October 27, 2012
Remember how the Bush administration made cronies rich? Here is how Romney will run things. Mitt Romney spends big on firms tied to aides,
Mitt Romney's campaign has directed $134.2 million to political firms with business ties to his senior staff, spotlighting the tightknit nature of his second presidential bid and the staggering sums being spent in this election.
Nine firms that are run by, or recently employed, top Romney aides have received almost a third of the $435.8 million that Romney's campaign and a related fundraising committee have spent on operating expenses through Oct. 17, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of federal election finance reports.
$134.2 million steered to cronies. Contrast this with Obama:
President Obama's reelection campaign and a joint fundraising committee have paid about $5.8 million in consulting fees to companies with business ties to senior strategists, according to the finance reports.
A Romney administration will be entirely a pay-to-play corruption racket run for insider profit. They will start where Bush left off.
July 25, 2012
July 7, 2012
July 3, 2012
Ah, so we're starting to find out why Romney won't release any older tax returns... Investigation: Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes, and Mysterious I.R.A. | Vanity Fair
Maybe even some illegal activity!
June 3, 2012
Murdoch’s Scandal | FRONTLINE | PBS shows how FOX corrupted UK government. This is a criminal organization, and the response here shows they are intimidating and corrupting media and government. MUST SEE.
They have obviously broken US laws against a US company bribing officials, why will Obama Justice Dept not prosecute for this? Why won't Dems in Senate launch investigations?
June 1, 2012
The only difference is they were arrested for theft, the bankers are not. Not. Even. One.
April 19, 2012
Here is a story of the absolute corruption that was going on under Bush - and the Obama admin has done little to stop. Self-Dealing and the War Service Industry, Part III: The Payoff
Loks like good news, actually it is evidence of fraud: Splunk shares double in value on debut | Reuters
Data analytics software maker Splunk Inc's shares doubled in value on their market debut, as it tapped investor demand for enterprise-focused companies in an otherwise weak IPO market.
Technology companies such as Splunk, Demandware Inc and Guidewire Software Inc have been doing well at the markets, even as investors shun other deals.
So you build a company, and finally you take it public, You hire an investment bank to shepherd the deal for you. This involves setting the right price and lining up buyers. They talk to various funds and get advance orders for chunks of the stock.
Let's say you are selling 1 million shares, and the price at the IPO is set to $10. That means you raise $10 million. You pay the fees, etc, and the company has some capital to use.
So the day of the IPO the stock jumps to $20. Sounds GREAT, right? Well, actually, that means that the company could have raised $20 million, but only raised $10 million. SOMEONE got that other $10 million, though. And the investment bank you hired was supposed to set the price correctly...
Do you see where this is going? You can be 99% certain that the "someone" who took off with the missing $10 million has something to do with the investment bank that enabled the $10 million to be available this way.
April 14, 2012
Companies that get away with breaking rules gain advantage over ones that don't, forcing them out of business. All that remains is corruption, extraction. So jobs move to China, private equity breaks unions, etc.
When unequal justice prevails, the party that does not need to follow the law has a distinct competitive advantage. A corporation that knowingly breaks the law will find ways to profit through illegal means that are not available to competitors. As a consequence, the competitive playing field is biased toward the company that does not need to follow the rules.
April 8, 2012
April 5, 2012
Since watching HBO's Game Changer I have sympathy for Sarah Palin. She was in way over her head - not really her fault.
The "old" GOP didn't understand that today's GOP could elect someone who really "doesn't know anything." So they assumed a Governor would at least read newspapers and not just right-wing blogs, watch FOX and listen to Rush Limbaugh. The new GOP just reads right-wing blogs, watches FOX and listens to Limbaugh.
A Palin, and now the problem of a government that is destroying the country, its infrastructure, its courts, all the things that businesses rely on, this is the GOP/corporate establishment's fault. This is corporate money and careerist politician/lobbyists, just using "the base" and nurturing this culture, because they use the ignorance.
It's also the corporate short-term thinking thing. Yeah, it was great to get tax cuts and neglect the infrastructure. Great to get people believing there's no climate change. Great to pile up cash for yourself but let the country pile up debt.
And now it's "later." If you aren't one of the very few who piled up enough cash to fly your jet off to your private island, you're fucked along with the rest of us, in a country rules by Sarah Palins.
March 31, 2012
This week the Senate filibustered the effort to stop giving huge, huge tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies. Why did they filibuster? FOR MONEY.
What more needs to be said? This is filed under corruption & corporate rule.
March 20, 2012
Two years ago I made a cynical election prediction:
Gasoline prices are about to start climbing, and will continue to climb through the summer, and well into the fall. No one will be able to pin down exactly why.
Take a look at this from Leo Gerard, Refinery Murder Mystery.
Leo is noticing a pattern of refinery closings in time to drive gas prices WAY up for the election...
Huh, go figure.
March 17, 2012
Watch this shameful NBC Nightly News segment describing studies on the effect of sugary drinks and red meat on heart health. The segment includes statements by soda and meat lobbyists countering what the medical studies have concluded! Shameful!
March 16, 2012
"Many lawmakers, when they approach retirement, begin negotiating with lobbying firms to receive multimillion dollar salaries after they leave office. In some cases, a Senator or Representative will slip language into a bill or write an earmark that benefits a special interest, and when they leave Congress, a big paycheck is waiting for them from the very same company."
March 12, 2012
There are small signs that real recovery might finally be kicking in. (Republicans have been able to obstruct it for only so long.) But we have not rewired the economic paradigm to work for the 99%, so any recovery will only bring back the imbalances that caused the problems in the first place. This means recovery may not have the electoral effects Democrats hope for, because any growth means the beneficiaries of the old economy are the beneficiaries of this recovery.
Green Shoots Taking Root?
The economy is not collapsing - today. There is at least some growth in most sectors, and this certainly beats continuing decline. The layoffs have slowed to a less gut-wrenching level and there is even hiring occurring. The overhanging inventory of unsold houses has pulled back from record levels. Car companies are doing well and you can't turn on the TV without seeing car commercials everywhere. Yes there are signs that "green shoots" might be taking root this time - maybe.
But at the same time, to what end?
Here We Go Again
Right on the tail of any green shoots we see signs of the old ways returning, the old imbalances resurfacing. People are running up credit cards again. Trade deficits with China are rising to extreme levels again. Banks and other giants are finding ways to soak scam fees out of customers again. Unrestrained financial-casino speculators are helping drive the price of gasoline to highest-ever levels. And here we go again: the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.
This all shows an economy wired for the 1% will only benefit the 1% as it recovers. The gains are not trickling down.
THIS is what you call recovery?
Won't Help Election
Democrats and the President are hoping, hoping, hoping that signs of recovery will continue, and people will look more favorably at the President and his party. But any recovery that just goes back to the old economy will not help, because it will not help regular people. An economy wired for the 1% only helps the 1% during any recovery. Today's poll demonstrates this: Washington Post: Gas prices sink Obama's ratings on economy, bring parity to race for White House,
Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
"Recovery" only helps the President and Democrats if the recovery actually helps the 99%. Mere words won't do it.
Mere Words Won't Do It -- We Need An Actual Agenda For The 99%
Mere words won't do it. We need an agenda bigger than what we are doing now, otherwise we just "recover" an economy that didn’t work for working people or for the planet. We need actual change that people actually feel. This means a serious, meaningful attack on inequality and its effects. This means changing the wiring of the economy so We, the People again are in control.
Democrats have to be perceived as actually fighting for the interests of the 99%. The way to be perceived as doing this is to actually do it. This means bringing in people to the Treasury Department and economic advisors who don't actually work for the interests of Wall Street and the big banks and the 1%. This means actually fighting to raise taxes on the 1% back up to actually meaningful pre-Reagan levels. This means actually doing something about the trade agreements that pit the 99% against exploited workers who have no say, while creating massive trade deficits that drain our economy. This means actually providing good schools and college education that everyone can afford. This means an actual national industrial policy that helps us actually compete in the world's economy. This means actually fighting climate change. This means actually empowering workers to form unions so they can actually confront concentrated wealth and power with some actual leverage. This means actually hiring millions of people to actually modernize our infrastructure and retrofit our buildings to be energy efficient. This means an actual Medicare-for-All health care plan instead of just reinforcing the 1%er insurance giants. This means actually doing those things that need to be done.
Mere words won't do it. Actually rewriting the economic paradigm is what is actually required here.
February 23, 2012
Our politicians are doing and saying increasingly incomprehensible things. The separation from regular people is unbelievable. But in politics you "dance with the one that brung ya," and these things become comprehensible and believable when you look at who is bringing them to the dance.
The Supreme Court, in its conservative-movement-created wisdom, has ruled that billionaires and corporations -- even subsidiaries of foreign corporations -- can spend unlimited amounts in our elections. This has led to the super Pacs, where just a few billionaires and companies now dominate the elections and the things the candidates say and the policies they promote. And it is most of that money is used to run negative ads that run down candidates and destroy the public's faith in government and democracy.
Serving The Billionaires Not The People
This new election-funding system has our candidates trolling for billionaire and corporate dollars instead of coming up with policies and positions that serve the people. Did you think Republicans were talking about billionaires as "job creators" because it would get them votes? No, it is because vain, wealthy, greedy billionaires like to be described that way, and those politicians are trying to get them to loosen their wallets. Even if they lose the election they are looking for rewards -- lucrative jobs -- later.
Even if they aren't trolling for billionaire bucks, they still dare not offend. These super PACs are in the business of running nasty, negative ads, and lots of them. Politicians want them on their side and not on the other side. So they are much, much less likely to oppose policies that favor the billionaires and their big corporations.
Did you think the country needs an oil pipeline that runs from our northern border all the way across the country to Gulf Coast ports, to help Canadian oil companies sell to China? No, this is about politicians getting big checks from oil companies.
President Obama OK'd a super PAC. A week later he comes out with a proposal to cut corporate taxes from 35% to 25%. Coincidence? And Obama's tax-reform plans pale in comparison to what billionaire-and-corporate-backed Republicans are proposing. Both parties are proposing rewriting the tax codes to favor the billionaires and their giant corporations.
When you hear about anything being done for the giant corporations, look at this chart to see who we are really talking about. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:
The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.
Some recent stories:
An analysis of January's campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors.
WaPo: "Overall, 23 people have directed about $54 million to super PACs this cycle."
Just 23 people... brung 'em to the dance.
January 23, 2012
The spiral-to-the-bottom and inequality we are suffering is not an inevitable result of globalization, it is what happens when we don't hold cheaters and exploiters accountable and stop them. This is not just about Wall Street, it is the story of what has happened to our wages and benefits, jobs, factories, companies, industries, economy and democracy in the last 30-or-so years.
Cheaters, Fraudsters and Exploiters
If cheaters and exploiters are not held accountable and fraudsters are not prosecuted, then the advantages this brings them forces honest players out. We're all waiting to see if there is a deal in the works that lets big banksters off the hook for mortgage fraud and other (uninvestigated) crimes, making their shareholders pay fines for them instead. But that story of the 1%'s fraud and cheating and the consequences to the 99% are not what I am writing about here. This post is about how letting 1%er cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters off the hook has hurt America's manufacturing and trade.
Apple Can't Make It Here
Recent news stories about Apple hilight how we allowed our thriving, high-paying manufacturing sector to erode, with the result that our middle class is in decline. Apple used to proudly make their computers in the United States, but now everything is made in Asia. The NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”
The Entire Supply Chain Is Over There
China has done what it needs to do to bring factories, which bring supply chains, which bring industries. The NYT story describes what it means to have an entire supply chain located where the factories are,
When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.
The Chinese plant got the job.
“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”
Subsidies are often a violation of trade rules. Even so, as the article says, "The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory." So, of course, "the Chinese plant got the job." Meanwhile, our own country has resisted having an "industrial policy" to keep our industries and foster new ones. This is finally changing, but good efforts like "Buy American" and President Obama's green energy policies are fought tooth-and-nail.
Another key part of China's advantage is the ability to exploit workers and get away with it -- which lets Apple get away with it, too. And when Apple sees violations, it doesn't stop them.
One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Later in the story,
The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.
... The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive’s account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible “because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.” The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours’ notice of any schedule changes.
Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions.
Apple Audits Its Suppliers, Finds Many Violations
Earlier this month Apple released a report describing the practices of its suppliers. NY Times: Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time,
Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies.
And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years.
William K Black, writing in Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees at AlterNet, looked at Apple's report. Black writes that the audit of suppliers, "shows that anti-employee control fraud is the norm."
Black says that two things stand out in the report,
First, Apple rarely terminates suppliers for defrauding their employees – even when the frauds endanger the lives and health of the workers and the community – and even where Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices. Second, it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers even when they commit anti-employee control frauds as a routine practice, even when the frauds endanger the worker’s and the public’s health, and even when the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about the frauds. Apple’s report, therefore, understates substantially the actual incidence of fraud by the 156 suppliers (accounting for 97% of its payments to suppliers).
As Black wrote, "Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices" and "...it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers" Apple doesn't stop these violations. They get too much of a competitive advantage out of it.
This Is Fraud
When you buy a product you assume that it is on the shelf at the cost you are asked to pay because laws and regulations were followed and standards were met. So you buy the one that has the right quality at the right price. But what if a product has a low cost as the result of cheating, exploitation and violations of environmental, labor and trade laws? What if there is a lie at the root of the transaction you are engaged in?
China's massive investment in capturing entire industries -- a violation of trade laws -- means that many of the components of the high-tech manufacturing supply chain have migrated out of the US to that country. And China's non-democracy political system means that workers have few, if any rights, and often the rights they have are not enforced. Black says American companies taking advantage of this are engaging in "a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain)."
Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories – illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees’ wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery.
Allowing Fraud Drives Legitimate Businesses Out Of Existence
The key point Black makes is that allowing cheating, fraud and exploitation to continue brings them advantages that drive legitimate businesses out,
George Akerlof, in his famous article on markets for “lemons” (largely describing anti-customer control fraud), explained the perverse “Gresham’s” dynamic in 1970: "[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”
A Criminogenic Environment
Specifically, what this means to companies that try to compete with companies like Apple,
Anti-employee control fraud creates real economic profits for the firm and can massively increase the controlling officers’ wealth. Honest firm normally cannot compete with anti-employee control frauds, so bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. Companies like Apple and its counterparts create this criminogenic environment by selecting least-cost – criminal – suppliers who offer components at prices that honest firms cannot match. Effectively, they hang out a sign – only the fraudulent need apply to be suppliers
When we let companies get away with building products in places that violate trade rules, allow environmental degradation, exploit workers, cut corners on safety, use cheap components and ingredients, these companies get cost advantages that force honest companies out of business. This is the story of our economy. This is why our middle class is engaged in a race to the bottom.
Should Companies Like This Exist In The US?
Robwert Cruickshank puts two and two together, in a must-read post, Thinking Differently About Apple and 21st Century Society. He writes,
In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.
Cruickshank asks if companies with this attitude should be allowed to continue to do business? He writes that Apple has,
...a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist.
Then he gets to the wider point,
The notion that companies exist only to generate profit or build a specific few set of products is corrosive. Those profits and products serve the rest of society. And as a part of that society, companies and their executives exist to make that society a better place. If they are engaged in a set of practices that make society worse off, then those actions are indefensible and need to be changed.
For the last 30 years, American businesses have been devoted to a single-minded pursuit of maximizing short-term profits. Unsurprisingly, this has had profound ripple effects throughout the rest of society. The economy became focused on those profits, and so with it followed politics, culture, and our values as a civilization.
By now it should be clear to everybody that while this works well for the small elite that has hoarded all these profits – the so-called “1%” – it has utterly failed to provide a happy and fulfilled life for everyone else.
Here I quote Cruickshank quoting Black, who is looking at Apple's report of its suppliers, with "overwork and other forms of employment fraud being rampant."
As William K. Black explains at Alternet, this is a good example of what may be a widespread tolerance for fraud in the global economy:These frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home. Mitt Romney explains that Bain had to slash wages and pensions to save firms located in the U.S. who had to meet competition from foreign anti-employee control frauds. The damage from foreign anti-employee control frauds drives the domestic attack on U.S. manufacturing wages. Bad ethics increasingly drive good ethics out of the markets and manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. and into more fraud-friendly nations.
"These Frauds Take Place Abroad But They Harm Employees At Home"
Once again, for emphasis, "these frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home."
If we want the downward slide to stop we have to decide to hold the cheaters, exploiters and fraudsters accountable for their actions. At home the efforts by the giant corporations to keep the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from doing their jobs, enforcing the rules and holding them accountable further show how this is affecting us all. Abroad we have to demand enforcement of labor and trade rules so companies like Apple can not gain advantages that put more ethical and honest companies out of business. We certainly should not be letting products made there have cost advantages here and stiff tariffs can fix that. Letting companies get away with this makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.
We have to get mad and hold the cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters accountable.
Money is certainly changing hands over this one. Digby says Gird yourself --- it looks like we're in for another standoff: She warns that the Republicans are going to hold the government hostage to try to get the Keystone pipeline approved.
Think about what this means. A national political party threatens to hold the entire government hostage, so that Canadian oil companies can more easily sell oil to China. Think about the money that is changing hands. Think about the corruption involved in something like this.
WHY all the pressure from the Republicans for building a "tar sands" pipeline across the entire country?
They say we need the oil. But we're talking about CANADA, for pete's sake! The oil is on our border and is already piped TO us.
This pipeline across the country is so they can ship the oil FROM us, to sell to China.
This is about Republicans pushing for big profits for Canadian oil companies, for shipping oil to China, in exchange for a cut of the take for themselves.
January 20, 2012
A story of systemic corruption, everyone paid off. Instead of an excerpt, just go read: The Kangaroo Court of Wall Street | The Big Picture
The Keystone pipeline is about helping Canadian companies get rich(er) by exporting tar sands oil to China, with a stop at Koch refineries.
Republican efforts to force it through are being done in exchange for a cut of the take.
January 16, 2012
Mitt Romney represents the economy of the people who can't lose. We read about these people all the time. They get hired as CEOs of major corporations, drive those corporations into the ground, and still they walk away with multi-million dollar golden parachutes. They run scams and schemes that bring the American economy to the precipice of total collapse, and not only is nobody prosecuted, but they are bailed out with taxpayer's money dollar for dollar. The workers get cuts in salary and benefits, if not layoffs, while the CEOs simultaneously get huge bonuses. Wall Street firms like Bain can launch a hostile takeover of a steel mill, load the company up with debt, cash out, and leave the wreckage for a bankruptcy court to deal with. When you can't lose, you don't have free market capitalism. You have a rigged casino. We have a class of people running the economy in this country who, no matter what they do, can't lose.
November 28, 2011
Very rare these days - an unbought public official: NYC judge rejects $285M SEC-Citigroup agreement - Yahoo! News
November 18, 2011
Here is a piece I did exclusively for AlterNet -- go check it out: Privatization Nightmare: 5 Public Services That Should Never Be Handed Over to Greedy Corporations | Economy | AlterNet,
Who gains – and who loses – when public assets and jobs are turned over to the private sector?
November 9, 2011
If you missed Jack Abramoff on 60 Minutes, here it is. This is significant. Watch this to understand how it's done, and why Washington only works for the 1%: Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist's playbook - 60 Minutes - CBS News
October 22, 2011
The financial system collapsed because it was full of "toxic assets." That collapse took millions of jobs, homes, businesses, retirements down with it. Years later we are nowhere near recovering.
But even when markets are collapsing there is a lot of money that can be made. You can place bets against assets that are overvalued, and when their price drops those bets pay off. If they drop a lot, the bets pay off really big. (Oh - and when they do pay off the billionaires get special, lower tax rates.)
And if you know where the toxic assets are, in advance, you can make a ton of money. And you can know that if you put them there, on purpose, in order for them to collapse, so you can make a killing when they do collapse.
Here is a story in ProPublica about an SEC settlement with CitiBank for creating toxic assets on purpose in order to make bets that they would fail, Did Citi Get a Sweet Deal? Bank Claims SEC Settlement on One CDO Clears It on All Others,
In the run-up to the global financial collapse, Citigroup’s bankers worked feverishly to create complex securities. In just one year, 2007, Citi marketed more than $20 billion worth of deals backed by home mortgages to investors around the world, most of which failed spectacularly. Subsequent lawsuits and investigations turned up evidence that the bank knew that some of the products were low quality and, in some instances, had even bet they would fail.
In this case Citibank made a lot of money from these bets because they knew where the toxic assets were, because they put them there, on purpose, in order to bet against them. CitiBank created these CDO toxic assets in a way that was designed to fail, and sold them to customers as solid investments, and then made bets that these assets were worthless. When the designed-to-fail assets failed, CitiBank made money, the customers were wiped out.
As I pointed out in the previous post, the corrupt SEC is "settling" a case with corrupt Citibank, and the corrupt Justice Department isn't doing anything about it. Everyone knows that the people in the SEC who are doing the settling will get lucrative jobs on Wall Street in a year or two. That is the quid pro quo. Everyone knows this.
This sort of thing was widespread - and probably still is. Wall Street firms created toxic assets on purpose in order to make money betting against them as they imploded on the customers. Goldman Sachs, for example, also did this. In one case they worked with - and were paid millions by - a big hedge fund to create toxic CDOs that were sold to customers, while the hedge fund made bets that the CDOs would fail. When the CDOs failed as planned the hedge fund made billions, the customers lost. The SEC settled with Goldman - no one was prosecuted.
And , of course, after the collapse these very firms were bailed out by taxpayers because they were so big. And now, with all the money that taxpayers have had to spent on the effects of the disaster that these firms created the Wall Street-backed Tea Partiers are demanding that taxpayers take "cuts" in pensions, health care, education, infrastructure.
With this in mind, watch this video of Wall Street types on a balcony mocking the #OccupyWallStreet people as they march past.
Here is just one more example of obvious corruption. So where is our Department of Justice? Not ONE prosecution of Wall Street fraud yet!
September 30, 2011
A recurring question in today's economy that rewards con artists and psycopaths: " Why aren't they in jail?" Torturers, banksters, fraudsters (ratings agencies), bribers, professional climate deniers, and of course tobacco executives. Tobacco is still killing over 400,000 Americans every single year. Remind me, HOW many were killed by al Queda?
Today's news, tobacco companies knew since 1959 that there was concentrated radiation in the smoke, increasing the liklihood of cancer, could have taken it out but the process would have made it less addictive.
July 30, 2011
When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.
Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.
Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.
And with the country on the very edge of defaulting on the Reagan/Bush debt, Senate Republicans are FILIBUSTERING the very debt-ceiling deal they were for just a few weeks ago...
There is much more at that old post, go read.
July 18, 2011
In the UK the News-Of-The-World/News Corp/Murdoch scandal seems to be reawakening democracy. A big, powerful corporation has been found to be engaged in criminal activity, manipulating news, paying off police and politicians, and generally getting its way. The people, press and politicians are rising up, holding the company and its executives legally accountable and are taking back control of their system. Could this happen in the US?
This is my last full day in the UK. The top story in the media for the two weeks I have been here has been the News-Of-The-World "phone-hacking" story that I explained in some detail last week. This newspaper was engaged in criminal activity, was caught a few years ago, but used American-style damage-control techniques to manipulate the government, police and public opinion into accepting that the criminality was limited to the sacrificial lamb they threw to them. So the damage to Murdoch's News Corp. was limited at the time, and News Corp appeared to have impunity. But, unlike how things are now done in the US, investigative reporters (particularly at the Guardian) continued to dig into the story and continued to reveal to the public that News Corp. was engaging in criminal activity until the story could no longer be ignored by the powerful.
The latest big news is that the head of Scotland Yard has resigned, in part because earlier investigations into Murdoch-corporation activities "didn't get to the bottom of this." The press is full of questions about how this criminal company was able to operate for in this manner so long, and who in the government looked the other way. This is now as big a story as the original and ongoing criminal activities of Murdoch's companies.
Another story is the way executives left Murdoch's companies and entered government into positions where they could protect the interests of Murdoch's company, including influencing the phone-hacking investigations. And finally, the story here is about politicians who are "cozy" with Murdoch's media empire, who were propelled into government by the power of that empire.
Not yet part of the story: the manipulation of government policy to serve the interests of the owners of the criminal company. In fact, just as the media was beginning to touch on this aspect of the story the company took extraordinary steps to build a firewall and attempt to contain the scandal. Top executives in the UK and in England were removed from their posts, an "apology" was printed in all the papers here, and Murdoch himself made public apologies and News Corp started a major counterattack. So far News Corp's second-largest shareholder, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal has been kept in the background. Prince Al Waleed was interviewed by the BBC Thursday on his yacht in Cannes. Immediately the firewall began to be constructed.
(These are questions, not accusation. While being part-owner of the conservative News Corp., Al Waleed also speaks out for democratic reform and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.)
But questions about News Corp. pushing policies that benefit its owners have yet to be pursued. Does News Corp. push climate-change denial to benefit the interests of oil-producing Saudi Arabit? Did News Corp push the invasion of Iraq to benefit Saudi Arabia?
What About In The US?
Does all of this sound familiar to any of you reading this in America?
And so the parallels to American standard-operating-procedure stand out. Criminal corporations manipulating government, police and public opinion. A revolving door through which corporate executives pass into government and protect the interests of their companies. A conservative media empire manipulating news and propelling politicians to benefit their financial interests. Politicians cozy with corporate executives who never seem to be held accountable.
As Richard Eskow wrote the other day, Want to Solve All your Problems, Rupert Murdoch? Become A Banker.,
But there's an easy way for Mr. Murdoch to protect himself from these inquiries and save his company at the same time: Turn the News Corporation into a Wall Street bank. There won't be any prosecutions, and the government will even sweeten the deal with billions of dollars in easy money. And if Murdoch follows the trail blazed by bankers like Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase, soon they'll be begging him to acquire more companies.
... By contrast, despite its long list of proven crimes nobody at [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Dimon's bank has been arrested. Apparently arrests, like the financial consequences of one's actions, are for borrowers only. And Dimon only appears before our elected representative for cozy private get-togethers, not public enquiries.
Seriously, there was just enough democracy left in the institutions of the UK to enable a media giant like News Corp to be held accountable. Just how accountable is yet to be seen, but with the press in full investigative mode, parliamentary investigations, resignations and arrests at the tops of big, powerful corporations that are way-to-cozy with politicians we are seeing a reaction to this story that is simply not imaginable in our own country today.
Here is one test that will tell us if accountability is still possible here. What follow-up will we see from the Justice Department in response to the revelation that members of the Financial Crisis panel illegally leaked inside information, including plans to investigate foreign banks, to lobbyists? See Financial Crisis Panel Commissioners Leaked Confidential Information To Lobbyists, Report Alleges,
Republican commissioners on the panel created by Congress to probe the roots of the financial crisis leaked documents to partisan allies and shared confidential information with influence peddlers, according to a Wednesday report by Democrats on a Congressional oversight committee.
