bureaucracybusters

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

A LABOR DAY REMINDER: CEO GREED VS. EMPLOYEES NEED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 5, 2016 at 12:00 am

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

And Schnatter bluntly warned his employees: When the Act took effect, Papa John’s Pizza would change in two ways.

First, it would be forced to do something it hadn’t done since its founding in 1984: Offer healthcare coverage to its 16,5000 employees or pay a penalty to the government.

Second, it would raise the prices of its pizzas.

John Schnatter

How high would they go up?

By as much as eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order!

And Schnatter made it clear: He wasn’t going to take this lying down. He was determined to pass along those costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its full year 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% from 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.
  • Its full year 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.

Click here: Papa John’s Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results (NASDAQ:PZZA)

Nor should anyone expect Schnatter to take a pay cut, just so his employees can obtain medical care when they need it.

Schnatter’s total calculated compensation for 2014 came to $3,456,146.

Click here: John H. Schnatter: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek

“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry,” Schnatter–a supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney–admitted in a 2012 interview with Politico.

To demonstrate his opposition to providing medical insurance for all Americans, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky mansion in May, 2012.

The luxurious setting for the fundraiser gave Romney a rush of pure, plutocratic ecstasy.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney. “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

John Schnatter’s estate

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees–many of them working only part-time–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existant.

In a typical demonstration of corporate thinking, Judy Nichols, a Papa John’s franchise owner in Beaumont, Texas, said:

“I have two options, I can stop offering coverage and pay the $2,000 fine, or I could keep my number of staff under 50 so the mandate doesn’t apply,” she told Legal Newsline.

In short: Defy the law, and employee healthcare needs be damned.

In fact, that’s exactly what Schnatter announced he would do: Reduce his workers’ hours–since Obamacare mandates that only employees working more than 30 hours per week are covered under their employers’ health insurance plan.

Nichols claimed that the the law might cost her $20,000 to $30,000 in taxes: “Obamacare is making me think about cutting jobs instead,” she said.

Translation: If you force me to behave responsibly, I’ll just have to take it it out on thousands of willing-to-work Americans.

So how can America cope with behavior that destroys not only lives but the economy as well?

By passing–and vigorously enforcing–a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

Among its provisions:  

Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones–solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits.

Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions–and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.  

The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.  

Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:  

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would

  • protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions;
  • protect the environment in which these employees live; and
  • protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

It’s past time for America to protect employees who work for a living from CEOs who simply take credit for the work those employees do.

SCRAP THE WALL: A BETTER WAY TO HALT ILLEGAL ALIENS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2016 at 10:46 pm

According to Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration is easy.

Just build a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S./Mexican border to keep out Mexican immigrants.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said in an interview. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”

Really?

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles–and emcompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and human smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States–as they are now doing.

Click here: Trump says building a U.S.-Mexico wall is ‘easy.’ But is it really? – The Washington Post

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

Image result for Images of illegal immigration

Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s Attorney General—created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4)  CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

Related image

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.  

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S.-Mexican border.  CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.  

Without employers’ luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(5)  The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.  

If they’re not here legally at the time of their birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should Americans.

(7)  Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English 

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.  There is no reason to cater to their hypocrisy.  

(8) The United States should vigorously counter the argument that deporting illegal aliens “separates families.” There is absolutely no reason why this should happen. Those American citizens who wish to do so are perfectly free to accompany their illegal relatives to their home countries.

(9) The United States should impose severe economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens.

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price.  Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

BRINGING JUSTICE TO CEOs: (CORRUPT, EGOTISTICAL OLIGARCHS): PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2016 at 12:25 am

Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch is on a roll.  

  • Since 2004, she has hiked the price of a life-saving EpiPen from $50 to $300–or $600 for a package of two.
  • She has seen her own salary steadily rise more than 600% to a current total of $18 million a year.
  • The device now accounts for 40% of Mylan’s profits.  

But in playing greed-based games with the lives of millions of Americans, Bresch, 47, may have put her company–and even herself–in jeopardy.  

Related image

Heather Bresch

EpiPens have been mandatory for public schools in at least 11 states since Congress passed the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This occurred after Mylan spent $4 million lobbying Congress.  

When the lives of their children are threatened, adults who can stoically accept the inevitability of their own deaths can become dangerously emotional about the fates of their sons or daughters.

As national news media spread the word of Mylan’s unconscionable price increases, American consumers are making their rage increasingly known.

There are three ways this could be expressed: Political, Legal, and Illegal.  

Political: Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has called for an official investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into the price hike:

Related image

Senator Amy Klobuchar

“I write to request the Federal Trade Commission investigate whether Mylan Pharmaceuticals has violated the antitrust laws regarding the sale of its epinephrine auto-injector, EpiPen. Many Americans, including my own daughter, rely on this life-saving product to treat severe allergic reactions.  

“Although the antitrust laws do not prohibit price gouging, regardless of how unseemly it may be, they do prohibit the use of unreasonable restraints of trade to facilitate or protect a price increase.” 

Other Senators who have called for hearings include Iowa’s Charles Grassley, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and former Democratic presidential contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. 

“I have heard from one father in Iowa who recently purchased a refill of his daughter’s EpiPen prescription. He reported that to fill the prescription, he had to pay over $500 for one EpiPen,” wrote Grassley to Bresch. “The high cost has also caused some first responders to consider making their own kits with epinephrine vials and syringes.”

Related image

Senator Charles Grassley

“There’s no reason an EpiPen, which costs Mylan just a few dollars to make, should cost families more than $600,” tweeted Sanders on Twitter.

A second expression of political fallout could ultimately be the adoption of a single-payer healthcare system. Under this, a “single-payer” fund, rather than private insurers, pays for healthcare costs. The healthcare delivery system can be private, public or a combination of the two.  

Owing to the belief of millions of Right-wing Americans that such a system is “Communistic,” this is unlikely to be adopted within the foreseeable future.  

Legal: Individual Americans–and/or the U.S. Department of Justice–could file civil lawsuits against Mylan Pharmaceuticals under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.  

Passed by Congress in 1970 to combat the Mafia, its provisions include punishments for extortion. This is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”  

It could be argued that, by holding a near-monopoly over a product that millions of Americans depend on for survival, and raising its price beyond the ability of most Americans to afford it, Mylan has engaged in extortionate practices.  

It would not be the first time a David-vs.-Goliath lawsuit prevailed against dismal expectations.  

In 1994, amid great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.  

Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.

The theory underlying these lawsuits: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs–amounting to millions of dollars. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.

Illegal:  At one time, business titans like John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford lived apart from “the common herd.” Americans read about them in newspapers or heard about them on the radio, but had no way of contacting them directly.  

If you wanted to “dig up dirt” on any of them, you had to be wealthy enough to hire private detectives–who were probably employed by the same people you wanted to investigate.  

But the rise of the Internet–and especially the advent of “people-finder” websites like Instant Checkmate, Intellius and Veromi–has drastically changed all that.  

Type “Heather Bresch” into the Intellius “Confidential People Finder” subject line, and–for a $20 month’s subscription–you can obtain “some or all of the following”:  

  • Full Name
  • Age and Date of Birth
  • Address
  • Address History
  • Phone Numbers
  • Aliases
  • Relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Email Address(es)
  • Social Networks
  • Property Records
  • Marriages & Divorce
  • Criminal Records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens
  • Judgments
  • Lawsuits

It doesn’t take a genius to see how the parent of an allergy-suffering child–desperate to save his son or daughter and enraged at what he believes to be the extortionately high price of EpiPens–might put such information to use.  

What is truly astonishing is that, in our publicity-saturated culture, greedy, self-destructive “celebrities” like Heather Bresch don’t realize this.  

BRINGING JUSTICE TO CEOs (CORRUPT EGOTISTICAL OLIGARCHS): PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2016 at 1:04 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, delivered this sage advice in his political masterwork, The Discourses:

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.  

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unfortunately, it’s advice that members of the United States Congress have blissfully chosen to ignore. And, in doing so, they have condemned millions of Americans to suffering and death at the hands of greed-based, predatory corporations.  

One of these corporations is Mylan Pharmaceuticals.  

