"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

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Solving Cinco de Mayo: Setting The Record Straight On The Origin Of A Mexican Holiday

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Oldspeak: “A day originally meant to be a somber, liquor-free day of reflection commemorating of The Battle of Puebla where an outnumbered Mexican army and militia defeated a vastly superior invading French army in Puebla, Mexico, has been twisted and contorted repackaged as the drunken hedonistic consumption-fueled spectacle we see today. Only in America…. SO ‘as you raise your glass in a toast this May 5, don’t forget that the celebration has origins that extend far beyond mariachi music and margaritas’- Allison Ford

By Sue Vorenberg @ The Columbian:

Rumors abound in Vancouver and across the United States regarding the mysterious origins of the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

Ask a bunch of random strangers about it, and you’ll probably get an equally random number of theories about what’s being celebrated — even at an educational institution like Clark College, where The Columbian went on the hunt for the real story.

Asked what he knew about it, Jonathan Weiker, a GED student at the college, said his former father-in-law had the inside scoop.

“He used to celebrate it, and he called it Mexican New Year,” Weiker said.

Nearby, another young man who didn’t want to give his name was quick to correct Weiker.

“It’s their Day of the Dead,” he said.

John Yoder, walking down one of the college hallways with his friend Samantha Neal, smiled slightly when asked what he knew about the holiday.

“I’ve heard everybody say it’s Mexican independence day, but I know it’s not,” Yoder said, adding that he wasn’t sure what the real story was.

Neal smirked back at him.

“I know it’s the day the Mexican army beat the French,” she said. “I don’t know why they celebrate it. I mean, hey, who didn’t beat the French?”

Of the four, Neal is the clear winner — perhaps because her 90-year-old great-grandmother comes from Puebla, the state in southern Mexico where the event actually happened.

“I can’t believe I’m the only one that knew that,” Neal said. “I’m going to start bragging now.”

At that, Neal got a high-five from her friend Yoder.

Erika Nava, a Spanish professor at Clark College, filled in the rest of the historical details.

The event on which Cinco de Mayo is based is called La Batalla de Puebla. It was a U.S. Civil War-era battle in 1862 in which the French army, led by Napoleon III, invaded Puebla and was subsequently turned back by a much smaller force made up of the Mexican army and local militia.

But while Mexico won the battle, it ultimately lost the war. The French invaded again in 1863 and installed a dictator who ruled the country for a handful of years before he was eventually overthrown, Nava said.

“It’s similar to Gettysburg, that’s what it means to people in Puebla,” Nava said. “It’s also a somber, no-liquor-sold holiday where they reenact the battle.”

Unfortunately, it’s by no means rare for people in the United States to have been told the wrong story about the holiday, she added.

Nava said she’s even seen other Spanish teachers spread misinformation about it.

“I look on the Web and see teachers saying it’s Mexican independence day,” Nava said. “It’s sort of sad.”

People from southern Mexico often cringe when they see how the holiday is celebrated in the United States — often at bars with alcohol and loud banter.

Nava’s husband, Hugo Nava, who’s a schoolteacher in Portland, grew up in Puebla and said he was somewhat mystified as to why people in the United States celebrate the holiday at all.

“The way I see people from the U.S. celebrate it, it’s just an excuse to go drink, like St. Patrick’s Day,” Hugo Nava said. “For us it’s a patriotic day. It’s important because it’s part of the history of Mexico. We have a parade. It’s a dry day. Nobody drinks.”

The U.S. celebration of the day probably came about because people in the Southwestern United States, which was part of Mexico until 1848, held onto the holiday as part of their kinship with their former country. It eventually turned into a celebration of Hispanic heritage in that region, Erika Nava said.

“It’s been sort of adopted as a Latino holiday, and I don’t think it’s bad to have a holiday that celebrates Latino pride, but I think it’s bad when that holiday is based on misinformation,” Nava added.

From the Southwest, the holiday apparently spread across the United States, more as an excuse to party than as anything associated with the actual Mexican historical event, she said.

“I guess most people also don’t know where St. Patrick’s Day came from,” Erika Nava said.

There’s also probably no way to change the way the holiday is celebrated in the United States, she said.

Erika Nava said she thinks that’s OK, but that people should acknowledge it as a separate thing from the Mexican historical event.

“Let’s just call it a holiday that has nothing to do with the holiday in Mexico, it just falls on the same day,” she said.

Hugo Nava said he can accept that, although he still thinks people should understand a bit about Cinco de Mayo’s origins before they go out and party.

“It’s OK if you know the history behind it,” he said. “To me, if you just go, get crazy and party — it doesn’t make sense. You can do that any day of the year. Knowing about it, there’s just a little bit of respect of history.”

After learning about the real origins of the event, the Clark College crowd said they were eager to spread the word to their friends ahead of the May 5 holiday.

“I never knew the history,” said Moses Stickney, a Washington State University Vancouver student who previously attended Clark College. “Now that I know, sure, I’ll tell my friends.”

Weiker said he was glad to learn the truth as well.

“Everybody has their great wars,” Weiker said. “They deserve to celebrate it in their own way.”

Neal said she planned to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year the way she usually does — at her great-grandmother’s Vancouver home, spending time with family, eating Mexican dishes and not drinking.

“Now that I know people don’t know the history, I’m going to start telling them about it,” Neal said.

Beyond Cerveza: The Real History of Cinco de Mayo

By Allison Ford @ Divine Caroline:

As Americans, we celebrate plenty of holidays that we don’t fully understand or appreciate. Here’s a pop quiz: What does St. Patrick’s Day actually commemorate? What is the real significance of Mardi Gras? Both festivals have legitimate origins, but nowadays they seem to be just two more excuses to dress up in funny hats and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Many people also love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but how many of us know what the holiday really stands for?

Most Americans assume that Cinco de Mayo honors the day of Mexican independence, but that’s not correct. Far from being the Mexican version of our Fourth of July, it’s actually more like the Mexican version of Columbus Day, a holiday acknowledged by a few people but completely ignored by the majority. It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862, when Mexican forces, despite being badly outnumbered, defeated the invading French army. The battle would not even be considered historically significant except for the fact that the Mexicans’ underdog win became a great source of national pride, and because it marks the last time any foreign army invaded North American soil.

In Mexico, it’s considered a regional celebration, observed in the state of Puebla but not many other places. It’s not even an official federal holiday. But Americans have embraced Cinco de Mayo and everything that accompanies it—mostly the music, the food, and, of course, the cerveza.

Drink-o de Mayo
The holiday started to gain steam in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s. As an increasing number of Hispanic immigrants found their culture underrepresented in schools and in public life, people looked for ways to acknowledge and celebrate Hispanic heritage, and companies looked for ways to increase sales and promote their products. What started out as smallish gatherings in cities with large Hispanic populations turned into a new national holiday, celebrated with far more vigor in the United States than anywhere in Mexico. Some have suggested that Cinco de Mayo, rather than the real Mexican Independence Day (September 16), was presented as the more palatable of the two holidays to white Americans because it didn’t have the anti-imperialist sentiment that many Independence Day celebrations did.

Just as “everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day,” beer companies encourage everyone to embrace Mexican heritage on this day, which results in consumers of all races and nationalities buying Mexican beer, liquor, and food. As the Hispanic population continues to grow, and more and more people develop a taste for Mexican food and beverages, the holiday becomes more mainstream. Corona Extra is now the number-one imported beer in the United States, and May 5 has become a recognized party holiday, just like St. Patrick’s Day or Mardi Gras, often with a buildup of a month or longer. Other companies have gotten in on the Cinco action, too, including Frito-Lay companies, with their salsa and guacamole products, and even American brewers looking to steal some of the market away from Corona, Tecate, and Dos Equis.


Growing Population, Growing Dilemma
People of Hispanic descent don’t always appreciate the blatant co-opting of their culture for the sake of partying and profits. Just as many Americans are offended by the commercialization of Christmas, some Mexicans feel that it’s disrespectful to use their nation’s history as a cheap excuse to hit up happy hour. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a growing number want to take back the holiday, returning it to a celebration that focuses on family and culture, instead of on tequila and taquitos. As the holiday’s profile broadens, communities are becoming just as likely to see family-friendly festivals that include traditional music, food, storytelling, and dancing as they are to see out-of-control bar crowds.

Another growing concern is how the holiday’s marketers disproportionally target young Hispanics. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that young Latinos and Latinas are exposed to more alcohol advertising than their adult counterparts. Major brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Coors even have entire divisions specializing in marketing to Hispanics. The result is that Hispanic adolescents are more likely to drink and get drunk than their peers of other racial groups, and they’re more likely to start drinking at an early age. The companies encourage young Hispanics to see the celebration of Cinco de Mayo (and its many inebriated revelers) as a matter of ethnic pride, and because Hispanics are the fastest-growing group of immigrants, it’s easy to imagine that this targeted marketing is a strategy to develop customers for life.

