceptions, big businesses are having a very different year from most of the country. Between April and September, one of the most tumultuous economic stretches in modern history, 45 of the 50 most valuable publicly traded U.S. companies turned a profit, a Washington Post analysis found.

Despite their success, at least 27 of the 50 largest firms held layoffs this year, collectively cutting more than 100,000 workers, The Post found.

The data reveals a split screen inside many big companies this year. On one side, corporate leaders are touting their success and casting themselves as leaders on the road to economic recovery. On the other, many of their firms have put Americans out of work and used their profits to increase the wealth of shareholders.

When the coronavirus struck, big companies promised to help battle the crisis. Dozens of prominent chief executives, who last year signed a public pledge to focus less on shareholders and more on the well-being of their employees and broader communities, appeared eager to make good on that promise. Many suspended payments to investors and vowed not to hold layoffs.

Then, 21 big firms that were profitable during the pandemic laid off workers anyway.










Internet, Social Media

The Social Dilemma,

Roger Ebert review

The more we learn about the insidiousness that underlies social media in the new documentary "The Social Dilemma," the more it seems like the film is bringing a sling shot to a nuclear war. What we learn in this movie is that our brains are being manipulated and even rewired by algorithms that are designed to get our attention and make us buy things, including buying into distorted ideas about the world, ourselves, and each other.

"The Social Dilemma" is from Jeff Orlowski, who gave us the similarly terrifying "what are we doing to ourselves" documentaries "Chasing Coral" and "Chasing Ice." This one might as well be called "Chasing Us" as it asks fundamental and existential questions about whether we are literally writing (with code) ourselves out of the ability to make vital decisions about our own survival.

There have been other documentaries raising concerns about the impact of social media on our privacy and our morale and even our democracy, including the very good-to-excellent "Screened Out," "Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World," and "The Great Hack." But this documentary has a significant advantage. While all of the films have impressive experts to explain how we got here and why here is not a place anyone should be, in this movie many of the experts are the same people who got us here—top executives from Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and other sites that seduce us into spending time and sharing information so they can sell both. As the film opens, we can see that the people who will be telling us their stories are uncomfortable and embarrassed. It turns out, they will be confessing and apologizing.

For example, there is Justin Rosenstein, the inventor of Facebook's most ubiquitous feature, the "like" button. He sheepishly says it was intended to "spread positivity." What could be wrong with letting your friends and their friends "like" something you've posted? Well, it turns out people get their feelings hurt if they don't get likes. So, they amend their behavior to attract more likes. Does that seem like a problem? Consider this: a large population of the people urgently trying to get "likes" are young teenagers. We all know the excruciating nightmare that is middle school, when all of a sudden you no longer take for granted what your parents tell you and decide that what you really need is to be considered cool or at least not a total loser by your friends at school. Now multiply that by the big, unregulated world of the internet. This is why there is a precipitous spike in anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts by the girls of Gen Z, current middle and high schoolers, as much as triple in some categories. Then there's the new clinical term "Snapchat Dysmorphia," describing the people who seek plastic surgery to look more like the filtered images they see online.

The experts assure us their intentions were good, even the one whose job title at Facebook was head of "monetization." Another one confesses that he worked on making his site irresistibly seductive at work all day and then found himself unable to resist the very algorithmic tricks he helped to create when he went home at night.

The film's biggest mistake is a poorly-conceived dramatic re-enactment of some of the perils of social media. Even the wonderfully talented Skyler Gisondo cannot make a sequence work where he plays a teenager seduced by extremist disinformation, and the scenes with Vincent Kartheiser embodying the formulas that fight our efforts to pay attention to anything outside of the online world are just silly. The excellent feature films "Disconnect" and "Trust" have illustrated these issues far better.

We may question whether audiences are able to absorb any old media narrative requiring sustained attention without the "positive intermittent reinforcement" of a "like" button to click. Even in the world of "the attention economy" this film has some worthwhile suggestions, including taxing the "data assets" of social media companies, and be sure to stay through the credits for some clear, simple rules parents can adopt. The most important lesson from "The Social Dilemma" is that we should question everything we read online, especially if it is presented to us in a way that reflects a detailed understanding of our inclinations and preferences. And we should resist the "attention extraction model" that makes social media seem friendly and reinforcing. Now, you'll have to excuse me—I have to go delete Twitter from my phone.

Now available on Netflix

‘The Social Dilemma’ Review: Unplug and Run

This documentary from Jeff Orlowski explores how addiction and privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms.

That social media can be addictive and creepy isn’t a revelation to anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. But in Jeff Orlowski’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” conscientious defectors from these companies explain that the perniciousness of social networking platforms is a feature, not a bug.

They claim that the manipulation of human behavior for profit is coded into these companies with Machiavellian precision: Infinite scrolling and push notifications keep users constantly engaged; personalized recommendations use data not just to predict but also to influence our actions, turning users into easy prey for advertisers and propagandists.

As in his documentaries about climate change, “Chasing Ice” and “Chasing Coral,” Orlowski takes a reality that can seem too colossal and abstract for a layperson to grasp, let alone care about, and scales it down to a human level. In “The Social Dilemma,” he recasts one of the oldest tropes of the horror genre — Dr. Frankenstein, the scientist who went too far — for the digital age

The Social Dilemma Review

Netflix’s documentary drama, “The Social Dilemma,” explores the existential crisis that algorithms, persuasive technology, the attention economy, and surveillance capitalism have created through social media platforms.

Essentially, it demonstrates the negative effects that these elements paired with social media have caused across the globe. Unless technologists acknowledge the need to reform the aspects that have caused this existential crisis, then these negative effects will persist.

Most of us don’t realize how ingrained technology and social media has become in our everyday lives. But when Harris and other tech professionals present such profound evidence, it becomes a bit clearer as to why that might be the case.

The profound evidence and the realizations that coincide with “The Social Dilemma” are not the only things that make it unforgettable. The production and visual quality, too, are quite impressive.

The Social Dilemma Review

Skylar Gisondo appears in the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” which looks at the impact social media has had on society.

Since the dawn of the digital age, people have expressed both praise and concern about technological advancements. Some worry whether technology will eventually pose a threat to society.

But what many don’t realize is that it already has.

Netflix’s documentary drama, “The Social Dilemma,” explores the existential crisis that algorithms, persuasive technology, the attention economy, and surveillance capitalism have created through social media platforms.

Essentially, it demonstrates the negative effects that these elements paired with social media have caused across the globe. Unless technologists acknowledge the need to reform the aspects that have caused this existential crisis, then these negative effects will persist.

The film provides input from several people who work in the tech industry but focuses mainly on Tristan Harris, former design ethicist for Google and founder of Center for Humane Technology. The way that Harris and others discuss social media really makes you think about the larger role that it plays in a democracy.

At the same time, while you experience this thought process, you experience an eerie sense of realization that you, too, have been affected by the negative effects that the film speaks about.

Most of us don’t realize how ingrained technology and social media has become in our everyday lives. But when Harris and other tech professionals present such profound evidence, it becomes a bit clearer as to why that might be the case.

The profound evidence and the realizations that coincide with “The Social Dilemma” are not the only things that make it unforgettable. The production and visual quality, too, are quite impressive.

The film switches back and forth between interviews with those who have first-hand experience in the tech industry, a dramatized depiction of how social media and technological addiction affect a teenager’s life, and several animations.

What ‘The Social Dilemma’ misunderstands about social networks

The world is more complicated than filmmakers want to believe

On Sunday night, after being encouraged to by friends and family, I hit play on a new documentary about our digital lives. Directed by Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma explores the effect of smartphones and social networks on human behavior. Blending talking-head interviews with some well known Silicon Valley apostates and fictional, after-school special-style dramatizations of what happens when Johnny and Janey scroll through feeds all day, the film presents itself as an urgent warning about our modern condition.

And as Adi Robertson points out at The Verge, the idea that algorithmic recommendation engines are at the heart of our troubles leaves out vast swathes of the internet that are arguably just as important as the big social networks, and perhaps in some cases even more so. She writes:

Propaganda, bullying, and misinformation are actually far bigger and more complicated. The film briefly mentions, for instance, that Facebook-owned WhatsApp has spread misinformation that inspired grotesque lynchings in India. The film doesn’t mention, however, that WhatsApp works almost nothing like Facebook. It’s a highly private, encrypted messaging service with no algorithmic interference, and it’s still fertile ground for false narratives. As Alexis Madrigal notes, condemning the platforms together comes “uncomfortably close to admitting that mobile communications pose fundamental challenges to societies across the world.” There’s a fair case for that, he argues — but a case with much more alarming implications.

Radicalization doesn’t just happen on Facebook and YouTube either. Many of the deadliest far-right killers were apparently incubated on small forums: Christchurch mosque killer Brenton Tarrant on 8chan; Oregon mass shooter Chris Harper-Mercer on 4chan; Tree of Life Synagogue killer Robert Bowers on Gab; and Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik on white supremacist sites including Stormfront, a 23-year-old hate site credited with inspiring scores of murders.

These sites aren’t primarily driven by algorithms or profit motives. Instead, they twist and exploit the open internet’s positive ability to connect like-minded people. When harmful content surfaces on them, it raises complex moderation questions for domain hosts and web infrastructure providers — a separate set of powerful companies that have completely different business models from Facebook.

This isn’t to let social networks off the hook. Nor is it an effort to make the problem feel so complicated that everyone just throws their hands up and walks away from it. But I’m shocked at how appealing so many people find the idea that social networks are uniquely responsible for all of society’s ills. (The Social Dilemma has been among the 10 most watched programs on Netflix all week.)

This cartoon super villain view of the world strikes me as a kind of mirror image of the right-wing conspiracy theories which hold that a cabal of elites are manipulating every world event in secret. It is more than a little ironic that a film that warns incessantly about platforms using misinformation to stoke fear and outrage seems to exist only to stoke fear and outrage — while promoting a distorted view of how those platforms work along the way.

Some folks who worked on the film told me that this kind of approach is necessary to “communicate in a way that appeals to a broad audience.” But I say that’s a cop out. If you’re going to argue that social platforms are uniquely responsible for the fraying of society, you have to show your work.

II. A memo

On the other hand, meet Sophie Zhang. She was a data scientist who was fired in August and left this month in the fashion increasingly popular among departing Facebook employees — which is to say, quite dramatically.

Craig Silverman, Ryan Mac, and Pranav Dixit scooped her 6,600-word farewell memo in BuzzFeed. Zhang wrote:

“In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions,” wrote Zhang, who declined to talk to BuzzFeed News. Her LinkedIn profile said she “worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team” and dealt with “bots influencing elections and the like.”

“I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count,” she wrote.

She added: “I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”

Unlike the Social Dilemma filmmakers, Zhang showed her work — first to her bosses, and then, inadvertently, to the world. She describes governments in Azerbaijan and Honduras using Facebook against their own citizens, employing large numbers of fake accounts to promote their own interests and attack critics. And she found what she described as coordinated influence campaigns in countries including India, Ukraine and Bolivia.

Zhang’s official job was to police Facebook for “fake engagement” — people buying inauthentic likes, comments, and shares. From this perch she continually wandered into an adjacent realm that Facebook calls “civic integrity,” to the apparent frustration of her bosses. It’s a higher-stakes realm that works on some of the most pressing issues a social platform will face, including foreign influence operations and election integrity. It’s also famed for its difficulty — academics tell me that unearthing these operations and properly attributing them requires significant domain expertise. Many of the people who do this at Facebook and other networks previously worked for US intelligence agencies.

Zhang, by contrast, was a relatively junior employee who was essentially moonlighting on civic integrity issues. That may have been one reason why she struggled to get her colleagues’ attention, I’m told. Everyone I’ve spoken to at Facebook over the past day says Zhang was bright and dedicated to her work. But navigating large organizations can be a challenge even for the most senior employees, and it seems like Facebook’s sheer size often prevented Zhang’s findings from getting prompt attention.










Monopolies

Breaking up Big Tech can’t save American democracy by itself. Jan. 31, 2021

Redefining public and private goods is key to preserving democracy

From left, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. (Jose Luis Magana, LM Otero, Jens Meyer/AP)

As President Biden settles into the White House and moves beyond the most pressing crises, his administration will have to decide what to do with Big Tech.

Political tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley are of course not new. But the drama entered a new phase after Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump while he was still president of the United States. The reactions were predictably partisan. While Republicans cried censorship, Democrats urged Silicon Valley to go even further to prevent future incitements of violence.

Despite these divisions, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that antitrust law could save American democracy from Big Tech. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has led the charge from the right, accusing it of censoring conservatives, squelching competition and dissolving the American family. On the left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has argued that Big Tech needs to be broken up because it has “too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.” Are Hawley and Warren right?

A look at a prominent case of corporate regulation during the New Deal reminds us that antitrust is no panacea. In 1937, the Justice Department began antitrust action against Alcoa, a firm that one labor activist called a “masterpiece in monopoly.” Without a single competitor, Alcoa was the only game in town for aluminum production. While the antitrust case against Alcoa was initially dismissed, the government won its appeal in 1945, providing legislators with the power to bust the trust. Yet antitrust was only one of the tools New Dealers deployed to curb Alcoa’s power. What mattered more than antitrust was the idea of public utility, which stood at the heart of the New Deal regulatory state.

Why did this concept of public utility matter? The case against Alcoa was never just about aluminum. For New Dealers like Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who called Alcoa “one of the worst monopolies that has ever been able to fasten itself upon American life,” it was about rivers. Per pound, aluminum production demanded roughly 10 times the energy as steel production. Since profits depended on cheap power, Alcoa built six dams on the Little Tennessee River during the first three decades of the 20th century to power its smelters at Baldwin, N.C., and Alcoa, Tenn. Alcoa had entered the hydropower business.

By the 1930s, however, many Americans believed river development was too important to be handed over to private interests. New Dealers promoted the re-engineering of the nation’s rivers as a means to stimulate the economy, tame private enterprise and shore up democracy. As William J. Novak has argued, this vision drew on a broad conception of public utility that legal scholars had developed during the Progressive Era. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), launched in 1933, was a paradigmatic example. But the idea of public utility never resonated with Alcoa’s executives, who saw the TVA as a cheap imitation of itself.

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 accelerated the tensions between Alcoa and the American state, as demand for aluminum to build warplanes promised to turn Alcoa into a veritable behemoth. During the war, no firm received more government funds to build factories than Alcoa.

New Dealers saw the explosion of demand for aluminum as an opportunity to bend the industry to their needs. During the war, planners at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the TVA ensured that federal funds turned into factories that would fit their vision for regional economic development. Above all, this meant wartime aluminum plants had to consume publicly generated hydroelectricity. Private aluminum production became a critical source of revenue for the TVA and BPA.

Wartime planners at regional power agencies — especially the BPA — believed the future of public power depended on a competitive aluminum industry. Samuel Moment, the economist who wrote the blueprint for the aluminum industry’s postwar reconstruction, had worked as a planner at the BPA in Portland since 1940. In 1945, the conclusion of the antitrust suit against Alcoa empowered the Surplus Property Board (SPB) — the agency in charge of selling off government-financed war production facilities — to implement Moment’s plan. The SPB sold government-funded smelters and refineries that had been operated by Alcoa to two new competitors — Reynolds Metals and Kaiser Aluminum.

But a competitive aluminum industry was never an end in itself for New Dealers. It was a means to ensure public control of the nation’s rivers, which they believed would preserve democracy and spark regional economic development.

It is important to reckon with the flaws in this vision of public utility. In the Northwest, dam building during the New Deal inundated the homes, fishing sites and lands of many Indigenous peoples, including the Spokane, Wasco and Colville Nations. Consider the Spokane Nation, whose land and fishing sites were submerged by the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1940s. Only in 2020, after eight decades of activism, did the Spokane Nation receive federal compensation. All too often, Americans have mobilized the concept of the public good to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land and water.

Even so, the interplay between public utility and antitrust during the New Deal contains lessons for the digital age. After the attack on the Capitol, many have applauded Trump’s excommunication from social media. But if democracy is to survive, a coterie of corporate elites cannot make such consequential political decisions. A more competitive tech industry — the solution offered by antitrust — will simply enlarge the number of elites making these decisions, without solving the fundamental problem.

Antitrust worked against Alcoa because there was a political consensus that certain economic and social domains — like river development — were too important to society to be outsourced to private business. This vision is worth remembering. If antitrust enables the state to create competition, the concept of public utility allows the state to redraw the line between public and private. While it has become commonplace to think of data as the oil of the 21st century, democracy would be better served by thinking of it more like a river. Until our digital communications sphere belongs to the public, Big Tech will remain a threat to democracy.

Please send comments to: co@dadbyrn.com Colby Glass, PhDc, MLIS, MA, MS, Professor Emeritus