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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 4 February 2010
US Supreme Court 'aberrant endorsement of big money politics': PBS
Mood:  blue
Topic: corporates
 


 

Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2010 5:46 PM
Subject: for legal eagles -Bill Moyer's brilliant interview / discussion on implications of THE most radical US Supreme court decision of all time.

Friends
I've highlighted in various colours the really essential 'interesting' and unprecedented legal points raised in this three-way discussion re. the recent US Supreme court decision on funding elections.
I really like the concluding remark:

...there are so many signs of people being hungry for involvement in politics. And I think, the odds are against it. But that there's a really substantial chance that a combination of this and what's happening in the financial sector are really going to lead to a populist revival like we haven't seen for 100 years. But it's going to require left working with right. It's not going to happen if it's just a left wing response, and it's not going to happen if it's just the tea parties.

Onward!
Maireid

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01292010/watch.html

January 29, 2010

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

When the five conservatives on the Supreme Court decided last week that money is speech and corporations have the same rights to spend as much of it buying elections as you do, you could hear the champagne corks popping over at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Exxon Mobil.

But when the late night talk shows heard the news, they didn't break out the bubbly; they broke out in laughter. At THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, correspondent John Oliver made fun of the very notion of corporations as an oppressed minority.

JOHN OLIVER: What a day! With this historic ruling, the last bastion of discrimination in this country has come toppling down. For too long, Jon, corporations have suffered under the yoke of laws, stripped of the basic freedom and dignity guaranteed by our founders [...] For the first time in history, corporations can walk with heads held high, having left their mark on American democracy.

BILL MOYERS: But seriously, folks, is this the end of democracy as we know it? Can it get any worse? My first guests say this is no laughing matter.

Monica Youn directs the money in politics project at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. She's litigated campaign finance and election law issues in federal courts throughout the country.

Zephyr Teachout, is a faculty member at Fordham University's School of Law, who at this moment is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School. During the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004, she was director of his online organizing, which as you know revolutionized political networking and fundraising.

Welcome to you both.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Thank you.

MONICA YOUN; Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Now, comedians can be funny and journalists can be facetious, but in very plain language, who won the Supreme Court decision?

MONICA YOUN; Well, corporations clearly won this decision. I mean, essentially, what the court does is it awards monopoly power over the First Amendment to corporations. You can think about the last couple of elections as, you know, the slow rise of the grassroots. And as a result, the political parties, for the first time, had an incentive to start reaching out to small donors, to start cultivating grassroots organizing networks. And you saw what happened in the last election. Now, what the Supreme Court has done here is really a power play. It takes power away from the grassroots, and it puts it squarely back in the hands of corporate special interests.

It threatens to make these grassroots networks irrelevant. To say, you know, it's no longer going to be worthwhile for, you know, parties to look for fundraising opportunities, $20, $100, even $2,400 at a time, if they can just have multimillion dollar support directly from corporate treasuries.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: This decision, at base, is about power. And that's why people are responding. That's why people from left and right are responding. This decision means that when you walk past a sign that says Goldman Sachs or Ford, that, what that represents has the same rights that you do to speak about politics, to spend as much money as you want on a political campaign. They are basically equal, and treated as equal entities, even though you're the citizen. That's why there's a really deep grassroots response, is there's a sense that power, political power, is being taken away from the citizen, which is really a core idea of this country.

BILL MOYERS: By permitting corporations to use their own, the money from their own treasuries to advocate for or against a candidate? So, that diminishes the power of the individual?

MONICA YOUN; Well, what the Supreme Court has said by equating money with speech, what the Supreme Court has said is that elections aren't really about votes anymore. What elections are now going to be about is money and who has the most money. And an individual citizen saying, "I can't possibly compete with Wal-Mart, with Exxon Mobil, with Goldman Sachs," is just going to say, "Why should I even bother? My voices will never, my voice will never be heard. My elected official is not going to listen to me. I should just stay home."

BILL MOYERS: But if I understand the decision, it doesn't enable the chairman of Exxon Mobil, or the chairman of GE to write a check to Zephyr Teachout, who's running for Congress from Vermont. It says she can spend as much money as they want to, in the, right up to the election. Right? Advocating that you be elected or defeated?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah. Or, what happens more likely is candidates getting threatened and encouraged. It's a much subtler form of corruption. Where your mind shifts to say, "Well, do I really want to take on that financial transaction tax if I know that Goldman Sachs is going to do an ad campaign?"

MONICA YOUN; And I think that the threat is going to be even more of an important weapon than direct, you know, "Vote for so and so who we like."

BILL MOYERS: How do you mean?

MONICA YOUN; I think there's going to be a threat of corporate funded attack ads against elected officials who dare to stand up to corporate interests. Corporations have basically been handed a weapon. And when you walk into a negotiation, and you know that one person is armed and is able to use a weapon against you, they don't have to take out that weapon. They don't have to even brandish it. You know that they have it. And every elected official who goes up against an agenda on regulatory reform, on climate change, on health care, will know that the corporation who, you know, he or she is opposing, can fund a, you know, a $100 million ad campaign to take him or her out.

BILL MOYERS: But I mean, our elections are already saturated with money and the outcomes of money before this Supreme Court decision. And I still am trying to understand what is going to be different-

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay.

BILL MOYERS: -from this decision.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay. Let's say you work for Goldman Sachs. You mentioned Goldman and I like talking about Goldman, because they're the smartest political party I know in the country.

BILL MOYERS: Goldman Sachs?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: "Mr. Sachs", right.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: No, they're very effective, politically, as a company, in their lobbying and in their ability to influence people's thoughts about -- directly.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: So, up until now there have been a series of laws that have restrained Goldman's direct political involvement. And they have a political team, but for the most part, they don't have a team that is looking at the country, trying to figure out which races to get involved in early. Now, what this decision does is say, "We give you the sanction, we actually encourage you as an important, vibrant part of our society to engage." Now, that may be a difference of degree, but differences of degree are everything in politics.

MONICA YOUN; It used to be that when corporations got involved in elections, they would do so kind of skulking around by subterfuge. And what this decision does is it says the Supreme Court of the United States says that you, a corporation, have a First Amendment right to buy as much influence as you can afford. You go out there and get them.

BILL MOYERS: But, you know, some people would say, "That's all right. This is a free market society. America's all about free markets. What's wrong with that? That is a basic American value."

MONICA YOUN; The marketplace of ideas doesn't give any one, any corporation or any individual the constitutional right to buy an election. I mean, the First Amendment is an important part of our Constitution, but so is the idea that this is a democracy. This is -- no matter this is a society based on the idea of one person, one vote. And our elections should not be marketplaces. They should be about voters. They should be about helping the electorate make an informed decision. And the electorate is not going to be able to make an informed decision if all they can see on the air, if all they can, you know, hear on the radio are, you know, attack ads funded by hidden corporate agendas.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I would say that it's -- we're a society of freedom and markets. And political freedom is so important. Political freedom means the freedom to speak and say what you as an individual citizen believe, the freedom to vote. And it means having some power in your society. And then we have this extraordinary system of markets. But it's very dangerous when the two mix. It's not just that it's bad for politics, it's also bad for markets. If you have Ford more focused on spending millions of dollars on trying to influence a congressional race, instead of making the best environmentally efficient car, we all lose. It moves towards a society where markets and freedom are confused, instead of both sort of separate values.

BILL MOYERS: But the court was talking about a very limited matter. The First Amendment, and whether or not it permits speech. What's important is the First Amendment forbids the government from interfering with speech. And that applies to anybody who speaks.

MONICA YOUN; But the problem with that is when you are talking about money being equivalent to speech. And corporations being equivalent to people. It's as if you're saying, "Okay, I'm going to put an ordinary person in a boxing ring against a Sherman tank and that's a fair fight. May the best fighter win." You're talking about artificial constructs that were built to accumulate money. That's the purpose of a corporation. There's nothing wrong with that. As long as that economic inequality does not directly translate into political equality. There's a reason our Constitution was set up the way it was. And there's a reason that you can't buy an election. Because we didn't intend for those who have the most money just to be able to get everything in the system the way they want it, every time.

BILL MOYERS: So, did the Supreme Court declare, in effect, that a corporation is a person, like the three of us, endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights? Is that what it was saying, in effect?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I don't recommend-- on the most part you should stay away from legal opinions, if you can avoid them. But I encourage people to read this opinion because there's some really weird sections. Where Justice Kennedy says "Government cannot stop people from speaking. And anyone who it stops," I'm not quoting exactly, but there's pronoun switches that put "who" and "those" and "they" switching people and corporations in and out. And it seems like, you know, if you almost read it as a literary text, he does have this respect for these legal creations as individuals whose political interests we ought respect.

MONICA YOUN; And there's a very strange alternative reality aspect to the decision. It's like you're reading a work of science fiction. At one point Justice Kennedy says, "Government has muffled the voices of corporations." And-

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: No, no. It's worse. He says, "muffled the most," and then he quotes from Scalia, "the sort of best advocates for the most important interests in our economy."

MONICA YOUN; And so, the idea being that we don't know what Exxon Mobil thinks about climate change. We don't know what Goldman Sachs thinks about financial regulation, because those corporations have somehow been unable to make their viewpoint known on the Hill.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: But this is not just a First Amendment question, as you suggested. This is a question of what kind of society do we want to live in? How do we want it to work when a group of people call their representative? Does she answer the phone? Whose phone call is she taking?

MONICA YOUN; And in a system, you know, the preamble to the Constitution is all about "We the People." And it sets up a vision of representative self government. One in which the citizen is the sovereign and the citizen rules. And was "We the People" meant to include corporations, this artificial legal entity? I mean, should corporations now be able to vote? Should they be able to hold office?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: And there's this beautiful passage in Stevens' dissent, where you can feel his -- he wrote one of the longest dissents in recent history. And you can feel his -- I think very heartfelt anxiety as he's confused. "What is this thing we are giving these rights?" And these are not small rights. These are rare in human history that you have a right like the right to speak freely, politically. We had, you know, we're dealing with in the sophist way in giving it to a corporate form. It's very strange.

BILL MOYERS: Giving it to a corporate form, as I understand the decision, which enables it on the night before an election, if it wants to, it may not want to, but if a corporation wants to, to run a series of ads saying, "Don't vote for candidate Teachout or candidate Youn, right?" And that's a right, as I understand it, that corporations have not had.

MONICA YOUN; So, yeah, that's correct.

BILL MOYERS: To run an ad a night before the election, saying vote for this candidate or against that candidate.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay, see, imagine a Senate race in a few years. And, efforts to break up the banks got into a higher pitch. And a candidate recognizing that people in her state are very supportive of this effort to break up the banks. But the polls are close. So, she comes out with a strong statement saying, "I want a per se cap on how big a bank can be. In the billions, okay?" That night, there can be ad hominem attacks funded by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley on her, directly paid, that cover the airwaves. Now, not only can that happen, but she knows that can happen. How likely is she to take on one of the most important economic questions that we have right now. Is how to structure our financial industry. When she knows the financial industry is already spending $400 billion -- $400 million in a year on lobbying?

BILL MOYERS: Well, proponents of this ruling point out that unions are also freed up by the decision. Have they created a level playing field here between the corporations and the unions?