St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day for the patron saint of Ireland. Mardi Gras is a celebration that leads up to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty days of Lent. Cinco de Mayo may not be the holiday people thought it was, but it still honors an event of which Mexicans are rightly proud. Every holiday can be turned into an excuse to overindulge, but as you raise your glass in a toast this May 5, don’t forget that the celebration has origins that extend far beyond mariachi music and margaritas.

Via http://www.divinecaroline.com/22360/97907-cerveza-real-history-cinco-de#ixzz1LVSGeVMK


FCC Approves Comcast-NBC Merger

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Oldspeak: ” COMING SOON! Higher Cable bills and subscription costs! ‘At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with more control over the production and distribution of news and other programming.” -Sen. Bernie Sanders.’  Beautiful example of A “Regulatory Agency” captured by the industry it’s supposed be be regulating, doing the industry’s bidding, forsaking the public interest/greater good to the tune of 2.4 BILLION in additional costs to the consumer.”

From Nadia Prupis @ Truthout:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a conditions-based merger between Comcast and NBC on Tuesday. After months of heated debate over the potential consequences to net neutrality, a 4-to-1 vote by the FCC sealed Comcast’s acquisition of NBC. The Department of Justice (DOJ) also announced its approval of the deal.

Now, with 51 percent of the stake in NBC Universal (NBCU), Comcast will own the majority of the network’s channels, including CNBC and Bravo, as well as the Universal Pictures movie studio.

Comcast will also be able to maintain partial ownership of Hulu.com, but must “relinquish its managerial rights,” according to a DOJ press release. “Without such remedy, Comcast could, through its seats on Hulu’s board of directors, interfere with the management of Hulu, and, in particular, the development of products that compete with Comcast’s video service. Comcast also must continue to make NBCU content available to Hulu that is comparable to the programming Hulu obtains from Disney and News Corp.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski included several provisions in the commission’s approval statement to note the importance of net neutrality as the country’s biggest cable company takes control of a large broadcast network.

“As part of the merger, Comcast-NBCU will be required to take affirmative steps to foster competition in the video marketplace,” the FCC approval letter read. “In addition, Comcast-NBCU will increase news coverage to viewers; expand children’s programming; enhance the diversity of programming available to Spanish-speaking viewers; offer broadband services to low-income Americans are reduced monthly prices; and provide high-speed broadband to schools, libraries and underserved communities, among other public benefits.”

Comcast will also have to abide by the FCC’s recently-approved net neutrality regulations, even if Congress repeals it, and must offer customers the option of ordering Internet service separately from a cable bundle – but only for the next seven years.

The restrictions enforce Comcast in providing content to some online distributors, but not all. Comcast will be able to continue withholding its content from some competitors, like Google TV.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps opposed the vote. The deal “reaches into virtually every corner of our media and digital landscapes and will affect every citizen in the land,” Copps said in a statement. “It confers too much power in one company’s hands.”

Join the movement for truth – support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), a longtime critic of the merger for over a year, called the deal a “tremendous disappointment.”

“What we see today is an effort by the FCC to appease the very companies it’s charged with regulating,” Franken stated. “With approval of this merger, the FCC has given a single media conglomerate unprecedented control over the flow of information in America.” Franken, who previously worked for NBC on “Saturday Night Live,” said last February at a Judiciary Committee hearing that his experience with the network led him to distrust promises that the two media companies had made.

Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney, who leads the DOJ antitrust division, voiced her support of the merger as part of an “open and fair marketplace.”

“The Antitrust Division conducted a thorough investigation of the Comcast and NBC Universal joint venture to examine the competitive effects of the transaction,” Varney said in a statement.

Josh Silver, president of media watchdog group Free Press, disagreed that the merger will help maintain a public and competitive market. “This deal will give Comcast unprecedented control over both media content and the physical network that delivers it,” Silver stated. “While the FCC has adopted conditions, they are insufficient short-term or voluntary fixes that will fail to prevent permanent harm to competition, consumer choice and the future of the Internet.”

In April 2010, an appeals court cast doubt on the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet, rejecting the commission’s 2008 cease-and-desist case against Comcast, which had been accused of slowing and eventually prohibiting BitTorrent transfers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who called for the end of the merger after Keith Olbermann’s suspension last year, said the FCC and the DOJ “ignored their mandates to protect the public interest and preserve competition” by approving the deal. “At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with more control over the production and distribution of news and other programming.”

The American Cable Association filed a study with the FCC in December estimating that the merger would cost consumers $2.4 billion over a nine-year period, due to higher monthly cable bills and subscription costs. Comcast rejected the study on the grounds that it was a “flawed analysis” that relied on unsupported calculations.


So Young and So Many Pills: Over 25% Of Kids And Teens In The U.S. Take Prescriptions Drugs On A Regular Basis

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Oldspeak:” A vastly expanded and globalized pharmaceutical industry always requires new test subjects- err.. I mean “customers” to sell their “medicine” to. And they’re getting younger and younger. 8 year olds on blood pressure meds. 4 year olds on powerful anti-psychotics. Our children are part of the largest uncontrolled experiment in history. No one really knows the long term health effects of exposing still developing brains to questionably tested drugs that alter brain chemistry. Never mind the psychological effects of socializing the use of pharmaceutical “cures” and unnatural response to illness, rather than dealing with the unseen societal conditions that cause them.”

From Anna Wilde Mathews @ The Wall Street Journal:

Gage Martindale, who is 8 years old, has been taking a blood-pressure drug since he was a toddler. “I want to be healthy, and I don’t want things in my heart to go wrong,” he says.

And, of course, his mom is always there to check Gage’s blood pressure regularly with a home monitor, and to make sure the second-grader doesn’t skip a dose of his once-a-day enalapril.



These days, the medicine cabinet is truly a family affair. More than a quarter of U.S. kids and teens are taking a medication on a chronic basis, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., the biggest U.S. pharmacy-benefit manager with around 65 million members. Nearly 7% are on two or more such drugs, based on the company’s database figures for 2009.

Doctors and parents warn that prescribing medications to children can be problematic. There is limited research available about many drugs’ effects in kids. And health-care providers and families need to be vigilant to assess the medicines’ impact, both intended and not. Although the effects of some medications, like cholesterol-lowering statins, have been extensively researched in adults, the consequences of using such drugs for the bulk of a patient’s lifespan are little understood.

Many medications kids take on a regular basis are well known, including treatments for asthma and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But children and teens are also taking a wide variety of other medications once considered only to be for adults, from statins to diabetes pills and sleep drugs, according to figures provided to The Wall Street Journal by IMS Health, a research firm. Prescriptions for antihypertensives in people age 19 and younger could hit 5.5 million this year if the trend though September continues, according to IMS. That would be up 17% from 2007, the earliest year available.

Researchers attribute the wide usage in part to doctors and parents becoming more aware of drugs as an option for kids. Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise among children, which lead to too much weight gain and obesity, also fuel the use of some treatments, such as those for hypertension. And some conditions are likely caught and treated earlier as screening and diagnosis efforts improve.

Gage, who isn’t overweight, has been on hypertension drugs since he had surgery to fix a heart defect as a toddler, says his mother, Stefanie Martindale, a Conway, Ark., marketing-company manager.

Most medications that could be prescribed to children on a chronic basis haven’t been tested specifically in kids, says Danny Benjamin, a Duke University pediatrics professor. And older drugs rarely get examined, since pharmaceutical firms have little incentive to test medicines once they are no longer under patent protection.

Still, a growing number of studies have been done under a Food and Drug Administration program that rewards drug companies for testing medications in children. In more than a third of these studies, there have been surprising side effects, or results that suggested a smaller or larger dose was needed than had been expected, Dr. Benjamin says. Those findings underscore that children’s reactions to medicines can be very different than those of adults. Long-term effects of drugs in kids are almost never known, since pediatric studies, like those in adults, tend to be relatively short.

“We know we’re making errors in dosing and safety,” says Dr. Benjamin, who is leading a new National Institutes of Health initiative to study drugs in children. He suggests that parents should do as much research as they can to understand the evidence for the medicine, confirm the diagnosis, and identify side effects. Among the places to check: drug labels and other resources on the FDA’s website, published research at www.pubmed.gov, and clinical guidelines from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When a child psychiatrist diagnosed their then 8-year-old daughter with bipolar disorder four years ago, Ken and Joy Lewis, of Chapel Hill, N.C., sought a second opinion from another child psychiatrist.

They also worked with a psychologist. Dr. Lewis, who leads a company that does early-stage drug studies, reads all the available research on each medication suggested for the girl, now 12, who has taken antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications including Risperdal and Haldol.

“If your child has a chronic problem, then you have to invest the time as a parent,” he says.

Parents and doctors also say nondrug alternatives should be explored where possible. Tom Wells, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who sees patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, frequently pushes diet and exercise changes before drugs for hypertensive kids. “Obesity is really the biggest cause I see for high blood pressure in adolescents,” he says. But only about 10% of families adhere to his diet and exercise recommendations, he says.

