SDB Early Evening News Reads for 100311: Koch, Votes, Christie and Special Skills

Good afternoon, the evening reads are a bit early today, so lets dig in…

I cannot believe the Main Stream Media silence on the investigative article from Bloomberg that alleges Koch Industries are involved in corporate bribery in six different countries and made money off of chemical sales to Iran.

Dakinikat covered it in her morning post, but I thought this from David Dayen was a great post about the:  Noted Liberal Rag Bloomberg Levels Serious Charges at Koch Industries | FDL News Desk

Bloomberg, the news organization for patchouli-burning, Birkenstock-wearing hippies everywhere, has a long story alleging that Koch Industries traded with Iran, paid bribes to win contracts, stole oil, and engaged in “violations of criminal law,” according to the company’s own internal documents.

You’d need only add some story about Charles or David Koch personally tying down a damsel in distress to train tracks to come up with a more damning portrait of what amounts to a super-villain.

Because this story appears in such a commie broadsheet like Bloomberg, it will surely be dismissed. OK, tongue out of cheek. This is an extremely serious piece of journalism, detailing numerous crimes from a corporate actor that has gotten wildly rich in spite of – because of – the crimes. There are details in here of Koch Industries negligence in a pipeline gas explosion that killed two teenagers. There are details of Koch employees told by superiors to falsify data on cancer-causing benzene. There are details of trading with Iran and illicit payments to get contracts and all sorts of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There are details of a number of different indictments and settlements and court orders and plea agreements. The portrait painted is frankly of a criminal enterprise.

It is ridiculous…there are only a handful of news outlets mentioning the Koch Brothers criminal activities this Bloomberg article investigated. I noticed MSNBC has a story on it, but all I see on CNN, Reuters, Google News are things about Perry and the N*ggerhead Camp, Amanda Knox, Michael Jackson’s Doctor and speculation on Chris Christie.

Like this possible announcement from Christie scheduled for Thursday:  Christie-Watch: Big Announcement Coming Thursday (Maybe) | Election 2012

In a piece titled, “Top Christie Donors Told To Head To Trenton,” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has this:

“Big potential donors to Christie have been told to prepare to go to Trenton this Thursday to stand on stage with him for the announcement if he decides to run. He has not decided yet.”

Lewis concludes, “Regardless of his decision, this announcement will be big news…”

So, what is one to read into that? Presumably it would be a bit strange for Christie call donors to “stand on stage” while announcing that he’s not going to run.

In other election news, check out the latest findings from a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice:  Restrictions Could Keep Five Million Traditionally Democratic Voters From The Polls In 2012 | TPMMuckraker

Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”

Over at Maddow, they have a map that illustrates the states with new voter laws: The Maddow Blog – Map: Making voting harder

Click for the Brennan Center for Justice report.

Since Republicans gained control of so many state legislatures in 2010, they’ve been working to pass laws that make voting harder. We’ve been asking on the show whether they’ve made voting hard enough, in enough places, to change the landscape in 2012.

Now, from the Brennan Center for Justice, comes the beginning of an answer:

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

In those states, minority, student and poor voters are most likely to feel the pinch from the new rules. As many as one in four African-Americans don’t have the kind of photo ID needed to vote. In Maine, after finding almost no evidence of voter fraud, the Secretary of State sent college students a letter saying they might be in violation of the law. And in Wisconsin, you can get a free photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles — if you know to ask for it.

Back to the TPM link for a minute:

The study found that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

The total number, according to the Brennan Center, is the sum of the 3.2 million voters they estimate will be affected by new photo ID laws, “the 240,000 citizens and potential voters who could be affected by new proof of citizenship laws, 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws, 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed, one to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting and at least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012.”

What can you say, Dak is getting ready to defend her dissertation and take those necessary steps towards moving on to better and greener pastures…possibly outside of the US.  I wish her the best, because this country is really going down the toilet.

