A few things on my mind here that I want to throw out at y’all.  First and foremost, if you read my piece Dishonesty, Insincerity, Deception you’re aware of my recent ruminations around the manner in which our society- specifically the capitalist system- rewards and encourages immoral and dishonest behavior rather than shun and chastise it; well, Rick Berman just may take the cake for most despicable of despicable characters.  Not only is there a wealth of dirt to read about the head of the “Center for Consumer Freedom” at that link there, but now it turns out that the guy’s own son publicly decries the guy as a “despicable guy”.  Here’s what the lad had to say in a statement announcing the break-up of his little-known band:

You might be surprised to know (my father) is famous, for terrible reasons.

My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molestor.

An exploiter. A scoundrel. A world historical motherfucking son of a bitch. (sorry grandma) …

A couple of years ago I demanded he stop his work. Close down his company or I would sever our relationship.

He refused. He has just gotten worse. More evil. More powerful. We’ve been “estranged” for over three years.”

If you’re too lazy (or busy) to click any of the links, Rick Berman runs a variety of companies (at least 15), all of which are fronts for his main profession: a hired-gun for corporate interests who is a one of a kind blowhard, launching companies and front organizations to further the interests of his clients but most specifically, to go on a PR attack against his clients detractors.  Among his glorious projects are “Activist Cash” in which activists and humanitarian organizations are profiled in order to follow who’s funding what “anti-corporate” project; the “Center for Union Facts”, which, of course, is about “educating” people about the horrors and corruption of organized labor; “Mercury Facts” which is a project of the aforementioned Center for Consumer Freedom (which is a front for the food and beverage industry and primarily funded by the company that was once known as Philip Morris- essentially working to dispel any and all evidence against any food or beverage- including dispelling the “myths” about how bad smoking, fast food, and alcohol are)… where was I? oh yeah, “Mercury Facts”, if you’ve recognized the pattern, works to discredit scientific research that shows the dangers of increased levels of mercury in seafood.  One of Berman’s favorite (and most effective) tactics has been the development and abuse of the term “terrorist” when referring to anti-corporate and other left-leaning groups.  While willing and able to haphazardly lob the term (and it’s related “eco-terrorist”, “animal-rights terrorist” and the like) Berman, unlike the FBI, doesn’t just reserve these terms for people and groups with radical politics- he once took out a full page ad in the New York Times attempting to tie the Humane Society with “terrorists” (and, in case you were wondering, the media took his “story” hook, line, and sinker).

Truth be told, it turns out it wasn’t so hard for some folks to prove that Berkman himself is far more credibly- and closely- connected with terrorist groups.  For instance: in 1995 Philip Morris created something called the Guest Choice Network, a project proposed by none other than Rick Berman himself.  In 2002 the GCN was renamed the Center for Consumer Freedom, with, yes, Mr. Berman still at the helm.  In the meantime, Philip Morris (and other tobacco company’s) have been exposed for their involvement in illegal cigarette smuggling, including trafficking into Iraq while it was under a UN-sponsored trade embargo.  The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) says this sort of smuggling of cigarettes directly funnels millions of dollars into the hands of al Qaeda and other, well, actual “terrorists”.

Whatever.  Assholes are everywhere.  For instance, did you notice that AIG, which has received about $150 billion dollars in Federal “bailout” (no, you and I cannot comprehend how much money $150,000,000,000 actually is- few if any can) has used about $450 million ($450,000,000) to pay about 400 individuals for “retention” fees.  If your math is as good as my calculator, you’re probably figuring that’s an average of $1.125 million dollars each to 400 people in a company that demanded to be paid billions- from us- in order to refrain from ripping the entire capitalist system out from under our feet with their mere failure.  Defenders meekly (or sometimes not so meekly) say that’s just the “cost of doing business” and that’s “what it costs to compete at that level” and to which we should just reply: why? really? the problems of the world- let alone of this country- are many and expensive and difficult, but a whole lot of problems could be addressed for $450,000,000; the work, the value in commodities, that’s a tremendous amount and… it went to 400 people?  Gross.

But that’s not the end of it.  Thanks to a just received tip, these two stories now tie together perfectly…. you may (or may not) have heard that three days after receiving $25 billion ($25,000,000,000) in public funds Bank of America hosted a conference call between big business leaders and conservative activists in order to strategize their (rabid) opposition (and attempt to defeat) the Employee Free Choice Act (again, see my aforementioned Dishonesty, Insincerity, Deception post).  Those on the line for that session included representatives of BOA, AIG, the founder of Home Depot, and Rick Berman, among others.  This article at the Huffington Post is a really good one, and includes audio of the conversation leaked to the journalist:

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

“This is the demise of a civilization,” said Marcus. “This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I’m watching this happen and I don’t believe it.”

Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars were needed, it was argued, to prevent America from turning “into France.”

A November internal Bank of America document about the conference call and the EFCA the company notes that the EFCA “increases the likelihood that retailers would be unionized, which could drive higher labor cost at retail.” On “the flip side,” however, the document said the bill would increase the “spending power of lower income consumers as this would be a de facto wage and benefit increase.”

So… with billions- hundreds of billions- of taxpayer dollars (actually, taxpayer backed debt to China) AIG, Bank of America, and other pillars of American capitalism are working hard- in the words of Bernie Marcus he could have been on a “350-foot boat out in the Mediterranean” but made priority of organizing against the EFCA- working really fucking hard to ensure that Federal legislation that would make it easier for the working class to unionize doesn’t go anywhere.  Yes, the horrors of increased retail production costs (less money for CEO salaries?!?!) and increased “spending power” for the poor.  If you ignore all the other links in this piece, at least read that Huffington Post article.

Although some people are just genuinely creative.  Like the two dozen or so activists in France who have been going to grocery stores, primarily in and around Paris, and simply unfolding a table in the  middle of an aisle and grabbing food off the shelves and having a picnic; right then and there.  They’re “a flash protest against global capitalism, rampant consumerism, bank bail-outs, poor housing, expensive food, profit margins and pretty much everything else that is wrong in the world.”  From the article:

“Everyone is bored of demonstrations. And handing out tracts at 6am at a market is neither effective nor fun,” said Leïla Chaïbi, 26, the leader of the group. “This is fun, festive, non-threatening and attracts the media. It’s the perfect way of getting our message across.”

Linked to a new left-wing political party committed to a renewal of politics and activism, Chaïbi’s group represents more than just a radical fringe and has been gaining nationwide attention.

“We played the game and worked hard and got a good education because we were told we would get a flat and a job at the end of it. But it wasn’t true,” said Victor, 34, another member of the group. “We have huge difficulty getting a proper job and a decent apartment.”

Chaïbi, who works on short-term contracts in public relations and is currently looking for work, told the Observer that the group’s aspirations were limited. “I am not asking for thousands and thousands of euros a month as a salary or a vast five-room apartment. Just something decent.”

The “picnic protests” have been greeted with sympathy from fellow shoppers, who sometimes join in, and at least once the grocery store staff reacted by spontaneous applause.