Another area for investigation is the revolving door through which lobbyists or top people of the criminal corporation became government officials and government officials become executives or lobbyists. Are they using their influence in government to protect the interests of the companines that paid or will pay them? That sure looks like bribery, whatever other words one might use.
Another area of investigations is companies that fund or otherwise infleunce public opinion and politics and campaigns or reward politicians or fund their campaigns. That is bribery, because companies have to act in the financial interest of shareholders and rewarding a politician in the interest of shareholders is bribery by definition.
Please, add some more tests in the comments. What stories have you seen revealing illegal activity and collusion between elected representatives, government officials and big corporations with no one held accountable? Obviously there is Wall Street, mortgage fraud and securities manipulations. There are all the crimes from the Bush era that went uninvestigated. (Who ended up with all that money that went missing in Iraq?) But there are so many instances of crimes reported but not investigated and certainly not prosecuted. There are so many clear cases of big corporations using media to manipulate public opinion. And there are so many cases of our election laws violated with impunity.
Are we going to be able to take back democracy and accountability here? Or not? Will our own Department of Justice start to hold law-violators accountable? Or not.
May 21, 2011
In the post below I talk about how Wall Street stole hundreds of millions in the LinkeIn IPO. Here's another story that tells the world we are criminals. The corruption is everywhere.
After all these years, all these miles and all the suspicion, it's still somewhat astonishing to see the cars on the old Blue Train uncoupling one by one. This may forever be remembered as the week when Lance Armstrong finally lost control over the U.S. Postal Service cycling team that formally disbanded years ago.
One of Armstrong's most prominent support riders from early on in his seven-year reign as Tour de France champion, Tyler Hamilton, admitted to his own doping past and has given the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" an alleged eyewitness account of Armstrong using performance-enhancing drugs that will air on Sunday evening.
When will this country start enforcing laws again? We even let torture and illegally invading a country slide. Never mind enforcing mine safety, food inspection, labor, age-discrimination, bank fraud...
LinkedIn went public this week and the price per share immediately doubled and more. This means LinkedIn was scammed by the Wall Street firms they hired to take them public. These firms scammed them by intentionally underpricing the stock, so instead of all the money going to the company, a ton of money went to the people that Wall Street firms had let in on the early lower-priced shares.
The stock more than doubled, which means that these firms got more for themselves and insiders they set up than for the company.
The fact that the stock immediately doubled in price means the Wall Street firms were either grossly incompetent (and they aren't), costing the company something like $350 million, or they are corrupt thieves.
This is corruption, plain and simple. It's what our country is becoming known for.
April 5, 2011
Silicon Valley’s crown jewel, Palo Alto just got mowed down last evening by AT&T. To be specific AT&T effectively tied the hands of many of the City policymakers, and then plowed through the City Council and over 35 residents leaving their bodies scattered on the sidewalks in their wake. Using the big stick approach, they bullied and threatened action in the Federal court system if their addendum to their existing site permit was not approved; and the Council caved to the mighty sword sacrificing many of their downtown rental residents. Most troubling is that with these actions of passing this addendum for the mounting of two AT&T antennas on this residential building, this City Council may have set a precedent to severely limit tenants’ rights going forward in this particular city and longer term in the state. Commercial building owners may now have enlarged rights that grant them the ability to railroad their tenants with whatever side businesses they choose. If this decision by Palo Alto holds, California may be able to rewrite the Civil Codes that govern the rights granted to landlords by allowiing them to enter the premises far beyond the scope of maintenance and/or emergency. You see the only way to get to this balcony is by gaining access through the bedrooms of the residents.
Effectively this City Council has opened a hornet’s nest that may continue to sting them as this decision raises questions of social justice for over 40% of the City’s residents, of which over 70% are management or other professionals in the tech industry. We all know that we live in a society that is fraught with corporate collusion, fraud and bad behavior. Yet it is troubling to see this kind of reprehensible behavior in our own backyard without tacit consideration for the privacy, health and/or safety of the rental residents. Palo Alto is a city that is full of bright entrepreneurs willing to risk it all to create technologies that can change the world. Sadly, none of them signed up to give away their rights. Who would have thought that liberal Palo Alto, the place of big dreams, would sink to this level! Most importantly, what is to prevent other such activities that suggest some degree of collusion between the private and public sectors? Not much with this precedent setting action, huh? Will Palo Alto become a city that only protects their landed gentry? With this decision, they are certainly well on their way to solely protecting property owners over the serfs that rent.
Taking this further, can building owners throughout the City now run either brothels or daycare centers while residents are working during the day or evening? After all given this recently enacted City precedent – building owners now have the right to discount the objections of their tenants to cut whatever side deal that want. This means that building owners can engage in mixed use and side deals regardless of the vocal protests of their tenants. As outrageous as this may seem, this is the box that has been pried open with last evening’s decision and it may prove to a gift that keeps on giving. The young, the bright and the able may now choose to take their start-ups elsewhere and be treated far better in the short and longer term. Maybe there were bigger reasons that Facebook, the symbol of all that is good in Palo Alto, has chosen to jump ship and move to a neighboring city.
Note: This post will appear in other blogs.
January 22, 2011
You may have heard that Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to look into conflicts of interest involving Justices Scalia and Thomas, the Koch brothers, and their vote to allow the Koch Brothers and other big-money corporate interests to put unlimited money into our elections. More than $300 million went from these corporate interests into the 2010 midterms, and that was just the beginning.
This Common Cause letter explains. It asks the Justice Department "to investigate whether Scalia and Thomas’ participation at Koch-sponsored private meetings represents a shocking and undisclosed conflict of interest when they ruled on the Citizens United case -- which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate political spending."
May 10, 2010
Evil Ed, inc: the Wall Street-charter school connection at Open Left. Here is how it works:
What happens is the investors who put up the money to build charter schools get to basically or virtually double their money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they're lending, so they're also collecting interest on the loans as well as getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits like historic preservation or job creation or brownfields credits.
Just another Wall Street scam.
April 17, 2010
Now that the government has taken action against Goldman Sachs, maybe this case can be next? Stephen Friedman was Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as well as a Director at Goldman Sachs and made a killing on Goldman Sachs stock, while the NY Fed was involved in regulating the company, including the infamous AIG pass-through. And everyone knew it. Fed Had ‘Misgivings’ About Friedman’s Goldman Stock, Towns Says
The Oversight Committee will schedule a hearing “to learn more from Mr. Friedman and senior Fed officials about how he was permitted to make windfall profits by trading stock in a company he had a role in regulating,” the lawmakers said.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York shaped Washington's response to the financial crisis late last year, which buoyed Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other Wall Street firms. Goldman received speedy approval to become a bank holding company in September and a $10 billion capital injection soon after.
During that time, the New York Fed's chairman, Stephen Friedman, sat on Goldman's board and had a large holding in Goldman stock, which because of Goldman's new status as a bank holding company was a violation of Federal Reserve policy.
. . . Mr. Friedman also was overseeing the search for a new president of the New York Fed, an officer who has a critical role in setting monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. The choice was a former Goldman executive.
. . . Mr. Friedman, who once ran Goldman, says none of these events involved any conflicts. He says his job as chairman of the New York Fed isn't a policy-making one, that he didn't consider his purchases of more Goldman shares to conflict with Fed policy, and bought shares because they were very cheap.
He says he bought the shares because they were "very cheap." I guess everyone involved with the entire stock market was wrong because that is how shares are priced. It's called the "market price" which is the price, period, not too cheap, not too expensive. But this guy, who knew what moves the Fed was be making, knew something that no one else knew, and that is that they were too cheap. That is the very definition of insider trading and the very reason such things are considered a conflict of interest. And a crime.
See this, Friedmanism at the Fed,
... Stephen Friedman, the former chairman of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a member of the board of directors of Goldman Sachs. Through those two posts, Friedman may have had access to privileged information about the extent of Goldman's exposure to AIG and the opportunity to profit from the Fed's bailout of the beleaguered insurance giant. While he was serving on both boards, Friedman purchased 52,600 shares of Goldman stock, more than doubling the number of shares he owned. These purchases have since risen millions of dollars in value--and raised allegations of insider trading.
. . . Despite demands from Congress and the media, neither the Fed nor AIG disclosed the names of the banks or the amount of money each had received through the bailout until March 15, 2009, when AIG finally did so. While the public was left in the dark, Friedman nearly doubled his Goldman holdings by purchasing 37,300 shares for about $3 million. Friedman made that purchase on December 17, 2008, just over a month after the Fed decided to pay Goldman and the other banks full value for the insurance on mortgage-backed securities.
Insider trading is a criminal offense. The public deserves to know if that is what was going on here, and Mr. Friedman should be prosecuted if it was.
April 5, 2010
Want to have a little bit of fun and become absolutely outraged? Just go here and snoop around: Government Contracts - Defense Department, Federal Government Contracts
Try looking by zip code, like this one or any other in the DC area. Look at some of the companies and the amounts they are getting. Then try figuring out what they do. Try searching the address of companies getting defense contracts worth millions in Google and see who shares that address.
America's military spending is more than a trillion a year. More than all other countries on earth combined. It is just not possible to track all the little, tiny $20 million contracts awarded to political buddies, brothers-in-law, etc. And, of course, never forget that under Bush they made sure it went the right way. Click through to be reminded of just HOW corrupt Bush was.
March 31, 2010
Apparently no one at the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the FBI really cares about the greatest white-collar crime wave in the history of the world -- even if it did rob average American of some $14 trillion dollars in lost wages, savings, and housing wealth. After eighteen months, it is difficult to point to one CEO from a major Wall Street bank, hedge fund, or fraudulent mortgage company who is behind bars.
How does this compare to the S&L Crisis?
. . . According to government statistics, no less than 1,852 S&L officials were prosecuted and 1,072 were jailed. Over 500 of these were top officers
March 14, 2010
So soon after Supreme Court Clarence Thomas votes to allow corporations to put unlimited money into politics his wife sets up an organization that will accept unlimited money from corporations hoping to influence politics. I wonder how much she'll be paid?
Is this the quid-pro-quo that it obviously seems to be?
March 6, 2010
Headline at Drudge Report: Obama policies projected to add $9.7 trillion to debt by 2020... points to this story, National debt to be higher than White House forecast, CBO says,
President Obama's proposed budget would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday. Proposed tax cuts for the middle class account for nearly a third of that shortfall.
So here is the deal. This Drudge headline, saying Obama's spending "adds to the deficit" is a trick. Here is how it works. Suppose you take over a company that is losing $100 million a year, and your jobs is to turn it around. So perhaps the second year the company only loses $70 million, $30 million the third year, and breaks even in year four. You saved the company. But in those years the company "lost" another $100 million. Should you be fired?
President Obama took office as President of a country with a $1.4 trillion deficit - thanks to the failure of conservative policies. Their tax cuts, wars, military buildups, corruption and incompetence drove the borrowing WAY up, and then their deregulation, corruption and incompetence destroyed the economy, driving the borrowing up into the stratosphere.
If the borrowing just stayed the same at the $1.4 trillion level Obama inherited each year -- never mind that interest on all that borrowing gets higher and higher each year -- that would mean $14 trillion would be added to the deficit by 2020. That's a LOT more than the $9.7 trillion that Drudge and the conservatives are making so much noise about. Obama is dramatically reducing the borrowing, but they use trickery to make it look like he is causing it.
What about that $1.4 trillion deficit? That was the deficit for the 2009 budget year. Conservatives say -- over and over -- that Obama "tripled the deficit" in 2009. This isn't even a trick, it is just a lie. The final Bush budget year ended with a deficit of $1.4 trillion. Conservatives have been telling the public this was an "Obama Deficit" and use graphics and charts that label this last Bush budget as Obama's. Look at that chart, and then look at this. The first chart is nothing more than a lie, of course repeated endlessly.
But what else should you expect? Like the scorpion that stings the frog as the frog ferries it across the river, it's what they do. They screw things up, and then point the finger of blame at everyone else.
February 28, 2010
Tobacco is still killing over 400,000 Americans each year.
Does anyone remember lawsuit by the US Government against tobacco companies, and the Justice department asked for a huge damages award? Then with their usual corruption the Bush administration set that aside and asked for only $10 billion? See Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case.
Well guess what?
The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to allow the government to seek nearly $300 billion from the tobacco industry for a half-century of deception that "has cost the lives and damaged the health of untold millions of Americans."
But the tobacco companies know that 5 of those Supreme Court justices are likely to dance with the once that got them there. They are now claiming it was all just "free speech":
The companies also say the courts' decision to brand their statements about smoking as fraudulent unfairly denied them their First Amendment rights to engage in the public-health debate about smoking.
February 6, 2010
From Open Left
When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.
Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.
Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.
The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government. They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.
The conservatives killed off, contracted out or sold off - "privatized" - so much of our in-common resources and heritage of public structures. Water systems, oil and mineral leases, government functions, elements of the military, etc.
The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.
The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed. And to make matters worse, now the telecoms can argue before Federalist Society judges that their "speech rights" are violated by rules making them carry labor and progressive websites over the internet lines they control. And forget about the idea of them ever letting anti-corporate-rule candidates raise money on "their" internet.
I hate to reference Friedman but this from last week has been sticking in my mind. He says the world is looking at the mess in the US and is turning away from democracy as a result.
[Foreigners] look at America and see a president elected by a solid majority, coming into office riding a wave of optimism, controlling both the House and the Senate. Yet, a year later, he can’t win passage of his top legislative priority: health care.
“Our two-party political system is broken just when everything needs major repair, not minor repair,” said ... who is attending the forum. “I am talking about health care, infrastructure, education, energy. We are the ones who need a Marshall Plan now.”
Indeed, speaking of phrases I’ve never heard here before, another goes like this: “Is the ‘Beijing Consensus’ replacing the ‘Washington Consensus?’ ” Washington Consensus is a term coined after the cold war for the free-market, pro-trade and globalization policies promoted by America. ... developing countries everywhere are looking “for a recipe for faster growth and greater stability than that offered by the now tattered ‘Washington Consensus’ of open markets, floating currencies and free elections.” And as they do, “there is growing talk about a ‘Beijing Consensus.’ ”
The Beijing Consensus, ... is a “Confucian-Communist-Capitalist” hybrid under the umbrella of a one-party state, with a lot of government guidance, strictly controlled capital markets and an authoritarian decision-making process that is capable of making tough choices and long-term investments, without having to heed daily public polls.
It is too late to recover?
Accountability is a first step. If the current administration would hold the corrupt actors accountable, maybe we could begin to restore governance. And the public would know who to blame for what has happened to us, enabling them to support policies that will get us out of this. But so far they won't. If they won't even investigate torture and illegally invading a country why should we expect any accountability for the financial collapse, corrupt government contracts, bribery, embezzlement, corruption and other crimes of the Bush era?
More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step. Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%. The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared. And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities. Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning. But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.
So where do we go from here. Is democracy over? Is rule of law a thing of the past? Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be? Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?
Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?
What are your thoughts?
January 24, 2010
The first problem I have with President Obama stems from his refusal to uphold the rule of law and hold the Bush administration accountable for possible criminal activity. It doesn't matter if we need to look forward, have big problems on the table, whatever. The first job of government is to uphold the rule of law, or the legitimacy of that government is undermined.
The conspiracy to invade Iraq needs to be investigated. If it is determined that these people lied, planted evidence, etc. in order to cause us to invade that country, this is the most serious crime imaginable. Enough people in this country and the world think this is a possibility that it undermines law and democracy not to look into this and see what we can find out.
Next move on to torture. This must be investigated, or else everyone will come to believe first that there are different standards in the law for people in power, and that it is the accepted policy of our country.
Now move on to the appearance of bribery, embezzlement, cronyism, favors to campaign contributors, selective prosecutions, no-bid contracts, improper political appointments, etc. These, if fond to have actually occurred, are all crimes. They are all supposed to be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law demands that this is done. If they did these things and get away with it, then these things will happen again, with the bush administration as only a starting point next time.
President Obama's failure to uphold the rule of law is inexcusable.
January 9, 2010
The Supreme Court could say as soon as Monday that corporate executives are free to use huge amounts of corporate resources to directly influence elections. The vote will probably be 5-4 and we know which 5 and which 4 and why.
If this happens it will fundamentally change the way our elections are decided, our leaders are chosen, and our laws are made. The ruling will complete the transition, already underway, from a one-person-one-vote ideal to a corrupt one-dollar-one-vote system run for the benefit of those with the most dollars to throw into elections. And of course those with access to the most corporate dollars will use their new influence to increase their own dollars - and influence - at the expense of those with fewer dollars. Monopoly capitalism will be the New World Order.
It is simple to imagine how unlimited direct use of corporate resources will change our lives. Just for example, suppose executives at a chemical company want to save money by dumping toxins into a nearby river. Suppose a county or state government is trying to block this. Imagine the effect unlimited direct corporate money can have in a county or even a state election. Of course those executives will be able put in place a local or state government that lets them dump into the river. They probably will be able to get laws passed preventing their company from being sued for the resulting cancers. I know that this sounds pretty darn close to the political system that we have today but with direct use of corporate resources to influence elections the corrupting influence will be much more direct and corrosive.
This is not what some call corporatism and is not about companies making decisions, because companies don't think or make decisions. This is about executives -- people -- at the helm of huge, powerful companies using the company's vast resources to benefit themselves. This is at the expense of people in other, smaller companies. It is so important to understand that it is done by people - executives using corporate resources because companies are not sentient entities, no matter what anyone says. They don't think and they certainly don't speak. And it isn't everyone in these companies. The people in Sales or Accounts Receivable don't make the decisions, a few people at the very top do. In order to address this problem we need to understand that the actions of corporations are really the actions of a few people. Corporations don't act or "do" anything, people do.
This is about monopoly capitalism. Of course executives in control of the biggest companies will use their financial power to consolidate their control over our system, for their personal benefit. Smaller companies in the same industries and startups that threaten to compete won't stand a chance because the rules will be bent against them. If you think the oil and coal companies are hampering efforts control CO2 emissions and foster new alternative energy sources now, then just wait until the resources of giant companies are allowed to directly control our elections and therefore our government. If you think giant pharmaceutical companies are getting favors like unlimited patent life now, just wait until the Supreme Court opens up direct use of corporate resources.
So how did we get here?
It is difficult if not impossible for individuals to raise sufficient capital to enable large-scale projects that can cost millions, even billions to get started. So we developed corporations which areprivate legal entities designed to pool individual resources and accumulate vast sums, far beyond the ability of individuals to gather. The corporate legal structure enables large numbers of people to contribute to an effort. This also spreads the risk. Even if someone could raise the kind of money it takes to design and build a 747, why put all the eggs into one basket?
This legal structure was developed and is supported by our laws to benefit all of us. In fact, we even grant "limited liability" to the investors in corporations to encourage their development so investors are not responsible for the debts of a corporation. This is just one of many benefits granted to corporations by we, the People. We set up this structure to benefit us - why else would we have done it?
These pooled resources are supposed to be used only for business purposes, and the businesses are supposed to operate on a regulatory playing field that is set up by us. Corporate executives are only supposed to use corporate resources to run the business for the benefit of the shareholders. Some argue that use of their company's money to influence the political system brings benefits back to the companies thereby benefiting the shareholders. But in this example influence comes with an expectation of gain which is just bribery and is therefore illegal. On the other hand, some claim that these companies only have our best interest at heart, and expect nothing but good government in return for their largess. Of course without direct corporate gain this use of corporate funds by executives is a waste of shareholder's resources, and is therefore theft. Bribery or theft, which is it? Either way it is wrong.
Democracy developed in reaction to corrupt rule by wealthy and powerful interests for their own benefit at the expense of the rest of us. So it was recognized from the beginning that such pooled resources are a danger to the democracy we fought so hard to develop, and rules were put in place to prevent this from happening. But like the smallest leak in a dam, any use of corporate money to gain influence of course turns into greater and greater influence. The first bribe led to greater resources to use for a larger second bribe, and so on. As each bribe increased the influence of a wealthy corporate few eventually we ended up with a political party entirely dedicated to furthering the control of that wealthy few, to the point of appointing Supreme Court justices dedicated to that end. And here we are.
What can we do about this?
First of all, if by some miracle the Supreme Court doesn't open up direct use of corporate resources in elections we must recognize how close we have come to losing democracy, and stop all use of corporate resources to influence not just elections but public attitudes as well. Even without the Supreme Court opening things up, we have been heading down this path for some time. We have to stop corporate resources from leaking out of the companies and affecting corporate rulemaking. This includes lobbying, which is really just bribery. Company resources will always be used to bring advantages to that company -- over other companies and the rest of us.
If the governmental systems come entirely under the control of a wealthy few with access to the resources of giant corporations we are in a heap of trouble. But we have been here before, a century or so ago. A strong progressive movement can turn things around. We will need to develop strong public outreach from progressive organizations to help the public understand what is happening,. We will need to support labor unions as they fight to restore the ability of people to make a living and have some power and control over the workplace. And we will need to help people learn to fight the propaganda that is and will be thrown at us 24 hours a day.
January 6, 2010
How many have gone to jail after the biggest financial crisis since the great depression? Bernie Madoff doesn't count, so that make's ... zero, I think.
But how many got bailed out with our money and continue to make million-dollar bonuses while people are being thrown out of their houses and jobs because of what they did?
And Democrats think that ANYONE is going to vote for them in 2010????
January 3, 2010
Has anyone been held accountable for torture yet?
How about lying to start a war that killed more than a hundred thousand people?
How about corruption, kickbacks, no-bid contracts, contracts to campaign donors, funneling government money to corporations then leaving government and going to "work" for those corporations?
Well, I guess it pays to do those things then. I guess it's official, that these things are not punished, so go ahead and do them. If you know the right people, I guess.
And I guess about 5 minutes after another Republican gets elected it all starts where it left off. because they know that no one will ever hold them accountable. Our current administration is making that clear.
December 26, 2009
Just why is corporate money used to influence legislation? It is either to bring about a profitable result, or it is not. For those who make the argument that bribing lawmakers is running the business, by benefiting the shareholders, the answer is that such a quid pro quo is bribery under our laws, and we should put the people making the decision to use the company's money like this into jail.
But if they argue that they are not using the company's money with the expectation of a return, they should be fired for using the company's money and getting no return.
So which is it? It is one or the other. But both of them already are prohibited under our rules, just not enforced.
As long as we think of corporations as sentient entities we are keeping ourselves from identifying the real problem - which keeps us from fixing it. It is not corporations, but PEOPLE using corporate resources that are the problem.
We need to do is keep corporate resources from leaking out of the corporation. We need to apply strict accounting standards and laws about use of corporate money for anything other than running the business.
December 17, 2009
People talk about how the conservatives brought us deregulation, which led to the financial crisis. But there was something else the conservatives brought us that I think is just as responsible: corruption, crony capitalism and the predator state. Why isn't anyone making the connection?
And why isn't anyone investigating and prosecuting, holding the corrupt accountable? This is the main area where I feel that Obama has let us down, the return to rule of law. It isn't happening.
November 10, 2009
I just came across this: How Wall Street bought Tim Geithner -- DailyFinance.
Have you ever wondered why Wall Street was able to get $23.7 trillion from the federal government after making some bad bets that wiped out $30 trillion in stock market value worldwide and helped throw 15.1 million people out of work?
. . . This brings us to a report by Bloomberg which reveals that aides to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner earned millions of dollars from Goldman Sachs Group (GS), Citigroup (C), and other Wall Street financial powerhouses.
Go read. Wall Street firms were shoveling vast amounts of cash to pepole who are now Geithner's aides. Obama has to fire Geithner and the entire Wall Street crowd around him because of the appearance of corruption - actual or not. This crowd is destroying public trust in government.
October 18, 2009
What happened to the economy? Without accountability corruption thrives. And there is still no accountability.
Read about one part of it -- how ratings agency executives got rich from knowingly giving toxic debt the highest possible ratings, paid to do so by the investment banks that also got rich (and then bailed out): How Moody's sold its ratings -- and sold out investors. Read the whole thing to understand it but it's about a corrupt bargain between the regulators at the SEC and other agencies the executives at Moody's and the executives at investment banks, letting them all get away with giving junk debt the highest ratings.
McCleskey had raised concerns about the integrity of the ratings process, and Moody's had excluded him from meetings in January 2008 with the Securities and Exchange Commission about the eroding quality of pools of subprime loans that Moody's had blessed with top ratings.
SEC officials, however, didn't bother to seek out McCleskey, even though he was the "designated compliance officer" in company filings with the agency. The SEC maintains that its officials met with Kanef because he was McCleskey's superior.
. . . Others who worked at Moody's at the time described a culture of willful ignorance in which executives knew how far lending standards had fallen and that they were giving top ratings to risky products.
"I could see it coming at the tail end of 2006, but it was too late. You knew it was just insane," said one former Moody's manager. "They certainly weren't going to do anything to mess with the revenue machine."
Moody's wasn't alone in ignoring the mounting problems. It wasn't even first among competitors. The financial industry newsletter Asset-Backed Alert found that Standard & Poor's participated in 1,962 deals in 2006 involving pools of loans, while Moody's did 1,697. In 2005, Standard & Poor's did 1,754 deals to Moody's 1,120. Fitch was well behind both.
What happened to the economy? Simple answer, executives engaged in corrupt schemes that made themselves millions upon millions, and eventually destroyed the companies and the economy around them. Here is the thing: this was not a bad plan, it was a good plan -- because they got rich and got away with it.
So far not one big corporate executive or investment banker is being prosecuted for fraud or anything else. No one is asking for the money back. No one is asking for accountability. In fact, in many cases, many of them were bailed out by the government and are still getting huge salaries and bonuses.
They got rich - really rich - castles in Europe, three ocean-going yachts and a private Boeing 767 rich. And got clean away with it. Many barely even pay taxes. So what message does that send about whether this is the right thing to do?
Without accountability corruption thrives. Our current government has made it clear they believe it is wrong to look back, point fingers, assign blame, etc. So it continues and will continue.
Oh, and torture, launching illegal wars and spying on Americans will be back, too, if Republicans get in again, because no one is being held accountable for that, either.
September 23, 2009
The New York Times business section has this today, With a Receptive White House, Labor Begins to Line Up Battles. Oddly this "news" story incorrectly casts enforcement of trade agreements as opposing "free trade." From the story,
While labor’s opposition to free trade is nothing new, having an ear in the White House is. The Obama administration, though it says it supports free trade, has so far seemed more aligned with labor’s trade agenda than has any administration in decades.Here's the thing. This is not about opposition to free trade. This is about enforcement of existing agreements. This is nothing more than a request to the proper enforcement authorities to investigate if agreements are being violated, and to take the agreed-upon steps to remedy that if they are. But in recent years it because the expectation that the White House made decisions that were not based on rule of law, but rather on ... something else. From the article,
What has alarmed America’s trading partners is the steelworkers’ victory when the president imposed a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires under special trade rules that allow punitive measures without a finding of illegal trade practices.
... The president’s move has stirred worries that other unions and industries will rush to seek similar relief.
In four safeguard cases, President George W. Bush declined to impose penalties even though the United States International Trade Commission, a bipartisan panel, had found that Chinese imports hurt particular industries.THAT should have been the shocking news, not the current news that agreements are going to have to be lived up to! A President of the United States sided with other countries, against American companies and workers, even after the trade enforcement bodies found clear violations of the agreements!
It seems that after eight years of general lawlessness we're at a point where it is expected that those with power can do anything they want regardless of agreements or laws. So now "the Village" (blogger term for comfortable "inside-the-beltway" Washington DC insiders) is shocked and offended when the rabble -- the rest of us -- actually wants the authorities to enforce the rules instead of deferring to power -- even when, as in this case, that power is being used against America. For example, when Attorney General Holder was looking into investigating whether laws against torture were broken, "the Village' was all atwitter and scandalized over the audacity of President Obama letting such a thing happen -- as if it was in any way appropriate for a President to make a political decision to keep the Justice Department from an investigation.
Under the previous administration it was expected that such decisions would be decided politically, based on who was donating the most to The Party or its supporting infrastructure of think tanks, etc., on any given day. Now we are seeing a return to rule of law. It's the same thing with this request to see if trade agreements are being honored.
The Village owes the concept of rule of law an apology.
September 22, 2009
This really looks like a flat-out cash payment to kill health care reform.
Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross -- a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate -- sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment ... and an independent appraisal ... say it was worth.
The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 -- an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.
"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly's Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy's assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,001 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million. [emphasis added]
I've said before that I think the Blue Dogs are all about leveraging their position for personal cash.
August 1, 2009
Did you read about the guy at Citigroup who is getting a $100 million bonus after Citigroup was bailed out with $45 billion of taxpayer money?
And did you read the Rolling Stone piece on Goldman Sachs, and how big Wall Street firms and their oil speculation were behind the huge runup in oil prices we saw last year.
Mr. Hall, the 58-year-old head of Phibro, a small commodities trading firm in Westport, Conn., is due for a nine-figure payday, his cut of profits from a characteristically aggressive year of bets in the oil market.
... Regulators are pushing to curb the role of traders like Mr. Hall, whose speculation in the energy markets may have played a major role in the recent gyrations of oil prices.
"Aggressive bets on the oil market. So the guy is one of the people responsible for US having to pay so much for gas. And the guy is going to get a $100 million bonus for doing that, from OUR money! And, of course, if his big bets had failed, taxpayer dollars would be bailing the company out. Oh, wait, we're bailing them out already because of other big bets that failed...
Your tax dollars at work. But the guy needs the money. He has a lifestyle to keep up. He has "his 7,300-square-foot Greek Revival mansion" and
A few years ago, he bought a medieval castle in Germany from the neo-expressionist painter Georg Baselitz, and he and his wife have turned the property, said to contain roughly 150 rooms, into a private museum for their collection.
“He has about 4,000 pieces in what could easily be described as one of the world’s finest collections of contemporary art,” said a New York dealer, Mary Boone. It includes pieces by Andy Warhol, David Salle, Bruce Nauman and Julian Schnabel.
By the way, if taxes at the top were back to 90% this guy would STILL get $10 million of his bonus.
"This week, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that in the second quarter of this year alone, the pharmaceuticals and health product industries spent $67,959,095 on lobbying, and the insurance industry $39,760,477. Another $25,552,088 was spent by lobbyists for hospitals and nursing homes. That's a total of $133,271,660 in just three months, and that's not even counting the lobbying money spent to fight health care reform by professional associations like the US Chamber of Commerce."
I would just love to have the Swiss bank account numbers of those Dems voting against health care reform. (Not to imply there is any bribery going on, of course. I asked that completely unrelated to the above discussion of how much money the big corporations are spending to blog health care reform.)
By the way, did you see the big jump in the stock prices of the related companies last week after it was announced that the "Blue Dog" Democrats had managed to delay (which means possibly kill) health care reform?
July 30, 2009
If you want to know why health care reform has stalled in Congress - and may now be dead - look up the name Billy Tauzin.
Billy Tauzin was the member of Congress in charge of getting the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill into law. That was the bill that gave huge government subsidies to the impoverished pharmaceutical industry, and banned Medicare from negotiating for better prices on drugs. Yes, the one where they held the vote at 3am and kept the voting open for a record amount of time so they could find the votes.
2 months after getting this bill done Tauzin left Congress and took a "job" as a pharmaceutical lobbyist, receiving $2.5 million a year. Others received nice "jobs" as well,
Along with Tauzin, many of the other individuals who worked on the bill are now lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.
That's all you need to know about why health care reform has stalled in the Congress.
If you want to know why health care is stalled and may be dead look at who (read: "Blue Dogs") in Congress is suddenly buying nice houses and cars now or in a few months.
July 29, 2009
So what did banks do that was criminal? Well, first they paid your government to eliminate bank restrictions, then they overleveraged, knowing they could not honor contracts with such leverage, then they lied to their shareholders about the risks and magnitudes of their positions, hid their positions illegally off balance sheet, and through the use of derivatives managed to violate minimum capital requirements on an almost daily basis. They took bank debt leverage from 8:1 to over 30:1, thus assuring that the banking system could not survive even a modest credit tightening or recession. They made crazy bets in the credit default swap market that they could never honor in a downturn. They loaned money to anyone who could fog a knife because they knew they were going to stuff it to others through securitization and CDOs. If we had a criminal investigation, we would have access to the incriminating phone calls and e-mails in which the banksters disclosed what they really thought of the assets they were pawning off on others. ...Go read the whole thing.
The final storyline of criminality is the biggest of all. It is bigger than the current financial crisis. It is corporate America's complete control of our nation's elected officials, especially our Congress, through lobbying and campaign donations. Yes, the banks played this game, but the game was much bigger than just the financial industry. Coal-fired utilities have so watered down impending legislation concerning global warming that they have now come out in favor of it in the House vote. TARP money went to banking friends of Hank Paulson, although 97 percent of congressional correspondence from the American people was against it. The credit card industry took a minor slap on the wrist, but faces no limitation on the egregious interest rates it can charge its customers. Pharmaceutical and hospital corporations are fighting hard to keep Americans from having a public alternative to their healthcare, and right now are winning that fight. The transportation industry is at the government trough trying to pass a $500 billion windfall. The AARP prevents any meaningful reform of Social Security; the teachers' union does the same for education reform. Is it crazy to think that defense companies like Dick Cheney's Halliburton (which saw its stock price increase 700 percent during the Iraq war, thanks to no-bid contracts) may be promoting U.S. aggression around the world?
Why no investigations and prosecutions? Is the Justice Department again operating under rule of law or not?
July 17, 2009
This post originally appeared at Open Left
How much of what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read in newspapers or online as "conservative" or "centrist" opinion is actually paid for by corporate interests? In fact, how much of what we think of as "conservatism" itself is actually just paid corporate PR?
A story about "pay for play" is surfacing today in Politico. And to reward good behavior: I say good for them.
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.
For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”
This follows the story the other day about the Washington Post and then reports of other media outlets selling “access” to lobbyists.
I have followed this stuff for some time, and I venture to say that most -- not all but most -- of what I see coming out of the so-called "conservative movement" appears to have been little more than corporate pay-for-play for many years.
I started thinking about this back when the "conservative" position was pro-logging. Remember how they mocked the spotted owl? (The spotted owl is an "indicator species," or a shorthand way to judge the health of an entire ecosystem.) I wondered why the logging industry was a cause for conservatives, but not the fishing industry, which was greatly harmed by the logging practices advocated by conservatives. The answer turned out to be that a guy who ran a corporation that had made a ton of money looting S&Ls (how come no one remembers the S&L Crisis?) had bought a lumber company and was destroying all the old-growth redwoods was hooked into (i.e. paying) the conservative movement. (Please read the links and follow the links there!) And so the "conservative" opinion became that logging old-growth forests was a good thing. Cash payment was the reason for this core pillar of conservative ideology. (The whole thing ended up paying off even more handsomely, probably thanks to more conservative movement backscratching.)
Over the years I have seen one after another example of this use of the so-called "conservative" movement to drive the interests of particular corporations, in exchange for money. We used to see it serving tobacco interests. Now we see it serving oil and coal interests -- and right now insurance company interests.
A few years ago I said at a YearlyKos panel, Ethics, Corruption and Movement Politics,
So, like I said the conservative persuasion machine and media echo chamber quickly moved past that initial far-right funding to also take in big corporate money. But corporate money is “interested” money – it necessarily has strings or it would not be given. And the strings necessarily go back to the interests of the corporation – not the public or the country – or even the conservative movement.
The movement followed the money and started to change from pure ideology to lobbying for the interests of the corporate backers. The think tanks began making arguments in support of what were little more than paying customers.
The corporations saw an opportunity and took over the so-called "conservative movement" and big, big, big money started flowing in.
As i said at the start of this piece, "How much of what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read in newspapers or online as "conservative" opinion is actually paid for by corporate interests? In fact, how much of what we think of as "conservatism" itself is actually just paid corporate PR?" I think the answer is pretty clear at this point, and that is most of it.
July 14, 2009
Bill Moyers writes about the influence of money at the Campaign for America's Future blog: Some Choice Words for 'The Select Few' | OurFuture.org,
...the serious business of Washington – happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally – and usually only because someone high up stumbles -- do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.
July 6, 2009
In the 1920s the big money organized "stock pools" with which they could force stock prices up and down, bringing them immense profits. Part of the stock market crash was the result of these manipulations coming apart.
Something similar may be going on today involving computer "program trading." I recommend taking a look at: Is A Case Of Quant Trading Sabotage About To Destroy Goldman Sachs? You may be hearing more about this.
Here's the thing. Last week "program trading hit 48.6% of all NYSE trading". Let me repeat that, half of all trades on the NY Stock Exchange were "program trades."
This is not about humans deciding a stock is worth owning. This is about financial manipulation by computer. And now the NYSE is going to end their requirement that the companies report their program trading!
The new rule means the public will no longer be able to tell if large investment banks are manipulating the stock market for their own gain, says Matt Taibbi, the journalist whose Rolling Stone article on Goldman Sachs’ role in asset bubbles over the past century has rocked the financial world.This is an important, developing story and it could mean that were are nowhere near getting this financial crisis under control.
According to previous NYSE rules, any company that carried out program trading -- essentially, large computer-automated trades worth more than $1 million -- had to report the trades to the NYSE, which then made the information publicly available.
But, under new regulations (PDF) published last week, that requirement has been removed.
. . . Taibbi argues that the move is designed to protect investment banks from bloggers who are exposing the companies’ stock market manipulations. Goldman Sachs is singled out because the investment bank’s share of principal NYSE trading has gone from 27 percent at the end of 2008 to fully 50 percent of trades in recent months.
June 20, 2009
Do read this by dday and then watch the video below. Health insurers refuse to stop denying coverage to people after they get sick. Testifying to Congress they said, "No" they will not stop this. Watch the video.
If you know about this at all it is because you read blogs. The corporate media outlets refuse to let the public know about this. You can come up with a number of reasons, but the fact is that they are not reporting on this story.
Since the media will not report on this, you have to. Send the video to people and explain to them what it means. Health insurance companies refuse to stop "rescission" which is denying insured people the coverage they have paid for -- after they get sick. This is why we need at the very least a "public option" in health care coverage. Demand this.
June 11, 2009
Common Cause released a study of the recent vote on the legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to change the terms of mortgages (known as :cram-down") so people don't have to lose their houses. As you already guessed the Democrats who kept this from passing received money - a lot of money, an average of $58,894 in the 2008 election cycle - from the banking and finance special interests, while the rest of the Democrats did not. This vote was a strictly pay-for-play bribe and we need to do something about Democrats who take money from big corporations and then vote against the public interest. (All the Republicans voted with the big corporations, by the way.)
An article about the study t r u t h o u t | Study Follows the Money on Cram-Down Vote names the names:
[the] 39 Republicans needed Democratic help to kill the bill. And they got it.If you live in a state with one of these Senators, call their office and let them know how you feel about them taking money to vote for big corporate interests. This money-taking is nothing less than bribery, corruption and is an affront to democracy.
The 12 Democratic senators who crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans were Max Baucus (Montana), Michael Bennet (Colorado), Robert Byrd (West Virginia), Thomas Carper (Delaware), Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) and Jon Tester (Montana).
Also, more votes backing financial industry rip-offfs of the public:
Many of the Democrats who sided with the financial industry in the "cram-down" vote were instrumental in blocking a proposed 15 percent cap on interest rates that credit card companies can charge. Senators Baucus, Byrd, Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Specter and Tester joined with Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Evan Bayh (D- Indiana), Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia), in opposition to the anti-usury bill sponsored by Vermont's Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
May 23, 2009
A company called OpenTable went public this week, and its share price went up 59%,
Online restaurant-reservations system OpenTable Inc. dished out the best IPO performance since late 2007, delivering a 59% gain in its trading debut.This first-day rise in the price is presented by the business media as a good thing, worded as "best performance" and a good first-day close, demonstrating again how the business media favors corruption over competence.
Shares of the San Francisco company on Thursday closed at $31.89 apiece on the Nasdaq Stock Market, well above its initial offering price of $20.
Investors would have to go back to December 2007 to find a better first-day close, from Orion Energy Systems Inc., which rose 65% during its debut.
You see, what this first-day rise in price tells us is that the underwriters grossly underpriced the stock, which the business media did not explain. The company should have gone public for $30 a share, which the market demonstrated, rather than the $20 a share that the underwriting companies allowed insiders to buy at on the opening. The way this racket works is that insiders get the special $20 price and can sell at the $30-35 price later in the day. The company, however, only received the $20 per share it offered, cheated out of the $30 it clearly should have received. Others got rich at their expense.
May 18, 2009
I'm starting to get it, about how these bailouts work.
In the 90s and 2000s Wall Street made billions and billions of "profits" and the people working there made millions and hundreds of millions each, placing bets with "credit default swaps." The upside was all in the sale of these -- the downside happens if mortgages and loans go bad.
So the money from selling these credit default swaps was supposed to be set aside as reserves to cover potentinal losses, but was instead handed out as profits and bonuses.
So when the mortgages and loans did go bad, instead of those people paying up from the billions the companies made and the hundreds of million that individuals made, instead you and I taxpayers are paying off on these bets.
They get to keep the money that they called "profits" back then, even though they were not profits, but were supposed to be set aside to cover the losses that might happen later. When the losses did happen later, we pay it off for them and they keep the private jets, mansions and yachts.
And the reason this is happening is because the Wall Street types put some of the money into paying off people in Washington, and "lobbying" and into right-wing think tanks, etc. The people with the power to make us pay off those losses are being paid or otherwise influenced by the money that was called "profits" in previous years, but which really should have been used to cover these losses.
Is that about right?
May 16, 2009
How many people were enriched by the Treasury Department's illegal leaking of the "stress test" results?
Question: is this being investigated and will it be prosecuted? Or do we still have a politicized law enforcement system?
May 11, 2009
The Fed has put up trillions, but who's counting? We don't know who got the guarantees. We don't know exactly how much. We don't know how much the taxpayers will be on the hook for. We don't know who is getting rich from it. But who's counting?
I think that in the Propaganda Age sometimes you can learn what an agenda is by watching what gets done rather than listening to what gets said.
Now we are in the Propaganda Age. Everything is marketing. Everything is PR. Everything is for effect. Everything is distraction: Look over there! Everything is misdirection: look at the left hand while the right hand picks your pocket. We’re told that things we see right in front of us are not what we see.When confronted by the intent to deceive learn to watch what is done and ignore what is said.
For example, after the invasion of Iraq they sent forces to secure and guard the oil fields and the Oil Ministry buildings, but no one to look for WMD. From that it was not hard to deduce that WMD was just a cover story - what they said - and what they DID was they got them some oils.
OK, now watch this video. This is Rep. Alan Grayson questioning the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve.
Rep. Alan Grayson asks the Federal Reserve Inspector General about the trillions of dollars lent or spent by the Federal Reserve and where it went, and the trillions of off balance sheet obligations. Inspector General Elizabeth Coleman responds that the IG does not know and is not tracking where this money is.
NO ONE is watching and reporting back to the taxpayers what is being done in their name with their money. What do you think about that?
P.S. I posted this under the category "corruption."
May 8, 2009
Here's the new scheme. Employees at firms like AIG are manipulating their TARP money to give hugely favorable deals to other companies. The other company gets a windfall, the employee who handed over the money gets a new "job" for extremely high pay. In other words, a bribe.
David Sirota relates swine flu to the banking crisis. Both have the same cause. See Piggish capitalism endangers us all,
The Associated Press says scientists suspect that swine flu began in a Mexican town that "has been protesting pollution from a large pig farm" partially owned by the Smithfield company. That's the same Smithfield that used three decades of lax anti-trust enforcement and corporate welfare to become one of the few megacorporations now controlling global agribusiness.Decades of lax enforcement of regulations and corporate welfare leading to megacorporations. I wonder where he might be going with this?
Unregulated, taxpayer-subsidized oligopoly spreading risk - sounds familiar, right? It should, because at the very moment agribusinesses were vertically and horizontally integrating themselves, so too were financial firms.Taxpayers required to provide a cure. And the clincher:
In 1999, five days before Congress rejected a proposal to temporarily stop agribusiness consolidation, President Bill Clinton signed a landmark deregulation measure that "ushered in an era of aggressive bank mergers," as Reuters reports. The result was what critics like Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., predicted at the time: Wall Street created "a group of institutions which are too big to fail" and that "taxpayers are going to be called upon to cure."
Mass producing mortgage-backed securities that were quickly infected with subprime mutations, these financial factory farms became so enormous and unregulated that they spread toxic assets throughout the entire economy.Excellent.
Incredibly, our government hasn't learned from these crises. Regulation-wise, there have been no serious initiatives to replace factory farms' voluntary self-inspections with mandatory government probes, and new financial rules have yet to move in Congress.
Here is something I have noticed. We went through all of this before, with the Savings and Loan crisis! The causes of the S&L crisis were deregulation, "unsound real estate lending," and connected insiders gaming the system (with names like Neil Bush).
Look back at the Savings and Loan crisis. People got really, really rich looting financial institutions, and then when the taxpayers came in to fix it connected insiders got really rich from that, too. (One or two were held up as examples and put in jail for a while.) Valuable properties were sold to connected insiders for pennies on the dollar. Pretty much everyone was allowed to keep what they made from what we think of as bad practices.
So look at the results of the current crisis. A few got really rich by looting financial institutions, taxpayers on the hook to bail everyone out, and the cleanup looks like it involves connected insiders getting really rich. I think SOMEone clearly learned a lot from the S&l crisis.
So maybe the lesson WAS learned. For example, we think Lehman was a failure? But a few people made millions, even hundreds of millions from those decisions. What's-his-name made $400 million in six years bankrupting Lehman. And they were all allowed to keep the money.
So the lesson for US to learn is that this stuff works out really well for the people making the decisions. If we want these things to stop we need to get the money back -- all the inflated salaries and bonuses from each and every one of them, going back ten years -- and put enough of them in jail. Otherwise the incentive structure guarantees this will happen over and over. It is set up that way.
May 4, 2009
Is there any accountability yet? Have any major financial thieves been put in jail and/or made to give the money back yet? (I don't mean the Madoffs, I mean the ones who talked people into mortgaging their houses so they could sell CDOs.) Have any corrupt government officials from the Bush years been prosecuted yet? Have any lobbyists been indicted for giving bribes - or politicians indicted for taking them? Have any government officials been prosecuted for doing bug companies a favor and then leaving the governemnt and taking huge-paying jobs from those companies?
How about has anyone been held accountable for torture people and launching wars that killed tens of hundreds of thousands? Or how about just having pallettes of money shipped to Iraq for distribution?
How about something simple, like getting bonuses back from people who made millions and millions defrauding people and ruining the economy and destroying millions of people's retirement? Or maybe even just making them pay their taxes? Or how about just asking people making tens of millions to pay at least the same taxe rates that the rest of us pay?
Nope. Nada. Not that I have seen. No accountability yet. Nothing. The rich and the powerful can get away with anything. Anything. We have a two-tiered justice system in America now and no one bothers to deny it.
Is the new boss same as the old boss? Or will things change?
Why is Merck allowed to continue to operate?
Merck cooked up a phony, but real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for its products in them.From the linked article in The Scientist, Merck published fake journal,
Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship.
. . . The issues contained little in the way of advertisements apart from ads for Fosamax, a Merck drug for osteoporosis, and Vioxx.
. . . The claim that Merck had created a journal out of whole cloth to serve as a marketing tool was first reported by The Australian about three weeks ago. It came to light in the context of a civil suit filed by Graeme Peterson, who suffered a heart attack in 2003 while on Vioxx, against Merck and its Australian subsidiary, Merck, Sharp & Dohme Australia (MSDA).
They invented a phony "scientific" "peer-reviewed" journal to public marketing articles promoting their products, making it look like "science" validated them!
How many people did Vioxx kill? Question: Does this "pharmaceutical" company, like others, refuse to develop antibiotics - even though we (humanity) are running out of effective antibiotics - because they don't make enough profit?
Why are they allowed to call themselves a pharmaceutical company? Why are they allowed by our laws to be a corporation?
It is time to put a stop to all corporate lobbying of all types, and get a handle back on control of our own government!
April 27, 2009
A member of Congress was caught working with (suspected) foreign espionage agents,
According to three former national security officials, Harman was heard promising the suspected Israeli agent that she would intervene with the Bush administration to try to get the espionage charges against the AIPAC officials reduced to lesser felonies.
The suspected Israeli agent in exchange promised to lobby Pelosi to give Harman the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee if the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 elections.
Why hasn't this member of Congress been prosecuted? She was caught in a quid-pro-quo with foreign agents, who were attempting to plant a compromised person into a high position where she could pass intelligence to them.
Yes, I know. The story came out that the Bush administration blackmailed her into supporting their policies or they would reveal what she was caught doing. Fine, but that was then.
Now that we know the story, should she be prosecuted? Obviously she needs to resign her seat, but my question is why isn't she being prosecuted?
We seem to have a two-tiered system of laws now, where some crimes are prosecuted, some are not, some countries are allowed to spy on us and get away with it when caught and others are not, and the President gets to decide which laws will be enforced and which will not.
April 24, 2009
Do they just get away with it, thereby setting the baseline for future conduct?
Will we investigate and prosecute government officials who, for money, delayed the effort to fight global warming?
Will we investigate and prosecute government officials who, for money, stopped enforcement of the country's labor laws?
How many hundreds of examples can we think of from the last few years, where lobbyists were put in charge of agencies, or where officials did a corporation's bidding and then left to take a very-high-paying job in that corporation?
And, of course, launching illegal wars and ordering people tortured.
How else do we prevent things like that from happening again, the next time a paid-off political party gains power?
Or do they just get away with it, providing the incentive to do it again?
April 20, 2009
Juan Cole has the best summary of the Rep. Jane Harman scandal that I have seen:
The US is spied on, and a classified Pentagon document is passed to the Israeli embassy by AIPAC officials. They are caught because the FBI had them under surveillance. Apparently the FBI is one of the few US government institutions that is not corrupt on the issue of foreign influence on US institutions and policy. Then when the two AIPAC spies are indicted, a Mossad agent attempts to derail the prosecution by suborning a member of Congress and promising her the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.Go read the whole post for the details.
April 19, 2009
Americans should all understand the reasons behind the formation of this country. We formed this country because a wealthy elite, called royalty, controlled the economy and set up legal monopoly operations for the benefit of their cronies, called corporations, and then set up the laws and tax structure to benefit those corporations and their owners at the expense of the rest of us.
We fought a revolution to change this. We set up a governement and economy that is supposed to be controlled by We, the People. Think about the meaning of that the next time you hear corporate-funded voices complain about "big government." They are complaining that the people make the decisions instead of the corporate elite -- once known as royalty.
The real Boston Tea Party was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the BEIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ended in the creation of The United States of America.Later in the piece,
They covered their faces, massed in the streets, and destroyed the property of a giant global corporation. Declaring an end to global trade run by the East India Company that was destroying local economies, this small, masked minority started a revolution with an act of rebellion later called the Boston Tea Party.
The citizens of the colonies were preparing to throw off one of the corporations that for almost 200 years had determined nearly every aspect of their lives through its economic and political power. They were planning to destroy the goods of the world’s largest multinational corporation, intimidate its employees, and face down the guns of the government that supported it.
April 18, 2009
Does everyone have bailout fatigue? Are we burned out from being angry about our tax dollars being used to help a few "too big to fail" operations?
How else can we explain that almost nothing is being said about revelations that AIG -- one of the biggest recipients of tax dollars in history -- was helping big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their taxes?
WE - the ones who did pay our taxes - are bailing out a huge operation that got rich partly from helping the rich and big corporations avoid paying their taxes.
A few days back I wrote about AIG's Tax Dodge Business,
AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s.
When are we going to start talking about getting the money back? When are we going to start talking about accountability for the people responsible for all of this?
Why is Obama surrounding himself with people who come from Wall Street - Goldman Sachs in particular - whose solution is to pump all of our money into the Wall Street they come from and not even tell us how it is being used? When are we going to start demanding that Obama bring in people who will hold people accountable? (That applies to holding torturers accountable, as well.)
April 11, 2009
AIG was running a scam that enabled companies to dodge paying taxes. Yes, the same AIG that is now sucking up our tax dollars - and paying out million-dollar-bonuses - was in the business of helping companies not pay their taxes.
At what point do we feel completely harvested, bled, scammed, and done with this? Why aren't we raising taxes on high incomes -- the beneficiaries of all these scams that brought down the economy -- to pay for all of this?
An attorney and tax shelter expert we spoke with today says AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s.Go read.
So I found this from 2005: Court Papers Say A.I.G. Played Role in Tax Shelter,
New court papers indicate that the American International Group helped dozens of wealthy individuals make use of questionable tax shelters intended to shield hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from federal taxes.How much of this economic mess is because We, the People didn't demand that this company be broken up when this news came out?
A.I.G. is under scrutiny by federal and New York investigators looking into questionable insurance transactions that the company used to dress up its financial strength.
Why haven't We, the People taken control and broken these "companies" up into little bite-sized chunks yet?
April 10, 2009
Over at Talking Points Memo: If Government Never Created a Job ...
... then why are anti-stimulus Republicans suddenly clamoring about the stimulative effect of military spending?The answer is because military contractors are paying them a lot of money to say that. Because the military contractors GET a lot of money FROM that. It's called graft, corruption, bribery, "lobbying" or whatever name you want to put on our system in the United States where corporate money determines what government does, and who taxpayers pay.
April 6, 2009
A company (or industry) makes a tremendous amount of money by scamming us, screwing us, stealing from us, killing us, poisoning us, destroying our environment or some other thing that one way or another a working democracy would stop immediately. But the company uses a portion of the money they are accumulating to pay off legislators, regulators, inspectors -- someone in the government -- to keep them from stopping the company from what they are doing. And they pay off others in the government to stop the rest of the government from doing anything about that. Meanwhile they spend a bit more of that money on marketing/propaganda/PR/trickery to make us look the other way.