Beverly Pizzano, a psychologist who lives in Palm Harbor, Fla., spent years struggling with behavioral therapies for her son Steven, 10, who showed symptoms of ADHD at a young age. She worked with a counselor on a system of rewards for good behavior, and even had a research team watch him and suggest interventions. But she turned to medications after he struggled in kindergarten. “We tried everything before I would get to that,” she says.

After a drug is prescribed, children must be closely monitored, doctors say. They may not recognize or communicate a possible side effect, or whether their symptoms are improving. They also don’t always follow prescription instructions.

Robert Lemanske, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, says patients at his pediatric asthma clinic are checked regularly for side effects such as slowed rates of growth. He quizzes parents and young patients on details like where they keep their inhalers to make sure they’re taking their prescribed medicine.

Nichole Ramsey, a preschool teacher whose 9-year-old son Antwone is a patient at the clinic, watches her son’s basketball practices so she can head off any wheezing or other symptoms. She also makes sure she’s around when he gets his regular Advair dose. If Antwone stays at a friend’s house overnight, she asks the parents to watch that he takes steps like rinsing out his mouth to avoid a fungal infection that can be a side effect of the inhaled drug.

“You’re still the best monitor of what’s going on with them,” she says of a parent’s role.

Ms. Ramsey is particularly concerned about Advair, which has been tied to rare instances of asthma-related death, but says it works better than a previous drug he was using. Before he started the medications, Antwone was hospitalized several times for asthma attacks.

As children’s bodies change and grow, they often need different drugs or doses, says Greg Kearns, chairman of medical research at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Jennifer Flory, a homemaker in Baldwin City, Kan., says that after her daughter Cassandra, now 16, started taking a higher dose of the asthma drug Singulair a few years ago, she became more moody and sad. Ms. Flory didn’t connect the change to the drug, but when she eventually mentioned it to a nurse practitioner at the girl’s asthma clinic, the nurse suggested stopping Singulair, which currently has a precaution in its label about possible psychiatric side effects. Cassandra, who continued taking Advair, became far more cheerful and didn’t have any increase in asthma symptoms, Ms. Flory says.

A spokesman for Merck & Co., which makes Singulair, said in a statement that the company is “confident in the efficacy and safety of Singulair,” which is “an important treatment option for appropriate patients.”

Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at anna.mathews@wsj.com

Over Half a Million U.S. Kids Per Year Suffer Health Reactions From Prescription Drugs

From David Gutierez @ Food Matters:

More than half a million children suffer adverse reactions every year in the United States from prescription drugs, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers examined data on emergency room and clinic visits between the years of 1995 and 2005 by children under the age of 18. The average number of children receiving treatment for adverse prescription drug effects each year in that time period was 585,922. The number fluctuated very little from year to year.

Adverse drug events included accidental overdoses, side effects and wrong prescriptions.

Prior research has found that another half million children suffer adverse prescription drug reactions every year while in hospitals, bringing the total annual number of adverse drug effects in children up to more than one million. These numbers do not include negative reactions to over-the-counter drugs.

Researchers in the current study uncovered no reports of deaths caused by adverse drug reactions, but 5 percent of children did require hospitalization. Forty-three percent of the adverse reactions occurred in children under the age of five, with another 23 percent occurring in those between the ages of 15 and 18.

The most common causes of adverse effects in young children were prescription antibiotics. Some of the more common side effects were diarrhea, rash and stomach ache. Birth control pills were a common cause of side effects in teenagers, producing problems such as nausea, vomiting and disrupted menstrual cycles.

Drugs for depression and cancer were also significant causes of negative reactions.

According to lead author Florence Bourgeois, doctors need to inform parents of the possible side effects of any drugs children are given. Parents should watch their children especially carefully when a new drug is taken, she said, because “first-time medication exposures may reveal an allergic reaction.”


Your Apps Are Watching You

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Oldspeak: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room…. Yes your most beloved possession is a tracking device, transmitting your private data to parties unknown who use it to flesh out detailed dossiers on you, while marketers are using it in an attempt to sell you shit you don’t need. A WSJ Investigation finds that iPhone and Android apps are breaching the privacy of smartphone users”

From  SCOTT THURM and YUKARI IWATANI KANE @ The Wall Street Journal:

Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner’s real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off.

These phones don’t keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

WSJ’s Julia Angwin explains to Simon Constable how smartphone apps collect and broadcast data about your habits. Many don’t have privacy policies and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Among the apps tested, the iPhone apps transmitted more data than the apps on phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Because of the test’s size, it’s not known if the pattern holds among the hundreds of thousands of apps available.

Apps sharing the most information included TextPlus 4, a popular iPhone app for text messaging. It sent the phone’s unique ID number to eight ad companies and the phone’s zip code, along with the user’s age and gender, to two of them.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone’s ID number to at least five ad companies. Grindr, an iPhone app for meeting gay men, sent gender, location and phone ID to three ad companies.

“In the world of mobile, there is no anonymity,” says Michael Becker of the Mobile Marketing Association, an industry trade group. A cellphone is “always with us. It’s always on.”

The Journal’s Cellphone Testing Methodology

The Wall Street Journal analyzed 50 popular applications, or “apps,” on each of the iPhone and Android operating systems to see what information about the phones, their users and their locations the apps send to themselves and to outsiders. More >

iPhone maker Apple Inc. says it reviews each app before offering it to users. Both Apple and Google say they protect users by requiring apps to obtain permission before revealing certain kinds of information, such as location.

“We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data,” says Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr. “Privacy and trust are vitally important.”

The Journal found that these rules can be skirted. One iPhone app, Pumpkin Maker (a pumpkin-carving game), transmits location to an ad network without asking permission. Apple declines to comment on whether the app violated its rules.

Smartphone users are all but powerless to limit the tracking. With few exceptions, app users can’t “opt out” of phone tracking, as is possible, in limited form, on regular computers. On computers it is also possible to block or delete “cookies,” which are tiny tracking files. These techniques generally don’t work on cellphone apps.

The makers of TextPlus 4, Pandora and Grindr say the data they pass on to outside firms isn’t linked to an individual’s name. Personal details such as age and gender are volunteered by users, they say. The maker of Pumpkin Maker says he didn’t know Apple required apps to seek user approval before transmitting location. The maker of Paper Toss didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Many apps don’t offer even a basic form of consumer protection: written privacy policies. Forty-five of the 101 apps didn’t provide privacy policies on their websites or inside the apps at the time of testing. Neither Apple nor Google requires app privacy policies.

To expose the information being shared by smartphone apps, the Journal designed a system to intercept and record the data they transmit, then decoded the data stream. The research covered 50 iPhone apps and 50 on phones using Google’s Android operating system. (Methodology at WSJ.com/WTK.)

The Journal also tested its own iPhone app; it didn’t send information to outsiders. The Journal doesn’t have an Android phone app.

Among all apps tested, the most widely shared detail was the unique ID number assigned to every phone. It is effectively a “supercookie,” says Vishal Gurbuxani, co-founder of Mobclix Inc., an exchange for mobile advertisers.

On iPhones, this number is the “UDID,” or Unique Device Identifier. Android IDs go by other names. These IDs are set by phone makers, carriers or makers of the operating system, and typically can’t be blocked or deleted.

“The great thing about mobile is you can’t clear a UDID like you can a cookie,” says Meghan O’Holleran of Traffic Marketplace, an Internet ad network that is expanding into mobile apps. “That’s how we track everything.”

Ms. O’Holleran says Traffic Marketplace, a unit of Epic Media Group, monitors smartphone users whenever it can. “We watch what apps you download, how frequently you use them, how much time you spend on them, how deep into the app you go,” she says. She says the data is aggregated and not linked to an individual.

The main companies setting ground rules for app data-gathering have big stakes in the ad business. The two most popular platforms for new U.S. smartphones are Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Google and Apple also run the two biggest services, by revenue, for putting ads on mobile phones.

Apple and Google ad networks let advertisers target groups of users. Both companies say they don’t track individuals based on the way they use apps.

Apple limits what can be installed on an iPhone by requiring iPhone apps to be offered exclusively through its App Store. Apple reviews those apps for function, offensiveness and other criteria.

Apple says iPhone apps “cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user’s prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used.” Many apps tested by the Journal appeared to violate that rule, by sending a user’s location to ad networks, without informing users. Apple declines to discuss how it interprets or enforces the policy.

Phones running Google’s Android operating system are made by companies including Motorola Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Google doesn’t review the apps, which can be downloaded from many vendors. Google says app makers “bear the responsibility for how they handle user information.”

Google requires Android apps to notify users, before they download the app, of the data sources the app intends to access. Possible sources include the phone’s camera, memory, contact list, and more than 100 others. If users don’t like what a particular app wants to access, they can choose not to install the app, Google says.

“Our focus is making sure that users have control over what apps they install, and notice of what information the app accesses,” a Google spokesman says.

