corporate behavior

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

From PRWatch by Rebekah Wilce

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that Darden Restaurants which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chain restaurants has stated they have not renewed their ALEC membership as of 2010.  Darden representative Rich Jeffers, Director of Media Relations told CMD that the company had not renewed its ALEC membership since January 2010 because it “felt that different organizations like the National Restaurant Association would . . . serve us best.”

Unfortunately the “other NRA” continues to be a member of ALEC so Darden will still have representation within ALEC’s task forces and working group through representation by the National Restaurant Association. This NRA is involved in pursuing “ag-gag” bills and legislation eliminating paid sick days or leave for employees.

Read the full CMD article <- here ->

Detroit: The Final Solution?

Detroit: The Final Solution?

What remained of democracy in Detroit has now been usurped under corporatist rule by Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder.

Atty. Kevyn Duane Orr (55)...

Atty. Kevyn Duane Orr (55)…

Snyder, a venture-capitalist CPA who made his $millions as a Gateway board-director and other enterprises that exported jobs overseas, has appointed Attorney Kevyn Orr to lead point in the latest phase of the corporatist plan: America, Inc. More →

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

From Global Solar Industry Website

Bill to repeal the North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) passes a committee of the House of Representatives

“A bill to repeal the US state of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has passed a committee of the state’s House of Representatives 11-10. The bill must now pass more committees, the full House and the North Carolina Senate before it can go to the governor to be signed.

“House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was introduced by House Majority Whip Mike Hager (R), and three other members of the state’s Republican Party. The bill is one of many state-level efforts to repeal RPS policies that have been advanced by Republicans through a national effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

Not surprising that the bill’s sponsor, Mike Hager is an ALEC member – or that this same legislation is advancing nationally through ALEC’s efforts.  Also not surprisingly, Duke Energy, a powerful and influential ALEC member with a seat on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force,  is headquartered in NC and is undoubtedly helping fund lobbying for this legislation.

Read the Global Solar article here…and a second GL article about this same legislation passing another NC committee here.

Prison Industry Bill Clears Nevada’s Senate Judiciary Committee

Prison Industry Bill Clears Nevada’s Senate Judiciary Committee

Senators move quickly to rein in runaway prison program

By Bob Sloan

On Wednesday a proposed bill amending Nevada’s Prison Industries was debated before the state Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bill, SB 478 was sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by former Assemblywoman and now Senator Debbie Smith (D-13).  Senator Smith explained the bill to the Committee and why a revision to NRS 209.461 is needed to protect workers, private businesses and taxpayers from being unfairly compromised by prison industry operations.

Attending the hearing in support of the legislation, former U.S. Senator (and Nevada Governor) Richard Bryan outlined a proposal he’d submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners last month that would help protect Nevada’s businesses and workers.  Proposed revisions to NRS 209 within SB 478 language would serve that purpose.

Sen BryanSuggested language includes requirements that the NDOC provide adequate notice and consult with private businesses and unions prior to entering into new contracts or developing new prison industries.  This would help protect Nevada’s workers from displacement and private businesses from unfair competition arising from the use of prison labor by private companies or state sponsored industry programs.

These requirements are already mandatory and annunciated under federal guidelines controlling prison-made products introduced into interstate commerce.  This is to protect workers and businesses in states receiving such goods.

Senator Bryan explained the reason such policy changes were necessary to first protect Nevada’s business and workers.  He stated that these protections were at the core of the proposal made to the BPC in March.

SB 478 includes a requirement that any private company applying to participate in prison industrial programs be required to provide a guarantee that operational expenses will be paid to the NDOC.  This provision requires the posting of a surety bond or personal guarantee:

“7. Before entering into any contract with a private employer for the employment of offenders pursuant to subsection
1, the Director shall obtain from the private employer:
   (a) A personal guarantee, surety bond in the sum of $1,000,000 made payable to the State of Nevada or security
agreement to secure any debt, obligation or other liability of the private employer under the contract including, without limitation, lease payments, wages earned by offenders and compensation earned by personnel of the Department.”

This clause seemed to draw the most concern and discussion from the Committee as they attempted to ascertain whether such a high bond was necessary.

Danny Thompsonsb 478 hearing conway

Other revisions require the NDOC Director to secure documentation pertaining to the impact upon private industry and labor in Nevada.  Before submitting such projects or new industries to the Interim Finance Committee’s Committee on Industrial Programs for recommendations or Board of Prison Commissioners for approval, these studies must be completed.

Also speaking in support of SB 478’s changes to policy requiring notice and consultation with labor, was Nevada’s AFLCIO Executive Secretary Treasurer, Danny Thompson and Robbie Conway of Ironworkers Local 433.

The Union Representatives spoke on behalf of unemployed union workers being displaced or unable to find employment because of prisoners used by Alpine Steel, LLC.  Alpine has been accused of using cheap prison labor to reduce labor costs and secure bids on projects, reducing the ability of other companies to compete fairly for the same jobs. One of those projects is the high profile construction of the Sky Vue Ferris Wheel on the Las Vegas strip.

SkyVue pic

Thompson raised issues of public safety due to using inmate labor to fabricate steel components used in building a public bridge over I-15 and the Wet ‘N’ Wild theme park in Summerlin. Thompson mentioned he’d made repeated requests for proof of required certification of the prison shop and inmate welders but Alpine and NDOC continues to withhold those documents.

Time for discussion opposing SB 478 was consumed by Alpine Steel owner, Randy Bulloch.  He vehemently opposed any requirement of posting a surety bond or consulting with unions, labor or competing businesses before starting up new prison industries.  He advised his company had been using inmates as a workforce for seven years before the operation was stopped early this year.

His argument was that requiring a bond would be cost prohibitive and “catastrophic” to prison industry operations.  Bulloch also claimed that noticing and consulting with unions and competing businesses and requiring approval of both would be impossible, “they’ll never agree to such projects.”  Presumably Bulloch’s persistent advocacy on behalf of prison industries demonstrates a desire to reopen the prison industry’s metal shop to Alpine Steel and regain access to that less costly workforce.

The proposed revisions do not include a requirement of “approval” by unions or competing businesses.  It only requires notice and an opportunity to participate in any discussion prior to submission of proposed new industries for approval. In addition until Bulloch repays nearly half a million dollars owed to the state it is unlikely authorities will consider allowing his company back onto prison property.

It’s interesting that Mr. Bulloch’s company was at the root of a controversy that ultimately resulted in the necessity of this legislative review of prison industries.  Actions of Bulloch and Alpine Steel placed the entire program in jeopardy by his refusing to pay incurred operational expenses owed to the NDOC.

Rather than open discussions of new industry operations to transparency, Bulloch seems intent upon keeping any new or proposed contracts shrouded in secrecy, and decisions regarding use of inmate labor made outside the view of obviously interested parties.

Alpine ran up a huge bill with the prison industries by failing to pay inmate and NDOC staff wages, utility costs, workers compensation or lease payments for nearly four years, accumulating a debt of $438,000 to the state.  After the story broke in the media is when officials closed Alpine’s operation at High Desert State Prison and forced Bulloch to agree to repay the state over the next four years.  Though Bulloch no longer has any inmates working for him in the prison shop and the facilities are closed to him, he continues to be the lone voice advocating for operating Nevada’s prison industries without any policy changes to ensure other companies are not able to operate with taxpayers footing the bill.

Competing steel companies protested lost business through unfair practices exercised by Alpine to secure contracts due to low-paid prison wages.  They also voiced concern that the state was unfairly subsidizing Alpine’s operations through a sweetheart lease agreement for prison facilities and a failure to collect the debts owed.  Both gave Alpine Steel a substantial advantage over all competitors in the steel industry there in Nevada.

NDOC Director Cox and Deputy Director Connett were present and stated they and the department was “neutral” on the legislation and will be submitting written statements to that effect.  Several former inmates attempted to speak in opposition, but time was short due to Bulloch’s lengthy statements in opposition and their discussion limited.

The following day, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to move the bill to the full Senate for discussion and vote.  It is unknown at this time how much support this legislation will get from the Nevada Assembly and full Senate.

Detroit’s Dictatorship…

Detroit’s Dictatorship…

By Dr. Publico – Repost from American tribune

The corporate criminals now ruling Detroit hardly bother disguising their intent any longer. For them it’s open class war and most of the victims are clueless as to the source of their social and political impoverishment.

William-Livingstone-House-0051-300x231

From time to time, as capital-corporatism is confronted with its own Ponzi-like profiteering, these privateers either accept a compromise from their unbridled predatory practice or seek to place the full burden of their theft on the “lower” classes. Today, they’re going for the Full Monte…again.