In 2007, Mylan acquired the patent for the EpiPen, a lifesaving device for anyone allergic to common foods like peanuts, shellfish and eggs. Millions of people with life-threatening allergies depend on the EpiPen for survival.  

Related image

During an allergy attack, the EpiPen injects an emergency dosage of epinephrine to the user, preventing a possibly fatal reaction, known as anaphylaxis, from occurring. 

Between 2007 and 2015, the wholesale price of an EpiPen skyrocketed from $56.64 to $317.82–an increase of 461%. 

According to NBC News, compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch similarly skyrocketed during the same period: From $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015–a 671% raise in eight years. 

Bresch wasn’t the only one to profit at the expense of the most vulnerable. 

Mylan’s president, Rajiv Malik, got an 11% pay increase to $1 million annually by 2015.  And Mylan Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Mauro got a 13.6% raise, amounting to $625,000 per year. 

Between 2007 and 2015, Mylan’s stock price tripled, going from $13.29 per share in 2007 to a high of $47.59 in 2016. By late August, 2016, Mylan’s stock is hovering around $45.68 per share on the NASDAQ index.

Bloomberg states that the EpiPen now accounts for about 40% of Mylan’s profits. 

Ironically, Sheldon Kaplan, the man who invented the now-famous device, never made a dime off it, and died in obscurity.  

After working at NASA, Kaplan worked for Survival Technology, Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland. His assignment: Create a device to quickly inject a victim of anaphylaxis–a potentially fatal allergic reaction–with an emergency dose of epinephrine. 

In 1973, when Kaplan was finalizing the design concept for what would ultimately become the EpiPen, the Defense Department asked him to take on a new assignment. The military needed a device that could quickly inject an antidote for nerve gas.

Kaplan’s design perfectly fitted this need: When a victim plunged a needle into his thigh, a spring-loaded mechanism shot a needle containing life-saving medicine into his bloodstream. 

Kaplan’s invention became known as the ComboPen, and was initially used by the Pentagon before becoming available for use by the general public several years later as the EpiPen. 

Kaplan left Survival Technology shortly after creating the ComboPen to become a biochemical engineer. He didn’t follow the success of his invention–and didn’t reap any of the huge financial rewards that it has produced.  

That has certainly not been true for Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

After cornering the patent on the EpiPen in 2007, the company has made billions on the life-saving device. 

According to Bloomberg, a package of two EpiPens costs $415 in the United States after insurance discounts. The same package in France–which has price controls under socialized medicine–costs $85.  

The chief beneficiary of this legalized price-gouging has been Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch.

Related image

Heather Bresch

The daughter of U..S. Senator Joseph Manchin (D-WV), she joined Mylan in 1992 and held various positions within the company.  Among these: Its chief lobbyist before Congress.  

It was in that capacity that she persuaded Congress to enact a bill requiring all public schools to carry EpiPens for students with food allergies. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama in November, 2013.

Over the next three years, schools nationwide bought EpiPens by the truckload. And Mylan jacked up its prices for the EpiPen every other quarter. 

On January 1, 2012, Heather Bresch became Mylan’s CEO.

But it wasn’t enough to have a monopoly on a device millions of men, women and children desperately needed. In 2014, true to its “profits-at-any-price” philosophy, Mylan reincorporated in the Netherlands to lower its effective tax rate.

It did so through a corporate accounting trick known as a tax inversion, and thus claiming the status of a foreign-owned corporation although its headquarters remained in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Even her own father, U..S. Senator Joseph Manchin, condemned Mylan’s use of the inversion scheme and said it should be illegal.  

But Bresch fiercely defended it in an interview with the New York Times: “You can’t maintain competitiveness by staying at a competitive disadvantage. I mean you just can’t.”

No doubt, with her $18 million-a-year CEO salary and moneyed ties to high-powered attorneys and influential members of Congress, Bresch thinks herself invulnerable.

But all that could quickly change–if even a small number of her victims become angry enough.  

PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST EMAIL SCAMMERS

In Business, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on August 26, 2016 at 12:01 am

Receiving unsolicited, get-rich-quick emails has become a regular headache for millions of Internet users.

All too often, the result is fraud for their recipients. In 2013, losses from Nigerian scams alone totaled $12.7 billion.

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud:

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited: Unsolicited: You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to religion:  Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.

  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you–someone they’ve never met–to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman–usually outside the United States–seeking love.  A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders–that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt–for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee–and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.” The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know–who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money–chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links–especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee–“on faith”–to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

DONALD TRUMP VS. DAVY CROCKETT

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 5, 2016 at 1:26 am

March 6, 2016, marked the 180th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio, Texas.

It’s one of those battles like Thermopylae that have passed from history into legend.

It’s been the subject of novels, movies, biographies, histories and TV dramas (most notably Walt Disney’s 1955 “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”).

The Alamo

Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in any Alamo movie or book occurs in the 1993 novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd. 

And it is no less affecting for its being–so far as we know–entirely fictional.  

It’s March 5, 1836–the last night of life for the Alamo garrison. The night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 “Texian” defenders. 

The fort’s commander, William Barret Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.  

And the garrison–except for one man–chooses to stay and fight. 

For the garrison, immortality lies only hours away. Or does it?  

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the gloom of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear. 

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr. “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”  

Related image

“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr. “We’re born to die. Every one of us. Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.” 

“But I can’t be afraid–not me. I’m Crockett. I’m Canebrake Davy. I’m half-horse, half-alligator.” 

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. “So do all these men here. That’s why you’re going to get past this. 

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are. The fear’s come and now it’s gone. This is our time, Davy.” 

“The glory-time,” says Crockett. 

“That’s right, David.  The glory-time.” 

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump–who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans. 

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you.  You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them. You’re joking and grinning and fiddling–it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you. 

Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy–to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men. You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy. Remember who you are. 

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo. Crockett embraces his glory-time–and becomes a legend for all-time. 

David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived–and died–a poor man.  But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens–and even his former enemies. 

David Crockett

During the war of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson. His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama–and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s family and neighbors in Tennessee.

As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites. And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty. 

To Crockett, a promise was sacred–whether given by a single man or the United States Government. 

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders. It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise. 

It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle. 

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee. 

Donald Trump

On June 16, 2015, while announcing his candidacy, Trump said: 

  • “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” 
  • “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….” 
  • “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well-over $10 billion.”  
  • “But here, a total net worth of–net worth, not assets, not–a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets–Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York–many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,000.” 

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved and remembered as heroes. Those who dedicate their lives solely to their wallets and egos are rightly soon forgotten.

WHY AMERICANS HATE CABLE COMPANIES

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on July 29, 2016 at 12:17 am

In 1970, Robert Townsend, the CEO who had turned around a failing rent-a-car company called Avis, published what is arguably the best book written on business management.

It’s Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation From Stiffling People and Strangling Profits.

Though published 46 years ago, it should be required reading–for CEOs and consumers.

Don’t fear getting bogged down in a sea of boring, theory-ridden material.  As Townsend writes:

“This book is in alphabetical order. Using the table of contents, which doubles as the Index, you can locate any subject on the list in 13 seconds. And you can read all I have to say about it in five minutes or less.

“This is not a book about how organizations work.  What should happen in organizations and what does happen are two different things and about as far apart as they can get.  THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HOW TO GET THEM TO RUN THREE TIMES AS WELL AS THEY DO.”

Comcast is the majority owner of NBC and the largest cable operator in the United States. It provides cable TV, Internet and phone service to more than 50 million customers.

So you would think that, with so many customers to serve, Comcast would create an efficient way for them to attain help when they face a problem with billing or service.

Think again.

Consider the merits of Townsend’s short chapter on “Call Yourself Up.”

Townsend advises CEOs:“Pretend you’re a customer. Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help. You’ll run into some real horror shows.”

Now, imagine what would happen if Brian L. Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, did just that.

Brian L. Roberts

First, he would find that, at Comcast, nobody actually answers the phone when a customer calls. After all, it’s so much easier to fob off customers with pre-recorded messages than to have operators directly serve their needs.

And customers simply aren’t that important–except when they’re paying their ever-inflated bills for phone, cable TV and/or Internet service.

