Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
It’s a complex system, modern life, and legalizing marijuana doesn’t really get into the details, as pointed out by Abby Rapaport at The American Prospect:
When Colorado and Washington State passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana last November, they weren’t just the first states in the country to do so—they were the first governments in the world to do so. While other nations and states, most notably the Netherlands and California, have decriminalized marijuana possession, the drug is still technically illegal. That means that while it’s tolerated by law enforcement, the government need not concern itself with a full-scale system for regulation and taxation. But there are advantages to legalizing the drug; Washington and Colorado can have a hand in making the product safer while they benefit from tax revenues. Both states are in the early stages of creating systems for taxation and regulation; the Washington State Liquor Control Board released aset of standards earlier this month, while Colorado’s state legislature has passed a series of recommendations from a task force. The differences between the two states’ approaches will offer the first two case studies on how marijuana legalization can work—and what can go awry.
Both states want to prevent companies from encouraging more drug use—no repeat of Big Tobacco—and keep the drug away from minors. There’s also a looming worry about the federal government. Both states are in violation of federal law, which, according to the Supreme Court, trumps state law, but so far, there’s no word on whether the Justice Department or U.S. attorneys will decide to interfere. But Colorado and Washington will try to keep the drug within their borders, so there’s no interstate trafficking that could get the feds involved. But just how to address such problems isn’t always clear—for instance, how can the government both legalize use and tamp down on drug abuse or prevent the product form getting into the hands of teens?
The differences between Colorado and Washington come largely in the nitty-gritty of regulation and taxation. While Colorado will require venders to grow 70 percent of what they sell, for instance, Washington will forbid anyone selling the drug from growing it. The Washington system was designed to mimic . . .
Banks no longer bother to disguise their control of the government. Eric Lipton and Ben Protess in the NY Times:
Bank lobbyists are not leaving it to lawmakers to draft legislation that softens financial regulations. Instead, the lobbyists are helping to write it themselves.
One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by The New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation.
In a sign of Wall Street’s resurgent influence in Washington, Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.)
The lobbying campaign shows how, three years after Congress passed the most comprehensive overhaul of regulation since the Depression, Wall Street is finding Washington a friendlier place.
The cordial relations now include a growing number of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, whose support the banks need if they want to roll back parts of the 2010 financial overhaul, known as Dodd-Frank.
This legislative push is a second front, with Wall Street’s other battle being waged against regulators who are drafting detailed rules allowing them to enforce the law.
And as its lobbying campaign steps up, the financial industry has doubled its already considerable giving to political causes. The lawmakers who this month supported the bills championed by Wall Street received twice as much in contributions from financial institutions compared with those who opposed them, according to an analysis of campaign finance records performed by MapLight, a nonprofit group.
In recent weeks, Wall Street groups also held fund-raisers for lawmakers who co-sponsored the bills. At one dinner Wednesday night, corporate executives and lobbyists paid up to $2,500 to dine in a private room of a Greek restaurant just blocks from the Capitol with Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, a co-sponsor of the bill championed by Citigroup.
Industry officials acknowledged that they played a role in drafting the legislation, but argued that the practice was common in Washington. . .
Continue reading. Yes: “common in Washington”: that is the problem. It seems as though Congress has no concept of “conflict of interest”.
The government now can claim to be “suspicious” that terrorism is being contemplated, and that suspicion triggers the Patriot Act and other repressive legislation and court decisions that allow the government to do anything it wants without regard to legal and human rights. Naturally enough, such tools are appealing to the authoritarian mind, and “dissent” to such a mind looks very much like “terrorism” (authoritarians are easily frightened), which is an enormous threat to the US, much greater than any threat of terrorism. PR Watch has published a report on our government’s activities:
Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement
Special Report by Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press
- by Beau Hodai, CMD/DBA
On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy released the results of a year-long investigation: “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.” The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.
The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private intelligence sharing partnerships. While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the “Arizona fusion center”) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity.
While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.
REPORT Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s ‘Counter Terrorism’ Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street
REPORT APPENDIX open records materials cited in report.
SOURCE MATERIALS almost 10,000 pages of open records materials are archived on DBA Press.
PRWATCH ARTICLE ”Dissent or Terror: How Arizona’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate Interests, Turned on Occupy Phoenix”
Key findings of this report include:
- How law enforcement agencies active in the Arizona fusion center dispatched an undercover officer to infiltrate activist groups organizing both protests of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the launch of Occupy Phoenix and how the work of this undercover officer benefited ALEC and the private corporations that were the subjects of these demonstrations.
- How fusion centers, funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expended countless hours and tax dollars in the monitoring of Occupy Wall Street and other activist groups.
- How the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has financed social media “data mining” programs at local law enforcement agencies engaged in fusion centers.
- How counter terrorism government employees applied facial recognition technology, drawing from a state database of driver’s license photos, to photographs found on Facebook in the effort to profile citizens believed to be associated with activist groups.
- How corporations have become part of the homeland security “information sharing environment” with law enforcement/intelligence agencies through various public-private intelligence sharing partnerships. The report examines multiple instances in which the counter terrorism/homeland security apparatus was used to gather intelligence relating to activists for the benefit of corporate interests that were the subject of protests.
- How private groups and individuals, such as Charles Koch, Chase Koch (Charles’ son and a Koch Industries executive), Koch Industries, and the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council have hired off-duty police officers — sometimes still armed and in police uniforms — to perform the private security functions of keeping undesirables (reporters and activists) at bay.
- How counter terrorism personnel monitored the protest activities of citizens opposed to the indefinite detention language contained in National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
- How the FBI applied “Operation Tripwire,” an initiative originally intended to apprehend domestic terrorists through the use of private sector informants, in their monitoring of Occupy Wall Street groups. [Note: this issue was reported on exclusively by DBA/CMD in December, 2012.]
