The Tattlesnake It’s Worse Than You Think Edition

MSNBC reported this morning that the Peanut Corporation of America yes, someone actually named a company that knowingly shipped out products contaminated by salmonella. (So much for the market policing itself.) The FDA alerted the PCA of the contamination last year. Did some exec at PCA decide, ala the Ford Pinto, that it would be cheaper to handle food poisoning lawsuits than recall its products? Stay tuned. (They’re just lucky that the salmonella wasn’t one of the new drug-resistant strains.)

BTW, we’ve been losing approximately 500,000 jobs a month, or 6 million annually, for some several years now. That means that the Bush Labor Department’s employment figures were skewed and actual unemployment is much higher than the government has been reporting. (But you knew that.)

Quick — try to think of the difference between the way Stalin ran the USSR and the way the average American CEO runs a multi-national mega-corporation. Those at the very top prosper, everyone else suffers, and the system is completely corrupt and immoral. (And don’t fool yourself that the stockholders are any more effective at controlling Comrade Chairman than were the Politburo; as in the old Soviet Union, the deck is stacked against the ‘little guy’ investor.)

On the other hand, Corporate America, and the world economy, are collapsing of its own weight. Read The Financial Times — the vipers in finance and investment no longer trust each other — no honor among these thieves — and the current corporate structure can’t make money for the stockholders nor even themselves anymore. Like any large beast doomed to extinction, they have greedily gorged themselves to the point where there are no more suckers left to fleece and they can’t fleece each other since they all play the same tricks. The bailout is their last desperate gasp before the final curtain. The diversified multi-national mega-corporation of today is finished, although its slow-motion fall will take a few years and there will be some further suffering on our part. The practitioners of Disaster Capitalism have finally seen the catastrophe dumped on their own heads and they don’t have a clue as to how to dig themselves out, since most of their inbred management, buzzing with the erroneous free market lingo of the transient MBA, are only slightly smarter and more adept than Bush the Younger. When your heroes are utter monsters like Al ‘Chainsaw’ Dunlap, or sleazy film characters like Gordon Gecko, your demise is predictable and well deserved. Fortunately for us, it seems President Obama is smarter than to go down with this sinking ship.

‘Zell’ — It Rhymes with ‘Stink’: “[T]he Tribune Company. This media conglomerate, which owns some of America’s top newspapers and television stations, was bought a year ago by a Chicago real estate baron named Sam Zell.
“This fellow didn’t have anywhere near enough money to pay the $8.2 billion purchase price, but, hey, that’s no problem for a striver. Zell simply got the company’s CEO to let him use the employees pension fund as collateral for bank loans to buy the Tribune. Even though their money was put at risk, the employees had no say in the deal, nor in how the company was run. It was run badly. Less than a year after Zell’s takeover, the Tribune has had to declare bankruptcy, and employees are likely to lose jobs, severance payments and pensions.”

— Jim Hightower, “Pirate Ethics,” Dec. 18, 2008.

“Sam Zell never really had much skin in the game. Last year, when he purchased the Tribune Company… he put up $315 million of his own money and paid the balance of the purchase price, $8.2 billion, with the employee stock ownership plan — a move in which Tribune employees had no say whatever. But that actually overstates the amount of Zell’s investment. Of the $315 million he sunk into the company, it turns out that $225 million was simply a promissory note. Due to the vagaries of bankruptcy law, writes business analyst Mark Lacter on LAobserved.com, that means that Zell has better protection for his stake than all his employees.”
— Harold Meyerson, “The Worst CEO,” Washington Post, Dec. 8, 2008.

The Zell-owned Chicago Tribune has been at the forefront of the relentless media attacks on Gov. Rod Blagojevich for corruption and demanded his impeachment even before Fitzgerald arrested Blago. Now, that’s entertainment.

You Can’t Make It Up: “W. did have one other concern: he worried whether there would be enough content for such a book [his biography “A Charge to Keep,” which was published in 2000]. He openly fretted to Herskowitz: what had he accomplished that was worth talking about? Bush thought it a better idea for the book to focus on his policy objectives. And what might those be? Herskowitz inquired. Ask Karl [Rove], Bush replied.”
— Russ Baker, “Shock and…Oil?” Common Dreams, Jan. 9, 2009.

Our first Supreme Court-installed president threatened us before the 2000 election that he would run the country like a CEO. He did, just like the inept CEO of busted flat Arbusto and the badly-mismanaged Harken Oil. As per usual where W. is concerned, though, he came out with a profit, as well as his cronies. Considering what legal troubles may be coming down the pike for Junior and his Playmates, he might want to title his new ghostwritten ‘autobiography’ “A Charge to Duck.”

The Two-Story Outhouse Rule: “Even judged by its own yardstick, the trickle-down approach has failed to deliver: Rather than getting richer, we have been slowly impoverishing ourselves. While incomes at the very top have soared to levels beyond imagining even a generation ago, the average inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent of earners was lower in 2006 than it was back in 1973. And since 2000, the median income of all Americans has actually slipped, proof that tax cuts for the rich do not create general prosperity. Today, more and more of us do not have enough money to live on without going into debt. For each dollar of equity people gained in their homes from 1980 to 2006, they borrowed two-and while a portion of that is accounted for by poor decision making, much has to do with the sheer impossibility of making ends meet.”
— David Cay Johnston, “Fiscal Therapy,” Mother Jones, January 11, 2009.

Finally, just to add to the dismal list of past criminality committed by our government are the ‘Nightbreaker’ and ‘Operation Buster Jangle’ experiments, wherein enlisted soldiers were put in foxholes near A-bomb and H-bomb blasts. When it was noticed they were receiving dangerously high levels of radiation, the Army just ‘readjusted’ the safety level of their badges upward without telling them. Many died prematurely of cancer and other diseases thanks to these aboveground nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s — in fact, that was a major point of the experiments: How much nuclear fallout could the average soldier imbibe and keep functioning, and how long would it take them to die from various levels of radiation? It’s hard for Americans even today to believe that the military would do this to their own, but they did. This is the Pentagon’s Tuskegee Experiment; most of these soldiers came down with illnesses related to radiation exposure later in life, but were unable to collect any compensation until 1988 when Congress passed the Nuclear Veterans Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which typically amounts to $75,000 per patient. $75K to a patient dying of cancer is hardly fair recompense for what was done to these men without their knowledge or consent.