So it continues. And we all get poorer while they get richer. And each year this continues they have even more money and power to use to keep us from stopping them.
We see it over and over again. It is becoming the primary path to wealth here. Companies and industries getting rich from corruption, bribery, buying elections, buying legislators, purchasing government subsidies or tax breaks or handouts or bailouts... It is so much more cost-effective than actually making something worthwhile and slowly building an industry based on quality and good service to customers that it is replacing the old, more honest business model.
How many examples can you think of just off the top of your head?
Of course we start with the tobacco industry, killing what, 400,000 Americans each year? But if I start writing about all the ways the tobacco industry has paid off legislators and others to ward off accountability I won't get anything else written for weeks...
And then there are the health insurance companies, reaping their fortunes off of keeping us from health care and from having a health care system like the rest of the modern countries of the world.
The pharmaceutical industry actually got the Republican Party to pass a law prohibiting the government from negotiating better prices for the drugs Medicare buys!
The military armament industry, grabbing one of the largest chunks of the US budget, continues the taxpayer gravy train by marketing fear and marginalization... Look what happens to anyone who suggests we shouldn't continue handing them more money than every other country in the world combined spends on their own military. Suggesting we cut this brings down the hammer.
The oil industry, what can I say? An industry that exists to take a resource out of the ground and sell it back to us -- as if the resources of the planet are not the property of the people of the planet -- paying off legislators to keep us from taxing them, all the while poisoning the planet, preventing alternatives...
Wall Street, hedge funds and the banking industry -- what do I need to say? They paid to get a law passed prohibiting the government from regulating credit default swaps. And now they pay to get the government to bail them out from the inevitable consequences!
How about the food industry -- paying to get the government to stop food inspections? Paying to be allowed to continue to sell food proven to makes people obese and give us diabetes - even children?
How about industries that market anorexia and self-hatred to women in order to sell clothes and makeup?
How long could I go on with this list? Leave a comment with an example of your own.
What do we do about it? It really is a simple answer. All we really have to do is remember that the first three words of our Constitution are "We, the People." WE are in charge here, not them. We are the boss of them. We own the country (and its resources), not them. We make the laws, not them. We are a one-person-one-vote not a one-dollar-one-vote country.
So it's very simple, really: We change the laws. We stop them from corrupting us with the money that our laws allow corporations to accumulate. We prevent companies from spending even one cent on anything other than what that company does. It is not their business to tell us what to do, it is our obligation as citizens in a democracy to tell them what to do. We need to say: not one cent can leak out of a company to influence the rules we set for how companies operate. No lobbying whatsoever. No propaganda. No funding "think tanks" that are just front groups for corporate PR. No astroturf, no PR, no influencing public opinion in any way whatsoever. Not one cent used for anything that even hints at telling us how to run our country. Not one cent for anything other than the operation of the company, and while we're at it that includes predatory marketing of their own products, marketing that influences our culture, marketing that makes us feel bad about ourselves, marketing that makes us feel bad about others, marketing that insults us and marketing that makes us think we should want things that we shouldn't!
And jail for anyone who breaks these rules. Because we are the boss in this country and they have abused that idea and in so doing have ruined our economy and harmed our planet.
We are the people, we are in charge. All we have to do to get this done is do it. Once you believe that you have the power, you do.
April 4, 2009
"What would happen if after a plane crashes we said, "Oh, we don't want to look in the past, we want to be forward looking." No, we have a non-partisan skilled inquiry. We spend lots of money on, get really really bright people and we find out to the best of our ability what caused every single plane crash in America and because of that aviation has an extraordinarily good safety record. We have to do the same thing in the financial industry. We have to learn what went wrong so it doesn't happen again."
I know that President Obama has only been in office a little over two months, but I am getting impatient for some accountability.
One of the reasons things went so wrong during the Bush years was that there was no accountability. Almost no one was fired for doing wrong. Prosecutons were blocked by a corrupt Justice Department. Regulators were muzzled. Legislators were paid off.
To get our system working again we need accountability. We need to hold people accountable for doing the wrong thing, or a signal will be sent that the sheriff is still on vacation and people will continue to do wrong things. But if you send people to jail for corruption, people will have an incentive to stop.
So where are the investigations of the corruption of the Bush years? Not prosecuting sends a signal that it was OK, and that it can continue. Torture? Corruption? Bribery? No investigation. No one prosecuted.
If I had a company and offered a bribe to an Obama administration official, what would happen? Would they investigate and prosecute? The signal to the public is that they won't because they are not investigating and prosecuting the corruption and other crimes of the Bush years. And if they did prosecute me, why are the bribers of the Bush years allowed to get away with torturing people, destroying the economy, corrupting our government? It would show a double-standard, so people would know that the next Repubican adminsitration can start where the last one left off! That is what happened after Reagan, which led directly to Bush being able to destroy the country and the economy. They wouldn't investigate and prosecute after Reagan, so it just started up all over again under Bush.
The financial system needs accountability from top to bottom as well! Where are the investigations of mortgage fraud and of all the mortgage brokers who helped people get "liars loans" and "ninja" loans? Why are the appraisers who said houses were worth hundreds of thousands more than they really were worth getting off scott free? What about the ratings agencies that gave AAA ratings to CDOs? What about AIG setting up insurance schemes called credit default swaps, while not setting aside the reserves to cover those bets? What about all the others?
What about the regulators at the SEC and other agencies who didn't do their jobs? What happens to them? What about the lobbyists who wrote big checks to get bills passed, and the members of Congress who took the money and did the favors?
So was it wrong and illegal to pay government officials to help individual companies or not? If it was then prosecute. Otherwise, without going back and punishing the offenders who committed crimes I have to assume that this is still going on.
And what about the people who did the right thing and didn't get rich? What signal is being sent to them? That they (we) were all just suckers?
Is Obama signaling that these things are OK, wink, nod? By not investigating and prosecuting this administration is signaling that maybe the party is not over. We either have accountability or we do not. And that includes prior acts -- we must insist that the Obama investigate and prosecute wrongdoing of the Bush years.
April 2, 2009
So they are using TARP money to buy up each others' toxic assets. They get the TARP money because they HAVE toxic assets, so they use it to buy MORE toxic assets, swapping their toxic assets with the ones they buy from.
Question, what if THESE toxic assets - the new ones they are trading theirs for - are ... well ... toxic assets? Does this then justify a whole new round of bailout money?
And why could this turn me into a Republican?
Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House financial services committee, told the paper that he would introduce legislation to stop financial institutions "gaming the system to reap taxpayer-subsidized windfalls."
Bachus added it would mark "a new level of absurdity" if financial institutions were "colluding to swap assets at inflated prices using taxpayers' dollars," according to the paper.
Actually, no it couldn't turn me into a Republican, but still.... if this is allowed to happen it really is pitchforks time.
March 31, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
I've been asking around and it seems that most Californians don't know that the budget deal that fires so many teachers also has a huge tax cut just for big, multi-state and multi-national corporations.
But it's true. Last month's budget deal that fires teachers, cuts essential government services, and guts the investments that bring future economic benefits also has a huge tax cut for the largest of corporations. While this part of the deal has been kept pretty quiet, the LA Times had a story, Business the big winner in California budget plan. From the story,
The average Californian's taxes would shoot up five different ways in the state budget blueprint that lawmakers hope to vote on this weekend. But the bipartisan plan for wiping out the state's giant deficit isn't so bad for large corporations, many of which would receive a permanent windfall.
About $1 billion in corporate tax breaks -- directed mostly at multi-state and multinational companies -- is tucked into the proposal.
But wait, won't a big corporate tax cut cause companies to come to California, creating jobs? No, they are already here and it will drive them away, because it is paid for by firing teachers.
A study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released in 2005, found that most companies decide where to locate based not on tax breaks but on factors such as the availability of a highly educated workforce. California's proposed plan would cut spending on higher education by hundreds of millions of dollars.
So how did this happen? This was part of the deal to get a few Republican votes. And why did the Republicans want this so bad? Because they understood who really elected them.
If you look at the independent expenditure reports for the 2008 California election you'll see a massive amount of last-minute money. For example, in the 19th Senate District, a political action committee (PAC) named "Californians for Jobs and Education" put almost $1 million into just one race: $570,653 into defeating Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, and another $373,778 to help elect her opponent, Republican Tony Strickland. When you look this group up on ElectionTrack you learn that this money came from corporations like Arkansas' Wal-Mart, Blue Cross of Ohio (Ohio?), Reliant Energy, major real estate companies, and from other PACs.
Now it gets interesting. Many of the contributions to that PAC came from other PACs, especially one called Jobs Pac. When you track down Jobs PAC you find that it is a conduit for huge, huge amounts of money coming from large corporations like Philip Morris, ATT, Chevron, Safeway, Sempra Energy, Verizon, big insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies, big real estate companies ... and other conduits like the Chamber of Commerce.
Why did these huge corporations put so much money into California state elections? Because we let them, and because of the return on investment they receive from tax cuts like the one that is forcing us to fire so many of our teachers.
There is a key lesson to learn from this. When it comes time to choose, that is when you can really see who is for or against something -- where their priorities really are. And in this case, when push came to shove, in the end who did the conservatives come through for? The large corporations. They danced with the ones that brung them.
Click through to Speak Out California
March 30, 2009
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is the federal agency that insures YOUR pension. It collects insurance premiums from all the private pensions, and holds them in reserve to cover some of the losses if things go bad so you get at least some of your money.
But under Bush, they decided -- just as the stock market started to drop -- to put most of the money into stocks. It had been in bonds. See Pension insurer shifted to stocks - The Boston Globe,
Just months before the start of last year's stock market collapse, the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.This wasn't stupid -- it was most likely a way to enrich certain friends of The Party, buying from them just as the bottom fell out. We need to look at the specific beneficiaries of this money to find out.
There are many instances of Bush and other Republicans putting government money into enriching friends by buying up the problems just as their own holdings became worthless. For example, under Jeb Bush Florida put state pension money into Enron stock just as Enron started to collapse.
In 2005 I wrote "If you live in a state where Republicans run things, this might be a good time to see if the money is still there." Now we're finding out that applies to countries, too.
(And never forget that Bush gave the contract for filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Koch Oil, a funder of a lot of the right's organizational infrastructure. They also used government money to buy high and sold low.)
Anyway, here's the thing. Direct corruption or ideologically-driven incompetence, either way... Republicans understand how to pound a point home and teach the larger lesson. This is just one more thing that drives home the point about how conservative ideology is harmful to people. Drudge has giant headlines for any smallest example of something that reinforces an ongoing narrative that liberals are socialists, etc., always teaching the larger lesson. We need to learn how to explain to the general public why progressive values and policies are better for them than conservatives. Especially now when the lesson can be taught so clearly. This story should be all over the place.
March 16, 2009
Actually the headline sort of says it all. When GM needed a loan the autoworkers in the factories were forced to take pay cuts. But when the "too big to fail" Wall Street firms got bailouts many times the size of what GM needed, they continue to pay dividends, they continue to pay huge bonuses, and they send out taxpayer dollars to pay off banks in other countries. And they continue to spend millions on lobbying.
Our democracy truly is broken. We, the People have no say and receive few benefits from our economy.
Warning, this will make you FURIOUS!
Read about the four and five-figure brunch parties that Wall Street types enjoy. Read about the $1000 bottles of champagne that flow. At Saturday Brunches, the Bubbly Flows On, Even in Hard Times.
I'll skip straight to the punch line:
As for how he and his fellow Wall Streeters could still afford such afternoons, he said: “We all made so much money in the past five years, it doesn’t matter.”Let that sink in a while. Suckers.
A 29-year-old man who works for a large investment management firm and was at Bagatelle’s brunch one recent Saturday and at Merkato 55’s the next, put it another way: “If you’d asked me in October, I’d say it’d be a different situation, and I don’t think I’d be here. Then the government gave us $10 billion.” [emphasis added]
March 11, 2009
He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.
-- Leonardo da Vinci
February 22, 2009
Read about how a contract for petentially unsafe Italian helicopters that will be used to fly the President might just be a Bush payoff to Italy for helping get us into the Iraq war, in Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents?,
that they were doing something extraordinarily wrong. The rigged bidding process bypassed, for example, Marine One pilots who repeatedly sought to give input. They had many safety concerns. At the time of the bid, the helicopter chosen was not certified to fly in the U.S. It was an old model made of heavy materials; this flew in the face of why the President supposedly needed a new fleet: i.e., so many extra security devices had been added to Marine One after 9/11, it was struggling to lift off. In its losing bid, the Connecticut-based Sikorsky, which had manufactured virtually all presidential helicopters since Eisenhower first ordered one, proposed a new model made of much lighter, composite materials.
February 13, 2009
In Pennsylvania they caught two judges jailing kids for profit. Here's the scheme: Two privately-run detention centers are built. The judges make a deal with the companies, and order state juvenile detention facilities shut down for being in poor condition. Then they start sentencing lots of kids to serve jail time in the private facilities. Always jail time, for anything, an no lenience. The kids are taken away in shackles. The state gives money to the private facilities for taking the kids, and the judges get kickbacks.
We're talking about 5,000 kids.
I think it would be a good idea to look into ALL situations of people of ALL ages being sentenced to any privately-run facility. There is a profit motive involved, and we have learned from the banks and from the Republican destruction of the economy what can happen when a profit motive is involved.
February 8, 2009
The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.So the McCain campaign gets $120K donated a big law firm that is prohibited from contributing to a campaign. Well, technically the money didn't go directly to the McCain campaign, it went to pay most of the expense of keeping Alaska from its duty to investigrate Palin's corruption.
The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.
And Focus On The Family kicking in $25K through front groups. Of course.
February 2, 2009
In today's NY Times: Justice Dept. Under Obama Is Preparing for Doctrinal Shift in Policies of Bush Years
Question: Will the Obama Justice Dept reverse the Bush DOJ's dropping the Microsoft case? Eight years ago, after the Clinton administration WON a major antitrust case against Microsoft the Bush administration came in and "settled" largely on Microsoft's terms. This signaled that the Bush administration was open for businesses, and that companies who payed up and helped fund the Republican lobbyist machine could expect favors. And the floodgates of corruption opened wide.
Now we have a new administration, and Microsoft still has a near-monopoly in operating systems and a total monopoly in office software. Little has changed. (Yes, Mac has a small share of OS, but even the Mac requires MS Office to be usable in business.)
Can the antitrust suit be revived?
January 16, 2009
Today's column by Paul Krugman, Forgive and Forget? is a must-read.
Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.
Law is not just for the people underneath. Accountability is necessary or the entire society is corrupted.
But an investigation into the corruption of the Bush administration isn't just about holding wrongdoers accountable. We also owe it to the rest of the world to reflect on how this happened, and to take steps to assure them that it won't happen again.
Speaking of happening again, just why would an Obama administration resist holding those at the top accountable?
January 8, 2009
Doctors did a study in Peublo, Colorado after the city banned smoking in workplaces and indoor public areas. They compared hospital admissions for heart attacks for a year before and three years after the ban, and compared the results with two nearby areas that did not have similar bans.
The study found a 41 percent drop in hospital admissions for heart attacks resulting from the public smoking ban.
It turns out that tobacco companies started studying this in 1971 and knew about these results. But instead of doing something about it "Philip Morris masterminded a massive global effort to confuse and deceive the public about the health hazards of secondhand smoke and to delay laws restricting smoking in indoor public places."
Read about the techniques they used to prevent smoking bans at: Deadly Deception: The Tobacco Industry's Secondhand Smoke Cover Up | Center for Media and Democracy
January 6, 2009
Things would be very different if government employees, regulators and legislators were banned (for at least five years) from taking any job with or accepting anything of value (including campaign donations) from any company, organization, person or other entity that they did any business with in government.
No more lucrative positions after leaving the job. No more bribes of any kind. That would remove an incentive for doing anything other than serving the interests of the public.
(For book contracts I would ban all advances and any compensation that is different from what most publishers give as a standard contract. Also, there should be an oversight mechanism that tracks bulk purchases... Remember when FOX's Murdoch tried to give Newt Gingrich a "book contract" advance of $4 million, and when the book came out no one bought it?)
A component of the current financial collapse is loss of confidence due to fraud resulting from inadequate regulation. In an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times, The End of the Financial World as We Know It, Michael Lewis and David Einhorn wrote,
Created to protect investors from financial predators, the commission has somehow evolved into a mechanism for protecting financial predators with political clout from investors. (The task it has performed most diligently during this crisis has been to question, intimidate and impose rules on short-sellers — the only market players who have a financial incentive to expose fraud and abuse.)To repeat: Instead of protecting investors from fraud the Bush/Republican SEC protects predators from investors. How did it get to be that way?
This might be a good time to remind people of a scandal that was developing before the 9/11 attacks removed everything else from the news.
Summary of the Bush/Harken scandal: George W. Bush was on the Board of Directors of Harken Energy Company and owned stock that had been purchased with a loan from Harken. In 1989 Harken used an Enron-like scheme to conceal losses by selling most of a subsidiary to an off-the-books entity that was controlled by company insiders. This caught up to them and in June, 1990, the Directors were warned that the company was about to report a big loss. The Directors were also warned that it would be illegal for them to sell any stock because they had insider information. Bush promised he would hold the stock and then sold his stock for more than $800,000. (It has not been disclosed who the buyer was.) Soon after Bush's sale the company announced the loss and the stock price dropped. Bush also did not file required forms with the SEC. When this came to light Bush was quietly investigated by the SEC - with his father as President of the United States. The SEC never interviewed Bush, and of course they did not file any charges even after finding significant wrongdoing. It also appears that Bush may not have paid any taxes on the stock sale or on loans he received from Harken and never repaid.
Boston Globe: Board Was Told of Risks Before Bush Stock Sale
Salon: Memos: Bush knew of Harken's problems.
Democrats.com: Did George W. Bush Evade Income Taxes on His Harken Loans?
Here is the BuzzFlash Bush/Harken Insider Trading Collection.
UK Guardian: Bush and Harken Energy
And, about that SEC, June, 2005: Bush S.E.C. Pick Is Seen as Friend to Corporations
Oh, and about that Harken: June, 2008: Indicted Saudi investor in Harken Energy gets $80 million Pentagon contract
December 23, 2008
Ford pardoned Nixon, which led to the crimes/bribery/theft/fraud/lies/wars of the Reagan/Bush I administration. It also led to a common understanding that in America the big fish operate under different rules and are held to a different standard.
Reagan was let off the hook for Iran/Contra and Bush I pardoned everyone who otherwise might have testified against him. Then under Clinton they let bygones be bygones, bribery remain unpunished and stolen money stay stolen which led to the crimes of Bush II. (It also paved the way for Clinton's impeachment because they knew the Dems would let them get away with anything and the public was ready for a story about people at the top not being let off the hook.)
If you don't prosecute lawbreaking and hold accountable the lawbreakers, it will just happen over and over, worse each time. Throughout the Bush II administration the Dems refused to hold anyone accountable and look what's happening today.
December 12, 2008
The Republicans killed the auto copany bridge loan in the Senate. Here is my prediction for what happens next:
Bush will "rescue" the auto companies using the TARP program. But, of course, to do that, they will need the next $350 billion immediately. Any Democrat who opposes giving Bush this next $350 billion to hand out to his friends before leaving office is, of course, voting to kill the economy and the UAW, etc...
December 1, 2008
Montana Senator Max Baucus, flush with millions in corporate (including insurance company) money, is a gatekeeper for any health care bill. He recently said:
The only thing that’s not on the table is a single-payer system. That’s going nowhere in this country.So he is target number one. Can we get him removed from those important committee assignments? Can we get him recalled? Can we get him impeached for accepting bribes with a quid quo pro of blocking health care reform? How can we get a health care system that works for us instead of harvests us past this guy?
See the comprehensive diary Daily Kos: Naughty Max Baucus: "The only thing that’s not on the table is a single-payer system."
October 28, 2008
I suggest that the day after the election we start a RECALL of ANY members of Congress who voted for the bailout package.
It did not have sufficient protections and guarantees for taxpayers. It just handed a ton of our money over to the Bush administration to do with as they pleased.
It didn't limit compensation. It didn't specify how the money was to be used by the receiving companies. It didn't require that the public receive a voting share of control of the companies. It didn't require that the public receive sufficient oversight of the process.
October 27, 2008
This ad from Campaign Money Watch will run in VA and FL. But that doesn't mean YOU can't forward it around!
October 19, 2008
Our Congress was manipulated by fear into voting hundreds of billions for a Wall Street Bailout.
So see if you can guess where the money is going?
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.I'm sorry, what? You expected something different?
Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
Every member of Congress who voted for this bailout needs to be recalled.
October 18, 2008
We're about to see the full force power and fury of the right-wing machine unleashed. I'm not so sure Obama will keep his lead through the next phase, or if there will be a country when they're done.
The RNC and the McCain campaign has been accusing Obama and Democrats of being "un-American" or "anti-American" and "dangerous" and "terrorists" and anything they can think of. Today McCain said Obama's tax policies are "Socialist." Across the country the first phase of robo-calls has started, with nasty smears, lies, fear-mongering and you-name-it being pumped into people's homes at all hours.
It is only going to get worse. And then it will get worse. And then it will get really nasty. The next two weeks will go down in history. The corporate right faces the prospect of the people bringing them back under control, and a look at where all the money went. The authoritarian right faces investigations for torture and war crimes. The party operatives face jail time for illegal politicization of the entire government. They will not go without a huge fight.
I really don't know where things will go in the next two weeks, but keep up your spirits, and fight back.
And, of course, watch your backs.
October 17, 2008
The Obama campaign today sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey asking that he expand the scope of the ongoing investigation into Justice Department politicization to "include a review of any involvement by the Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC)'s systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud."
Briefly, the DOJ politicization scandal stems from Republican efforts to conduct partisan vote fraud investigations before the 2006 election. Prosecutors who refused were fired, prosecutors who played along were not fired (and are still there). After an outcry and the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales the new Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, appointed a special prosecutor to look into the politicization. The current vote fraud accusations and accompanying Justice Department, FBI and White House involvement follow the same pattern, and are based on no credible evidence, so the Obama campaign believes that it may be related to the ongoing partisan politicization of the government's law enforcement.
Update - Ari Melber at The Washington Independent has more,
Citing an “unholy alliance” between Republican operatives and potentially illegal conduct by law enforcement targeting voter fraud, the Obama campaign demanded Friday that the U.S. special prosecutor looking into the U.S. attorney scandal investigate the matter.
General counsel Bob Bauer sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey charging that coordinated “misconduct” by McCain campaign representatives and GOP officials were relevant to the special prosecutor’s work, because the activities may relate to the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys in late 2006.
The letter requests that the special prosecutor’s inquiry “include a review of any involvement by Justice Dept. and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign [and RNC's] systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”
October 16, 2008
This in the news today: Officials: FBI investigates ACORN for voter fraud,
The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election. A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press on Thursday.First, it is ILLEGAL for anyone in the government to leak news of an FBI investigation. That by itself should be a tipoff to what is going on here.
A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of recent raids on ACORN offices in several states for any evidence of a coordinated national scam.
Second, this is what the Justice Department politicization scandal was about: prosecutors fired for refusing to involve themselves in phony pre-election investigations of vote fraud, and others who were not fired because they played along. Those prosecutors are still on the job. Get it yet?
I am seeing 24.7 hysteria in the media that ACORN is engaged in a conspiracy to steal the election. But once you look into it there is not a single fact behind the charges. In fact, there were a total of 26 cases of voter fraud in the United States in a 5-year period studied.
Meanwhile the Republicans are fighting to purge millions of citizens from the voting rolls before the election. Do you not get it yet?
October 11, 2008
It looks like questions are coming up on the $12.5 million in architect /construction contracts for building Wasilla's Sports Complex. The charges: the construction contracts went to Palin/Republican campaign contributors, and then the contractors also may have built Palin a house for free.
October 8, 2008
The National REPUBLICAN Congressional Committee has received $8 MILLION from Wachovia Bank.
Credit crunch? Unsecured loans impossible to find?
Chris Bowers at OpenLeft writes that,
in the short term, this is effectively an $8 million donation to the NRCC from Wachovia at a time when Wachovia is supposedly in dire straits, about to be bought out by other banks, and will receive money from the government via the bailout.The Bush administration is about to start handing out taxpayer cash for bad debts, and suddenly the NRCC gets $8 million from Wachovia. Come on. How blatant can it be?
October 7, 2008
Oh My God! That is my comment on the things that McCain is saying during this debate. Fannie and Freddie? So he's going with the racist nonsense promoted by the far right that loans to black people are the cause of this crisis.
He's saying that Obama "took money" from them, as a bribe to ignore the excesses, when his campaign manager was a top lobbyist for them?
Oh My God! He's just going to lie and smear.
That is the entirety of my Debate Live Blogging. Or not.
Update - Well OK, why doesn't McCain think that kids should visit planetariums?
Update - Tom Brokaw is a good moderator for a McCain debate. I don't mean that as a compliment.
Update- Apology. I meant Oh My God! My Friend.
October 6, 2008
On Friday Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin released her tax forms. It turns out that the money she was taking as a "per diem" was never claimed as income, and she owes thousands in back taxes. Was she caught in old fashioned corruption with a tax fraud scheme?
Several tax experts have weighed in on this, all saying she owes taxes and should have claimed the income. See MyDD :: Tax Profs: Palin Owes Thousands in Back Taxes for more.
August 23, 2008
REPUBLICAN OFFENDERS tracks Republicans convicted of or indicted for felonies in the last ten years.
It is a verrrry long list.
August 9, 2008
A new group called Accountable America is warning conservative donors about staying within election laws. The New York Times wrote about this the other day with the misleading headline, Group Plans Campaign Against G.O.P. Donors.
Of course it isn't a "campaign against GOP donors" it is a campaign warning against unlawful and unethical activity. But stopping unlawful activity just might dry up a lot of the Republican Party's -- and the right's supporting infrastructure's -- cash flow. This includes 501c3 tax-free "charity" think tanks and 501c4 "issue" organizations that are really illegally engaged in candidate activity, or otherwise acting as conduits for corporate money or for those who have "maxed out" (reached the legal limit) for political donations.
The other day I wrote about,
... companies intimidating workers to vote a certain way, churches, think tanks, front groups incorporated as c4s but doing candidate work, campaigns violating election laws, etc.So I guess great minds think alike. Heh.
... Suppose [we could create] some concern among the Wal-Marts and the Sheldon Adelsons that they had better think about following the law?
What would this do to the funding sources of the right's machine?
There is plenty of need for an effort to get conservative and corporate donors to follow the law. Just for example -- last week's news about "curious" bundled political contributions made by employees of oil companies receiving billion-dollar contracts from the government to McCain and Republicans. Some of these donations came from people clearly unable to make such a donation on their own. This makes it appear that the companies may have illegally given these people money to give to McCain and the Republican Party and groups are demanding an investigation (that will never happen).
