White Collar Crime Pays Well?


Man Steals $277k From Autism Research, Gets $5k Fine

stillifeLook, if this had been a once-off, or a first offense for Searls I might not be as upset. But, it wasn’t, and it’s not. He worked his con three times over the course of two years. That’s not making a mistake, or a single offense. He intentionally targeted people in and around the autism community. Let’s face it, autism research just isn’t sexy. The people who typically buy fund-raising raffle tickets are those with loved ones diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or someone who knows someone like that. These are people who are already financial stretched. And he did this with the promise that the proceeds would go to fund autism research. Which also gives false hope to those buying the tickets, as well as to the charity expecting the money.

In addition to Searles’ scam not being an isolated incident, this isn’t the fist time he’s been caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar. According to the Olympian article, “ In 2011, Searles was the subject of a court order in Washington barring him from acting as a mortgage broker because he violated the Mortgage Broker Practices Act.” He was also issued a cease and desist order in regards to any kind of solicitation in the state of Washington.

I’m unhappy with the sentence in this case, 90 days home confinement and a $5,000 dollar fine. He’s a repeat offender and he gathered up 277 thousand dollars with this scam. I have seen white collar crime punished more lightly than virtually any other crime imaginable over the course of my life. It is so unfair. Shouldn’t penalties be assessed in some measure on the harm done and less on the social class of the perp?

James Pilant

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The Documentary, King Corn

King Corn (film)
King Corn (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Documentary, King Corn

I have shown many films in class over the last five years. I tend to shy away from documentaries and use commercial movies to make points. For instance, I use the film, Sabrina, to bring up the issue of class differences, and it is a consistently successful film commanding class attention and getting intelligent responses when they analyze the influence of class.

However, I have two documentaries that have been consistently successful in class use. One of them is Gasland, the other King Corn.

King Corn is story of two men who do a simple experiment in the pursuit of truth. Concerned by the diminishing life spans of Americans, they discover that their diet is primarily corn. They journey to Iowa and grow an acre of corn to see how the process works. They talk to many people in their travels and these conversations are the best part of the film.

The issues of corn, overproduction, factory farming and high fructose corn syrup are very controversial and can be very emotional. The documentary’s approach, the humble seeker after truth, sets the emotional level very low and the film is amusing and relaxing. Nevertheless my students do leave the film uneasy about the state of American agriculture and there are usually a good many comments about what we should be eating.

I usually add some lecture material on the Cuban Embargo, and go into more depth on the high fructose corn syrup controversy.

If you are a fellow instructor I recommend you use the film. It used to be available of Netflix but now you have to purchase it or find it on the web.

It can be purchased here – http://www.amazon.com/King-Corn-Bob-Bledsoe/dp/B001EP8EOY for the very reasonable price (today) of $10.49 for a new copy.

James Pilant

From around the web.

From the web site, PBS.


As Ian and Curt discover, almost everything Americans eat contains corn.
High-fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods
are the staples of the modern diet. America’s record harvests of corn
are supported by a government subsidy system that promotes corn
production beyond all market demand. As Ian and Curt return to Iowa to
watch their 10,000-pound harvest fill the combine’s hopper and make its
way into America’s food, they realize their acre of land shouldn’t be
planted in corn again—if they can help it.

From the web site, Docurama Films.


Engrossing and eye-opening, KING CORN is a fun and crusading journey into
the digestive tract of our fast food nation where one ultra-industrial,
pesticide-laden, heavily-subsidized commodity dominates the food
pyramid from top to bottom – corn. Fueled by curiosity and a dash of
naiveté, college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis return to their
ancestral home of Greene, Iowa to figure out how the modest kernel
conquered America.

From the web site, Food Democracy.


There is legislative logic to the flood of cheap corn-based foods. In
2005, federal subsidies spent $9.4 billion in taxpayer money to promote
corn production. For Iowa farmers, these payments often mean the
difference between profit and loss on a given acre. With subsidies
promoting production beyond market demand, the raw materials for an
obesity epidemic are readily at hand.

From the web site, Eco Streaming.


