Holy shit balls, Wells Fargo!

And THIS IS WHY I continue giving that bank a hard time. Because they fucking deserve the scrutiny and from more of us.

That right there is an article posted in the LA Weekly News (March 7, 2013) forwarded to me by a close friend and fellow critic of Wells Fargo’s shenanigans. In it is told the story of a retired man named Larry Delassus who was accused by WF of owing back property taxes on his condo, though it later came to light that it was actually a typographical error on WF’s part that led the bank to confuse Mr. Delassus with one of his neighbors (wrong condo # typed in). But the story doesn’t end there with an apology and reinstatement of the prior financial agreement between the big bank and Larry Delassus.  Oh no. No, WF instead went right ahead and foreclosed on that innocent man’s home, nevermind his serious medical conditions, and rendered him homeless. DESPITE THEIR OWN ACKNOWLEDGED ERROR.

And then what happened? Larry Delassus sued the bank in turn, claiming “negligence and discrimination against a disabled person.” But while trying to get a fair hearing on the matter, poor Larry Delassus keeled over and died in the courtroom before L.A. County Superior Court Judge Laura Ellison who had already indicated she planned to side with Wells Fargo on this matter. What a complete tragedy to be raked over the coals and put under such duress like this! Which ultimately culminated in the man’s death. And I seriously doubt anyone working for Wells Fargo gives barely a damn.

It’s shit like this that breaks my heart and troubles my soul. I’ve banked with Wells Fargo for about a decade, had my student loans consolidated with them back in 2007 (after receiving what apparently was some bad advice), and I still have accounts open with them (though I have opened an account with another local bank and moved much of my money over there, with plans to move more). I feel dirty supporting a corrupt organization such as this, and yes, I grasp that nearly all banks have morphed into monsters of this sort. This sucks! This is a major problem with the economic setup we’re tolerating these days, because it is predatory and has the backing of the courts and legislation to get away with it. It’s bullshit, flat out.

And it’s not as if this is all Wells Fargo is up to. That bank joined forces a few years back with the uber-corrupt HSBC (that’s Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation — a.k.a. the biggest bank in mainland China, created back when colonized by the British, with a holdings division in the UK and offices all across the world). A banking mega-giant. Read about it (there was a good article about HSBC’s latest bullshit in Feb. 2013’s edition of Rolling Stone magazine). That alone is a good enough reason to withdraw all of our money and let that mammoth die. Ugh.

Wells Fargo and other banking shenanigans is a topic I plan to expand on as time moves on.

Looking into the Independent Women’s Forum

Tonight I decided to check into the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) on wikipedia where, come to find out, its sources of funding are listed. Definitely “right-wing”-funded. Brought in over $2M from Scaife Foundations alone (which helped fund William Kristol and Robert Kagan’s highly-influential neoconservative “think tank” called the Project for the New American Century), plus another $5M from other foundation donors including at least one Koch family foundation. When I see anything funded by the Koch brothers, I walk the other way.

What passes for conservative these days is mind-blowing. Neocons are not conservative, not in any way I understand the term “conservative” to mean. Neocons are radicals bent on uprooting nearly all traditions for the sake of reaching their individual and oligarchical economic ambitions, nevermind their lip service paid to “traditional values” and patriotism. They are gamblers and authoritarians who advocate economic macromanagement (as encouraged by Milton Friedman). If that passes for conservative today, then my and plenty of others’ views went stone-age. Paleoconservative. I’ve tried explaining to some of my more liberal friends that the “Right” has wholly disenfranchised its truly conservative constituents, though many continue handing over their votes to that side of the duopoly. Those who can’t go for either political camp wind up being pushed to a fringe and, ironically enough, labeled as radicals.

People are hopefully awakening to the corruption on all sides, bit by bit. Much easier to judge the corruption of others than of our own selves, but such is life. All I know is after looking into the IWF I’m reminded of a comment exchange on one of my video threads where someone roughly stated that the men’s rights movement will go up against feminism without relying on the government funding the feminist movement has access to, and I replied that their men’s rights movement will wind up needing “corporate-sponsored” funds if they are to compete through the ‘proper legal channels’ in this broken-down, bought-and-paid-for system. This is what I was referring to — foundations funded by wealthy families tied in with big, influential corporations with lobbying power. Apparently a few people didn’t appreciate that response, but it’s not what I’m advocating, just what it seems likely would be necessary to carry out expensive and time-consuming legal battles with a movement as entrenched and well-funded as feminism. I don’t like that reality any more than the next person, hence why I personally urge us as a society not to fall in that trap. Not fully sure what to do, but that certainly isn’t the best out of all possibilities.

When it comes to the money game, it’s just a bunch of soul-selling that winds up corrupting the players involved, because in order to raise the huge amounts of money needed to open doors and actively break out onto the big media-controlled mainstream it’s required that organizations and smaller movements align with powerfully influential entities in order to be granted legitimacy and political protection. It’s all a sham that eventually hollows out what smaller movements originally stood for as they come to be directed and swayed by major financial contributors.

But further ramblings on that topic will have to wait ’til another night.

This is not America?

A video I created last night reading off some of the figures pasted below:

Every so often I feel the need to look into the “performance” of my nation by seeing what the current federal stats and global comparisons have to show.

Beginning with the most obvious, the U.S. is leading by a massive landslide in external debt. (You may notice on the list that the UK, Germany, France, and Japan make up the top 5, China currently ranks 22nd, India 28th, Mexico 29th, Israel 38th, Saudi Arabia 41st, Ecuador 79th, and Iran 84th.)

We’ve ranked #2 since 2000 in our per capita ecological footprint, behind United Arab Emirates, reports NationMaster.com (lots of data there to check out).

We’re ranked 55th for voter turnout in presidential elections with 67.4% registered voters showing up at the polls (sourced in 2003). (And just think, state and local elections voter turnout is even lower.)

Some information I had laying around from the Common Sense for Drug Policy site in its bulletin “International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001” reported the United States as having 689 per 100,000 citizens in prison (compared to 129 in England and Wales, 77 in France, 71 in Switzerland, 673 in Russia, 101 in Canada, 411 in South Africa, and 50 in Japan). A quick glance at Wikipedia discloses the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) data from 2009 that increased the number to 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000.

BUT WAIT. Just went looking for updated info and came across this tidbit from the BJS’ “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2010” report (pg. 2):

At year-end 2010, about 1 in every 48 adults in the U.S. was under supervision in the community on probation or parole, compared to about 1 in every 104 adults in the custody of state or federal prisons or local jails.The respective rates of supervision were 2,074 offenders in the community per 100,000 adults and 962 inmates per 100,000 adults.

[All bold and underlined emphases throughout this post will be mine]

The BJS bulletin “Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009–Statistical Tables” stated on page 2 the following:

Males were imprisoned at a rate 14 times higher than females (954 per 100,000 U.S. residents compared to 68 per 100,000 U.S. residents, respectively).

. . .

Black non-Hispanic males, with an incarceration rate of 4,749 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, were incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white non-Hispanic males (708 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents) and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males (1,822 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents).

 

Notably, the BJS website provided data (on a page since removed) claiming that in “midyear 2007 there were 4,618 black male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,747 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 773 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males.” So the rate of blacks and Hispanics imprisoned is up, while the rate of white folks imprisoned has gone slightly down.

Returning to the 2009 bulletin last linked to and quoted up above:

One in every 300 black females was incarcerated compared to about 1 in every 1,099 white females and 1 in every 704 Hispanic females.

Non-U.S. citizens made up 4.1% (94,498 inmates) of the state and federal custody population.

 

Looking into information on county and city jail inmates, the BJS had this to say in its bulletin “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011 – Statistical Tables“:

Males accounted for 87% of the jail population on June 30, 2011 […]. Whites accounted for 45% of the total, blacks represented 38%, and Hispanics represented 15% of inmates. Fewer than 6,000 juveniles were held in local jails (or less than 1% of the confined population).