[Public interest groups] want the Justice Department to investigate whether bundlers for John McCain's presidential campaign are using "straw" donations -- those made in the name of someone else to evade contribution limits.A story at TPM elaborates,
"An executive from a company that has a billion dollar contract to deliver oil to U.S. bases in Iraq possibly violated election law to funnel contributions to McCain. We think that warrants an investigation."Now that Accountable America is on the scene maybe corporations and big donors who are thinking about engaging in illegal activities will think twice.
And on the Hess matter ... : "An office manager for an oil company that stands to gain millions in profits from offshore drilling makes donations for the first time this cycle to McCain, and did it at the same time nine other Hess donors do. That's worth an investigation."
If you want to help this effort you can donate by clicking here.
* The new group will offer a $100,000 reward to those providing information that leads to the conviction or judgment against a conservative or business-related organization that violates the law.
* Accountable America will provide information to the public through television ads, mailings, phone calls and its Web site.
* Next week the organization plans to send a mailing warning nearly 10,000 Republican donors of the consequences of funding organizations that break or skirt the law.
August 3, 2008
The Republican Party's hiring itself out to the oil industry for this coordinated "Drill Now" campaign reminds me of an old joke. (I'll shorten it.)
Kentucky Fried Chicken comes to the Pope and says, "We'll give you $500,000 a year to change the Lord's Prayer to 'give us this day our daily fried chicken'." The Pope says, "No way." Then they offer $1 million. The Pope gives a long spiel about this is a sacred prayer, from God, etc. They give their final offer: $10 million a year.
The next day the Pope meets with his Cardinals and says, "The good news is I have brought us $10 million a year."
"The bad news is I lost the Wonder Bread account."
The other day I wrote,
This is a political party involving itself in a corporate product marketing campaign, for money. This "drill now" campaign is funded by oil companies, and is about giving them even more special government favors. It isn't a lot different from changing a stadium's name to "Enron Stadium" or Pac Bell park" etc.Your modern Republicans -- A political party reduced to hiring itself out to sell product!
This political campaign is in conjunction with an oil industry PR campaign to try to get the government to hand them even more drilling leases than the millions of acres they already have (and sit on without drilling). It came just as oil prices peaked and suggests that oil prices peaked in order to prime the public for this campaign.
May 13, 2008
Question, has there been a pattern of buying at high prices and selling at low prices? An enterprising investigative report might find a story here.
Is this a manipulation of oil prices, to the benefit of funders of the right and the anti-Gore global warming denial industry?
April 29, 2008
Note that "Pentagon" means the Republican Party appointees in the administration who run the Department of Defense, which resides in the Pentagon.
The Pentagon was conducting "information operations" targeting the American public. This program was blatantly illegal.
Note that almost NO news outlets involved are reporting on this story at all. What does that tell you?
April 24, 2008
A Senate committee issued a strongly-worded statement to Sen. Domenici for his involvement in the US Attorney scandal.
With that out of the way, the US Attorneys who didn't get fired (because they were willing to play along with Republican corruption and politicization) will now start indicting Senate Democrats in time for the election. And the Democrats will again issue strongly-worded statement. From prison. Because they just don't seem to know better than to bring strongly-worded statements to a machine-gun fight.
April 6, 2008
Firedoglake: More DOJ Politicization Questions Being Raised got me thinking: Whatever happened to the Abramoff investigation? The Cunningham/Wilkes investigation? Weren't they going to lead to wider circles of corruption? Weren't they looking at a number of other Republican Congressmen? Weren't they looking at Bush administration officials? Weren't they looking at contractors? It all just faded away -- after the prosecutor was fired.
And now, instead, we're reading about indictments of Democrats and progressives.
But, don't worry, the Democrats in the House and Senate issued strongly worded statements, so everything is OK.
March 24, 2008
Please watch this video about the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his organization's political influence with the Republicans. This is an important story. Moon, for example, owns the Washington Times. Front groups set up by his organization have been receiving millions of tax dollars from the Bush Administration.
And definitely get the new book on Moon, Bad Moon Rising, by John Gorenfeld
February 22, 2008
The Bush Justice Department politicization case is about the corruption of our government to work in support of one political party.
They used our government to reward their friends, including financially, and to punish their enemies. And their enemies were Americans like you and me. In one case they were able to put a Governor in jail for being a Democrat. If you don't believe me, 52 former states’ attorneys general from both political parties are making the same case.
Kagro X writes about this over at Daily Kos. Every American should read his post: Daily Kos: If it can happen to a Governor...,
Nobody indicted by the Bush-Cheney DOJ can possibly help but wonder whether they're being targeted by the White House political machine. Not Don Siegelman. Not Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. Nobody.If it could happen to a Governor it could happen to anybody -- including you.
And once America realizes this really can happen (it's previously been unimaginable, and therefore all too easy to dismiss as "conspiracy theory"), you can bet your last dollar that any Republican indicted by a Democratic administration will be making that claim, too.
We've already watched in horror and amazement as Bush-Cheney, flouting the law left and right, painted the Congress into the "impeachment is off the table" corner for fear (among other things) of being tarred with the "revenge for Clinton" and "tit for tat" brushes. One hardly need stretch the imagination to foresee precisely this hurdle being thrown up in the path of a Democratic administration elected with a mandate to clean out the Republican Culture of Corruption.
Watch your backs.
February 21, 2008
Does anyone remember this story, about McCain's Abramoff hearings?
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has assured his colleagues that his expanding investigation into the activities of a former GOP lobbyist and a half-dozen of his tribal casino clients is not directed at revealing ethically questionable actions by Members of Congress.He used the hearings to shield, not investigate, his fellow Republicans
. . .
"It's not our responsibility in any way to involve ourselves in the ethics process [of Senators]," McCain said Wednesday, explaining the comments he made to his fellow GOP Senators. "That was not the responsibility of the Indian Affairs Committee."
. . . Because of those stories - and several other news reports touching on Abramoff's relationship with Members - McCain said he wanted to let Senators know that he was not trying to air any of their dirty laundry.
February 18, 2008
The government was forced by an animal rights group to recall 143 million pounds of beef, after videos showed obviously sick animals being led to the slaughterhouse.
Because of Republican policies there had been fewer and fewer inspections of the slaughterhouse or meat.
Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing "downer" animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced down their throats...This is why I do not eat meat -because of the way animals are treated in corporate America.
[. . .] Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten.
[. . .] Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.
And this is why the public needs to understand the harm that comes from unbridled corporatization of everything. We, the People are supposed to be in control, but we are instead being herded and harvested for our cash.
February 14, 2008
When Clinton was President the Republican Congress issued more than 1000 subpoenas, and the Clinton administration complied with every single one.
Under the Republican Congress, President Bush was not issued even one subpoena. Not one. The Bush administration was allowed to get away with anything, anything it did. Impunity.
But then the Democrats took control of Congress and asked for some onformation. The Bush administration refused to provide it. So they issued a few subpoenas, and the Bush administration refused to comply. For months and months the Congress negotiated, and the Bush administration continued to stonewall and refuse to comply. Literally the definition of contempt.
So finally, finally the Congress has started to enforce the law: House finds White House officials in contempt of Congress,
The House voted Thursday to hold White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before a panel investigating the firing of several United States attorneys.
January 20, 2008
Invoking executive privilege, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused to provide lawmakers Friday with a full explanation of why it rejected California's greenhouse gas regulations.But we know why they did it. They did it because the oil companies are paying the Republican Party. DUH!
. . . The refusal to provide a full explanation is the latest twist in a congressional investigation into why the EPA denied California permission to impose what would have been the country's toughest greenhouse gas standards on cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.
In denying the waiver last month, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that the federal government is implementing a national fuel efficiency standard.
Johnson's decision spurred congressional investigations and a legal challenge this month by California and 15 other states.
January 6, 2008
Every American should read Why I Believe Bush Must Go byGeorge McGovern in today's Washington Post.
January 2, 2008
Funny how all those corruption investigations stopped when all those prosecutors got fired, isn't it? Here's another: Burns no longer part of Abramoff probe,
Former Sen. Conrad Burns is no longer part of a federal investigation of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Justice Department said Wednesday.I'm not saying Burns was involved with Abramoff or not. I AM saying that there is no reason to have any confidence that anyone in this Justice Department is interested in finding out. He's a Republican, so the case is dropped. We know that the reason those prosecutors who were fired was they wouldn'[t "play ball" with the politicization, and we know the ones who did and dropped investigations of Republicans and/or initiated investigations of Democrats kept their jobs. They are still there, the Congress isn't doing their job of getting to the bottom of this, so we're left with the assumption of political interference and corruption.
Burns, R-Mont., narrowly lost re-election to a fourth term in 2006 after Democrats made his relationship with Abramoff a central issue. Abramoff is the key figure in a corruption investigation that has led to convictions of a former congressman, legislative aides, lobbyists and officials in the Bush administration.
November 21, 2007
There is lead in the toys our kids play with. What is the Republican government doing about it?
Accepting expensive trips, etc. from the toy industry, refusing to inspect toys. What else did you expect?
And who's gonna do anything about it, punk. Democrats in Congress? Not on your life. (Or your kids' lives.)
Campaign for america's Future has a petition. Go sign it, and send others to see the video.
November 7, 2007
Federal money funneled to the President's BROTHER! D'ya think may THAT has an appearance of impropriety?
Well do ya, punk?
The Education Department's inspector general says he will review whether federal money is inappropriately being spent on programs by a company founded by Neil Bush, the president's brother.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Washington-based watchdog group, called for the inquiry and released a letter this week from the department's inspector general, John Higgins Jr.
. . . The group contends school districts inappropriately are using federal dollars for Ignite! Learning Inc. programs. It says there is no proof the company's products are effective and claims the schools are using the products due to political considerations.
October 27, 2007
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing $25 million in earmarked federal funds for a British defense contractor that is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and suspected by American diplomats of a "longstanding, widespread pattern of bribery allegations."What's to say? It still is a Republican culture of corruption. They don't even try to hide it. The fix is in at the Justice Department - all the prosecutors who were investigating Republican corruption were fired...
McConnell tucked money for three weapons projects for BAE Systems into the defense appropriations bill, which the Senate approved Oct. 3. The Defense Department failed to include the money in its own budget request, which required McConnell to intercede, said BAE spokeswoman Susan Lenover.
... McConnell has taken at least $53,000 in campaign donations from BAE's political action committees and employees since his 2002 re-election. United Defense Industries, which BAE purchased two years ago, pledged $500,000 to a political-science foundation the senator created, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.
October 21, 2007
Frank Rich's column today, Suicide Is Not Painless, talks about the systematic corruption of defense contracting, especially where Iraq is involved.
Here's the thing. You and I read the blogs, so we already know at least something about what is going on. You and I know about, for example, the truckloads of cash that were shipped to Iraq to be handed out in bricks. We know about the $9 billion that just disappeared. But most people in the country are not exposed to the information that blog readers take for granted, haven't heard about it, and would have a hard time believing that anything like this is going on. I'm serious. But remember, a huge chunk of the population still thinks that Iraq attacked us on 9/11 - or was at least involved - and there's a big chunk that believes that weapons of mass destruction were found.
There is something we can all do to help. Today's column about the corruption should be sent around by e-mail to people who don't usually read blogs.
Please help with this by e-mailing it to people. People need to know about the corruption and fraud that our huge "defense" budget is generating. If more people understood what is going on, there would be less vulnerability to Republican propaganda that says cutting military budgets - or even having hearings looking into the corruption - is unpatriotic. That kind of talk is nothing but a game to keep the corruption going, but it will keep working unless more people learn about what is going on and where their money is going.
The Abramoff corruption machine was modeled after the defense-contractor scheme, but was tiny and amateurish in comparison. (For example, the Abramoff operation didn't actually buy entire media companies as a way to help keep people from learning about the racket, as defense contractors have done.)
Please read Frank Rich's column today, and please, please send it to friends and relatives who might not otherwise see what is going on. And ask them to send it on to others!
Please read it, and e-mail it to others. Then, after you have done that, read Billions over Baghdad, another story about the massive corruption.
October 18, 2007
I was talking to someone yesterday about how it looks like the Bushies "got to" the Seigelman judge. She said, "So what? No one will do anything about it anyway."
She's right. All those US Attorneys who "played ball" are still in place, waiting to let Republicans off the hook and indict a bunch of Demcorats for things they didn't do - just in time for the next election.
It's one of the worst things about everything that is happening -- no accountability, and the Dems also won't hold anyone accountable. There are no consequences for the lawbreaking and corruption we see all around us.
October 17, 2007
If you are following the case of the selective prosecution of Alabama Governor Siegelman, this is of great interest.
Why did the judge go along with everything the Justice Department wanted in this sham trial? Maybe this answers the question: Daily Kos: DOJ Scandal Deepens, Siegelman Judge Exposed
Summary: Before the trial the judge was accused of pension fraud, misuse of his office, perjury, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of the FBI's background check for the Federal Judiciary. But the Justice Department didn't do anything about this - never responded at all. And then along comes the Seigelman prosecution.
The charges were submitted to the DOJ's public integrity section by a respected defense attorney who conducted a routine investigation prior to trying a major case. The charges were sufficiently credible to get judge Fuller removed from that case. However, he was allowed to preside over the Siegelman case. These charges of criminal activity were corroborated by signed documents by public officials involved in exposing the alleged pension fraud by Judge Fuller.From Harper's Magazine.
October 4, 2007
A quick question. I'm trying to remember if any Clinton administration officials were convicted of a crime committed while in office? I remember early in the administration a guy had to resign after he was caught taking a helicopter ride to a golf game. Webster Hubble was convicted of overbilling clients before taking office. But was there anyone caught with a hand in the cookie jar? Even one?
September 10, 2007
I came across some interesting "tort reform" laws in various states. It seems several state governments understand their job as protecting wealthy corporations from citizens, not the other way around. As I read this list:
In several states it is illegal to sue fast food companies if their products harm your health, give you diabetes, etc.
In Colorado it is against the law to sue a ski resort.
In California it is illegal to sue a tobacco company.
Florida you can’t sue a store if a powered shopping cart injures you.
In Indiana medical malpractice awards are limited to $1.25 million even if the resulting required medical care costs more.
In Kansas punitive damages when a corporation injures you are limited to your annual income, regardless of what the corporation did or how much money they made from the actions that harmed you.
In Maryland, if a corporation kills a member of your family, they don’t have to pay more than $500,000. In Wisconsin it is $350,000 if an adult was killed.
In Mississippi the amount you can claim in damages if a corporation harms a member of your family is limited to your net worth when injured.
In South Carolina you can’t sue a skating rink operator.
In Utah doctors can refuse to treat a patient unless the patient agrees in advance not to sue them.
September 1, 2007
NASA spent over $100 million on a satellite to investigate climate change. It's all ready to launch. But NASA mothballed it instead. A DeSmogBlog exclusive investigation into NASA's DSCOVR climate station
What happened? How could the US government possibly justify killing DSCOVR given the importance of climate change and after over 90% of the project expenses had already been incurred? What role did petty partisan politics play in this? Did the oil lobby have any influence on this decision?
... The Earth’s temperature is a delicate balance between the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere and the amount being reflected back into space. This second number is called “albedo” and it is vitally important to scientists trying to develop reliable computer models on our changing climate. DSCOVR would provide vastly improved measurements of the Earth’s albedo because from L1, it would be able to continuously observe the entire sunlit disc of our planet.
Interestingly, a common complaint of climate change deniers has been that the satellite data used to develop climate models is unreliable. DSCOVR would go a long way to settling whatever honest debate remained about the reliability of those models.
Considering that these climate models are now driving enormous public policy decisions, one would think that DSCOVR would be a top priority.
... The French were so alarmed by the foot dragging by NASA they offered to send DSCOVR into space themselves at a greatly reduced cost. The Ukranian government even offered to launch DSCOVR for free aboard a Tsyklon IV rocket – the most reliable launch vehicle in the world.
August 24, 2007
Wanna get angry? I mean really, really angry? I just finished reading The Great Iraq Swindle: : Rolling Stone and I am really, REALLY angry now.
Iraq was the big test of the Republican vision of a privatized, outsourced government. But what it really was, was billions and billions of taxpayer dollars just handed to Republican-crony contractors - to do nothing or worse.
George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.Read this story. It talks about the environment in which everyone understood that the gates to the US Treasury were open, and the party was on, and the best part was the government expected you to steal, wanted you to steal, encouraged you to steal - because that was what the war was for.
... What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureaucracy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profiteering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.
The Bush administration's lack of interest in recovering stolen funds is one of the great scandals of the war. The White House has failed to litigate a single case against a contractor under the False Claims Act and has not sued anybody for breach of contract. It even declined to join in a lawsuit filed by whistle-blowers who are accusing KBR of improper invoicing in Fallujah.
And then anyone who tries to do anything about it is fired and blacklisted - or worse. Worse, as in forced out of the protected, guarded areas and on your own among the insurgents.
Go read it.
What's more, when anyone in the government tried to question what contractors were up to with taxpayer money, they were immediately blackballed and treated like an enemy.
[. . .] And how did her superiors in the Pentagon respond to the wrongdoing highlighted by their own chief procurement officer? First they gave KBR a waiver for the overbilling, blaming the problem on an Iraqi subcontractor. Then they dealt with Greenhouse by demoting her and cutting her salary, citing a negative performance review. The retaliation sent a clear message to any would-be whistle-blowers. "It puts a chill on you," Greenhouse says. "People are scared stiff."
They were scared stiff in Iraq, too, and for good reason. When civilian employees complained about looting or other improprieties, contractors sometimes threatened to throw them outside the gates of their bases -- a life-threatening situation for any American.
August 21, 2007
Another example of what Republican crony government means to your life.
The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.
Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.
... Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six parts per million.
The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.
“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”
August 1, 2007
Apparently the US Attorney firings were not JUST about political prosecutions. At least one was fired because he wouldn't play ball with the corruption machine.
The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.With this in mind, look back at a few other examples of the Justice Department's handling of big-money corporate cases. Remember when the Bush Justice Department let Microsoft off the hook after the Clinton Justice Department had already won the case? And how about when the Bush Justice Department let the tobacco companies off the hook on payment for killing millions?
John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.
Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.
How many similar cases can you recall? These cases were worth billions of dollars to the companies involved. How much money changed hands? There are some nice, fat Swiss bank accounts out there.
July 31, 2007
You may have heard that the FBI searched Republican Senator Stevens' house yesterday.Senator Stevens. But you may not have heard that the Republican Justice Department gave him a warning and time to clear out any evidence.
Stevens said in a statement that his attorneys were advised of the impending search yesterday morning.I spent nearly 9 years as a federal prosecutor. I'm not aware of a single instance when any prosecutor or agent told anyone outside the Justice Department that a search warrant was going to be executed later in the day.
July 24, 2007
Do you remember that Al Gore was accused of improperly making a fundraising call from a government office, and of improper fundraising when he visited a Buddhist temple? The right's machine was able to turn these insignificant events into major, major scandal stories that are still repeated to this day. A Google search yields more than half a million websites that mention these. They even tried to get another special prosecutor just for this, claiming that the Clinton Justice Department would cover up Gore's crimes. (Remember, lack of evidence of ANY Clinton or Gore wrongdoing was proof of a massive coverup conspiracy.)
The Republicans even made an accusation that Clinton used his Christmas card list for political purposes into a major story, with a Congressional investigation and days of hearings. They even made a huge scandal out of an accusation that the Clinton White Hose "tracked donors."
As a result much of the public to this day thinks that the Clinton White House improperly used the government to help them raise funds.
Compare and contrast - does thie public "know" about the Bush corruption of the entire government for political purposes? Is is getting the same coverage in the media? Political Briefings At Agencies Disclosed,
White House officials conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity, a White House spokesman and other administration officials said yesterday.This is not about fundraising, this is about use of the power of the government itself to promote the interests of a political party.
The previously undisclosed briefings were part of what now appears to be a regular effort in which the White House sent senior political officials to brief top appointees in government agencies on which seats Republican candidates might win or lose, and how the election outcomes could affect the success of administration policies, the officials said.
And today, not just the Bush Justice Department and the General Services Administration, also the State Department,
Karl Rove ... instructed his White House deputies to repeatedly brief State Department officials and U.S. ambassadors in key foreign missions about GOP electoral priorities.
[. . .] raises the question of how U.S. foreign policy, and specific binational relationships, is unfolding right now to serve a partisan agenda rather than the national interest.
May 30, 2007
Small meat companies want to test their meat to insure that it is safe. Larger companies want this stopped - because if smaller companies are doing it, they will be more competitive and they will have to spend money to do tests to keep up. So the Bush government steps in on the side of the big companies TO STOP THE TESTING!
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.Here is the kicker:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. But Arkansas City-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.
Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too.
The Agriculture Department argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.
May 20, 2007
Mary at The Left Coaster points out that,
while starving the Hurricane Center of needed funds used for tracking hurricanes, the top administrators find millions to hold a party to rebrand the division and agency.Bush has put in place people who think the treasury is their privat party fund. We're going to be paying for these kinds of things for the rest of our - and our children's - lives.
May 18, 2007
So now the word seems to be rippling out about what has been going on in the Justice Department. Of course, bloggers have been shouting about how it was also going on in every department all along... And for once it seems like a few people beyond the bloggers actually care this time. I think at this point a majority of the informed opinion-leadership - all the liberals and even some of the conservatives (David Brooks on the NewsHour tonite, for example) - understand that the Bush administration has, basically, thrown away rule of law. The word "lawlessness" is coming up a lot.
But so what? We knew that. Great. Now more people know it. So what?
That's pretty much what Bush is saying, too. "So what? What are you going to do about it?"
And that's the question, isn't it?
Meanwhile, what does the public "know?" - in contrast to the opinion-leaders I mentioned. I scanned all three network news shows tonite and there was no mention of this supposedly huge scandal on any of them (unless I missed it.)*
But even if the public found out about all of this bruhaha -- and cared -- again, so what? No one is going to prosecute anyone for anything. I mean, they own the Justice Department and that's part of what this is about -- blocking prosecutions. They replaced everyone with Pat Robertson graduates like Monica Goodling, and fired prosecutors who were going after Republican corruption so, please, don't try to tell me anyone is going to be prosecuted.
The only "rule of law" solution available is impeachment. That ain't going to happen -- there are enough "movement" Republicans in the Senate to block impeachment even if it got that far.
So ... so what? Rule of law was so 20th-century.
May 17, 2007
Take a look at Rudy Giuliani's speaking fees. He was paid $11.39 million in ... ahem ... "speaking fees" in 2006 and early 2007. After commissions he collected $9.195 million.
What were they buying? What was he selling?
Sage Capital Group handed Giuliani $300,000 for an "appearance." Who is Sage Capital and what are they getting for their $300K? Freescale Semiconductor gave him $100K as did RedPrarie Corporation and Gail & Rice, Inc. Global Leaders Ltd. gave him $200K. Iceland Telecom $200K.
There are dozens and dozens more like that. Go look. What are they buying?
May 7, 2007
When I started covering the pet food recall ... I thought that if this had happened to human food, it would have been taken more seriously.But no, now we know it IS in the human food chain, and it is NOT being taken seriously. We haven't even banned grain and other food imports from China until this is sorted out!
May 4, 2007
April 20, 2007
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales can resign or not - so what? The PROBLEM will remain. The PROBLEM is that we have 93 US Attorneys who have already proven - by not being fired - that they will indict innocent Democrats and ignore Republican corruption and criminality. THAT is the problem we have to do something about!
The Republicans learned in the 2006 election that lots of headlines about corruption influences votes. So the plan is to start investigating and indicting lots of Democrats - guilty or not - to provide plenty of 2008 election-time headlines. And the plan is to block as many investigations and indictments of corrupt Republicans as they can. (That brings other benefits to them as well...)
So Gonzales can resign or not - don't be distracted from thinking about how to stop what is coming.
Watch your backs!
April 14, 2007
This looks like it might be yet another political prosecution. This time it isn't a US Attorney engaging in a political prosecution in order to keep the job -- instead it involves one of those NEW, Rove-approved US Attorneys who replaced those US Attorneys fired for failing to engage in political prosecutions. This prosecution shows us what to expect from now on. This one is prosecuting a guy entirely for political and not legal reasons, AFTER the courts threw out the case AND after the judge said they should drop the charges.
This case is about medical marijuana. California voters passed an initiative allowing the use of marijuana for AIDS, cancer and other patients because it helps them to eat and reduces symptoms. The Christian Right doesn't like that so the Bush administration has been prosecuting people for Federal crimes - even though they are legally operating according to state law.
From the article, Prosecutors will retry Ed Rosenthal, known as the `guru of ganja',
Federal prosecutors said today they would retry marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal on cultivation charges, even after a federal judge urged them to drop the case and chastised the government for lodging charges solely to punish the self-proclaimed "guru of ganja."So here we go, another political prosecution from a Rove-connected prosecutor?
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer demanded to know who in the Department of Justice made the decision to continue pursuing Rosenthal, who had his original conviction overturned last year.
... Newly appointed U.S. Attorney Scott Schools made the decision, said Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan, but he was not sure if Department of Justice officials in Washington were involved. [all emphasis added]
April 7, 2007
Is it just me, or does it seem to you like the media is much more in the tank for Bush and the right since the election?
On another subject, does it seem to you that the US Attorney scandal has faded from the news with nothing being done, leaving in place US Attorneys who let Republicans and corporate criminals off the hook, while investigating or indicting Democrats? My prediction - if these US Attorneys stay in place, the lead-up to the 2008 election will include LOTS of news stories about Democrats being investigated and indicted, and no stories about Republicans being investigated at all.
April 4, 2007
The Bush administration - again too clever by half.
Clever once: Recently Bush claimed that "executive privilege" prevents staff e-mails from being turned over to Congress. Except in an attempt to keep the e-mails away from legal scrutiny many were illegally routed through the Republican Party, which means they aren't privileged. Too clever by half.
Clever again: When the Bush administration fired US Attorney Iglesias because he didn't indict enough Democrats, they tried to explain it with a cover story claiming he was fired because he took too much time away from the office. Well, you see, Iglesias is a captain in the Navy Reserve. And there is a law that says you can't fire someone because they have to attend Reserve duty.
So Newsweek is reporting that,
Iglesias confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he was recently questioned by lawyers for the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency, to determine if his dismissal was a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal law that prohibits job discrimination against members of the U.S. military.
At the encouragement of Office of Special Counsel director Scott Bloch and his deputies, Iglesias said he is this week filing a formal legal complaint with OSC against the Justice Department over his dismissal on this and other grounds.
I learned about this through TPMmuckraker April 4, 2007 04:56 PM
March 28, 2007
Sidney Blumenthal, in Follow the e-mails | Salon.com writes about the secret trove of White House e-mails that were routed through Republican Party servers in an attempt to avoid Congress ever forcing disclosure of illegal activities by government officials.
The first glimmer of this dodge appeared in a small item buried in a January 2004 issue of U.S. News & World Report: "'I don't want my E-mail made public,' said one insider. As a result, many aides have shifted to Internet E-mail instead of the White House system. 'It's Yahoo!, baby,' says a Bushie."This use of outside e-mail accounts to conduct government business is probably not legal.
When I worked in the Clinton White House, people brought in their personal computers if they were engaged in any campaign work, but all official transactions had to be done within the White House system as stipulated by the Presidential Records Act of 1978. (The PRA requires that "the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.") Having forsaken the use of Executive Office of the President e-mail, executive privilege has been sacrificed. Moreover, Rove's and the others' practice may not be legal.
March 15, 2007
The US Attorney scandal is not about miscommunication of the reasons for the firings. This is what the US Attorney scandal is about:
Bush fired US Attorneys:
1) To block investigations into Republican corruption.
2) For refusing to launch sham investigations of Democrats who were innocent of any and all accusations.
For example, the prosecutor who indicted Duke Cunningham was fired.
And before THIS round of firings, there was this: Bush picks Abramoff prosecutor for federal judgeship / Democrats wonder about the timing of president's move,
..Hillman's departure from the Justice Department creates a vacancy at the top of the Abramoff investigation only three weeks after Abramoff, once one of the city's most powerful Republican lobbyists and a major fund-raiser for Bush, announced his guilty plea and agreed to testify against others, possibly including members of Congress.And how many indictments of others, based on Abramoff's testimony, followed the exit of this prosecutor?
There are serious Republican corruption scandals out there, but now there are no US Attorneys who will investigate them. And here's the thing - if things do not change, in the months before the 2008 elections the public will be hearing about lots of Democrats being indicted for corruption.
Watch your backs!
March 14, 2007
The other day I wrote about the "Clinton fired 93 US attorneys" nonsense. It must have "tested well" with an important target group that the right wants to bamboozle, because now you're hearing it repeated everywhere.
First, in the current scandal Bush fired US Attorneys: (according to the fired US Attys themselves, as well as White House e-mails obtained yesterday)
1) Specifically to block investigations into Republican corruption investigations.
2) For refusing to launch sham investigations of Democrats who were innocent of any and all accusations.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AGAnd tell friends and relatives about this as well.
MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2001
TDD (202) 514-1888
WHITE HOUSE AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
BEGIN U.S. ATTORNEY TRANSITION
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Continuing the practice of new administrations, President Bush and the Department of Justice have begun the transition process for most of the 93 United States Attorneys.
Attorney General Ashcroft said, "We are committed to making this an orderly transition to ensure effective, professional law enforcement that reflects the President 's priorities."
In January of this year, nearly all presidential appointees from the previous administration offered their resignations. Two Justice Department exceptions were the United States Attorneys and United States Marshals.
Prior to the beginning of this transition process, nearly one-third of the United States Attorneys had already submitted their resignations. The White House and the Department of Justice have begun to schedule transition dates for most of the remaining United States Attorneys to occur prior to June of this year. President Bush will make announcements regarding his nominations to the Senate of new United States Attorneys as that information becomes available. Pending confirmation of the President's nominees, the Attorney General will make appointments of Interim United States Attorneys for a period of 120 days (28USC546). Upon the expiration of that appointment, the authority rests with the United States District Court (28USC546(d)).
BUSH fired all the US Attorneys when he came into office. So does EVERY President. It has nothing to do with the current scandal.
March 13, 2007
The fact is that EVERY President changes the US Attorneys when taking office. Bush also did the same thing when he took office. That is different. This has never happened before. THIS scandal is about Bush using the federal prosecutors to only go after Democrats, and to ignore crimes by Republicans.
And here's the thing. The ones that were fired were let go because they wouldn't "play ball." So the question is, what about the ones who were not fired?
It is one more example of how the entire government has been converted into a Party apparatus - as well as working to further the interests of the K-Street/Abramoff corruption machine. You hear about Interior Department employees ordered not to discuss global warming. You hear about the head of HUD telling underlings not to give contracts to Democrats. You hear over and over about "conected" companies getting huge no-bid contracts with no accountability...
IF Bush gets away with this - if the current prosecutors, Attorney General, Bush, etc. remain in place - come election time 2008 the only news the PUBLIC will be hearing is news about federal indictments of corrupt Democrats. That's what this is about.
Update - CREW calls for a Special Prosecutor because obviously the Bush Justice Department isn't going to investigate. But who appoints the special prosecutor?
CREW wants the immediate appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate potential criminal violations related to the recent dismissals of eight U.S. Attorneys. Recent revelations indicate that a top-ranking Department of Justice official knew that statements made by top Department officials were not true. Clearly, the Department of Justice cannot investigate itself and prosecute the misconduct of DOJ officials. CREW also asked the Department of Justice’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the situation.
March 12, 2007
The current scandal over political use of US Attorneys is not the first one. In 2002 Bush blocked a corruption investigation into Jack Abramoff by firing the US Attorney just as he was closing in. Bush replaced him with a cousin of one of the targets -- who had been recommended by the local Republican Party.
A 2005 story, Bush removal ended Guam investigation,
A US grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.Go read about it.
The Republican corruption machine was in full operation by 2002. Here was Bush covering up Abramoff's crimes by firing a prosecutor.
The statute of limitations has not yet run out on this.
March 9, 2007
Talking Points Memo is asking the right questions about the Republicans firing US Attorneys who wouldn't "play ball" by dropping investigations of Republican corruption, and by launching trumped-up investigations of Democrats.
1) We know about the ones who were fired. What about the ones who were not -- WHY not? The REAL stink is on the ones who WEREN'T fired! What did they do to keep their jobs. Did they improperly drop investigations of Republicans and/or launch improper investigations of Demcorats?
2) Why isn't the Justice Department management? Why aren't we hearing statements from the Justice Department,
about how DOJ will not tolerate elected officials attempting to influence its prosecutors, how DOJ has its prosecutors' backs, how DOJ would remind prosecutors to report any such contacts, and would urge anyone who has not previously reported such contacts to come forward now.The silence is a statement. It is a threat to employees of the Department that if they come forward there will be retaliation.
And, of course, what does this say about the use of OTHER departments of the federal government?
We have been watching as Government and Party merge. Under these authoritarian Republicans the government has morphed into an enforcement arm of The Party. A better question might be whether there is any agency of the government that has not been corrupted?
One day we will all be shocked - even me - at how close we came to totalitarianism. That is, IF we make it through this. We haven't yet. And we won't until people go to jail for this kind of thing.
Watch your backs.
March 4, 2007
The Bush Administration is about to let a drug company sell one of our few remaining effective antibiotics for use on livestock. This is so the drug company can make higher profits. They do not care that this decision could kill a LOT of us.
Here is what is going on: These days people don't think of infections as serious, not to mention potentially fatal. This is because we have antibiotics to kill the germs. But throughout human history bacteria were one of the biggest - if not the biggest - causes of death. All the way up until the discovery of penicillin - less than 100 years ago - people used to die from things as simple as a cut getting infected.
The germs have been fighting back. They build up resistance to the drugs we use against them, and over time the drugs stop working. This is the reason doctors tell people to be sure to take ALL of the antibiotics in a prescription even if they start to feel better -- you need to kill ALL of the germs or the ones that survive develop resistance. The other reason is that drugs are given to livestock because they help them get fatter quicker. Over time, through simple evolution and natural selection, the germs become resistant to the antibiotics and we all are put at risk. One after another the antibiotics have become nearly useless. In fact, we only have a few effective antibiotics left.
Think about what would happen if germs get a chance to build resistance to the few remaining effective antibiotics. Now read this news story:
The government is on track to approve a new antibiotic to treat a pneumonia-like disease in cattle, despite warnings from health groups and a majority of the agency's own expert advisers that the decision will be dangerous for people.And WHY are they going to approve using this drug in cattle? Because the company is willing to sacrifice future effectiveness of the drug in order to make higher profits today. From the story,
... The American Medical Association and about a dozen other health groups warned the Food and Drug Administration that giving cefquinome to animals would probably speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotics, as has happened with other drugs. Those super-microbes could then spread to people.
"The industry says that 'until you show us a direct link to human mortality from the use of these drugs in animals, we don't think you should preclude their use,' " said Edward Belongia, an epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin. "But do we really want to drive more resistance genes into the human population? It's easy to open the barn door, but it's hard to close the door once it's open."This has already happened before. Again, from the story,
The FDA knows how hard it can be to close that door. In the mid-1990s, overriding the objections of public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the drug agency approved the marketing of two drugs, Baytril and SaraFlox, for use in poultry. Both are fluoroquinolones, a class of drugs important for their ability to fight the bioterror bacterium that causes anthrax and a food-borne bacterium called campylobacter, which causes a serious diarrheal disease in people.A broader question is raised by this: If there are so few effective antibiotics, shouldn't they be considered to be a common resource -- something that is "owned" by the people for the people? How can a corporation be allowed to decide something like this, something that could kill a LOT of us, on the basis of making a short-term profit, a quick buck?
Conservatives -- they choose corporate profits over people every single time.
Update - Mary has more on this at The Left Coaster.
February 21, 2007
Who is our economy FOR? Bush is cutting Medicaid by $28 billion. Bush is giving the Walton family (Wal-Mart heirs) a $32.7 billion tax cut. You do the math.
Go see who else wins and loses: Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush's Billionaires,
If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.More information you will not see in your local newspaper or on the news...
The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.
[. . .] That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain fucking offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some asshole who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour ... I sure don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.
February 13, 2007
A federal grand jury on Tuesday issued indictments against Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes and former high-ranking CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, childhood friends from San Diego who are entangled in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham congressional corruption scandal.
The Bush administration appears to have tried to block this indictment by firing the prosecutor. But she seems to have managed to get this indictent in just before being forced out. It's against the "It's OK If You Are Republican" rules to indict Republicans no matter what they do. I'm serious. Go read Study: Feds Chase Dems More than GOPers,
A study of reported federal investigations of elected officials and candidates shows that the Bush administration’s Justice Department pursues Democrats far more than Republicans. 79 percent of elected officials and candidates who’ve faced a federal investigation (a total of 379) between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, the study found – only 18 percent were Republicans. During that period, Democrats made up 50 percent of elected officeholders and office seekers during the time period, and 41 percent were Republicans during that period, according to the study.
"The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000," according to the study's authors.
February 6, 2007
Well, years later it's finally hitting a mainstream outlet - the Bush administration sent pallots of cash to a war zone, and didn't have any way to track where it went (which was probably the plan): U.S. sent pallets of cash to Baghdad,
The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes ...And where did it go?
... Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve...
On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.
It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 28.
January 18, 2007
The right is circulating another lie - don't fall for it.
The right-wingers are claiming that the Senate lobbyist reform bill would force bloggers to register as lobbyists. That is just a lie.
What the bill would really do is require those who are paid to lobby to register as lobbyists and disclose what they are up to. And they have to be paid more than $25,000 before they even have to do that. That the right-wing bloggers are so worried about this does say something, doesn't it?
There's also a comment on this at AmericaBlog.
They're making out too well from the corruption - it is what funds the Republican Party. So new Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is blocking attempts to reform ethics and lobbying.
Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists' influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item-veto power.So here we are.
Everyone who thought the fight was over because the Democrats have a majority in the House and Senate now, raise your hands.
Update - From Sen. McConnell's office,
Republicans didn’t derail the ethics reform bill. They’re enthusiastic about voting for it. Republicans just want earmark reform, as well. (and Democrats have already accepted an earmark reform amendment in the ethics bill, so it’s not really unrelated)Update II - Evening - Senate passes ethics reform bill
After a spirited debate over the year's first order of business, the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on ethics reform Thursday and approved a package designed to burnish its image in the wake of recent corruption scandals.
The Senate voted 96-2 for a measure that would prohibit lobbyists from paying for gifts for lawmakers and their staffs, including travel. It also would require full disclosure on which lawmakers have requested funding earmarks for specific projects in lawmakers' home states or districts.
January 12, 2007
Bush is still president, and still has the power to fire prosecutors who go after Republican corruption.
Carole Lam, the San Diego U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the corrupt former lawmaker, is being quietly pushed out by the Bush administration.
January 7, 2007
The question that has never been satisfactorily answered - WHY did we invade Iraq? If you ask 100 people you will get 50 different answers - which means that no one really understands.
Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.Maybe that explains this, from the "Energy Task Force" that did its work BEFORE the invasion, Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Detail Iraqi Oil Industry:
The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.
The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.
Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force appeared to have some interest in early 2001 in Iraq's oil industry, including which foreign companies were pursuing business there, according to documents released Friday by a private watchdog group.
Judicial Watch (search), a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of Iraq's oil fields, terminals and pipelines as well as a list entitled "Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts."
January 5, 2007
The new Democrat-led House of Representatives on Friday passed a second batch of ethics reforms in as many days and resurrected controls they said would help end deficit spending.But wait, there's more!
One day after taking over the House after Republicans' 12-year rule, Democrats won rules changes they claimed would restore civility to the badly tarnished chamber and curb "earmarks" — special-interest money and tax breaks often secretly inserted into legislation.
The move won applause from some of the most conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who said Democrats "had more guts than we did to tackle earmark reform in a meaningful way. I compliment them for that."
Earmarks have ranged from tax breaks for handfuls of individuals to big-ticket military contracts and lawmakers' hometown projects.
Democrats also pushed through rules changes to tighten up the way floor votes are conducted. The goal was to stop a past Republican practice of holding "15-minute votes" open, sometimes for hours, so they could change the outcome.
The House action followed nearly unanimous approval on Thursday of related ethics reforms putting more distance between lobbyists and lawmakers. That measure bans lobbyists' gifts, restricts privately funded junkets and bans members' use of corporate jets.
... Turning to economic matters, House Democrats won a rules change aimed at controlling federal budget deficits, which have been chronic during President George W. Bush's presidency.
The "pay as you go" rule, in effect for most of the 1990s and until it expired in 2002, would stop new tax cuts or new spending on "entitlement" programs unless those policy changes were paid for through tax hikes or other spending cuts.
Yes, it has started. The Democrats are starting to introduce changes. Bush will certainly veto THIS one! It would ruin the retirement plans of so many of his buddies!
Signaling a renewed emphasis on combating corruption at home and abroad, incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), introduced a package of bills Thursday targeting corrupt officials and private companies seeking to defraud American taxpayers and troops.Some of the hilites of the War Profiteering bill: (followed by the Corruption bill)
... Many Democratic Senators joined Leahy in reintroducing a bill creating criminal penalties for war profiteers and cheats who would exploit taxpayer-funded efforts in Iraq and elsewhere around the world.
The Effective Corruption Prosecutions Act of 2007
War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007
§ Criminalizes war profiteering, which is defined as materially overvaluing any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war and relief or reconstruction activities
§ Statute would strengthen the tools available to federal prosecutors to combat war profiteering by providing clear authority for the Government to seek criminal penalties and to recover excessive profits for war profiteering overseas.
§ Prohibits any fraud against the United States, Iraq, or any other foreign country involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.
§ Subjects violators to up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000 or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.
§ Prohibits making a false statement in any matter involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.
§ Subjects violators of this provision to up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000, or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.
§ Creates extraterritorial jurisdiction over offenses committed overseas, and covers any person in the United States or abroad who violates its provisions.
Provides federal investigators and prosecutors the statutory tools and the resources needed to ensure that serious and insidious public corruption is detected and punished.
Extends the statute of limitations for the most serious public corruption offenses, including bribery, deprivation of honest services, and extortion by a public official, from five years to eight years.
Facilitates the investigation and prosecution of a key federal statute used for prosecuting bribery involving state and local officials, as well as officials of the many organizations that receive substantial federal money
Authorizes $25 million over each of the next four years to give federal investigators and prosecutors needed resources to go after public corruption.
January 4, 2007
Energy giant ExxonMobil borrowed tactics from the tobacco industry to raise doubt about climate change, spending $16 million on groups that question global warming, a science watchdog group said on Wednesday.
"ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote, Profile , Research) has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said at a telephone news conference releasing the report.
An ExxonMobil spokesman did not respond immediately to calls for comment.
... U.S. tobacco companies used these tactics for decades to hide the hazards of smoking, and were found liable in federal court last year for violating racketeering laws. [emphasis added]
See also AP - Group: ExxonMobil paid to mislead public
Finally, see this from September, The Denial Industry,
ExxonMobil Corp. gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in an effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.
The report by the advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change."
... ExxonMobil lists on its Web site nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for "public information and policy research" distributed to more than 140 think tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed any link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or emphasizing only selected facts.
Dr. James McCarthy, a professor at Harvard University, said the company has sought to "create the illusion of a vigorous debate" about global warming.
For years, a network of fake citizens' groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them? Exxon's involvement is well known, but not the strange role of Big Tobacco. In the first of three extracts from his new book, George Monbiot tells a bizarre and shocking new story.
December 3, 2006
In a continuing series, STF asks if it is legal for the Secretary of the navy to decide contracts based on the politics of the locality?
Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter vetoed plans to commission the Makin Island, the Navy's newest and most powerful warship, in San Francisco in 2008 because of a perception that the city is anti-military.So San Francisco is not Republican enough to get military contracts? Didn't we just have an election in which the public voted AGAINST corruption?
November 13, 2006
NYTimes story this morning: Administration Opposes Democrats’ Plan for Negotiating Medicare Drug Prices,
The Bush administration said on Sunday that it would strenuously oppose one of the Democrats’ top priorities for the new Congress: legislation authorizing the government to negotiate with drug companies to secure lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.This is entirely about money and corruption. The Democrats have the House and Senate, and are implementing new rules that make it very hard for money to influence the process. So there is a LOT of lobbyist money floating around looking for a place to land. This is Bush sending out the word that the Republicans are still able to influence legislation - for the right price. He is saying to the pharmaceutical industry - pay us and we can block this. If the Democrats change this policy it will cost the drug companies billions.
In an interview, Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, said he saw no prospect of compromise on the issue.
November 8, 2006
I just got off of a 40-minute call with a few bloggers and Speaker-To-Be Pelosi.
Here are some things can be and will be changed right now, as a matter of the rules the House sets for itself:
Earmarks - Any earmarks must be presented in public before the committee, be publicly justified and approved by the committee. NO tax earmarks at all. This ends the system of purchasing earmarks.
Lobbying crackdown - NO gifts, meals, trips, etc. from lobbyists, period. Plus other reforms.
Open government - the leadership will not restrict amendments to bills. This means that Republicans will be able to offer amendments to bills before the House - something they prevented Democrats from doing. This lets policy be set by the strength of ideas rather than corrupt deals and hidden agendas.
Some needed changes require legislation, which will be introduces ASAP, including:
- Public financing of elections to remove the entire campaign contribution corruption system.
- Requiring non-partisan redistricting of every state, decided by a non-partisan commission, which will occur only after each 10-year census. Political considerations will be removed from the drawing of district boundaries.
- Oil subsidies ended and the money used to fund alternative energy.
There was a discussion of Iraq. I'll wait for other bloggers from the call to post and link to that.
November 7, 2006
The modern GOP -- or, more specifically, the Axis of '70s Campus Republicans running it -- really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.
Dirty tricks, large and small, are a sorry fact of life in American politics, but what the Republicans have done over the past few weeks -- the surrealist attack ads, the forged endorsements, the midnight robo calls, the arrest threats, the voter misinformation (did you know your polling station has been moved?) -- is sui generis, at least at the national level.
Even Dick Nixon never tried anything like this on such a grand scale -- although, of course, he also didn't have the technology. The only thing we haven't seen yet is a break in at DNC headquarters. And if the Rovians thought they could get anything out of it that would be useful in this election (nobody else has) we'd probably be reading about that, too.
It's always possible to point to Democratic/liberal offenses, but at this point the comparisons look pretty silly: some downed yard signs here, a few crooked and/or stoned ACORN canvassers there. Not even in the same universe, much less the same ball park.
Couple the GOP's rat-fucking campaign with all the other stuff we already know about -- the collectivized bribery of the K Street Project, the Abramoff casino extortion ring, the Defense and CIA appropriation scams, the Iraq War contracting scams, the Pacific Island sex trade protection racket, the church pulpits doubling as ward halls, the illegal wiretapping, the lies, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case (I really could go on like this all day) -- and it's clear that what we need most isn't a new Congress but a new RICO prosecution, with lots of defendents and unindicted co-conspirators.
November 3, 2006
In years past this alone would have been a major story and the corruption involved would not be tolerated. But this year it's just one more thing - a relatively small thing. We all know what is behing it - payments from lobbyists. The people involved will be leaving the government soon to "work" at the oil companies for unusually high pay. Gov't drops demand for Chevron royalty,
The department's Minerals Management Service had maintained that Chevron owed an additional $6 million for gas it took under federal leases in the Gulf between 1996 and 2002 and sold to Dynegy Inc., a company Chevron partially owns.The story comes on the same day as a larger story about the Republican Congress getting rid of the only agency conducting ANY oversight of Iraq spending. This is just two stories about corruption today. There will be two more tomorrow and the day after...
Essentially, the government argued that Chevron undervalued the gas it sold to Dynegy. Chevron paid royalties based on a price that didn't represent fair market value, the government auditors said.
But last summer, the government quietly rescinded its demand for the additional royalties. That decision was reported Tuesday by the New York Times, based on documents the newspaper obtained through a freedom of information request.
October 18, 2006
From October 12-17, CNN aired 3,361 words about allegations that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) improperly reported a land deal in which he made $700,000.
Seventeen different CNN transcripts in the Nexis database include mention of the Reid land deal -- and that doesn't even count October 18, when CNN has aired at least one more lengthy segment on the deal.
By comparison, CNN has aired only 65 words about a land deal in which House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made nearly $2 million, a story which was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times on June 15. By contrast, the Reid land deal first broke a week ago, when the Associated Press reported on October 11 that Reid had made $700,000 "on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years."
October 6, 2006
Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds — "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.
October 2, 2006
One question stands out -- WHY did the Republican leadership keep Foley in place after they learned what he was doing? Mary at Pacific Views asks,Was It Blackmail?,
My answer is what better way to make sure someone does your bidding?Of course go read the whole thing.
After all, this is the Republican Party built by Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed. ... How he was able to hammer the Republicans into doing his bidding. Then consider, what are some things that make people do things that they might not normally do?
Another question to get more insight what might be happening: what did the KGB do when they wanted to turn a spy? They used a couple of approaches: they found something in the private life of the spy to hold over them or they found a way to compromise them with something they wanted. It's one of main reasons that spies are watched for affairs (and being a closeted gay was considered to be a major security risk) or for spending extra money.
September 29, 2006
So... just HOW dishonest is Bush? Well, let's approach this scientifically. Remember in May, when the White House said that Jack Abramoff only had two contacts with the White House? White House logs list only 2 Abramoff visits - May 10, 2006,
Newly released visitor logs show disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was signed in to the White House complex on two occasions since President Bush took office in 2001, including once when the president was out of town.Well it turns out the White House misunderestimated the number,
The House Government Reform Committee report, based on e-mail messages and other records subpoenaed from Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying firm, found 485 contacts between Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying team and White House officials from 2001 to 2004, including 82 with Mr. Rove’s office. [emphasis added]So, there we have it. We can now calculate that when the White House says '2' the truth is '485'.
Let's hope they aren't saying we'll be occupying Iraq for 2 more years.
September 25, 2006
Arianna Huffington, in Bill Clinton's Bipartisan Love-In Blows Up in His Face writes,
Hooray! Good for Bill Clinton. He finally called Fox News and the right-wing on their BS, right? Well, sort of.There is a fundamental point here. I, and many others, think that the Democratic leadership has profoundly misjudged the nature and intentions of the conservative movement. John Dean, in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, warns that we are witnessing the rise of an authoritarian government, and Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, warns that the current Republican leadership is intent on bringing about a theocracy. This is not politics-as-usual. THIS is what the bloggers are so shrill about.
... I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power. Power they use to destroy everything that Clinton purports to stand for.
In March I wrote,
Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.
... So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.The signs are all around us -- take it seriously.
The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening.
... Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back.
... When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?
Watch your backs.
August 29, 2006
The summary of the ... inspector general’s report said the United States attorney’s office in Washington had been given the report and decided not to conduct a criminal inquiry into the matter.
- ... improperly hired a friend on the public payroll for nearly $250,000...
- ... used his government office for personal business, including running a “horse racing operation” in which he supervised a stable of thoroughbreds he named after leaders from Afghanistan, including President Hamid Karzai and the late Ahmed Shah Massoud...
- ... repeatedly used government employees to do his personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit...
- ... hiring of phantom or unqualified employees...
- ... violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence...
His renomination by President Bush to another term ... is pending before the Senate. ... Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said President Bush continues to support Mr. Tomlinson’s renomination.
Read this story, written by Bob Johnson, running for Congress in New York's 23rd CD, about extensive corruption in US Government contractiing in Iraq (and follow the links). Daily Kos: Judge: Contractors Are Above the Law; We Can Fight Back. And here's the key line:
And the Republican government has actively blocked all efforts at investigating this in any way.And how can this continue?
The committees responsible in the House, especially the Armed Services Committee ... have, to my knowledge, not held a single hearing on this matter. Every attempt at even holding hearings gets bottled up in the Rules Committee in the House. The corruption is so obvious and blatant, and the efforts to block looking into it so complete, it's hard not to get the feeling that it's deliberate.Here's one part of the problem: The corruption is so extenive and so profound, and so un-reported in the media, that YOU sound like a crazy person, a fanatic, if you try to tell people what is going on!
The Republican Congress blocks oversight hearings into the corruption. The Republican Justice Department blocks investigations and harasses whistleblowers. Republican judges throw the cases out of court. And the corrupt contractors kick back a portion of the tax-dollars they are paid to fund the machine that keeps them in office.
August 18, 2006
Is Rep. John Doolittle Corrupt or Ineffective?
Charlie Brown is the Democratic candidate running against Doolittle. Go visit.
August 17, 2006
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that a group of tobacco companies had broken the law, but could not be forced to pay monetary penalties such as funding a large anti-smoking campaign, as the government had sought.This was because in 2005, two Republican judges - David B. Sentelle and Stephen F. Williams - ruled that the government can't go after the tobacco companies for past wrongs.
...Kessler said the companies suppressed research, destroyed documents and manipulated nicotine levels to perpetuate addiction, but an appeals court ruling prevented her from slapping the companies with costly remedies. [. . .] That opinion, written by U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, barred the government from seeking $280 billion in past industry profits, depriving the government of its biggest potential weapon in the case.
All the tobacco and other corporate money, all the millions and millions spent funding the Right paid off, and has left us with this country and its culture of corruption that lets corporations rob from us - even kill us - with impunity.
From the BBC story, Tobacco firms lose civil lawsuit
In her ruling, Judge Gladys Kessler said it was clear that "smoking causes disease, suffering, and death".
But the firms will not be fined or forced to fund anti-smoking programs.
August 13, 2006
Democrats managed to find 425 candidates to run for Congress this year. But that still left ten districts without a Democratic candidate. One of the ten districts without a Democratic candidate is CA-42, which is represented by Republican Gary Miller.