Comcast’s revenues stood at $19.25 billion for the fourth quarter of 2015.

In 2015, Roberts earned $36.2 million in salary, options and other compensation, a 10% increase from 2014.

So it isn’t as though the company can’t afford hiring a few operators and instructing them to answer phones directly when people phone in.

But instead of being directly connected to someone able to answer his question or resolve his problem, Roberts would hear:

“Welcome to Comcast–home of Xfinity.”

Then he would hear an annoying clucking sound–followed by the same message in Spanish.

“Your call may be recorded for quality assurance.

“To make a payment now, Press 1.  To continue this call, Press 2.”

Then he would hear: “For technical help, press 1, for billing, press 2.  For more options, press 3.”

Assuming he pressed 2 for “billing,” he would hear:

“For payment, press 1  For balance information, press 2.  For payment locations, press 3.  For all other billing questions, press 4.”

Then he would be told: “Please enter the last four digits of the primary account holder’s Social Security Number.”

Then, as if he hadn’t waited long enough to talk to someone, he would get this message: “Press 1 if you would like to take a short survey after your call.”

By the time he heard that, he would almost certainly not be in a mood to take a survey.  He would simply want someone to come onto the phone and answer his question or resolve his problem.

Then he would hear: “At the present time, all agents are busy”–and be electronically given an estimate by when someone might deign to answer the phone.

“Please hold for the next customer account executive.”

If he wanted to immediately reach a Comcast rep, Roberts would press the number for “sales.”  A sales rep would gladly sign him up for more costly products–even if he couldn’t solve whatever problem Roberts needed addressed.

Assuming that someone actually came on, Roberts couldn’t fail to notice the unmistakable Indian accent of the rep he was now speaking with.

Not Indian as in American Indian-because that would mean his company had actually hired Americans who must be paid at least a minimum American wage for their services.

No, Comcast, like many other supposedly patriotic corporations, “outsources” its “customer service support team” to the nation, India.

After all, if the “outsourced” employees are getting paid a pittance, the CEO and his top associates can rake in all the more.

Of course, the above scenario is totally outlandish–and is meant to be.

Who would expect the wealthy CEO of a major American corporation to actually wait in a telephone queue like an ordinary American Joe or Jane?

That would be like expecting the chief of any major police department to put up with hookers or panhandlers on his own doorstep.

For the wealthy and the powerful, there are always underlings ready and willing to ensure that their masters do not suffer the same indignities as ordinary mortals.

Such as the ones who sign up for Comcast TV, cable or Internet services.

MIKE PENCE’S LEGACY: BRINGING SHARIA LAW TO AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

As a member of Congress, Pence: 

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Unsuccessfully pushed for a 10% income-tax rate cut.
  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.
  • Agreed, in 2015, to expand Medicaid in Indiana, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Related image

Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.

The same applies for a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed that he was about to push open a door into a danger-filled room. And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis. The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state. But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

Related image

Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights?  

Hang onto your hijabs–it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

WALT DISNEY WORLD: “ALLIGATORS R US”

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on July 6, 2016 at 12:17 am

NO SWIMMING

BEWARE

PLEASE BE AWARE OF ALLIGATORS IN THE LAKE.

So warns a sign at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel, in Bay Lake, Fla. To drive home the message, it features an eye-catching symbol: A green alligator, its jaws open wide.

Just minutes away lies the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort, where, on June 14, a sign read:

STEEP DROP-OFF

DEEP WATER

NO SWIMMING

It’s likely that the parents of two-year-old Lane Graves wish they had chosen the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel for their vacation spot.

Had they done so, their son might well be alive today.

On June 14, an alligator, estimated at seven feet, snatched Lane as he waded in less than six inches of water at nightfall.

Lane Graves

His father, Matt, rushed into the water to save Lane.  But he was attacked by a second alligator as he fought for his son.  He suffered several bites before the two alligators disappeared into the lagoon.  

The next day, an Orange County Sheriff’s dive team found Lane’s intact body.  

The Graves family, natives of landlocked Omaha, Nebraska, were overwhelmed with grief.

“We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time,” said a statement released by a family friend on June 16.

