December 1st, 2011

The sweet taste of justice

Let me make a little sidestep first. In my country a sort of state-authorized semi tax office operates called BUMA/STEMRA. They “tax” radio stations, websites, pub owners, employers and whatnot for playing music, on behalf of the producers and writers. It is of course a big scam covered under a blanked of fairness. They have been coming under more and more pressure as they are sitting on huge amounts of cashed money, but somehow are “unable” to redistribute that money to the legitimate owners.

Double sidestep: the same goes, but irrelevant for this story for another “foundation” that “taxes” media like CD-R’s, DVD-R’s and in the old days cassette tapes, as we, the public, are obviously using them to illegally copy music and movies. They even tried to get their hands on mp3 players, memory sticks and media boxes. That failed. So far.

Anyway…. Too funny! In some international score cards (too lazy to dig them up) my country is supposed to be at the very top when it comes to absence of corruption. A composer complained to BUMA/STEMRA about them having used his work on an anti-copy clip that is forced on us every time we play a DVD or go the cinema. His complaint was rejected. But when he called one of the board members, that guy he said, he could get the subject back on the agenda. Of course he wanted some compensation. One third to be precise. Of more than a million Euro’s (1.4 mln US dollars). Unfortunately, the conversation was taped. He even claimed the composer now had nothing and when he would have helped him out, at least he would have received 2/3rd. The gentleman has “temporarily stepped down to concentrate entirely on his defense”.

Don’t we LOVE the the media industry!!

August 24th, 2010

A trend in the US – and maybe elsewhere?

Seems to me the anti-corporate Left/Right thing might be catching on. Of course there are many, important, wedge issues in the way – but it’s hard to argue that clipping the ears of the big corporate defense contractors (and food producers) and their paid sponsors in Congress and in The White House is probably one of the most critical issues we face.

WSJ 2010 August 19:

“Where Left and Right Converge;
Anticorporatist views are becoming more and more common.”


Earlier this year, Barney Frank and Ron Paul convened the Sustainable Defense Task Force, consisting of experts “spanning the ideological spectrum.” They recommended a 10-year, $1 trillion reduction in Pentagon spending that disturbed some in the military-industrial complex.

Other members of Congress were surprised by this improbable combination of lawmakers taking on such a taboo subject. But the spiral of bloated, wasteful military expenditures documented by newspapers has reached the point where opposites on the political-ideological spectrum were willing to make common cause.

A convergence of liberal-progressives with conservative-libertarians centering on the autocratic, corporate-dominated nature of our government may be growing. To be sure, there are obstacles to a synthesis of anticorporatist views becoming a political movement.

One is over-concern with labels and abstractions by both political factions. Yet once they take up the daily injustices—credit-card ripoffs, unsafe drugs and contaminated food—affecting people everywhere, common ground can be found. Another obstacle is that the concentrated power of big money and lobbies have so overtaken both political parties and controlled the parameters of political conversation that progressives and libertarians fail to recognize their similar, deep aversions to concentrated power of any kind. Finally, the anticorporatists in both camps are reluctant to collaborate in principled action because they have battled over issues for so long where they do not agree.

Yet this reluctance may be fading as abuses of corporate power, especially when supplemented by state power, become more plain to all. The multitrillion dollar bailout of an avariciously reckless Wall Street rammed through Washington, without any input from an angry public, epitomized shared outrage.

This perceived feeling of being excluded, disrespected and then taxed for the crimes and abuses of big business has been building for years. The loss of both sovereignty and jobs have produced a lasting resentment toward the antidemocratic North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and unpatriotic U.S. corporations that hollow out communities as they shift industries to China and other repressive regimes.

I have received earfuls on these matters during my three nationwide presidential campaigns from both workers and taxpayers who call themselves conservatives or progressives. The Main Street versus Wall Street figures of speech bespeak a deep sense of loss of control over just about everything that matters to people’s lives. In their daily discourse they know that big government beats to the drums of big business or, to use the elegant words of conservative philosopher Russell Kirk, “a host of squalid oligarchs.”

Because corporatists falsely assume the mantle of conservatism, they keep agendas that the left and right would agree on—such as cracking down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse against consumers, taxpayers and investors—from being heard and talked about and acted upon. The issues that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve include opposition to the arbitrary erosion of privacy by the Patriot Act and to the daily collection and storage of personal consumer information in corporate databases; resistance to tax-funded sports stadiums, the Federal Reserve’s out-of-control powers, unconstitutional wars and monopolistic practices against small business, and to the swarm of corporate welfare subsidies, tax havens, handouts, giveaways and bailouts.

Corporate abuse is recognized by elements in our society that might surprise you. Some years ago, at a sizable gathering of evangelical Christians, I denounced the rampant direct marketing to children of junk food and violent programming, undermining parental authority and furthering childhood obesity and mental coarseness. As people of faith, as parents and citizens, the audience responded enthusiastically.

No matter how often corporatists call themselves conservatives, the two hail from very different moral, historical and intellectual antecedents.

The powerful nuclear power industry discovered this difference in 1983, when a tight coalition of conservative, environmental and taxpayer groups defeated the deficit-ridden Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Tennessee. More recently, in 2008, demands coming from both the left and right that Congress ban genetic discrimination by health insurers overcame the corporatist lobby.

In several polls, including ones by Businessweek and Gallup, a sizable majority of Americans say that corporations have too much control over their lives, that both major parties are failing and that America is going in the wrong direction.

Once this slowly awakening giant of American reform shucks off the corporatists who divide, distort and deny many common identities, a dynamic civic force for freedom, fairness and prosperity will define and advance its own political and electoral agendas.


Mr. Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us” (Seven Stories Press, 2009).

January 27th, 2010

I’m embarassed by President Obama

Does Obama really think that he can freeze all of the Federal Budgets that deal with what used to be called “the commons” while he and his minions continue to funnel money to the corporations that work for DOD? What have I missed? It’s time to get a life and give them what for!

Glen Greenwald’s take is worth a read – though I think he’s a Johnny-come-lately; folks have been complaining about the DOD budget since Eisenhower – hell, even President/ General Eisenhower seemed like he was a bit nervous when he spoke of it upon leaving office. Folks like those at The War Resistors League and CDI have been pointing out that when we pay our taxes close to $0.50 on the dollar go towards military spending, in all its bizarre permutations (can you say bankers?).

Have a nice day!

October 20th, 2008

The bank bailout revisited

ING staock

ING stock

As Citykid wrote: “I do not believe in Socialism for the Banks and Capitalism for the rest of us”. So true. But it can be handled differently too. Now, for those of you who read this blog now and then and see me trying to connect some dots between my tiny country and the US, those tries probably look a bit “mouse and elephant walk over bridge-mouse says: oh my how we stomp!” like, and actually, I agree. Still, Dutch ING bank (who some of you might know as ING-direct in the US and the UK) is the one but largest consumer bank and one of the top 20 financial institutions in the world. It’s core tier one ration dropped below the minimum requirements and they knocked on this tiny countries door. Here is the deal that came out of it:

  • The state will inject 10 bln Euro’s in ING ($13.5 bln).
  • The state will get two board seats, having veto rights on important issues such as divident, board salaries and acquisitions.
  • The board members will not get any bonuses (and you and I know these bonuses are far far bigger than regular salaries).
  • The board members will get severely limited step down packages (maxed to one year salary).
  • The bank needs to repay this with an 8.5% interest rate, where the state acquires this money through secure and now very wanted state loans paying out 4%.

Most people seem to think this is a pretty good deal for the taxpayer. What do you think, especially when compared with the Paulson’s bailout plan?

What’s kinda funny is that the state has now a serious stake in two competing bank and insurance heavyweights.

October 2nd, 2008

SCUM 74, US 25.

Good morning all. Sports scores are in (I’m backing the Cubs this year). It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here.

SCUM 74, US (as in you and me) 25.

Throwing money at the rich as the U.S. Senate is hoping to do with their 74 to 25 vote in favor of giving private investors that dorked up $$$$$ (I think Michael Moore called it ‘stealing the silverware on the way out.’) will NOT fix the financial sectors problems. The problem of confidence is between the banks; especially in overnight lending. Simple fix – PASS LEGISLATION which makes the banks accountable for what’s on their books (audit required). Once that is done lending will resume since Bank A will be confident that bank B will still be there in the morning. It’s a f__k of a lot cheaper for us, and would be far more effective. Granted the FDIC will have to cover the losses of some depositors who are using banks that hold more trash than cash, but it would not cost the $700 billion (and probably more dollars) the “crisis” bailout bill demands. I am truly amazed at the propaganda currently being generated by the corporate press – they are not covering the issue; they are just, it seems to me, trying to confuse us.

Of course there are host of other solutions available – stop limiting the short sellers, since shorts keep stocks from being over valued (ooops, the free market folks in The Bush Administration have already put their finger on the scales by limiting which companies can be traded “short” [about 900 of them] and forced the value of stocks up beyond what they are worth – Free Market my ….). Help the citizens (tax payers) with health care and education costs. After all, the number one reason for mortgage defaults is unpaid medical bills. Wake up “America.”

Have a nice day (and call your Congressional Representative NOW).

September 15th, 2008

The bankrupcy, kinda sorta

And another bank bites the dust. From this side of the pond we have never understood the shelter of Chapter Eleven. That is something that simply doesn’t exist in Europe. If a company goes broke, it goes broke, what in the US would be called Chapter Seven. This simply ends mismanaged or falling behind companies, weeding out the chaff. In my country there is something called “deferral of payment status”, a sort of micro Ch. 11, protecting you from immediate liquidation by upset creditors, but it’s in no way comparable. The biggest issue, as we see it with Chapter 11 is that the competition NOT needing the shelter is still playing by the normal rules, giving the sheltered company competitive advantage it surely doesn’t deserve. The end result could be the competition failing and ultimately filing for… Chapter 11! Something that has happened with the airline industry (yes, this is a gross simplification, I know).