Republican Representative Gary Miller just got caught stealing millions of dollars by not paying taxes after selling 165 acres of land to the city of Monrovia. (And I wonder what will happen when THAT transaction receives scrutiny.) Chris writes,
We have in CA-42 a congressman who ripped off taxpayers by more than $3M, and then pocketed the money himself. Suddenly, the CA-42 looks like it might be winnable. If this story blows up, than Gary Miller is finished. Defrauding a local town for more than $3M of taxpayer money? Look at me with a straightface and tell me that won't make this district close.So if you live in CA-42 and decided not to file to run for Congress - it's too late now, the filing deadline has passed.
Actually, it will not make this district close, because no Democrat qualified for the ballot here.
July 22, 2006
Would you hire a babysitter who hates children and thinks they should be eliminated? Or who declares for years in your hearing that children are irritants who should be starved to be small, unseen and mute?Oh, go read the whole thing.
Would you hire cops who think laws are stupid and useless and should be abolished?
Would you hire a conductor for your orchestra who believes music itself an abomination?
Then why would you hire - and you did hire them, America; they are your employees, after all, not your rulers, despite their grandiose pretensions - members of a political party who think government is useless, ineffective, bloated and untrustworthy?
[. . .] In electing Republicans, America, you put people in charge of institutions they overtly, caustically loathe and proudly proclaim should not exist.
[. . .] Kee-rist on a pogo stick.
If you put people in charge of running a project they are ideologically committed to proving a failure, it will fail.
July 13, 2006
Our buddy over at Confederate Yankee has been doing some investigating and has come up with something interesting, and is hinting at more to come. I think it's worth taking a look.
June 26, 2006
Bush issued an executive order today limiting "eminent domain" -- public seizure of private property to enrich private interests.
Does this mean that Bush is going to give the money back?
"A copy of the secret agreement among Mr. Bush and the other Rangers owners shows that they intended to make money not just by running a baseball club but also by land speculation.
For example, one owner found a nice chunk of land and sent a memo suggesting that it "sounds like another condemnation candidate if you want to work the site into your master plan," according to the court documents. Another of the owners' internal memos casts a proprietary gaze on a property and declares: "We plan to condemn this land."
For a group of financiers to go around town admiring properties and deciding which to seize through the government power of condemnation so that they can acquire free land and speculate on it is appalling."
Never before had a municipal authority in Texas been given license to seize the property of a private citizen for the benefit of other private citizens. That is exactly what happened to a recalcitrant Arlington family that refused to sell a 13-acre parcel near the stadium site for half its appraised value. Their land was condemned and handed over to the Rangers.As I wrote at the time,
So when you hear a right-winger complain about Kelo, and government seizures of property, let them know who the worst offender is, and point them to this info.And by the way, what ever happened to the Harken Oil insider trading document release that Bush promised?
June 22, 2006
One more thing Bush will be remembered for: getting rid of pensions.
And by the way, where do you think the money went? When Reagan started the process, tricking people into thinking that a 401K - you put your money in - was somehow better than a corporate pension - they put money in FOR you - corporate profits started the big rise. That was the beginning of a huge transfer from future retirements to the very rich. But that wasn't enough, so the corporations also started underfunding their pension plans. Knowing they had a coming obligation they did not put the necessary money into the pension funds, instead sending the money to the top. And now, under Bush - who is still working to get rid of Social Security - corporations like United Airlines are cancelling pensions.
This is about OUR retirement savings, gone into the pockets of the Bush cronies. And what do the people who stole the pensions get? Tax cuts.
But wait, there's more.
It's not JUST our retirement savings that Bush is handing over to his cronies. You know that there is a huge budget deficit, but what do you think the budget deficit IS, anyway? Is it magic money from nowhere to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq war? Of course not! Bush is borrowing trillions of dollars, handing it out to cronies (sometimes literally in duffel bags), and borrowed money has to be paid back with interest. Who do you think will have to pay that money back?
But wait, there's more.
Our tax dollars built America's infrastructure. Infrastructure is roads and bridges and water lines and schools and bank account insurance and regulations and all the things that support our economy. Every time a truck makes a delivery (sending profits upward) that truck drove on roads WE built. But are you and I - the public - sharing in the profits that come from the infrastructure we built? Who is our economy FOR, anyway? The corporations and rich are now largely excluded from paying taxes to maintain those roads, and America's infrastructure is crumbling. By not investing in infrastructure, Bush and his cronies are "eating our seed corn." So when we want to start rebuilding the infrastructure, who do you think will be paying?
We've all got a LOT to thank Bush and the Republicans for. And you're going to have some long, impoverished years to think about it.
June 18, 2006
Read this. Read the whole thing. Understand one segment of how the conservative machine works. This is just one piece of the pie.
... admitted to participating in money-laundering schemes by personally smuggling cash from South Korea into the United States. She also said she witnessed other cases in which bags of cash were carried into the United States and delivered ... returned from a trip ... “with $600,000 in cash which he had received from his father. ... Myself along with three or four other members that worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags.” ... made sure that his steady flow of cash found its way into the pockets of key conservative operatives, especially when they were most in need, when they were facing financial crises.Read the whole thing.
Call and ask YOUR member of Congress why this is not investigated. Call and ask your newspaper, too. Of course, you risk sounding like a crazy person, trying to tell people what's going on with the Repubicans
The NY Times story, Former Antiterror Officials Find Industry Pays Better, talks about how a few of the Bush people who give out or help arrange big contracts then go "work" for the company that received the contract. The money is really big. For example,
In their new roles, former department officials often command salaries that dwarf their government paychecks. Carol A. DiBattiste, who made $155,000 in 2004 as deputy administrator at the Transportation Security Administration, earned more than $934,000 last year from ChoicePoint, a Homeland Security Department contractor she joined in April 2005, the same month she left the agency.$1 million a year. There is no question that corruption is involved there.
Every day more stories of corruption.
What do you do about this? When the Democrats take the House this November, they should initiate a government-wide corruption audit and investigate every single, smallest instance of this kind of sleaze. Every single Bush appointee who used their office to award a contract to a Republican campaign contributor should be put in jail. Every single Bush appointee who awarded or arranged a contract and then went to work at the recipient company should be put in jail. Every single company involved should be put out of business, its assets seized and its executives put in jail. EVERY SINGLE ONE! That will put an end to this game once and for all.
And talking today about doing it will go a long way toward stopping the corruption - and the flow of corrupt money to the Republican machine - before the election.
Also - good for the New York Times for doing its job.
June 13, 2006
[Call Mayor Villagairosa at 213-978-0600 and let him know that the whole world is watching, and that you want him to put people first, and step up his efforts to facilitate a resolution that preserves the farm as a space where poor urban residents, many of them immigrants and people of color, have an opportunity to grow healthy food and maintain a connection with the natural world. All the farmers need is time, the system is beginning to respond, not only as evidenced by the widespread support from celebrities, but by the fact that the Annenburg Foundation had stepped in and volunteered to help raise the last 8 or 9 million needed to purchase the farm - an activist friend of mine tells me that, in fact, they guaranteed that they'd be able to raise the money. The developer doesn't stand to lose money, he got the land in a sweetheart deal for less than market value, and will still make quite a bit of profit at a $15 million sale price. -Thomas]
To learn more about the South Central Farmers, visit: www.southcentralfarmers.com
L.A. COUNTY SHERIFFS EVICT THE SOUTH CENTRAL FARMERS IN EARLY MORNING RAID
Circle of Life Family,
This press release was just sent to us from the South Central Farm where Julia had been fasting and tree sitting for over 3 weeks. Daryl Hannah and John Quigley are still there and at last report were still in the walnut tree but about to get removed by sheriffs at any moment.
NEWS FLASH - 8:59am, 8 people have been carried out on stretchers and they have started to bull doze the land!
WHAT: Hundreds of officers with the Los Angeles Sheriff department swarmed onto the peaceful, non-violent South-Central Farmers garden at 5:15am today accompanied by six helicopters buzzing over the sleeping supporters.
Supporters of this 14 acre organic farming community remain outside the locked-down area on the street chanting their protest of this forceful action while 20 are still inside the farm.
Dozens of supporters have been living on the land, sleeping in tents, and taking turns living in the Walnut tree on the premise while fasting to show solidarity with the Farmers. Julia-Butterfly Hill just came down last week after fasting for 23 days. Several celebrities have shown up in the last few weeks - Willie Nelson, Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, Ed Begley, Jr, Joan Baez to name a few.
As of this time, Daryl Hannah and aerial artist John Quigley are up in the Walnut tree refusing to come down. 20 campers on the land have locked themselves to benches, fences and the base around the tree while L.A. County Sheriffs are attempting to saw their locks off.
Yesterday, a peace offering of organic flowers and fresh produce from the Farm was presented to the developer, Ralph Horowitz at his offices in Brentwood, California and to Mayor Antonio Villagairosa at City Hall. Their response to this
appears to be this early morning raid.
Citizens are frustrated with the Mayor because of his apparent lack of political leadership in this, even though he has publicly stated supported of the Farm in the last few weeks.
The Farm supporters are asking people to:
1. Call City Hall to ask that Mayor Villaraigosa step up and exhibit political leadership
and interfere with the eviction. PH: 213-978-0600
2. Come down to City Hall to express their support.
Address: 200 N. Spring Street - Los Angeles, CA 90029
3. Come to the Farm to Protest this oppressive and destructive action against the Farmers and their supporters
WHERE: 41st & Long Beach Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
(Alameda exit off Interstate 10)
WHEN: All Day
June 13, 2006
****A SPECIAL 7:00PM candlelight vigil will be held on-site
The public is encouraged to attend
To learn more about the South Central Farmers, visit:
Contact: Fernando Flores: Co-Chair of South Central Farmers Support Coalition
The South Central Farm, a 14-acre green oasis in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, is in danger of being lost to warehouse development. This community garden has been operated mainly by Latino immigrants for more than a decade and has become an important part of the culture and open space in Los Angeles.
In 1992, the Farm was created in response to the Rodney King uprising to help develop and align the local South-Central
community. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank signed a lease with the city of Los Angeles to set aside the South Central Farm as a community garden. Since then more than 350 impoverished families have banded together as the South Central Farmers to transform an industrial dump into an urban paradise. These families have been successfully augmenting their household food supply with the resultant harvest.
But in 2003 the city sold the land to a private developer to build warehouses. The community was outraged, and the farmers refused to leave the land while they tried to raise the money to buy the property themselves. For the last several weeks -- in the face of a deadline to come up with the money or be evicted -- the farmers, with the help of appeals by activists and celebrities, worked around the clock and successfully raised the money to purchase the property. At last report, the Annenburg Foundation had offered to help raise the 15 million to purchase the land but it seems responding to pressure, the developer has changed his mind and decided not to sell the land to the farmers after all.
June 9, 2006
Following are my prepared remarks to the Ethics, Corruption and Movement Politics panel:
I’ll begin by briefly going over the origins of the modern Conservative Movement, from Goldwater to Heritage Foundation to Reagan to now.
After Goldwater’s 1964 defeat the far right built – or bought, really – a movement based on persuading Americans to think differently about themselves and the world. And I do mean the far right. How many of you remember the base commander in Dr. Strangelove, muttering about “precious bodily fluids”? Well that was the far right I’m talking about, and I remember them. Actually they aren’t really all that different now – they just hide it.
With really big funding they set up the beginnings of a “persuasion engine.” They started setting up dozens, then more dozens of what are called think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation -- built around marketing the (make quote signs with fingers) “ ideas” they generate. But all this effort wasn’t about ideas to solve the country’s or humanity’s problems -- Everything was designed to change the public’s political attitudes and make us more accepting of right-wing ideology.
Using the latest sophisticated marketing research into techniques – things like strategic narrative, the actions of similar others, social network analysis, and social desirability bias – they began endlessly repeating, in a thousand variations, the message that a conservative approach is better, and liberals are bad and stupid and shameful and evil.
Have any of you heard any of that – on the radio, or on TV maybe?
And they thought long term. They understood that the high school student they influenced today could some day be an activist or candidate. They understood that the junior research assistant they paid now would be the noted author or the influential columnist later. And they paid well – no point losing these people to the business world. You could make a LIVING being a conservative.
They also set up a huge media “Echo chamber” with conservative movement authors and commentators citing conservative movement “scholars” and “Institutes,” and so on, until their “reports” and “studies” seemed to be coming from every media outlet.
Eventually people started to think that there was a consensus of “experts” who all agreed that these conservative approaches were the only practical solutions to our problems. In short, they repeat marketing messages through multiple channels, over a sustained period of time, to create CONVENTIONAL WISDOM.
For more about the history of this movement go to commonwealinstitute.org/information.html That’s Commonweal like commonwealth without the th – look for the RESOURCES button on the Commonweal site, that takes you to that information.
The conservative movement didn’t just build UP THEIR ideas in the minds of the public. They also used their communications machine to tear DOWN their opponents -- organizations and political parties and even individuals.
Most people today perceive Jimmy Carter as having been a bad president. But let me suggest something. Knowing what we know now about how the right’s smear machine works, please go find and read President Carter’s so-called “Malaise speech.” Google the words “carter malaise speech”. Read that speech and you’ll see the signs that he was under attack by this right-wing machine that we are more familiar with today. We didn’t understand it back then but you’ll SEE it now. And knowing what we know now about oil and energy … you’ll cry. Especially when you see Al Gore’s new movie An Inconvenient Truth.
The reason this is relevant to this panel is that Carter was up against the machine, funded in part by the big oil companies. Their problem with Carter wasn’t ideological, it was only business -- Carter tried to reduce our use of oil – reductions that are so relevant today as we face Middle East wars, category 5 hurricanes and melting glaciers. Go read that speech.
This machine grew powerful -- they destroyed Carter - and then Mondale, then Dukakis, then Clinton, then Gore. Kerry went up against the machine and got the Swift Boating. Labor unions, environmentalists, teachers, civil and women's rights advocates, advocates for the poor, almost any group with the word "community" in its name, and so many others unfortunately also find themselves on the defense.
So, like I said the conservative persuasion machine and media echo chamber quickly moved past that initial far-right funding to also take in big corporate money. But corporate money is “interested” money – it necessarily has strings or it would not be given. And the strings necessarily go back to the interests of the corporation – not the public or the country – or even the conservative movement.
The movement followed the money and started to change from pure ideology to lobbying for the interests of the corporate backers. The think tanks began making arguments in support of what were little more than paying customers.
And so did their politicians.
For example, some of you have wondered why the logging industry are good Conservatives for cutting the trees, but the fishing industry, which depends on leaving the trees alone, are called environmental whackos. Ask, rather, who pays more?
(Personally, I always wondered why Jesus was in favor of capital gains taxcuts and dividend exclusions? But that’s another story)
Finally with Bush in office the lobbying turned to outright corruption, PURCHASING of legislation, regulation or deregulation, tax breaks, lucrative contracts and policy, by whoever offered the highest bribe.
So I have laid out some of the background that set the stage for the Republican corruption scandals you read about on the blogs. Also on the panel today is David Sirota, who has written a GREAT new book about this Hostile Takeover of our country by big money and corruption. So without further ado, let me pass the microphone to David.
May 23, 2006
Through Juan Cole, this LA Times story, In Corruption, New Government of Iraq Faces a Tough Old Foe,
Iraqi government documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times reveal the breadth of corruption, including epic schemes involving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts, as well as smaller-scale cases such as the purchase of better grades by university students and the distribution of U.S.-issue pistols as party favors by a former Justice Ministry official.But what kind of system would we EXPECT Bush and the Republican Culture of Corruption to set up - an honest one? HA!
"We are seeing corruption everywhere in Iraq — in every ministry, in every governorate," said Judge Radhi Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity, Iraq's anti-corruption agency.
If you are an American soldier, you can thank the Republican Culture of Corruption for this:
Corruption helps fuel the insurgency too, Radhi said. "The terrorists help the criminals, and the criminals help the terrorists," he said. "Without corruption, we would have been able to defeat the terrorists by now."
May 22, 2006
A little while ago I posted about an Iraq withdrawal announcement, timed for the coming elections. Now this - indictments of top Democratic donors, timed for the election. The story seems designed for a Republican Party press release,
The firm and individuals there made $2.78 million in campaign donations to Democrats since 1999 compared to about $22,000 to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.Gosh, why would the Bush administration indict a law firm?
... Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said Republicans would likely use the donations as ammunition in the November congressional elections and to blunt criticism about recent corruption scandals involving Republicans.
They will target "every individual Democrat in a competitive race in 2006 to begin with," Sabato said.
They also will mount "a P.R. offensive to make certain that this helps to balance the Democrats' charges of a culture of corruption that affects only Republicans," he said.
By its own account, Milberg Weiss has won more than $45 billion in its suits against corporations.In fact, the whole case seems so well crafted to support Republican ideology going into the campaign:
Yesterday's indictment of class action plaintiffs' law firm Milberg Weiss in connection with a fraud case promises to shine a bright spotlight on the need for tort reform.
May 10, 2006
I have been hearing about a scandal brewing over insurance regulation in California. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who is now a candidate for Lt. Governor has called in the California Attorney General and the FBI to investigate a blackmail and extortion charge. See Garamendi says insurers trying to coerce him on auto regulations; asks FBI, state to investigate
State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi accused automobile insurers of "coercion, extortion and blackmail" for launching a $2.4 million campaign attacking his proposed regulations that would cut the cost of some drivers' coverage in crowded urban areas. He asked the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate his allegations.This one has a video clip: Auto Insurers Accused Of Blackmailing Commissioner
Garamendi, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in the June 6 primary, said he was told that if he backed off pushing the regulation, he would be spared an attack by insurers as Election Day neared.
The state insurance commissioner says he’s facing threats of blackmail to keep auto insurance rates higher.
John Garamendi came out blasting Monday, accusing California's largest auto insurers of using political extortion to get him to delay implementing laws that would save California motorists money.
Background and details:
I received this e-mail today:
Insurance industry blackmail!
By 1998 California voters were fed up with abuses by the insurance industry. These included such things as high prices and arbitrary cancellations. One particularly onerous abuse was "territorial rating," the practice of setting your auto insurance rates based on where you live, rather than your driving record. In that year California voted to end such abuses by passing Proposition 103, which read in part:
1861.02 (a) Rates and premiums for an automobile insurance policy, as described in subdivision (a) of Section 660, shall be determined by application of the following factors in decreasing order of importance:
(1) The insured's driving safety record.
(2) The number of miles he or she drives annually.
(3) The number of years of driving experience the insured has had.
(4) Such other factors as the commissioner may adopt by regulation that have a substantial relationship to the risk of loss. The regulations shall set forth the respective weight to be given each factor in determining automobile rates and premiums. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the use of any criterion without such approval shall constitute unfair discrimination.
Unfortunately, a California Court of Appeals in 2000 ruling made these provisions unenforceable. However, Proposition 103 also made Insurance Commissioner an elective office, an office now held by John Garamendi. Mr. Garamendi has promulgated regulations that banned territorial ratings, very much consistent with the wishes of California voters and much to the chagrin of the insurance industry.
A group of insurance companies -- Allstate, Farmers, Safeco, 21st Century, and State Farm -- is attempting to blackmail John Garamendi, who is now a candidate for Lt. Governor of California. These companies have raised $2.4 million to run a TV ad campaign against Mr. Garamendi asking viewers to "tell Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi to drop this unfair plan now." An industry representative contacted him through an intermediary and offered to drop the ad campaign if Mr. Garamendi would withdraw those regulations.
The insurance companies claim that they were merely informing Mr. Garamendi of their campaign out of "courtesy." Right.
John Garamendi refuses to be intimidated. He will enforce those regulations. He has filed formal requests for investigations of this group by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the state Attorney General. He will continue to work for the rights of California consumers as Insurance Commissioner and as Lt. Governor.
There is information at Consumer Watchdog,
Insurers to Spend Millions Against Garamendi for Lowering PremiumsAnd a press release
Auto insurance companies are planning a $2.4 million campaign to attack California Insurance Commissioner Garamendi because he has proposed rules to lower premiums for California good drivers.
Group Calls on Commissioner Candidates To Stand Behind Garamendi Insurance Regulations To Protect Integrity of OfficeGo there to read the rest.
Voters' Trust Is At Stake After Attempt to Extort Garamendi
SANTA MONICA, CA -- The two principal candidates for Insurance Commissioner should immediately assure voters that they support the "good driver" regulations that the insurance industry apparently believes the candidates will revoke if elected, supporters of Proposition 103 said today in a letter to the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees.
The letter from the non-profit, non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) and Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield comes two days after Insurance Commissioner Garamendi disclosed that insurers had tried to blackmail him in an attempt to delay the implementation of a key Proposition 103 reform until a new commissioner is elected. Last December, Commissioner Garamendi proposed rules to comply with Proposition 103's requirement that auto insurance premiums be based primarily on a motorist¿s driving record rather than their ZIP Code.
Commissioner Garamendi revealed Monday that a political operative had relayed a message from insurers to back off from regulations that would emphasize a drivers' safety record rather than ZIP code in pricing auto insurance, or face a $2.4 million negative ad campaign against him. The ads, reportedly launched this week after Garamendi¿s refusal to comply with the demand, are widely seen as an attempt to undermine his campaign for the post of lieutenant governor. [emphasis added]
Take a look at the PR firm in Sacramento spinning the attack.....Bicker, Castillo & Fairbanks
A couple of days ago, this story, about a Republican Cabinet Secretary declaring that contracts are awarded according to who gives money to The Party.
Today, this story, in which Republicans kill oversight over Iraqi reconstruction spending, A stunning tolerance for corruption in Iraqi reconstruction aid,
"Republican Appropriations Committee aides say legislators shifted the Iraq money to the foreign operations accounts at the request of the White House," the WSJ reported. The White House says it simply did this for budgetary purposes and to help "streamline accounting." The fact that the move cuts off the most effective auditor in Iraq at the knees, the Bush gang says, is a coincidence.Now read this. (Through Political Animal)
Previous Seeing the Forest stories about tax dollars used to promote the Republican Party: (Posts with the same title report on different abuses)
These are only SOME of the posts I have written on this subject, and only since I moved the blog from Blogger a year ago. And these are only the tip of the iceberg that I learned about and wrote about. Do you begin to detect a pattern here?
Corruption - turning a government department into an arm of The Party
Josh Marshall points out that the likely way the subject would have come up is if Jackson was soliciting contractors for campaign donations
May 5, 2006
From a reader: "Dana Priest is on MSNBC right now saying we'll have to wait for tomorrow's paper to find out why he resigned. The Post must have called him for comment on a story running tomorrow about his involvement with Brent Wilkes."
I don't know if you have been following the story about the corrupt defense contractor providing hookers for Republican members of Congress who were providing him with huge defense contracts. See Sex, Lies, and Government Contracts, Hookergate: Everybody Wants a Piece of the Action, Who Will Be the Woodward and Bernstein of New 'Hookergate' Story?, Watergate Subpoenaed in Hooker Probe and Hookergate being buried by press for more on that.
Left Coaster: Party On, Porter - Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass
May 2, 2006
How many remember the 1996 Telecom Bill? This was the "deregulation" bill that dramatically increased cable TV rates and increased concentration of owership of media outlets.
Well, they're at it again, this time going after your right to record radio and TV broadcasts: Net neutrality missing from sweeping telecom bill,
ncluded in the massive proposal is, however, one requirement sure to please the recording industry: authorization for the FCC to start the process of outlawing digital over-the-air radio and digital satellite receivers sold today that permit users to record broadcasts. Those would be supplanted with receivers that will treat as copy-protected anything with an "audio broadcast flag" in the future.Also in the bill, changes that would allow telecom companies to control what you see on the internet:
... His legislation would order the FCC to ban digital TV tuners, such as ElGato's EyeTV 500, that let users record over-the-air broadcasts and save them without copy protection.
Net neutrality, for instance, has become a rallying cry recently for Internet and software firms and liberal advocacy groups (and even one or two conservative ones) that say strict FCC regulations are necessary to protect the Internet. Net neutrality refers to the idea of the federal government preventing broadband providers from favoring some Web sites or video streams' connection speeds over others.
April 25, 2006
The news in Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline is worse than you think.
First the bad news,
President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline...Making it sound to the public like protecting the environment hurts regular people...
Now the worse news,
He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.The reason this is such bad news is this means the Bush WAS BUYING OIL UNTIL NOW at these inflated prices, driving prices up even higher, pumping government money to the oil companies and Saudis!!!!!
This also means, by the way, the perception that oil prices are dropping just as the election approaches.
April 22, 2006
I fear that all this optimism about the coming election shows a lack of understanding of what we're dealing with. This optimism and faith in the electoral process seems to me to be, as our Attorney General said about the Geneva Conventions, "quaint."
History doesn't have very many examples of dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian, cultist regimes willingly handing over to others the power to remove them from office and jail them for their crimes.
Watch your backs!
April 4, 2006
Rick Cohen of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blogs ar Drum Major Institute about Congressional use of charities to bypass lobbying reform,
Nearly every day there has been a revelation about a new purported charity or foundation established by or controlled by a member of Congress, in addition to DeLay's own eponymous foundation, ostensibly established by the former House Majority Leader and his wife to create a home for foster children, but known for its lavish "Fantasy Island" golf fundraisers involving members of Congress, lobbyists, and special interests operating without public disclosure. Among the leading foundations and charities linked to members of Congress are:Go there to read more and follow links. It's about Republican members of "Culture of Corruption" Congress, setting up phony charities to take big money from bad sources and do things like hire their relatives.
April 3, 2006
Through Atrios, one of the more important stories about Iraq. Please read it to the end. The Bush people have set it up so there is no way to know how much oil is being pumped and sold, nor any way to know where the money is going. SOMEone is walking away with BILLIONS.
Four great news ads from MoveOn. Go see, and as always, send an e-mail to people letting THEM know to watch! And remind THEM to forward to others, as well. (Use "e-mail this entry" at the end of the post.)
March 26, 2006
Abramoff Probe Widens to Murder at Truthout.
March 2, 2006
The American public can forgive mistakes, so long as they are not done with some malignant intent. Apparently they can also overlook some incompetence, so long as they believe the President is working hard at his job.Go look at the post, it shows one lie after another after another, just in the last couple of WEEKS!
But when the public begins to think they have been lied to -- repeatedly -- that love goes sour. Very sour. And lately, for the Bush Administration, it's been all about the lying.
It's all about the lying. No accountability, no taking responsibility, none. This President comes off as an irresponsible frat boy who is more than willing to blame anyone else to get his own ass out of trouble. That may work when you are 19 (although it wouldn't have worked with my parents, I can tell you that), but one would think that the President of the United States would hold himself to a higher ethical standard on this. Especially given a situation where people lost their lives.
March 1, 2006
More Republican corruption. Why do Republicans corrupt everything they touch? (Answer at end.)
THIS time they're being paid by the big food and chemical companies to gut the food safety regulations in place now in the individual states. On top of that, they're gutting California's Prop. 65, which requires businesses to warn people when they might be exposed to dangerous chemicals!
The bill, which has 226 co-sponsors in the House, would amend the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to supersede existing state legislation and practices on food-warning labels. It would also require states to petition the Food and Drug Administration to restore laws and regulations they currently have.
