The 10 Greediest Americans of 2011

The 10 Greediest Americans of 2011

10. Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart CEO
9. Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO
8. Robert Iger, Disney CEO
7. Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar CEO
6. William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson CEO
5. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO
4. Alan Mulally, Ford Motor CEO
3. Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO
2. Don Blankenship, Former Massey Energy CEO
1. Mark Pincus, Zynga CEO

Why America’s 99% have rebelled

Why America’s 99% have rebelled

The ‘53 per cent’ stories are testimonials to dogged determination. One man, a father of a five-month-old, expresses pride in working 70-hour weeks in an effort to pay $100,000 in student loans. ‘I will be responsible for my own success through character and hard work,’ he writes. Another story that has gained notoriety reads: ‘I am a former Marine. I work two jobs. I don’t have health insurance… I haven’t had four consecutive days off in over four years. But I don’t blame Wall Street. Suck it up, you whiners.’

These stories only reinforce the message of the occupations. For if you’re working nearly all of your waking hours, we think you deserve healthcare. We want you to be free of crippling debt. In fact, we want these things for those who work 40 hours per week. We believe a just society should allow you to spend time with your children.

In large part, the difference between the two blogs is not the description of our economic plight. It’s whether individuals have recognized their personal struggles as part of something larger.

Those who have joined the #Occupy movement are not whining. They are drawing strength from shared experience. They are laying bare the failure of a system. And they are doing something to change it.

Also, We Are the 99 Percent.

Made in China (a.k.a “seriously, you WANT to buy local”)

These are the people we’re sending jobs to, selling our debt to, and buying cheap goods from with which to undercut our own domestic market. This is the value they put on human life, health, and safety. Enjoy!

Chinese melamine scandal widens

The toxic chemical melamine is probably being routinely added to Chinese animal feed, state media has reported.

China On Alert For Milk Tainted With Leather Protein

BEIJING — China has warned dairy producers that inspectors are on alert for fresh milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine and another toxic substance extracted from leather scraps, state media said Friday.

Both of the substances – melamine and leather-hydrolyzed protein – are used in watered-down milk to make it appear to have normal amounts of protein.

Severe Penalties in China Clenbuterol Pork Scandal

A Chinese court doled out lengthy prison sentences this week, including a suspended death penalty, to five people involved in a clenbuterol-tainted pork scandal, the latest in a series of food safety scares in China.

Recycled cooking oil surfaces at tables

Collecting waste oil has become a lucrative industry in China since prices of edible oil surged between 2007 and 2008, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency on Saturday.

Glow in the Dark Pork for Dinner

According to Shanghai Daily, last year in February, a number of Changsha residents discovered that the pork they had purchased from supermarkets began to emit a blue glow at night.

After the media caught wind of things, the Changsha Food Safety Commission invited experts to weigh in on the investigation whom said that the “blue glow pork” was caused by secondary bacterial contamination.

New Food Scare: Some Cadmium With Your Rice?

In a recent study, researchers from the Nanjing Agricultural University found 10 to 60 percent of the rice sold in markets in six regions contained cadmium, a heavy metal associated with high blood pressure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and a potentially fatal softening of the bones.

In some samples, the cadmium level was found to be equal to five times of the legal maximum, the researchers said.

It’s a rare day when it takes another depressing report to somewhat counter a string of initial depressing reports, but check this one out…

World wastes 1 billion tons of food a year

Odds are good that a lot of that wasted food comes from China. Saving lives through wasteful living ftw!

An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

Why are companies like SSA Marine, the Seattle-based global terminal operator that runs one of the West Coast’s major trucking carriers, Shippers’ Transport Express, doing this? Why would mega-rich Maersk, a huge Danish shipping and trucking conglomerate that wants to drill for more oil with Exxon Mobil in the Gulf Coast conduct business this way too?

To cheat on taxes, drive down business costs, and deny us the right to belong to a union, that’s why.

The typical arrangement works like this: Everything comes out of our pockets or is deducted from our paychecks. The truck or lease, fuel, insurance, registration, you name it. Our employers do not have to pay the costs of meeting emissions-compliant regulations; that is our financial burden to bear. Clean trucks cost about four to five times more than what we take home in a year. A few of us haul our company’s trucks for a tiny fraction of what the shippers pay per load instead of an hourly wage. They still call us independent owner-operators and give us a 1099 rather than a W-2.

We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America. Every year it literally goes from bad to worse to the unimaginable. We were ground zero for the government’s first major experiment into letting big business call the shots. Since it worked so well for the CEOs in transportation, why not the mortgage and banking industry too?

Also: How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers

Astute consumers may know that the rock bottom we see advertised on endless TV and internet commercials are often the result of companies manufacturing their goods overseas, using sweatshop labor where poorly paid workers often toil in dangerous and unhealthy conditions so that we can enjoy the latest electronics, the coolest pair of jeans.

But what many people may not know is that these sweatshop conditions don’t end when those goods hit American soil. Between the dock where the cargo is unloaded and the shelf from which you pluck your treasure, there are several critical lynchpins. One of them is port truck drivers. These drivers (around 110,000 of them in the United States) are responsible for moving approximately 20 million containers a year from the ports to railway yards and warehouses. Drivers operating large trucks are expected to safely haul loads up to 80,000 pounds. It’s a job for professionals, only these professionals are earning poverty wages, sometimes even less than you’d make flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. Once a middle-class profession, the port trucking (or drayage) industry has now been dubbed “sweatshops on wheels.”

The real divide in America

The real divide in America

Individualists are those who see society’s successes and problems as coming mostly from individual behavior. Motivated by impulse and human nature’s affinity for simple good-versus-evil stories, Individualists tend to see history as a series of parables about Great Men and Bad Men, Rogues and Bureaucrats, Heroes and Villains. In other words, Individualists subscribe to Margaret Thatcher’s theory that “there is no such thing as society — there are individual men and women.”

So, for example, an economic boom period is viewed by the Individualist as a success story of individual and/or presidential intelligence, innovation and hard work, not a triumph of institutions such as good schools, solid infrastructure or properly calibrated tax and trade laws. Likewise, rich people are viewed as singular superheroes whose wealth is a consequence of personal perseverance, not beneficiaries of institutional support whose assets have been accrued through systemic privilege.

At the same time, problems are portrayed by the Individualist as the result of personal transgressions, but not systemic forces: Crime is the scourge of individuals like Willie Horton, not a result of institutional forces like poverty or desperation; the education crisis is the result of individual bad teachers or parents, not systemic economic inequality or misguided school funding formulas; prejudice is the plague of individual bigots, not institutional racism; housing market meltdowns happen because of irresponsible home buyers, not because of predatory financial institutions or the banking system; and recessions occur because of “welfare queens,” “parasites,” “takers” or other assorted layabouts — but not larger forces like globalization or crony capitalism.

Institutionalists, by contrast, see it the other way around. They tend to see institutions – whether governmental agencies, corporations, popular cultures or specific policies and incentives – as the most prominent forces in society. To them, it’s “The Man,” more than the particular men.

Rooted more in data and empiricism than in gut feeling and apocrypha, this camp sees the most famous historical achievements like, say, the New Deal and civil rights movement not as merely the personal victory of people like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr., but as the result of decades of mass organizing for systemic change.

Similarly, the big problems in society aren’t seen as a reflection of individual shortcomings, but as a product of systemic dysfunction. In this Institutionalist view, Congress’ recent refusal to reduce the national debt isn’t merely the crime of individual lawmakers serving on the so-called supercommittee, but also the fault of a democratic system that’s rigged to fail. Likewise, abuses of state power — whether torture at Abu Ghraib prison or brutality from municipal police forces — are less the sin of the individual grunts than the product of a culture of violence. And nationwide unemployment doesn’t stem from a lack of “personal responsibility” among workers, but from an economy that is producing only one job opening for every seven job applicants — that is, an economy in systemic crisis.

Obama Office Alters More Federal Rules Than Bush

Obama Office Alters More Federal Rules Than Bush

“We studied the records of 1,080 meetings that have been held at OIRA over the last ten years,” said Rena Steinzor, CPR’s president. “And we found that OIRA has changed 84 percent of environmental regulations, and 65 percent of other agencies’ regulations, and the change rate is worse than it was under George W. Bush.”

In other words, her group argues, this president is watering down or undoing a greater percentage of proposed regulations than his predecessor did.

The issue is that, since democratic presidents are more likely to have new regulations submitted and new changes put into place, when money has too much control over politics there’s an increased risk of industry coming out on top in situations where non-corporate interests ought to be put first.

While the rest of the public might not know about OIRA, lobbyists have the office on speed dial. Industry groups visit OIRA largely for one purpose: to reduce regulation. Steinzor’s analysis found that industry representatives outnumber public health and safety advocates by almost four to one at OIRA meetings.

Jim Tozzi helped create OIRA and worked on regulations under five presidents. He says the tilt towards industry is to be expected.

Regulations, he says, “increase the cost of industry. So they have more direct skin in the game.” In contrast, he says, environmental groups’ members “don’t have skin in the game, because they just say ‘they’ll cough their lungs out’ or something like that.”

Any upsurge in changes and opportunities for change is hazardous when the governmental system is broken. Without repairing the process first, and without removing corporate and financial interests from the running, then what you get is a behind-the-scenes breakdown engineered by people who value money and control more than they care about what they’re actually doing to our country.

Ultimately, one of OIRA’s main jobs is to put a dollar value on things that nobody wants to price. The office must ask how much money the country is willing to spend to save an endangered species, or what cost the country is willing to inflict on companies in order to provide veterans in wheelchairs access to restrooms. These are questions that nobody is comfortable asking. So perhaps it should be no surprise that few people are happy with OIRA’s answers.