Tag Archives: Corporate Overlords

Someone ALWAYS Pays, Governor!

Gov. Haslam, still hot for privatization, might want to check out what’s happening in our privatized prison industrial complex, which has apparently found a wonderful new revenue source:

A private probation company in Tennessee is violating racketeering laws by jailing impoverished people who fail to pay court fines for traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses, and by refusing to waive fees for the indigent, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

In the lawsuit, seven probationers, many of them sick or disabled and living on as little as $129 a month in food stamps, say they lost housing, jobs and cars, sold their blood plasma and went without food after repeated threats by the company that they would be jailed if they could not pay.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Nashville, alleges that the county and the company, Providence Community Corrections in Rutherford County, southeast of Nashville, are violating racketeering laws by extorting money through “the wrongful use of fear.”

Ah, terrific! Literally profiting off the plasma of the poorest of the poor. You know, I didn’t think it was possible to get blood from a stone but Tennessee Republicans have certainly managed to find some. I guess I didn’t think about the selling plasma part.

This is how privatization works, Gov. Haslam! I mean, when your only concern is whether a private company can do something cheaper, privatization looks pretty awesome, right? But the savings have to come from somewhere, right? This is how capitalism works, right?! Someone, somewhere along the line, pays. So let’s unpack this story and see who that person is:

The lawsuit in Tennessee, filed by Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights group, and the pro bono arm of the law firm Baker Donelson, describes a financial arrangement between the county and Providence Community Corrections that is typical in many respects: The county pays nothing to the company, which earns money instead by charging monthly fees to probationers as well as surcharges for drug tests, warrants and other services.

Oh, that’s nice. So the county pays nothing, and the company charges the indigent. Somehow the good Christian people of Rutherford County thought this dirty piece of business was gonna end up being clean? Seriously? You thought you could get something for nothing? Are you people idiots?

And let’s look at these surcharges for drug tests. Were they, maybe, performed by Aegis Sciences, the drug testing company owned by the husband of prominent Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black? Maybe! Love how the Republican Welfare Gravy Train works, don’t you?

But wait, there’s more:

The company even refused to let destitute probationers complete their required community service hours without first paying a community service fee, the plaintiffs say.

The arrangement gives the company a direct financial interest in the length of probationary periods. It also gives it broad powers to set the conditions of probation, including such requirements as forbidding alcohol consumption regardless of the nature of the offense, and to “revoke” probation and have the offender jailed, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs say that once they were sent to county jail, they were manhandled or ridiculed by jail officials. Paula Pullum, a 48-year-old plaintiff with severe medical problems — including a heart ailment — claims that when she submitted a letter detailing her health issues and required medications, a jailer tore it up.

Plaintiffs say that even when the company was aware of their indigence, they were not told they could apply to have their court costs waived. When they asked for a waiver, they said, they were denied or told they would first have to make payments for several months, pay for the form, pass a $20 drug test and pay a $25 fee to get a court hearing.

Yes, someone always pays! And when it’s the poor — or the poorest of the poor — who cares, amiright? That’s what they get for being poor. Stupid poors! Why can’t you be rich like the rest of us! Meanwhile, let’s continue to tell ourselves that the poor are lazy, that the playing field is even, that everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else, etc. Then we can grandstand about tight budgets and small government and the super awesome private sector and the need to privatize because cheaper, better, shinier, sparklier, etc. etc. etc. It’s super awesome, you guys — as long as you don’t look to closely.

And by the way, the lawsuit has been filed by the D.C.-based civil rights non-profit Equal Justice Under The Law. This is the kind of stuff ACORN used to do. I expect this group to be targeted by some James O’Keefe acolyte in 5 … 4… 3….


Filed under corporations, Tennessee

It’s A Wonderful Miserable Life

There’s been a lot of discussion about the New York Times’s expose on the miserable work life at Amazon.com’s corporate HQ. We’ve long known that working at one of Amazon’s warehouses sucks, but it appears their white collar workers are also overworked, driven to exhaustion, and subjected to sadistic “Hunger Games”-style culling exercises, all of which makes working for Amazon HQ a dehumanizing, demeaning experience:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)


Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

This is the kind of stuff that gives Libertarian types such massive hard-ons. It fulfills all of their narcissistic fantasies about success being the undeniable product of hard work and rugged individualism, that everyone gets where they are by these virtues, no one gets a handout from anyone, certainly not the government, yada yada. Except, of course, that this impossible standard a) isn’t true and b) makes for a miserable life.

“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”

Umm, no, honey. These businesses weren’t your babies. They were Jeff Bezos’ babies, you fool. They were Amazon shareholders’ babies. If they were your babies you’d reap 100% of the reward for all of this effort. Instead you spent your personal money to hire someone in India, fer crissakes, to “get more done.” You, my friend, are a class A sucker.

There are numerous horror stories: an employee with thyroid cancer who got a low performance rating after returning from treatment because,

[…] her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.

Even worse is the modern-day “company store”-coercion Amazon has created to keep what employees do stay on:

Amazon retains new workers in part by requiring them to repay a part of their signing bonus if they leave within a year, and a portion of their hefty relocation fees if they leave within two years. Several fathers said they left or were considering quitting because of pressure from bosses or peers to spend less time with their families. (Many tech companies are racing to top one another’s family leave policies — Netflix just began offering up to a year of paid parental leave. Amazon, though, offers no paid paternity leave.)

This is not an attractive work environment for anyone who is not a masochist, and a stupid masochist, at that. Because while we Americans pride ourselves on our hard work, it’s hard to imagine anyone subjecting themselves to this kind of abuse for someone else’s company. And let’s be clear: nobody is curing cancer here. Or as the Times brutally noted,

For all of the employees who are edged out, many others flee, exhausted or unwilling to further endure the hardships for the cause of delivering swim goggles and rolls of Scotch tape to customers just a little quicker.


I like to compare this with the Danish work culture’s arbejdsglaede (literally, “happiness at work”), as detailed in Helen Russell’s fascinating book, The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. British journalist Russell relocated to rural Denmark when her husband got a job at toymaker Lego, based in Jutland. In Chapter 2, she tells of her surprise when her husband came home from work at 3:30 pm — and earlier on Fridays:

‘Most people with kids had cleared their desks to go and pick them up from school or daycare by 3pm.’
‘Everyone just leaves work really early? No one competes to be the last one at their desk? Or gets takeout to pull an all-nighter?’
He shrugs: ‘Not that I’ve seen.’

In fact, showy displays of an aggressive work ethic are actually frowned upon. Too many late-night or weekend emails and your boss might worry that things aren’t okay at home. Or you’ll be reprimanded for fostering an uncooperative work environment, focusing too much on your own ego and not thinking about the needs of the group. It’s a complete reverse of Amazon’s corporate culture, even if some of the outer trappings look the same (sustainable buildings, healthy cafeteria menu offerings, stand-up desks, etc.) But Danes are a family-oriented people: time spent with children and family is as valued in the Danish culture as time spent at work.

And there it is. The difference is in what you value. If your culture only values material things like profits and high salaries, then Amazon will seem like a great place to emulate. If your culture values things like time spent with family and balancing work with personal life, then Lego is a work culture worth copying.

I used to work in a high-stress corporate job. It wasn’t as cut-throat as Amazon but it was almost as bad. Vacations were seen as a personal weakness. Weekends were for wusses. I remember my boss yelling at me because I couldn’t make it to Clarksville during the February 1994 ice storm because I-24 was closed. I left that job a few months later.

As one gets older they realize that life’s too short for sadistic workplace bullshit. The hypercompetitive self-flagellation places like Amazon demand of their employees might be fine for a recent college grad, but anyone over a certain age has to wonder what’s the point of all these long hours and lack of a personal life. In the service of what — Jeff Bezos’ dream of getting the latest Elsa doll somewhere in 20 minutes? There’s definitely more to life than that.


Filed under corporations

Rotten Cotton


Oh, apparently we just can’t take a joke:

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.

Interfering with foreign policy negotiations, hilARious!


Well you could have knocked me over with a feather:

In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.

Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

This is my shocked face:


Seriously, Republicans. Have you ever met a war you didn’t like? I guess as long as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton are filling the campaign coffers, the answer to that would be no.

And major kudos to Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker, who refused to sign the letter. They’re probably getting slammed from the Neocon wing of the party, which means there will be red meat thrown on another issue, no doubt. But on this they are correct.

Look, elections have consequences. And every time Republicans hold the reins of power, the militarism and warmongering heat up. If you don’t want war, don’t vote Republican. Simple as that.


Filed under defense, Iran, Republican Party, Republicans, Sen. Bob Coker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Senate, war economy


They don’t have to win the argument, they just have to “foster doubt”:

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Dr. Soon is yet another of those “ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.” He’s actually an engineer, not a climate scientist, and real climate scientists say his research is “pointless” to their work. But he’s got the veneer of authority, because he is associated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And corporate shills in Washington (*cough*cough*Sen. James Inhofe*cough*cough*) who think we should be impressed by this pedigree trot him out to promote their “the jury is still out because of this guy here” parlor tricks.

So okay, buh-bye Dr. Soon. You violate scientific ethics, you lose your gig. Soon’s research was funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Southern Company (a utility holding company). And then there’s this:

However, other companies and industry groups that once supported Dr. Soon, including Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, appear to have eliminated their grants to him in recent years.

As the oil-industry contributions fell, Dr. Soon started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars through DonorsTrust, an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that accepts money from donors who wish to remain anonymous, then funnels it to various conservative causes.

