Wednesday, April 09, 2008

American Rot, Part II - Regulatory & Gov't Agencies, & Big Media

Listening to the news this morning was just one more reason to avoid any US airlines when traveling this summer (or ever)... It appears FAA inspectors were harassed, bribed, and threatened when inspecting airplanes from several airlines. These inspectors had found cracks in metal and metal fatigue, faulty landing gear, electrical problems, substandard windshields, and other problems ad nauseum. The airlines response, it seems was to bribe, threaten, and make side deals with the FAA. One such encounter had an inspector warned about "losing his comfortable life" that he and "his family" enjoy so much. Another situation involved an inspector actually being fired because he didn't back down. It was finally those that take the risks to fly the subpar aircraft who stood up and complained (pilots and flight crew).

The failure of American regulators to "regulate" is an ongoing concern - especially in the past 15 or 20 years - but, has existed since the regulatory bodies were set up. The biggest challenge seems to be the "pro-corporate-giant" setup of the bodies themselves. A typical appointee to the FAA is former industry worker - often a former employee of Boeing, Lougheed, General Electric (largest manufacturer of jet engines/components), or one of the major airlines. A typical FDA adviser usually hails from the big drug cos, or from the rest of the medical industry. The list goes on. These former employees typically will have relationships within their old industry - they're usually appointed or hired BASED ON REFERRALS FROM THEIR INDUSTRY/BUSINESSES. The bodies will typically outsource a lot of their tasks to businesses who are friendly to the government and/or the industry they are regulating (after all, that is their lifeblood).

The compromising of a government agency. One that is a watchdog for civilian safety. So, when else has this happened?

FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Anyone familiar with tainted beef on US store shelves? Does anyone seem to care about the amount of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics pumped into cows, pigs, and chickens? Since when were real drumsticks the size of your whole hand??? Remember the VIOXX scandal? They were in such a rush to approve a big drug company's product, that... well, you know what happened. People died. The "ketek" scandal (ketek was an antibiotic that was improperly approved - against advice of FDA scientists). Then there was this story from a major health advisory group in the US: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, under sharp criticism for its drug safety behavior involving anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, and the silencing of its own drug safety scientists, has been offered a new name today: the Fraud and Drug Administration. The winning name was chosen from among hundreds of entries submitted by health consumers fed up with the FDA's apparent mission to protect the profits of drug companies."

FEMA (Federal Emergency Measures). One can just say "Katrina" and leave it at that. The outsourcing in this government agency was so bad (and remember, it was run by one of Bush's arch-conservative buddies) that the following occurred (words alone can't describe this kind of crap): "The Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired Kenyon International to set up a mobile morgue for handling bodies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses. "(courtesy Miriam Rafferty - the Raw Story).

NSA/CIA/FBI (C'mon, like Sept. 11th and the Iraq invasion weren't unmitigated disasters) These agencies blew it in a big way on that day - and many days since then... They're also big "outsourcers" (to private American interests, not overseas).

What's the common thread here? Conservatives and Big Corporate greed unfettered. And why don't we hear about it? Well, first of all, all these major companies are owned by wealthy old men who seem to all be members of, or benefactors of the Conservative parties in our countries (Republicans, Conservatives elsewhere). How else do they avoid detection? NBC is owned by GE, one of the world's largest manufacturers of nuclear bombs, aircraft engines, and other large commercial and military hardware. CBS? ABC? Fox? Take a look at the paragraphs below... Several key Republicans sit on the boards of these companies. Why would they EVER bite the military-industrial-complex "hand" that feeds them??? The ROT is deeper than it first appears...

How do they influence voting and consumer opinion? How about by owning all the news?

(donated 1.1 million to GW Bush for his 2000 election campaign)
Television Holdings:
* NBC: includes 13 stations, 28% of US households.
* NBC Network News: The Today Show, Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Meet the Press, Dateline NBC, NBC News at Sunrise.
* CNBC business television; MSNBC 24-hour cable and Internet news service (co-owned by NBC and Microsoft); Court TV (co-owned with Time Warner), Bravo (50%), A&E (25%), History Channel (25%).
The "MS" in MSNBC
means microsoft
The same Microsoft that donated 2.4 million to get GW bush elected.
Other Holdings:
* GE Consumer Electronics.
* GE Power Systems: produces turbines for nuclear reactors and power plants.
* GE Plastics: produces military hardware and nuclear power equipment.
* GE Transportation Systems: runs diesel and electric trains.