Without information (public education and an independent media) class consciousness of corporatist predation is mixed.

Six corporations own and control over 90% of the media. Their overall strategy is eminently successful at convincing and confusing the role between gov’t and business, two entirely different enterprises with vastly different goals. There’s always been systemic tension between democratic and corporate rule.

The fact of such tyranny is nothing new to human relations; alpha-male/sociopathic rule has plagued humankind from the beginning of civilization; it comes with the territory.

What worked for our hominid forebears in primeval conditions is applied today to the privileged role of a ruling elite over the rest of humankind. As Pogo discovered: “We’ve met the enemy and he is us” (assuming of course that by “us” one includes an infected or cancerous appendage).

Republican-Tea-Party-300x206An anthropologist would observe that while class rule has served a survival and socio-technological role in human socio-political development, such relations are increasingly becoming the problem, not the solution.

Heretofore, such systems met their destiny thru either self-destruction in competition with other systems (usually the more predatory one winning), or thru resistance and revolution by those being exploited. Competition having been all but foreclosed by corporate-state power, I’d guess only revolution or our mutual self-destruction remains.

In any event, if fascist-corporatism “wins,” it will destroy the planet thru its own systemic dynamics, there being little left to stop it. As the super-technology of science is being increasingly exploited around the world to privatize war for corporate profit and rule, all that tech comes home to control its own populations.

What’s left of the nation’s neo-liberal leadership still believes that appeasing these sociopaths is a viable strategy (assuming that they’re not simply junior partners). The corporatist strategy remains demand, demand, demand. They know that appeasers will ALWAYS capitulate “a little bit.”

Obama’s history shows that his end-strategy to power-conflict resolution has been to always side with corporate conservatives, assuming the continued support of his own liberal base (figuring: Where else can they go?).19GpOb.SlMa_.911-2-300x238

As a thought experiment, one might wonder what he would do should his opposition demand that he be castrated (which, metaphorically, is the case).

After his initial shock, what would be his position? Negotiate for an inch? Hey, ‘Bam, here’s a pregnant idea: How ’bout just a quarter inch…off the back endThe Boehner might go for that

I recall when Reagan & Company were making demands of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua back in ’89, the revolutionaries agreed. Caught off guard, Reagan then added more demands. The Sandinistas agreed again.

This went on for some time with the Sandinistas always agreeing (in order to end the murderous US Contra-War against their people). Finally, in frustration, when the media asked Reagan’s representative what would they accept, he replied, “They could all go shoot themselves!”

There is no way to appease sociopaths, nor their psychopathic goals. To them, every compromise is simply another step in their strategy. How many more millions must be sacrificed?

Welcome to Detroit, the current front-line in the Class War:

In March of 2013, Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) appointed corporate lawyer Kevyn Orr as “Emergency Financial Manager” (EFM) to act as overseer for Detroit. Orr was given full dictatorial powers over the entire city, including the elected Mayor and City Council.

Proof (should one need it) that no longer do corporateers intend to allow their “disaster capitalism” to be ameliorated a la FDR or even satiated with neo-liberal “bailouts.” They want it all. Massa has come home to roost

Their counter-revolutionary strategy includes shifting the weight of their Ponzi-like economic schemes to the masses by breaking labor contracts, slashing services, selling off public assets and, should they choose, disincorporatizing the city itself (as prelude to all gov’t).

In other words, they intend to impoverish the mass of population to the level of third-world wage-slavery and privatize every aspect of commerce. Gov’t–after it’s been drowned in their proverbial bathtub–will then only serve corporate edicts.

This is the world they envision, and this is the world they’re well on the way to creating. Detroit is only the latest stage in that quest.

Not to be outdone by the governor, Detroit’s Mayor Bing also appointed Kevyn Orr’s “former” mega-law firm, Jones Day, to represent Detroit in this charade. EFM Orr, needless to point out, controls Bing’s continued salary.

Even Hollywood would find the hypocrisy of this scenario simply too fantastic to use in a script. A corporate governor appoints a corporate lawyer to rule Detroit, while his corporate law firm (which also represents Detroit’s corporate creditors) to be Detroit’s “restructuring counsel.”

