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LIE CREATORS – PART THREE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics on June 29, 2012 at 12:00 am

There are legitimate reasons why millions of willing-to-work Americans remain unemployed.  Or remain trapped in part-time, no-benefits jobs far below their levels of education and experience.

But there are sinister ones, too–such as the deliberate refusal of Congressional Republicans to create job opportunities for their fellow Americans.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vermont) made just that argument to guest host Ezra Klein on the June 12 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

KLEIN: Now, some Republicans say and some people say didn’t we do infrastructure a couple years ago? You heard a lot in the stimulus we had done infrastructure. So, how come we have all of this outstanding?

SANDERS: Because we ignored the needs for a long, long, time. Yes, we did put infrastructure. We put it into the state of Vermont, put more money into roads and bridges. But we need a lot more and that`s true for the other 49 states as well.

We have–it’s not only roads, it’s not only bridges, it’s not only water systems. It’s mass transportation. It is rail. China is building high-speed rail all over the place. We are not. Our rail system is in many ways deteriorating.

We have schools that are aging. We have culverts that need work. We have tunnels that need work.

We have an enormous amount of work that is ready to go right now and it is beyond comprehension that our Republican friends will not support infrastructure legislation.

If Sanders is correct, Republicans are deliberately sacrificing the economic life of the nation because:

  • They hate President Obama; and
  • They believe that making the American people suffer will lead them to elect Mitt Romney.

On June 4, veteran political analyst Chris Matthews discussed this posibility with John Heilemann, the national affairs editor for New York magazine.

Monday, June 4 – msnbc tv – Hardball with Chris Matthews – msnbc.com

Chris Matthews

MATTHEWS:  Is American business sitting on piles of cash that could help the economy, helping to bring down President Obama?

(VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. And I know that many of you have told me that you`re waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand. So I just want to encourage you to get in the game.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was President Obama in February of last year, speaking to business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters here in Washington, imploring them, as you just heard, to stop hoarding cash and start investing in the American economy.

Well…they didn’t take his advice at all. The amount of cash that American companies…have been sitting on the sidelines hit over $2.2 trillion at the end of 2011. That’s over $2 trillion. The amount of cash companies are hoarding has risen…dramatically over the past four decades, spiking sharply in the last few years.

Of course, consumer demand is also low, but my question about business is, Are they sitting on that cash through omission or whatever to hurt the president, get him out of office so they can have what they’d like, a regulatory environment which is easy on them and a low corporate tax structure?

You know, I’m talking about this and trying to think about this honestly. If you’re a big business guy, you always have prejudices, but your job is to make money for your stockholders.

When they go in that corporate boardroom with mostly Republican men and women around there…they’re sitting around, thinking, Why don’t we wait around about six months or a year until we have the right regulatory environment–meaning less regulation, a freeze on regulations–and a lower corporate tax rate?

Because that’s what Romney is promising them.

Would this be some perverted way of saying, We can screw Obama by saying we’re waiting for the Republicans to come in?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE AND MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, there’s just so much going on here. Now, look, there is no doubt that there are some Republican businessmen and some Republicans on Wall Street in private equity and other places–and you hear it up here in New York all the time–who are hanging back because they think that they would prefer to have a Republican president who has policies–who implements policies that are more favorable to business.

There’s no doubt about that.  And there’s discussion of it all the time, as I said, here in New York. There`s a whole bunch of other business people who are not that ideologically inclined, who have the reality of the macroeconomy over the course–the totality of President Obama’s time in office and especially over these last six or nine months. They’re looking at a very soft economy….

MATTHEWS: No, I just–I’m thinking about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

LIE CREATORS – PART TWO (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warns in his masterwork, The Discourses:

Niccolo Machiavelli

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Where the crimes of corporate employers are concerned, we do not have to wait for their evil disposition to reveal itself. It has been fully revealed for decades. We need only find the courage to redress the costly outrages we see every day in the workplace.

In its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Click here: What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths – TIME

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”

Corporations, in short, are doing extremely well.  But they don’t spend their profits on American workers.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason, writes Foroohar:

Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”

To restore prosperity, America will need both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.

 Now, fast-forward one year later–to a June 11, 2012 CNNMoney investigation, which raised the question: “Why is the jobs recovery still so sluggish?”

And the answer?  “These 8 companies recently announced layoffs in the thousands.”

8 job killing companies – Hewlett-Packard slashes 27,000 jobs (1) – CNNMoney

The companies:

  • Hewlett-Packard – cutting 27,000 jobs.
  • American Airlines – slashing 13,000 jobs–with most of the cuts affecting maintenance and ground workers.  That’s something to think about the next time you’re thinking of flying American.
  • Sony – eliminating 10,000 jobs.
  • Proctor & Gamble – axing 5,700 jobs.
  • PepsiCo – slashing 8,700 jobs.
  • Yahoo – wiping out 2,000 jobs.
  • First Solar – cutting 2,000 jobs.
  • Kraft Foods – slashes 1,600 workers.

Of course, some companies have legitimate reasons for cutting back on employees:

  • Sony has failed to revive its losing television business, which hasn’t turned a profit in eight years.
  • And PepsiCo has suffered a fall-off in customers as Americans switch from soda to healthier drinks.

But there are also sinister reasons why millions of willing-to-work Americans remain unemployed.  Or remain trapped in part-time, no-benefits jobs far below their levels of education and experience.

Chief among these is the refusal of Congressional Republicans to create job opportunities for their fellow Americans.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vermont) made just that argument to guest host Ezra Klein on the June 12 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

SANDERS: Everybody knows you have to invest in infrastructure. We can create millions of decent paying jobs in the long term and I speak as a former mayor, you obviously save money because you don’t have to do constant repairs as we’ve just seen.

The simple reason is I’m afraid that you have a Republican mindset that says, “Hmm, let`s see, we can repair the infrastructure, save money long time, create millions of jobs, bad idea. Barack Obama will look good.  And we’ve got to do everything that we can to make Barack Obama look bad.”

So, despite the fact that we had a modest bipartisan transportation bill, roads, bridges, public transit pass the Senate with over 70 votes, Inhofe, the most conservative guy in the Senate, working with Barbara Boxer, one of the most progressives, we can’t get that bill moving in the House of Representatives.

So if you’re asking me why, I would say 100 percent political. If it’s good for America, if it creates jobs, if it’s good for Barack Obama, we can’t do it.

LIE CREATORS – PART ONE (OF EIGHT)

In Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

Have you noticed how every American employer has suddenly become a “job creator”?

At least, that’s the official Republican line.

But if that’s true:

  • Why are so many employers not hiring at all?
  • Or, if they are hiring, why aren’t they hiring American workers?
  • Why are they hiring mostly part-time employees on a no-benefits basis?
  • Why are so many employers shutting down American plants but starting new ones in China, Mexico or the Philippines?

According to a June 1 news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor:

  • There were 12.7 million unemployed Americans as of May, 2012.
  • The unemployment rate for that month stood at 8.2%.
  • The unemployment rates for adult men (7.8 percent) and Hispanics (11.0 percent) edged up in May.
  • The unemployment rate for adult women (7.4 percent), teenagers (24.6 percent), whites (7.4 percent), and blacks (13.6 percent) showed little or no change.

  • The jobless rate for Asians was 5.2 percent in May, down from 7.0 percent a year earlier.
  • The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) rose from 5.1 to 5.4 million in May. These individuals accounted for 42.8 percent of the unemployed.
  • The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) edged up to 8.1 million over the month. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
  • Among the marginally attached, there were 830,000 discouraged workers in May, about the same as a year earlier.  Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.6 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in May had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

At the same time, U.S. corporations sit on nearly $2 trillion in cash.

Among the monies they sit upon are those that could be used to hire those millions of qualified, willing-to-work Americans who can’t find fulltime, permanent employment.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it lays bare many of the reasons why America needs to legally force employers to demonstrate as much responsibility for hiring as job-seekers are expected to show toward searching for work.

Click here: 22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job | HT Staffing

Among the truths it reveals:

TRUTH NO: 1: After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you  unemployable.

TRUTH NO. 2:  It’s not what but who you know that counts.

TRUTH NO. 3: Try to avoid HR.  Find someone in the company you know. If you don’t know anyone, contact the hiring manager.

TRUTH NO. 4: Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”

TRUTH NO. 5: Employers judge you on the basis of your email address.  Avoid the type that reads: “Igetdrunkand party.”

TRUTH NO. 6: You’re not protected against age discrimination.  Many employers regularly ignore the law. Are you in your 50s or 60s?  Leave your year of graduation off your resume.

TRUTH NO: 7: Just because it’s illegal to discriminate against applicants who have children does not mean you’re safe.  Many employers try to screen out parents–such as by checking cars for child safety seats.

TRUTH NO. 8: It’s harder to get a job if you’re fat, since fat people are usally assumed to be lazy.

TRUTH NO. 9: Make sure you give the interviewer a firm handshake.  Or he might assume you’re a loser for giving him a weak one.