And this is why I chose to study criminal justice. It’s worthwhile coming to the realization that our system is corrupt through and through with gross inequalities and disproportionate treatment of citizens in accordance with using arbitrary criteria (such as race, ethnicity, sex) to establish targets, furthering the prevalence and impact of institutionalized racism and sexism. Why turn a blind eye to this information when it stares us in the face?

corrections_population

Originally published at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/corr2.htm (but since removed, as apparently is the case with plenty of BJS documents).

That’s not even touching on the topic of the privatization of prisons, which is discussed here in an article by Dr. Richard Culp on the Prison Legal News site titled “The Failed Promise of Prison Privatization“:

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of state prisoners placed in private prisons increased by about 25%, from 75,018 to 93,537. In the federal system, however, the number increased from 15,525 to 32,712, or about 110%. During the same period, the number of states placing some portion of their prisoners in private facilities actually declined from 30 states to 27.

There are in practice only fifty-four “customers” buying incarceration services from the private prison industry – the three federal agencies, twenty-seven state departments of correction and two dozen local jurisdictions. Within this small customer base, the federal government plus eight states (Texas, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Tennessee, California and Mississippi) collectively account for more than 70% of all private prison business. In effect, the market of buyers constitutes an oligopsony, or a market form in which only a few customers buy a certain good and therefore possess the power to affect pricing. The two largest publicly-traded private prison companies recognize their dependency on a limited number of governmental customers as a threat to their profitability and include a warning to stockholders to that effect in their annual reports.
At CCA, just three federal government agencies, the BOP, ICE and the U.S. Marshals, accounted for 43% of the company’s total revenue for fiscal year 2010, or $717.8 million.
The state of California, which is placing thousands of prisoners out-of-state in an effort to reduce in-state prison populations, provided 13% of CCA’s total revenue for fiscal year 2010, or $214 million. GEO Group reports that while they have a total of 45 governmental clients (customers), 4 of those clients accounted for over 60% of their U.S.-based revenue (BOP, ICE, U.S. Marshals and the State of Florida). Among those, the three federal agencies combined are responsible for 53% of GEO Group’s total U.S. revenue.

The oligopsony of governmental consumers serves to discourage innovation. In practice, government purchasers of incarceration services have required that private prison companies simply duplicate policies and procedures practiced in public prisons, to the effect that the standard operating procedures of most private prison programs closely mirror those of public prisons in the same state. Notably, none of the companies have distinct and viable research and development departments as would be expected in an industry that values innovation. Private prison companies encourage the adoption of public prison practice, rather than the development of innovative practice, by actively recruiting management-level staff from within the public sector.

[…]

Arguably, private prisons are not looking to be innovative unless it is a way of cutting costs. The most common way for these companies to make money from government contracts is by reducing personnel expenses. Because labor represents about 80% of the operating cost of a prison, much of the cost savings in private prisons results from paying private correctional officers less than comparable public correctional officers. But this advantage begins to erode in a market where private companies are dependent upon contract renewals (with more experienced staff) rather than new facilities (with new, entry-level staff). Even as labor rates vary among the states, public sector correctional officer starting salaries average $28,000 across all states with a (one standard deviation) range between $23,000 and $34,200. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a mean annual salary of $42,270 for all occupations in the United States (in May 2008). Public sector prison staff salaries are very low already, suggesting that it is not easy for the private sector to continue to undercut the government in personnel costs.

I plan to go into greater detail on the privatization of prisons topic at a later date.

Christina Hoff Sommers on Violence Against Women

Victims of violence are best served by the truth, I agree. It’s those same sort of statistics that pulled at my heartstrings in the late ’90s on into the 2000s when I embraced the label of feminist. And ya know, I don’t think it was an accident to put out false statistics of this sort. For as damaging as they are to men, they also serve the purpose of scaring women and eliciting sympathy from us for our “invisible” sisters who are dealing with what appeared to be a horrible societal “epidemic.” It used us by playing with our emotions and helped turn women against their brothers based on distortions of the truth.