Justice...-300x152Of course, all of these profiteers and quislings believe that in the New Detroit the “trains will run on time” and the citizens will behave more profitably under corporatism for its creditors. The demise of its mass of population is simply “the cost of doing business.”

Is money the “measure of all things”? Corporateers and their conservative schutzstaffel (shock-forces; Klan, Tea Party and other Joe Malarkey followers) believe so, albeit, many for racist and other motivations (thus further serving corporatism).

For the moment, Orr & Company are biding their time. Soon enough the Great Property Grab and looting of what remains of the public treasury will commence.

Us natives, relegated to oblivion by a parasitic economic system, will pass quietly into the night…or perhaps not…

(Special thanks to Detroit’s senior activist-attorney Tom Stephens for some of this material. My use of it is of course my own responsibility.)

Dr. Publico

You can Call me AL or ALE…but not “ALEC!”

You can Call me AL or ALE…but not “ALEC!”

From an article published by Nick Surgey at PRWatch: “ALEC Who?” ALEC Has an Identity Crisis

The American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to change their image and in accomplishing that they would rather toss away the acronym “ALEC” – they’ve been known by and operating under for forty years now – than change their activities.  Four decades they have been secretly meeting, writing pro-corporate legislation and disseminating it throughout America and of late, the world.  Their “International Relations Task Force” includes U.S. state lawmakers and eighteen or nineteen foreign elected officials.  This IRTF is responsible for submitting resolutions and proposed model legislation that has subsequently become law in several U.S. states, so they can now proudly add “Interference with International Policy and Procedures” to their corrupt resume.

Journalist Nick Surgey recently joined the Center for Media and Democracy and writes about the attempt made by ALEC to alter their image in this revealing article published today.  We have to now await anxiously for ALEC to “reveal” their entirely new, squeaky clean “corporate personae”…so we can continue to expose their activities and track their corrupt legislative efforts state by state…

Pictures from ALEC’s 2011 meeting in Phoenix and 2012 Spring Summit in Charlotte that drew hundreds of protesters is the image they are trying to leave behind:

Phoenix 1 Phoenix 6 Phoenix 9 Phoenix 10 Phoenix 2DCIM100MEDIA

Watch YouTube video of Phoenix ALEC Protest here

Read the entire PRWatch article here

 

Michigan GOP Human Services Budget — Welcome to the Gulag

Michigan GOP Human Services Budget — Welcome to the Gulag

The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Michigan Republicans and Democrats are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page, when it comes to what politicians like to refer to as “our most precious resource” — our children.

Michigan House Republicans approved a budget which will slash funding for the Department of Human Services, the agency that serves the most vulnerable among us. The budget proposes to cut 1,000 jobs in that department — 9 percent of its workforce. Under the GOP plan the agency will be severely handicapped in its capacity to handle the core functions of welfare, food assistance and child abuse cases. Worker’s caseloads would increase by 7 percent, adversely impacting foster care and child protective services. Although the state is under a court-ordered mandate to improve conditions in these services, Republicans refuse to adequately fund the programs.

A decline in services for children in need will predictably lead to increased delinquency and incarceration of the state’s poorest children. The GOP is additionally planning on privatizing three juvenile detention centers (Escanaba, Grayling and Whitmore Lake) to save money. As Democracy Tree investigated last year, privatization of prisons is not only a very bad idea, (that doesn’t save money), but it creates a de facto slave labor force.

What we have in the GOP House Human Services budget is effectively an initiative to make “our most precious resource” a lifelong slave labor market for private prisons.

Michigan Democrats also revealed their budget plans. The Associated Press reports that their focus is on K-12 and higher education funding and middle-class tax relief. Democratic House Leader Griemel said:

“Our priorities are tax relief for middle-class families, restoring funding to education and increasing economic security for Michigan families. The governor’s agenda puts corporations before middle-class families”.

It is safe to say that these priorities will not be reflected in the final budget.

The Senate Human Services subcommittee is set to vote this afternoon on their budget. Congress must then hammer-out their differences by the June 1st deadline.

Our most precious resource will surely be the biggest loser.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree-vltp

Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Local governments in Michigan are being subjected to the equivalent of The Hunger Games under Gov. Snyder’s policies. New laws and budgeting dictates have pitted community against community and department against department as if they were competing corporate entities. Snyder and GOP lawmakers naively think that this is a good thing — believing it will lead to a smaller, more efficient government, and thereby some sort of magic kingdom of prosperity.