TRUTH NO. 10: The more you can get the interviewer to talk–especially about himself–the more likely you are to be hired. Ego-driven interviewers love hearing the sound of their own voices and will assume you’re better-qualified than someone who doesn’t want to listen to them prattle.

Millions of Americans continue to blame President Barack Obama for the nation’s high unemployment rate. But no President can hope to turn unemployment around until employers are forced to start living up to their responsibilities.

And those responsibilities should encompass more than simply fattening their own pocketbooks and/or egos at the expense of their fellow Americans.  Such behavior used to be called treason.

It’s time to recognize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons.  It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

Trea$on

Employers who enrich themselves by weakening their country—by throwing millions of qualified workers into the street and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.

Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.

Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens instead of willing-to-work Americans—are traitors.

And with a new definition of treason should go new penalties–heavy fines and/or prison terms–for those who sell out their country to enrich themselves.

$ELLING CAE$AR – PART TWO (END)

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2012 at 12:00 am

Plutocracy: Government by the wealthy.

At the end of the 1964 epic, The Fall of the Roman Empire, ambitious generals hold an auction to determine who becomes the next all-powerful Caesar.

After 236 years as a Republic, the United States appears to be doing the same.

As of this writing, at least 32 billionaires have made huge contributions to the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign.  And President Barack Obama has had 164 fund-raising events.

Among the Romney backers:

  • Sheldon Adelson, international casino magnate.  By preying on the gambling habits of millions, he has amassed a fortune estimated by Forbes at $24.9 billion.  This makes Adelson the eighth richest person in the United States. 

Adelson contributed $21.5 million to a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich’s failed presidential bid.  Adelson then gave $10 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC, of Mitt Romney–who had defeated Gingrich.

He has promised to give $71 million to both super PACs and nonprofits spending money in the 2012 election.

“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he said during a February 21, 2012 Forbes interview. “But as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.”

Adelson, a right-wing hawk on Israel, believes that President Obama hasn’t been sufficiently pro-Israeli.  (The President has called for an end to Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.)

But that’s not Adelson’s only beef with the President.  Adelson, like most right-wingers, fears that “class warfare” might curtail the privileges enjoyed by the super-rich against the poor and middle-class:

“What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years.

“That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives.”

  • Harold Simmons, the industrialist who heads Contran Corp, donated $17.7 million to right-wing super PACs through April, 2012.  In a March 22, 2012 Huffington Post interview, he called Obama “that socialist.”

“Obama is the most dangerous American alive … because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country,” he added.

  • Kenneth Griffin is the head of the massive hedge fund Citadel.  By April, 2012, he had contributed $2.08 million to super PACs favoring right-wing candidates.

A billionaire who’s ranked 173rd on the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans, Griffin believes Obama has engaged in “class warfare” rhetoric for political gain.

In his view, “class warfare” can only occur if the poor and middle-class are assailing the super-wealthy.

“This is the first time class warfare has really been embraced as a political tool.  Because we are looking at an administration that has embraced class warfare as being politically expedient,” he told the Chicago Tribune in a March 11, 2012 interview.

Asked if he thought rich people had too great an influence on politics, he said:  “I think they actually have an insufficient influence.

“Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet.”

Griffin added that he believed he should be able to donate an unlimited amount of money to Super PACs.

Like most wealthy right-wingers, Griffin thinks that government has no business policing even companies whose toxic pollution threatens the environment–and their fellow Americans.

“When a company creates a product that directly or indirectly adversely impacts the health of people, that product must be regulated,” he stated in the Tribune interview.

“No company has the right to injure people.  At the same time, the answer to this is not for the company that injures people to be shut down and for the government to start a competing enterprise.”

Griffin’s answer: “Encourage other free-market institutions…to [create] the value consumers are looking for.”

  • Harold Hamm, the CEO of the oil company Continental Resources, is ranked by Forbes as the 30th richest person in America with a fortune of $11 billion. 

In March, 2012, Romney named Hamm as his energy advisor.  Soon afterward, Hamm donated $985,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future.

The candidacy of Mitt Romney–and his rise as the first Mormon nominee for President–has inspired enthusiasm among wealthy Mormons.  For them, this has produced a rare combination:

  • A feeling of religious solidarity in backing one of their own, and
  • A longstanding commitment to a right-wing agenda.

