Commercialized America is Consuming You

Open Thread - Landmark Ruling Last Week that YOU may not have heard about and then some...

  • Posted on: 18 August 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

Zach Carter takes note of recent ruling in a case that shows pretty clearly how the banks, not just Wells Fargo BUT all banks, purposely rigged their overdraft system against you:

Wells Fargo Overdraft Scam Makes Elizabeth Warren More Important Than Ever

A landmark court ruling on Wells Fargo's outrageous overdraft scam has the potential to return hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen funds to consumers all over the country. But like many of the banking scandals from the past decade, there's more to the story than simple bank predation. When banks devised this new program to swindle their own customers, bank regulators did not merely look the other way, they actively encouraged the behavior by writing a new rule approving a practice that courts now believe to be unfair and deceptive. The Wells Fargo case should be viewed as a clear example of why Elizabeth Warren ought to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The overdraft scam that Judge William Alsup slapped down yesterday is not unique to Wells Fargo-- every big bank in the country has been doing it for years, and if it's never happened to you, it's probably happened to your friends or family. Banks make a lot of money from overdraft fees-- $38 billion last year, compared to a combined industry profit of just $12.5 billion. They don't make that money by accident. Internal company emails and memos from the Wells Fargo case show bankers spending a lot of time figuring out how to maximize the number of overdraft charges they can hit their checking customers with.

One way is by changing the order in which your transactions are processed. Most people think that their checks and debit card purchases are processed in the order that they make them. But that's not how banks actually do it. Instead, they wait for you to make several purchases, and then process the most expensive purchases first. This method pushes a customer's balance to zero faster than the honest way that actually reflects buying habits. And the sooner your balance goes to zero, the more overdraft fees the bank can hit you with.

It is institutional fraud, across the board and directed at the average consumer, that had elevated the issue of the new consumer protection agency to a grassroots level to begin with.

And it is not just the bank customers that are institutionally screwed over by the financial system. Again from Mr. Carter, even the small players on Wall Street are habitutally hammered to the benefit of the American elite that continues to escape punishment for their crimes:

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Why Is Oil Spill Cleanup Technology So Outdated?

  • Posted on: 15 June 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

Doug Suttles of BP: Well, Tom, I'm not the best expert on the technology but I think events like this typically advance the technology by leaps and bounds....I think that probably part of the reason is there have been so few big spills. The events haven't driven the technology change that's out there. I think this event probably will.

Apparently it is because < shakes my head > they claim  they have not had enough oil spills to practice on:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Meanwhile and exhibiting its infinite wisdumb in disaster manipulations, BP has decided to hire the Vampire Squid, among others, to teach them how to navigate the Gulf Gusher fall out:

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The War That Democracy Is Losing

  • Posted on: 14 June 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

It has taken many years to build towards this kind of loss, and the momentum is still swinging rightward and up towards drowning us all in even more of authoritarianism's and of conservatism's ideas:

The Invasion against Democracy: The war is escalating. Right now, financial elites aren’t just fighting a defensive battle against new regulations. They’re playing offense: They’re whipping up deficit hysteria around the globe and calling for drastic cuts in middle class programs. Why? They want to ensure that their loans to governments aren’t threatened by rising public debt. Ironically, the public debt they’re so worried about was created in large part by them — the result of huge bailouts and other expenses stemming from the crash they caused. Although the bankers want us to dismantle what remains of our worker-oriented policies, welfare for the financial elites is still fine and dandy.

LesLeopold at Alternet makes more than a few salient points in the piece titled "Is there a Global War between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?"

I have said before that I would like nothing more than to lay the blame for all of this on the Republican party BUT...

There is more to this than "just jobs"

  • Posted on: 20 May 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

Campaign for America's Future has an interesting story up on how free trade has been integral in crushing our economy. In discussing his book, “The Betrayal of American Prosperity,” author Clyde Prestowitz hits on many issues like the incentives that China has used to draw in manufacturing jobs and their many investments in big ticket infrastructure items as well a combination of other lesser factors that are driving the industry to set up shop in China:

On the website of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, an article confirms that the Chinese government was “influential in persuading Intel to setup its semiconductor manufacturing plant in Dalian,” and notes that, among other things, the Chinese government is building high-speed rail links, new highways and port facilities that would support new industry in Dalian and surrounding areas.

These are just some of the many economic investments that China is making in revamping their entire economy.

Recently, during our world wide economic disaster and our own ongoing Healthcare Reform debate, I and many other Bloggers had noted that China was making a major investment creating a new Single Payer healthcare system partly as a way to drive down the costs for Corporations and partly as a long term job creation strategy in order to create an entirely new economy for their nation of higher paying medical jobs that repay not only the government in the tax base they create as a means of recouping some of the initial investments but also repay the Corporations that may have shoulder some of the burden's of healthcare costs with healthier workers that will, in the long run, be more productive. Sick workers have always been a drain on any economy where workers have little to no access to Doctors and have to show up to work sick or miss more days of work because they can not afford the proper treatment. Never mind the burdens on governments when, like in the USA, people that can not afford healthcare walk in to Hospitals when they are so sick they are often at a point where treatment is more costly than if they had been able to access treatment earlier on.

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Crude Awakening To A Slippery Slope

  • Posted on: 17 May 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

The Case Against Massey Builds

  • Posted on: 8 April 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

When the story of the mine collapse Tragedy in West Virginia was breaking I was reluctant to start pointing fingers out of the gate and start making ideological and political arguments climbing on the backs of the dead miners even given the initial and legitimate reportage of problems from all sources, blogospheric and media wide. But there comes a point where we have to look at what was behind the disaster that happened. And at this point it is pretty clear that Massey has been negligent with miner's lives when it comes to safety issues in the past:

"Fashion Show"

  • Posted on: 3 April 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

A little something from Lauren Greenfield, whose documentary looks at an ad and money driven culture and its effects on adults, kids and especially women and girls have been noted here at ePM before:

Greenfield's video "Fashion Show" mixes filmed footage with still photography from over 50 runway shows in New York, Milan and Paris. Cut to the pulsating beat of Fol Chen's latest musical single, "The Longer You Wait", the multimedia piece is an experiential journey through the life of the definitive fashion show.

Lauren Greenfield's "Fashion Show" from Lauren Greenfield on Vimeo.

At first view of that little trailer, and having seen a couple of her pieces before, I might think this one would seem to be the closest to a frivolous piece beyond being an arsty photog's view of the behind the scenes of what it takes to build the artsy world of Fashion Shows. Reading a little further at the vimeo link:

What Class War, Peasants?

  • Posted on: 15 February 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

When Dead Peasants =
Profits for their Employers:

By Dave Fehling

KHOU

Big corporations, including banks and convenience store chains in Houston, have taken out life insurance policies on their employees and received hundreds of thousands of dollars when a worker died.

The policies have become known as "dead peasant" policies, because they are taken out on low-level employees.

"It is a profit center for their business," said Scott Clearman, a Houston lawyer who has represented the families of local convenience store clerks killed on the job.

You would think it would be illegal for anyone to take out an insurance policy on your life without you knowing about it. MSN Money has previously reported on this, as well:

Open Thread - Consuming Teens: Kids + Money

  • Posted on: 12 January 2010
  • By: Connecticut Man1

This a quick trailer from photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield's movie "Kids + Money":

If any of my kids ever want to see purses or clothes that cost "4 digits" they will have to buy it on their own because 4 digits is a lot of weeks worth of eating for many families, ours included. When you consider that 1 of 8 adults and 1 of 4 kids are on food stamps and for too many of them it is their only income, I can't see wasting that kind of money on stuff my kids will rip, wear out, write on with pens and markers and outgrow.

With food-stamp use at a record high and surging by the day, Ms. Bermudez belongs to an overlooked subgroup that is growing especially fast: recipients with no cash income.

About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data collected by The New York Times. In declarations that states verify and the federal government audits, they described themselves as unemployed and receiving no cash aid — no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay.

Their numbers were rising before the recession as tougher welfare laws made it harder for poor people to get cash aid, but they have soared by about 50 percent over the past two years. About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.

I know that many people can afford to buy those expensive things and do give to charities to help people in need, as well, but the real question is: "Should this really be the way we want things to work?" The amassed wealth at the top of pyramid has a cost, and that cost is often the people in America and around the world that are at the bottom being put in a position of severe poverty.

Over the next week Open Thread may highlight and contrast a few more of the social, economic and environmental problems with this issue, and how "Commercialized America is Consuming You". A little longer excerpt from the movie "Kids + Money" below the fold.

Open Thread - Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

  • Posted on: 11 January 2010
  • By: Open Thread

Here is a pretty creepy look at the all consuming commercialization of kids in America:

In some ways children in America are left so unprotected from corporate abuse that their lives are all too often put at risk:

Drawing A Line in the Black Sand

  • Posted on: 4 October 2009
  • By: Unenergy

Crossposted from DailyKos. (Thanks!) Promoted. It's quite long, but well worth it. -- GH

I think it was maybe a year ago I was flicking through cable TV, and I happened across a movie called "There Will Be Blood."

There Will Be Blood is a 2007 American drama film directed, written and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! (1927). It tells the story of a silver-miner-turned-oil-man on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California's oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I'd read a few books, watched a few documentaries and done a ton of internet research not long before this and had been slowly coming to the conclusion that we genuinely had a whole bunch of powerful people who knew that emissions of C02 were endangering the ability of life to survive on our planet. The frightening thing was many of these people were working hard to make sure we kept burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates and making sure the transition to cleaner sources of energy never happened.

I didn't really understand why though until I watched this movie and a few pennies dropped.