On the LGBT  front, this news out of Bentonville, Arkansas should make a big statement to the GOP candidates against LGBT rights…A Trans-Walmart Moment | Pam’s House Blend

A Trans-Walmart Moment has come without much notice, but the moment should be considered significant: Walmart has recently changed their corporate nondiscrimination policy to add gender identity.

From The Advocate‘s article Wal-Mart Adds Trans Protections for Employees:

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has added gender identity to their list of protected categories for employees.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, already has protections for LGB employees. The additional transgender protections were praised by the Human Rights Campaign…

Thumbnail link to HRC press release: Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination ProtectionsFrom the HRC’s press release entitled Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Protections; Nation’s largest private employer sets standard with protections for transgender workers:

The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, for adding gender identity and expression to its employment non-discrimination policy. The company’s nondiscrimination policy already included sexual orientation.

“What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart shows that doing the right thing is also good for business. We urge them to continue to move forward by ensuring all of their LGBT employees receive equal benefits.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation tracks corporate workplace policies and rates companies on their treatment of LGBT employees through the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI has helped lead a sea-change in the workplaces practices of corporate America by assessing more than 30 specific policies and practices covering nearly every aspect of employment for LGBT workers from non-discrimination protections and the training surrounding those policies to domestic partnership and legal dependent benefits to gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups. Visit our website at www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-2011 for a complete look at the survey. Last year a record 844 American companies and law firms were rated in the CEI.

“Congress needs to follow their lead and make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law of the land,” added Solmonese.

My Forever and ever, Amen comment on nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and gender expression is now going to be “If it’s good enough for Walmart, it should be good enough for you.”

Yup, and I would add one thing to Pam’s Forever and ever, Amen comment… “So get over it!”

On August 31st of this year we lost a woman who made history in Aviation.  Betty Skelton: Aviatrix and test driver who broke records on land and in the air.

Betty Skelton was an air-and-land daredevil in an era of male-dominated sports.

Breaking the gender barriers and setting records, she notched up three women’s international aerobatics titles and 17 aviation and race-car world records during the 1940s and 1950s. According to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Skelton held more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history. In his 1994 biography, Betty Skelton: The First Lady of Firsts, Henry Holden wrote, “In an era when heroes were race pilots, jet jocks and movie stars, Betty Skelton was an aviation sweetheart, an international celebrity and a flying sensation.”

Skelton was an audacious aviatrix; her signature trick, in her Pitts Special biplane S-1C, Little Stinker, was the “inverted ribbon cut,” a breathtaking manoeuvre in which a pilot flies upside down at about 150mph and about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles with the propeller. She also set two world light-plane altitude records, reaching 26,000ft in 1949 and 29,050ft (just higher than Everest) in a Piper Cub in 1951. Used to flying barefoot and with an outside temperature of -53, she recalled, “My feet darn near froze to death.”

In 1954, the diminutive Skelton became the automobile industry’s first female test driver, setting a world land-speed record, in 1956, of 145mph in a souped-up Corvette at Daytona Beach – the men’s record at the time was 3mph faster. In 1965 she set the women’s world land-speed record, hitting 315.72mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Skelton was the first woman to be inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the Nascar International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

I love the cover of that Look Magazine, isn’t it great? Skelton was a role model for girls, at a time when a woman’s place was in the home…and not at an altitude of 29,050 feet! She passed away from cancer at her home in Florida. She was 85.

And lets end with a bit of Appalachian History » You’d have that feeling then of being way far back

From 1935-1943, President Franklin Roosevelt looked to the U.S. Farm Security Administration, under the direction of Roy Stryker, to photograph people in need across the country in order to help sell his New Deal programs to the public.

Ben Shahn was one of the first photographers Styker hired. Shahn worked for a part of the project called Special Skills, and also helped create posters and other graphic arts.