Among the biggest Mormon donors so far have been:

  • Blake Roney and Steven Lund, executives with Nu Skin marketing company, contributed $1 million to Restore Our Future.
  • J.W. “Bill” Marriott, the chairman of Marriott International, gave $1 million to Restore Our Future.
  • Kevin B. Rollins, head of TPA Private Equity, gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future.
  • David Lisonbee, CEO of 4Life, a multi-level marketing company that sells health products, contributed $500,000 to Restore Our Future.

And the “Buy Yourself a President” auction isn’t over.  The 2012 campaign still has more than four months to go.

$ELLING CAE$AR – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

Want to see a preview of “The Fall of the American Empire”?

Then look no further than a Hollywood epic released 48 years ago.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) stands as a warning of how great nations can be destroyed by corruption long before they fall to foreign invaders.

The timeline of the film spans 180-192 A.D..  At the apex of the Roman world rules the philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guinness).   He pursues a policy of peace and leniency towards the conquered peoples who make up the empire.

But his son, Commodus (Christopher Plummer) believes this is weakness, and hungers for glory as a warrior-emperor.

A conspiracy forms against Marcus Aurelius, and a poisoned apple quietly removes him from the scene.  He’s instantly succeeded by Commodus, who demands higher taxes and tribute from the eastern provinces of Syria and Egypt.  Enraged, they rise in rebellion.

Desperate, Commodus turns to Rome’s best general, Gaius Metellus Livius (Stephen Boyd) to put down the revolt.  He does so, but then refuses to obey Commodus’ demand for savage retribution.

Commodus, outraged, bribes the senators, plebeians and the army to side with him against Livius.  His money and power have already fatally corrupted the empire: The head for the colossal statue of Jupiter in the Capitoline temple has been replaced with one of Commodus.  In the senate, frightened Senators have resolved to change Rome’s name to “the city of Commodus.”

Livius is arrested and is sentenced to be executed.  But then Commodus’ egomania gets the better of him: He says he will prove, once and for all, that he truly is the darling of the gods–by defeating Livius in gladiatorial combat before the eyes of the populace.

(The rich–unwilling to ease the plight of the poor–are willing to pacify them with mindless entertainment: Staged fights to the death between pairs of gladiators.)

But it is Livius who emerges victorious by killing Commodus.

Victorinus, a Roman general whom Commodus had bribed to deliver Livius’ army to him, quickly switches sides.  He declares Livius the new Caesar.

But Livius wants no more of Roman politics.  To Victorinus and his fellow slimeballs he says: “If I were Caesar, I would crucify you all.”

As Livius leaves the city, an auction opens for the imperial throne, to the accompanying narration: “This was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire. A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Now, fast-forward to the United States of 2012 A.D.

On the June 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, veteran political analyst Mark Shields noted the corrosive effects of the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision:

“[Super Political Action Committees] are an abomination….From 1976 to 2008, we had a level playing field in this country, where money didn’t dominate, where the presidents were not chosen on the basis of who had the deepest pockets or the richest friends….

“We limited what individuals could give to a candidate, and what that candidate could spend. And in exchange for that, they accepted those limits and they accepted public funding.

“That was changed in 2008. President Obama–Democrats don’t like to acknowledge this–broke from that precedent because his campaign could outraise John McCain’s 2-1.

“But then came the [2010] Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court….And now we have anonymous [donors]. We have unlimited [donations].

“We have corporations [that are regarded as] people. We have 32 billionaires now who have already contributed to Mitt Romney’s campaign. The president has had 164 fund-raisers already.

“This is not the way that campaigns should be run.  I mean, you are spending time with the president’s being on an auction block is what it comes down to, to me. And the voice, the voices of people are drowned out in this sea of money.

“And I’m telling you, it is anonymous giving. It’s negative giving–it’s negative attack. We don’t know where it comes from. We don’t know who is giving it.  And it’s just lousy.”

On June 16, the online Huffington Post ran a story under the following headline: “Sheldon Adelson to Lavish $71 Million in Casino Money on GOP Super PACs, Nonprofits.”  Its first paragraph:

“Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, whose net worth makes him one of the world’s richest men, is on a check-writing spree that will soon bring his total political contributions in this election cycle to at least $71 million, according to sources familiar with his spending. That money is spread across the spectrum of GOP super PACs, which are required to disclose donors, and nonprofits, which are not.”

Adelson has already donated $36 million, including $10 million to the Romney-backing super PAC, Restore Our Future.  But he has pledged to give at least $35 million more to three right-wing nonprofit groups.

Adelson, 78, has told friends that he might give as much as $100 million in donations this year to support right-wing candidates and  issues.

RUNNING THE COUNTRY LIKE A BUSINESS

In Business, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

“If we ran the United States like a business,” Johnny Carson once joked, “we’d burn down the country and collect the insurance.”

And of course the joke got a lot of laughs.

Yes, it’s true: A lot of Americans just don’t trust businessmen–especially Big Businessmen.

And especially Big Businessmen who’ve made their fortunes the old-fashioned way–by raiding and despoiling other companies.

You know, like Mitt Romney.

But consider this for a moment:

When was the last time we had a President who could honestly say, like Mitt Romney–

“I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet”?

And that’s a truly valuable qualification for public office.

Mitt Romney doesn’t get weepy over people and their messy, sob-sister problems.  Consider:

ROMNEY:  Corporations are people, my friend.

ROMNEY:  I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

ROMNEY:  I’m not concerned about the very poor.

ROMNEY:  Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process.  Let it run its course and hit the bottom.

You have to be cold-bloodedly unemotional if you want to win the game.

Like Meyer Lansky–“The Mob’s Accountant.”   He understood that perfectly.  And he knew how to read a balance sheet.

And think of all the money this made for his business partners–like Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

Or take stockbroker Bernard Madoff.

Think of where his clients would now be if he hadn’t been able to read a balance sheet.

And you can be sure that Ivan Boesky knew how to read a balance sheet.

As a successful stock trader, he became the inspiration for an entire generation of corporate CEOs: “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

So imagine what a successful corporate businessman–like Mitt Romney–could do as President.

Or, better still, let veteran political analyst Chris Matthews imagine it for you, as he did on May 24, 2012:

Mitt Romney has one pitch, and since it’s his only one, he makes it again and again, is that he is a man of business, someone who spent his life in business, doing it, thinking about it, experiencing it. 

And this is why he, Mitt Romney, is a better man than the president to direct the business of the country.

But the question, and an important one, is whether Romney would take his business training and use it for the country or take the office of the presidency and use it to help his fellow business people. 

Will he serve the people or the CEOs? 

The 99 percent or the 1 percent? 

It’s a basic, useful question to ask.

What if he plays the business game in ways that favors the wealthy like himself? 

What if he cuts taxes for the wealthy? 

What if he eliminates environmental and safety regulations? 

What if he pulls down the financial regulations put in places the crash of ’08 and `09? 

And what if he sides with the wheeler-dealers and opens the door for the hell to break loose like it did under Bush?

And what if he can’t see what was done wrong before, but wants instead to do it all over again? 

This is the danger.

We elect presidents to look out for the people. 

Business, especially the people like Mitt Romney, already have a voice in our national government.  They’re called lobbyists. 

They push for lower taxes for the rich, lower taxes on corporations.  They work with friends in Congress, to pull back on regulation, to make live easier for them, to make more money.

 …Would we like someone who thinks only about the interest of big business, doing away taxes, we pay–deciding what taxes we pay, what working conditions we have to endure, what protections we get for food safety, airline safety, the safety of our investments from Wall Street sharpies? 

Is that what we want looking for us–the people whose primary concern is the bottom line of those Mitt Romney calls “the successful”?

Government of, by and for the economic elite–is that what we want? 

Because if you listen, you can hear that this is precisely what the man from Bain is now out there selling.

* * * * *

So go ahead: Imagine what a Mitt Romney Presidency would be like.

Once you do, you may not be able to sleep again.

KGB AIRWAYS – PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 20, 2012 at 12:01 am

So you’ve decided to sue the airline you believe wronged you.

One option is to do so in small claims court.

A plus is you don’t need an attorney. In fact, you’re barred from bringing in an attorney. You represent yourself, which means you don’t have to pay an attorney–either up-front or at the end of the case.

Another plus: It will cost you far less to represent yourself than it will cost the airline to send a representative. If you file in California and the airline is headquartered in New York, it will be expensive for them to send a rep to attend the proceedings. If the airline fails to send someone as its representative–which is highly unlikely–it loses by default.

A minus is that you may not be the confrontational type.  You may also feel intimidated by the legal process–and afraid of looking like an idiot if you lose.

Another minus is that each state sets a different amount you can win in damages.  To learn about the rules applying to small claims courts in your state, consult the following link: Click here: 50 State Overview of Small Claims Rules | Nolo.com.

A second option is to take your case to civil court.

A plus is that the dollar-amount you can obtain at this level is far higher than in small-claims court.

A minus is that you’ll definitely want to retain an attorney.

True, you can legally represent yourself.  But aviation law is complex.  The airline will definitely have an attorney, so if you don’t, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.

If you can find an attorney willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay him unless you win.  His fee will then come out of your settlement amount.

Another minus: If you can’t find an attorney willing to take your case on this basis, you’ll have to pay him by the hour, after first putting up a retainer fee, which can be quite large.

A third minus is that the courts are clogged with cases, and it can take months or even years before yours will be heard.

And remember: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.  In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court.

And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.  Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict.  Such appeals can go on for literally years.

On a more far-reaching basis, you can demand that your Congressional representatives support passenger rights through legislation.

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

(Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • a steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.)

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes.  In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents had made clear their rage about high-priced fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands:

  1. If enough voters make their specific demands known; and
  2. If those voters make clear that ignoring their demands will guarantee defeat at the next election.

There are consumer rights organizations now pressing for vitally-needed passenger protections.  These organizations need support–both in terms of members and money.

Only then can they counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.

An example is Flyers Rights, which can be reached at: FlyersRights.ORG – Largest Non-Profit Airline Consumer Organization.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations.

Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger.  It’s with further enriching their key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the airline couldn’t care less about them.

KGB AIRWAYS – PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 19, 2012 at 12:00 am

You can’t get the airline to take your complaint seriously but you don’t want to file a lawsuit.

So now what do you do?

You could file a complaint with one or more consumer complaint websites.  Just remember:

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin aunless he pays you money and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.
  • And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

Review the guidelines offered in Part Six of this series on how to safely craft your letter/email.

Below is a partial list of consumer complaint websites.  No endorsement is implied by this listing.  It’s offered simply to illustrate the variety of such websites available.

http://www.yelp.com/ - Yelp! (complaints only)

http://www.ripoffreport.com/ - Ripoff Report (complaints only)

http://www.pissedconsumer.com/ - Pissed Consumer (complaints only)

http://www.measuredup.com/ - Measured Up (“Customers Review / Businesses Reply / Everybody Wins”)

http://www.complaints.com/ - Complaints (post and research consumer complaints)

http://www.thesqueakywheel.com/ - The Squeaky Wheel (submits your complaint to google)

http://www.consumercomplaintagency.org/ - Consumer Complaint Agency (“Take [unspecified] action on your behalf”)

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ - Federal Trade Commission (does not resolve individual consumer complaints)

http://www.complaintnow.com/ - Complaint Now (complaints only)

http://hissingkitty.com/ - Hissing Kitty (posts your complaint on Google, Yahoo, and Bing)

http://www.airlinecomplaints.org/ - Airline Complaints (complaints only)

http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm - Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement (U.S. Department of Transportation) (complaints)

http://www.airsafe.com/complain/complain.htm - Air Safe (“critical information for the traveling public”)

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/airlines.html - Consumer Affairs (complaints only)

Your first impulse will probably be to immediately file your complaint with a website like one of these.

Don’t do it.

Instead, try to resolve your problem (assuming it can be resolved) with the airline.

Why?  Two reasons:

  1. You may be able to obtain what you want at that level, without having to do anything more.
  2. If you don’t give the airline the chance to address your grievance, you will be accused of pursuing a vendetta.  This will be especially true if you later sue the airline.

Use websites like these as a fallback option–in case you’re unable to can’t resolve your problem with the airlines.

And, frankly, there’s a good chance you won’t.

In its September 3, 2009 issue, Time magazine warned that calling the airlines’ customer complaint lines would likely prove a waste of time.

The major carriers have, quietly, made it steadily more difficult for customers to reach a person with their complaints. “The airlines don’t want to talk to their  customers,” says John Tschohl, a consultant to businesses on customer service.

Even the few airlines that still have customer-service numbers bury them deep within their websites.  Finding them is often as much a matter of luck as persistence.

So as advised in Part Five of this series: Don’t waste your time with the Customer Service line.  Go directly to the topmost official(s) of the airline and make it clear why it’s in their best interests to resolve your problem.  Then, if you can’t find a workable solution, file your complaint with as many consumer-protection websites as possible.

You can also file complaints with one or more federal agencies that hold jurisdiction over the airlines.

If your complaint is safety related, address it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at:

Assistant Administrator for System Safety ASY-100

Federal Aviation Administration

800 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20591

1-866-835-5322

Click here: Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline

If your complaint involves security, direct it to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  You can reach this by phone at 866-289-9673 or by e-mail at tsa-contactcenter@dhs.gov.

A final option is to sue the airline.

For most people, bringing in a lawyer is like bringing up the heavy artillery.  When should you do so?

Christopher Elliott, author, consumer advocate and journalist, outlines “five times when you should consider skipping the complaints process and going straight to court:

  1. When they’re playing games.
  2. When they’ve broken a contract.
  3. When they’re being dishonest.
  4. When they’re ignoring you.
  5. When they aren’t listening to reason.

Elliott’s webpage contains a wealth of practical advice for those who’ve had their fill of airline arrogance.  It can be accessed thus: Click here: See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ‘em.

Yet another must-read for those wondering if they should file suit: Click here: Lies the Airlines Tell Us – ABC News

Assuming you decide to sue, there are three ways to do this:

  1. In small claims court.
  2. In regular civil court as an individual claimant.
  3. As part of a class-action lawsuit.

Each approach has its own series of pluses and minuses.  I’ll explore these in my next column.

KGB AIRWAYS – PART SIX (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.

Even in our video-oriented society, the written word still carries far greater weight than the spoken one.  A document can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

If you cringe at writing it yourself, you can ask someone else to write it for you.  But if s/he lacks excellent judgment and literary skills, you’ll be no better-off.

At best, the letter will prove ineffective and be ignored.  At worst, it could open you to charges of libel and/or extortion.

And even if the person can write an effective letter on your behalf, chances are you’ll have to pay for that service.

If you decide to write the letter yourself, you’ll find highly effective advice in Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, by Ellen Phillips.

Product Details

Click here: Amazon.com: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results (9780375701207): E

Among the subjects she covers–in detail–are:

  • Who to write to, what to say, what to ask for.
  • The names and addresses of over 600 major companies.
  • How to draft personal petitions covering everything from tenant-landlord disputes to workman’s compensation.
  • What steps to take to avoid litigation.

My own tips for writing a successful complaint letter are:

  • Remove any vulgar or profane words. 
  • Don’t make sweeping accusations: “Your agency is a waste.”  
  • Stick to facts you know can be proved: The who, what, when, where, how and why of reporting.
  • Don’t attribute motives to people you’ve had problems with.  You don’t know why someone did what he did.
  • Cite the names and titles of any airline employees who (1) witnessed the reason for your complaint, or (2) were witnesses to it.
  • Show how the failure of the official to address your problem reflects badly on the company: “This is not the level of service your ads would lead potential customers to expect.”
  • If there is a specific action the airline can take to redress your complaint, be sure to mention it.  (You can be so angry when making a complaint that you forget to say what you want the company to do to resolve it.)
  • Be reasonable and realistic in what you ask for. 
  • If you want reimbursement for expenses you had to make (such as hotel lodgings) owing to the airline’s fault, then provide copies of receipts.
  • Emphasize your desire to resolve the complaint amicably and privately within the company.
  • If necessary, note any regulatory agencies that can make life rough for the company if your complaint isn’t resolved.  
  • Cite the applicable law(s) under which it can be sued: “According to the Passenger Bill of Rights….”
  • Make certain the airline knows you expect a reply within a certain length of time: “I would appreciate your response within the next 10 business days.”

Of course, your overture(s) may be ignored.  Or you might feel the airline has not made a good-faith effort to compensate you.

In either case, you have two more courses of action to pursue.

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private lawsuit.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s far easier to spread the word about companies that mistreat their customers.

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is no longer n advertising slogan (even at United Airlines, which popularized it).  But airlines spend millions of dollars a year on selling just that image of themselves.

So anything that threatens to throw mud on that image is guaranteed to set off alarm-bells at corporate headquarters.  Especially if that mud is well-deserved.

An easy way to avenge airline mistreatment is to make full use of a wide array of consumer-opinion websites.

It’s important to check out each website carefully to increase your chances of having your complaint resolved.

  • Most websites simply offer a forum to vent your spleen.
  • Others promise to take various forms of action on your behalf–such as directing your complaint to the airline or a government agency.
  • Others offer to refer your complaint to an attorney.
  • Many of these are free.
  • Others charge a nominal fee (such as $5) for posting your complaint.
  • Some complaint websites are run by the Federal Government–such as those of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Some are run by individual states–such as the Office of the California Attorney General.
  • The major airlines provide “file a complaint” pages on their websites.

WARNING: What you say online can hurt you. Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel. Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.

And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

KGB AIRWAYS – PART FIVE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 15, 2012 at 12:02 am

Have a complaint against an airline–but don’t want to waste your time with low-level Customer Service reps?

Good.  You’ve just learned what is probably the single most important lesson in bureaucracy-busting: If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it. This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

But who are these people? And how do you track them down?

You start by realizing that every major airline has a website. And that website can usually be counted on to list the top honchos of the company.