I reflect back on my undergraduate studies when during the last 3 years my focus was on criminal justice, the plan having been at the time to pursue a double-major in that and social science. What I found in CJ textbooks and lectures was a refutation of these sorts of statistics, based on experience gleaned from law enforcement officers and federal bureaus. The criminal justice perspective implicated women in behaving violently in domestic situations, not only men, and of course we explored various criminal behaviors where women played an active role alongside their male counterparts. One crime that is almost exclusively carried out by women is Manchausen By Proxy, where typically a mother induces an illness in her children so as to draw sympathy and support from others to her own self. The more I explored that crime, the more that it became unavoidable seeing that women possess their own ability to behave very cruelly and that it isn’t only men one needs to watch out for. Many of us learn this truth early in life through admission into the School of Hard Knocks — no textbooks required.

And why doesn’t feminism say anything about this? Why did it gloss over women’s wrongdoings, sweeping them under the rug and downplaying them or finding a way to twist it into somehow being the fault of men or patriarchy? That bothered me, and it still does. Because I don’t need sugar-coating for the sex I belong to. I’m well-aware women aren’t little innocent lambs incapable of inflicting harm, so why does feminism attempt to perpetuate such a myth, as if it can stand the test of experiential knowledge attained through dealing with women? I don’t know. All I know is lies of this sort do more harm than good because they destroy not only feminism’s credibility but also that of women who’ve affiliated with and supported that movement. It’s a bad deal, a dishonest way to “help” people, if that were ever truly the motive (which I’ve come to doubt).

Toxic America: Obesity, Depression and Domestication

Another video podcast uploaded by Stefan Molyneux:

Appreciated that one.

Facebook’s Tax Break (and info on America’s corporate tax setup)

“Facebook’s Tax Break Revealed with David Sirota” (uploaded Feb. 2013):

Newsflash: Facebook sucks. Boycott it.

The tax system in our country is mind-numbingly off-course. Well, that is, off-course by what’s of actual value to most people. The corporate puppet masters are tickled shitless. We give them everything they want and more. Even as we are required to pay more in taxes. It’s like humanity is stuck on stupid or something. Generations of Americans just let this shit go on until it’s gotten so completely out of control.

That thought reminds me of the quote from Benjamin Franklin where he says: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” We failed right out the gate at keeping it, sir. ha  Makes me wonder if it really is true that people would be better off under benevolent rulers. But how do you ensure they remain benevolent? Same way we’re supposed to already be ensuring the integrity of the politicians we elect. So does that mean humanity is destined toward enduring various forms of tyranny, we proving to be unwilling or unable to effectively rebel and all? Because it’s gotten to looking that way.

I’m still coming across men and women who state outright that they don’t discuss “politics,” nipping all such conversation in the bud before it even takes off. Just plugging their ears and contenting themselves with work and hobbies, which likely includes facebook. Yet people go on claiming to want “change.”

Makes a person wonder: are we talking change as in nickels and pennies here? Because that’s where we as a nation are headed. Ironic considering we were the China of yesteryear, producing cheap shit for others.  Eventually we’ll be waxing nostalgic over the 20th century being the “good ol’ days.”

Dialogue between Dr. Corey Anton and Stefan Molyneux (on Capitalism, Materialism, Freedom, and Death)

What a treat. Tonight I stumbled across this clip of Professor Corey Anton talking with Stefan Molyneux:

I’ve watched numerous videos posted by Prof. Anton and recommend his channel to others. Recently Stefan came back across my radar and now, lo and behold, I find these two are familiar with one another. And this is why I appreciate youtube.

“Malcolm X: Make It Plain”

Malcolm X: Make It Plain (Full PBS Documentary):