“It was a really tough time,” remembered Shahn years later, “and when this thing came along and this idea that I must wander around the country a bit for three months. . . I just nearly jumped out of my skin with joy. And not only that, they were going to give me a salary too! I just couldn’t believe it.”

In October 1935 Shahn and his wife Bernarda started out on the first trip in a Model A Ford. Heading for West Virginia, he took photographs in Monongalia County before arriving in Logan County. The couple spent a Sunday and Monday in Omar and also visited Freeze Fork before moving on through Williamson to Kentucky and Tennessee, and then into the deep South.

“I did a series of photographs on a Saturday afternoon in a small town in Tennessee, I believe, of a medicine man. He had a little dummy, ventriloquist dummy, and he had a Negro to help him and so on. It was Saturday. I don’t think there were ten cars in the square, they were all mule drawn carts that had come there. This was 1935; it was incredible you see. The same was true of a lot of areas we covered. You’d have that feeling then of being way far back; but tragically enough, just about a month ago we took a train from Washington to Cincinnati. As I went throughout West Virginia, it hadn’t changed. It just made me sick to see the same darn thing.

A transcript from this 1965–68 interview can be found here: Oral history interview with Ben Shahn, 1964 Apr. 14 – Oral Histories | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

A few photos from this trip can be seen here: Omar Project:Photos

This is one that particularly touched me, maybe because the kid looks like a little hoodlum in the making…

Now, that is one tough looking little dirty bastard…(wink and a smile) 😉

That is it for me today, I’ll catch up with y’all later in the comments!


Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

This is going to be a busy week or so for me.  If you don’t see me around, just know I’m off doing things to put me on a new and hopefully higher path.  I’m defending my dissertation on the 13th, doing paper presentation on the 21st, and sending out CV packets all over the globe.  I love New Orleans but I’m headed to hopefully greener pastures.  I can’t take the war on Higher Education here any more.  Youngest daughter graduates from LSU in the spring and we’re both headed to places that aren’t dedicated to reinstating Plantation economies.  I’m cutting my losses before it gets any worse.

So, I had to bring this to the top of the links this morning.  Minx posted it down thread last night as I was actually reading it.  We have to find a way of cutting the Koch Brothers off the federal teat.  They pay small sums to loot our national resources and then they defy our national security priorities on the side.  They’ve been found getting rich off of secret sales to Iran and also bribing folks for contracts.  Thank goodness for whistle blowers!  It’s time to close them down.  This is from Bloomberg.

In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”

She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.

Every time I read about one of these things I think about the vast number of times I could’ve whistle blown on almost all the private sector companies I’ve ever worked for at one time or another.  It just makes me wonder what else is out there going unreported. The Federal government should make sure that they get severely fined, taken to court, and banned from accessing federal resources. But, given the lessons of GE, I doubt that will happen.   However, please boycott these brands owned by the Koch brothers: Stainmaster, Brawny, Dixie Cups, and Quilted Northern.

The Hill reports that Republicans are getting restless and eating their young  yet again.  It’s the blame game and the election season rolled into one!  I will pass out some popcorn if you need it!

GOP lawmakers told The Hill that redistricting pitting incumbents versus incumbents, coupled with the threat of Tea Party primary opponents, has sparked a lot of anxiety among House Republicans.

At separate closed-door conference meetings held last month as GOP leaders scrambled for votes on the appropriations bill that would ultimately fail, the topic of primaries and uncertain political futures ranked high among members’ complaints.

A freshman GOP member attributed the initial failure of the bill to assumptions on the part of the leadership. There were expectations, the member said, that enough Democrats would vote yes and that Republicans who backed the debt-reduction deal this summer would also approve of the stopgap appropriations bill. Yet, only 6 Democrats voted yes and 15 Republicans who embraced the debt deal — that set the baseline funding level — rejected the spending bill that fell 195-230.