Even if it doesn’t, you can usually obtain this information on the Internet. Go to “google” and type: “[Name of airline] board of directors.”

This should arm you with

  • the name of the CEO;
  • the company’s mailing address;
  • its phone number for reaching its top executives; and
  • its website and/or email address.

Below are listed

  • the names of the CEOs of the major United States airlines
  • their mailing addresses
  • their corporate phone numbers and (where given)
  • their email addresses.

But the corporate world is filled with men (and a few women) who are highly skilled at moving up–by moving others out.  So keep in mind that the names provided below will not be permanent.

Check out the appropriate websites to obtain the latest information before writing that letter and/or making that call.

Send out a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” and you’ll instantly be branded as a lightweight.   This only shows that you were too lazy/stupid to find out who holds power in the organization.

Whereas a well-written letter addressed to the key decision maker will instantly warn top executives: “Take this person seriously.”

Now, the airlines:

DELTA AIRLINES

Richard H. Anderson – Chief Executive Officer of Delta since September 1, 2007.

Edward H. Bastian – President of Delta since September 1, 2007.

Email: Email us
Phone: (404) 715-2600
Mail:
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
P.O. Box 20706
Atlanta, Georgia 30320-6001

Click here: Delta Airlines Board of Directors

AMERICAN AIRLINES

Thomas W. Horton – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corporation / American Airlines, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas.

John W. Bachmann - Senior Partner, Edward Jones, St. Louis, Missouri.

Mail:

P.O. Box 619616

DFW Airport, TX   75261-9616

Phone: (817) 963-1234

Click here: American Airlines Board of Directors

UNITED AIRLINES

Glenn F. Tilton – non-executive chairman of the board of directors of United Continental Holdings, Inc.

Jeffery A. Smisek – President and Chief Executive Officer, United Continental Holdings, Inc.

Oscar Munoz – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, CSX Corporation

Shareholders and other interested parties may contact the United Continental Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors as a whole, or any individual member, by one of the following means:

  1. writing to the Board of Directors, United Continental Holdings, Inc., c/o the Corporate Secretary’s Office, HDQLD, 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601; or
  2. by emailing the Board of Directors at UALBoard@united.com.

If neither of these methods seems to work, try these:

Mail:
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

Phone (general): (800) (800) 864-8331

Phone Investor Relations: (312) 997-8610

United Continental Holdings, Inc. – Investor Relations – Board of Directors

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Joel C. Peterson – Independent Chairman of the Board of Jetblue Airways Corporation.

David Barger – President, Chief Executive Officer, Director of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

Mark D. Powers – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, Treasurer of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

JetBlue Airways Corporation Corporate Office | Headquarters
118-29 Queens Blvd.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Phone:  (718) 286-7900
Toll Free:  800) 538-2583

Click here: JetBlue | Investor relations | Corporate Governance

AIRTRAN

AirTran Airways is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  Thus, complaints against Airtran should be directed to the top executives of Southwest.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

David W. Biegler – Chairman and CEO

Douglas H. Brooks – Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters
Physical Address:
2702 Love Field Drive Dallas, Texas 75235
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 36611 Dallas, Texas 75235
Telephone: (214) 792-4000 (Main Switchboard)

Click here: Southwest Airlines Investor Relations – Board of Directors

US AIRWAYS

W. Douglas Parker – Chairman of the Board, CEO

Bruce Lakefield – Vice Chairman of the Board, President, CEO

Derek Kerr – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President

Corporate Contact Information: 

Mailing address: US Airways 4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Phoenix, AZ 85034
Corporate headquarters: 111 W. Rio Salado Parkway Tempe, AZ 85281
Phone: (480) 693-0800 7 AM – 5 PM Monday – Friday

Daniel E. Cravens

Director,

Investor Relations

US Airways

111 West Rio Salado Parkway

Tempe, AZ 85281

Phone: 480.693.1227

E-mail: Click here: US Airways | Compliments/complaints

Click here: US Airways | Investor relations

Click here: US AIRWAYS GROUP INC (LCC:New York): Board of Directors – Businessweek

ALASKA AIRLINES

William S. Ayer – Chairman

Bradley D. Tilden – President and CEO

Brandon Pederson – Chief Financial Officer

Corporate Offices:

P.O. Box 68900

Seattle, WA   98168

Phone: (206-433-3200

Click here: Executive Leadership – Alaska Airlines

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES

In 2010, Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines.  Direct all inquiries and complaints to United Airlines, whose corporate information is given above.

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