Friday, January 13, 2012

A Leader Looking Out for Our Common Good Would be Nice

Just what is the role of government in the United States? Is it to promote, “Unfettered capitalism”, as Rush Limbaugh recently said when trying to defend against Mitt Romney’s outing as a leverage buyout (a.k.a. private equity) king. As CEO of Bain Capital, he was personally responsible for putting thousands of Americans out of work.

In my view, the Preamble of the US Constitution clearly states not only why we have a Constitution but also why we have a government: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Why do we allow American Capitalism? Because American Capitalism has become a tool to help us achieve and maintain what is written in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution.

As for the “unfettered” part of U.S. capitalism, history has clearly shown that our human capitalists, like the rest of us humans, have a dark side. Rules and monitoring are required when it comes to power and money in order to at least try to protect us from “unfettered” greed and out of control egos.

In his recent column, “America Isn’t a Corporation”, (12 Jan 2012)  New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tried to turn the spotlight onto the role of government and the role of U.S. capitalism:

“And there’s also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.”

“Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

“But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

“America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.”

A leader, who would be looking “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”, would be nice.

Please read Krugman's article at:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Whistleblowers are Heroes

It makes no difference if you work for a corporation, nonprofit organization, local, county, state or federal government.

Crimes of all kinds, including theft, corruption, fraud, abuse, conspiracy, even murder and torture, are abundant, not prosecuted nor even reported in many cases .

For me, it is truly nauseating that a lowly poor person can spend nearly the rest of his life in jail for selling crack cocaine while corporate vice presidents, white collar criminals, are literally getting away with stealing millions of dollars and in some cases, covering up crimes against humanity which in the past put Nazi leaders on the gallows.

As a society, we must begin to accept and acknowledge that when given the opportunity, many of us are capable of simple theft, and in some cases, truly heinous crimes. To begin to reduce the problem, managers must become ever vigilance against criminal activities and rewarded for being so… or at least not fired when they report criminal activities.

Corporations and governments should adopt ombudsmen who are assigned responsibility for ferreting out corruption and white collar crimes. Honest, unwavering oversight, universally applied at all levels, must be adopted. And, wrongdoers must be formally charged and brought to trial.

But, perhaps most importantly, we must immediately stop prosecuting and punishing those who blow the whistle on the crimes.

Here are only a few who have paid or are paying for their heroic action, turning the spotlight on criminal activities.

Pfc. Bradley Manning
You have read and will be reading more about Manning. He is the “low level” Army intelligence analyst who has been held in military prison for nearly two years, sometimes in shocking conditions, by the Army. He recently came before a Uniform Code of Military Justice preliminary proceeding and is waiting to hear which charges will be brought against him and when he will face a military trial. Go here for more >>> and here >>>

While serving in Iraq, Manning gave thousands of documents to Julian Asange, who then gave some of them to several newspapers, including the New York Times, and later published some of them on his Wikileaks website. At this time (Jan 2012) no one knows how exposure of the documents will play out. But, at least one video (which showed an Army chopper killing unarmed Iraqi civilians, two Reuters employees, and seriously wounding two children) went viral and clearly brought attention to U.S. military and federal government cover ups.

Famous corporate and government whistle blowers over the decades, and what they did. (Following references from:

Daniel Ellsberg
In 1971, he was the State Department officer that gave the “Pentagon Papers” (a not-so-glowing history of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967) to the New York Times.

Karen Silkwood
In 1974, she was a blue-collar worker who raised concerns about plutonium plant safety. Unfortunately she died under mysterious circumstances after she started investigating claims of irregularities and wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plant.

Lois Jenson
Jenson went public with allegations of sexual harassment at the “North Country” coal mine where she worked. In 1988, she filed the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States.

Jeffrey Wigand
In 1996, he appeared on the CBS news program 60 Minutes, and exposed his company’s (Brown & Williamson) practice of ‘impact boosting’ (intentionally manipulating the effect of nicotine in cigarettes).

Roy Olofson
In 2001, he alleged fraud at telecom Global Crossing.

Sherron Watkins
As Vice President of Corporate Development at the Enron Corporation, helped to uncover the Enron scandal (accounting irregularities) in 2001.

Cynthia Cooper
An infamous whistleblower … she was an auditor who exposed fraudulent accounting practices at WorldCom

Bunnatine Greenhouse
She was an Army Corps of Engineers official who criticized and helped to expose no-bid contracts received by a Haliburton company subsidiary in Iraq. She testified and identified specific instances of waste, fraud, and other abuses and irregularities by Halliburton with regard to its operations in Iraq since the Iraq War.

(Following reference from:

Joseph Darby
Army specialist Joseph Darby leaked thousands of photos showing abuse at Abu Garib prison in Iraq.

(Following references from:

W. Mark Felt
Better known as the anonymous informant, “Deep Throat,” Felt assisted Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during the infamous Watergate scandal. Felt served as the number two guy in the FBI and was the most important source for Woodward. The coverage provided by the young reporters was instrumental in forcing President Richard Nixon to resign from office. To this day, few whistleblowers have had as much impact as Felt. (I think Assange is getting close with the sheer volume of information he’s released.)

Joseph Wilson
A former ambassador and current businessman, Wilson was sent by the Central Intelligence Agency to Niger to investigate claims that Sadam Hussein’s regime had attempted to secure yellow cake uranium. After the Bush administration downplayed his report, Wilson went public. The result was a clusterfuck of retaliation as Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was revealed publically as a CIA agent by a newspaper columnist. One administration official was convicted in relation to the Plame leak but attempts by the couple to file a lawsuit have been unsuccessful.

Frank Serpico
On April 25th, 1970 a story appeared on the front page of The New York Times that would rock the city and its police force. The article, written with the assistance of New York Police Department officer Frank Serpico, detailed massive, widespread corruption among cops. Though Serpico was eventually promoted to detective, he was shot in a “questionable shooting” incident widely believed to have been arranged by fellow police officers. Corruption was still an issue for the NYPD for years after but Serpico’s actions helped get the ball rolling.

Mark Klein
A relatively unknown figure, Klein made headlines around the world in 2006 when he revealed that his employer, AT&T, had been cooperating with the National Security Agency to monitor the telecommunications of American citizens. After 22 years with the company, Klein lost his job. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is currently suing the NSA and AT&T in federal court in California.

Linda Tripp
Not all whistleblowers have great reputations. Tripp was a highly paid government employee at the Pentagon when she befriended a young woman named Monica Lewinsky that was having an affair with then-President Bill Clinton. Tripp recorded her conversations with Lewinsky which revealed Clinton had lied about the affair under oath. An impeachment trial failed to remove Clinton from office.

(Following reference from:

Coleen Rowley
A special agent with the FBI, she revealed the agency's inaction and mistakes that may have allowed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.\

(Following references from:

Peter Buxtun
There are a lot of dark chapters in American history. A lot of times where the government or large institutions did horrible, horrible things, safe behind walls of silence and complicity. One of the worst examples of the US government treating its citizens like lab rats was the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments.

For 40 years, the U.S. Public Health Service researched the natural progression of untreated syphilis. Unfortunately, to do this, they needed a group of people afflicted with the disease to not receive treatment. Despite the fact that it was unethical and grossly violated the Hippocratic Oath, the doctors who conducted the study decided to not only deny treatment to the participants, but to also deliberately mislead them as to the nature of their disease. They watched and took notes as 399 poor, African-American sharecroppers suffered the ravages of syphilis, even though a simple cure was discovered early in the study and could relieve them of their suffering at any time.

When Peter Buxton, a venereal disease investigator, joined the study in 1966, he started to raise concerns over the lack of ethical concerns. When his superiors decided to continue their research anyway, he went to the papers. In the ensuing investigation, it was revealed that the men in the study had, in many cases, also given the disease to their wives and passed it on to their children. The study was stopped and the government was forced to pay the participants and pay for their medical care for the rest of their lives.

Cheryl Eckard
Of the great advancements in science that marked the 20th Century, one of the most remarkable has been the creation of thousands of new drugs and medicines. Diseases and conditions that once caused suffering and death across the globe can now be treated with just a few pills. Life expectancy is up, and people can live healthier lives than we ever dreamed possible.

Unfortunately, sometimes the guys who make these wonder drugs are more interested in raking in as much cash as they can than making people’s lives better. Take GlaxoSmithKline for example. In 2003, Glaxo Quality Assurance Manager Cherly Eckard warned her bosses that standards at one of their huge factories in Puerto Rico were leaving a lot to be desired. Drugs were being contaminated and frequently contained more or less of the active ingredients than they were supposed to.

Eckard’s warnings went unheeded. Despite the fact that her job was on the line, she repeatedly complained to the company and tried to get the factory up to code. For her trouble, GlaxoSmithKline fired Eckard. Undeterred, she went to the authorities and blew the whistle on the company’s wrongdoing. After a lengthy legal battle, GlaxoSmithKline was fined $750 million and forced to clean up the problems at the factory. And Cherly Eckard? She was awarded a cool $96 million in damages. Doing the right thing can be profitable sometimes.

Marc Hodler
In theory, the Olympics are meant to be an international expression of cooperation, brotherhood, and the power of sport to unite mankind across cultures. For the athletes who participate in them, they are a culmination of years of struggle and preparation. They are a place where they can show the world their best and represent their country in beautiful displays of human achievement. For others, namely the people who organize the Games, they are sometimes seen as little more than a gold lined trough.

One of the worst examples in modern history of the corruption that lies underneath the Olympics was the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Frustrated at repeated failures to win the Games (the closet one being the 1998 Games that went to Nagano, Japan), Salt Lake officials decided that they were going to get the games no matter what it took.

And what it took was a whole lot of gifts to the people who choose the host. It seemed that The International Olympic Committee (IOC) members had a price, and Salt Lake was more than willing to pay it. They gave cash, expensive trips, jobs, and even plastic surgery to IOC members in order to secure their votes. No one knows exactly how much was paid out, but it wasn’t an accident that the Salt Lake City Games were nearly $400 million over budget.

Unfortunately, this was business as usual. But then one member, a former Swiss ski coach called Marc Hodler, had had enough. He went to the press and threw a light on the whole sordid affair. Thanks to him, several members were sacked and a new set rules were introduced. The Olympics are still mostly about money, but at least now they’re less about buying expensive gifts for Eurotrash.

(Following references from:

Paul Moore
Moore was head of Group Regulatory Risk at HBOS from 2002-2005 and was responsible for the bank's policy as well as its compliance with the FSA. In 2004 he advised the bank that they should slow down and that they were taking too many risks, knowing that a crisis was realistically around the corner.

He was fired in 2004 but sued for unfair dismissal, winning the case. However, in return for his compensation Moore signed a 'gagging order' to remain quiet. Risking his reputation he broke the silence and submitted evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on February 10 2009.

The chief exec of HBOS, Sir James Crosby, has since resigned while Moore's evidence has been publicly blasted.

(Following references from::

Dr David Kelly
In March 2003 a civil servant named David Kelly anonymously told a BBC journalist that the Prime Minister's office had 'glamorised' information in a dossier which later justified as a reason to going into war with Iraq.

Kelly claimed that the file relating to Iraq's housing of weapons of mass destruction was 'doctored'. The government found out who leaked the comments and his details were leaked to the press, destroying his professional reputation.

The media frenzy came to a peak when several weeks after the initial story broke Kelly was found dead - a victim of apparent suicide. Later, the government was exonerated by an independent enquiry regarding its presentation of the war.

Go here for 35 Whistleblower cases: >>>>

(Following reference from:

Whistleblower Act
There are a number of whistleblower acts, statutes and regulations in place in the United States, making a "patchwork" of state and federal protection against whistleblower retaliation. This patchwork has some significant holes in it, but many individuals have nevertheless benefited from these laws since their implementation. The various provisions of the whistleblower acts make this field of law rather complex, and it is thus always in the best interest of an individual to consult a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney before "blowing the whistle," whenever possible.

Federal Whistleblower Acts
For example, a 2002 federal whistleblower act known as "SOX" (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, named after its sponsors in Congress) offers only certain protections for employees at publicly held companies, and the parameters of this law are still being worked out in court cases. The older 1989 federal Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), designed to protect federal workers who disclose improper or illegal government activities, has unfortunately been weakened so much since its implementation that it offer virtually no protection from retaliation.

Thinking of blowing a whistle on a crime? Go here >>> for The Whistleblower’s Handbook