- The Progressive, “Spying on Occupy Activists”, Matthew Rothschild
- AlterNet, “How America’s National Security Apparatus–in Partnership With Big Corporations–Cracked Down on Dissent, Alex Kane
- In These Times, “How the Government Targeted Occupy”, Lisa Graves (also reprinted at PRWatch.org)
- The Big Picture, New Report Details Surveillance of OWS, Thom Hartmann
- Democracy Now!, “Editor of The Progressive, Matt Rothschild, Calls For Eric Holder to Resign Over Spying on Press, Occupy Protesters”, Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh
Alternet has published an except from the report:
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. DHS), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), ODNI’s “National Counterterrorism Center” (NCTC), and state/regional “fusion centers.”
“Fusion centers,” by and large, are staffed with personnel working in “counter terrorism”/ “homeland security” units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”public safety”/”counter terrorism” agencies. To a large degree, the “counter terrorism” operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in “fusion centers” are financed through a number of U.S. DHS grant programs.
Initially, “fusion centers” were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”counter terrorism” agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of “terrorism”-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of “fusion centers,” their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in “terrorism,” to one of “all hazards” — an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including “terrorism”) that may be deemed a “hazard” to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, “fusion centers” (and the “counter terrorism” entities that they are comprised of) work — in ever closer proximity — with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be “critical infrastructure/key resources” (CI/KR, typically thought of as items such as power plants, dams or weapons manufacturing plants).
As detailed in a report from DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (DBA/CMD), “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street ,” through 2011 and 2012, “fusion centers” and other “counter terrorism” agencies engaged in widespread monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that, in some instances, these “counter terrorism” agencies worked in partnership with corporate interests to gather and disseminate intelligence relating to the activities of citizens engaged in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ironically, records indicate that corporate entities engaged in such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships were often the very same corporate entities criticized, and protested against, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as having undue influence in the functions of public government.
This article examines the effects of such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships in Arizona, and how such partnerships benefited corporate interests that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest actions through 2011 and 2012.
Arizona Fusion Center Work on Behalf of Banks
In October of 2011, Jamie Dimon, president and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, had plans to travel to Phoenix for a “town hall” event with 2,000 of his employees at Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, located in downtown Phoenix). As Dimon is one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and the head of the largest bank in the country — a bank that played a key role in the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008 — JP Morgan Chase Regional Security Manager Dan Grady contacted Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center personnel on October 17 (the day before Dimon’s scheduled visit), to ensure a smooth landing for Dimon in Phoenix.
The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), commonly known as the “Arizona Fusion Center,” is comprised of personnel from such entities as the Arizona Department of Public Safety Intelligence Bureau, the Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau, the Tempe Police Department Homeland Defense Unit, the Mesa Police Department Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Phoenix Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. DHS offices of Infrastructure Protection and Intelligence and Analysis.
Records indicate that Grady’s chief point of law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel contact in Phoenix — with whom he discussed the particulars of Dimon’s visit and shared a detailed itinerary — was Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau (PPDHDB) Detective, and ACTIC Community Liaison Program Coordinator, Jennifer O’Neill. As records indicate, the chief area of discussion between Grady and O’Neill were concerns that citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, an Occupy Wall Street-inspired group that had launched only days prior, on October 14 and 15, might try to disrupt the event — or otherwise inconvenience Dimon.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in response to Grady’s concerns, O’Neill stated that she and a PPDHDB “CI/KR security specialist” colleague had engaged in the monitoring of known online “social networking” outlets used by Occupy Phoenix for discussion relating to the Dimon visit. As such O’Neill stated: “we have not seen anything on social networking that leads us to believe protestors are aware of this event.”
By no stretch of the imagination was this monitoring of social media (known in the world of “counter terrorism” agencies as the acquisition of “open source intelligence”) for the benefit of JP Morgan Chase President and CEO Dimon the full extent of such activity conducted by ACTIC personnel. Records indicate that ACTIC personnel consistently gathered “open source,” and other, intelligence relating to Occupy Phoenix protests of corporate entities throughout 2011 and 2012. According to these records, in many instances ACTIC personnel would share this intelligence with personnel employed by corporations who were subject to these protests.
Another example of Occupy Phoenix-related ACTIC CLP work for the benefit of banks would . . .
Alex Seitz-Wald writes in Salon:
If you look at the redacted decision a federal judge in the District Court of Maryland handed down last October, you would think it involves a classified CIA program, burying all pertinent information — sometimes almost entire pages — under black boxes.
But the case isn’t about a secret weapons program — it’s about baby strollers or kitchen appliances or action figures or some other consumer product. But we don’t actually know because everything, from the name of the company involved to the product it makes, is secret, thanks to a potentially unprecedented court ruling that consumer advocates fear could set a standard of allowing corporations to challenge actions they don’t like without even revealing their names. Welcome to the “Company Doe” case.
In 2008, after a spate of high-profile recalls of lead-tainted toys from China and other products, Congress passed a law to beef up the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an independent federal agency that regulates everything from baby cribs to ATVs to swimming pools — over 15,000 different products, altogether. The law also created a user-friendly online database aimed at making it easier for consumers to learn about potentially dangerous products by centralizing government reports and allowing any consumer to post his or her own complaints.
The whole point of the database is transparency. It can take months for the agency’s investigations to run their course, and companies have a great deal of control over any eventual recall or public action, so the idea of the database was to close the gap between what the agency knows and what the public knows — “letting the sun shine in,” as CPSC chairwoman Inez Moore Tenenbaum said in a speech last year.
So it’s ironic that the very first lawsuit challenging the database could become a test case on corporate secrecy.
