Category Archives: Robber Barons

Murdoch’s Monkey – Roger Ailes Chairman of Fox News

Roger_Ailes 

Roger Ailes is the man who set up and still runs Fox News network for Rupert Murdoch.  He’s a famously harsh political operator with acknowledged skills in capturing the popular mood.  When he first set up Fox news and tried to pretend it was not a shamelessly manipulative  political vehicle for the right, he built the network to a position where it challenged more established competitors for no 1. Now 10 years after his networks was outed as  the ultimate tool of the ultimate political operator it is often seen as as irrelevant to the mainstream. However its devoted core audience of older white Republican voters continue to lap up the appalling right wing bilge – seemingly with little realisation of the manipulation behind it and many of the ‘TV generation’ seem so obsessed as to to base their world view on it.

This article is from a relatively supportive review of an official biography of him. Many of the links below are less generous – some indicate the darker depths he is prepared to plunge to and some the frothing  incandescent rage he manages to produce in liberal Americans. 

The Loudest Voice In The Room: Gabriel Sherman’s take on Fox News’ Roger Ailes reclaims the notion of ‘fair and balanced’

REVIEWED BY JOHN SEMLEY Published Friday, Jan. 24 2014, 3:23 PM EST

Title The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country

It was 8:49 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. Sharon Fain, Fox News’s Atlanta bureau chief, was on an editorial conference call when she saw something on a monitor near her desk. “Oh my God,” she uttered, alerting her senior producers to the story of the decade, “turn on CNN.”

It would be four full minutes – ages in the hurried tempo 24-hour news cycle – before Fox News made mention of American Airlines Flight 11 fateful crash through the World Trade Center’s north tower. What traction the network lost breaking the story, they reclaimed defining it. 9/11 was a make-or-break moment for Fox News. And for its founding chief executive officer, Roger Ailes.

They acted fast.

As Gabriel Sherman puts it in his new book about Ailes, on Fox in the hours after the 9/11 attacks, “the defining tenets of the Bush years were coming quickly into relief: the with-us-or-against us defiance; the battering of political opponents as unpatriotic and unmistakable undercurrent of Christian messianism.” Within 30 seconds of another plane striking the south tower, anchor Jon Scott had named Osama bin Laden as public enemy number one. Later that same day, Ailes had instituted “the crawl,” that steady stream of bullet point headlines that rolls across the bottom of the screen.

The crawl is one of those things now so essential to cable news that, until reading about it in Sherman’s book, would never have occurred to me needed to be invented. The crawl gives a sense of news happening, of narrative unfolding, literally revealing itself as it flows from right to left. It gives cable news networks the license to state that they’re ostensibly reporting the news in a conventional, meaningful sense in the guise of “un-biased” bullet points. As it ticks by, it keeps the pulse of cable news’ cynicism.

Remarkably, The Loudest Voice In The Room doesn’t resort to this same level of cynicism. It’s not the nastiest book about Ailes – that’d be 2012’s The Fox Effect, by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt of media watchdog Media Matters. But Sherman’s book distinguishes itself in its diligent characterization of Ailes as something more than just some political P.T. Barnum.

Continue reading Murdoch’s Monkey – Roger Ailes Chairman of Fox News

Meet the woman that US Investment Bank JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking

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The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare By Matt Taibbi November 6, 2014

Chase whistle-blower Alayne Fleischmann risked it all.

She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn’t take it anymore.

“It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t sit by any longer.'”

Fleischmann is a tall, thin, quick-witted securities lawyer in her late thirties, with long blond hair, pale-blue eyes and an infectious sense of humor that has survived some very tough times. She’s had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower.

Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.

Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations.

Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she’s kept her mouth shut since then. “My closest family and friends don’t know what I’ve been living with,” she says. “Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview.”

Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.

This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called “statements of facts,” which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts.

And now, with Holder about to leave office and his Justice Department reportedly wrapping up its final settlements, the state is effectively putting the finishing touches on what will amount to a sweeping, industrywide effort to bury the facts of a whole generation of Wall Street corruption. “I could be sued into bankruptcy,” she says. “I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”

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Continue reading Meet the woman that US Investment Bank JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking

In view of the money these guys have pumped into getting Republicans elected and the predicted outcome of next months Senate Election you have to ask what the future is for US action on Climate Change? – Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire (Long Read)

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By Tim Dickinson September 24, 2014

Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world’s largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up the US political system. But what they don’t want you to know is how they made all that money

The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year’s midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.

What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers’ fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America’s second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company’s stock response to inquiries from reporters: “We are privately held and don’t disclose this information.”

But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company’s troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle­-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.

Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.

The volume of Koch Industries’ toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch’s climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.

For Koch, this license to pollute amounts to a perverse, hidden subsidy. The cost is borne by communities in cities like Port Arthur, Texas, where a Koch-owned facility produces as much as 2 billion pounds of petrochemicals every year. In March, Koch signed a consent decree with the Department of Justice requiring it to spend more than $40 million to bring this plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

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The toxic history of Koch Industries is not limited to physical pollution. It also extends to the company’s business practices, which have been the target of numerous federal investigations, resulting in several indictments and convictions, as well as a whole host of fines and penalties.

Continue reading In view of the money these guys have pumped into getting Republicans elected and the predicted outcome of next months Senate Election you have to ask what the future is for US action on Climate Change? – Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire (Long Read)

The Gilded age was a time when the Us had no income tax very little state control – Jay Gould was man who made his immense wealth by exploiting the unregulated stock market and using unscrupulous business practices – Welcome to America in the 1890’s

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Jay Gould, Notorious Robber Baron – Unscrupulous Wall Street Trader Tried to Corner the Market on Gold By Robert McNamara

Jay Gould was a businessman who came to personify the robber baron in late 19th century America. He had a reputation for ruthless business tactics, many of which would be illegal today, and was often considered the most despised man in the nation.

Over the course of his career, Gould made and lost several fortunes, yet when he died in December 1892 newspapers stories estimated his wealth at more than $100 million. Rising from humble roots, he first attained considerable wealth as an unscrupulous trader on Wall Street during the Civil War.

Gould became notorious for his role in two well-publicized business episodes, the Erie War, a struggle to control a major railroad, and the Gold Corner, a crisis precipitated when Gould tried to corner the market on gold to further his other business strategies.

In some ways Gould seemed to be the epitome of the robber baron. While others to whom the term was applied actually sold useful services or manufactured necessary items, Gould appeared to the public to be purely a trader and manipulator.

Gould’s fortune was made through very complicated transactions and financial sleight of hand. A perfect villain for this times, he would be portrayed in political cartoons as running with bags of money in his hands.

History’s verdict on Gould has been no kinder than the newspapers of his own era. However, some have pointed out that he was often mistakenly portrayed as being more villainous than he really was. And some of his business activities did, in reality, perform useful functions, such as greatly improving railroad service in the West.

Continue reading The Gilded age was a time when the Us had no income tax very little state control – Jay Gould was man who made his immense wealth by exploiting the unregulated stock market and using unscrupulous business practices – Welcome to America in the 1890’s