MONICA YOUN; Well, the short answer to that is that if you compare unions' available funds versus corporation's available funds, we're not talking about a real fight here. But I think the more important fight is why should the only people whose viewpoints count in this, be large organizations with money? Whether that be the unions or the corporations? Why shouldn't ideas be dealt with on their merits? And why shouldn't ideas be dealt with by the number of votes they can command, as opposed to the amount of dollars they can spend?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I also want to go back to something you said earlier about sort of we all know, what was it? The threat of money-

BILL MOYERS: Implied threat that if you do something I don't like, I'm going to, and I have a lot of money, I'm going to make you pay for it in the next election.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: So what I want to say is not only do we all know it, but this is actually fundamental to our Constitution. Our founders knew it. Hamilton knew it. Madison knew it. And they talk about the importance of keeping the temptations and threats of money outside of politics. They weren't naive. And we're not naive. We don't have a vision of money entirely outside of politics. But it's not just that it's common sense. It's a common sense that's embedded in our best traditions. This idea that we should try to create structures that avoid those, that experience of threat and temptation on the part of our politicians.

BILL MOYERS: The decision seems at odds with some of the very positions taken by some of the people who wrote it. I mean, for example, we've heard a lot from conservatives about "judicial activism." That is, judges, liberal judges, Earl Warren and others, actually making decisions that usurp the power of the legislature. So, let me play you an excerpt from Roberts' nomination hearings, when he is talking about judicial activism.

JOHN ROBERTS: Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around...Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath...I do think that it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent...it is not enough that you may think the prior decision was wrongly decided...the role of the judge is limited; that judge is to decide the cases before them; they're not to legislate; they're not to execute the laws."

BILL MOYERS: Is that what he was doing last week?

MONICA YOUN; Absolutely not. This started out as a case about a very narrow issue. It's, is this 90 minute infomercial attacking Hillary Clinton, is this a corporate campaign ad or is it not a corporate campaign ad? And what the court did is they said, "Well, you know, we could rule on that question, but instead let's talk about this entire topic of whether corporate spending in elections should be limited."

BILL MOYERS: In other words, that question was not in the case, that the judges reached out and brought to the court.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: It was not only not in the case, but the parties stipulated that they wouldn't have to deal with these questions. And the judges reached out. The justices reached out and decided to make this statement of their view of corporate independent expenditures.


MONICA YOUN; And this is so disturbing, because one reason that, in that clip, the chief justice is paying, you know, homage to the idea of judicial modesty is people recognize that in this system judges are given a great deal of power. Judges can not only say, "Oh, what you did, Congress, was wrong. But forever more, you are barred from doing anything like that again. That option is completely off the table now." But the way that's limited in our constitutional system is that judges are only supposed to decide the particular case in front of them. They're not going to -- they're not supposed to say, "Oh, we don't like that particular area of the law. Let's just go out and change that, just because we have the five votes to do so." And I can think of very little more scary for our democracy than a five, you know, justice majority that finds itself unconstrained by precedent. That finds itself unconstrained by the case before it. And feels like it can just go out there and pursue its own agenda.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: This case did overrule established precedent. It dealt with an issue which could have been dealt with on several different minor grounds. Much, much narrower grounds. And this -- these laws against corporate expenditures came after massive public response to what they perceived to be corruption in the system. Passed by Congress with enormous amounts of support. And there are times when justices should get involved. And say, "No, no, no. There is a minority here that is not being protected. There are interests that the public isn't hearing." But here the justices were not reaching out to protect an unheard minority, but rather to protect one of the loudest voices we already have in our politics.

BILL MOYERS: Well, John Oliver said it's an oppressed minority. Corporations are an oppressed minority, right? But what now? What do you think can be done to counter, if one wants to counter, the -- this decision?

MONICA YOUN; You know, I have faith that this decision is a constitutional aberration. And I feel like the shock that this decision has resulted in across the left and the right will hopefully show the court that they have taken things too far. That the results of their logic is no longer democracy, which is rule of the people, but which is plutocracy, rule of the wealthy.


ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I think that ten years ago ordinary citizens felt really left out of politics. And we saw that start to change. We saw in the last election, on both sides, we saw people -- you know, feeling like they gave $100, they went out there, they knocked on doors, they got people to the polls, and that mattered. And that was the focus of the election. That was what mattered in an election. And I think what we're going to start to see, maybe not immediately, but certainly down the road if this trend is not changed, is that's going to stop mattering anymore. That's not going to be important. What's going to be important is corporate spending.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I'm more hopeful than you are, despite my despondent initial response. I think there are so many signs of people being hungry for involvement in politics. And I think, the odds are against it. But that there's a really substantial chance that a combination of this and what's happening in the financial sector are really going to lead to a populist revival like we haven't seen for 100 years. But it's going to require left working with right. It's not going to happen if it's just a left wing response, and it's not going to happen if it's just the tea parties.

BILL MOYERS: Monica Youn and Zephyr Teachout, thank you very much for joining me on The JOURNAL.

MONICA YOUN; Thank you.


Posted by editor at 10:34 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 February 2010 10:41 AM EADT
Friday, 29 January 2010
The real meaning of magic password for big business 'going forward'
Mood:  lazy
Topic: corporates


 

In another life we rubbed shoulders with corporate litigation lawyers. Then we read the business news for 2 years as a reader analyst for Media Monitors, particularly during the infamous tech wreck.

Tonight we saw in a forum on 7.30 Report (about population growth) Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group again drop in the membership password of her big corporate club, namely the words "going forward".

So what do these two words really mean apart from a coded declaration of membership of the corporate club? No doubt it is supposed to reveal a can do positive attitude. But the other side of that coin is problemmatic.

It has struck us  for a long time now it means -

'don't look back because that way involves complex issues of social and environmental accountability which will hamper momentum for future profits, at any cost.'

And

'don't look back, because reflection is a luxury economic winners can't afford because the guilt would be too great. It's climate change, it's sixth great wave of biodiversity extinctions, it's killers in suits making calculations about share price over people's survival.'

So big corporates 'go forward' to destroy the planet like  a cancer for some centuries now as per the thesis of the great documentary The Corporation.  


 

 


Posted by editor at 7:57 PM EADT
Updated: Friday, 29 January 2010 8:05 PM EADT
Friday, 30 January 2009
Green Senator Milne seeks 2nd pulp mill notch on her belt with referral to ASX and ASIC?
Topic: corporates

For a while now we have held the view that political corruption by Gunns Ltd would inevitably also involve financial deceptions. We assumed it would be flushed out, if ever, by say new rules requiring auditors to answer written questions of shareholders (thank you John Howard!).

But here we read today of alleged failure to disclose correct market sensitive information relating to an expert report. This project has a bad whiff of dead cat about it just like the Franklin River Dam project of the early 1980ies. Another bad project by a bad company.

Green Senator press release follows:

Did Gunns mislead ASX? Full investigation needed immediately

Hobart, Friday 30 January 2009

The Australian Greens are today calling for a full ASIC investigation
into whether Gunns misled the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday.

Gunns yesterday released the Herzfeld hydrodynamic modelling Report,
which Senator Milne has been attempting to obtain since April 2008. In
releasing the report to the ASX, Gunns claimed that Minister Garrett had
approved Module L of their environmental impact assessment, a claim
denied by Minister Garrett this morning.

"In trying to spin their way out of Dr Herzfeld's frying pan, Gunns may
well have landed themselves in a much bigger fire," Australian Greens
Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

"The ASX must immediately commence an inquiry into whether or not Gunns
misled investors yesterday, and refer the issue to ASIC for a full
investigation.

"The Herzfeld Report is deeply embarrassing for Gunns. It confirms that
Gunns' pulp mill will pollute Bass Strait and will jeopardise the
precious marine environment."

Dr Herzfeld said: 'this creates the possibility for high concentrations
to be carried significant distances from the source and will certainly
reach Commonwealth waters [and the coast] under conducive forcing
conditions.'

Dr Herzfeld goes on to say that, based on criteria prescribed in the
State Pulp Mill Permits 2007 regarding chlorate, Gunns would be in
breach of the conditions 'on an almost daily basis'.

"Gunns has spent the past four years trying to persuade the Tasmanian
community that its pulp mill would not pollute Bass Strait," Senator
Milne said.

"Gunns is clearly trying to spin the Herzfeld report as superseded on
the basis that Minister Garrett has approved Module L, but the Minister
has made it clear that nothing in Module L is set in stone. Minister
Garrett has said that, not only has he not approved Module L, but that
he will not do so until he has all the necessary science in front of him
from the real time hydrodynamic modelling, which will take a further 18
months to be completed.

"Gunns' claim that Dr Herzfeld's report has been superseded is desperate
and misleading spin from a company increasingly on the back foot.

"Far from being superseded, the facts remain that Gunns will dump 64,000
tonnes of effluent, including dioxins, every day into shallow Bass
Strait waters.

"Tasmanians do not want their precious coasts, marine life and seafood
compromised by Gunns' polluting pulp mill," Senator Milne concluded.


Posted by editor at 11:40 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 30 January 2009 12:32 PM EADT
Thursday, 1 January 2009
What role web 2 in the Global Financial 'Crisis'?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: corporates

Is history speeding up via web 2.0? What if sedentary screen time combined with high rate of information flow, and often powerful content, on web 2.0 is radically altering society?

Have you watched James Bond in Goldfinger made in 1964 or so and compared it with the Bourne trilogy made in the noughties, or indeed latest James Bond Quantum of Solace? The point is everything is faster now and public taste looks to be following. Maybe not the quality of plot line say but the overall data is getting very fast. Nor is this an original thought. The calls for strong context and editorial to manage this avalanche are becoming louder and louder in the big press too.

Even alcohol has stopped being very cool in Australia. There isn't much time for hangovers these days if you don't want to miss the next thing, be it job, news story, social opportunity, whatever.

We recently responded to the last Mayne Report ezine as follows with some observations about that publication, the GFC and the subtextual role of web 2.0 in altering society from bricks and mortar economy to cyberspace in many ways:

Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2009 11:00 AM
Subject: bloody good work there Stephen ....
.... "publisher of the Mayne Report". In my judgement you're getting critical mass of cred in your vehicle post crikey.com.au ownership.
 
* Agree re GFC biggest story and agree Obama was "huge".
Arguably the biggest story never covered was the tens of thousands made homeless by king tides in north of PNG in recent months. Imagine that in Shanghai and Bangladesh. Will make Tampa look like a child's sail boat on a pond in the gardens.

 

*On sub prime loans I still question where those millions of poor folks were going to live IF cowboy capitalism had not been 'given' the job of housing them, when any number of other domestic political pressures meant G W Bush etc needed to park the urban homeless issue - not least good will for recruiting cannon fodder for Iraq etc.

* Interesting take on Russia big [financial] come down. Haven't read that any where before.

Thanks for that commentary previously about auditors questions under the new provision of the corporations code. The forest folks can use that re Gunns, South East Fibre Exports (in Eden, Japanese owned).

 

*Great point about inconsistency of the bailouts/blowouts re Bear Stearns (saved) v Lehman (abandoned) - Stiglitz and Naomi Klein make me very nervous about the so called bailout 'plan'. More like rob the US treasury blind on the way out like that Enron exec who got out early. Also makes me nervous that sharp blade Turnbull would praise Hank Poulson so sincerely. We need a useful Opposition not free market ideologues nostalgic for the Wild West.
Coincidentally my US web server's counter crashed when I posted in late November on Klein thesis of Wall St robbing treasury blind, no stats for next 5 days. Mmm. They said it was maintenance. Maybe it was, or Klein/Amy Goodman were better censored like a spark in a haystack.
I still wonder the role of the internet in the GFC - how's this for a wild theory? Bricks and mortar retail outside seasonal fluctuations are going down. My source, a web builder at biggest online retailer here in Australia, says that even so they still trending up modestly post GFC. What if that's the case across social and economic sectors? The overall flight from bricks and mortar? Screen time predating on leisure, retail, government, television and other big media, exercise (obesity), even industry (why drive so much, tele-commute etc).

I'm wondering if the web is part of the cause of the GFC?: Even more information via google and web based news streams means people feel more fearful regardless of objective statistics. There is always a corporate fraud, a mass murder somewhere. A horror, a snake bite, a flood, a fire etc. It bleeds it leads. It's enough to cause emotional and psychological confusion like the seagull predator presented with a million baby turtles rushing to the sea (a real phenomenon in zoology/ethology). Even Dr Google is making people worry more.

 

To egg the theory a bit more - markets have never been transparent which can provide blissful ignorance. Markets now however have never been more transparent and nuanced contradictions - eg like your point on Lehman v Bear Stearns - are happening all the time. I myself pick apart disjunctions in the quality media too often to be really comfortable about trust.
Interesting to see ex PM Howard back on front page of The Australian today. Truly this guy is an energiser bunny. It's damn 'lucky' he was voted out otherwise we would all be talking Howardish eventually like an Exclusive Brethren sect. And he would be embracing nuke weapons for our own good of course. Which brings me to the international politics. Never forget the nuke weapon shadow.

Variations of this drive the bombing of Hamas only this last week to prevent 'delivery systems' like the 'high tech' proverbial donkey cart (or paranoia re same) via Hamas. And what Hamas is getting now Israel will contemplate for Iran at any cost to the world, after all what the f*ck did we do for them when it counted in WW2? And if that happens well as Bugs Bunny has said it could well be "That's all, folks": Nuke exchange in the middle east. Chernobyl like clouds drift globally. False positives in nuke weapon systems from Russia to Pakistan to India to USA to France to Britian. If one of them doesn't let fly by mistake it will be a miracle in itself.

W Bush is probably still flirting with Rapture concepts this last month.

Yours from the grassly knoll etc


Posted by editor at 11:05 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 1 January 2009 11:51 AM EADT
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Does billionaire Dick Pratt's illness echo Alan Bond's Enough Rope story and 4 year gaol stint?
Topic: corporates

Alan Bond

We posted last week on various speculations of PR management of the big Dick Pratt criminal case over price fixing.

We left out Dick Pratt's reported ill health. Serious ill health in fact. We have added a postscript today as follows:

Postscript #1 13 December 2008

i??There is an extra aspect to the big media coverage that we didn't appreciate at the time of writing this above. We feel obliged both for fairness and balance to add: Either geniunely or again as a PR gambit or both, billionaire Mr Pratt has been presented as suffering prostrate cancer and having a spine operation as well related to the treatment. This appeared on crikey ezine about 2 weeks back we recall, and again in the press early this week - that we read late this week:

9 December 2008 Ill health throws doubt on Dick Pratt case | The Australian

All of this is in the balance along with Alan Bond getting an easier run because of his health when he crashed and went to gaol for 4 years. We will post separately on this transcript from Denton's Enough Rope interview with Bond.

Here's a tough appraisal of Dick Pratt:

8 Oct 2008 Crikey - Pratt 2: proof that the rich are indeed different - Pratt ...

12 Dec 2008 Richard Pratt denied cartel scam to John Howard | The Australian

Now we add some very juicy exchanges with Andrew Denton by another (once) billionaire Alan Bond who suffered ill health in a court case. We know enough as a lawyer that has never been sued for defamation to ever suggest that Pratt can be considered in anyway the same as Alan Bond. As far as we know Dick Pratt is really a very sick man and should be treated compassionately for that reason. Over to Alan Bond and Andrew Denton here (when it might be said Enough Rope really kicked butt):

Andrew Denton: Whenever I mention to people, "I'm interviewing Alan Bond," they say, "Oh, has he got his memory back?" Because they remember you from those court cases in 1994 where you were apparently very, very sick. How sick were you?

Alan Bond: I was very, very ill. I was in a very deep state of depression and I just couldn't remember anything. I mean, I couldn't even remember two hours before. It wouldi??just wenti??it just went blank. And I had an infection of the kidneys and I was in no position to actually attend anything.

Andrew Denton: The court had you examined by some neurological experts and they found differently, didn't they? They found that they could see noi??that they could see some physical problems but they could see no indication of memory loss.

Alan Bond: Do you know, that's, umi??not right either. Um, but that doesn't surprise me. That's not in the book, buti??thei??

Andrew Denton: Is it possible that things happened that weren't in the book, Alan?

Alan Bond: Well, I could fill five books. I could fill five books.

Andrew Denton: I'm sure you could.

Alan Bond: So is it practicali??how far you go into everything? But what you're talking about now was in a different time in the sense that I'd had open-heart surgery and I had some embolisms and the embolisms showed on them that there was somei?? I had some minori??strokes during the period of that open-heart surgery. And you could go to 10 heart specialists and they'd tell you in 10% of cases little air bubbles get ini??

Andrew Denton: But what I'm talking about wasn't a different time, this was when your doctors told the court you were too sick to testify. They had you examined and they found you weren't.

Alan Bond: That's not true either. They didn't. The court never did an examination.

Andrew Denton: Two neurological experts?

Alan Bond: They did not do an examination. They examinedi??they examined the X-rays. I was never given an examination other than by our own independent doci??independent doctor. I was very ill. I mean, the reality is if anybody's been in deep depression, you can attest to iti??i?? you either were or you weren't. And I really was in a very, very difficult position. Um, you know, it was life-threatening, really. So I can only leave it at that.

Andrew Denton: I don't reckon most people believe you. Why do you think that is?

Alan Bond: Well, I think a lot of people do believe it, quite frankly.

Andrew Denton: It's just that I'm going on the reactioni?? It's always the same. "Has he got his memory back?"

Alan Bond: That's a standard joke around town. "Got your memory back?" But the reality is that I was, and I'd had enormous pressure and the system wasi??er, had stopped. I was on heavy medication. Um, I wasi??I had been in a, umi??in with a psychologist and I'd been hospitalised for a week prior to this and I was in a pretty difficult position, quite frankly.

Andrew Denton: Let's talk about something else that's not in the book. I'm sorry about this, but the receiver that was taking you to court at this time, when you were too ill to remember, subpoenaed the phone records from the hotel you were staying at during the court case. And according to the phone records, you would be in the stand, not being able to remember much, if anything, then you'd go home and you'd make calls to Switzerland, USA, UK, India, Pakistan, Singapore, also 24 calls to a businessman in Australia with whom you were setting up a gold deal, that you went on to send faxes, 65 international calls, including one to a phone box at Zurich railway station, six to the Zurich Hilton and one to a number Swiss authorities identified as the Zuger Kantonalbank. How could that have happened?

Alan Bond: You know, when you're at the point of a nervous breakdown, um, you do silly things. You ring everybody and you don't even know what you're doing.

Andrew Denton: You were just ringing the Swiss bank toi??"I'm whooooo!"

Alan Bond: I never made a call to a Swiss bank. I mean, that's ridiculous to say that, 'cause it's not true. But the bottom line of it is, though, that I made lots of calls, but it's like a person's having a nervous breakdowni??i?? you're hyperactive, you're beingi??I was on huge medication. And you come out of the court, you can hardly stand, you get back to the hotel, and then your mind is just racing, and you just ring everybody that you can think of and you're doing calls and you're making silly conversations. And that's what occurred.

Andrew Denton: So it was a cry for help?

Alan Bond: Um, it was on the verge of a nervous breakdown to such an extent that, um, there was no logic to what I was doing. There was just no logic at all.

Andrew Denton: Later that year you took the stand again. You actually collapsed on the first day in court. Do you remember that?

Alan Bond: Um, I was very ill.

Andrew Denton: Mm.

Alan Bond: Umi??

Andrew Denton: You actually had to physically excuse yourself.

Alan Bond: Well, that wasi??that happened a couple of times, actually, but, eri??

Andrew Denton: Because that same day you collapsed in court, three businessmen on St Bees Island in the Whitsundays saw you, and they came over to Perth and gave secret testimony, and the testimony was that that very weekend, 48 hours beforehand, you'd been with them, snorkelling and walking and conducting business deals, and were in rude good health. Now, how do we explain that?

Alan Bond: Well, that's not true. I wasn't in good health at all. I'd gone to the Whii?? I'd gone to St Bees Island to try and have a rest. And the mind was still very active. It was like, umi?? It was like a hyperactive situation. You can't sleep, you're constantly awake, and you're physically exhausted and you talk about things. Um, and we were talking about all sorts of things that when you look back on it now, they just didn't make any sense at all.

Andrew Denton: Should you have been up for a Logie, really, Alan?

Alan Bond: Umi?? Er, no, I should have had a lot more compassion. And people who've had depression that will watch this program will understand, and those who haven't had it, er, hope they never do get it.

Andrew Denton: It's a hideous disease and I couldn't agree with that more. In the booki??i?? in this book, which I've read, you, umi??

Alan Bond: Partially read it. Perhaps you didn't understand it.

Andrew Denton: You're right. There were a whole lot of things I didn't understand. And that's why it's great we have a chance to chat. In the book, you suggest that there was a conspiracy to get you to court, to bring you down, that people in power wanted to see you brought down.

Alan Bond: Yes.


Posted by editor at 5:34 AM EADT
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
JBD Chief Exec: 'Pratt and Rivkin not singled out as Jews', SMH controlled timing of Facebook story
Mood:  chatty
Topic: corporates
The correspondence below is very categorical and informative and we take it on face value as true. We are still interested in the timing of the page 1 story run by the SMH's education journalist Anna Patty: Because it's the kind of story with quite flexible timing at the discretion of the newspaper. It just happened to run and arguably swamp the not guilty plea in a huge price fixing case against Richard Pratt. 
For instance ABC TV prime time news in Sydney didn't report the Pratt story at all. And notice the Pratt PR operatives of the highest calibre, husband of a ex high profile senator: The Australian at p7 right hand column carries this:
[including, bold added]
"Asked whether he had considered that the settlement deal would allow the ACCC to bring a criminal prosecution against Mr Pratt, Mr Cassidy replied: "No".

Mr Cassidy also said he was unaware the statement of agreed facts contained a clause stating that it could be used as evidence only in the civil case and did not constitute a general admission.

Mr Richter asked Mr Cassidy why, at a meeting to discuss the possibility of criminal charges, he didn't say: "Hang about, we promised not to use this".

"I didn't become aware of that promise not to use it until the investigation into Mr Pratt," Mr Cassidy said.

The ACCC chief did not explain how the commission justified using the statement against Mr Pratt despite having undertaken not to do so.

The court was also told that public relations maven Ian Smith, executive chairman of Gavin Anderson & Co, was used as a go-between in negotiations between the ACCC and the Pratt camp on the terms of the settlement deal, but Mr Cassidy denied he was used as an intermediary. "

We spoke briefly to Ms Patty yesterday by phone but she was in a meeting. We will try again in due course. Where did she get the story we do wonder, not that we expect to be told of her source.

[5.15 pm 10 Dec 08: Anna Patty states by phone that she was tipped off by someone in the education sector and didn't know anything about the Dick Pratt case. In response to the coincidental convergence of the two stories: If there was any agenda in the tip off she couldn't say either way. She just thought her Facebook expose was a good story.]

 

----- Original Message -----
From: Vic Alhadeff
To: SAM editor Cc: Principal's Assistant Scots College
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 4:25 PM
Subject: RE: questions with notice re meta analysis of today's media re scandal story smh etc

Dear Tom 

Thanks for the positive feedback to our position against prejudice. There is no connection between the Facebook and the Richard Pratt stories; one is a story about antisemitic racism and the other a story about the prosecution of a person who happens to be Jewish, but whose identity has no bearing on his activities.

Furthermore, we do not subscribe to the notion that Mr Rivkin or Mr Pratt were singled out for prosecution because they were Jewish.

 Vic Alhadeff

Chief Executive Officer, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

---------------------------------------

To answer your questions:

1. Are you aware Dick Pratt pleaded guilty to civil breaches of the corporations law last year and has now been charged with criminal offences?

 Yes

 2. Are you aware Pratt pleaded not guilty to the criminal offences today as per abc radio news we heard earlier?

 Yes

 3. Are you aware that Jewish members of the business community in Melbourne in particular were concerned earlier this year that ACCC's failure to drop the criminal charges even after a $40 million fine for civil breaches might be motivated by discrimination?

 I have heard many reactions to the issue.

 4. Do you think the Scots' students allegedly involved in the offensive website might have got prejudiced attitudes from their business parents here in Sydney?

 Prejudice can stem from many sources – peers, family members, social circles. The usual common denominator is ignorance.

5. Is billionaire business man Dick Pratt a donor to the JBD or related groups in the past? How much? 

Not to the JBD. I cannot speak for other organisations.

6. Is it a coincidence that these two stories are running today namely Scot's College website and Dick Pratt not guilty plea to criminal breaches of the corporations law?

Yes. There is no connection between the two.

7. Is the JBD or similar/related groups innocently seeking to make the point of prejudice existing against the Jewish community in some parts of the upper echeleons of society, as expressed by their adolescent children? That indeed "racism is unacceptable"

No; we point out prejudice wherever it exists and in whatever echelons of society it exists. This is merely the latest example.

8. Did the NSW JBD or related groups 'get the story up' regarding (alleged) Scots student scandal website? 

It is our policy to report and expose racism whenever it occurs and is brought to our attention. In this case, we were approached by the media to respond to the issue; we did not take the issue to the media.

9. Is there any intention of the JBD or other groups that you may know of to influence the public's view of the Pratt criminal case, or indeed the court itself?

Absolutely not.

10. Are you aware that the courts receive clips of articles of all related matters in the press via such service providers as Media Monitors? Indeed on the flipside does the JBD continue to receive clippings from MM as they did in 1999-2001?

Yes. Yes. 

From: SAM editor Sent: Tuesday, 9 December 2008 1:24 PM
To: Vic Alhadeff
Cc: Assistant Principal Scots College
Subject: questions with notice re meta analysis of today's media re scandal story smh etc

 Dear Vic,

While always agreeing with your strong stand against prejudice that we wholeheartedly agree with, there is an interesting convergence of news cycle today regarding prominent Jewish business identity and philanthropist Dick Pratt in alot of trouble for allegations of criminal corporate behaviour.

I am submitting these questions in good faith, as per many other 'story behind the story' lines of inquiry in our website on diverse topics. Feel free to reject or repudiate the inferences. However the coincidence in timing is there and the questions are in the public interest, also speaking as a (rusty) corporate lawyer.

 Tuesday, 9 December 2008

 

By way of comparison, I worked for an independent (radical) secular Jewish guy Lawrence Gibbons (City Hub, Bondi View, Sydney City News) 2001-2007 who suggested to me in all seriousness that when Rene Rivkin was being pursued over Offset Alpine fraud and share trading issues and later personal meltdown "that it was only because he was Jewish". The claim being that plenty of fraudsters cheat on the sharemarket but prosecutions were selective.

Anyway I scoffed at the suggestion while really having no proof one way or the other about any such conjecture. It did seem to me a little paranoid but who really can judge these things. On the other hand there can be little or no doubt that website by the students was offensive and has to be confronted and exposed. No debate about that.

Yours truly

 Tom McLoughlin, editor/owner www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog

 tel. 0410 558838.

CC Principal assistant Scot's College

..............................

Postscript 11 Dec 2008

ACCC delayed perjury charges against Pratt | The Australian 11 Dec 2008 ... Mr Pratt's legal team has accused the ACCC of conducting a campaign against Mr Pratt to trick him into signing a document,


Posted by editor at 5:23 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 11 December 2008 5:51 AM EADT
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Stephen Mayne, shareholder activist, goes Toll hunting in AGM season
Mood:  energetic
Topic: corporates

 

The Mayne Report has just lobbed into our inbox. It's the next vehicle for former News Corp business reporter Stephen Mayne. Previously he founded then sold the Crikey.com.au web based news service.

The share holder activist business ezine refers to rousing skirmishes over $55M in executive bonuses at Toll Holdings, if I have the gist right, with this invitation:

Feel free to click below for the web version of this and send the link around because this scandal really does need maximum public exposure. And let's hope the papers give it the full treatment in the morning.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne


Posted by editor at 7:35 PM NZT
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
ANZ 'district officer' avoids bad Gunns pulp mill PR to manage Opes disaster
Mood:  bright
Topic: corporates

We would like to think ANZ bank declined financing Gunns Ltd disastrous pulp mill that would devastate natural forests in Tasmania. But somehow we think CEO Mike Smith pictured above in Australian Financial Review May colour magazine has responded both to the cost of global debt at the present and the PR problems around Gunns Ltd to best focus on managing litigation over the crash of Opes Prime share trading business:

 3 June 2008 It's $1bn or court, warns Opes litigator | The Australian


Opes Prime's crash, with ANZ as a priority creditor, has burnt alot of wealthy angry powerful people who are getting organised for a real fight. The "district officer" Mike Smith doesn't need Gunns as a PR millstone like this Get Up advert (as good as their word) in the Australian Financial Review yesterday June 3rd 2008:

One last comment about Mike Smith. He's experienced the sovereign risk of the Argentinian currency meltdown in 1999 onward (caused by leader Carlos Menem, with echoes of Paul Lennon?) in dramatic circumstances. It's quite a ripping yarn as per this reportage from The Standard press in Hong Kong:

Tempers flared and ordinary, yet enraged people took their household DIY hammers to the bank doors.

Buenos Aires was on the boil.

Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp chief executive Michael Smith remembers 1999 in Argentina, not the least for a bad experience.

I survive, he says, matter-of-factly.

At the time, he was CEO of the largest foreign bank in the country.

Amid the political tension in Buenos Aires, he says he became a target.

It was about seven years ago. I got ambushed on my way home one night and my car got shot at.

Smith had his own driver but he was off for the night, which was fortunate.

[If the driver was there] they would have gone straight for his gun and killed him and I would have left in the car without anywhere to go [and] they would have got me. I used my own car as a weapon and I smashed through them, says Smith.

But he was not unscathed. One bullet pierced through the car door penetrating his thigh.

Two years later, when the masses rallied and vented their anger against the countrys political class and the banking class, he was trapped in an HSBC branch, also in Buenos Aires. A mob waited outside.

But no one was hurt. It was amazing, he says.


Posted by editor at 11:06 PM NZT
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Coca Cola Amatil 'not a good corporate citizen': Ian Cohen MP
Mood:  sad
Topic: corporates

Media Release from Ian Cohen MLC                                       
                                                 

15th May 2008
 
Greens to Coca Cola: “stop political donations, start container
deposit”

 
As Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) emerged from their AGM today, Greens MP Ian
Cohen called on the company to refrain from using their influence to
frustrate community efforts to expand South Australia’s successful
container deposit scheme.
 
“Coca Cola have donated almost two million dollars to the major
political parties in this country over the last nine years,” said
Upper House Greens MP Ian Cohen.
 
“What the developer donations scandal has revealed in NSW is that
political donors make donations in order to gain preferential access to
and/or treatment from MPs and Ministers.
 
“He who pays the piper calls the tune. There should be a moratorium
on all political donations from beverage companies, particularly while a
national review of the viability of a container deposit scheme is
underway.
 
“Voluntary waste management schemes have consistently failed to
achieve targets for recycling and resource recovery.
 
CCA’s Chairman David Gonski today told the AGM that the company has
‘engaged a sustainability manager to work with our customers and
we’re gathering ideas from many of our people on ways to reduce waste
and maximise resources’.
 
“Container deposit is a proven system for minimising waste. If Coke
were serious beyond greenwash, they’d be heeding calls supported by
90% of the community to introduce a cash back scheme for bottles and
cans.
 
“Self regulation has maintained status quo where recycling rates of
beverage containers have been stagnant for years. Is it a coincidence
that nine years of donations have coincided with nine years of self
regulation and nine years of chain dragging on waste issues?
 
“Once the company has embraced container deposit, they might like to
look to their sister company in Germany for guidance on how to set up a
refillable system. The German PET Coca Cola bottle on my desk has been
refilled 20 times – now there’s an idea,” said Mr Cohen.
 
For more information: Ian Cohen 0409 989 466 or Nic Clyde 0417 742 754


Posted by editor at 8:49 PM NZT
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Paul Keating as international chair of Lazard Carnegie Wylie referred to ACCC
Mood:  sharp
Topic: corporates

[The following receipt of our complaint was received around 5.45 pm 6 May 2008] 

Confirmation

Thank you for contacting the ACCC.

Where possible the staff of the ACCC Infocentre will phone and discuss your inquiry/complaint. This provides an opportunity to better understand your questions and provide a more useful response. The matters you have raised will receive attention by ACCC staff.

Please note that we are experiencing delays in responding to online complaints.

If you have any urgent inquiries please call 1300 302 502.

You submitted the following:

Complainant details

Mr Tom McLoughlin

Age

35-44

Gender

Address

XXXXXXXXXX
Sydney
NSW
Australia
2204

Contact details

XXXXXXXXXX
0410 558838
ecology[at]wix.com.au

Date received

6th May 2008

Product description

public energy privatisation in NSW

Product provider

Paul Keating, international chairman of Lazard Carnegie Wylie

Complaint description

Keating says in the SMH today: "[in 1997} the power stations were worth $35 billion. A decade later the price discussion for the same stations is about $15 billion. That is, $20 billion in lost value; $20 billion that could have been spent on education, health and vital new infrastructure. A vast sum even by national government standards."

John Kaye MP (Greens) and Phd in electrical engineering no less stated today this was "deeply misleading"."Mr Keating has conveniently ignored the billions of dollars in the low and high voltage network that then Premier Carr wanted to sell off and was included in the $35 billion price tag. "He has wiped out the value of 12,440 km of high voltage transmission lines owned by Transgrid. "He has written down to zero the $10.9 billion assets of the state’s electricity distributors, including 2.2 million power poles and the 169 thousand substations. [end quote].

 Under s.52 and state equivalents of the Trade Practices Act (Commonwealth) it is illegal to engage in conduct that is misleading and deceptive in the course of business. There may be an exemption for news reportage. However we feel that Keating may be in breach of the law of the land as regards honest business practice. Certainly if he repeats these statements outside the newspaper he will be, and he may still have done so. I do believe this is a case for the ACCC to investigate as the corporate watchdog.


Posted by editor at 7:50 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 May 2008 8:27 PM NZT

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