Archive for the ‘capitalism’ Category

Ripped-Off Customers: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

According to this Business Week article, 2007 might be remembered as the year angry customers started fighting back. We all heard about the 76-year-old woman who came storming into her local ComCast office with a hammer and started swinging. After damaging a keyboard and a phone, she yelled out “have I got your attention now?”

And last Spring a pissed-off Apple customer made a YouTube video of himself smashing his Macbook with a sledgehammer after Apple refused to honor a service warranty. So far over 340,000 people have seen the video. (And Apple has agreed to replace his defective computer.)

The author, Jena McGregor, says: “Consumers already pushed to the brink by evaporating home equity, job insecurity, and rising prices are more apt to snap when hit with long hold times and impenetrable phone trees.”

She uses the term Consumer Vigilante. Even if you don’t settle your grudge with a sledgehammer, more and more people are discovering that there are other options besides sitting there waiting on hold all afternoon because both operators are busy.

The e-mail carpet bomb is becoming more popular.

Last October a National Public Radio host created a website called ComCastMustDie.com. The article has a few other examples of pissed off customers who settled things their own way.

And occasionally the courts come through. A few days ago, one of those slippery HMOs got hit with a crushing left hook to the bank account. In 2004, Health Net canceled a woman’s medical insurance while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was left with $129,000 in unpaid medical bills. A judge has ordered Health Net to repay the $129,000 plus $750,000 for emotional distress and $8.4 million in punitive damages.

As conservatives are always saying, severe punishments are the only way to deter criminals.

Health Net is also being sued by the City of Los Angeles for illegally canceling the health insurance policies of 1,600 other patients. The company had an incentive program: administrators had to meet a certain cancellation quota, and if they exceeded their quota they’d get a bonus. (See, this isn’t just something Michael Moore dreamed up.)

Maybe these are just isolated incidents, or maybe there’s a positive trend. No matter who or what gets elected next November, maybe this 21st Century Gilded Age is starting to wane.

William F. Buckley has died at 82

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

The self-professed father of conservatism, although the neocon’s eventually pissed him off, has left this sphere. He wrote 45 books, founded The National Review and wrote millions of words in the process. The NYT has a piece up about him here. Norman Mailer had this to say about Buckley once when asked about him:

“No other act can project simultaneous hints that he is in the act of playing Commodore of the Yacht Club, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Mitchum, Maverick, Savonarola, the nice prep school kid next door, and the snows of yesteryear,”

Buckley also supported the decriminalization of marijuana. Probably one of the few things we had in common.

tags: William F Buckley

When Sleazy Companies Shortchange Their Workers, It Can Get Expen$ive

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Three cheers for the IRS! As hated as they are, sometimes they end up doing the jobs of our government “regulators,” using the term loosely.

The IRS has ruled that FedEx is no longer entitled to receive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of welfare payments. These handouts were being given by FedEx workers to their bosses.

Here’s how the scam worked: 13,000 FedEx employees were reclassified as “independent contractors.” The IRS ruled that this classification was incorrect, and that FedEx illegally “saved” $319 million in taxes in 2002. The IRS is still auditing FedEx for 2004 through 2006.

The Teamsters Union — who’s been pushing this case — thinks FedEx could ultimately owe the IRS a billion dollars.

Companies save a fortune when they redefine their employees as “independent contractors.” A company doesn’t have to pay workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability taxes, Social Security or Medicare taxes to an independent contractor. Independent contractors also aren’t subject to minimum wage laws and they have no government guarantee of a safe work environment.

It must have seemed like the best of both worlds for FedEx bosses: they could keep their workers straitjacketed with a million company regulations, and then wiggle out of paying their fair share of taxes by calling them “independent contractors.” Fun’s over, Assholes.

If you want to decide whether these FedEx workers are employees or independent contractors, take the “DUUHH” test: they use FedEx equipment, they wear FedEx uniforms and they work under strict FedEx rules. Independent contractors???