Neither Apple nor Google requires apps to ask permission to access some forms of the device ID, or to send it to outsiders. When smartphone users let an app see their location, apps generally don’t disclose if they will pass the location to ad companies.

Lack of standard practices means different companies treat the same information differently. For example, Apple says that, internally, it treats the iPhone’s UDID as “personally identifiable information.” That’s because, Apple says, it can be combined with other personal details about people—such as names or email addresses—that Apple has via the App Store or its iTunes music services. By contrast, Google and most app makers don’t consider device IDs to be identifying information.

A growing industry is assembling this data into profiles of cellphone users. Mobclix, the ad exchange, matches more than 25 ad networks with some 15,000 apps seeking advertisers. The Palo Alto, Calif., company collects phone IDs, encodes them (to obscure the number), and assigns them to interest categories based on what apps people download and how much time they spend using an app, among other factors.

By tracking a phone’s location, Mobclix also makes a “best guess” of where a person lives, says Mr. Gurbuxani, the Mobclix executive. Mobclix then matches that location with spending and demographic data from Nielsen Co.

In roughly a quarter-second, Mobclix can place a user in one of 150 “segments” it offers to advertisers, from “green enthusiasts” to “soccer moms.” For example, “die hard gamers” are 15-to-25-year-old males with more than 20 apps on their phones who use an app for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Mobclix says its system is powerful, but that its categories are broad enough to not identify individuals. “It’s about how you track people better,” Mr. Gurbuxani says.

Some app makers have made changes in response to the findings. At least four app makers posted privacy policies after being contacted by the Journal, including Rovio Mobile Ltd., the Finnish company behind the popular game Angry Birds (in which birds battle egg-snatching pigs). A spokesman says Rovio had been working on the policy, and the Journal inquiry made it a good time to unveil it.

Free and paid versions of Angry Birds were tested on an iPhone. The apps sent the phone’s UDID and location to the Chillingo unit of Electronic Arts Inc., which markets the games. Chillingo says it doesn’t use the information for advertising and doesn’t share it with outsiders.

Apps have been around for years, but burst into prominence when Apple opened its App Store in July 2008. Today, the App Store boasts more than 300,000 programs.

Other phone makers, including BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. and Nokia Corp., quickly built their own app stores. Google’s Android Market, which opened later in 2008, has more than 100,000 apps. Market researcher Gartner Inc. estimates that world-wide app sales this year will total $6.7 billion.

Many developers offer apps for free, hoping to profit by selling ads inside the app. Noah Elkin of market researcher eMarketer says some people “are willing to tolerate advertising in apps to get something for free.” Of the 101 apps tested, the paid apps generally sent less data to outsiders.

Ad sales on phones account for less than 5% of the $23 billion in annual Internet advertising. But spending on mobile ads is growing faster than the market overall.

Central to this growth: the ad networks whose business is connecting advertisers with apps. Many ad networks offer software “kits” that automatically insert ads into an app. The kits also track where users spend time inside the app.

Some developers feel pressure to release more data about people. Max Binshtok, creator of the DailyHoroscope Android app, says ad-network executives encouraged him to transmit users’ locations.

Mr. Binshtok says he declined because of privacy concerns. But ads targeted by location bring in two to five times as much money as untargeted ads, Mr. Binshtok says. “We are losing a lot of revenue.”

Other apps transmitted more data. The Android app for social-network site MySpace sent age and gender, along with a device ID, to Millennial Media, a big ad network.

In its software-kit instructions, Millennial Media lists 11 types of information about people that developers may transmit to “help Millennial provide more relevant ads.” They include age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views. In a re-test with a more complete profile, MySpace also sent a user’s income, ethnicity and parental status.

A spokesman says MySpace discloses in its privacy policy that it will share details from user profiles to help advertisers provide “more relevant ads.” My Space is a unit of News Corp., which publishes the Journal. Millennial did not respond to requests for comment on its software kit.

App makers transmitting data say it is anonymous to the outside firms that receive it. “There is no real-life I.D. here,” says Joel Simkhai, CEO of Nearby Buddy Finder LLC, the maker of the Grindr app for gay men. “Because we are not tying [the information] to a name, I don’t see an area of concern.”

Scott Lahman, CEO of TextPlus 4 developer Gogii Inc., says his company “is dedicated to the privacy of our users. We do not share personally identifiable information or message content.” A Pandora spokeswoman says, “We use listener data in accordance with our privacy policy,” which discusses the app’s data use, to deliver relevant advertising. When a user registers for the first time, the app asks for email address, gender, birth year and ZIP code.

Google was the biggest data recipient in the tests. Its AdMob, AdSense, Analytics and DoubleClick units collectively heard from 38 of the 101 apps. Google, whose ad units operate on both iPhones and Android phones, says it doesn’t mix data received by these units.

Google’s main mobile-ad network is AdMob, which it bought this year for $750 million. AdMob lets advertisers target phone users by location, type of device and “demographic data,” including gender or age group.

A Google spokesman says AdMob targets ads based on what it knows about the types of people who use an app, phone location, and profile information a user has submitted to the app. “No profile of the user, their device, where they’ve been or what apps they’ve downloaded, is created or stored,” he says.

Apple operates its iAd network only on the iPhone. Eighteen of the 51 iPhone apps sent information to Apple.

Apple targets ads to phone users based largely on what it knows about them through its App Store and iTunes music service. The targeting criteria can include the types of songs, videos and apps a person downloads, according to an Apple ad presentation reviewed by the Journal. The presentation named 103 targeting categories, including: karaoke, Christian/gospel music, anime, business news, health apps, games and horror movies.

People familiar with iAd say Apple doesn’t track what users do inside apps and offers advertisers broad categories of people, not specific individuals.

Apple has signaled that it has ideas for targeting people more closely. In a patent application filed this past May, Apple outlined a system for placing and pricing ads based on a person’s “web history or search history” and “the contents of a media library.” For example, home-improvement advertisers might pay more to reach a person who downloaded do-it-yourself TV shows, the document says.

The patent application also lists another possible way to target people with ads: the contents of a friend’s media library.

How would Apple learn who a cellphone user’s friends are, and what kinds of media they prefer? The patent says Apple could tap “known connections on one or more social-networking websites” or “publicly available information or private databases describing purchasing decisions, brand preferences,” and other data. In September, Apple introduced a social-networking service within iTunes, called Ping, that lets users share music preferences with friends. Apple declined to comment.

Tech companies file patents on blue-sky concepts all the time, and it isn’t clear whether Apple will follow through on these ideas. If it did, it would be an evolution for Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who has spoken out against intrusive tracking. At a tech conference in June, he complained about apps “that want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up.”

—Tom McGinty and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries contributed to this report.

 

Businesses Do Not Create Jobs

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Oldspeak: “A brilliant piece that explodes the myth that Obama hasn’t done anything to create jobs. Government and business do not create jobs.  Business wants to kill jobs, not create them. Businesses in our economy exist to create profits, not jobs. When Government is dominated by people who only act in the interest of business, it is devastating to society as a whole. This scenario is being played out right now.”

From Dave Johnson @ Campaign For America’s Future:

Businesses do not create jobs. In fact, the way our economy is structured the incentive is for businesses to get rid of as many jobs as they can.

Demand Creates Jobs

A job is created when demand for goods or services is greater than the existing ability to provide them. When there is a demand, people will see the need and fill it. Either someone will start filling the demand alone, or form a new business to fill it or an existing provider of the good or service will add employees as needed. (Actually a job can be created by a business, a government, a non-profit organization or just a person doing the job, depending on the nature of the good or service that is required.)

So a demand creates a job. A person who sees that houses on a block need their lawns mowed might go door to door and say they will mow the lawn for $10. When houses start saying “Yes, I need my lawn mowed” a job has been created!

Demand also creates businesses. The person who is filling demand by mowing lawns for people might after a while have a regular circuit of houses that want their lawns mowed every week, and will buy a truck and a new mower and hire someone to help. A business is born!

Businesses Want To Kill Jobs, Not Create Them

Many people wrongly think that businesses create jobs. They see that a job is usually at a business, so they think that therefore the business “created” the job. This thinking leads to wrongheaded ideas like the current one that giving tax cuts to businesses will create jobs, because the businesses will have more money. But an efficiently-run business will already have the right number of employees. When a business sees that more people are coming in the door (demand) than there are employees to serve them, they hire people to serve the customers. When a business sees that not enough people are coming in the door and employees are sitting around reading the newspaper, they lay people off. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

Businesses have more incentives to eliminate jobs than to create them. Businesses in our economy exist to create profits, not jobs. This means the incentive is for a business to create as few jobs as possible at the lowest possible cost. They also constantly strive to reduce the number of people they employ by bringing in machines, outsourcing or finding other ways to reduce the payroll. This is called “cutting costs” which leads to higher profits. The same incentive also pushes the business to pay as little as possible when they do hire. (It also pushes businesses to cut worker safety protections, cut product quality, cut customer service, “externalize” costs by polluting, etc.)

This obviously works against the interests of the larger society, which wants lots of good jobs with good pay. And businesses, while working to cut jobs and pay less, need other businesses to hire lots of people and pay well, because that is what creates the demand that makes all the businesses work.

Government To The Rescue

This is where government comes in. Government is We, the People, working for that larger societal interest. In our current system — when it works — we use government to come up with ways to balance the effects of the profit motive — which pushes for fewer jobs at lower pay — with our larger need for more jobs at higher pay for us, and for the good of all the businesses. We, through our government, create and regulate the “playing field” on which businesses operate. We set minimum wages, limits on working hours, worker safety rules and other rules designed to keep that balance between profit incentive and demand, and that playing field level. (We also provide the infrastructure of roads, schools, courts, etc. that is what makes our businesses competetive with businesses in other countries. The individual interest in paying less taxes for this has to be balanced with the larger interest that we all pay more for this, but that is another post, titled, “Tax Cuts Are Theft.”)

Corrupted

Obviously businesses in our system must be kept from having any ability whatsoever to influence government decision-making in any way, or the system breaks down. When businesses are able to influence government, they will influence government in ways that provide themselves – and only themselves – with more profits, meaning lower costs, meaning fewer jobs at worse pay and not protecting workers, the environment or other businesses. And, they will fight to keep their ability to influence government, using the resulting wealth gains to increase their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government …

Unfortunately this is the system as it is today.

Business Culture And The Death Of Public Education: The Triumph Of Management Over Leadership

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Oldspeak: “Management divorced from leadership privatizes hope, deskills teachers, treats students as consumers and exhibits an utter disdain for any mode of knowledge that cannot be reduced to empirical forms of measurement. It is more concerned with training than educating, and it increasingly relies on punishment models of governance when dealing with teachers and unions while simultaneously using harsh disciplinary measures against those students viewed as disposable because they are poor, black, or viewed as flawed learners.”

From Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

The recent news that Mayor Bloomberg has anointed Cathleen P. Black, the chairwomen of Hearst Magazines, as the new chancellor of the New York City school system is another high profile example of how much business elites in the United States despise public education and its traditional role as a guardian of civic values, democratic politics and public culture. It appears that Black’s only suitability for the job is that she has “extraordinary qualifications as a manager,” has “marketing prowess” and has participated “in a mentor day with Michelle Obama at a Detroit public school and, several years ago, [served] as ‘principal for a day’ in a school in the south Bronx.”(1) This appointment could provide fodder for a skit for “Saturday Night Live” if it were not both true and tragic. Of course, there is a larger script here that points to the increasing power of corporate leaders and a business elite to eviscerate from public schooling any vestige of public values, democratic modes of governance, teacher autonomy, critical thinking and a vision of schooling as a space in which to teach students to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. Within this stripped-down view of schooling, enlightened self-interest, efficiency and market-driven values rule. In this view, management is divorced from any viable sense of leadership and the connection between schooling and the public good is replaced with a business model of schooling that disregards both the social and any vision not defined by the crudest forms of power, instrumental rationality and mathematical utility.

It is important to note that the business culture at work here not only reduces all social bonds to market relations, it also gives us shocking levels of inequality, impoverishment and a market morality that issued in the second Gilded Age with its ode to rapacious greed, moral impoverishment and an utter indifference to the massive hardships and suffering it produced globally with the economic recession of 2008. Management divorced from leadership privatizes hope, deskills teachers, treats students as consumers and exhibits an utter disdain for any mode of knowledge that cannot be reduced to empirical forms of measurement. It is more concerned with training than educating, and it increasingly relies on punishment models of governance when dealing with teachers and unions while simultaneously using harsh disciplinary measures against those students viewed as disposable because they are poor, black, or viewed as flawed learners. The mode of authority at work in this type of management is not simply punitive and overly dictatorial; it is also a caricature of a viable notion of leadership and social vision. It does not lead, but tramples, bullies and uses fear as its modus operandi. This is a mode of authority and management that believes that money is the only incentive for working hard, making knowledge meaningful and understanding the dynamics of learning. The egoism and cult of efficiency and materialism that informs this view of schooling and the world has no way of recognizing anti-democratic tendencies in the culture, has no language for recognizing how private troubles are related to social problems, ignores ethical issues, and lacks the slightest insight into what it means to educate young people as critical citizens.

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Business management of the market fundamentalist stripe now trumps any trace of a democratic social vision, while corporate and private interests take the place of public values and notions of the collective good. Unfortunately, the real story here is not about outsiders from the business world with little classroom or educational experience being appointed to positions of leadership in public schools systems. On the contrary, it represents the rise of a market-driven culture and apparatus of power that fills the void in a society in which informed memory is under siege and neoliberal pedagogy permeates every aspect of the cultural apparatus. Bloomberg’s actions once again suggest the power of a business culture and corporate class that despises debate, hates the formative culture that makes democracy possible and is willing to strip public education of all of those values and practices that suggest that it might serve as a democratic public sphere for generations of young people. Under this market-driven notion of schooling, management has been embraced as a Petri dish for stripping education of even minimal ethical principles and poses a growing threat to public life and the promise of democracy. Mayor Bloomberg’s notion of management does not identify agencies of change, hope and social responsibility because these are attributes that inform democratic modes of leadership. There is no call to liberate the imagination in his view of management, just the often strident, if not illiterate, attempt to measure knowledge, bestow learning with the most stripped-down capacities and sever teachers and education from any notion of self- and social empowerment and social change. Market-driven notions of management do not mobilize the individual imagination and social visions. On the contrary, they do everything possible to make them irrelevant to the discourse of leadership. Bloomberg’s appointment of an entirely unqualified, former Hearst executive is symptomatic of the crisis of leadership we face currently in the United States, when democratic visions and public values fall into disrepute. In this instance, Bloomberg and the market-driven billionaires who support his view of education are now asking the American people to be proud of what we, in fact, should be ashamed of – the rise of a market-driven business culture that hates democracy and the forms of education that make it possible.


Memo: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch Industries, U.S.Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Beck to Plot 2010 Election

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Oldspeak:“More evidence that plutocracy has replaced democracy in America. Brought to you Koch Industries, News Corp, Amway, Burger King, Aon, Bank of America, Aspect Energy, etc, etc, etc….”

From Lee Fang @ Think Progress:

In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). (David Koch praised DeMint and gave him a “Washington Award” shortly after the senator promised to “break” Obama by making health reform his “Waterloo.”)

While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since theWatergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:

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– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform, including Allan Hubbard of A & E Industries, a manufacturer of medical devices and Judson Green, a board member of health insurance conglomerate Aon, were present at the meeting. Other businessmen at the meeting, like Omaha Burger King franchiser Mike Simmonds, are owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees. Many corporate attendees of the meeting represent the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform. For instance, attendee Bill Cooper is the CEO of TCF Financial, a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry. Cooper recently filed a lawsuitchallenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform. Other financial industry players in the meeting hail from firms ranging from Bank of America, JLM Investment, Allied Capital Corp, AMG National Trust, the Blackstone Group and Citadel Investment. Annie Dickerson, a representative of Paul Singer, a powerful hedge fund manager who also gives tens of millions to Republican causes, was present. In addition, Koch Industries itself has a hedge fund and other financial derivative products in its portfolio of interests, which include oil pipelines, coal shipping, asphalt, refineries, consumer goods, timber, ranching, and chemicals.

– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform. The meeting included oil executives from Aspect Energy, Murfin Drilling, Anschutz Company, GeoPark Holdings, Smoky Oil, and several members of Koch’s various subsidiaries. The meeting documents explicitly state that funding efforts to curb “climate change alarmism” were discussed.

– Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting. So did Gretchen Hamel, a former Bush flak who now runs an attack ad group called “Public Notice” that runs ad which denounce spending programs.

– Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage ofCitizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama. Americans for Prosperity, founded and financed by David Koch, has a field team of over 80 campaign staffers spread out around the country, and additionally plans to spend $45 million dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats. Shortly before the planning meeting, Crow authored a campaign financememo explaining that because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, he advised specifically that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) and Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) can “now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting specific candidates” and corporations can aggressively pressure their employees to vote a certain way.

 

The memo notes that participants in the 2010 election planning meeting “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

Interestingly, the Koch meetings are managed by Kevin Gentry, an executive who doubles as a staffer in the Koch Industries lobbying office in Washington and as the key point person who helps deliver Koch charitable foundation grants. As ThinkProgress hasdocumented, Koch Industries has dramatically boosted its own profits by using conservative front groups to manipulate public policy. The fusion between the “intellectual” conservative movement and big businesses opposed to regulations and accountability has a history in America dating back to the New Deal. During the thirties, the Du Pont family and other wealthy interests organized an assortment of “Liberty League” front groups to try to defeat New Deal agenda items and repeal President Roosevelt’s Social Security program. Now, corporations fund groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — both had representatives at the Koch meeting — to further their lobbying agenda. The American Enterprise Institute even changed its name from the New Deal-era American Enterprise Association to try todispel the notion that they were nothing more than a glorified business trade association.