Wayne County is the poster-child of the fundamental flaws in the governor’s boilerplate municipal fiscal policies. Applying the Government = Bad hypothesis, Snyder starts with the corporate-borrowed premise that eliminating governmental functions, and the infrastructure they are designed to provide, through cut-back management is an end goal meant to create “savings”. This demonstrates Snyder’s deep misunderstanding of the primary function of government — to provide infrastructure, not dismantle it. The basic necessities of a prosperous civil society cannot be achieved by starving it of revenue, especially while lavishing tax cuts on private corporations, held unaccountable as job-creators in the state.

Sound infrastructure is key to growing Michigan’s economy — which can only be achieved through government investment in the state’s future. Private sector rules of capitalism fail miserably in this regard.

Wayne County has been pushed to the breaking point. The prosecutor’s office is suing the county over inadequate funding. As Democracy Tree reported last week, the Wayne County prosecutor is no longer able to service many misdemeanors, and not just traffic violations. Their $25.6 million dollar budget has nearly eliminated their ability to issue Personal Protection Orders. The Associated Press reports that they are facing a $160 million dollar deficit, and just laid-off 22 attorneys and 3 investigators. They have a backlog of 40 homicides, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sexual assaults. Paula Bridges, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said: “If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars…This means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals”. It costs the county $140 per day for each prisoner.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon is also squaring-off with the county over his department’s funding. Their current budget provides for 1754 inmates, but they are actually servicing an additional 1000 (at the above mentioned cost). Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano complains that the department is already $35 million over their $85 million dollar budget, and laments that the state didn’t step-in and make it illegal for departments to sue the county.

The county itself has been using inter-departmental bridge loans for stop-gap budgeting emergencies, but the state recently denied approval for the county to temporarily reallocate some unused grant monies for that purpose, and last year passed a bill that spun-off the Wayne County Department of Mental Health as a separate entity to protect its revenue stream.

There you have it, Wayne County: starving poster-child of Michigan.

Former Governor Milliken, a true statesman and visionary, understood the importance of investing in Michigan. Snyder however, is still thinking about window-dressing his quarterlies for Gateway.

Whatever happened to that company anyhow?

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree-vltp

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

By Bob Sloan

Like the military/industrial complex, the criminal justice industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control. Its public rationale is the fight against crime.  To accomplish the goals the public must be made to fear their neighbors, fellow employees…to walk in a public park or to the corner store.  If the public is not made to fear all these things, they will not acquiesce to spending billions in tax dollars on more and more police, more judges, jails or prisons.

The business niche created to profit from imprisoning fully 5% of all Americans has become hugely rewarding.  Companies have pumped billions into expanding “system-gulag” here in the U.S. to generate similarly huge rewards in profits and investor dividends.  Companies such as Corrections Corporation of America have provided an incentive and way for the “small” individual investor to share in the wave of money made off of incarceration in all it’s forms.  Corporations long ago learned that to enable such schemes it was important to get the word “fear” – and what to fear – out to the public.

To accomplish this, those being made wealthy off incarceration diversified and began to buy media outlets; a newspaper here, a radio or tv station there, digital media was created and is now controlled by a handful of such individuals.  Now entire broadcast networks are owned by criminal justice entrepreneurs and they keep Americans fearful and willing to spend billions to overcome that fear…billions that flow smoothly into company coffers and can be used to continue to expand and enlarge revenue streams. Surrounding this criminal justice industry is a curtain that keeps society’s eyes from penetrating a web of intentionally created disinformation.  Think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been swept into the fold and used to craft and lobby for ever harsher laws, longer sentences and to “legalize” more privatization efforts.

