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  1. Atypical is offline
    03-17-2011, 06:08 PM #21


    One case in point is the story of Aimee Ellsworth.

    Ellsworth and her family, whose water and land in Colorado turned toxic from natural gas drilling, were the second family featured in Gasland who could light their water on fire.

    Fox said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued a report confirming the cause was gas drilling. Yet after she told her story in the film, she was still stuck in a home that had so much gas in the water she would shower in the dark because she was afraid a spark from her light bulb would blow up her house.

    When Fox called her one day to see how she was doing, she told him, "I can't talk to you about gas anymore."

    He explained, "Her land was devalued, she had no way of getting out, her health was failing."

    So she took a settlement with the company, but she had to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

    "She traded her First Amendment rights for the ability to get out of gasland," said Fox. "And in that we lost a very powerful, compassionate and sympathetic spokesperson. But she was able to resume her life by moving."

    He continued, "That's the way the industry would rather handle this."

    Fox said there are stories like this all over the country, where these histories have just been disappeared.

    "We are lucky that we got to Aimee Ellsworth a few months before she got cornered into that agreement and that her story got out."

    Industry Is "Underestimating" the People

    Fox has been on the road screening his film since its premiere at Sundance last year, visiting 100 cities on a grassroots tour that also takes him to gas drilling areas across the country.

    The overwhelming response, he said, has created an atmosphere that will make it increasingly difficult for gas industry propaganda to thrive.

    "It's just been a reaffirmation of everything that's in the movie," Fox said. "People are flocking to these screenings."

    He described 1,600 people showing up one night in Williamsport, Penn., on a rainy Tuesday. In Texas, 400 people attended a screening at the Forth Worth art museum, with water samples and jars in their hands, which he said has been commonplace all along the tour.

    "I mean literally," Fox said, they come up to him "and say, 'Here' s a jar, this is a test, this is my documentation, I've got the text in my hand.' Because everybody is so concerned with this."

    He believes the gas industry is running out of options.

    “Look, they can't spin away these thousands of stories," he said. "I mean literally thousands of contamination stories. And what's at stake here is the water supply for millions of people."

    Fox continued, " They can't cover their tracks anymore in the way they have. They can't push people into corners anymore in the way they have."

    The film, he said, aided by social media platforms like Facebook, opens up all these stories to the world.

    Fox said the letter to the Academy notwithstanding, gas industry insiders on the whole have voiced the attitude, "We're going to be here longer than Gasland is around."

    He added, "But what they're underestimating is that we live here, there are hundreds of thousands of us and we're not going anywhere."

    Brad Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and contributing investigative reporter for Raw Story.

  2. Atypical is offline
    03-20-2011, 04:52 PM #22

    The Privatization Myth

    This is an especially important topic during financial problems caused by Wall Street; for which no one has ever been prosecuted.

    Many simplistic ideas re privatization have been asserted as necessary and desirable by conservatives - they are neither. This essay describes the many questions that have to be asked and answered honestly by those that say private companies can do it better than government. There may be some instances where this is true, but, as the essay points out, there is an extensive test necessary to be sure. I don't think that is ever done. Too hard and the results are not guaranteed.

    Fuzzy Privatization Math

    by: Ellen Dannin | Employment Policy Research Network | Op-Ed

    On May 31, 2010, Governor Chris Christie’s New Jersey Privatization Task Force reported that more than $210 million would be saved by privatizing work that had traditionally been performed by government workers. The report even set out specific figures for some of the cost savings it identified, while others said savings were “TBD” – “To Be Decided”.

    Who crunched the numbers to show that private contractors would do a better job or at least the same job for less money than public employees? The Privatization Task Force Report says that no one did. On page 14 the report says it did no analysis “due not only to the fact that the actual cost of a privatized alternative will often not be known until the end of a full fledged competitive bidding process, but also because New Jersey state government agencies have difficulty calculating with precision the full cost of functions currently performed at the state level.” So, the sunny claims of big savings for the people of New Jersey are a guestimate, at best. and “To Be Decided” is the most accurate statement in the report.

    Some people take it on faith that the private sector always does a better job for less money than government. But the most of us deciding how to provide public service is not a matter of ideology, not a team sport. We just want to solve our federal, state, and local budget problems and provide good quality services. So, for most of us, it will come as a surprise that in many cases no effort is made to show whether a private company can do government work as well as public employees.

    Privatizers have often advocated using the “Yellow Pages” test – if work the government does can be found in the Yellow Pages, they claim it can be privatized. But it’s not that simple.

    Just because a government and private service sound similar does not mean they are the same. Take elementary and secondary education. There are private and public schools, so private school tuition could be compared to per student costs at public schools. But the services provided by public and private schools are not the same, and those differences allow private schools to provide less expensive education, not that they all do.

    The most important difference is that private schools can cherry pick, because they can chose which students to accept or reject. But, by law, public schools must accept and educate all children. Educating the next generation is of critical importance to a democracy, and achieving that goal is imposed on public – but not private – schools. That includes children whose education is very expensive, including children with disabilities and other serious problems.

    If there were no public schools to ensure that all children are provided an education, we all would be the poorer for it. And when children attend private schools, public schools have less money to meet their obligations to educate all children.

    So even though the yellow pages test sounds reasonable at first glance, it fails to take into account important differences between public and private services.

    The truth is that in all too many cases work is privatized without any comparison at all of the cost and nature of public versus private work. And, according to studies by the Government Accountability Office and others, even when there is a cost comparison, major costs that the public bears are not taken into account. One study found that costs not included were costs of hiring consultants to conduct the cost comparisons, costs for unemployment benefits when employees are replaced by contractor employees and vice versa when work is contracted back in, declines in productivity associated with the process of deciding whether to contract out work, declines in productivity when new employees are learning how to provide services and operate in a new system, the loss of institutional memory, and accountability oversight to ensure that the contractor is not shirking, to name just a few.

    Before rushing to privatize, we need to remember what math teachers tell their students, “Show your work.”

    For example, we need know: Will the work cost less because it is done more efficiently, or because wages are lowered and benefits are eliminated? Paying workers less does not provide better quality. It just impoverishes workers. And having workers unable to get health care for themselves and their families means coming to work too sick to do a good job and being worried sick about medical care for their families. It also means pushing costs off on hospitals, doctors, charities, and, ultimately, on the government and taxpayers.

    Although accountability ensures that work is done properly, some have claimed that private sector competition provides all the accountability that is needed. However, most services came to be provided by the government because there was no competition. Lack of accountability led to overcharging, poor or no service, and corruption in the past, and there is no reason to think that we will not have the same problems again.

    The only way to protect the public from bad privatization deals is to demand that the private contractor explains in detail and clearly how what it will do is more efficient, how its operations affect costs, and why states and cities can’t use the same methods.

    In order to avoid overlooking costs and problems, decision makers must do a careful "walk through" of all the details as to how a service is provided. That walk through must identify costs, especially costs that are often overlooked and which fall on the public. For example, is the cost of unemployment insurance included for any workers who will lose their jobs? Do the costs include taxes lost from the newly unemployed or from the lower paid workers who are replacing them? Are the costs of ensuring accountability and oversight included? Is the quality of services the same or better, or will they be degraded, including by making access more difficult?

    The public has a lot to lose when public services are improperly privatized. Unless a bona fide comparison of costs and benefits is performed, all we will get is fuzzy math and being stuck with the bill for poor quality service.
    Here are a couple of posts from those that read this elsewhere. They are illuminating. (and unedited by me)

    Doug Rogers12:29 pm

    I worked at a US Naval AIr Rework Facility for 25 years. I, and many others, graduated from an apprentice program that was a "on the job training' and college level program that prepared us to be excellent job through out our careers. We had leave, a retirement and hospitalization. We were paid a low average salary for aircraft work. Our facility made money for the Navy every day. It was closed in 1996 by a political decision from a program started by Reagan Republicans. Now the Navy pays ten times as much to overhaul aircraft. At our facility no one made the $52 million that the CEO of some of the big aircraft companies make( or the $49 million his brother in law the CFO makes.

    Nancy Tull-Eddy11

    They are two very different beasts. Private companies exist to make a profit, government provides services. The two seldom mix well.

    TX tried a bone-headed idea a couple of years ago, that ended even worse than I anticipated. They decided to fire all the state-employed screeners for the CHIP program and sub it out to a company, who would provide contact via a call center. When was the last you got help from a call center? But even worse, the company was reimbursed for EACH contact. Do you think anyone was enrolled on the first try? NO - moreover, they listed a bad fax number and applicants' confidential information was being faxed to some other entity. In the end, TX had to go through the legal system to terminate the contract and rehire all the people they fired. Meanwhile, many children lost access to health care
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-20-2011 at 05:12 PM.

