One copy of the "John Doe files," Wisconsin's preliminary investigation into Scott Walker's campaign finances, survived destruction. [more inside]
The Sugar Industry Hid Shocking Documents for 40 Years required reading for anyone who wants to understand how corporate funding shapes scientific research and ultimately public health policy
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
International investors have a private court of appeal even in criminal matters - "A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. [ISDS] operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret." (via) [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Welcome to the future you. The Center for Corporate Studies is a best-of-breed, high-level institute with a core competency in leveraging the power of language to develop personal, synergistic paradigm shifts within each of our students. You’ll learn how to champion mission-critical learnings across all verticals resulting in high-yield growth, for both your organization and your personal brand. Join us. And in just eight weeks, you too will be able to write barely decipherable paragraphs that put your career in the fast lane. [via]
Who owns who? Corporate ownership of global makeup brands (Avery Mae Beauty blog) [more inside]
Planet Money's Adam Davidson ponders an emerging economic paradox in this week's NYT Magazine: Why are corporations hoarding trillions in cash? The cash stockpiles being held by many major corporations situation are unprecedented in size, and often vastly exceed any sum of money that these corporations could ever dream of spending. This behavior runs in direct opposition to most economic theories, violates assumptions about how rational corporations should act, and is being rewarded by the market (but only in some industries). So, what gives?
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions -"The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income." (via) [more inside]
"I found this collection of outtakes in my archive. I shot these interviews on the streets of New York in the late 70s when I was doing a documentary on the coming of the information age." - Man on the street interviews with New Yorkers in 1979 about science, technology, corporate influence, computers, and paperwork. (SLYT 5:45)
For much of the 1930s, organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) had been searching in vain for ways to rehabilitate a public image that had been destroyed in the Great Depression and defamed by the New Deal. In 1934, a new generation of conservative industrialists took over NAM with a promise to “serve the purposes of business salvation.” How Corporate America invented Christian America.
Gender_Map by Data Morphosis and TWO-N demonstrates that women make up just 10.7% of all US company board members. They are best represented at Avon, where more than half the board is female. Eighteen S&P 500 companies have male directors exclusively. (Via Forbes, where the article is adorned with a pink [!] bar graph.)
VC for the people - "It's just that people who have options are much more likely to actually find success than people who don't." [more inside]
Free Money for Everyone - "A wacky-sounding idea with surprisingly conservative roots may be our best hope for escaping endless, grinding economic stagnation." (via) [more inside]
NFL holds Super Bowl in NYC; NYC unimpressed. While the stadium is technically in New Jersey, it is considered equally if not primarily a New York stadium, and the NFL turned Times Square and Broadway into Super Bowl Boulevard Engineered By GMC. Visitors can kick a football, watch television, ride a toboggan, shop, enjoy a free slice of Papa John's pizza, play XBox, take a photo with the oversized Roman numerals 'XLVIII', use relevant Twitter hashtags, and more. It is not decadent and depraved, though Vice and Gothamist would tend to disagree. The Times discusses less vehement disapproval and disappointment, while Business Insider wishes ill upon the city. Ticket sales are faltering relative to recent years, with the new mayor among those skipping out.
Want to get away with not paying taxes but don't have the money to make your own offshore company in the Cayman Islands? Fret not - you can hijack an existing offshore company starting from the low low price of 99 cents! [more inside]
This shift in how companies are governed and raise money is bringing with it a structural change in American capitalism. That should be a matter of great debate. Are these new businesses, with their ability to circumvent rules that apply to conventional public companies, merely adroit exploiters of loopholes for the benefit of a plutocratic few? Or do they reflect the adaptability on which America’s vitality has always been based? - Rise of the distorporation - how changes in the way companies are financed and managed is changing the wealth distribution of America.
Everything's Coming Up Profits is a new book by Steve Young and Sport Murphy detailing the Industrial, Corporate Musicals of the 50s-70s. [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
Payday lenders target the working poor with quick loans at exorbitant interest rates. When a ballot initiative drive in Missouri threatened this lucrative business, the payday lenders fought back with everything they had--their money. A ProPublica report, published yesterday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch documents the web of secret donations and intimidation that smothered the reform movement.