“It was assumptions being made, not understanding the political landscape, Republicans running against Republicans in primaries and it not being a conservative position that we believe in. Continuing resolutions are not the way to run a government,” the lawmaker explained.

Other GOP lawmakers told The Hill, on the condition of anonymity, that redistricting and the threat of tough primary battles will cause problems for GOP leaders as they seek to round up votes on politically difficult budget bills.

One senior GOP lawmaker said, “[Speaker John] Boehner’s (R-Ohio) starting to have a problem internally because redistricting is pitting Republican versus Republican.”

Just wanted to let you know that it is likely that the Maconda Well is likely leaking again and you’re probably not hearing about it unless you read and watch AJ or live around here. A sheen has been reported since August and throughout September.  Some folks say the oil sheen has been around since March.

Fresh oil has been washing ashore in many areas which took a direct hit from last year’s disaster, including the Chandeleur Islands, Ship Island, Breton Island and the north part of Barataria Bay, Louisiana. AJE reports BP has reactivated clean-up operations with its Vessels of Opportunity program. Some suggest the oil is coming from natural seeps, which always occur in the Gulf. Others note oil could be leaking from the broken riser pipe, still on the ocean floor, which connected the Deepwater Horizon rig to the well. Another possibility, the most serious, is oil could be leaking at the seafloor beneath the capped wellhead, making it impossible to control.

On  September 27th, the Coast Guard said the oil sheen in Gulf could be sign of release from riser pipe and not the Macondo well not itself.  I guess that beats the natural leakage from shale formations we keeping hearing from BP.   Meanwhile, I still have serious questions about Gulf Seafood which is a horrible thing to have to say.  Here’s some information on research on Marsh Fish that are still showing signs of oil effects written up in the Miami Herald.  I’ve personally had some friends in the shrimping business tell me they’ve been hauling up shrimp with no eyes.  Meanwhile, there’s more drilling afoot and I bet you’re not hearing any of this where you live.

“The message that seafood is safe to eat doesn’t necessarily mean that the animals are out of the woods,” said Andrew Whitehead, an assistant professor of biology at Louisiana State University and a lead researcher in the study, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers measured cellular responses in the liver tissue that showed which genes were being turned on and off. Those patterns allowed researchers to predict problems of health and reproduction.

The responses were detected even though the water was clean and only very low or non-detectable concentrations of oil components showed up in fish tissues.

“Where’s the oil? It’s in the sediments,” Whitehead said. Scientists assume that fish can be exposed when waves and storms stir sediments..

The study found the same kind of cellular responses in killifish as were observed in herring, salmon and other animals that later had large population losses as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill, Whitehead said.

It will take several years before it will be known whether the population of Louisiana killifish, an important food for other fish, declines, Whitehead said.

“Ultimately, that’s what we’re interested in – the population consequences over the long term,” he said.

The researchers found that when they exposed developing fish embryos to the same water and sediment in the lab, they showed the same cellular responses.

They also found that the gill tissues weren’t healthy. The gills are important for helping the fish compensate for changes in its environment such as shifts in temperature and levels of salt and oxygen in the water, Whitehead said.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, said the killifish, also known as the bull minnow or cacahoe, was an important part of the food chain.

“This study is alarming because similar health effects seen in fish, sea otters and harlequin ducks following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska were predictive of population impacts, from decline to outright collapse,” he said in a written statement.

So, we’ll leave those living with dispersant and oil toxins alone awhile and move to Georgia where there’s a radioactive leak of “unknown size”.  Minxy, you might want to get a Geiger counter and buy bottled water.  Tritium is said to be 200x over the EPA limit right now.

Radioactive water found beneath Georgia nuclear Plant Hatch, Associated Press, September 30, 2011:

[Emphasis added]

Radioactive water has been found underneath [Hatch nuclear power plant]  in southeast Georgia […]

[The operator] identified radioactive tritium in two test wells about 25 feet below the ground, said Dennis Madison, a utility vice president who oversees the plant. […]

How much is leaking?