  3. SiriuslyLong is offline
    SiriuslyLong's Avatar
    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    03-23-2011, 09:47 AM #23
    More human suffering, exploitation, corporate welfare and greed.

  4. Atypical is offline
    03-24-2011, 12:02 PM #24

    Big Ag Wants To Make It a Crime to Expose Animal Abuse at Factory Farms

    Lawmakers in Florida and Iowa have introduced bills to establish criminal penalties for going undercover at agricultural facilities and simply taking pictures.

    What do Florida and Iowa have in common when it comes to animal agriculture? They've both been hot spots, past and present, for the movement to combat some of the worst abuses in industrial agribusiness. And now the factory farming industry is fighting back in both states—and their latest methods represent their biggest overreach yet.

    In Florida, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups pushed for the adoption of the first statewide law in the country to restrict the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. In 2002, voters there passed Amendment 10, to phase out the caging of breeding sows in gestation crates. In Iowa, HSUS and other animal welfare groups have conducted a series of undercover investigations (see the video) to expose cruelty in the nation's biggest factory farming state.

    Now, these two states have something else in common. They are trying to make it a crime to photograph or videotape farm animals. They don't want to criminalize animal cruelty, but they do want to make criminals of people trying to document abuse and to put an end to the cruelty. Lawmakers have introduced bills in both states to establish criminal penalties for going undercover at agricultural facilities and simply taking pictures.

    Mind you, if this legislation is enacted, it won't just be a setback for animal welfare. Shabby, squalid, overcrowded conditions for animals on factory farms are also a food-safety threat for Americans, with millions of Americans sickened every year by contaminated food. It was, of course, an Iowa egg factory farm that was forced to recall half a billion eggs last year because of a Salmonella outbreak, creating one of the biggest food product recalls in American history.

    With a potentially dramatic pare-back of funding for federal inspections of animal-agriculture operations looming, at production and slaughter facilities, these new proposed policies to bar the exposure of unhealthy and unsafe practices could not come at a more inopportune time. The industry has long argued for self-regulation, and with government inspection programs stretched so thin, they now want no meddling animal advocacy groups looking either.

    Our exposés aren’t just important for raising public awareness about the mistreatment of animals. HSUS investigations have led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, misdemeanor and felony cruelty convictions, closure of rogue slaughter plants, and disciplinary actions for government inspectors not doing their jobs. None of these important services we fulfill would be possible if such far-reaching and stifling laws are enacted.

    It's precisely because of what past factory farm investigations have uncovered—cruelty at egg farms, pig farms, and other settings—that such exposés are critical to the movement for animal welfare and food safety. With some members of the agriculture industry, including Dr. Temple Grandin, calling for more transparency at animal-raising facilities, these bills run in the opposite direction, seeking to criminalize efforts even to take a picture or to produce a video. They want to criminalize whistle-blowers who bring abuses to the attention of regulatory agencies, or even snap a photo on a cell phone.

    Taking a photo like this one without permission would
    be illegal under proposed bills in Iowa and Florida.

    I can understand why factory farmers don’t want the public seeing images of their business practices. The images of almost featherless hens, so crowded the animals are living on top of each other, or pigs being struck with metal bars by workers coarsened to their duties are deeply disconcerting. The response should not be, as in some country ruled by a dictator or a junta, to have the strongmen grab the cameras and smash them to the ground or melt them in a fire, as the authorities do in order to hide the beating and shooting of pro-democracy advocates. It's the same principle at work for the strongmen in these state legislatures. Their scheme is a neater way to smash those cameras to the ground and hide what's going on. Ironically, they want to prevent their very own customers, America's consuming public, from learning about the production practices that bring food to their tables and plates.

    They'd be best advised to follow the original lead of Florida and other states that have adopted modest animal welfare reforms. Ban the extreme confinement of laying hens and pigs in small cages and commit to sound and safe animal husbandry practices. Transparency is a bulwark in a democratic society, and it's also critical in an era of systemic animal mistreatment and food safety threats.


    Yep, "factory farmers" are good people just trying to make a living treating animals like unfeeling pieces of "garbage". And nobody should have a right to get them to change their ways. Don't try to make them do anything decent for the animals because they should be able to do whatever they want. It's their garbage and mind your own business.

    Check the link for pictures that don't begin to show you the horror of these "farms".

  5. Atypical is offline
    03-30-2011, 02:21 PM #25

    Healthcare Reform Helping Businesses: Government Data

    (Reuters) - When President Barack Obama signed his healthcare overhaul into law a year ago, some U.S. companies were quick to flag -- and write down -- the millions of dollars they stood to lose as a result of one aspect of the measure.