The Graves family were not the only ones shocked by the lack of an alligator warning at Disney.

Several tourists interviewed at the nearby Hyatt shared similar outrage.

“We didn’t know there weren’t any signs like they have here, ‘Beware of Alligators,'” Hyatt guest Chloe Giles, 21, told PEOPLE. “We thought they had a big sign like they have here: ‘Beware of Alligators.’ “

Three weeks before the fatal snatching of Lane Graves, Dani Saunders, Christopher Spackman and their two young daughters, Charlie and Laila, visited Disney in Orlando, Fla. They stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, but one night they went to a beach on Bay Lake to watch fireworks.

Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort 

“It’s the same area that the lagoon goes into,” Saunders said. “And we went at the same time– at 9:30 as the other people were there.”

In a state where the alligator population numbers at more than one million, Florida residents know the dangers and keep small children away from ponds and lakes. But many out-of-state visitors aren’t aware of threat posed by the reptiles.

An official at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that May and June are typically mating season for alligators.

The Commission’s executive director, Nick Wiley, announced that his agency had taken and killed five alligators who were suspected of the attack.

Even more damning for Disney, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney staff at a nearby resort knew about guests feeding alligators, and had ignored requests to put up a protective fence around the lagoon.

Mike Hamilton, a custodian at the Polynesian Resort Village–a short distance from the Grand Floridian resort–warned his employer that gators were swimming too close to guests and that a protective fence should be erected to keep them at bay.

“The entire property is interconnected via canals so it is difficult to keep [alligators} out of the lakes. Gators are on all of the golf courses. The team attempts to relocate the gators to the uninhabited natural areas as best they can, but the gators don’t understand the boundaries,” former Disney executive Duncan Dickson told the Sentinel.

According to The Wrap, guests at the Polynesian Resort Village–which charges $2,000 and $3,000 per night for a room–commonly feed the alligators.

“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” a source told The Wrap.

The day after divers found the body of Lane, Disney announced that it was reviewing its policies about warning signs.

“We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all our processes and protocols,” Walt Disney World Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement on June 16. “This includes the number, placement and working of our signage and warnings.”

Among the changes:

  • “Tick Tock,” the Croc from “Peter Pan,” has been removed from the park’s Festival of Fantasy parade.
  • So has “Louis,” the trumpet-playing alligator from “The Princess and the Frog,” who  was supposed to be part of the Friendship Faire castle show.
  • The Jungle Cruise tour guides will no longer joke about crocodiles eating children as they narrate a boat tour through the world’s rivers.
  • The Kilimanjaro Safari ride has dropped references to a crocodile pit.

This is typically how an incompetent bureaucracy operates:

  • Ignore repeated warnings about a problem that poses a threat to its customers. The reason: To avoid spending money–most of which will otherwise go to the top officials of the company.
  • When the predicted disaster occurs, the company issues a public apology–and makes “security theater” gestures to reassure the public.

There is no word as yet whether the Graves family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Walt Disney World.  But only such a lawsuit–and a huge financial loss–will convince this corporation to make a genuine effort to protect its guests.

TAKING BACK OUR BORDERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2016 at 12:19 am

If Americans decide they truly want to control access to their own borders, there is a realistic way to accomplish this.  

And it doesn’t involve building a wall along the Mexican border–which would prove ridiculously expensive and easily circumvented.

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2) The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities which have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s Attorney General—created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony.

(3) Indicting such officials would be comparable to the way that President Andres Jackson dealt with the threat South Carolinians once made to “nullify”–or ignore–any Federal laws they didn’t like.

Jackson quashed that threat by making one of his own: To lead an army into that State and purge all who dared defy the laws of the Federal Government.

(4) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile. 

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(5) CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least twenty years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(6) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(7) The United States Government–from the President on down–should stop apologizing for the right to control the country’s national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should we.

(8) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language–Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(9) Those who are not legal citizens of the United States should not be allowed to vote in its elections.

In Mexico, those who are not Mexican citizens are not allowed to participate in the country’s elections. 

The Mexican Government doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws.

The United States Government should not consider itself racist for insisting on the right to do the same.

(10) The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price.  Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

%d bloggers like this: