Bangladeshi garment factory collapses, killing 96, and the media once again reports half of the story
April 24, 2013

Ninety-six people died (and over a thousand were injured) making our clothes in Bangladesh today when the factory in which they were working collapsed. The tragedy is the latest in a troubling series of Bangladeshi factory fires, including a January fire that killed several teenagers, a November fire that killed 112, and a December 2010 fire that injured over 100 and killed 27 in a factory supplying Gap clothes.

The factory owners apparently detected a dangerous crack in the building yesterday, but ignored the warning and allowed workers to enter the building for work today.

One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors slammed down onto those below.

The world’s biggest garment producers and retailers, including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney, have succeeded in limiting their legal liability as well as public scorn by constructing elaborate supply chains that make the Western corporations appear only distantly connected to these third-world tragedies. Businesses in the building that collapsed today had names like Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., (Ltd. meaning limited liability), but sell to major retailers including Benetton, The Children’s Place and Dress Barn, according to CBS.

The reality is that virtually all of the clothes we buy in America and Europe come from countries like Bangladesh (which is now the second largest exporter of garments due to its extremely low wages and dangerous working conditions). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between five and fifteen million 10- to 14- year-old children work in garment factories in Bangladesh. Seventy-five to ninety percent of garment workers are women.

There is no paid leave for holidays, and salary is deducted if the child is absent, or for unproductive periods when the electricity in the factory temporarily goes out. Girls under 15 years of age are preferred in these factories, as they work for less, are more likely to be unmarried with no children or domestic responsibilities, and cause no labor problems.

Media coverage of workplace disasters abroad rarely make connections to these aspects of the average worker’s experience, nor do they interrogate connections to American and European companies that ultimately enjoy the profit margin on the goods produced. When those companies are mentioned, they typically decline to comment, as Wal-Mart did today, or deny that they have any official contracts with the local businesses, which is made easier by generally shoddy paperwork and little international enforcement of labor and trade regulations.

Every few months we see news of Bangladeshi factory fires and deaths. What are those in power doing to prevent the next catastrophe? And how often do we base our own consumption choices on the working conditions of people who actually sewed the clothes, cleaned the smartphone screens, picked the tomatoes, mined the minerals? As Americans, must we continue to live in perpetual guilt about the consequences of our daily behavior?

(Photo from Reuters)

The idea is that since the main goal of all private corporations is to make money, they’ll be much more willing than the government is to cut costs and eliminate waste. The result, conservatives and libertarians say, will be more efficient, responsible, and responsive services. That’s the theory, at least. In reality, privatization of public services has been a total disaster wherever it’s been tried. And, as a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy shows, it’s also created huge opportunities for fraud and corruption. The report, which was released today and is titled “Pay to Prey,” focuses on how Republican governors in states all across the country used the cover of privatization to enrich campaign donors and political cronies. The worst culprits include some the biggest names in Republican politics.
  • nature:*does like one million groundbreaking shit during the day that can be applied to aid humanity's survival and relationship with it*
  • corporations:i got it we'll smash the earth, contaminating it a bit to get some energy
  • corporations:heres something cool lets literally throw our compiled trash into the oceans
  • corporations:wow have you ever thought about going to another planet and living like this there too? what a time
  • nature:no like check me out, I can show you how to live right if you study m-
  • corporations:but when profit now?

Follow the money:

1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.

2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.

3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.

4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”

5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”


Meet Network News Service, the ABC-, CBS-, and Fox- owned cooperative that brings you the same canned local news, no matter where you live or what network you’re watching
May 1, 2013

If you’ve ever seen the video above, or this one or this one, you’ve probably wondered just how it happens that local news stations on different networks around the country report the same stories… in exactly the same ways.

Wonder no more, because the lone pamphleteer did some digging and and came up with some pretty interesting dirt on the Network News Service (NNS), a “pioneering" organization formed in 2000 by ABC News One (owned by Disney), CBS Newspath, and Fox News Edge with the goal of cutting costs for all three networks by pooling resources and sharing footage. Over 500 affiliates of the three networks were members as of 2005, meaning they receive the prepackaged footage, soundbites, and scripted leads to which the local stations could add their own original spin.

To get around the appearance of colluding (and presumably to avoid criminal liability for anti-competitive behavior) NNS doesn’t allow the same footage to flow to two competing affiliates in the same city, although affiliates of each network could play the same footage at the same time as long as they are all in different cities.

Much of this information comes from a very revealing CBS blog post about NNS from 2005, which relates the obvious reasons for why all three networks would want to enter into this deal. They only have to set up one camera at events, for one, and they all tend to voluntarily share with each other “because of the cooperative nature of NNS”— “they know they must participate in order to reap the organization’s benefits.” And, of course, it gives the three networks a competitive edge over NBC and CNN.

Three of the largest American media conglomerates cooperating in the production and distribution of news sounds like a great business plan to me, but doesn’t that violate Federal Communications Commission rules about competition and monopoly? It probably would have before the FCC deregulated the telecommunications industry, first under Reagan, and then further under Clinton following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Now, as this chart demonstrates, a handful of massive corporations owns and controls most of our media, from initial production to final distribution— and with little regulatory oversight. And, lest you think we might start correcting this dangerous course soon, this just in: Obama’s new pick for FCC chairman has been a top lobbyist for the cable industry since 1979 (and more recently for wireless companies), probably championing a lot of the policies that led to such drastic consolidation.

In an even more dystopic twist on its business model, NNS began employing what appears to be robots in 2008 (or earlier). Generation Technologies Corporation (GTC) provides NNS with its “next generation network newsroom and affiliate content management system. The system known as NIM™ is based on GTC’s Newsroom Information Model.”

[GTC’s products] include software and hardware for all aspects of managing a network television newsroom from the assignment desk to the contribution and distribution of video clips and news wires. GTC provides industry tested bundled solutions using a standards-based, open-architecture framework.

If you can figure out what that means, let me know.

Unsurprisingly, in 2010, TV Newser (slogan: “And Now the News… About TV News”) reported that NNS was laying off a number of (living) employees as part of a series of “’sensible adjustments that reflect the partners’ needs as NNS evolves,’ and that new IP transmission technology changed the needs of the organization.” I think that means computers took over the production and distribution of the news, but I could be wrong. According to another press release,

Generation Technologies will use a combination of NIM ‘n-tier’ newsroom technology, Microsoft’s NT and Microsoft’s SQL replication technologies and will provide the main Fox News Edge, CBS Newspath and ABC NewsOne affiliate newsrooms with full metadata replication. Generation Technologies will be interfacing to NNS’s high end Montage video servers.

Again, let me know.

I’m not quite sure what to make of my newfound knowledge about Network News Service or the murky underworld of corporate news manufacturing that it reveals, but it certainly deepens my distrust and skepticism of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, it looks like the Koch Brothers are about to buy up the Tribune Company, which would include The Chicago Tribune, The L.A. Times, and The Baltimore Sun. I bet that’s one headline that won’t be syndicated ad nauseum on the news tonight.

-The Lone Pamphleteer


Close corporate tax loopholes, not public schools
April 2, 2013

Chicago public schools are facing a $1 billion deficit. The corporate media would like you to believe it’s due to excessive spending and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to close more than 50 schools, most of them in low-income neighborhoods (mostly black & Latino), is the only solution. But the state of Illinois loses $4.8 billion annually in federal tax dollars due to corporate tax loopholes that shift profits overseas. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that simply closing these excessive loopholes would save the schools that so many kids in Chicago depend upon for their education.

These corporate tax loopholes cost us over $100 billion a year in federal tax dollars, which results in state and local budget cuts and tax hikes due to a decreased allocation of federal funds. The corporations most known for complex offshore tax avoidance schemes get these loopholes by spending millions on hiring armies of lobbyists and in campaign donations to chairmen and ranking members of tax-writing committees in Congress.

The lobbyists submit draft paragraphs of new gimmicks and loopholes to those committees. The campaign donations continue to flow toward reelection campaigns with the understanding that those who are making the donations get what they want out of their sponsored politicians. Thanks to this corrupt process, the tax code grows longer and more complex year after year, the most recent version topping out at roughly 72,000 pages.