  • While the size of the leak was unknown, it was enough to raise the water table in the wells about five feet.
  • “We really don’t know what the rate is,” Madison said. “We know it’s more than a drip.”

How concentrated is the leakage?

The maximum concentrations of tritium reported inside the wells was more than 200 times the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water […]

So, here’s some quotes about the health of the economy from people you should know (i.e. Wall Street insiders) that was sent to me by one of our readers.

#1George Soros: “Financial markets are driving the world towards another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences. The authorities, particularly in Europe, have lost control of the situation.”

#2 PIMCO CEO Mohammed El-Erian: “These are all signs of an institutional run on French banks. If it persists, the banks would have no choice but to delever their balance sheets in a very drastic and disorderly fashion. Retail depositors would get edgy and be tempted to follow trading and institutional clients through the exit doors. Europe would thus be thrown into a full-blown banking crisis that aggravates the sovereign debt trap, renders certain another economic recession, and significantly worsens the outlook for the global economy.”

#3Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, global head of securities services at UniCredit SpA (Italy’s largest bank): “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”

#4Stefan Homburg, the head of Germany’s Institute for Public Finance: “The euro is nearing its ugly end. A collapse of monetary union now appears unavoidable.”

#5 EU Parliament Member Nigel Farage: “I think the worst in the financial system is yet to come, a possible cataclysm and if that happens the gold price could go (higher) to a number that we simply cannot, at this moment, even imagine.”

As I’m writing this, the Hong Kong exchange is down to its May lows.  The global markets and finance gods are not happy.  Frankly, I’m still thinking a coffee can buried in your back yard may be your best investment for awhile. I have no idea how President Obama is going to get reelected if this keeps up.  His message and policies just don’t stand up to current events.  But, hey, look over there.  Another Islamic Terrorist is toast, feel safer? Frankly, I’m not too worried that Al Qaeda will be after me and my bags and my grocery cart with my fat cat Miles in the kiddie sit.

Oh, here’s my personal favorite.  Try not to panic.

Ann Barnhardt, head of Barnhardt Capital Management, Inc.: “It’s over. There is no coming back from this. The only thing that can happen is a total and complete collapse of EVERYTHING we now know, and humanity starts from scratch. And if you think that this collapse is going to play out without one hell of a big hot war, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

If you’re curious about what the difference is between Operation Twist and QE2--no, they are not recreational activities–from the FED here’s a post that might interest you. Doubt it will make much difference because treasuries are still the place to be and we’re still at the zero bound, but at least some one’s doing something.  Basically, the FED’s trying to twist the yield curve and if you’ve had macroeconomics 101, here’s the exact moves.

Is this different from quantitative easing? QE2 was equivalent to the combination of two open market operations:

  • (1) Buying short-term Treasuries with newly created money.
  • (2) Swapping short-term Treasuries for longer-maturity ones.

The Fed’s new policy is just operation (2), disconnected from (1). Operation Twist is less effective than a potential QE3, therefore, to precisely the extent that operation (1) makes a difference.

Does it? First, let’s be even more precise, breaking down (1) into two smaller components:

  • (1A) Buying T-bills (extremely short term Treasuries with duration less than a year) with newly created money.
  • (1B) Swapping T-bills for a broader mix of short-term Treasuries (e.g. those with remaining maturity “3 years or less”).
  • (2) Swapping short-term Treasuries for longer-maturity ones.

You should be able to see that it’s just basically rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.  It’s an asset swap. But, there’s all this wishful thinking that it will send a message to the markets that the FED is serious and tame the deficit hawks a little. Remember that herd I wrote about last weekend?  That’s kind of what the Fed is betting on. Plus, they’re hoping that the twist will stop Perry from threatening their Chairman with bodily harm.

Nice to know that our health and national security is of no concern to our corporate overlords, isn’t it? So, there’s what’s on my mind today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?