My father calls this part of the U.S. “God’s Country”. And I do believe
that he is correct. It is an amazing place in our country, and in the
world. But now the corn grown there is not for us to feast on as it used
to be.  It is used primarily for manufactured sweeteners and animal
feed. You can learn more about this when you see the film by two young
men determined to discover the genesis and path of our food production.
They set out on a journey to grow one acre of corn, and they learned
more than they ever knew they would. See King Corn. You can rent it at your local video store. It is worth a watch.

From the web site, Groundswell.


Live from the Union Square subway:  A big food message that tips its hat to changing consumer perception.  When I saw this poster, the first thing I thought of was the film King Corn
The filmmakers explain that grass-fed cows used to take 2-3 years to
get fat and ready for our beef consumption.  Once we started feeding
them corn, however, they got to the same weight in just 15 months
By changing the diet of our cows, we’re forcing them into false
maturation.  With this, and so many of our industrial food ways, we
wrestle nature into the ground.

From the web site, Abagond.


Things I liked about the film:

  • They talked to Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, a book I have. Cool.
  • Professors talking in measured tones about terrible things.
  • The public relations woman for a high fructose corn syrup plant was suitably reptilian.
  • They put on safety glasses and made their own high fructose corn syrup, sulfuric acid and all.

From the web site,  The Public Amateur. (If you want a cinema based analysis of the film this is where to go.)


On the odyssey of the pilgrim researcher, many experts are consulted. In the set up they visit a lab where they have their hair analyzed to get the data version of the typical American eater. Yup, the hair speaks counter-intuitive truth to reason: a diet of soda and hamburgers and snack foods delivers what they suspected: the main ingredient in their hair is corn. Look in the bioinformatic mirror and you read what you eat/are.

One of the strengths of the film is their respect for the Iowa farmers they encounter. They don’t assume anything about their informants’ lives, opinions or class affiliation. They refrain from interpreting and judging what they learn, but the knowledge they acquire complicates the decisions they have to make. And despite their restraint, those complications are ethical ones.

From the web site, BE: Nutrifit.


King Corn is a documentary about two men, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who
study where their food comes from.  The film begins with the
realization that corn is in most of our foods and that it is one of the
most productive and most subsidized grains in the United States.  Iowa
alone produces 2 trillion corn crops which is the largest in American
history and is enough to feed the entire United States (Wolfe, Cheney,
Ellis, & Miller, 2012).  Ian and Curt move to Iowa to plant their
own crop of corn and then follow it through the food system.  They end
up raising all sorts of questions about the food we eat, how it is
farmed, and what happens to it after the harvest.

From the web site, The New Home Economics.


It’s just amazing to see how much Earl Butz‘s farm policy in the 1970s, which I’m sure he enacted with really good intentions, has changed family farms, our health, and our environment, and all for the worse.  Does that mean the old farm policy of the 50s and 60s would work now?  I don’t know.  But something has got to give, and the farmers in the documentary were in agreement that the ridiculous amounts of corn they produce are, well, ridiculous.

I wish I knew what the solution was.  Simply educating consumers to make informed choices is a start, but I just don’t think it’s enough, not when our government is pouring giant subsidies on a crop that no one can eat.

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Is Healthy Food an Ethics Issue?

Two Standards of Justice
Two Standards of Justice

Is Healthy Food an Ethics Issue?

Daniel J. Schultz: Betcha Can’t Eat Just One

Reading Moss’ book, I grew uneasy as he described the marketing and engineering principles used to reach one of the most targeted demographics: children. Examples include the use of fruit juice concentrate, which can make up as little as five percent of the total beverage, to give the “health halo” to sugary drinks. Other packaging mistruths include the promotion of cereals that are more than 50 percent sugar as part of a well-rounded breakfast. Lunchables are packaged to imitate the cheerful appearance of a gift to make children especially excited to open and enjoy the food inside.

Since the 1970s, researchers have known that kids are attracted to higher levels of salt and sugar, which companies have used as an advantage for their products. Moss quotes Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist, who describes this as “manipulating or exploiting the biology of the child.” I was one of the kids these companies targeted and successfully sold their products to, becoming one of their “heavy users.”

Daniel J. Schultz: Betcha Can’t Eat Just One


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Cramped Altruism


Underage workers in the corporate heaven of Foxconn
Underage workers in the corporate heaven of Foxconn

Cramped Altruism

Other People’s Children – NYTimes.com

I’ve noticed this thing quite a lot in American life lately — this sort of cramped vision of altruism in which it’s considered perfectly acceptable to support only those causes that are directly good for you and yours. We even have a tendency to view it as “inauthentic” when people support policies that aren’t in their self-interest — when a rich man supports higher taxes on the rich, he’s somehow seen as strange, and probably a hypocrite.

Needless to say, this is all wrong. Political virtue consists in standing for what’s right, even — or indeed especially — when it doesn’t redound to your own benefit. Someone should ask Portman why he didn’t take a stand for, you know, other people’s children.

Other People’s Children – NYTimes.com


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The Ethics Sage Explains the Sandwich Generation

The Ethics Sage Explains the Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation and Child
The Sandwich Generation and Child

Sandwich Generation – Ethics Sage

In the early 1990’s very few had even heard of the term “sandwich generation.” Most thought it was connected to a sandwich eaten by children who were “latch key” kids. Instead, sandwich generation refers to those people who are sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children. It could be the parents have “boomerang” adult kids who come back home after school and/or unsuccessful attempts to get a job. At the same time, one’s parents need in-home care, 24/7 adult supervision or independent/assisted living.

The task is not easy to become elderly or a parent to your parent(s). After all, our society “says” adults should be able to take care of themselves. But, as more live well into their 80s and 90s and families are dispersed across the country, everyone is going to be involved somehow, some way, in elder care. If not today, then tomorrow.

Being a Sandwich Generationer – an elder/parent caregiver – is a new role on the stage of life for which no one can ever rehearse. Becoming a parent to an aging parent presents extraordinary challenges. The challenges to elders are just as daunting. To lose control of one’s life – even the little things – can be shocking and frustrating.

Members of the sandwich generation face difficulties in allocating time and money and often describe themselves as being pulled in two directions. Emotional difficulties, especially depression, and marriage conflicts are common problems for those in this situation.

Sandwich Generation – Ethics Sage

Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage, as usual, presents a timely subject. One of the cruelties of the beltway obsession with cutting Social Security and Medicare is the lack of concern over the effect on millions of Americans. Not only do these government programs keep many out of poverty, they enable the children of the aged to better take care of their parents saving millions, and probably, billions of dollars the would have to fall on the various government agencies. Those programs spread the weight of aging more through society.

I have strong sympathy for those caught in the “sandwich.” The emotional and financial costs can be devastating. I tell my students that this stage of their lives will be a major test of their character.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Another Boomer Blog:

It appears I am about to find out what it is like to be a part of the sandwich generation where one cares for a dependent elder while dealing with the younger generation as well.  Mind you, it is not my elder relative, but the gently crumbling father of a good friend who is in need of tender care and direction.  I hardly ever hear from my friend anymore since she’s so busy with work and parenting the prior generation.  So next week I will run off to the transitional center and the elegant elder and I shall endeavor traveling to the eye doctor.

From the web site, The Sandwich Generation and Aging with Grace:

So, dear ones, I invite you to join me on this BLOGIN’-JOURNEY that explores what it means to be a participant in the Sandwich Generation.  I hope I discover, and therefore help you discover, tips, information and humor to cope with the oncoming, currently happening or post-parent-now-what phase that happens in this process of ALL the Boomers aging – gracefully please – and what joys can be found from every moment, yes, every moment of the journey.

And finally, from the web site, The Voice of the Caregiver:

The “Sandwich Generation” was a term officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in July 2006. What does it mean? It’s defined as a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. Today, according to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 out of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance. While serving as a caregiver to a loved one, of course it’s not only important to protect their health and well being, but also to protect your own.


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Komen Charity Forgot Who Its Contributors Were

Nancy Brinker resigns from Komen: Does the CEO’s departure even matter for the breast cancer organization?