As the memo states, Beck has addressed this regular gathering of conservative corporate executives in previous years. Past Koch meetings have included various Republican lawmakers, including DeMint, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia as speakers.

After ThinkProgess published its exclusive investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealing that the Chamber has been actively fundraising from foreign corporations for its 501(c)(6) account used to run a $75 million attack ad campaign, Chamber lobbyists found common cause with Beck and many of the conservative talking heads. Shortly after our investigation, Beck hosted an on-air fundraiser, asking his audience to give to the Chamber. Casual observers might have been surprised by the Chamber’s swift alliance with Beck (Chamber executives appeared on the Beck radio program and sung Beck’s praises on the Chamber blog), who has compared Obama to Adolf Hitler and called the President a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” By telling his listeners to give money to the Chamber, Beck, who owns a media company worth more than $32 million dollars and an experimental Mercedes Benz, essentially told his working class viewers to give their wages back to their employers. However, Beck never disclosed his long working history of discussing political strategy with America’s largest corporations. The Koch memo clearly shows that Beck has been collaborating with the Chamber, as well as other titans of industry, for years. In his latest appeal for support to the Chamber’s foreign-funded trade association, which already counts JP Morgan and ExxonMobil as dues-paying members, Beck yesterday told his audience that the Chamber simply “defends the little guy.”

Click below to view a letter inviting corporate executives to attend the next Koch meeting in January, along with a list of the sessions held by Koch for the last meeting in June of 2010. An attendee list of the June, 2010 meeting is attached at the bottom of the document:

CAPAF interns Salvatore Colleluori, Riley Waggaman, and Ben Kaldunski contributed to this post.

Some of the donors at the Koch meeting were longtime Bush fundraisers, like Cintas Corporation CEO Dick Farmer and wholesale executive Art Pope. However, many names appear to be relatively new to conservative movement “investment.” Click below for a listing of the attendees

Name(s) Industry Notes
Jack and Rose Marie Anderson Finance Culver Corp, Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation- Financial Advisor
Neil Anderson and Amy Fisher-Smith Runs Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation
Phil and Nancy Anschutz Investment Industrialist, Owner, Weekly Standard, Examiner newspapers
Cliff Asness Investment AQR Capital Management
Nate and Lynda Bachman Finance The Bachman Group-Financial Advisor
Whitney Ball Think Tank Owner of a firm that helps corporations give anonymous gifts to front groups
Michael Barone Media Fox News
Frank and Kathy Baxter Banking Ambassador Frank E. Baxter is Chairman Emeritus of Jefferies and Company, Inc., a global investment bank focusing on mid-cap companies.
Steve and Betty Bechtel Engineering Owns the Bechtel Group (Corporation), Largest engineering company in United States
Glenn Beck Media Fox News
Bernard and Margaret Blasingame Manufacturing President and owner of Aqua Dynamics Systems, Inc
Alan and Lisa Boeckmann Oil CEO Fluor Corporation
Boysie Bollinger Shipping/Commerce Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bollinger Shipyards
Patrick and Paula Broe Real Estate Founder and CEO of Denver-based real estate asset management firm, The Broe Group
Arthur Brooks Think Tank President, American Enterprise Institute
David and Ann Brown Think Tank Heritage Foundation
John Bryan
Bob and Martha Buford Oil C. Robert Buford has been President and owner of Zenith Drilling Corporation
Tim Busch
Shelby and Nell Bush Energy Vice President, Legal and Administration – Hillwood Energy
Tim Carney Media Political Columnist, Washington Examiner
Charlies and Marla Chandler
David Chavern Lobbyist Executive Vice President and COO at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
John Childs Insurance Chairman and CEO of J.W. Childs and Associates
Paul and Lea Clifton Runs Robert and Marie Hansen Family Foundation
Susie Coelhoe Media founder and CEO of Susie Coelho Enterprises Inc.
Bill Cooper and Kristin Tollefson Finance/Banking CEO of TCF Financial
Dino and Joan Cortopassi
Joe Craft Coal Joseph W. Craft III is president, chief executive officer and director of Alliance Resource Partners LP
Alex Cranberg Energy Aspect Holdings, LLC – Chairman
Jeff Crank Americans For Prosperity / Radio Pundit AFP State Director
Karl Crow Policy Analyst Capital Research Center
Eric Crown and Isabella King Technology Sales Sell Technology Equipment
Kevin Crutchfield Coal Kevin S. Crutchfield serves as Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Coal Sales Co., LLC.
Ravenell and Beth Curry
Jim and Shirley Dannenbaum Engineering Mr. Dannenbaum, Chairman of Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation
Veronique de Rugy Think Tank Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center
Rich and Helen DeVos Business Founder and CEO of Amway
Annie Dickerson Business CBRE analyst
Ned and Nancy Diefenthal
Jim and Dorothy Patterson Oil Gulf Stream Petroleum
Dan and Kellie Peters Non-for Profit Daniel S. Peters is president of the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio
Tom Petrie Banking Co-founder of BofA Merrill Lynch Petrie Divestiture Advisors
Dixon and Carol Doll Technology Co-Founder and General Partner of DCM
Karl and Stevie Eller Advertising
Ron and Kris Erickson Retail Ronald A. Erickson is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Holiday Companies
Melvyn and Suellen Estrin Natural Gas Director of WGL Holdings INC
Dick Farmer
Peter Farrell Biomed Founder of Resmed
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Charles Krauthammer Media Washington Post
Jim and Zibbie Ferrell Fuel Oil Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. engages in the distribution and sale of propane and related equipment primarily in the United States.
Dave Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Bob Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Steve Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Jerry and Nanette Finger Banking Managing Partner, Finger Interests LTD
Richard Fink Koch Industries Director of Georgia-Pacific, EVP of Koch Industries
Budd and Lauri Florkiewicz Manufacturing Foam Fabricators
Charlie and Kaye Lynn Fote Finance Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fotec Group LLC
Randy and Jean Foutch Oil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Laredo Petroleum, Inc.
Foster Friess Investment Mr. Foster Stephen Friess is the Founder and Chairman of Friess Associates, LLC
Steve and Polly Friess
Jerry and Leah Fullinwider Energy/Petroleum Vice Chairman, Hillwood International Energy, L.P.
Richard and Leslie Gilliam Coal Richard Gilliam has been President of Cumberland Resources Corporation since 1993.
Susan Gore Think Tank Founder, Wyoming Liberty Group
Oliver and Carolyn Grace Jr. Med and Telecom President and chief executive officer of Anderson Group, Inc.,
Judson and Joyce Green Energy and Med Mr. Judson C. Green is the President and Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ Corp.
Ken and Anne Griffin Investment Banking Founder and CEO of Citadel Investment Group
Gretchen Hamel
Fred and Jane Hamilton Oil Mr. Frederic C. Hamilton served as the President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of BHP Petroleum, Hamilton Oil Company and various Hamilton Oil Corporation subsidiaries and affiliates
Bob and Mary Sue Hawk Communications President of Hawk Communications
Dick and Ethie Haworth Retail Head of Haworth Furniture, Multi-national corporation, 3rd largest corporate furniture company in US
Robin and Barbara Hayes Government Former NC Congressman
Dan and Carolyn Heard Manufacturing Executive Officer of John H. Carter Co.,
Diane Hendricks Manufacturing Husband of Ken Hendricks
Steve and Regina Hennessy Auto Sales Auto Sales
James and Heather Higgins Think Tank Independent Women’s Forum
Paul Hill Oil Paul J. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and has been President of Harvard Developments Inc. since 1978. Mr. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of The Hill Companies.
John and Joan Hotchkis Education Board of Directors for Teach for America UC Berkley
Allan and Kathy Hubbard Chemicals and Manufacturing Founder and Chief Executive Officer, E & A Industries, Inc.
Stan and Karen Hubbard Communications Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.
Ethelmae Humphreys Think Tank Cato Institute
Manley and Mary Johnson Political Consultant
Merritt Johnson
Gerry and Priscilla O’Shaughnessy Oil Gerald Eugene O’Shaughnessy Co-founded Geopark Holding Limited in 2002.
Michael O’Shaunessy Technology Petters Consumer Brands, LLC develops consumer electronics and appliances.
Tim O’Shaughnessy Media Hungry Machine, Inc., doing business as LivingSocial.com, is a social discovery and cataloging network.
Marshall Johnson
Kyle and Kirsten Johnstone
Mike and Beth Kasser Real Estate President, Holualoa Inc
Ken and Randy Kendrick Education/Technology Chairman, Datatel
Phil and Joanna Kerpen Advocacy Group/Think Tank VP of Policy, Americans for Prosperity
Gerry and Kathryn Kingen Restauranteur Red Robin, Happy Guests Int’ll
Scott Kirkpatrick Investor Teton Capital
Charles and Liz Koch Koch Industries
Chase and Annie Koch Koch Industries
David and Julia Koch Koch Industries
Elizabeth Koch Koch Industries
Bob and Cindy Koch Koch Industries
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Dennis Kuester Banking Retired CEO of M&I Bank
Andrew Kupersmith Consultant MD, Cardiology Consultants
Andre Lacy Investment Chairman, Lacy Diversified Industries
Ken and Elaine Langone Retail Invemed, Home Depot
Jay and Sally Lapeyre Services Laitram Corp
Ken and Frayda Levy Investment JLM Investment Mgmt
Tom Love Retail CEO, President, Love’s Country Stores
Bob Luddy Manufacturing President, Captive Aire Systems
Fred and Marlene Malek Investment Management Thayer Capital Partners
Elaine Marshall Homemaker
Pierce Marshall Administrative Management MAROPCO
Preston Marshall
Bill Mayer Health Care MD, Mayer & Cope Family Practice
Glen and Diane Meakem Business Solutions CEO, Freemarkets Inc.
Ed Meese Think Tank Heritage Foundation
Lew and Suzy Meibergen Goods/Services President, Johnston Enterprises/WG Johnston Grain Co
Don and Deede Meyers Attorney Self Employed
Jerry and Caroline Milbank Investment Management CEO/Principal, Milbank Winthrop & Co.
Jack and Goldie Miller Retail CEO/President, Quill Corp.
Mark Mix Advocacy Group President, National Right to Work Committee
Joe and Mary Moeller Koch Industries Vice Chairman
Steve Moore Media member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board
David Murfin Energy President, Murfin Drilling Co.
Walter and Suzette Negley
Mina Nguyen
Larry and Polly Nichols Energy Executive Chairman, Devon Energy Corp
Sean Noble Front Group Americans for Prosperity
Tim and Teresa Oelke Advocacy Group/Construction Teresa – State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Tim – Crossland Construction Corp
Eric O’Keefe Front Group Sam Adams Alliance
Kurt and Nancy Pfotenhauer Media President of MediaSpeak Strategies/former political commentator on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and former Senior Policy Advisor and National Spokesperson with the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign
Tim Phillips Advocacy Group president, Americans for Prosperity
Ramesh Ponnuru Media National Review magazine
Art and Kathy Pope Goods/Services Senior Exec, Variety Wholesaler
Russ Roberts Attorney Roberts, Ashby & Parrish
Corbin and Barbara Robertson Energy President, Quintana Minerals Corp
Richard Roder and Karin Hsu Construction Management CEO, Cmt-Construction Management
Gary and Kathleen Rogers Goods Former CEO, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream
Durk Rorie Manufacturing United Air Specialists
Chris Rufer Goods/Manufacturing Morningstar Company
Peter Schiff and Martha O’Brien Investor Schiff: Euro Pacific Capital Inc.,
Steve and Christine Schwarzman Financial Services CEO/founder, Blackstone Group
Rick and Sherry Sharp Retail Former CEO, Circuit City
Mike and Lin Simmonds Services CEO, Simmonds Restaurant Mgmt
Peter Smith Services CEO, Service Group of America
Dick Strong Investment Services Strong/Corneliuson Capital Mgmt
Michael Sullivan Investment Services CR Intrinsic Investors
Ray and Ladeline Thompson Manufacturing President/CEO, Semitool
Lynn Tilton Investment Management CEO, Patriarch Partners LLC
Dave and Melanie True Oil Partner
Steve Twist Consultant Rose & Allyn PR Consultants
Jim and Gayla Von Ehr Research/Development CEO, Zyvex Corp
Rick and Debra Waller Manufacturing Owner, Rollmeister Inc
Peter Wallison Think Tank Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Bill and Sarah Walton Real Estate Allied Capital Corp
Lew and Myra Ward Oil Ward Petroleum Corporation owns and operates wells. It engages in oil and gas exploration and production. The company was founded in 1963 and is based in Enid, Oklahoma.
Dick Weekley Real Estate Weekley Properties
Fred and Susie Wehba Real Estate Bentley Forbes Real Estate
Nestor Weigand and Darcy Buehler Real Estate JP Weigand & Sons Real Estate
Dick and Mary Beth Weiss Life Insurance Wells Fargo, Hawthorne Rances
Howard and Rhonda Wilkins Insurance Diversified Insurance
Don and Sue Wills Oil
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Larry and Lorraine Winnerman Real Estate Win Win Enterprises
Joe Woodford
Earl Wright Finance AMG Natinal Trust
Karen Wright and Tom Rastin Energy/Manufacturing Tom Rastin, vice president of marketing and engineering, Ariel Corp – Karen Wright, Ariel CEO
Cliff and Susan Yonce Investment Banking Goldman Sachs
Fred and Sandra Young Services Diversified Search, LLC provides senior-level executive and corporate board search services in the United States and internationally. It provides recruitment services for various organizations in consumer and industrial, education, not-for-profit, arts and culture, financial and professional services, business, healthcare and human services, life sciences, media and entertainment, sports and leisure, energy and utilities, private equity, retail, and technology and communications industries.