Game of Brands: The Game of Thrones Houses as Modern Corporations (Article contains spoilers if you're not up on the end of the current season of the series.) Ads, logos, the whole thing, for such companies as Air Targaeryen, the Lannister Investment Group... [more inside]
Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem (alternate link): [CEO Eddie] Lampert. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.
Corporate Spirit uses stock photography to tell a deranged tale about living the corporate life.
Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment - "The poor do not employ one another, because the necessities they require are produced and sold so cheaply by the rich. The rich are glad to sell to the poor, as long as the poor can come up with property or debt claims or other forms of insurance to offer as payment..." [more inside]
Chris Hedges interviewed by Bill Moyers is profound, insightful and inspiring. In one of the most pointed, sweeping and personal public conversations about Chris Hedges' life and work yet, Bill Moyers speaks with the journalist after the release of "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt," the book Hedges co-authored with fellow reporter and artist Joe Sacco. The 50-minute conversation is followed by a segment on Sacco, who talks about the thinking and experiences that moved him to become a "comics journalist." Previously and previously.
The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge.An analysis of the management and organizational style of Valve Software.
The most recent issue of Businessweek contains an article about How The Mormon Church Makes Its Billions. There has been a backlash, mostly over the cover.
Our planet is inhabited by two distinct kinds of intelligent beings — individual humans and corporate entities — whose natures and interests are intimately linked. To co-exist well, we need to ﬁnd ways to deﬁne the rights and responsibilities of both individual humans and corporate entities, and to ﬁnd ways to ensure that corporate entities behave as responsible members of society. (SLAX)(pdf warning)
Just beating Bank of America, Consumerist readers have voted Electronic Arts the worst company in America
In 2010, the top 500 U.S. corporations - the Fortune 500 – generated $10.7 trillion in sales, reaped a whopping $702 billion in profits, and employed 24.9 million people around the globe. Historically, when these corporations have invested in the productive capabilities of their American employees, we’ve had lots of well-paid and stable jobs. That was the case a half century ago.
How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense: Report looks at methods of corporate abuse, suggests steps toward reform [Full Report (PDF)] [Executive Summary (PDF)] [more inside]
Chris Hedges: Brace yourself. The American Empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying. Long, incredibly intelligent, insightful and pessimistic discussion of the current state of American politics and society, among other topics. Hedges is a long-time journalist, author and professor, winner of Pulitzer Prize and Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism for his work at the New York Times. [more inside]
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world” — Jack Welch, 2009. As GE’s CEO in the 80s, however, Welch championed corporate focus on shareholder returns. “Converts to the creed”, the Economist summarizes, “had little time for other ‘stakeholders’: customers, employees, suppliers, society at large and so forth.” What went wrong? Steve Denning describes how such a stance is counterproductive, creates turmoil in capitalism and fosters an environment in which “CEOs and their top managers have massive incentives to focus most of their attentions on the expectations market, rather than the real job of running the company producing real products and services.”
"Bob Shuter, suburban vigilante. Driven by rage to wage a one-man war on the underworld of Kent, Bob Shuter is... The Reprisalizer."
"You're going nowhere, son. Just you, me ad the walls. So wipe that bloody grin off before it's shot off, and don't slouch. You toe rag. You bin. Pay attention when I break you. And break you I will, boy. You're in my manor, now." Buck up! It's Terry Finch's THE REPRISALIZER! Follow Bob Shuter, whose mission of reprisal against his brother's killers, their families, associates, progeny and property takes him across the desolate wasteland of 70s Britain, primarily Kent AKA FINCHLAND. Finch, writer of The Reprisalizer and DRAW!, the cowboy whose name means death, is soon to be the subject of a major motion picture from Matthew Holness, creator of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.