Solar Power Research

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Solar Power is going to be a big part of your future life whether you like it or not. With the cut throat politics of big oil, the future is going to be very different. America much like in the past will change the world with our direction. Not from some group in some far away lands demands, but on our own terms. American’s are a funny people, we will buy your product on our terms if it is affordable and reliable. That includes our energy needs. While the nice folks sitting on mega trillions of oil think that they have “We the People” over their barrel, creative Americans are turning those same barrels into wood stoves and home made bio-fuel tanks.

I love the New York Times and I have to thank my friend Jeff from Worm Town Taxi for turning me onto this story. The New York Times writer could not find his back side from his elbow on this topic. Rather than reporting on the true research they condemn solar power as a fad for this generation. Different paper, different generation but the same is true, Solar power is not good enough once more over at the NYT…

A link between Moore’s Law and solar technology reflects the engineering reality that computer chips and solar cells have a lot in common.

“A solar cell is just a big specialized chip, so everything we’ve learned about making chips applies,” says Paul Saffo, an associate engineering professor at Stanford and a longtime observer of Silicon Valley.

Financial opportunity also drives innovators to exploit the solar field. “This is the biggest market Silicon Valley has ever looked at,” says T. J. Rogers, the chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, which is part-owner of the SunPower Corporation, a maker of solar cells in San Jose, Calif.

Mr. Rogers, who is also chairman of SunPower, says the global market for new energy sources will ultimately be larger than the computer chip market.

“For entrepreneurs, energy is going to be cool for the next 30 years,” he says.
Optimism about creating a “Solar Valley” in the geographic shadow of computing all-stars like Intel, Apple and Google is widespread among some solar evangelists.

“The solar industry today is like the late 1970s when mainframe computers dominated, and then Steve Jobs and I.B.M. came out with personal computers,” says R. Martin Roscheisen, the chief executive of Nanosolar, a solar company in San Jose, Calif.

Nanosolar shipped its first “thin film” solar panels in December, and the company says it ultimately wants to produce panels that are both more efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and less expensive than today’s versions. Dramatic improvements in computer chips over many years turned the PC and the cellphone into powerful, inexpensive appliances — and the foundation of giant industries. Solar enterprises are hoping for the same outcome. - New York Times

This is where the article should have ended but it didn’t. You can read the rest of it if you like but it is more or less if you can’t have the whole loaf of bread then you don’t want even one slice.

When it comes to our nations energy needs in the future you can no longer put all your eggs in one basket. You need to look at all options and Solar Power is just one option of many for your individual energy needs. There isn’t a person involved in the real life business of solar power that will tell you it will serve all of your energy resources. That kind of science and technology just doesn’t exist… YET! When you think of solar power you have to think of your vegetable garden, it offsets your grocery bill with food grown by your own hand that you know will help your family budget. It’s only the vegetables. As in the old commercials from long gone by political campaigns “Where’s the BEEF?”

The beef is in the current research that will mass produce the solar panels to the point where Joe and Joanne Sixpack can afford to install a solar panel on their home. That is where Moore’s Law meets the common consumer. That is where engineers and scientist break the back of OPEC and pretty much look at locations in the middle of the desert here in America with sunshine year round that are not in the Middle East for our nations electric power needs.

Solar Power was not a fad in the 70‘s, or the 80‘s, or for that matter in the 90‘s. It is and will be part of your life, it is only a question of what part it will be producing power for your families needs. Ten years from now you could probably pick up a whole house solar panel unit that you plug into your outdoor outlet that powers your entire home from Home Depot or Lowes. Then again Walmart might have those nasty falling prices and outsource the American designed technology to China to mass produce it. Any way you look at it, the technology will be cheaper and our nations energy needs will come from somewhere else and solar power is just one piece of the puzzle.

The only thing that will hold solar power back is the people most afraid of it and how much of their bottom line it will take away. Those are the people that this story in the NYT’s should have looked at more closely. That is when you will smell the sense of smoke in the air and new patents for new energy smoldering on the bonfires of big energy R us. Capitalism at its worst.