 

How The Phone Companies Are Screwing America: The $320 Billion Broadband Rip-Off

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Oldspeak:“America’s Big TelCo has been running a ginormous con the last 20 years, with incessant rate hikes for about the same service. Americans are stuck with an inferior and overpriced communications system, compared with the rest of the world, and we’re being ripped off in the process.”

From David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick:

Since 1991, the telecom companies have pocketed an estimated $320 billion — that’s about $3,000 per household.

This is a conservative estimate of the wide-scale plunder that includes monies garnered from hidden rate hikes, depreciation allowances, write-offs and other schemes. Ironically, in 2009, the FCC’s National Broadband plan claimed it will cost about $350 billion to fully upgrade America’s infrastructure.

The principal consequence of the great broadband con is not only that Americans are stuck with an inferior and overpriced communications system, but the nation’s global economic competitiveness has been undermined.

In a June 2010 report, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the U.S. 15th on broadband subscribers with 24.6 percent penetration; the consulting group, Strategy Analytics, is even more pessimistic, ranking the U.S. 20th with a “broadband” penetration rate of 67 percent compared to South Korea (95 percent), Netherlands (85 percent) and Canada (76 percent). Making matters worse, Strategy Analytics projects the U.S. ranking falling to 23rd by year-end 2010.

But these are just overall statistics. Today, people in Japan, Korea, Europe and other countries get broadband services that are 100-mbps services in both directions for what we pay for inferior, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber line (ADSL), while in Hong Kong companies have started to offer 1-gigabit speeds.*

Part of the reason for this is these countries have sunk more fiber optical cable into the ground and connected more homes to the next-generation grid. According to the OECD, the U.S. ranks 11th with only 5 percent fiber penetration, compared to Japan (54 percent), Korea (49 percent) and European OECD countries (11 percent).

Another reason for the woeful state of U.S. broadband is that we have one of the slowest networks in the world. According to the technology company, Akamai, the U.S. ranked 22nd globally in average connection datarate speed, averaging only 3.8-mbps in Q-4 2009. In comparison, Korea’s average datarate was nearly three-times faster (11.7-mbps), Hong Kong more then double (8.6-mbps) and Japan was at 7.6-mbps. A surprise to many, Romania had an average rate of 7.2-mbps and Latvia clocked at 6.2-mbps.

Screwed

Grand cons regularly screw Americans. Millions bet the lottery that never pays off; millions go to Las Vegas and Atlantic City hoping for the big score and leave with empty pockets; and millions bet big-time on a housing run-up and lost big, big time. Hustlers offer a zillion get-rich schemes over TV and the Internet that people accepted either out of naivety, greed or desperation. But one of the greatest — and little reported — scams perpetuated on the American public is the broadband con.

The scam was simple. Starting in 1991, Verizon, Qwest and what became AT&T offered each state — in true “Godfather” style — a deal they couldn’t refuse: Deregulate us and we’ll give you Al Gore’s future. They argued that if state Public Utility Commission (PUCs) awarded them higher rates and stopped examining their books, they would upgrade the then-current telecommunications infrastructure, the analog Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) of aging copper wiring, into high-speed and two-way digital optical fiber networks.

State regulators, like state politicians, are seduced by the sound of empty promises — especially when sizable campaign contributions and other perks come their way. Hey, what are a few extra bucks charged to the customer every month for pie-in-the-sky promises? And who cares about massive tax breaks, accelerated depreciation allowances and enormous tax write-offs? The promises sound good on election day and nobody, least of all the voter, reads the fine print.