In October of 2011, a company asked a federal court to stop the agency from including in its database a report filed by a local government agency of alleged harm to a consumer. It was the first such suit, but was generally expected, as manufacturers fought the creation of the database tooth and nail. But what’s unusual is that the plaintiff called itself “Company Doe” and asked the judge to litigate the entire case under seal and under pseudonym so as to protect it from the taint of perceived impropriety.
Balking at this secrecy, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups intervened in the case and filed a motion to unmask the company. They didn’t hear anything for nine months after their first filing. Then, in July of 2012, they were told that not only had the court rejected their effort to unseal the records, but that the case had already been decided in favor of “Company Doe” — all in total secret. A few months after that came a heavily redacted decision, blacking out the name of the company, the type of product, the local government agency that reported the problem, the potential harm and all other potentially identifying information.
“As far as we can tell, it’s unprecedented,” Scott Michelman, an attorney at Public Citizen who is leading the consumer groups’ litigation, told Salon. “We know of no case anywhere in the country in which companies have been allowed to proceed under a pseudonym, just to protect its reputation.”
This kind of secrecy is common in grand jury proceedings, national security cases and criminal cases to protect the identify of sexual assault victims, legal experts say, but highly unusual beyond that. . .
This is a terrible decision, but to be expected as corporations seize control of the country.
During WWII, the government pleaded with farmers to grow industrial hemp, but then we won and industrial hemp again became (apparently) a dangerous product that was illegal to grow—though perfectly legal to buy as imports. The DEA has stubbornly resisted efforts to grow hemp—which is not a drug, so it’s unclear to me how the DEA should be involved at all. (It’s as if the DEA opposed the growing of cotton or corn.)
Phillip Smith reports at Drug War Chronicles:
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Monday introduced an amendment to the omnibus farm bill to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, the Huffington Post reported. The move picked up momentum the next day, when Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) said he would support, the Huffington Post reported separately.
Vote Hemp, a hemp industry group, has been urging supporters to lobby senators to add and support the amendment. There is an opening on the farm bill this year because it failed to pass last year.”For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Wyden told the Post. “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Wyden wasn’t alone. The bipartisan amendment is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
On Tuesday, Sen. Leahy told members of the farm advocacy group Rural Vermont he would support the amendment, and a Leahy aide confirmed his support to the Post.
“We are optimistic that the hemp amendment to the farm bill will pass and be attached,” Tom Murphy, the national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp, told the Post. “We just received word from Rural Vermont that Sen. Patrick Leahy will support the amendment.”
This week’s moves come after McConnell tried and failed last week to get the amendment added to the farm bill. Now, momentum appears to be mounting.
Brad Plumer reports in the Washington Post:
The current U.S. law on chemical safety is 37 years old, riddled with exceptions, and widely seen as ineffective — so much so that the federal government hasn’t even tried to restrict an unsafe chemical since an asbestos ban was overturned in courts in 1991.
Now that law could soon get a face-lift, amid growing concern that ingredients in ordinary consumer products are leading to health problems.On Wednesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced they had reached a “groundbreaking” agreement to revamp the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, ending two decades of gridlock in the Senate over how to test and regulate the tens of thousands of chemicals found in everything from crib mattresses to water bottles.
If the legislation were to pass, it would be the first time that a major U.S. environmental law was updated since the 1990 overhaul of the Clean Air Act.
“This bill proves that bipartisan compromise can still work in Washington,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who Senate staffers say was critical in bringing the main authors together. All told, the bill has eight Democratic co-sponsors and eight Republicans onboard.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers like Dow and Dupont, hailed the compromise. Environmentalists were split, with some viewing it as a encouraging step and others criticizing it for doing too little.
All sides seem to agree that the current process is dysfunctional. . .
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship take a look at causes of US decline:
At the end of a week that reminds us to be ever vigilant about the dangers of government overreaching its authority, whether by the long arm of the IRS or the Justice Department, we should pause to think about another threat — from too much private power obnoxiously intruding into public life.
All too often, instead of acting as a brake on runaway corporate power and greed, government becomes their enabler, undermining the very rules and regulations intended to keep us safe.
Think of inadequate inspections of food and the food-related infections which kill 3,000 Americans each year and make 48 million sick. A new study from Johns Hopkins shows elevated levels of arsenic — known to increase a person’s risk of cancer — in chicken meat. According to the university’s Center for a Livable Future, “Arsenic-based drugs have been used for decades to make poultry grow faster and improve the pigmentation of the meat. The drugs are also approved to treat and prevent parasites in poultry… Currently in the U.S., there is no federal law prohibiting the sale or use of arsenic-based drugs in poultry feed.”
And here’s a story in The Washington Post about toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals used in poultry plants to clean more chickens more quickly to meet increased demand and make more money. According to Amanda Hitt, director of the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, “They are mixing chemicals together in these plants, and it’s making people sick. Does it work better at killing off pathogens? Yes, but it also can send someone into respiratory arrest.”As long as there are insufficient checks and balances on big business and its powerful lobbies, we are at their mercy.
So far, the government has done next to nothing. No research into the possible side effects, no comprehensive record-keeping on illnesses. “Instead,” the Post reports, “they review data provided by chemical manufacturers.” What’s more, the Department of Agriculture is about to allow the production lines to move even faster, by as much as 25 percent, which means more chemicals, more exposure, more sickness.
Think of that and think of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available today – only a handful have been tested for safety. Ian Urbina writes in The New York Times, “Hazardous chemicals have become so ubiquitous that scientists now talk about babies being born pre-polluted, sometimes with hundred s of synthetic chemicals showing up in their blood.”
Think, too, of that horrific . . .
PBS declined to show “Citizen Koch, a documentary about the Wisconsin public union issue, treating the influence of the dirty energy magnates who are destroying the world through climate change and funding climate change denial, among the various other nefarious things they do. This according to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. It points to the dangers of declining public funding for institutions such as PBS in favor of corporate sponsorships and the donations of the rich. No wonder investigative journalism is an endangered species! [And by all means read that New Yorker article: it shows how much of public discourse the superrich already control. It is truly shocking and helps one understand why the US is declining so rapidly. - LG]
Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films on the other hand is crowd-sourced and can’t be so easily deterred:
Watch it and think about why on earth PBS would refuse to air the documentary.
Funny and sad simultaneously: Obama tries to privatize TVA, GOP fights to keep it in government hands
Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna report at AlterNet:
Buried within the fine print of the 2014 Obama budget is a startling bit of history-changing policy. The government, the administration says, should consider selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the nation’s largest publicly operated—that is, “socialist”—institutions, and the largest public power provider in the country.
The TVA is a non-profi, free-standing public authority established by the Roosevelt administration during the Depression—a very large utility, if you like. It provides 165 billion kilowatt hours of power to 9 million Americans, has $11.2 billion in sales revenue, employs more than 12,500 people, and provides other educational, training and related services (such as navigation and land management, flood control, and economic development) to the people in the states and region around the Tennessee river basin.
Strikingly, it’s the free-market Republicans who object to this proposed privatization. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has vehemently opposed government tax credits and subsidies for renewable energy, calls the proposal “one more bad idea in a budget full of bad ideas,” and fears that privatization would lead to higher energy costs for his constituents.
Congressman John L. Duncan, Jr., another Tennessee Republican, says privatization is “something that has been proposed in the past and been determined to be a very bad idea.” Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama (a state also served by the TVA), says he will “carefully study any proposals to restructure TVA” in order to make sure that it won’t result in a price hike. And Tennessee’s other Republican Senator, Bob Corker, is clear: “I doubt this idea gains much traction.” . . .
Continue reading. Shame on Obama for the drive to privatize, and shame on the GOP for demonstrating so clearly their utter hypocrisy (and logically incoherent positions).
Quite an interesting story for the business-oriented.
The last thing we need: a regulator who assists the regulated companies to avoid regulations . But that’s what we have, as David Dayen explains in The American Prospect:
As we trudge through the swamp of disappointment that defines Dodd-Frank implementation, the liberal commentariat has lately seized upon a new meme; Wall Street lobbyists are responsible for gutting Dodd-Frank behind closed doors. Big-pocketed firms deploy phalanxes of clever lawyers and influence peddlers that easily outpace reformers, ensuring that the regulations ultimately written are sufficiently de-fanged to allow the financial industry to conduct their business with few, if any, restrictions. The lobbyists, and mostly the lobbyists alone, bear responsibility.
Witness the most recent rollback of Dodd-Frank, a compromise on derivatives regulations by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The New York Times’ Ben Protess makes the culprit clear in his Page 1 report: “Under pressure from Wall Street lobbyists, federal regulators have agreed to soften a rule intended to rein in the banking industry’s domination of a risky market.” (Emphasis mine).
But this gets things backwards. Concessions aren’t made without a regulator willing to sit across the table from Mr. Wall Street Lobbyist and agree to their suggestions. And indeed, in the case of the derivatives regulations, one Democratic commissioner on the CFTC, Mark Wetjen, basically forced through the weaker rules by himself. The importance of actually naming the source of the problem is even more magnified here, because Wetjen is in line to replace Chairman Gary Gensler and run the CFTC. With 63 percent of Dodd-Frank rules still unwritten by regulators, a bank-friendly chairman overseeing derivatives would surely erode at an already diluted law. Reformers may have arguments for treading lightly rather than singling out specific bad actors, but I don’t see why the press facilitates it. The public really needs to know exactly who is responsible for these cracks in the regulatory foundation.
The regulations in question concern how to manage derivatives—the bets on bets that accelerated the financial crisis when the housing bubble collapsed. While the derivatives market previously resembled the Wild West, Dodd-Frank’s Section 716 sought to increase transparency by running derivatives through a central clearinghouse called a “swap execution facility” (SEF), with trade information available to all market participants after the fact. CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler also envisioned making all bids for derivatives contracts public before the trade. But those dreaded “Wall Street lobbyists”—actually, the two Republicans on the five-member commission and Democrat Mark Wetjen—forced a compromise system called “Request for Quotes,” or RFQ.
Under RFQ, . . .
The above diagram (click to enlarge) shows some of the connections described in this (peer-reviewed) article ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party. Pam Martens in Wall Street on Parade discusses the article and why the DoJ is uninterested in pursuing the matter:
The Justice Department is investigating the investigators of the Tea Party at the IRS while leaving a 29-year criminal conspiracy against the American people by the Tea Party cabal untouched. That’s not surprising, given that the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, and the former head of his criminal division, Lanny Breuer, came from the law firm Covington and Burling which played a seminal role in the conspiracy.
On February 8 of this year, the peer-reviewed health professionals’ journal, Tobacco Control, published an exhaustive study of the roots of the Tea Party dating back to the 1980s. Researched and written by Amanda Fallin, Rachel Grana and Stanton A. Glantz, the study was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and titled ‘To Quarterback Behind the Scenes, Third Party Efforts’: The Tobacco Industry and the Tea Party.
The authors explain how Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks in 2004, “was co-founded in 1984 by David Koch, of Koch Industries, and Richard Fink, former professor of economics at George Mason University, who has worked for Koch Industries since 1990.” According to the study, “CSE supported the agendas of the tobacco and other industries, including oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and telecommunications, and was funded by them.”
Long before the Tea Party had gained traction in the media, CSE started the first online Tea Party in 2002, calling it the US Tea Party. The federally funded NIH study shows that between 1991 and 2002, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies gave CSE at least $5.3 million.