All of this has been rolled into a cabal of companies, individuals, organizations and institutes dedicated to keeping the criminal justice industry functioning flawlessly and generating ever growing profits.  Articles and studies sometimes written by those who have had a taste of this industry from the inside, are kept from the public by the mainstream media refusing to print them.  Even when alternative outlets publish such articles and attract attention, the MSM immediately goes all out to discredit the facts given and the author.  In just such a non-MSM posting from “Transmissions”, the truth about the criminal justice industry was eloquently and factually stated back in 2001.  Don’t look for the subject or discussion reported by the MSM over the last dozen years, you won’t find it.  I’ve taken the liberty of quoting from that decade old article here:

“Not so long ago, communism was “the enemy” and communists were demonized as a way of justifying gargantuan military expenditures. Now, fear of crime and the demonization of criminals serve a similar ideological purpose: to justify the use of tax dollars for the repression and incarceration of a growing percentage of our population. The omnipresent media blitz about serial killers, missing children, and “random violence” feeds our fear. In reality, however, most of the “criminals” we lock up are poor people who commit nonviolent crimes out of economic need. Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping don’t even make the top ten. Like fear of communism during the Cold War, fear of crime is a great selling tool for a dubious product. As with the building and maintenance of weapons and armies, the building and maintenance of prisons are big business. Investment houses, construction companies, architects, and support services such as food, medical, transportation and furniture, all stand to profit by prison expansion. A burgeoning “specialty item” industry sells fencing, handcuffs, drug detectors, protective vests, and other security devices to prisons…

Research shows that many of the hundreds of companies holding memberships in ALEC, the NCIA, American Correctional Association or other affiliates, have been involved and raking in money off of incarceration in several ways.

“…Communication companies like AT&T, Sprint, and MCI are getting into the act as well “ gouging prisoners with exorbitant phone calling rates, often six times the normal long distance charge. Smaller firms like Correctional Communications Corp., dedicated solely to the prison phone business, provide computerized prison phone systems” fully equipped for systematic surveillance. They win government contracts by offering to “kick back” some of the profits to the government agency awarding the contract. These companies are reaping huge profits at the expense of prisoners and their families; prisoners are often effectively cut off from communication due to the excessive cost of phone calls…

In February of last year CCA’s extensive lobbying contributions to Florida’s Governor Scott and the GOP led legislature in an effort of privatizing the state’s entire southern prison system, failed.  In response, CCA distributed a letter to all Governors offering to buy their state owned prison facilities.  This proffer included terms that CCA would have an exclusive 20 year contract for managing and operating each facility and requiring the state to guarantee to keep the prisons at 90% of capacity during the term of the contract.

ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections “Task Force” is responsible for writing nearly every law that has been adopted nationwide to incorporate Three Strike (Habitual Offender Act), Mandatory Minimum sentences, Truth in Sentencing, Private Correctional Facility ActTargeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act,  Prison Industries Act…all to incarcerate more men and women, keep them in prison for the longest term possible and to replace parole with “privatized parole” in the form of a “Conditional  Early Release Bond Act” to allow profiting off the release of offenders prior to end of sentence completion.

“… Like any industry, the prison economy needs raw materials. In this case the raw materials are prisoners. The prison/industrial complex can grow only if more and more people are incarcerated even if crime rates drop. “Three Strikes” and Mandatory Minimums (harsh, fixed sentences without parole) are two examples of the legal superstructure quickly being put in place to guarantee that the prison population will grow and grow and grow…

It is no longer a “U.S.” effort.  This cabal or network of companies and investors micro-managing the criminal justice industry have realized the potential for an additional windfall of profits if expansion to the EU, UK, Poland, New Zealand, Australia and beyond can be accomplished.

“Correctional Corporation Of America, one of the largest private prison owners, already operates internationally, with 48 facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under contract by government to run jails and prisons, and paid a fixed sum per prisoner, the profit motive mandates that these firms operate as cheaply and efficiently as possible… The basic transnational corporate philosophy is this: the world is a single market; natural resources are to be exploited; people are consumers; anything which hinders profit is to be routed out and destroyed. The results of this philosophy in action are that while economies are growing, so is poverty, so is ecological destruction, so are sweatshops and child labor. Across the globe, wages are plummeting, indigenous people are being forced off their lands, rivers are becoming industrial dumping grounds, and forests are being obliterated. Massive regional starvation and “World Bank riots” are becoming more frequent throughout the Third World.

Today the same cabal that created initiatives to outsource American jobs to foreign countries for cheap labor,  tax breaks and the ability to not pay taxes on foreign income, are hard at work here in the U.S. – again, led by ALEC – and working hard to take their network international.  They have been writing and lobbying for legislation to end collective bargaining, union organizing, to restrict or abolish minimum wage requirements and eliminate union dues – worldwide.