Smell is our most primitive, least understood sense. Perfume manipulates that sense, reminding us of good times past, and speaking of glamour and sophistication to those who get close. --- "Perfume", Episode 1: Something Old, Something New [pt2/pt3/p4]. Guerlain are considered by many to be the essence of Frenchness in a scent. Ancienne école comme attendez! But the house whose founder/namesake wrote his first formulae in the 19th C. face the challenges of the 21st, including the first non-Family perfumer, updating a classic, and the fall of 4th generation family perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain after his openly racist comments on French TV. We also follow the corporate entity known as Tommy Hilfigger as it tries to bottle and market the scent of Rock & Roll to the Drum 'n Bass generation [more inside]
ALEC Exposed is a wiki site set up by The Center for Media and Democracy which posts and chronicles leaked documents including more than 800 model bills drafted and approved by corporations during ALEC meetings. The documents have been analyzed and marked-up for clarity. Journalists along with the general public are invited to download the documents and sift through the bills in order to help map the connections back to their own state legislation and legislators. [more inside]
We have explained that the matching funds provision substantially burdens the speech of privately financed candidates and independent groups. ... We have explained that those burdens cannot be justified by a desire to “level the playing field.” In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down an Arizona law that provided public funds to candidates who have been outspent by either private funding or independent spending. Link to PDF of full decision. [more inside]
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Explains How the AT&T/T-Mobil Merger Promotes Social Justice. [more inside]
Last Friday, USA Today reported that two people from PR firm Burson-Marsteller had been contacting various news outlets and bloggers, pushing a story about how Google's "Social Circle" gmail feature violates users' privacy. The pitch was made on behalf of an unnamed client that The Daily Beast now confirms was Facebook. [more inside]
G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether. 'General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.' [more inside]
Will shareholders want to invest in companies that don't have a laser-like focus on profit?" "In one US state, they've just brought in a new law which protects companies who put social responsibility before making money [companies referred to as "benefit corporations"]. . . . Shareholders can't [sue] if the company takes decisions to, for example, protect the environment or buy locally, even if that hurts the bottom line" [7:30 BBC audio report]. One way for entrepreneurs to walk the socially responsible walk is to get certification from B Lab, a non-profit that issues trust marks [the "B Corporation" label] for entire companies, not just individual products: "The B Corporation legal framework bakes your values into the DNA of the company so they can better survive new management, new investors or even new ownership." [more inside]
One year after the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which, overturning over 100 years of precedent, opened a floodgate of corporate money into election campaigns, Virginia Lyons (D-VT), has introduced legislation (full text of bill not yet available, articles here and here) in the Vermont State Senate to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly state that corporations are not persons. This would overturn the controversial notion of corporate personhood which was established in the 1800s. Controversial not only for the unequal distribution of rights and responsibilities among humans and corporations, some, like Thom Hartmann (previously), have claimed that the notion of corporate personhood was established as an intentional misinterpretation of the decision as recorded by court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis, former president of the Newburgh & New York Railway Co. [more inside]
Right Wing astroturfing A non-scientific analysis of the patterns in forum board discussions on a variety of topics. The gist: discussions of issues in which there's money at stake (like climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance) are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption by rightwing libertarians who are pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Discussions of issues in which there's little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions.
The latest attempt to mitigate the impact of the Citizens United decision has failed, with an attempt to pass transparency rules for corporations funding political advertising failing to reach cloture. Obama comments on this vote in his most recent weekly address. Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. [more inside]
Is the United States becoming a third world country? Macleans thinks so. So does Arianna Huffington. Chris Hedges talked to Ralph Nader and they figured out who's to blame. Thank goodness Michael Kinsley has a solution to the problem.
Merchants of Doubt is a new book that reports how a small group of scientists committed to an extreme free-market ideology have been employed by large corporations over several decades to cast doubt on such different environmental issues as the risks of tobacco smoke, the dangers of DDT, the effectiveness of the Strategic Defence Initiative, the regulation of CFCs, and the causes of global warming. A review in the Christian Science Monitor calls this "one of the most important books of the year. Exhaustively researched and documented..."
How Karl Rove, a few corporate millionaires, and the Citizens United Supreme Court case will overwhelm American elections and rule the Republican party from the shadows: Rove Rides Again