Westinghouse Electric Company, part of the Nuclear Utilities Business Group of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL)
whos #1 on the Board of Directors? None other than:
Frank Carlucci (of the Carlyle Group)
Television Holdings:
* CBS: includes 14 stations and over 200 affiliates in the US.
* CBS Network News: 60 minutes, 48 hours, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, CBS Morning News, Up to the Minute.
* Country Music Television, The Nashville Network, 2 regional sports networks.
* Group W Satellite Communications.
Other Holdings:
* Westinghouse Electric Company: provides services to the nuclear power industry.
* Westinghouse Government Environmental Services Company: disposes of nuclear and hazardous wastes. Also operates 4 government-owned nuclear power plants in the US.
* Energy Systems: provides nuclear power plant design and maintenance.

Television Holdings:
* Paramount Television, Spelling Television, MTV, VH-1, Showtime, The Movie Channel, UPN (joint owner), Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Sundance Channel (joint owner), Flix.
* 20 major market US stations.
Media Holdings:
* Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Video, Blockbuster Video, Famous Players Theatres, Paramount Parks.
* Simon & Schuster Publishing.

(donated 640 thousand to GW's 2000 campaign)
Television Holdings:
* ABC: includes 10 stations, 24% of US households.
* ABC Network News: Prime Time Live, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America.
* ESPN, Lifetime Television (50%), as well as minority holdings in A&E, History Channel and E!
* Disney Channel/Disney Television, Touchtone Television.
Media Holdings:
* Miramax, Touchtone Pictures.
* Magazines: Jane, Los Angeles Magazine, W, Discover.
* 3 music labels, 11 major local newspapers.
* Hyperion book publishers.
* Infoseek Internet search engine (43%).
Other Holdings:
* Sid R. Bass (major shares) crude oil and gas.
* All Disney Theme Parks, Walt Disney Cruise Lines.

(donated 1.6 million to GW's 2000 campaign)
America Online (AOL) acquired Time Warner–the largest merger in corporate history.
Television Holdings:
* CNN, HBO, Cinemax, TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Brothers Television, Cartoon Network, Sega Channel, TNT, Comedy Central (50%), E! (49%), Court TV (50%).
* Largest owner of cable systems in the US with an estimated 13 million subscribers.
Media Holdings:
* HBO Independent Productions, Warner Home Video, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera.
* Music: Atlantic, Elektra, Rhino, Sire, Warner Bros. Records, EMI, WEA, Sub Pop (distribution) = the world’s largest music company.
* 33 magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated, People, In Style, Fortune, Book of the Month Club, Entertainment Weekly, Life, DC Comics (50%), and MAD Magazine.
Other Holdings:
* Sports: The Atlanta Braves, The Atlanta Hawks, World Championship Wrestling.

6) NEWS CORPORATION LTD. / FOX NETWORKS (Rupert Murdoch) (donations see bottom note)
Television Holdings:
* Fox Television: includes 22 stations, 50% of US households.
* Fox International: extensive worldwide cable and satellite networks include British Sky Broadcasting (40%); VOX, Germany (49.9%); Canal Fox, Latin America; FOXTEL, Australia (50%); STAR TV, Asia; IskyB, India; Bahasa Programming Ltd., Indonesia (50%); and News Broadcasting, Japan (80%).
* The Golf Channel (33%).
* Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight.
* 132 newspapers (113 in Australia alone) including the New York Post, the London Times and The Australian.
* 25 magazines including TV Guide and The Weekly Standard.
* HarperCollins books.
* Sports: LA Dodgers, LA Kings, LA Lakers, National Rugby League.
* Ansett Australia airlines, Ansett New Zealand airlines.
* Rupert Murdoch: Board of Directors, Philip Morris (USA).
*(Phillip Morris donated 2.9 million to George W Bush in 2000)*

All of these big corporations have vested interests in America's Republican Party, its government, AND have former officers lodged in the "watchdog" agencies listed above. So, a consumer can clearly draw the links and parallels between the various industry watchdogs, the government, and how little ever gets done for the "little guy", "job public".