All over the world, more and more people are being forced into illegal activity for their own survival as traditional cultures and social structures are destroyed. Inevitably, crime and imprisonment rates are on the rise. And the United States law enforcement establishment is in the forefront, domestically and internationally, in providing state-of-the-art repression. For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. No language problem, as in a foreign country. New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. All at a fraction of the cost of “free labor.

Prisoners can be forced to work for pennies because they have no rights. Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

The influx of manufacturing and service jobs to nations such as China has led to the creation of working or middle classes in those countries, just as it did in America in the middle of the 20th century.  Wages of these foreign nations have been climbing, labor has begun to organize and CEO’s of companies that have been created due to the integration of American manufacturing in their nations, have begun to seek – and receive – larger and larger salaries and benefits.  The cabal has realized it is no longer logistically possible to continue to manufacture overseas and transport products back to the U.S. due to increasing labor, utility and other costs associated with overseas production.  These rising costs cut into profits and have caused many of these labor-exploiting companies to contemplate a return to the U.S. with their manufacturing.

In order to do this, American worker’s wages must be controlled.  Through hidden legislation they have found a way to bring their manufacturing needs back to America and do it in a way that provides a huge, silent, captive and hugely underpaid workforce: prisoners serving sentences in state and federal prisons.  Through authorization from Congress in 2011 UNICOR secured the ability to participate in the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).  This allows all federally owned and operated prison factories the ability to “partner” with private companies, lease them manufacturing space and provide adequate labor via inmate workers.

Along with this new authorization came another “innovative” program titled: Repatriation.  Repatriation as used in this context is the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs to America – under a provision that products no longer made in the U.S. by American companies (or that a company says “may be moved offshore”) can be brought back to the U.S. by those companies.  The products will be made within the industrial facilities of the federal prison industries (UNICOR) by federal prisoners. at wages of between $.23 and $1.35 per hour:

“Federal Prison Industries — also known by the trade name UNICOR — is a self-sustaining, self-funding company within the US Bureau of Prisons. It is owned wholly by the US government and was created by an act of Congress in 1934 to function as a rehabilitative tool to teach real-world work skills to federal inmates. These inmates were historically limited to producing goods for government use, such as furniture, uniforms, even, believe it or not, components for Patriot missiles. “Indeed, FPI/UNICOR’s 2012 annual report states that the board of directors “has approved 14 pilot programs for repatriated products.”  It also details “substantial losses” incurred and asserts that “inmate employment levels have dropped precipitously.” To be sure, not every job being reshored will be filled by an inmate. But according to the report, “FPI anticipates these pilot projects will assist in further reducing its losses,” which would logically induce the Bureau of Prisons to funnel as much business as possible to its 109 existing UNICOR factories, which currently employ just over 21,000 inmates.”

Today with minimum wage jobs disappearing and no longer available to those without degrees or diplomas, work for young men and women has become harder to find.  Employers can pick and choose who to hire and how much they’re willing to pay in wages.  A young Black or Hispanic man with education but few skills, has little value to employers…but they do to the criminal justice industrial complex.  With each new admission to a private prison, taxpayers fork over an average of $32,000 per year for housing, feeding, medical care and clothing. Because of this, poor people of color are being locked up in grossly disproportionate numbers, primarily for non-violent and drug possession crimes. On average they serve 3.5 years of a 5 year sentence for the first offense.  Meals, health services and transportation needs, canteens, personal clothing and banking have all been outsourced so in addition to the private prison company, several other private companies profit off of providing those “services.”

Drug, alcohol and other counseling and rehab programs have been cut.  Education – especially higher education – have all been eliminated and no longer available to prisoners.  So there is no real effort of rehabilitation.  Instead they rely upon the possibility of a job paying as little as $20.00 every other week to keep prisoners behaving in the hope of getting such work – eventually.  And when they’re finally released it is back into the same community with now even fewer jobs and for the ex-convict with a record, any hope of acquiring work to support themselves or even a small family is nonexistent.

In this manner the cycle of incarceration is begun and becomes perpetual.  Those invested in incarceration continue to rake in huge profits as more than 6 out of every 10 prisoners released return to prison within 3 years and are put back to work churning out products and generating income for investors and corporate owners who reinvest their earnings by contributing to campaigns of those legislators responsible for creating more laws, harsher and longer sentences and other means of profiting off human miseries. As the article linked to above, “Prisons are Big Business” informed readers over a decade ago:

As “criminals” become scapegoats for our floundering economy and our deteriorating social structure, even the guise of rehabilitation is quickly disappearing from our penal philosophy. After all: rehabilitate for what? To go back into an economy which has no jobs? To go back into a community which has no hope? As education and other prison programs are cut back, or in most cases eliminated altogether, prisons are becoming vast, over-crowded, holding tanks. Or worse: factories behind bars.  And, prison labor is undercutting wages –something which hurts all working and poor Americans.