Papamoka

Feel free to link to this post or borrow it…

Cross posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Government “Regulators” and Big Business: Goliath and Goliath

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Sometimes it seems like government and industry are so closely intertwined that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. In one of the most blatant examples of this, some state governments have teamed up with Monsanto to PREVENT food companies from labeling their ingredients accurately.

Ben & Jerry’s has been advertising that their ice cream doesn’t contain the synthetic bovine growth hormone made by Monsanto. This hormone was approved by the FDA in the 1990s in the United States. Canada, Japan and the European Union have never approved the drug because of safety concerns.

Just when you think you’ve seen the most absurd intelligence-insulting Astroturf organization yet, the bar gets lowered even further. American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology is the “grassroots” organization that’s trying to prevent Ben & Jerry’s from even telling you that their ice cream doesn’t contain rBGH. Take a wild guess: this gang of douchebags consists mostly of (A) farmers; or (B) Monsanto lobbyists.

psssst! The answer is (B).

And just to make the whole situation even more Orwellian, a Monsanto spokesperson said “Monsanto is really an advocate in support of accurate labeling of dairy products in the dairy case.”

So now we have a popular organic ice cream company being squelched by two 800-pound gorillas (hereafter referred to as David vs. Goliath & Goliath).

Monsanto’s growth hormone (rBGH) was banned in most other countries for the effect it has on animals. It doesn’t directly affect humans. But rBGH causes increased levels of another growth hormone in cows; and that hormone is believed to cause cancer in people.

sssshhhhhh!!!! Move along! Nothing to see here!

This Economy Is Good For Whom?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Well, you may already know this, but every time some rightwinger suggests lowering taxes is the answer to what ails our economy, you should ask them how they expect to pay for those things we expect our government to do. Where is all the fiscal conservatism in the GOP these days? Certainly there is none when it comes to the W, Rove and Co.

President Bush wants to cut funding for teaching hospitals and freeze medical research in a $3 trillion budget for 2009 that is still likely to generate a record deficit once war costs are tallied up.

The Bush budget to be submitted Monday would cut the budget for the Health and Human Services Department by $2 billion, or 3 percent. By contrast, the Pentagon would get a $35 billion increase to $515 billion for core programs, with war costs additional.

With tax revenue falling as the economy slows - and with the deficit-financed economic stimulus bill adding more than $150 billion in red ink to federal ledgers over 2008-09 - the White House acknowledges that the budget deficit for this year and next is projected to reach $400 billion or more.

The largest-ever budget deficit, $413 billion, was recorded in 2004. Bush’s budget will forecast a deficit for 2009 that’s below that, an administration official said. But that assumes costs of $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, well below the almost $200 billion request for this year.

How the bleep are we going to pay down this debt? Well, of course, this is another heaping problem that Bush is loading onto whomever is in charge next. Perhaps it would be good to have McCain win then it would be his mess to clean up. Trouble is the GOP has not demonstrated one shred of fiscal conservatism they proclaim to advocate. Likely, if McCain is elected we would drown further down in the money pit the W, Rove and Co has been struggling to widen via their illustrious freedom spreading experiment in Iraq.

Think about it. It’s a brilliant ploy. Defer expenses and costs. Cut taxes. Increase the debt so that the next democrat in charge has to raise taxes to recover. Then suggest that democrats are fiscally irresponsible for raising necessary taxes. Brilliant.

The question remains for whom is this economy good? Looks like the predators are winning:

Exxon Mobil Corp. shattered its own record as the world’s most profitable publicly traded corporation, as rising oil prices helped the company bring in better-than-ever income and revenue for the fourth quarter and 2007.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon’s net income rose 3% to $40.6 billion in 2007, surpassing its 2006 record of $39.5 billion.

Chevron Corp. also posted strong earnings despite lower production and lagging profit from making and selling gasoline. Full-year profit at the San Ramon, Calif.-based oil company jumped 9% to $18.7 billion.

