Seems benign enough. After all, fighting for water -- albeit in an over-commercialized, overpriced and polluting form -- instead of cigarettes would seem to be an improvement for Lauria. But just as he battled efforts to educate people about the health hazards of secondhand smoke, Lauria is now battling efforts to educate people about the hoax that is bottled water.
Time Warner Cable has figured how to make customers pay more for a "service" that consists of doing absolutely nothing: it doubled its fee to not print customers' names in the phone book. Time Warner now charges $1.99 a month, or almost $24 a year, for an unlisted number.
The home page of T. Boone Pickens' "Pickens Plan" is emblematic of the oil industry's aggressive push to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale basin. The page greets visitors with the blaring headline, "WE MUST BREAK AMERICA'S ADDICTION TO FOREIGN OIL. The Pickens Plan will do it, but we need your help."
In the age of the perpetual War on terrorism, politicians, pundits and other U.S. demagogues have successfully used fear as a bargaining chip. Fear-mongering is a method of Orwellian thought control. In this example, Pickens equates foreign oil with evil, similar to the Bush Administration's Orewellian logic regarding American's position in the world: "You're either with us, or you're with the enemy." Bush put forth a false paradigm of absolute good versus absolute evil. The Bush Administration used fear as a political tool after 9/11 to march the country into war, and convince citizens that we need to permit domestic spying to keep us safe domestically. (Think Patriot Act). Fear also led to the heinous crimes committed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib Detention Centers.
Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has, for the most part, been out of the spotlight for the past year since he wrote his book titled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...And How We Can Be Safe Again, which came out in September of 2009. In that book, Ridge confessed that, although unsurprising to anyone who understood the rampant fear-mongering and propaganda that took place in the post-9/11 Bush era, he was pressured by others in the Bush Administration to purposely manipulate the infamous color-coded National Security Alerts for political reasons, and in particular, during the run-up to former President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004.
The nation's biggest insurers -- not happy with provisions of the four-month-old health care reform law that would force many of them to spend more of the money they collect in premiums for their policyholders' medical care -- are pressuring regulators to disregard what members of Congress intended when they wrote the law, so that they can keep raking in huge profits for their Wall Street owners. If they are successful, many policyholders will soon be shelling out even more than they do today to enrich insurance company shareholders and CEOs. Billions of dollars are at stake, which is why the insurers and their symbiotic allies are pulling out all the stops to gut a key part of the law that would require them to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar they take in for medical care.
Front group king Rick Berman, who has worked in the shadows for years, is starting to draw closer scrutiny from the IRS, the media and the public for the unique, self-dealing business model he developed to champion for big business. Berman, a former lobbyist, set up six nonprofit organizations with innocuous names like the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute. Despite their nonprofit designation, together these groups provide as much as 70 percent of the revenues of his for-profit enterprise, Berman and Company. The Center for Consumer Freedom, for example, took in $1.5 million in revenues in 2008, of which 93 percent went to Berman and his firm. The American Beverage Institute took in $1.7 million, of which 82 percent went to Berman and his firm. None of his non-profit groups have independent offices or staff, and all of them pay Berman's for-profit business for services like accounting, copying, writing, operating Web sites, placing opinion-editorials, and bookkeeping, which is managed by Berman's wife, Dixie Lynn Berman. Rick Berman sits on the boards of his organizations, holds a total of 24 positions within them, and he serves as Executive Director for most of them. Sounds fishy, right?
On every TV channel, commercials for schools like DeVry and the University of Phoenix blare promises of better-paying jobs. Every year over a million Americans respond to these sales pitches. All too often these students receive tens of thousands of dollars in debt and very little else. The Department of Education was expected last week to release new "gainful employment" regulations that would limit the ability of such for-profit colleges to charge exorbitant prices for illusory job gains. Now it seems that the Obama administration is wavering in the face of aggressive industry lobbying. For-profit education is big business in America, and big business means political clout.