Um, yeah. So a change in the funnel through which the cash flows. But the source remains the same. This is dirty pool. And I can’t imagine, with the bazillions of dollars spent on these propaganda campaigns and astroturfing and buying of elections, that this all makes financial sense for a corporation in the end. Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to do the right thing from the get-go?

I guess not.

This meme from last year has always cracked me up:


Last I checked, it’s not 97% — it’s 99%. And for every Dr. Soon exposed as a fraud that percentage grows. But remember, it’s not about “disproving” climate science. It’s about spreading doubt. It’s about perpetuating the false belief that “the jury is still out,” and “the science isn’t decided.”

Clever, but facts will out. This shit never works. Because what you say doesn’t change what is really happening. Sea levels are rising. Droughts are happening. Islands are disappearing. What some wingnut in Oklahoma thinks isn’t going to change that. And pretty soon these chickens will come home to roost on your street. Indeed, they already have.


Filed under climate change, corporate overlords, corporations

Death Panels

Pearls of wisdom from our corporate overlords at Koch Industries the American Enterprise Institute. You can’t make this shit up:

In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals — including more cash for other programs, such as those that help the poor; less government coercion and more individual liberty; more health-care choice for consumers, allowing them to find plans that better fit their needs; more money for taxpayers to spend themselves; and less federal health-care spending. This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time.

Consider, for example, speed limits. By allowing people to drive their cars at speeds at which collisions result in death, our government has decided that the socially optimal number of traffic fatalities is not zero. Some poor souls die: There were more than 30,000 traffic fatalities on America’s roads in 2013. If we didn’t accept that risk, we’d lower the speed limit to a rate at which accidents simply don’t kill, such as 10 mph. Instead, we’ve raised it periodically over the years, and you can now go as fast as 85 mph on a few highways.

Collateral damage, y’all. Well, I suppose if you overlook the fact that we do lower speed limits all the damn time (in places like school zones, neighborhoods, construction zones, high-density pedestrian areas, etc.) AND if you blithely avoid acknowledging that the auto industry spends bazillions (and the government mandates) safety measures like air bags and seat belts etc. etc., not to mention mandatory insurance coverage for when accidents do happen, if you ignore all these and dozens of other things you might have a point. But since I won’t, you don’t.

You, sir, win the Failed Analogy Award of the year. You’re also an asshole. And a sociopath.

God these corporate idiots and their free market fairy tales. And yet, they’re always the first ones to go whining to the courthouse when something happens to them and their precious darlings. Just Go Galt on your freedom island already and leave running the country to the rest of us who have some common sense.

BTW, no discussion of the American Enterprise Institute is complete without providing a list of who they represent.


Filed under conservatives, moral values

Rick Berman: He’s Baaaaack!

Ah, Rick Berman. A professional propagandist so nice, I’ve got an entire tag devoted to his shenanigans.

Whatcha been up to, Rick? How’s the astroturf growing around your neck of the woods? Made any speeches lately, maybe made a few enemies here and there? Why yes, you have:

WASHINGTON — If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.

The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.

“Think of this as an endless war,” Mr. Berman told the crowd at the June event in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance, a group whose members include Devon Energy, Halliburton and Anadarko Petroleum, which specialize in extracting oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. “And you have to budget for it.”

What Mr. Berman did not know — and what could now complicate his task of marginalizing environmental groups that want to impose limits on fracking — is that one of the energy industry executives recorded his remarks and was offended by them.

So in other words, Al Gore is REALLY fat. Nice.

People like Rick Berman are what’s wrong with America. They are breeding grounds for cynicism and apathy. And that’s the point: the more disillusioned people are, the more likely they are to do things like sit out elections, not stay informed, not get involved. “They’re all the same,” those people say — because people like Rick Berman told them that.

What a horrible person.

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Filed under astroturf, Rick Berman

Lamar Advertising: Hate Profiteers

Notoriously despicable billboard company Lamar Advertising is profiting from homophobia by accepting this billboard north of Nashville. It was apparently paid for and purchased by “concerned Christians.”

Yeah, this is why people are leaving the church in droves. Just stop the crap, already, religious people. Apparently the tone and message has prompted complaints:

Mayor Wilber said he’s well-aware of the discussions surrounding the sign; one resident called him to complain.

“Thought it was not fit for the time that we’re in, just thought it was out of place, just sent a bad message,” he explained.

Good for the people of Portland, Tennessee. And really, Lamar Advertising is profiting from this? What a horrible company. I’m reminded of this story from just a few years ago in which they refused to run ads from Georgia Equality, saying,

…”We just didn’t feel the copy was right for those markets” …

The offending copy?

The billboards proposed by Georgia Equality feature images of professionals, such as a male firefighter and a female doctor, and include tag lines that read, “I protect you. And … I am gay. We Are Your Neighbors.”

Yeah, so not right.

What a bunch of assholes. Profiting from hate never works, Lamar Advertising.


Filed under GLBT, religious right, Tennessee