Archive for the ‘business’ Category
This was to be expected.
Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil.
Maybe. But these are also some of the symptoms reported by individuals who were exposed to Corexit.
One of the two Corexit products that BP is suing [sic] in the Gulf also contains a compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems
Corexit is also linked with respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.
Obviously, there’s no way to tell what is causing these symptoms, and BP has no interest in allowing the media to find out. Many of the fishermen working for BP signed contracts that forbid them to talk to the press, and BP is ruling the Gulf area with an iron fist. Even CEO Tony Hayward has joined the fun, and is shouting at random cameramen.
This afternoon I spoke with John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corporation, which makes Sea Brat 4, a safer, less toxic alternative to Corexit, the chemical dispersant BP is currently using in the Gulf.
Sheffield voiced his frustration that — despite the fact that Sea Brat is safer than Corexit, ready to be shipped, EPA-approved, and his company is capable of producing enough product to cope with the spill — BP has decided to instead go with Corexit.
He blames the Corexit monopoly on the fact that one of the board members of Nalco (the company that makes Corexit) is Rodney F. Chase, a former BP board member. This cozy relationship with BP provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup, Sheffield says.
Additionally, switching to Sea Brat would basically entail BP acknowledging that they’ve known about a safer dispersant alternative for decades, and despite the UK banning Corexit, and now the EPA requesting BP find a safer dispersant, BP decided to press forth with a chemical that bears a “striking molecular resemblance to anti-freeze.”
A sad anniversary, and it’s only getting worse.
Up to now, only tar balls and a sheen of oil had come ashore. But brown and vivid orange globs and sheets of foul-smelling oil the consistency of latex paint have begun coating the reeds and grasses of Louisiana’s wetlands, home to rare birds, mammals and a rich variety of marine life.
As BP CEO Tony Hayward demonstrated, many people remain ignorant about the magnitude of unseen damage the underwater oil geyser is inflicting upon the ocean’s ecosystem right now. Hayward’s comment that the oil patch is “relatively tiny” compared to the “very big ocean” probably represents the views of many Americans.
Sanitized language like “patch,” “spill,” and “plume” make this terrible event seem more like a minor inconvenience – like a baby spilling a glass of milk. It’s adorable, really, except when it’s beautiful or delicious i.e. when it’s being described by Rep. Gene Taylor as “a light, rainbow sheen with patches that look like chocolate milk.”
Meanwhile, the “patch” is now larger than Maryland and Delaware, combined. The AP is desperately trying to depict the magnitude of this event by using an array of easy-to-envision examples:
A few weeks ago, I commented on the media’s ennui in response to General McChrystal’s admission that the US military had “shot an amazing number of people, but to [his] knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”
Apart from a few fleeting exceptions (the Times briefly covered McChrystal’s statement,) the media collectively yawned and moved on even though — as I wrote at the time — here was the highest ranking US military official in Afghanistan, openly admitting that the US military has killed a whole lot of people, none of whom posed a threat.
In a society that adheres to the rule of law, killing innocent civilians is still considered a war crime. Of course, this isn’t the era of accountability. This is the era of Obama, and the era of Obama is about “looking forward, not backwards.”
We don’t look backwards if the former vice-president admits to a war crime on national television, CIA officials admit to destroying torture tapes that would have helped convict them of war crimes, or to reconsider wasteful imperialist agendas.
In fact, the only time Obama seems concerned with “looking backwards” is to prosecute people like Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the NSA wiretapping scandal. As Greenwald points out, this is a super way to discourage future whistleblowers. Who is going to step forward as an informant when they know exactly which side of the fight Obama and Company are on? Spoiler: The nice guy will finish last.
If you’re part of the lucky 29 percent of adults living in the US who attended a college or university, and are now the proud owner of a bachelor’s degree (in addition to a mountain of debt), you’re no doubt eager to find some employment.
Hopefully, you have a perfect credit score, never committed a felony, and have a solid “in” for an entry level position at your dream company. Otherwise, arrival into the corporate world may serve as a rude awakening.
According to a Sallie Mae study, only 17 percent of college kids paid their credit cards in full every month and another 1 percent left that to their parents. The remaining 82 percent carries a growing debt. In 2009, seniors graduated with an average credit card debt of $4,100, up from $2,900 among 2004 graduates. Almost one-fifth of 2009′s graduates owed more than $7,000 on their cards.
Carrying such a fiscal burden is stressful enough, but now indebted graduates may not be jeopardizing just their credit scores — they could also be endangering their job prospects.
“Only the little people pay taxes” -Leona Helmsley
In my last post, I wrote about the newest scam to screw hardworking people. It involves several Fortune 500 firms that have hired a company called Talx to wrestle workers’ unemployment benefits away from them.
This is how corporations “handle” the messy human contact aspects of running a business. They hire a third party to come in and do the dirty work of dealing with unsanitary stuff: emotions, workers’ livelihoods, mental breakdowns, etc.
For example, Wal-Mart hired Talx to steal the unemployment benefits of Gerald Grenier, a mentally handicapped night janitor because he allegedly stole some coins from a vending machine (Grenier says he forgot to turn in the change).
Corporations also import other jackals to “restructure” and “downsize” their beloved cogs to avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness like a workplace shooting. Everything — anything — can and should be outsourced, downsized, and restructured if it eventually results in expanding profits.
But it appears the corporation’s loyalty extends only to its own bottom line. According to the GAO, the vast majority (66%) of 1.3 million corporations, pay no federal income taxes. A quarter of the 1000 largest U.S. corporations (those with over $250 million in assets or $50 million in sales) fail to pay any taxes.
At a time when Americans are suffering the most, many corporations refuse to give back to the country.
Sit down, reader. A new Congressional panel report questions the need for the Treasury Department’s $17.2 billion bailout of GMAC, a global financial services company (formerly a part of General Motors) in 2008 and 2009.
The government “might have been able” to arrange a strategic bankruptcy for GMAC, as it did for General Motors and Chrysler, preserving its automotive lending arm while dealing with the mortgage lending operations that brought it down, the panel found.
In one passage, the report concluded that GMAC became “one of the five largest wards” of the government even though it was “a company that apparently posed no systemic risk to the financial system, that did not seem to be too big to fail, too interconnected to fail, or indeed, of any systemic significance.”
Shocking, I know. That is, until one remembers this:
GMAC has spent nearly $1 million during the first three quarters of this year to lobby the very federal government it’s begging for our greenbacks, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis finds. That’s on top of the $5.46 million it spent on federal lobbying efforts in 2008, shortly after it peeled away from former parent company General Motors — itself formerly bankrupt, bailed out by taxpayers and still on quite a federal lobbying clip. The U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Treasury Department, Government Accountability Office and Federal Deposit Insurance Commission are among the governmental agencies and entities GMAC has this year lobbied.
There are important similarities between Toyota’s recalled death missiles and Goldman Sach’s raping of American taxpayers, both of which illustrate what is wrong with the US government.
The government willfully under-regulated both Toyota and Goldman for the sake of the race to the bottom — the never-ending quest for more profits — regardless of the dangers posed to taxpayers whether those hazards be derivatives or cars that accelerate for no apparent reason.
In the case of Toyota, the media praised these regulation-slashing initiatives. Take, for example, Toyota’s cost-reduction program “Construction of Cost Competitiveness in the 21st Century,” or CCC21, a program that slashed production expenses at the cost of lowering the quality of parts.
The programs, a steroid shot to Toyota’s trademark “kaizen” approach of steady, gradual cost reduction, were blessed by its board and investors attracted after Toyota listed shares in New York and London in 1999. An obsession with cost reductions and rapid growth help explain how a company long revered for quality is under fire from U.S. legislators and lawyers amid recalls of 8.5 million autos worldwide.
“The root cause of their problems is that the company was hijacked, some years ago, by anti-(Toyoda) family, financially oriented pirates,” said Jim Press, Toyota’s former U.S. chief and only American to hold a seat on the company’s board.
“Kaizen” or “improvement” is an ongoing process meant to eliminate waste and ever improve efficiency. Except, at some point, it inevitably cuts into the bone. There’s only so much a business can cut before it’s cutting the stuff that prevents the driver from flying through the car’s windshield.
Conor Dougherty reports on an interesting new study by the Brookings Institution, which shows the suburbs are home to America’s largest and fastest growing poor population. (h/t Atrios, The Bellows)
The country’s largest metro areas saw their poor population grow by 25% between 2000 and 2008, according to the report, faster than primary cities and well above the poverty growth in small cities and rural areas. “As a result, by 2008 large suburbs were home to 1.5 million more poor than their primary cities and housed almost one-third of the nation’s poor overall,” the report says.
Part of this is simple math. The nation’s suburban population grew 12.5% between 2000 and 2008, compared with 3.9% in primary cities and 2.4% in rural America. Meantime, over the past decade cities have attracted young professionals and empty nesters that tend to be wealthier and whiter.
Side-note: WSJ has previously called this the End Of White Flight. This act of the “pendulum swinging back” caused some conflict within cities like NYC where minorities saw floods of white families as a threat to their resources. For example, Hispanic parents in some sections of Brooklyn accused white parents of hoarding computers for their kids. The cities too saw high levels of gentrification in the housing market, and also the school system when many white parents pulled their kids from public schools and transferred them to private schools.
A reader sent me a link to this story with this attached note: “I was in real estate a few years back and attempted to report mortgage fraud to the FBI a couple of times. Seems they were too busy. Guess they still are.”
The article is written by CNBC’s Diana Olick and should be read in its entirety. It’s one of those examples of journalism done right: a complex issue broken down in simple, understandable terms so the citizenry can be properly outraged when confronted with the underhanded practices of banks.
Jeremy Brandt, the CEO of several companies that bring short sale agents, investors and sellers together (1800CashOffer, HomeFlux.com and FastHomeOffer.com,) first alerted Olick to yet another layer of widespread mortgage fraud.