The SCOTUS: Fascism Defined

In another bit of “news analysis” that will surprise no one other than a FoxNews viewer (who won’t believe it anyway), the NYT’s almost-resident legal expert, Jeffrey Rosen, Prof of Law at Georgetown Univ, writes that – hold onto your hat – the Bush Supreme Court is very friendly to business interests.

Lately, however, the affinities between the court and the chamber, a lavishly financed business-advocacy organization, seem to be more than just architectural. The Supreme Court term that ended last June was, by all measures, exceptionally good for American business. The chamber’s litigation center filed briefs in 15 cases and its side won in 13 of them — the highest percentage of victories in the center’s 30-year history. The current term, which ends this summer, has also been shaping up nicely for business interests.

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Though the current Supreme Court has a well-earned reputation for divisiveness, it has been surprisingly united in cases affecting business interests. Of the 30 business cases last term, 22 were decided unanimously, or with only one or two dissenting votes.

Now there’s a shocker.

One of the key definitions of a fascist govt is one in which the corporate agenda is conflated with the national political and judicial agendas until it’s all but impossible to separate them. We seem to have reached that point, don’t we?

Privatization Leads to Fraud, Mismanagement, and Employee Abuse at Wackenhut

The three words that best describe the private security business these days are “racism”, “corruption”, and “profits”. Wackenhut, the largest private security provider to the Federal govt and the military outside of Iraq, would appear to be awash in all three.

Wackenhut, which has ties to the GOP and the Bush Administration that go almost as deep as Halliburton’s, is currently under investigation:

  • in Alaska by the GAO for “inadequate training and incomplete background checks that led to employment of officers with criminal records”, “poor” record-keeping that included falsified training records, and a near-total lack of any kind of monitoring or oversight on the program, as well as for illegally obtaining security contracts that were supposed to go to minority businesses;
  • in Miami (scroll to bottom) by Dade County for fraud – overbilling, billing for services not provided, falsifying records of guards’ hours, and violations of labor laws for working guards in some cases 20 hrs/day, 7 days/week;
  • by the Homeland Security Committee for “problems at Wackenhut-guarded facilities nationwide that lead to high employee turnover, low morale and ineffective security” at US nuclear sites;
  • by the House Govt Reform Committee “to examine charges of racism, discrimination and poor performance;
  • at a Tennessee Army ammunition plant where inspectors found holes in the perimeter fences, and where “two teenage runaways were found wandering around the 6,000-acre property after getting dangerously close to explosives” after the number of guards had been cut “in response to higher gas prices”;
  • by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for security violations “at Wackenhut-guarded Three Mile Island, Seabrook Station, St. Lucie, and Turkey Point nuclear power plants”;
  • and by the Dept of Energy for “shorting the protective force on combat training; excessive overtime; caught cheating during one security drill and involved in a near-friendly fire incident in another” at its Y-12 (Oak Ridge) nuclear weapons plant.

And that’s only a partial list of domestic investigations.

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The New Bedford Raid and Its Aftermath

Back in March, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials pulled off the biggest raid New England has ever seen, bursting into a leather factory in New Bedford to arrest 360 illegal aliens who had been working for Michael Bianco, Inc, a company with contracts to “produce safety vests and backpacks for the US military”. The owner, one Francesco Insolia, was charged with “conspiring to encourage or induce illegal immigrants to live in the United States, and conspiring to hire illegal immigrants.” Why would they risk jail to hire illegals? Because those illegals were desperate enough to work in the intolerable conditions which were all Insolia was willing to furnish.

According to affidavits unsealed yesterday, Insolia hired illegal immigrants instead of legal workers because the immigrants were desperate for jobs and more willing to put up with working conditions in his factory. Federal investigators allege workers were denied overtime, docked 15 minutes for every minute they were late, and fined for talking on the job, or for spending more than two minutes in the plant’s squalid bathrooms.

“Insolia and others knowingly and intentionally exploited the government by recruiting and hiring illegal aliens without authorization to work,” said US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, announcing the arrests yesterday. “They exploited the workforce with low-paying jobs and horrible working conditions, exploited the taxpayers by securing lucrative contracts funded by our legal workforce, and exploited the legal workforce by hiring illegal aliens.”

A month later the Boston Globe reported that Insolia had actually had the gall to apply for – and receive – grant money from the state of Massachusetts to “train” the workers he was already abusing.

The New Bedford manufacturer raided by federal agents last month for allegedly employing illegal immigrants won approval for $111,150 in state grants over the last four years to hire and train employees, as part of the company’s expansion.

The Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development approved two grants for Michael Bianco Inc. after the owner of the company, Francesco Insolia, appealed for help in winning new contracts from the US Department of Defense and building its share of the commercial textile market.

In early 2003, Michael Bianco, which then employed 87 people, was awarded a $66,250 grant to hire and train 80 new stitchers and machine operators, and to develop an in-house training program for entry-level workers. The state approved another $44,900 for the company this January, but the March 6 immigration raid put that grant on hold.

I probably don’t need to tell you that there is no evidence whatever that the “training sessions” actually took place. Insolia simply pocketed the money. Or perhaps he used it to pay Luis Torres for the fake ID’s Torres got for Insolia’s workers. But here’s the neat part: city officials, Republican and pro-business all, actually visited the factory and, rather than being appalled by the conditions, offered to help Insolia with the grant money and tax breaks.

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FEMA Replaces the Red Cross: Is Martial Law Back in Play?

After FEMA’s shameful performance in the wake of Katrina, one would have thought that nobody in their right mind would assign them the key disaster-relief role, but that’s exactly what just happened.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will replace the American Red Cross as the agency in charge of coordinating the provision of shelter, food and first aid to victims in disasters under an agreement disclosed by a Senate panel yesterday.

The change in the government’s emergency plans, formalized in letters between FEMA and Red Cross leaders Feb. 21, follows criticism of the way they cooperated after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a new law that bolsters FEMA’s role in providing emergency housing, human services, case management and financial help.

That graf is a doozy. FEMA and the Red Cross were both criticized for not co-operating? Maybe my memory is deficient, but I don’t remember the Red Cross being criticized at all while FEMA screwed up everything it touched. And it continues to. So, what? Now they’re being rewarded for being prime fuckups?

The FEMA takeover will be administrative and will not affect the Red Cross’s traditional direct relief operations, which include opening shelters, providing food and raising money, which totaled more than $2 billion after Katrina, spokeswoman Laura Howe said.

Oh, great. The authors of the biggest administrative clusterfuck since Elphinstone got thrown out of Kabul has just been given the responsibility for administering disaster relief.

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Card-Check Bill Passes House

To no one’s surprise, the Employee Free Choice Act passed in the House yesterday.

The measure would represent one of the most significant revisions of federal labor law in 60 years. It is the top legislative priority of the labor movement, which represents a record low 12 percent of the workforce, compared with 35 percent in the 1950s. Major business lobbies have mobilized against it to a level not seen since the fight over Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, according to a Chamber of Commerce official. Yesterday’s 241 to 184 vote was largely along party lines, with 13 Republicans voting for the measure and two Democrats opposing it.

The real fight will come in the Senate where Republicans, representing the corporatocracy as always, have promised to filibuster to prevent its passage. Their primary argument for public purposes is that the EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot, “a cornerstone of democracy”. It’s by far the best argument they could make against the law even though it’s bogus. In what has become a standard GOP tactic, it makes them sound as if they’re protecting workers’ rights even as they vote to take them away.

The irony here is that if the Bush Administration, particularly its Labor and Justice Depts, were doing their jobs, which they’re not, this bill wouldn’t be necessary. Continue reading

HS and Refugees: Housing Resembles Jail

In response to the criticism of international human rights groups about the inhumane conditions in which refugees are kept, Homeland Security and ICE have made a weak attempt to change their policies.

The day Mustafa Elmi turned 3 years old he had to report to his cell three times for headcount. To be able to get one hour of recreation inside a concrete compound sealed off by metal gates and razor wire he had to pin his picture ID to his uniform.

Such routines characterized Mustafa’s life, as well as that of his mother, Bahjo Hosen, 26, during their first seven months in the United States, the country to which they fled to escape political persecution in their native Somalia. They ended up in the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, one of the nation’s newest detention centers for illegal immigrants that the Department of Homeland Security touts as an “effective and humane alternative” to keep immigrant families together while they await the outcome of immigration court hearings or deportation.

Before the facility opened, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely separated parents from their children upon apprehension by the Border Patrol. Infants and toddlers were placed in federally funded foster homes; adolescents and teenagers were placed in facilities for minors run by the Department of Health and Human Services; and parents were placed in adult detention centers.

An improvement, right? Well, maybe. Continue reading

Homeland Security Treats Refugees Like Criminals

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
I will clap them in irons, throw away the key,
Send them back where they came from and shut the door
Behind them.

No, that last bit isn’t in the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that graces the Statue of Liberty but it describes the way the Bush Administration and Michael Chertoff’s Homeland Security Dept have been handling “asylum seekers” – people who come here to escape persecution and possible murder for their political views or religion in their home countries, according to a report released yesterday by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Continue reading