    A year later, data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows the business community is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a separate provision of the overhaul, which provides billions of dollars in assistance to employers that maintain medical coverage for early retirees.

    Hundreds of U.S. companies -- including some that took writedowns last year that critics cited as proof of the new law's burden on business -- are participating in the program, which has paid out $530 million in the first seven months and is authorized to spend as much as $5 billion through 2014.

    But while companies were quick to bemoan a potential headwind created by the overhaul, which eliminated a double subsidy they had enjoyed on certain drug expenses, no one seems keen to alert shareholders to the tailwind the companies are enjoying thanks to another aspect of the law.

    The program, known as the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, was designed to encourage health-plan sponsors -- companies, labor unions, nonprofits and state and local governments -- to continue to provide coverage to employees who retire before they qualify for Medicare, the government healthcare program for people aged 65 and over.

    Without coverage from their former plans, experts say these people often cannot get insurance on their own because of their age and pre-existing conditions.

    In the past, private employers were often willing to pay for such insurance as a carrot to encourage headcount reductions through attrition rather than layoffs.

    But in recent years, fewer did because the annual costs per covered person began to rise to $20,000, $30,000 or more. As a result, "early retirees are among the groups hurt the most by the current health system," said Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports, "and anything that helps them hold on to coverage until 2014 is helpful."

    Under the ERRP program, U.S. taxpayers now pay 80 percent of the outlays associated with higher-cost early retirees, those who cost their former employers between $15,000 and $90,000 a year in insurance premiums and other healthcare-related outlays.

    The plan is scheduled to sunset in 2014, when the health insurance exchanges created by the Obama law are scheduled to open, providing affordable insurance to everyone. But in the four years ERRP is around, it can put as much as $240,000 per early retiree back in the pocket of a company.

    "Every extra dollar that employers save on healthcare is a dollar they can spend on hiring new workers, innovating, and investing in their future," said Richard Popper, a director at HHS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

    So far, about one-fifth of the $530 million that was dispersed in the first seven months of the program has gone to private U.S. businesses. The actual amounts each company received are not yet available.

    But the official list of companies participating in the program includes half the members of the Dow Jones industrial average.

    Among the corporate beneficiaries: AT&T, Caterpillar Inc and Deere & Co -- three companies that were part of the very public writedown wave that followed Obama's signing of the law last year and the elimination of the double subsidy regarding retiree drug benefits.

    That loophole, created in 2003 with the Medicare Modernization Act, allowed companies to receive a 28 percent subsidy from taxpayers to help cover the cost of prescription drugs for retirees -- without counting the money as income.

    And when they spent the money, the companies were allowed to turn around and get a deduction for it on their taxes -- even though the money was a gift from taxpayers.

    The Obama administration saw that as a double subsidy and eliminated it. So starting in 2013, U.S. companies will only be able to enjoy the subsidy once, by not having it count as income.

    Reuters contacted AT&T, Caterpillar and Deere this week and asked them what they had told their shareholders about the boost their finances are getting from ERRP.

    Ken Golden, a spokesman for Deere & Co, did not acknowledge the request. McCall Butler, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said the telecommunications giant had "no comment on this."

    Bridget Young, a spokeswoman for Caterpillar, said her company was "still in the process of analyzing our claims experience to better understand to what degree the reimbursement will affect Caterpillar. As such, it is too early for us to comment on how the reimbursement will be allocated."


    Do any of you remember the huge whining tantrum on this site by some when ATT made a big deal about having to "write down" an amount based on the 'baaad' healthcare bill?

    Well, apparently it turns out there was nothing to these shrieks from our corporate "friends". Just business as usual - 'all changes, regulations, modifications are going to hurt us and prevent us from rewarding our shareholders; and hurt our profits and EVERYTHING!!!!'

    Typical bullshit from our corporate overlords!!

    I'm shocked, just shocked!
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-30-2011 at 02:28 PM.

  6. Atypical is offline
    03-30-2011, 03:50 PM #26
    Incidentally, ya'll...Do any of you know how many pages GE's tax return contained?


    Do you think the entire IRS could review that effectively?

    Nope! THAT'S THE IDEA!
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-30-2011 at 04:55 PM.