Part of why Komen is likely to fail at picking up the pieces is that the entire battle exposed some tensions in its base of support—tensions that had largely been minimized by the genuine desire of a broad coalition to fight breast cancer. Part of what made the organization such a behemoth is that Komen was able to put together the traditional supporters of women’s health care, who are pro-choice and have feminist leanings, with more conservative women who had previously been afraid of the immodest implications of talking openly about breast health. They did this by pointedly desexualizing the issue in a sea of pink ribbons and teddy bears, something the more feminist supporters could ignore because of the greater good. Prior to the Planned Parenthood debacle, Komen seemed largely apolitical—not outwardly judging those of us who want comprehensive health care that includes an adult understanding that people are going to have sex. By crossing that line, they forced their supporters into a sluts vs. church ladies battle. Now the feminist side perceives the organization as swarming with prigs whose support for your health stops as soon as they know you’ve touched a penis, and a handful of prominent resignations can’t really do much to change that.

Nancy Brinker resigns from Komen: Does the CEO’s departure even matter for the breast cancer organization?

Was it ethical for Komen to embrace right wing politics and cut off funding to one of the most prominent sources of women’s health care? Apparently a great number of Komen’s event participants and contributors believe the organization’s decision was at odds with their own moral beliefs. What is interesting here is how Komen so misunderstood its base. Isn’t that one of the fundamental rules of any business organization – that you should understand who your “customers” are. By any measure, Komen failed this rule and the organization may never recover.

James Pilant

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Americablog’s Author Suffers Health Care Loss

US Politics | AMERICAblog News: ObamaCare: A personal note

Without Obamacare 99% of the country is just one lost job, one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. And one frequently follows from the other.

Without insurance our family medical bill is in excess of $60,000 a year. That is a very large chunk of change even if you are a borderline 1%-er. It means that I have to continue to work just to keep our family health insurance. And not any job, it has to be a job with health care benefits.

US Politics | AMERICAblog News: ObamaCare: A personal note

I am in a similar position. My wife and I have separated and when our divorce goes through I will lose the health insurance I get from her job. Thus, I need to start looking for a job with health care benefits. I live in a nation where living without health care is considered by some to be a privilege. Great.

James Pilant

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What’s a Little Corn Syrup Between Friends?

When I developed high blood pressure, I had to start eating healthy. It was a shock to find out how much it cost to eat healthy. The food in the supermarket was laden with high fructose corn syrup or salt. Once I had eliminated food that wasn’t good for me, there were a lot fewer choices and with a few exceptions (frozen vegetables), they cost more. One of the most important things I did was to drop soda pop from my diet. That helped a lot with my weight.

It seems to me that the way food is made and marketed in the United States is inimical to having a healthy diet. That a few large companies control food distribution in the nation does not surprise me.

There is something bizarre in the fact that costs more to eat healthy than badly.

James Pilant

Willie Nelson: Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

Willie Nelson: Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

High Fructose Corn Syrup & Obesity

King Corn

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Should We Go Back to the Good Ole Days with Women’s Health?

It is so obvious to me that women should have access to birth control that I find it hard to take the opponents seriously. I agree with Martha Plimpton that the opposition to it is based on the bizarre idea that women do not know how to manage their lives and therefore need to be regulated. Women’s freedom is just as important as men’s. When it comes to rights, all humans are important.

James Pilant

Martha Plimpton: Stop undermining women’s health with personhood amendments and ultrasound laws

But we don’t live in caves anymore. And it has long been known that where women have the ability to control their own reproductive lives, standards of living rise, children are healthier, education levels rise, and women’s contributions to society increase. This is true in developing countries around the world, and in countries across Europe where low rates of teen pregnancy and infant mortality put ours to shame. When you keep women from exercising their right to physical self-determination, the actual consequences reveal themselves. It’s long past time we started focusing on the solutions that actually keep women healthy, instead of using basic aspects of women’s health as a tool of cultural, moral, and political control.

Martha Plimpton: Stop undermining women’s health with personhood amendments and ultrasound laws

In addition, here is Susan Fluke and the testimony she would have offered to Congress had the Chairman of the Committee allowed it.

Sandra Fluke Speaks: The Republican War on Womens Health

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Stop Giving to the Susan G. Komen Foundation!

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Since the Foundation canceled a grant program of $700,000 a year specifically designed to pay for underserved populations breast exams, we can only assume they have decided that political action against Planned Parenthood is much more important than fighting breast cancer. Since the organization has now defunded thousands of breast exams for poor women, we can only assume that they have only a limited interest in fighting disease.

Join the Facebook Group to De-Fund SGKF

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