CSE, a Koch created organization, was considered an integral part of Philip Morris’ strategy to thwart Federal regulation of cigarettes and second hand smoke. The authors write that Philip Morris designated CSE a “Category A” organization for funding and it was assigned its own Philip Morris senior relationship manager. They cite a 1999 internal email at Philip Morris which asked if CSE was worth its current level of funding. Philip Morris’ vice president of federal government affairs, John Scruggs, replied: . . .
Richard Eskow writes at Campaign America’s Future:
Will California Attorney General Kamala Harris hang tough in her new lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, the first to target individual bankers accused of defrauding the public? If so, it would be the first time in five years that executives at a major bank have personally paid a price for their misdeeds.
Weekend at Jamie’s
Recent revelations have shown the world that JPMorgan Chase comes as close as any institution in America to embodying all this is corrupt, contemptible, and criminal about today’s megabanks. This is gratifying, at least on a personal level, since that was not a popular position when we first started writing about JPM and CEO Jamie Dimon a few years back. In those days Dimon was held up as the “good banker” by President Obama and the press. His institution was considered well-managed and ethical by some of the more shallow members of the popular press, despite a plethora of scandals and crimes, such as the Alabama bribery case.
Since then we’ve had a variety of Chase revelations: the “Burger King kids” details behind its massive foreclosure fraud; its confessed criminal mistreatment of active duty military personnel; its deeds in fraudulently propping up a failed mortgage lender (it was like a financial “Weekend at Bernie’s”); and (speaking of “Bernie’s”) its negligence (at best) in the handling of the fraudulent Madoff accounts, which should have triggered all sorts of red-flag warnings.
Now there’s the London Whale scandal and what appears to be a subsequent case of investor deception.
The bank wound up paying a staggering $16 billion in fines and settlements over a four-year period, more than 12 percent of its net income during that time.
The Scandal of Our Time
An ethically healthy society would never have lionized a CEO like Jamie Dimon or an institution like JPMorgan Chase. That’s why we’ve called it “the scandal of our time.” What explains Dimon’s inability to stem the lawbreaking and correct his organization’s broken ethical system? The most generous interpretation is that he’s an incompetent manager – so incompetent that, even after numerous suits, revelations, and settlements,“Jamie didn’t know” about all the illegal and unethical behavior that continued unabated in his institution.
Needless to say, there are more plausible explanations.
And yet, in those cases where the bank has been called to account with fines and settlements, it has been shareholders and not the wrongdoing bankers themselves,who have paid cost. Ironically, that even happens when the shareholders themselves are the ones who were defrauded. That’s why we say that bank fraud is the only crime on Earth in which the victims make restitution on behalf of the wrongdoers.
Is this ugly pattern finally changing?
Meet the Does
Blogger and finance expert Yves Smith thinks so. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is suing JPMorgan Chase and individual bankers (named as “Does 1 through 100”) for “commit(ting) debt collection abuses” against Chase credit card holders, “flooding California’s courts with … collection lawsuits based on patently insufficient evidence.” . . .
David Williams reports in the LA Times:
Over the last decade, former Navy Secretary Richard J. Danzig, a prominent lawyer, presidential advisor and biowarfare consultant to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, has urged the government to counter what he called a major threat to national security.
Terrorists, he warned, could easily engineer a devastating killer germ: a form of anthrax resistant to common antibiotics.
U.S. intelligence agencies have never established that any nation or terrorist group has made such a weapon, and biodefense scientists say doing so would be very difficult. Nevertheless, Danzig has energetically promoted the threat — and prodded the government to stockpile a new type of drug to defend against it.
Danzig did this while serving as a director of a biotech startup that won $334 million in federal contracts to supply just such a drug, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.
By his own account, Danzig encouraged Human Genome Sciences Inc. to develop the compound, and from 2001 through 2012 he collected more than $1 million in director’s fees and other compensation from the company, records show.
The drug, raxibacumab, or raxi, was the first product the company was able to sell, and the U.S. government remains the only customer, at a cost to date of about $5,100 per dose.
A number of senior federal officials whom Danzig advised on the threat of bioterrorism and what to do about it said they were unaware of his role at Human Genome.
Dr. Philip K. Russell, a biodefense official in the George W. Bush administration who attended invitation-only seminars on bioterrorism led by Danzig, said he did not know about Danzig’s tie to the biotech company until The Times asked him about it.
“Holy smoke—that was a horrible conflict of interest,” said Russell, a physician and retired Army major general who helped lead the government’s efforts to prepare for biological attacks.
Federal law bars U.S. officials, including consultants, from giving advice on matters in which they or a company on whose board they serve have “a financial interest.”
Danzig said in an interview that he believed his position at Human Genome posed no conflict.
He said he had tried to improve policymakers’ understanding of biodefense issues, including the threat of antibiotic-resistant anthrax, but never lobbied the government to purchase raxi.
“My view was I’m not going to get involved in selling that,” Danzig said. “But at the same time now, should I not say what I think is right in the government circles with regard to this? And my answer was, ‘If I have occasion to comment on this, it ought to be in general, as a policy matter, not as a particular procurement.’
“I feel that I’ve acted very properly with regard to this,” he said.
The government’s purchases of raxi, which began in 2006 under the Bush administration, buoyed the Rockville, Md., company while it struggled to bring a conventional drug to market. The Obama administration has made additional purchases, more than doubling the government’s supply.
Human Genome was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in August for $3.6 billion.
Because raxi loses its potency after three years in storage, the government’s supply will expire as of 2015, according to federal documents and people familiar with the matter. Administration officials must decide whether to replenish the expiring inventory of raxi and a similar product made by a Canadian company.
Danzig began warning about antibiotic-resistant anthrax after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the mailings of anthrax-laced letters that fall.The powdered anthrax in the letters killed five people but was not resistant to common antibiotics. Asked what gave rise to his concern about resistant strains, Danzig cited conversations with “people whose technical skills exceed mine.” One of them, Dr. Robert P. Kadlec, a bioterrorism advisor in the Bush White House, said he and others were concerned that terrorists could develop such a weapon.
Danzig has sounded the alarm in published papers and in private briefings and seminars for biodefense and intelligence officials.
In a 2003 report funded by the Pentagon, “Catastrophic Bioterrorism — What Is To Be Done?” he wrote that it would be “quite easy” for terrorists to produce antibiotic-resistant anthrax. He has expanded on that theme over the years, including in a 2009 paper for the Pentagon.
In the 2003 report, published while raxi was in development at Human Genome, Danzig said a drug to combat resistant strains of anthrax should be produced “as soon as possible” and that stockpiling such a treatment, “even if expensive and in limited supply,” would deter an attack.
John Vitko Jr., a top Homeland Security official during the Bush and Obama administrations, said he turned frequently to Danzig for advice on biodefense matters — and read and “paid attention to” his “Catastrophic Bioterrorism” report.
The two have served for the last seven years on a government panel that provides confidential assessments of the nation’s biodefense needs to the Homeland Security secretary, the National Security Council staff and other senior officials.
Vitko said he knew nothing of Danzig’s involvement with Human Genome until a Times reporter asked him about it.
“I’m surprised I didn’t,” Vitko said. “I’m not aware of it.”
Five other present or former biodefense officials who conferred with Danzig said they, too, had been unaware of his position with the company. Danzig, they said, made no mention of it in their presence during group discussions he led or in smaller meetings. . .
Industries hate regulation, though they love voluntary guidelines and standards (“voluntary” means that they can legitimately and legally be ignored), and they fight against regulation fiercely, usually on the basis that following a regulation may impact profits, and profits are the only goal. Myron Levin has an intriguing article at FairWarning.org (“news of safety, health, and corporate conduct”):
They crowded in for the hot dog show.
An Oscar Meyer wiener, serving as proxy for a finger, was pushed into the spinning blade of a table saw. The demonstration, at the International Woodworkers Fair in Atlanta, mimicked the way gruesome table saw injuries often occur. But this saw was equipped with a safety device called SawStop that allowed the blade to distinguish between wood and flesh, and to stop fast enough to prevent serious harm. Sure enough, the blade came to a dead stop in about three one-thousandths of a second, leaving the dog with only a minor nick.
Table saw accidents are painful, life-changing and expensive. Each year, more than 67,000 U.S. workers and do-it-yourselfers suffer blade contact injuries, according to government estimates,including more than 33,000 injuries treated in emergency rooms and 4,000 amputations.
Gerald Wheeler had other numbers on his mind as he watched hot dog meet blade that day in August, 2002. As the operator of a wood shop in Hot Springs, Ark., Wheeler was all too aware of the unforgiving nature of table saws. Not long before, two of his employees had been maimed within a few weeks of each other. Wheeler felt awful about the injuries, the loss of two good workers, the $95,000 in medical bills, the doubling of his workers compensation rates.
Wheeler thought: If only this had come along sooner. He took out his Visa card to order two of the saws, but was told none were available. As the SawStop guys explained, they had been seeking licensing deals with the big power tool makers, but had found no takers.
Faced with the prospect of never getting the invention to market, the little company, also known as SawStop, eventually started making its own saws. Since the first went on sale in 2004, SawStop says it has recorded 2,000 “finger saves”—customer reports of accidents likely to have caused disfiguring injuries with conventional saws, but that resulted in minor cuts or a few stitches at most (SawStop also acknowledges two reports of amputations.).
“Bravo!” a man named Frank Oslick emailed SawStop, explaining that he had lost two fingers and part of his thumb in a table saw accident when he was 14. “I have not lived a single day without regretting that accident,” he wrote. “If your device prevents even one person from going through what I have gone through it is a world class accomplishment.”
The hot dog demonstration
However, SawStop still makes the only saws with skin-sensing technology, and accounts for a tiny fraction of sales. Tens of thousands of fingers have been sliced off since the system was invented, but the rest of the industry, which is self-regulating, has been allowed to go on as before.
Over the years, top saw makers and thePower Tool Institute, their trade group, have defended the design of their saws and the decision to snub SawStop.
They’ve argued that injury numbers have been inflated and that the government’s estimate of $2.36 billion in annual costs to society from table saw accidents—including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering—is exaggerated. They say the market for popular, lightweight saws costing as little as $100 would be destroyed by the added expense of SawStop. They note that under some circumstances, SawStop can stop a blade without skin contact–such as when the blade touches conductive materials like metal or very wet wood. In such cases, the owner usually has to replace the blade and an electronic cartridge.
But as court records and testimony have shown, the companies rejected the safety advance for another reason, too: They worried that if a way to prevent severe injuries got traction in the market, they would face liability for accidents with conventional saws.
Even so, they have had to defend lawsuits. About 150 have been filed in recent years, focusing on the companies’ decision not to use available safety technology.
The industry is also trying to keep the Consumer Product Safety Commission from requiring injury reduction systems on all table saws—either SawStop or something similar. Indeed, another firm, Massachusetts-based Whirlwind Tool Co., says it has developed a “proximity detection” systems that will shut down a saw when a hand comes close to the blade.
But the industry may have little to fear from the commission. . .
Continue reading. It’s important to keep in mind that corporations routinely operate in bad faith.
As Paul Waldman writes in his article, the sheer magnitude of surveillance data available on you—cellphone and landline calls (numbers called, content, duration, frequency,…), credit card transactions, web-browsing history—sites, duration, etc.-, web-interaction history (all Facebook stuff, for example). . .
Think about it. Add in the CCTV surveillance cameras with facial-recognition software—and everything else that Waldman writes about.
Then consider: There is no safety in numbers. Our unconscious assumption is that analysts would drown in such a sea of data—but of course, the analysts will not be dealing with the data directly except by drill-down. The grunt work of seeking for patterns and connections will be done by software—initially hand-coded algorithms, then perhaps genetic programming—where the programs evolve in the desired directions, and perhaps neural nets. That would cost a lot, but a lot would be available to develop an All-Seeing Eye that could constantly monitor cyberspace/communications-space and flag as suspicious anything that fits certain criteria (probably state-secret criteria) as well as provide incredible market research for business/politics.
In other words, having such an enormous sea of data just makes it worse: then it becomes a treasure trove of information demanding good AI to mine. We’re well on our way, I bet.
Here’s yet another instance of a student—a minor, a kid—being arrested for a trivial prank. Do people now expect that nothing will ever go wrong and if it does, someone must pay? Can’t they just grow up and get over it? Remember the girl who did a science experiment out-of-doors in which no harm was done and no one was injured, and she was charged with a felony crime?
I expect many of these will be thrown out, but they serve their purpose: to teach and to demonstrate that everyone can immediately be arrested and harassed and possibly beaten and possibly sent to prison. The idea is train the populace to react as potential victims of the authorities, to fear the power of the authorities (very gratifying to the authorities, to be sure—thus attracting a certain sort of personality to positions of power, especial power over the people s/he sees daily). That’s the explicit idea of the stop-and-frisk harassment.
Why do you want a populace trained in this way? to be cowed? Well, it’s much easier to control large masses of people if they have first been trained to be cowed. Certainly that was the experience of South Africa in the last century, and of the American South in the century before that. I get the idea that authoritarian regimes pretty much depend on keeping the populace in a state of fear.
And that seems to be the state to which we’re headed. Cops in the school, training a new generation of children to fear the power of the police and their ability to detain and arrest and take to trial: that’s just another tactic. Terrorists—and even the threat of terrorists—are enormously useful in this training, as we’ve seen: people will give up pretty much all their rights if they are in a state of fear and “safety” is promised in exchange, though that “safety” of course requires, e.g., police officers arresting your children. (Don’t complain: you asked for it.) And we take another step toward becoming a cowed and fearful populace controlled by an elite minority. As little as 1%.
Controlling the government automatically means controlling the legal means of force, and if you control those, you might as well use them: that’s what it’s for. Keep the military busy! Keep the police and law enforcement busy! Tap everyone’s phone! Look for things, anything: you never know what you might find. Plus it’s also all great market research!
The first thing we do, we take the brakes off the banks—let them do whatever they want, because the money they make/steal all comes to us—well, 99% of it, anyway. And if they do get caught, slap ‘em with a fine and let them get back to work. No penalties and no accountability: those slow things down.
Corporations, as we are continually reminded by their actions, will do anything that increases profit. Here’s one horrendous example—and I imagine the company will happily pay a fine so long as they can continue to reap profits. Katherine Ebert at CNN Money:
On the morning of Aug. 18, 2004, Dinesh Thakur hurried to a hastily arranged meeting with his boss at the gleaming offices of Ranbaxy Laboratories in Gurgaon, India, 20 miles south of New Delhi. It was so early that he passed gardeners watering impeccable shrubs and cleaners still polishing the lobby’s tile floors. As always, Thakur was punctual and organized. He had a round face and low-key demeanor, with deep-set eyes that gave him a doleful appearance.
His boss, Dr. Rajinder Kumar, Ranbaxy’s head of research and development, had joined the generic-drug company just two months earlier from GlaxoSmithKline, where he had served as global head of psychiatry for clinical research and development. Tall and handsome with elegant manners, Kumar, known as Raj, had a reputation for integrity. Thakur liked and respected him.
Like Kumar, Thakur had left a brand-name pharmaceutical company for Ranbaxy. Thakur, then 35, an American-trained engineer and a naturalized U.S. citizen, had worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) in New Jersey for 10 years. In 2002 a former mentor recruited him to Ranbaxy by appealing to his native patriotism. So he had moved his wife and baby son to Gurgaon to join India’s largest drugmaker and its first multinational pharmaceutical company.
When he stepped into Kumar’s office that morning, Thakur was surprised by his boss’ appearance. He looked weary and uneasy, his eyes puffy and dark. He had returned the previous day from South Africa, where he had met with government regulators. It was clear that the meeting had not gone well.
The two men strolled into the hall to order tea from white-uniformed waiters. As they returned, Kumar said, “We are in big trouble,” and motioned for Thakur to be quiet. Back in his office, Kumar handed him a letter from the World Health Organization. It summarized the results of an inspection that WHO had done at Vimta Laboratories, an Indian company that Ranbaxy hired to administer clinical tests of its AIDS medicine. The inspection had focused on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that Ranbaxy was selling to the South African government to save the lives of its AIDS-ravaged population.
As Thakur read, his jaw dropped. The WHO had uncovered what seemed to the two men to be astonishing fraud. The Vimta tests appeared to be fabricated. Test results from separate patients, which normally would have differed from one another, were identical, as if xeroxed.
Thakur listened intently. Kumar had not even gotten to the really bad news. On the plane back to India, his traveling companion, another Ranbaxy executive, confided that the problem was not limited to Vimta or to those ARV drugs.
“What do you mean?” asked Thakur, barely able to grasp what Kumar was saying.
The problem, said Kumar, went deeper. He directed Thakur to put aside his other responsibilities and go through the company’s portfolio — ultimately, every drug, every market, every production line — and uncover the truth about Ranbaxy’s testing practices and where the company’s liabilities lay.
Thakur left Kumar’s office stunned. He returned home that evening to find his 3-year-old son playing on the front lawn. The previous year in India, the boy had developed a serious ear infection. A pediatrician prescribed Ranbaxy’s version of amoxiclav, a powerful antibiotic. For three scary days, his son’s 102° fever persisted, despite the medicine. Finally, the pediatrician changed the prescription to the brand-name antibiotic made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Within a day, his fever disappeared. Thakur hadn’t thought about it much before. Now he took the boy in his arms and resolved not to give his family any more Ranbaxy drugs until he knew the truth.
What Thakur unearthed over the next months would form some of the most devastating allegations ever made about the conduct of a drug company. His information would lead Ranbaxy into a multiyear regulatory battle with the FDA, and into the crosshairs of a Justice Department investigation that, almost nine years later, has finally come to a resolution.
On May 13, Ranbaxy pleaded guilty to seven federal criminal counts of selling adulterated drugs with intent to defraud, failing to report that its drugs didn’t meet specifications, and making intentionally false statements to the government. Ranbaxy agreed to pay $500 million in fines, forfeitures, and penalties — the most ever levied against a generic-drug company. (No current or former Ranbaxy executives were charged with crimes.) Thakur’s confidential whistleblower complaint, which he filed in 2007 and which describes how the company fabricated and falsified data to win FDA approvals, was also unsealed. Under federal whistleblower law, Thakur will receive more than $48 million as part of the resolution of the case. . .
Whew! Thank God that none of those responsible was charged with any crime or faced any prison or, indeed, had to pay a fine: the company paid that. So the same people are free to cook up other frauds.
Why on earth does ANYONE think that a company’s paying a fine will do ANYTHING to change its behavior? Send executives to prison and you’ll quickly see some serious reforms. But we don’t send executives to jail—we let their companies pay for the fines. Executives are like reckless teen-age males, who get into serious trouble and cause serious harm and leave it up to their parents (the corporation) to pay restitution and damages, while they themselves get off scot-free.
Corporations love voluntary guidelines because they can then ignore the guidelines: that’s what “voluntary” means. At AlterNet Martha Rosenberg takes a look at voluntary guidelines in the food industry:
Was Jose Navarro, a federal poultry inspector who died two years ago at the age of 37, a victim of increasingly noxious  chemicals used in poultry and meat production? Chemicals like ammonia, chlorine and peracetic acid that are frequently employed to kill aggressive bacteria in meat and poultry?
Navarro coughed up blood several months before his death, the Washington Post reported last week, and he died in November 2011 of lung and kidney failure, according to the autopsy report. An OSHA inspector during a subsequent investigation said “the combination of disinfectants and other chemicals” in addition to pathogens such as salmonella “could be causing significant health problems for processing-plant occupants,” reports the Post. The plant where Navarro worked and the chicken industry defend the chemicals as safe.
It is no secret that new methods are being used in the war against bacteria because of the antibiotic resistance the meat industry’s widespread reliance on antibiotics has helped cause. Antibiotics save money for livestock operations in two ways: they keep the animals alive in filthy, packed conditions in which they might otherwise die; and they make animals gain weight with less food because of their metabolic effects.
Despite the routine use of antibiotics in livestock operations, bacteria and resistant bacteria are rampant in the food supply. Almost half of US beef, chicken, pork and turkey contained staph bacteria when they were tested, reported the Los Angeles Times  in 2011–including the resistant MRSA bacterium (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Two serious strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar, forced recalls in recent years of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey  and Cargill.  The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that disposed meat should be placed in sealed garbage cans to protect wildlife .
But there is another reason that stronger and more volatile chemicals are being used. The federal government is increasingly washing its hands, pun intended, of slaughterhouse inspection and encouraging industry “self-regulation,” which is cheaper for both sides. Thanks to the new era of food industry laissez-faire, assembly lines are moving even more quickly–if that’s possible–and more aggressive chemicals are being employed. “Pink Slime” treated with puffs of ammonia  to kill E. coli, was only one example of extreme chemicals routinely used to kill germs, often under the public’s radar.
There is also an ongoing battle between US trade officials  and the European Union and Russia over US poultry because it is dipped in chlorine bleach to kill germs. Who knew? And conventional US poultry is often grown on feed that contains arsenic, which the FDA says is used  to control parasites, promote weight gain and feed efficiency and improve “pigmentation.” In 2011, Pﬁzer announced it would stop selling arsenic-treated chicken feed after the FDA found residues in chicken livers and most people assumed the substance had been retired from poultry farms. Guess again. Histostat, or nitarsone,  another arsenic-based feed additive, is still on the market, reports the New York Times.
Inspectors Add Their Voices To Agribusiness Critics
Over the years, reports about the deleterious effects of self-regulating agribusinesses on animals, workers, the environment and consumers who eat the products have made headlines. But increasingly, federal meat inspectors are speaking out about the broken system.
“My plant in Pennsylvania processed 1,800 cows a day, 220 per hour,” and veterinarians were pressured “to look the other way” when violations happened,” Lester Friedlander, a federal meat inspector told the Winnipeg Free Press . The reason? Stopping “the line” cost the plant about $5,000 a minute. Friedlander was a USDA veterinarian for 10 years and trained other federal veterinarians.
When mad cow disease was first a US threat in 1991, Friedlander says a USDA ofﬁcial told him not to say anything if he ever discovered a case and said he knew of cows who had tested positive at private laboratories but were ruled negative by the USDA. Friedlander told United Press International  that the USDA attempted to force him out after he alleged, on national TV, that meat from downer cows supplied the national school lunch program. His charge proved true, and led to the biggest meat recall  in US history. . .
The reasons for the “voluntary guidelines” approach is that the GOP has gutted the regulatory and enforcement agencies so they no longer have the resources to do the job that is their task: to protect the public. The GOP is not interested in protecting the public; their focus is protecting the profits of corporations.