Having said that, on this side a few nasty bags of tricks are played too, and one could argue that at least Chapter Eleven is played out in the open. Alitalia, the state owned national carrier, is loosing 4.5 mln dollar a DAY for ages now and recently the Italian government pumped 450 mln Italian tax payers dollars into this IC patient. Of course it’s all gone by now and nothing has changed. That “fuel injection”, hehe, is illegal under European law though and we’ll see what comes of it.

Added September 17th: Same goes for Olympic Airlines. The Greek government is facing steep European fines for illegally injecting 130 850 million Euro’s (185 mln 1.2 billion dollars) in it. But then, how much is that, compared to 85 billion dollars for AIG? Well, how about per capita (I took the countries inhabitants. If I had to use the European population as baseline, I would have to dig for say all the illegal airline state support cases.)

Alitalia: $8
Olympic Airlines: $18 $120
AIG: $285

To be fair, the airline state support has been going on for ages, we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg.

September 6th, 2008

The money

What do YOU know about money? That it is created by the government? That if we all get rid of our debts, economy would be booming, as would have more to spend? That the equivalent of the money supply is kept in gold at Fort Knox? Wrong, wrong and wrong. And I meant not a little bit wrong, I meant 180 degrees totally wrong on all accounts. In this era of allowing or even actively giving crooked corporations and banks more and more power, this should be disturbing. Tell you what? It is very disturbing. Get yourself educated on serious money in 48 minutes. You will feel educated, flabbergasted and stunned, I promise.

I sent this to my financial advisor and well, it is his profession, not mine. He felt the same way. A very inconvenient truth.

February 23rd, 2008

The B-2

$2.1 billion tax payers money went up in smoke yesterday as a B-2 spirit crashed on take-off in Guam No fatalities, 20 left.

January 25th, 2008

The fall of Eveline Herfkens

Oh, a wonderful and embarrassing connection. Eveline Herfkens is a PvdA politician, who is now stationed at the UN. Most elements of the story are in Wikipedia, but let me give you a quick rundown. She insists she needs to fly business class, even if that is not allowed for her function. She applied for (and received) a $7.000 a month rental allowance for her upper class Manhattan apartment “to avoid traveling by subway”, a subsidy not allowed by UN rules to insure independence of the home country. She applied for a US permanent residence permit, which is also not allowed. To add insult to injury she defended her behavior by stating “this discussion was Dutch small mindedness”, “she didn’t have time to go through all the minute rules” and “deserves these incentives connected to such a job profile”. For the record, her salary is way over $200.000.

Her own party is fed up with what one member of parliament called “Diva behavior”. I am pretty sure, and I hope, the bell for her last round has sounded. She has damaged the U.N., my country, her party and the taxpayers. Begone!!

Disclaimer: “PvdA”, which is considered here a mildly leftish social democratic party, often gets my vote. I am not a member.

Added: Foreign ministry is investigating a claim to have her hand back the quarter million she received against the rules, at the same time admitting they should never have given her that rental allowance in the first place. Party leader drops support. She is said not to respond to call for comments.

Added Feb 22nd: By Dutch law, she is not to return the $280,000, based on the principle of security of law, meaning in this context like you cannot suddenly withdraw something that was legally supplied; the subsidy was allowed by Dutch law, simply not by UN rules. The UNDP is still investigating if she knew this was against the rules (which she denies), and if so, the decision to not to have her return the loot will be “re-evaluated”. I won’t hold my breath on it.

September 22nd, 2006

How your Federal tax dollars are really being spent


piefy07.jpg. It seems that almost everybody in the U.S. is worried about how much they have to spend on taxes, but here in Alaska everybody seems to be worried about taxes. So this is a follow-on to yoh-there’s most recent post about military spending; a head’s up to let you know that almost 50% of what you pay in Federal Taxes goes to the military. The War Resistors League (WRL) has for many years offered an alternative “pie-chart” to the one that the Internal Revenue Service prints in that little tax booklet that we all get every year. For the past 15 or so years I’ve pasted a copy of the WRL pie chart on my office door for all to see. Even though I used to work for a so called “liberal” East Coast university the WRL pie chart was defaced or ripped off of my door many times. So the truth, or near truth must have punched more than a few buttons in the oh so liberal NYC. For what it’s worth the War Resistors League has always taken a fairly conservative approach in their analysis when compared to others, including those from economists far (almost wrote “fart” there instead of “far” – ooops) to the right of WRL. Have a look for yourself. An Adobe PDF version of the WRL Pie Chart is available in color here or in b&w here; so that you can post a copy on your own office door for all to see.