Sunday, September 5, 2010


I have swung from the right to the left; if you have read this at all you know. There was a time I supported big business, I believed the Republican and right wing Christian nonsense about profit, Capitalism, (God's own economic way, don't ya know) and the ability for the poor to get rich, because of "trickle down" economics. However, I have come to my senses. I was watching CNN yesterday and a commercial came on railing against taxes for energy companies. "Madness!" "Crazy!" and other such adjectives hurled at me by blue collar actor portrayals...and people are buying this crap hook, line, and sinker. Here is a story from Newsweek, CEO's are lamenting their poor abused status as the victimized rich.

The Book of James states in chapter 5 v.4: "Look! The wages you have failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you." NIV.

Let me take it a step further: The companies in the United States are on a wholesale robbery spree against the workers. The CEO's are empowered, the workers are weak. Such is the legacy of Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. They are stealing from us, and screaming about taxes. Wake up, a country cannot be operative without revenue, and that revenue comes form taxes.

I am working toward reversing this trend, and it begins with education. It is high time to end the utter exploitation of the worker, the farmer, the average person in the U.S.

Let me be clear: The Richest in this country are never going to come off their money unless forced to by the people. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth-from the bottom up to the top. The economic policies of Saint Ronald have done nothing except grow the coffers of the already rich. Reaganomics have failed, George W. Bush is a failure, and Conservative are morally bankrupt.

Listen middle class and poor-you are in the financial straights today as a direct result of the Conservative and Republican economic policy. And yes, Bill Clinton is to blame also.

In a few days I am going to post some pics of a little town in Arkansas that has gone completely in the shitter as a direct result of Conservatives and the Republicans. Home after home after home has been abandoned and houses are falling apart, yet the people are embittered against the left, and they are voting Republican to get even with Wall Street. (thanks Thomas Frank for putting that into perspective for me.)

Stuffing Their Pockets

For CEOs, a lucrative recession.

One of the most startling things about the post-crisis landscape is how tone-deaf the wealthiest Americans remain to outrage over their Croesus-like pay packages. The award for complete obliviousness would have to go to Blackstone cofounder Stephen Schwarzman, who earlier this summer compared government attempts to raise taxes on financiers such as himself to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Silver medals should certainly be handed out to the many executives and corporate lawyers who were grousing last week about the new Dodd-Frank bill, which includes a rule requiring companies to disclose the difference in pay between their chief executive and their lowest-level workers. It would be a “logistical nightmare,” these titans of industry wailed, for firms to compile this information.

Well, maybe, but if you issue pay stubs, surely you can tally them up (and perhaps keep a few more workers on board to do just that). The real nightmare will be when the public sees the numbers, which will illuminate just how egregious the U.S. pay gap has become. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank based in Washington, the average S&P 500 CEO takes home 263 times what his cheapest laborer does. While CEO pay is indeed down from its pre-crisis highs in 2007, it’s still double what it was in the 1990s, and eight times the level in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, American workers are taking home less in real weekly wages than they did in the 1970s. So much for the idea that the financial crisis would somehow even things up by wiping out a good chunk of the paper wealth of the plutocrats. Indeed, stock prices have surged so much since last year that many CEOs, who receive a good chunk of their pay in equity, are wealthier than ever before.

Such facts are inevitably followed by the impossible-to-answer question, do they deserve it? While the corporate world has certainly gotten more complex over the last 50 years, it’s hard to make the case that CEOs themselves have gotten any smarter, or that investors are doing a better job of judging a CEO’s success. Compensation levels are all too often driven by short-term thinking. The CEOs of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers did—largely because cutting workers boosts short-term profits and appeals to Wall Street. Yet a growing body of academic research suggests that downsizing doesn’t always lead to increased profitability over the longer haul, or even lower costs. There are many reasons for this, ranging from the fact that companies going into layoff mode often lose their best workers to competitors, to the toll taken on R&D spending, which is what produces the revenue and growth potential of the future.

While one can argue the merits of layoffs on a company-by-company basis, what’s striking is that the executives who are the most willing to ax workers also seem to be the least likely to tighten their own belts. Management guru Peter Drucker once noted that after CEO-to-worker pay ratios went above 25–1, major moral questions started to be raised. It will be hard to make employees believe that “we’re all in this together” when it becomes clear in public documents that company leaders have largely insulated themselves from any financial risk.

The larger issue of growing inequity in the Western world is a tough one to tackle; the forces of globalization that have led to stagnating wages aren’t going to disappear. But executive pay could be made fairer and more transparent. For starters, corporate America might take a page out of the European playbook. In countries like Germany, which boasts many of the world’s most competitive and productive companies, worker representatives often sit on corporate boards, providing a check against bloated pay packages.