This military-industrial machine - headed towards becoming a vast monolith with "corporate incest" fast consolidating smaller companies - is slowly BECOMING the only higher authority in America. How else could drug companies and aircraft manufacturers shirk their responsibilities for public safety? How else could they - along with large insurance companies fail to respond when disasters like Katrina strike? How else could a government start a war to appease "big oil", (in the name of "energy security), then give all the private "war contracts" to its' own buddies (Halliburton, Blackwater, Carlyle Group, etc.)? How else could a government sell it's governmental duties to the private sector, then watch idly, while the for-profit sector pockets piles of public money and offers substandard, unregulated garbage for a "product"? Only in conservative America.

... And the media - the "unbiased media" - stands idly by, feeding the public trash like reality TV, celebrity gossip and scandal, and an endless stream of violence and gore to help complete the "dumbing down" of America. The media stands by, while planes fall out of the sky - not by terrorist bombs, but of their own accord. Patients in $5000/day US hospitals suffer from exploding hearts due to "experimental" drugs released too early by the FDA. How many Americans have been murdered in the past year alone, by negligence by large companies? How many of those companies have been "bombed back into the stone age" as a result - much less brought to justice?

Ahhh... the results of unchecked free enterprise... of unbridled, unfettered capitalism. The American decline continues, as the rot sets in deeper and deeper and deeper - to the point where consumers will accept anything that comes along, unquestioning.

We Canadians can stand back and say, "that's just the US", but we know darned well that Harper and his "America-annexation" fans in Parliament would like nothing better than to drag us down the US gutter along with the American rot. They'll do it by shrinking our government, attacking our institutions - including civilian bodies like the Senate, and selling out to big oil and private interest groups... We must be vigilant, and we MUST (as a party) ensure this does not happen in Canada...


R. Christopher Edey said...

Are you serious?

The media stands by, while planes fall out of the sky - not by terrorist bombs, but of their own accord.

Funny thing about that. The year 2007 was the safest year for civil aviation (in terms of accidents)since 1963 -- one should also take into account that there are just a few more planes up there today than in 1963. As for the USA, in the last decade there has been precisely one major air crash (the terrorist attacks of Sep 11 excepted). You could have of course looked this up for yourself, but I guess it would have interfered with your rant.

Oh yes, and I have yet to see an air crash where the media "stands by." Also, where did you happen to read about all of those canceled flights and stepped up FAA inspections? Oh yes, via the media which is later in your post complicit in not reporting these sorts of things.

Just like your recent comment over at the "Rolling Back..." blog about how nobody wants to invest in the US, your post is simply factually incorrect.

You may also be interested to learn that All 10 of the top-giving industries tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan money and politics watchdog group, are now donating more cash to Democrats than Republicans. A year ago, Republicans had the edge in six of the 10 sectors.

Financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs has sent 71 percent of its cash this year to Democrats while JPMorgan delivered 68 percent of its checks to the new majority. Citigroup Inc. followed close behind, with 63 percent. The big drug companies are giving at a rate of 50-50.

But I am sure that such bi-partisan donations only proves to you that "the rot" goes one foot deeper.

WesternGrit said...

Sure Chris, flights are safer now than 50 years ago - or even 30, but that has everything to do with the build quality of the aircraft.

You're missing the point completely here. No matter how much safer something is, the influence by the stakeholders in the agencies that regulate them is the main concern. Something could be 90% safe, but if it could be 5% safer without corporate interference, then so much the better.

My focus is on industry/corporate interference - not how good the equipment may or may not be. When corporations outstep their bounds, and become more powerful than they should be (and are able to taint the agencies that regulate them), THAT is a problem. When a government is overly and overtly friendly to these companies - because members of the government have a vested interest (being on boards, etc.), THAT is a problem.

I know how campaign financing works - and big companies want to fund all sides until they see a clear and apparent winner. I don't really care if that includes Democrats like Hilary. We all know that there are some pretty conservative Democrats out there... America is a conservative nation. Even the Democrats are more like our old PCs than like Liberals.

"Financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs has sent 71 percent of its cash this year to Democrats while JPMorgan delivered 68 percent of its checks to the new majority. Citigroup Inc. followed close behind, with 63 percent. The big drug companies are giving at a rate of 50-50."

This statement just proves my concern about companies having undue influence in "conservative America".

"Just like your recent comment over at the "Rolling Back..." blog about how nobody wants to invest in the US, your post is simply factually incorrect."

Oh really? Tell that to the NYSE, or Nasdaq. Even my financial advisers (Canadian bank employees) are suggesting to invest in other markets - or Canadian "blue chips" first.