Well, there’s no surprises there. W is, after all, an oil man.

If you think the Telco’s don’t have the Dems in their pocket..think again.

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Surely this isn’t a surprise to anyone that pays attention. In an investigative piece for TruthOut, Matt Renner’s opening salvo is this:

A think tank with close ties to the telecommunication industry has been working with a key Democrat in the Senate on a domestic surveillance bill that would provide telecommunications companies with retroactive immunity for possibly violating federal law by spying on American citizens at the behest of the Bush administration.

Well, I’ll be damned..somehow I kinda figured with Rockefeller leading the charge there had to be an ulterior motive involved. Isn’t ‘think tank’ just a code word for special interests these days?

Third Way, a non-profit “progressive” think tank that is funded and controlled by hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers and business executives has advised Sen. Jay Rockefeller on a domestic surveillance bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies with which Third Way board members have close ties.

Rockefeller is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has been the leading Democratic proponent of granting immunity to telecommunication companies that allegedly gave spy agencies access to their communication networks and databases without a warrant.
“I think we will prevail,” Rockefeller told the Politico on January 23, referring to the disagreement over retroactive immunity for telecoms, “it’s a pretty bad idea to appear cocky … I’m not pessimistic.”
Democrats connected to Third Way were integral in defeating a bill, supported by a majority of Senate Democrats, which might have prevented the telecoms from getting immunity.

Rat bastids…read the rest..it’s guaranteed to piss you off my dear reader. If it doesn’t piss you off..well..you didn’t need those pesky civil rights anyway..

Tags: Jay Rockefeller, Third Way, retroactive immunity

Crossposted at Leftwing Nutjob

F.B.I. Investigating Home Lending

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Don’t for a minute think that this post is about you the disenfranchised foreclosed on former first time home owner. Even though you were told by your lending professional, abandoned on the side of the road used car salesman, small appliance repair, and fortune teller that you could afford your recently foreclosed home, this story is not about you. Justice is never about you so this post is not about anyone at or below the middle class income level that lost their home to dubious lending practices.

One thing is a given in America, the only justice is for the millionaires that can afford to demand it. All of the bum loans that the mortgage lending and banking industry gave out like free cheese to the poor was not a big enough problem to look into. And yet when the millionaire investors start loosing their shirts it just might be a problem.

F.B.I. Opens Subprime InquiryBy REUTERS
Published: January 29, 2008

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (Reuters) — The F.B.I. has opened investigations into 14 corporations as part of a crackdown on improper subprime lending, agency officials said on Tuesday.F.B.I. officials told reporters that the inquiry involved potential violations including accounting fraud and insider trading.

Separately, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley said government investigators were seeking information from them about their subprime mortgage activities. But it was not immediately clear if the disclosures by the three banks were linked to the F.B.I. probes.

F.B.I. officials did not identify the companies they were looking at, but said the investigation reached across the industry to include developers, subprime lenders, companies that securitized loans and investment banks that held them.

The cases could lead to potential civil or criminal charges, the officials said.
The F.B.I. said it was investigating the cases with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has opened about three dozen investigations into the subprime market collapse.

Targets of the S.E.C. probe include the investment banks Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, as well as the Swiss bank UBS and the bond insurer MBIA. It was not clear whether any of those companies were involved in the F.B.I. investigation.

The S.E.C., which has formed an internal subprime-mortgage task force, is looking at how financial firms priced mortgage-based securities and whether they should have told investors earlier about the declining value of those securities. - New York Times

All of the businesses that sold the loans to you the former homeowner hardly ever hold on to those loans. They sell them to bigger banks and bigger banks bundle them all together and sell them as investment vehicles for the mega rich. Now that the loans are being defaulted on in larger than life numbers those investment vehicles are up on cinder blocks with tickets on them from the board of health as a public nuisance. AKA losing money for the mega rich people and businesses that invest in them.

What the F.B.I. is investigating at the banks is the fact that the SEC has some serious rules about selling bovine by product as any kind of investment product. Especially, when those products are purchased by the mega dough bucks people at the top of the income earners heap.

Now it’s officially a Subprime Lending crisis! Now let’s see who goes to minimum security, weekends off for god behavior prison? Maybe when these guys have to loose their golf handicap they might see what justice is really all about.

One more note, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have all dropped in shareholder value between $15 and $20 in the last three months. Things that make you go hmmmm or screw them too?

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Feel free to link to or borrow this post…

Marijuana Being Sold From Vending Machines!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Yes of course it’s in California. And just to push even more conservative buttons — the owner (of the vending machines and the property) is a swarthy Middle Easterner. Dear God!

Just think of the millions of rightwing hands being wrung and teeth being gnashed when this story hit the news sites. While he’s at it, the owner might as well install an abortion clinic and a gay bar on the premises. With millions of wingnut voters undergoing a simultaneous seizure, and an election next November…

Vincent Mehdizadeh, inventor and owner of the machine, described his service as: “Convenient access, lower prices, safety, anonymity.”

If you have a card authorizing the use of medical marijuana (and you’re registered in Mehdizadeh’s computer database), you have 24-hour access to these pot-dispensing machines. There are three of these dispensaries; two of them are on property owned by Mehdizadeh.

These dispensaries are completely unobtrusive and they’re surrounded by strip malls, car dealers, furniture shops, etc. The premises are nearly empty except for a security guard, some shelves stocked with herbs and vitamins and a contraption that looks like a large refrigerator (that’s the pot machine). The device is officially known as a Prescription Vending Machine (PVM). You provide your fingerprints and your pre-paid card, and the machine dispenses a bright green envelope. Guess what’s inside!

Since the War on Drugs is one of America’s top priorities (your tax dollars at work), the Spanish Inquisition DEA is already zeroing in on this screaming emergency. A few months ago they developed a new improved, more jugular-based tactic: going after the owners of the property where medical marijuana is dispensed, and confiscating the property. If our government went after real problems with one tenth this much ferocity, this would be a much nicer country to live in.

A DEA spokesman said: “Somebody owns it, it’s on a property and somebody fills it. Once we find out where it’s at, we’ll look into it…”

Well, that takes care of that urgent problem.

Pell Grants For Kids = Vouchers In Disquise

Monday, January 28th, 2008

This is the first I’ve heard of this, and so I’ve not had a chance to review the President’s proposal. However, it seems like he’s got another plan to divert public funds to parochial and private education. Watch as the separation of church and state shrinks again.

The fact is, parents who can afford to send their children to private schools don’t need the assistance. Moreover, there are a tremendous number of things broken with our public educational system. Can’t Bush find something in the system that needs a remedy and fix that instead of creating a new welfare system for the rich?

White House counselor Ed Gillespie, describing Bush’s plans for a new school initiative, said Monday afternoon that Bush “has some concerns about the declining number of faith-based and parochial schools in inner cities around the country and low-income neighborhoods.” Because of this, Gillespie said, Bush is ready to “urge Congress to enact a program he calls `Pell Grants for Kids.’ ”

The money would “provide alternatives for children now trapped in struggling public schools,” Gillespie told reporters.

Right. Ask any educator currently working as a teacher in a public school if No Child Left Behind has been good for America’s school children and you will discover how good Bush is at fixing what’s wrong with our public schools.

Incidentally, does any one else wonder why didn’t the Education Secretary make this announcement? Does the president always trot out lawyers because he has something to hide?

If you want to take a look at some more detail about my views on how to fix education, have a gander at this post, that post,,this other post, and how about searching my whole blog for the term education and see what comes up.

Just as an aside,do you think Bush would be in favor having a serious chunk of his “pell grants for kids” money going to some Islamic Private Education Organizations that start up? They would be faith-based, wouldn’t they?


Fish.Travel