  7. Atypical is offline
    03-30-2011, 04:38 PM #27

    Bailout Inflated Big Banks While Screwing Main Street, TARP Inspector Says

    On the last day of his job, the special inspector general of the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) has penned his exit letter -- and, predictably, it isn't pretty. While ordinary people have been feeling the aftereffects of the bank bailout on the economy -- broadly, wider gaps in economic disparity -- Neil M. Barofsky breaks it down for us exactly what went on. Total systematic failure.

    The act’s emphasis on preserving homeownership was particularly vital to passage. Congress was told that TARP would be used to purchase up to $700 billion of mortgages, and, to obtain the necessary votes, Treasury promised that it would modify those mortgages to assist struggling homeowners. Indeed, the act expressly directs the department to do just that.

    But it has done little to abide by this legislative bargain. Almost immediately, as permitted by the broad language of the act, Treasury’s plan for TARP shifted from the purchase of mortgages to the infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s largest financial institutions, a shift that came with the express promise that it would restore lending.

    As we now know, TARP's homeownership goals went down the drain as the banks padded their pockets [and continue to do so]. At this point, embattled homeowners are as likely to benefit from suing for foreclosure fraud as from government provisions. Barofsky details some of these failures, noting that 'no requirement or even incentive to increase lending to home buyers, and against our strong recommendation, not even a request that banks report how they used TARP funds.'

    After gouging and obliterating Geithner for obsessively talking the talk but not walking the walk, Barofsky lands a particularly square punch -- calling out the ineptitude and total kowtowing of the government to big banks for unnamed purposes, while pointing out that the 'biggest banks are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis and control a larger part of our economy than ever.'

    In the final analysis, it has been Treasury’s broken promises that have turned TARP — which was instrumental in saving the financial system at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers — into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.

    We've all known it. But it's refreshing [if distressing] to see someone in a high level of power telling us the truth. Read the rest at the New York Times, via the Daily Beast.

    By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | Sourced from AlterNet

    Posted at March 30, 2011, 7:42 am


    Who's responsible? All (corporate) conservatives and most democrats who get paid by the same people for giving them the opportunity to pillage the country and its citizens.

    Last edited by Atypical; 03-30-2011 at 04:48 PM.

  8. SiriuslyLong is offline
    SiriuslyLong's Avatar
    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    03-30-2011, 05:15 PM #28
    Duh! Wall Street = Federal Reserve. Stay focused here. You go on to blast "corporations" with such a broad stroke that it reeks of idealism. Not all corporations are "bad". As for me as an individual, a corporation employees me, pays me a decent wage (with a decent bonus this year), provides me with medical benefits and retirments benefits in the form of 401k matching AS WELL AS an EDRP. But most importantly, corporations give one the opportunity to earn success. We just moved a kid who started in production into the offices. How do you think that kid feels? He hit the jackpot.

    I'm telling you from experience, this is not the exception. I find this all over.

    Anyway, why I bother...................

    BTW, I don't like it either. Our government continues to fail us in several matters, and here we have some who want MORE of it. Now that's crazy.

    2x BTW, I believe Lloyd supported TARP, and the news just reported that TARP has turned a profit. Here's on article from this month.

  9. Havakasha is offline
    Havakasha's Avatar
    Joined: Sep 2009 Posts: 5,358
    03-30-2011, 10:29 PM #29
    "Govt continues to fail us".
    Earth to S&L. Individuals fail us, corporations fail us, Gov't and politicians fail us and on and on and on. And quess what?
    Individuals do good deeds, corporations do good deeds, and yes Gov't and politicians do good deeds.
    Were you toilet trained by a gov't worker who tortured you cause you sure are constipated.
    You're hyper (squeezed) focus on everything Govt needs some relaxing. Please get help for the sake of your kids and all mankind.
    Last edited by Havakasha; 03-30-2011 at 10:38 PM.

  10. SiriuslyLong is offline
    SiriuslyLong's Avatar
    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    03-31-2011, 12:42 PM #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Havakasha View Post
    "Govt continues to fail us".
    Earth to S&L. Individuals fail us, corporations fail us, Gov't and politicians fail us and on and on and on. And quess what?
    Individuals do good deeds, corporations do good deeds, and yes Gov't and politicians do good deeds.
    Were you toilet trained by a gov't worker who tortured you cause you sure are constipated.
    You're hyper (squeezed) focus on everything Govt needs some relaxing. Please get help for the sake of your kids and all mankind.
    Corporation do good deeds? Had to quote that one for the record, but you are right, I admit - lot's of failures. But in the context of the comments above,


    It is safe to say that Government has indeed failed in this regard.

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