So back we go to these questions–friendship, character,ethics

What will we tell the children or how greed and corruption are tearing apart the fabric of American values. Let’s start with an excerpt from David Sirota’s new book Hostile Takeover that Josh Marshall is running at TPMCafe,

The Institute of Medicine was created by Congress in 1970 to be the chief, nonpartisan adviser to the federal government on all matters related to health care. That’s why the announcement it made in 2004 was so stunning. “Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States,” the Institute said. Therefore, “By 2010, everyone in the United States should have health insurance … [The Institute] urges the president and Congress to act immediately by establishing a firm and explicit plan to reach this goal.”

The health care system, which is supposed to preserve and protect human life, is allowing thousands of Americans to die every year, and America’s top experts were sounding the alarm.

So how is it that government and media have settled into complacency when the system is so bad for so many? The status quo pays big dividends.

In 2003, HMOs nearly doubled their profits from just a year before, adding $10 billion to their bottom line. That year, top executives at the 11 largest health insurers made a combined $85 million in one year. In the first three quarters of 2004, HMO profits increased by another 33 percent. The sheer numbers behind these profits are staggering: In 2004 alone, the four biggest health insurance companies reported $100 billion in revenues. That’s $273 million a day, every day, 365 days of the year.

That’s the kind of cash that allowed the health industry to spend more than $300 million on lobbying in 2003, and another $300 million on campaign contributions to politicians since 2000. Their agenda is pretty simple: stop any proposals to curb health care profiteering by private insurance companies.

To make its arguments, the industry buys off high-profile ex-politicians and makes them its spokespeople. Take Marc Racicot–one of Corporate America’s favorite tools. This former governor of Montana left public service to become an Enron lobbyist, then became chairman of the Republican National Committee, and then headed President Bush’s re-election campaign. Now, looking once again to cash in, Racicot has taken a job as the public shill for the insurance industry’s chief lobbying group in Washington, D.C. His direct access to the president will undoubtedly serve him well in that role.

There are two types of lobbying, one is where – insert favorite cause here- goes to members of Congress and makes their case for saving arts programs in secondary education, stopping stem cell research, etc. Nothing especially wrong with this first one, its ideology advocacy. It mat not be fair , but that kind of advocacy doesn’t rise to the level of the second type of lobbying which is either directly, but usually indirectly quid pro quo. Yes we have laws that prohibit bribery, but we don’t have a mechanism in place that stops a lobbyist from going to a sympathetic ear and implying that legislation passed for certain business interest would be most generous in the next round of campaign financing. Said recipient simply claims that he/she is “pro” business when they vote for legislation that benefits said interests or defeats bills that may not just harm that lobbyist’s client, but paradoxically in the case of conservatives, may increase competition. Many pundits, most of them conservatives dismiss this banana republicish wink and nod deal making as a mere piffle, a little money greasing the wheel; its actually necessary to compensate for the regulatory hell like shareholder reports, audits, and clean water regulations which are like a vice grip strangling off corporate profits (see paragraph four in blockquotes or here Halliburton 1Q Profit Income Rises 33 Pct. and Oil: Exxon Chairman’s $400 Million Parachute ). The multi-millionaire pundits and Fox instigators that make a living with the seat of their pants glued to an overstuffed chair telling workers and shareholders that they are not making bigger bucks because of all that big bad regulation must be terribily disapponited by the facts, if they bothered with facts.

It is almost a relief to see some good old out-right bribery, Businessman Pleads Guilty to Bribing a Representative

The Kentucky businessman, Vernon L. Jackson, chairman of iGate Inc., based in Louisville, offered his plea in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., admitting guilt to one count of bribing a public official and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

An Ugly Side of Free Trade: Sweatshops in Jordan

Propelled by a free trade agreement with the United States, apparel manufacturing is booming in Jordan, its exports to America soaring twentyfold in the last five years.

But some foreign workers in Jordanian factories that produce garments for Target, Wal-Mart and other American retailers are complaining of dismal conditions — of 20-hour days, of not being paid for months and of being hit by supervisors and jailed when they complain.

But remember we’re exporting human rights around the world.

Don’t tell Right-blogistan, but those Hindu fundies are out of control, Film Ignites the Wrath of Hindu Fundamentalists

The film has provoked far more than that. In January 2000 Ms. Mehta was forced to shut down production of “Water” in Varanasi, one of India’s holy cities on the banks of the Ganges, after Hindu nationalists protested that the film was anti-Hindu. Some 500 demonstrators took to the streets, ransacked the set and burned Ms. Mehta in effigy. She appealed to the state government for help, but fearing more violence, local officials asked the film crew to leave.

We probably won’t hear anything from the right about this film since its about women’s rights.

When I fix a fight, say–if I pay a three-to-one
favorite to throw a goddamn fight–I figure I got
a right to expect that fight to go off at three-
to-one. But every time I lay a bet with this
sonofabitch Bernie Bernheim, before I know it the
odds is even up–or worse, I’m betting the short
money. . .

. . . The sheeny knows I like sure things. He’s
selling the information I fixed the fight. Out-
of-town money comes pourin’ in. The odds go
straight to hell. I don’t know who he’s sellin’
it to, maybe the Los Angeles combine, I don’t
know. The point is, Bernie ain’t satisfied with
the honest dollar he can make off the vig. He
ain’t satisfied with the business I do on his
book. He’s sellin’ tips on how I bet, and that
means part of the payoff that should be ridin’ on
my hip is ridin’ on someone else’s. So back we
go to these questions–friendship, character,ethics.

from the screenplay Miller’s Crossing by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen