Thursday, February 13, 2014

Last Call For The Battle Of New Orleans

Former New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin has been convicted on 20 of 21 corruption and bribery counts stemming from taking money during the Katrina rebuilding effort, and most likely he's going to be spending a very, very long time in prison.

Prosecutors argued the 57-year-old Nagin was at the center of a kickback scheme in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from the city. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but Fanning said a 14- to 17-year term was more likely.

A January 2013 indictment detailed more than $200,000 in bribes to the mayor, and his family members allegedly received a vacation in Hawaii; first-class airfare to Jamaica; private jet travel and a limousine for New York City; and cellular phone service. In exchange, businesses that coughed up for Nagin and his family won more than $5 million in city contracts, according to the January 2013 indictment.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors brought to the stand a string of businessmen who had already pleaded guilty to bribing Nagin. His defense did little to challenge their stories, Fanning said.
"It was too painful actually to watch. They just swamped him," he said. And when Nagin took the stand in his own defense, "He did a belly flop," often answering questions on cross-examination by saying he couldn't recall who paid for a trip or perk.

"He just looked terrible," Fanning said.

Some of the charges however were from before Katrina, meaning that Nagin probably would have ended up crooked Katrina or not.

It's sad to see Nagin go down like this, but the guy is clearly a crook as was for years.  New Orleans deserved better.

More Chattanooga Hardball

Looks like Republican interference and threats in the Volkswagen plant unionization vote in Tennessee this week has now reached massive, perhaps illegal levels.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said on Wednesday he has been “assured” that if workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in his hometown of Chattanooga reject United Auto Worker representation, the company will reward the plant with a new product to build.

Corker’s bombshell, which runs counter to public statements by Volkswagen, was dropped on the first of a three-day secret ballot election of blue-collar workers at the Chattanooga plant whether to allow the UAW to represent them.

Corker has long been an opponent of the union which he says hurts economic and job growth in Tennessee, a charge that UAW officials say is untrue.

“I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga,” said Corker, without saying with whom he had the conversations.

Volkswagen has said mulitple times that the unionization vote wouldn't affect future product assembly line choices, but Corker is basically saying that Volkswagen is not only lying to workers, but saying that the company will be the one punishing the choice to unionize, not the Tennessee GOP.

Needless to say, Corker's allegations are borderline illegal.

National Labor Relations Board expert Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt, who is professor of labor at the University of Indiana-Bloomington, said Corker was trying to intimidate workers into voting against the union.

“I’m really kind of shocked at Corker’s statement,” said Dau-Schmidt. “It’s so inconsistent with what VW has been saying and VW’s labor relations policy in general.”

The Indiana professor also said Corker’s comments “would be grounds to set the election aside and have to run it all over again at a later date” because it could be ruled to be interfering to the point that it is against federal labor law.

Which is the point.  There will be no end to intimidation and bullying by the GOP against workers who try to exercise collective bargaining rights.  This is a party that wants to eliminate overtime pay, eliminate minimum wage guarantees, eliminate sick days and paid leave, and eliminate labor safety laws.

Of course they are going to go after workers like this.

Enforcing Conformi-TV

This?  This is going to suck for people.

Comcast will announce a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal worth more than $45 billion that will unite the biggest and second largest cable television operators in the country, according to people briefed on the matter. 
The surprise merger — expected to be announced on Thursday — is likely to bring to an end a protracted takeover battle that a smaller cable rival, Charter Communications, has been waging for Time Warner Cable, and will be the second major deal for Comcast in recent years to radically reshape the American media landscape. 
Time Warner Cable shareholders will receive 2.875 shares of newly issued Comcast common stock for each of their shares. Based on Comcast’s closing price of $55.24 on Wednesday, that values each Time Warner Cable share at about $158.82 each. 
The combination of the two is certain to attract antitrust scrutiny by regulators.

Gosh, you think?  Comcast is the country's biggest cable company with about 24 million subscribers, Time Warner is number 2 with 13 million or so.  This deal would give them close to half the total market and make them dwarf everyone else (#3 is Verizon FiOS with about 5 million).  They would have no competitors.

I'm really hoping the FCC will destroy this deal.  If they don't, they'll be able to effectively control the net as well as cable.

And yes, I'm one of the people affected by this deal.  It's awful.  What if Comcast/TWC decides "Hey, you have Netflix?  Well, we own Hulu Plus, so if you want to use Netflix, we're going to charge you an extra $10 a month.  You don't like it?  Too bad."  With net neutrality dead and now this deal, it's going to be a reaming for customers.

When you're getting what, $150, $200 a month from people and there's zero competition, why should you do anything other than drastically jack up rates?

Also, how many jobs will this cost?  How many customer service and field techs are going to be laid off?

But the biggest problem is the hideous customer service records for both companies, or as the New Yorker's Nick Thompson reminds us:

Naah, this needs to burn.


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