On the other hand, U.S. corporate boards are full of very rich people who have no incentive to complain about each others’ pay. That’s why politicians might consider getting rid of tax rules that let companies write off unlimited amounts of corporate compensation. And whatever arguments there might be about the complexity of the Dodd-Frank rules, the notion of publishing pay numbers is a good one. If nothing else, it could be the starting point of a conversation in which America’s business leaders explain, to their shareholders and to the wider public, exactly why they need so much money to get the job done.

Thanks Newsweek-peace

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Gotta love Eric Prince, the sleaze behind Blackwater. It is amazing to see how the right distorts Christianity and how the Christians on the Right love to wage war. It's a growth industry, don't ya know, and Capitalism is God's own economy...Eric Prince is as anti-christ and unamerican as any Soviet era official...Pure Capitalism, the type the Christian Right wants to usher in, is as evil as Communism in its pure form...Check out Jeremy Scahill's excellent book "BLACKWATER." You won't regret it.

Thank you NYT again...

Blackwater won contracts with web of companies
Network let it obscure involvement from contracting officials and public

By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti

updated 9/4/2010 12:07:58 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that it was worth “looking into why Blackwater would need to create the dozens of other names” and said he had requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Blackwater officers misled the government when using subsidiaries to solicit contracts.

The C.I.A.’s continuing relationship with the company, which recently was awarded a $100 million contract to provide security at agency bases in Afghanistan, has drawn harsh criticism from some members of Congress, who argue that the company’s tarnished record should preclude it from such work. At least two of the Blackwater-affiliated companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts from the agency, according to interviews with a half dozen former Blackwater officials.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said that Xe’s current duties for the agency were to provide security for agency operatives. Contractors “do the tasks we ask them to do in strict accord with the law; they are supervised by C.I.A. staff officers; and they are held to the highest standards of conduct” he said. “As for Xe specifically, they help provide security in tough environments, an assignment at which their people have shown both skill and courage.”

Congress began to investigate the affiliated companies last year, after the shooting deaths of two Afghans by Blackwater security personnel working for a subsidiary named Paravant, which had obtained Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, Army officials said that when they awarded the contract to Paravant for training of the Afghan Army, they had no idea that the business was part of Blackwater.
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While Congressional investigators have identified other Blackwater-linked businesses, it was not the focus of their inquiry to determine how much money from government contracts flowed through the web of corporations, especially money earmarked for clandestine programs. The former company officials say that Greystone did extensive work for the intelligence community, though they did not describe the nature of the activities. The firm was incorporated in Barbados for tax purposes, but had executives who worked at Blackwater’s headquarters in North Carolina.
The former company officials say that Erik Prince, the business’s founder, was eager to find ways to continue to handle secret work after the 2007 shootings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and set up a special office to handle classified work at his farm in Middleburg, Va.
Enrique Prado, a former top C.I.A. official who joined the contractor, worked closely with Mr. Prince to develop Blackwater’s clandestine abilities, according to several former officials. In an internal e-mail obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Prado claimed that he had created a Blackwater spy network that could be hired by the American government.

“We have a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations,” Mr. Prado wrote in the October 2007 message, in which he asked another Blackwater official whether the Drug Enforcement Administration might be interested in using the spy network. “These are all foreign nationals,” he added, “so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.”

It is not clear whether Mr. Prado’s secret spy service ever conducted any operations for the government. From 2004 to 2006, both Mr. Prado and Mr. Prince were involved in a C.I.A. program to hunt senior leaders of Al Qaeda that had been outsourced to Blackwater, though current and former American officials said that the assassination program did not carry out any operations. Company employees also loaded bombs and missiles onto Predator drones in Pakistan, work that was terminated last year by the C.I.A.

Both Mr. Prince and Mr. Prado declined to be interviewed for this article.

The company is facing a string of legal problems, including the indictment in April of five former Blackwater officials on weapons and obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming from the 2007 shootings in Iraq.

The business is up for sale by Mr. Prince, who colleagues say is embittered by the public criticism and scrutiny that Blackwater has faced. He has not been implicated in the criminal charges against his former subordinates, but he has recently moved his family to Abu Dhabi, where he hopes to focus on obtaining contracts from governments in Africa and the Middle East, according to colleagues and former company officials.

After awarding Blackwater the new security contract in June, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, publicly defended the decision, saying Blackwater had “cleaned up its act.”

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she could not understand why the intelligence community had been unwilling to cut ties to Blackwater. “I am continually and increasingly mystified by this relationship,” she said. “To engage with a company that is such a chronic, repeat offender, it’s reckless.”

It is unclear how much of Blackwater’s relationship with the C.I.A. will become public during the criminal proceedings in North Carolina because the Obama administration won a court order limiting the use of classified information. Among other things, company executives are accused of obtaining large numbers of AK-47s and M-4 automatic weapons, but arranging to make it appear as if they had been bought by the sheriff’s department in Camden County, N.C. Such purchases were legal only if made by law enforcement agencies.

But defense lawyers say they hope to argue that Blackwater had a classified contract with the C.I.A. and wanted at least some of the guns for weapons training for agency officers.