The broadband con has been played out across the country. In California, Pacific Bell (now part of AT&T) claimed it would spend $16 billion and have 5.5 million homes wired by 2000. Instead, after a merger with SBC in 1997 (renamed AT&T in 2005), it secured state deregulation and simply stopped building out the fiber-based broadband infrastructure. On the East Coast, things were pretty much the same. Bell Atlantic, which covered New Jersey to Virginia and is now part of Verizon, claimed it would spend $11 billion and have 8.7 million homes wires by 2000. And in Connecticut, SNET (now also part of AT&T) promised to spend $4.5 billion and have the entire state rewired by 2007. In the mid-West, the story was similar. Ameritech (now part of AT&T and which controlled five states, including Illinois and Ohio) claimed they would have 6 million homes wired by 2000. For Ohio, Ameritech claimed it would rewire every school, library and hospital with fiber by 2000. None of these promises have been realized.

Over the last two decades, the telcos have engaged in a lot of sleight-of-hand tricks to make Americans believe that broadband was real and their service was the world’s best. In 1996 the Internet hit and everyone wanted to go online. This migration to the World Wide Web was led, not by AT&T and Verizon, but by thousands of small and larger ISPs from AOL and Prodigy to over 9,500 small ISPs.

By 1998, not only did the telephone companies mostly stop building out their networks, but instead of rolling out the next-generation “info superhighway,” they pulled a bait-and-switch and rolled backward, offering customers ADSL service, a watered-down “broadband” connection that runs on good old copper wire.

Another trick used by telecoms has been to submit to federal and state regulators falsified cost models, often lying to regulators and the public. For example, the great lie was voiced in 1991 when the telecom boldly announced the new broadband age based on technologies that they claimed capable of delivering 45-mbps bi-directional services, but the technologies didn’t exist and couldn’t work out at the cost models submitted. When pushed, the phone companies presented self-produced, self-funded or self-serving “research” by shill think-tanks to buttress their claim for higher rates.

Now, nearly two decades after Gore announced the Info Superhighway and the telcos secured deregulation to build out the next-generation communications infrastructure, the nation’s two largest phone companies, Verizon and AT&T, have begun to seriously deploy fiber services. In 2004 and with much fanfare, Verizon introduced FiOS, a fiber-to-the-home service. Today, it claims only 3.6 million subscribers and new subscriptions have stalled.

AT&T, which originally promised to launch its advances service, U-verse, in 2006 in 15 markets, got it running in 2007 but in only 11 markets — and then not through an entire market. As of the end of Q-2, 2010, it claimed 2.5 million subscribers. Sadly, the telecoms have only 6 million full broadband fiber subscribers as of 2010. What happened to the other 94 million households they promised to sign-up?

Americans have paid and paid again billions of dollars for an imaginary upgrade to create a fiber optic future. The estimate of $320 billion has already been collected which means that every household has paid almost $3,000 to upgrade the phone networks. The question no wants to really address is simple: What have Americans gotten for the telecom broadband rip-off?

Playing the con

In order to understand how the broadband con works, it is useful to examine how it has played out in one state and extrapolate this to the other 49 states. In this case, we will examine New Jersey as representative of a nationwide policy.

New Jersey state law requires that by 2010, 100 percent of the state is to be rewired with 45-mbps, bi-directional service. To meet this goal, Verizon collected approximately $13 billion in approved rate increases, tax break and other incentives related to upgrading the Public Switched Telephone Networks. To cover its tracks, Verizon submitted false statements year after year, claiming that it was close to fulfilling its obligations. For example, in its 2000 Annual Report, it claimed that 52 percent of the state could receive “45-mbps in both directions or higher.”

Based on such false claims, Verizon has benefited for significant pricing increases for essentially inexpensive computerized services. For example, Call Waiting and Call Forwarding cost less then $.01 cent to offer yet the company charges $4-$7 for such features. In addition, fees for inside wiring went up to $7.00 from $1.25.

The company also benefited from more invisible perks. It secured massive write-offs on its network even though it wasn’t being replaced; it actually secured a write-off of over 105 percent above the amount of construction. These write-offs helped save it billions in taxes. These factors have helped significantly heighten the company’s Return on Equity, the standard measurement of profits, jump from 12-14 percent before deregulation to 30-40 percent.

But all this gets complicated as they are no longer required to submit full New Jersey annual or quarterly reports and the FCC’s filing requirements stopped in 2007. So, in 2009, Verizon, New Jersey outlined financials showed a “net income” loss of $194 million dollars, and a $160 million “tax benefit” and a series of “affiliate transactions,” meaning transferring expenses to the utility but without showing monies flowing back.

Verizon’s New Jersey coverage is for approximately 3.2 million households, which represents about 3 percent of total U.S. households. Extrapolating from New Jersey, we estimate that Americans have been bilked of at least $320 billion since deregulation went into effect in the mid-’90s.

Digital Houdini

Federal and state regulators ignore the great telecom rip-off — politicians simply get too many contributions from too many lobbyists to worry about their constituents’ phone bills. Telephone companies have orchestrated a massive digital Houdini act in which they present an image of an essential service that offers customers more for less.

After almost 20 years of telecom deregulation, the American communications infrastructure is in shambles. The FCC’s broadband plans are now in play. While much debate has taken place over the future of net neutrality, particularly in light of the Google-Verizon proposal to maintain Internet net neutrality on wireline distribution and end it on wireless communications, little attention has been paid to the never-ending rate hikes, failure to deliver on previous promises, poor state of fiber deployment, and into who pocketed the missing $320 billion in over charges.

In 1967, James Coburn stared in a wonderful satire, The President’s Analyst, about the corrupting power of a secretive TPC, the phone company. The film pits the Central Enquiries Agency (CEA) against the Federal Bureau of Regulation (FBR), an all-male agency consisting of J. Edgar Hoover look-alikes all under five-foot-six-inches tall. In the intervening four decades, but especially since the break-up of AT&T in 1984 and deregulation starting in 1993, the power of the telecommunications companies, including the cable industry, has both increasingly grown and become increasingly invisible.

A century ago, giant corporate trusts dominated America’s economic landscape. A century later, they are back in full force and even greater control over the nation’s economic life and political culture.

(For more detailed analyses of the great broadband rip-off, visitwww.teletruth.com.)

David Rosen is a regular contributor to CounterPunch, Z-magazine and Brooklyn Rail and is author of ‘Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming’ and ‘Off-Hollywood: The Making & Marketing of Independent Films.’ He can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com. Bruce Kushnick, the founder of New Networks Institute, is a telecommunications industry analyst who regularly reports for Harvard Nieman’s Watchdog. He can be reached at bruce@newnetworks.com.


Despite Profits, US Corporations Won’t Hire American Workers

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Big American companies may never rehire large numbers of workers. And they won’t even begin to think about hiring until they know American consumers will buy their products. The problem is, American consumers won’t start buying against until they know they have reliable paychecks.’ Most corporations only allegiance is to there share holders. Profit is Paramount.”

From Robert Reich @ Robert Reich.org:

Second-quarter earnings reports are coming in, and they’re making Wall Street smile. Corporate profits are up. And big American companies are sitting on a gigantic pile of money. The 500 largest non-financial firms held almost a trillion dollars in the second quarter, and that money pile is growing larger this quarter. Profits that plummeted in the recession have bounced back. Big businesses have recovered almost 90 percent of what they lost.

So with all this money and profit, they’ll start hiring again, right? Wrong – for three reasons.

First, lots of their profits are coming from their overseas operations. So that’s where they’re investing and expanding production.

GM now sells more cars in China than it does in the US, but makes most of them there. The company now employs 32,000 hourly workers in China. But only 52,000 GM hourly workers remain in the United States – down from 468,000 in 1970.

GM isn’t just hiring low-tech assembly workers in China. Last week the firm broke ground there on a $250 million advanced technology center to develop batteries and other alternative energy sources.

You and I and other American taxpayers still own over 60 percent of GM. We bought GM to save GM jobs, remember?

GM officials say no American taxpayer money is being used to expand in China. But money is fungible. Because of our generosity, GM can now use the dollars it doesn’t have to spend in the United States meeting its American payrolls and repaying its creditors, for new investments in China.

Second, big U.S. businesses are investing their cash in labor-saving technologies. This boosts their productivity, but not their payrolls.

Last Friday, for example, Ford reported a $2.6 billion second-quarter profit. The firm is already more than two-thirds the way to equaling its record 1999 profits. But due to labor-saving technologies, Ford now has half as many employees as it did a decade ago.

Wall Street analysts are happy with Ford’s “commitment to keeping capacity in check,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Ford shares rose 5.2 percent Friday. “Keeping capacity in check” is the Street’s way of saying “no new hiring.” In fact, the Street is advising investors to sell the stocks of companies that talk openly of expanding capacity.

Finally, corporations are using their pile of money to pay dividends to their shareholders and buy back their own stock – thereby pushing up share prices.

Last Friday, GE announced it would raise its dividend by 20 percent and reinstate its share-buyback plan. It’s GE’s first dividend increase since the company cut its dividend in early 2009. As a result, GE shares are up more than 5% in the past few days.

Bottom line: Higher corporate profits no longer lead to higher employment. We’re witnessing a great decoupling of company profits from jobs.

The next supply-side economist who tells you companies need more incentive (i.e. lower taxes) before they’ll hire is living on another planet.

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