Those among our society who have supported “tough on crime” legislation and adopted the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mantra have helped enrich those individuals and companies profiting off the hard earned tax dollars spent on incarceration.  That philosophy has to be stopped by citizens realizing how they have been manipulated by the MSM and others reaping huge rewards from imprisonment.  To those involved in incarceration, it is no longer a moral or societal duty, it has become a business and like any other business, it exists to make a profit for owners and investors.

Profiting off the misery of fellow human beings is immoral and creates the incentive to imprison more – for additional profit.

VLTP would urge readers to help us battle this means of widening the gap of inequality in our culture and society.  Spread the word about profiting off incarceration, the use of prisoners to rob us of our jobs and how this “system” has developed and works against us all.  Contribute to support our continued research, studies and reporting on this topic.  We do not have paying memberships, receive no corporate contributions or government grants to support our work.  You could not receive a better return for your investment in our work and your society.

Koch Bros Exploit Loophole in Judicial Conduct Rules

Koch Bros Exploit Loophole in Judicial Conduct Rules

New Investigation Reveals Corporate Interests Have Been Quietly Influencing Federally Appointed Judges

Leave it to the Koch brothers to find a perfectly legal way to buy influence with federally appointed judges. The billionaire siblings are already well-established in their gluttonous abuse of lax campaign finance laws under Citizens United — pulling the strings of elected judges, but they’ve also been quietly greasing the palms of appointed judges too.

The Center for Public Integrity released a report on March 28th that details the results of their investigation into the corporate exploitation of a loophole found in The Code of Conduct for United States Judges. In that code, we find canon 4D(4) which refers to the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations which states that the following type of “gift” is allowable under the law, if it:

“…consists of an invitation and travel expenses, including the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals for the officer or employee and a family member to attend a bar-related function, an educational activity, or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.”

Translation: Training seminars, and plenty of them, with titles like “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism”, “Corporations and the Limits of Criminal Law”, Terrorism, Climate & Central Planning: Challenges to Liberty and the Rule of the Law”, and “Criminalization of Corporate Conduct”.

Sound like fun? Well, apparently 185 federal judges thought so. Fully 11 percent of these appointed members of the judiciary felt compelled to be wined, dined and “educated” in these classes, among the other 100 such seminars sponsored by corporate interests between 2008 and 2012.

Most seminars were paid for by multiple benefactors, but some sponsors were more enthusiatic than others. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Trust Foundation, The Searle Freedom Trust, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Pfizer, and State Farm Insurance all stepped-up to fund, or co-fund, 54 seminars each. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Dow Chemical, AT&T, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce similarly shelled-out for around 50 learning experiences for our federal judges. Many of these seminars were held at George Mason University, who coincidentally recently received a $4.4 million donation from the Koch brothers.

Judicial impropriety, or just the appearance thereof?

For disallowed behaviors, the judicial code of conduct does not make a significant distinction between the two because their net result is the same: a public diminution of respect for the judiciary. But, since this activity is permissible, judges are fair game for corporate interests — and, boy do they ever know it.

Federal Judge E. Grady Jolly, of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attended the 2009 seminar, “Criminalization of Corporate Behavior”, sponsored by American Petroleum and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The judge later went on to rule against the EPA in a suit where the plaintiffs were (you guessed it) American Petroleum and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barber also attended that 2009 seminar, and went on to dismiss a strong wrongful death case against ExxonMobil and Chevron USA — both corporations were also co-sponsors of the seminar. This judge has recently been assigned the BP Deepwater Horizon case. He will decide if the oil company owes the U.S. billions in fines from the 2010 blow-out which killed 11, and damaged the gulf coast environment and economy for untold years and in yet undiscovered ways.

(editor’s note:  also please see VLTP’s Special Investigative Report – ALEC’s Koch-Funded Cabal’s Educating our Federal Judges, by clicking here)

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree-vltp