There is already legislation on the books in both the House and Senate to close most of these loopholes and rein in roughly $60 billion a year. A small sales tax on Wall Street transactions would raise roughly $150 billion a year, more than enough to offset the cuts that are closing 50 schools. These aren’t radical solutions; they’re based on the simple premise that if you hire Americans, sell to Americans, use American public services and infrastructure and make the bulk of your profits in America, you should pay the American corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Ever since Brown vs. Board of Education, there has been a coordinated right-wing attack on free education. The latest plot is an attempt to close public schools and turn them into low-performing, for-profit charter schools funded by Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers. The attempts to do this are disguised as “reform,” but are really little more than an effort to bust teachers’ unions and cede public education over to the authority of big corporations.

Public schools to educate our children aren’t a burden to the state, they’re an investment. If you want more kids to grow up into responsible, successful adults who contribute to our society, and if you want lower crime rates and prison populations, investing in good public education makes sense. We need our kids to help row the canoe down the river, not throw them out while ignoring the gaping hole in the boat. It’s time to stop making our kids pay for their crisis.


Read the statement from the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools to Rahm Emanuel here.

I wonder how many people don’t know that long before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts was a critic of the Voting Rights Act for 30 years. When he was in his late 20s, Roberts was a foot soldier in Ronald Reagan's crusade against the Voting Rights Act.

Having Roberts preside over any civil rights cases —like the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action— makes about as much sense as having Clarence Thomas being involved in cases with his former employer, Monsanto.


Moving on to crony capitalism and the  making of an oligarchy…the Roberts court has not only ruled decidedly against civil rights cases which are disproportionately detrimental to Black people, they have also reliably ruled in favor of big business more often than not.


Even the average politico can’t be expected to remember the make up of SCOTUS from one chief justice to the next, but I can’t help believing that if there’s any modicum of true justice in the world, the Roberts court and Roberts himself will ultimately be remembered by history as having been uniquely harmful to America and democracy writ large.

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(photos via and

Private Prison Profits Skyrocket, as Executives Assure Investors of ‘Growing Offender Population’
by Nicole Flatow for

A major U.S. private prison operator known for inmate abuse, violations, and disregard for the truth reported a 56-percent spike in profit in the first quarter of 2013, due in part to its new strategy for drastically reducing its taxes, the Associated Press reports. During a conference call touting its success, representatives at GEO Group boasted that the company continues to have “solid occupancy rates in mid to high 90s” and that they are optimistic “regarding the outlook for the industry,” in part due to a “growing offender population.” GEO Senior Vice President John Hurley assured investors during the call:

We have a longstanding partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshal Service and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. … We continue to see meaningful opportunities for us to partner with all three of these federal agencies, notwithstanding the various issues with the federal budget, which we believe will have no material negative impact on our business. The federal bureau of prisons continues to face capacity constraints coupled with a growing offender population.

The federal prison population has swelled 790 percent since 1980, in large part due to draconian drug and immigration laws. And the United States maintains the title of the world’s number one jailer. Private prison operators nonetheless remain enthusiastic about the prospects of high incarceration rates for business. Representatives on this call shied away from the strong language fellow prison firm Corrections Corporation of America used during its investor call in February, when CEO Damon Hininger assured a strong “continued demand for beds” even after immigration reform. GEO executives explained that they are now taking the position that “discussing our approach and strategies about any particular procurement is really not in the best interest of our company or our shareholders.”

Following a trend of corporations achieving dramatic tax reductions by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) – a mechanism historically reserved for firms holding real estate as an investment — both GEO and fellow prison operator Corrections Corporation of America successfully persuaded the Internal Revenue Service recently that they are essentially holding real estate, analogizing prisoners to renters paid for by the government. In reality, the job of running a prison is only nominally about the facility where it’s housed, and primarily about ensuring humane prisoner treatment, inmate rehabilitation, and public safety. But private prison corporations charging “rent” to house prisoners make no more or less money depending on whether they achieve these goals, particularly not when immense political spending to lobby for incarceration and privatization outweighs the public pressure from widely reported abuses at private facilities.