Category Archives: Read It & Weep

Hating Immigrants Is Good For Business

Most Mexicans and Central Americans who clandestinely cross the southern U.S. border are fleeing violent drug cartels and militias, or crushing poverty in their home countries. Legislators and congressional representatives in border states such as mine are fond of spouting tough-sounding rhetoric aimed at demonizing these immigrants. In an investigative piece, The Guardian learned that anti-immigrant propaganda turns out to be quite profitable:

Last year, 97,384 people were prosecuted for immigration crimes in the US, a 367% increase from 2003, according to Syracuse University’s Trac Immigration project. Nationwide, more than half of all federal criminal prosecutions last year were for illegal entry or reentry into the United States. More people are sent to federal prison for immigration offenses than for violent crime, weapons, and property offenses combined.

This criminalization of immigration has set off a lucrative boom in private prisons.

Private prison companies insist they do not try to influence immigration law and enforcement, but in 2012 an Associated Press analysis found that the three biggest private prison companies – Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Management & Training Corp – had spent $45 million to lobby state and federal governments over the past decade. The three companies brought in almost $4 billion in revenue in 2012 alone…

If you can stomach it, details of how these private companies run five immigrant prisons in Texas can be found here.

Also posted in Be Afraid, Business, Corporate, Government, Politics, Texas, Uncategorized

Incorporate This

Lately there’s been plenty of literary lambasting of the American judiciary over its stubborn insistence that somehow corporations are in fact people, maybe just like your next-door neighbor.

The legal crescendo arrived in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that, essentially, corporations have First Amendment rights to free speech just like other people do, and if corporations feel that it would take, say, a $50 million political television ad campaign to adequately address what it is they wish to say, well then, nothing can stop them, because for one thing money and free speech are just about the same thing, legal limits on campaign spending be damned.

I snark, admittedly, but essentially that is what the good old Roberts court ruled.

Fast forward to now, and it becomes clear that this ruling has allowed giant corporations and their fabulously wealthy directors and officers to buy control of many elections and many elected and appointed officials, the better to create “laws” favoring giant corporations and the fabulously wealthy.

But not many people know how it came to be that so many federal judges and Supreme Court justices began regarding U.S. corporations as actual U.S. citizens in the first place.

Here is the sad story of How. Read it and weep:

In 1886, when railroad tycoons ruled the U.S. economy, the folks running Santa Clara County in California attempted to collect tax money they thought was due to the county based on the going rate for railroad land, tracks and the like. Included in the tax bill was an amount representing railroad fencing, figured on the basis of $800 per mile. Southern Pacific Railroad’s corporate officers didn’t think they should have to pay tax on the fencing, and went to court. The case is Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.

After losing a couple of rounds, the railroad boys appealed to the Supreme Court, then run by one Morrison Remick Waite.

As is customary, a court reporter wrote the actual syllabus and description of the case and decision (in favor of the railroad). Here are two of the money graphs:

One of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that “corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Before argument, MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE said:

“The Court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.”

Got that? The chief justice made a blanket statement claiming that all the Supreme Court justices already believed corporations are people as far as the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment was concerned, so there was no point in getting into that argument as far as the specific case was concerned.

So then here is the first graph of what the court reporter wrote in the case syllabus:

The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Are you still with me? Neither the chief nor any other justice uttered those words; the court reporter just stuck them in there in the spirit of Waite’s assertion that everybody knows corporations are people.

Ever since then, this relatively minor tax case has been cited as proof and precedent that corporations are people in the eyes of the law. Truth is, no such legal precedent exists. The Supreme Court never issued such a decision, and in fact specifically did not hear arguments on the merits of such an assertion.

Yet this fluke of history bears responsibility for a flock of “legal” assertions that have wound up giving corporations and their owners rights that often trump those which individuals were supposedly granted under the Constitution.

Pretty suck, right?

Also posted in Corporate, Government

Read It & Weep

Recommended Morning Reads:

→ For sure, Obama and his namesake health-care legislation look bad thanks to a horrible web site project. But the real reason Obamacare is destined not to solve the problem of providing basic medical care for the American citizenry is because the new law still leaves insurance companies in charge of what kind of medical treatment people are allowed to get, and how much they will have to pay for it. It’s clear no one will save money on insurance premiums, and the cost of medical testing and procedures will not be reined in.

I have always contended that if the average American wants decent health care at a fair cost, he or she must move to Canada or Germany or one of the numerous civilized countries that routinely provide such services for their citizens. Pretty drastic. Now, however, it turns out that all you have to do is move to Vermont.

→ If you’re feeling abnormally cheerful today, try reading this just-publicly-released and predictably depressing secret court order, which attempts (but fails miserably) to legally justify United States government spooks’ daily shredding of practically all Americans’ constitutional right to privacy and free speech by vacuuming up everything they do on their cell phones and on the Internet, just in case…um, well, just in case.

→ But on the bright side, unfettered and unjustified surveillance has become a booming cottage industry worldwide, perhaps providing private-sector jobs to hundreds of people who otherwise would be forced to work as government security analysts.

Just check out this swell Surveillance Industry Index, cataloging 338 companies and their efforts to hawk high-tech NSA-style spy tools to ruling dictators in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, including such marketing gems as…

Is passive monitoring enough?

Sensitive data is often exchanged using encrypted channels. Most of it never goes on the net. Sometimes your target is even outside your monitoring domain. You need something more.

Deploy a secret agent.

Remote Control System is a stealth investigative tool dedicated to law enforcement and security agencies for digital investigations. It is an eavesdropping software which hides itself inside the target devices. It enables both active data monitoring and process control.

Go stealth and untraceable.

Remote Control System is totally invisible to the target. Our software bypasses protection systems such as antivirus, antispyware and personal firewalls.

Hit your target.

Attack your target either remotely or locally using several installation vectors. Do that while the target is browsing the Internet, opening a document file, receiving an SMS or crossing the borders with his laptop.

→ Meanwhile, back at the Pentagon, Reuters discovers that “Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year.”

Admit it. You always figured the top military brass spends most of their time flushing our tax dollars down gold-plated toilets. And Reuters’ investigation matches those expectations, finding “the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies.”

So next time you’re crossing the borders with your laptop inside your Army surplus M2 Bradley, remember to ask yourself this question:

Ain’t life grand?

Also posted in Government, Health Care, Privacy Tagged |