Some of the state laws that could be affected cover farm and food plant inspections, whereas others involve rules on shellfish, dairy products, allowable levels of arsenic and other contaminants in bottled water, lead in food and serving dishes, and whether salmon has to be labeled as wild or farmed. Numerous states have food-safety laws that are considerably tougher than federal standards.Another report, Bill to pre-empt state food safety rules,
The House bill has been promoted for several years by a coalition of food companies and producer trade associations.
In particular, the measure would pre-empt California's Proposition 65, a 1986 law that requires consumers to be notified about contaminants known to cause cancer or birth defects.Republicans corrupt everything they touch because they believe in an ideology of greed, of wealth and ower over regular people, while Democrats believe that people should work together to make everyone's lives better -- democracy and community.
The California law, which led to the reduction of arsenic in bottled water and lead in calcium supplements nationwide, has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to tighten federal standards over the years. Most recently the state has required warnings for pregnant women about mercury in certain fish.
Erik Olson, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "What the bill would do is assure the lowest common denominator of protection. Cheaper food that has poisonous chemicals in it is no bargain. They are being responsible and protecting citizens when the federal government hasn't done its job."
February 23, 2006
It is a Dick Cheney world out there – a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests.Go read.
... As great wealth has accumulated at the top, the rest of society has not been benefiting proportionally. In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was thirtyfold. Now it is seventy-five fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.
... In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices: “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both.”
... Since Bush was elected the number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled. That’s 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.
The amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by nearly one hundred percent in that same period, according to The Washington Post, going up to anything from $20,000 to $40,000 a month. Starting salaries have risen to nearly $300,000 a year for the best-connected people, those leaving Congress or the administration.
The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.
... A recent CBS news/New York Times poll found that 70% of Americans believe lobbyists bribing members of Congress is the way things work. Fifty seven percent thinks at least half of the members of Congress accept bribes or gifts that affect their votes. A Fox News poll reported that sixty five percent believe most elected officials in Washington make policy decisions or take actions on the basis of campaign contributions. Findings like these underscore the fact that ordinary people believe their bonds with democracy are not only stretched but sundered.
... There are, as I said, no victimless crimes in politics. The cost of corruption is passed on to you. When the government of the United States falls under the thumb of the powerful and privileged, regular folks get squashed.
... I have painted a bleak picture of democracy today. I believe it is a true picture. But it is not a hopeless picture. Something can be done about it.
February 20, 2006
Republicans culture of corruption, cronyism and favoritism.
February 17, 2006
At Spot-On, True Romance, Congress-style - an interesting story about student loans, Rep. John Boehner, private jets and a woman named Sallie Mae.
February 13, 2006
Let's say your job is making Bush and the Republicans ook good to the public. What's it going to cost?
Democrats requested that GAO conduct the study after evidence emerged last year that the Bush Administration had commissioned "covert propaganda" from public relations firms. Several federal departments had hired firms to develop "video new releases" to promote department initiatives which appeared to television viewers to be independent newscasts. Other revelations that triggered the GAO report included the disclosure that the Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on the radio and in his columns.And what items of great importance to the American pubic were our tax dollars spent on?
... The Administration's public relations and advertising contracts spanned a wide range of issues, including Administration priorities like "marriage-related research initiatives," message development presenting "the Army's strategic perspective in the Global War on Terrorism," and an FDA contract to warn the public of the consequences and potential danger of importing prescription drugs from other nations.The danger of importing drugs from other nations? That's a DRUG COMPANY propaganda point, not a government one!
Of course, no one will go to jail for this.
January 24, 2006
Campaign Finance Reform is the hot reform issue du jour. Oversight of travel, meals and free trips on corporate jets have all been mentioned in passing. The elephant in the living room that neither political party has hardly mentioned is earmarking. CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has a Knight-Ridder article that has a short and sweet description of earmarking that suggests earmarking is the biggest problem:
Earmarking allows members of Congress to set aside money for specific projects in legislation without review by committees. The practice has ballooned in recent years: In 1998 the 13 appropriations bills contained 2,000 earmarks worth $10.6 billion, while in 2005 there were more than 15,500 earmarks that cost taxpayers $32.7 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group.
"There are thousands of quid pro quos that occur daily in the halls of Congress," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Earmarking is the quo. It's what lawmakers can offer to lobbyists in exchange for political contributions and whatever else. It's part of the puzzle."
Ashdown recommends a 50 percent cut in earmarks and greater transparency for the earmarks that remain, such as requiring their placement in bills before they go into House-Senate conferences, which typically are closed to the public.
A 50 percent cut in earmarks sounds like a dramatic improvement. That means Congress would only be dishing out 7,250 earmarks worth a little over $16 billion. Is that what we are looking for when we're discussing reforming the culture of corruption? Why are anonymous earmarks tacked onto legislation in the dead of night an acceptable procedure at all? Why is it acceptable to allow even 100 anonymous earmarks per year?
Query: If lobbyists and their clients could not get rewarded for their efforts with multi-million dollar and hundred million dollar earmarks, what would happen to the culture of corruption?
Consider Sirota’s description of the problem:
No matter where you look in politics you can see this phenomenon, right up in your face. We can see it in the two parties' competing lobbying/ethics "reform" packages - both of which do not attack the real problem of elections being financed by corporate cash. That's by design - because to attack the real problem with public financing of elections would be to actually give the public - and not Corporate America - control over the political process.
We see the same thing on many major economic issues like bankruptcy, "free" trade, energy policy, health care and more. These are the bread-and-butter economic issues where the public consistently tells pollsters it wants radically different policies than comes from their government. Yet, politicians and the media dishonestly portray only a narrow set of policies in these areas as "mainstream," "centrist," or "politically possible” making sure the overall debate and realm of possible outcomes is narrowed to the point where votes don't really have to be bought, because whatever final result is already guaranteed to further enrich the powers that be.
This debate narrowing is really what lobbyists are masters of. They provide the talking points, justifications, background research and propaganda to both sides of a debate to make sure that politically taboo subjects (aka. the concerns of ordinary Americans) aren't really ever seriously considered in a debate over an issue. Lawmakers are happy to regurgitate the nonsense because they know that when they do, they will be rewarded like little puppies with a treat - namely, a campaign contribution.
hmmmmm. Mainstream. Centrist. Politically possible. Where have I heard those phrases before? They sound so familiar. It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Is campaign finance reform a sufficient reform or merely a necessary first step? Without the payoff of lucrative anonymous earmarks, would corporate cash continue to pour into our electoral process?
Of course GOP spinmeisters are all trying to pretend that corruption is a bi-partisan issue. For example, Mary Maitlin on Meet The Press
RUSSERT: Ten years later, nearly 14,000 specific earmarked projects by individuals congressmen and senators, $27 billion dollars. Republicans control both houses of Congress.
MS. MATALIN: They control both houses, but they’re not the only earmark appropriators.
At the risk of being too objective, is it remotely possible that earmarks are the reason Bush and the GOP have been so successful at picking off just enough Democrats to pass significant pieces of legislation? Could there be a reason, aside from political cowardice, that Democrats haven’t focused on putting an end to earmarking? Essentially all of the Abramoff corruption that has been uncovered has been funneled to Republicans. How much of the annual earmarking has been funneled to Democrats to purchase their complicity and their silence?The fundamental question is whether Democrats are serious about reform:
Mr. PAUL BEGALA: Well, yes, to the latter, absolutely. And Democrats are having an internal debate, which they are resolving now. They're coming out for reform. I have to say, when we were writing this book it was still a big debate. There were a lot of Democrats who didn't want to clean up the system, quite candidly. They, I think, were hoping to sweep out the corrupt Republicans lobbyists and bring in corrupt Democratic lobbyists.
A few sentences later Begala suggests the Democrats are finally ready to get serious about reform. I’m not convinced. A Newsday editorial points out that without an enforcement mechanism all of the talk about reform is just a lot of hot air. Perhaps reform is just too complex and difficult. Fromer SEC Chair Arthur Levitt Jr. has a few thoughts on the subject published in the Washington Post, Cutting The Corruption:
To remedy that, congressional lobbyists should be required to disclose weekly, online, which members of Congress they contributed to and met with, which staff members they lobbied, and what issues were discussed. Lobbyists also should have to affix their signature to these disclosures and, like CEOs who sign false financial statements, face serious criminal penalties if the disclosures are not accurate.
Now that’s a pretty extreme suggestion I haven’t heard anyone propose. It sounds like that would take care of the problem. Wouldn't it?
But disclosure is only part of the solution; independence is also critical. That's why auditing firms are now forbidden from providing non-audit services to auditing clients, why companies can no longer give personal loans to executives or directors, and why a majority of a board of directors must be independent of the company itself. In Washington, any number of conflicts of interest between members of Congress, their staffs, lobbyists and contributors must be untangled. To begin to do this, former members of Congress should be prohibited from visiting the floor of the House, the prohibition on lobbying by former members and their staffs should be extended from one year to four, and all gifts and travel for members and their employees should be banned.
Finally, accountability must be restored. Currently, Congress's ethics committees resemble some of the worst corporate boards from the mid-1990s -- appointed by management and wholly dependent on it for career advancement. Just as corporate boards have been strengthened by rules establishing independent audit committees, Congress would be well-served by scrapping its current ethics committees and replacing them with an independent ethics commission made up of former judges, former members of Congress and other eminent citizens.
Moreover, as with good corporate governance, there needs to be more democracy in American governance. Partisan gerrymandering has created a Congress in which more than 95 percent of the members are assured of keeping their seats for life. Just as shareholders must have access to the proxy to hold corporate board members accountable, citizens must be confident that when they go into the voting booth their votes will be meaningful. It's time to explore ways to lower the barriers of entry for challengers -- through, for instance, free television airtime for all candidates. And to create more competitive congressional districts, we need to follow the leads of states such as Arizona and Iowa and put the responsibility of drawing district boundaries in the hands of nonpartisan boards.
But ultimately, no rule or regulation can transform an organization on its own. What's needed is a cultural change in which those who do the bidding of lobbyists, cash in their positions on Capitol Hill for huge paychecks and accept gifts are scorned, not praised. Accomplishing that requires real leadership, and that's something that only we -- as citizens and voters -- can give to ourselves.
Speaking for myself, I don’t think either political party is serious about reform. If the progressive blogosphere and netroots are serious about campaign reform, we’re going t have to be just as skeptical of Democrats as we are of Republicans. We’re going to have to be just as demanding of Democrats as we are of Republicans. Business as usual, band-aid approaches and “pragmatically possible” solutions cannot be acceptable.
January 21, 2006
At Political Animal...
Some math ... then,
So: Indian tribes usually give most of their money to Democrats, while Abramoff clients — and only Abramoff clients — give most of their money to Republicans. Coincidence? I think not.http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_01_22_atrios_archive.html#113802490296040969
Surely some enterprising reporter could do this kind of simple analysis for all of Abramoff's tribal clients?
Update - Thanks to Atrios, this at TPM Cafe, One More Look at the Washington Post Clown Show...,
Washington Post reporter Susan Schimdt, February 22, 2004: "Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes -- Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, the Agua Caliente of California, the Mississippi Choctaws and the Louisiana Coushattas... have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show..."So the Post's reporters have printed the facts, and management ignores those facts and spreads the lie that the Abramoff scandal involved Democrats as well as Repubicans and therefore "they all do it" which is a strategic narrative leading to the conclusion "don't bother to vote." It look smore and more like the self-described "Leninist" conservative movement has infiltrated the Washington Post now.
And the late David Rosenbaum, New York Times reporter, April 3, 2002, page A1: "Mr. Abramoff says he represents only those [clients] who stand for conservative principles.... ''All of my political work,'' he said, ''is driven by philosophical interests, not by a desire to gain wealth.''...
January 20, 2006
The Stakeholder:: Globetrotters has a story about investigators tracing down the Mariana Islands / Abramoff money.
In my opinion the Mariana Islands / Abramoff / Tom DeLay component is a KEY to this entire Republican corruption machine story, because the Bush Administration removed a prosecutor who was looking into the payoffs. The absence of law and accountability, with the Bush administration blocking rather than launching investigations each and every time signs of corruption appeared, is what allowed it all to fourish. The early White House actions to keep the law off the trail of the corruption machine show that it was government-wide, a scheme to loot the treasury.
(Another component, the appointment of L. Jean Lewis as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department's inspector general office.)
January 19, 2006
One recent afternoon in Los Alamitos, I watched Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, M.D., pick her way through a government website designed to help elderly patients select the right Medicare drug plan, based on their prescription needs and hometown.
The website, created for the launch of Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, identified 48 individual plans available for Southern California residents. All were sponsored by private health insurance companies administering the government drug benefit for a profit. The plans' monthly premiums ranged from $5.41 to $66.08; their lists of covered drugs differed from one another, sometimes significantly; and all imposed different annual out-of-pocket costs on enrollees — a critical consideration for patients on fixed incomes.
A marginally useful website that is hiding in plain site:
Why are people holding off?
Even the government acknowledges that selecting a plan is dauntingly confusing for those without access to its Internet help site. That's a big hurdle, because an estimated 70% of Americans over 65 have never been online.
Big oops? Or intended to boost profits for Big Pharma?
The toll-free information lines set up by Medicare and various health plans have been overwhelmed for weeks. Medicare regulations discourage physicians, pharmacists and healthcare advocates from helping patients select a specific plan. Yet many professionals say they themselves are so confounded by the program's intricacies that their patients will be hard pressed to make the right choices on their own.
The health plans have filled the vacuum with glossy marketing brochures, some of which are flagrantly misleading. "You're pitting big corporations against the most vulnerable people in society, and you're telling them that they can't turn to the people they trust for advice," observes Thomas R. Clark, director of policy and advocacy for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, an organization of pharmacists specializing in geriatric and long-term care.
Isn’t that special? Hiltzig reminds us that Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is a red headed step child of blatant and intentional fraud:
Its worth remembering that the prescription drug program was born in an act of fraud. The Bush administration sold it to Congress in 2003 by estimating its cost at less than $400 billion over 10 years. Scarcely a month after its enactment, the White House issued a new estimate: $535 billion. That figure might well have killed the bill, which had passed the House by a razor-thin margin even with the lower price tag.
It soon came to light that Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, had known of the higher estimate — but had been told he'd be fired if he warned Congress before the vote. (The current estimate is $700 billion.)
As written, the legislation complied with a drug industry demand that Medicare be prohibited from negotiating with manufacturers for lower drug prices. Among those helping the industry make its stand was Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), whose committee on energy and commerce oversaw Medicare. In an odoriferous development, Tauzin soon quit Congress to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — Big Pharma's Washington lobbying group.
The program's implementation, meanwhile, was handed over to commercial health insurance companies, subject to indifferent oversight. That explains the perverse variations in monthly premiums, drug prices, even approved drugs, which will make it all but impossible for consumers to be sure they've selected the right plan.
Here’s a kicker from Kevin Drum over at Political Animal, The Prescription Drug Debacle .... Part 341:
It's a Government Accounting Office report, issued in December, warning that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to make sure the most medically and financially vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries could actually get their drugs.
If you do get around to reading it, make sure to check out the part where Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the GAO has it all wrong — the part where he insists that "CMS has established effective contingency plans to ensure that dual-eligible beneficiaries will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage and obtain necessary drugs beginning January 1, 2006."You know, that sounds familiar. The Bush administration is warned that its planning is inadequate but it ignores the advice and plows ahead without listening.
Very familiar. It's on the tip of my tongue. Help me out here.
January 18, 2006
Melanie Sloan of Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington was on CSPAN just prior to the Democratic Reform Proposal and pointed out that they were not addressing the problem of earmarks and there was not an enforcement mechanism. Melanie Sloan was right.
Update 6:00 a.m. PDT - from L.A. Times, Culture of Lobbying May Resist Reform:
Despite the political theater Wednesday, Democrats offered proposals that in many respects were similar to those laid out the day before by Hastert and Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), chairman of the House Rules Committee
The Agonist gives an opinion on Why Democrats and Lobbying Reform Is A Bad Idea
January 17, 2006
The White House is refusing to reveal exactly who Jack Abramoff met with in the White House during his more than 200 contacts in the first ten months of the Bush administration. This is despite promising to do so, less than two weeks ago.Go read the rest, something's up!
January 12, 2006
Republicans do not believe that people can work together and help each other so they do not believe in government and law. Instead they believe in a dog-eat-dog, everyone on-their-own and out-for-themselves society where the strongest survive and it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else. So whenever conservatives gain power they abuse it and use it to get money for themselves and their friends.Always add the "Because".
January 11, 2006
Several organizations are calling for "reform" of the campaign-finance and lobbying system. This is a mistake. It is very important to understand that this Abramoff scandal is about breaking laws, not about any need for reform of existing laws. But more than that, it is about an attempt to change America into a one-party state.
This scandal is about the leadership of the Republican Party creating a self-perpetuating system where public money is spent to promote a non-democratic, divisive, destructive ideology and perpetuate one-party control -- THEIR control -- of the country.
The Abramoff scandal shines a light on how the currently-constituted "conservative movement" / Christian Right-controlled Republican Party, not isolated individuals, are systematically using the power of government to finance and extend an illegal, corrupt machine of one-party domination. Their leadership implemented a comprehensive, party-wide system wherein companies paid for legislation and were punished by the government itself if they refused to pay. The committees of the Congress itself were used to intimidate lobbying firms and others to purge all but Republicans and then become tools to increase Republican Party control. The money received was used to strengthen this system and further promote the ideology and candidates. Meanwhile, the agencies of government are systematically and rapidly being purged and replaced with "conservative movement" operatives, and increasingly used to enforce one-party control.
I believe this system is a component of an organized threat to our democracy from a well-financed, self-described "Leninist," subversive, cult-like, conspiratorial movement intent on imposing a corporatist/theocratic authoritarian system on us. I think history teaches us that we are already well down the "slippery slope" of increasingly repressive government, with a president who says laws do not restrict his authority and that Democrats "provide comfort to our adversaries" and I fear the signals such language sends to "the base."
I think this ideologically-driven threat to our freedom is a national emergency as grave as that which we faced from Germany or the Soviet Union. But when we faced those threats we were able to recognize and fight back against the propaganda with the resources of our own government. Today, however, the government's resources themselves are increasingly turned on us.
So when you hear that this scandal is about Democrats as well as Republicans, or "everybody does it" don't buy that crap for a second. This is a very very different situation from simple graft. This is not about an individual member of Congress taking a payoff or otherwise cashing out from the position. This is NOTHING like Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright selling self-published copies of a book for cash or Dan Rostenkowski getting free stamps and trading them for cash. This is systematic abuse by the leadership of a political party in a scheme to take over the country.
Watch your backs.
January 8, 2006
You're reading a lot about a corruption scandal in Washington. Some people are trying to tell you that "everybody does it" and that both parties are involved and that whenever you try to take the money out of politics it finds another way in. These are smokescreens designed to make you think this is not as bad as it sounds. These are smokescreens designed to make you think there is nothing you can do about things like that, that you have no power, and that you should just let the politicians take care of these things for you.
Don't be fooled. See the forest, not the trees. This corruption scandal is about people breaking existing laws. This is about Republican Congressmen and White House officials indicted for illegally taking bribes. They took payments in exchange for abusing their power, providing favors to cronies, and for using their power to block investigations and oversight.
Just like with New Orleans and FEMA, this is just one more example of Republicans in Congress not doing their job. This is what always happens when so-called "conservatives" gain power, because Republicans do not believe that people can work together and help each other so they do not believe in government and law. Instead they believe in a dog-eat-dog, everyone on-their-own and out-for-themselves society where the strongest survive and it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else. So whenever conservatives gain power they abuse it and use it to get money for themselves and their friends. Just look at what has happened to pensions, health insurance and wages since the conservatives took office -- everything is going the wrong way. The rich are getting vastly richer and the corporations don't have to follow any rules, while the rest of us are getting squeezed harder and harder.
Government can work, laws can work and society can work for all of us, but only when everybody plays by the rules, and the system's checks and balances are enforced. Government is supposed to be about "us" working together for the betterment of everybody - don't ever let Republicans tell you that government is a "them."
Progressives believe that the ideals of community and democracy CAN work -- that people CAN work together to help each other out -- that businesses CAN make money while following the rules, serving their customers and bettering the community as a whole.
January 5, 2006
Bill Berkowitz, writing at Media Transparency, has a piece titled Paying to play, expanding on why the Abramoff investigation should trigger a look into the "conservative movement" think tanks that Abramoff was working with.
Revelations that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bought op-ed pieces from fellows at right wing think tanks should unleash an investigation into two decades of so-called research paid for by conservative philanthropies
Part of the Abramoff scandal is the funding and use of these "charity" organizations to put out propaganda for Abramoff's clients and to help consolidate Republicans in power.
On Friday, December 16, another branch from the "pay to play" tree of journalism came crashing to earth.Yesterday, in Abramoff Indictment Hides Connection to RWNM, I wrote about Abramoff's use of his own phony "foundation" to dispense money, and how the Bush Justice Department is working to hide this connection because any investigation would reveal the underpinnings of Republican power. I wrote,
Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the fiercely libertarian Cato Institute, resigned after BusinessWeek Online revealed that he had been paid ample chunks of change by indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff to produce columns in support of issues of interest to Abramoff and his clients. Many of these columns were related to Indian gambling, and "extol[ing] the virtues of the free-market system" particularly in the Northern Mariana Islands, the New York Times reported.
Abramoff's connection to and abuse of a "clearly phony" non-profit organization is a lead the Bush Administration's Justice Department doesn't want to follow, because it is this network of organizations that pays - and pays well - for the army of right-wingers who write op-eds, articles and books supporting the Republican agenda, who make appearances on so many radio and TV shows and who offer "informed opinions" for news articles and programs. These are the PR and marketing organizations that send out the repeated pro-conservative messaging and strategic narratives that move American ever more rightward. An honest investigation of their funding and operation would threaten the underpinnings of the conservative movement's "Right Wing Noise Machine." So it ain't gonna happen as long as Bush is in charge of where the Abramoff investigation leads.Berkowitz's article explains,
Since the 1980s, the political landscape has become thick with conservative and libertarian think tanks. For a time, it seemed that every other week or so, yet another press release announced the establishment of a new think tank or public policy institute. During this period, more than 100 such organizations were founded, staffed and funded. Some appeared to fly-by-night operations run by one person or by a skeleton staff whose sole purpose was to issue canned press releases on the public policy issue of the day. Other organizations appeared to engage in original research and received a substantial amount of funding support from conservative philanthropies and foundations.Berkowitz goes on to say that,
Special studies, op-ed pieces, and so-called "highly documented" studies, covering a broad swath of conservative/free market issues cascaded forth from these institutions. Similar to the Bush Administration's faith-based initiative, where little attention has been paid to discovering whether these groups actually serve the public better than government agencies, much of the information generated by these think tanks was accepted without much investigation into the substance of their assertions. It appeared that the sheer volume of the material that was generated -- especially when similar-conclusions came from different groups -- was enough for editorial writers, reporters, op-ed writers and radio talk show hosts to spread their findings as gospel.
Uncovering the ties -- and the amounts of money involved--between researchers and op-eders at right wing think tanks and industry lobbying groups and /or their powerful political patrons is no easy task. As the New York Times' Philip Shenon recently noted, "Executives in the public relations and lobbying industries say that the hiring of outside commentators to promote special interests - typically by writing newspaper opinion articles or in radio and television interviews - does happen, although it is impossible to monitor since the payments do not have to be disclosed and can be disguised as speaking fees and other compensation."The Abramoff scandal, if pursued honestly, will lead directly to an investigation of the illegal use of tax-free contributions to fund the infrastructure of the so-called "conservative movement."
January 4, 2006
Remember how Bush blocked a prosecutor from looking into Abramoff, back in 2002? Well Bush has put a right-wing political operative - with ties to Tom DeLay - in charge of the current Abramoff prosecution.
Fisher is a career Republican who in her former job was registerd as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor.
Now, ask yourself if an investigation was being held into powerful Democrats under a Democratic administration if there would be shrieking harpies flying all over the airwaves today demanding a special prosecutor.Daily Kos: Abramoff prosecutor has reported ties to DeLay defense,
Yeah, I know. Whatever.
Alice Fishser has never worked as a prosecutor. She worked as a litigation associate in the Washington office of New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell. Where she represented corporate scum.So, do you think Abramoff is goig to name other Republicans? Or, maybe ... frame a bunch of Democrats with Bush Justice Department help?
The Republicans are going with "bipartisan scandal" and "everybody does it." Which comes down to "don't vote."
Here is some ammunition. In this list of Abramoff's political donations there is not a single Democrat: NEWSMEAT - Jack Abramoff's federal campaign contributions.
AMERICAblog has more, "That's 229 donations and not a DIME to Democrats." And,
I just counted, and I think this list of GOP donors and organizations is around 15 feet long. Someone on our side REALLY needs to print out this list and get in front of a camera. Hell, every single one of our pundits should have this list with them on TV and just roll it out on the table.This is entirely a REPUBLICAN scandal, folks.
Also indicted a while back was David Safavian the Bush administration's top federal procurement official, working in the White House. Karl Rove's assistant Susan Ralston was previously Abramoff's assistant. And Bush blocked a prosecutor from looking into Abramoff in 2002.
Update - Bob Geiger has more.
January 3, 2006
OK, this one - about the unfolding Abramoff Republican corruption scandal - should generalte a nice, long comment thread.
Miller went to the FBI after Scanlon broke off their engagement and announced his intention to marry another woman.Heh. So ALL the right-wingers in Washington remained silent. Not one whistleblower, until this. Heh.
... While still engaged to Miller, Scanlon had started an affair with a manicurist and broke up with Miller because he planned to marry the other woman.
December 30, 2005
When I put up this post asking if maybe the "conservative movement" Republicans were really dupes of the Russians or the Chinese, I sure didn't expect to get my answer a few hours later.
Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).Russians pumping millions into an organization called the "U.S. Family Network." Uh huh.
It seems that everyone in the world understood that the Republican leadership was on the take. Do ya think maybe foreign intelligence services might have also known? Do ya think that maybe some of the really, really strange things these right-wing clucks have been doing to the country might maybe have been the result of a few (or more) million dollars changing hands? I suspect this is only the very first on foreign influence of the so-called "conservative movement."
Oh yes, go read the rest.
December 19, 2005
Hard to imagine that Bush could find people less qualified to fill their own positions, than he is to fill his, but he's managed to do it. Check out this latest article by Bill Berkowitz on Media Transparency: Bush Administration mining fundamentalist recruits.
Paul Bonicelli, who most recently was the dean of academic affairs at Patrick Henry College, a small fundamentalist Christian college locatedHiring by the Book in rural Virginia, has moved on to oversee USAID's democracy and governance programs.
William Fisher, who has managed economic development programs in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development says...
Bonicelli "has little experience in the field he has been tapped to supervise," Fisher noted. "The closest he comes to democracy promotion or good governance is having worked as a staffer for the Republican Party in the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives."
Now, I'm no veteran of Washington D.C. myself, and have only 34 years to my credit on this planet, but it seems to me that more career civil service officials have been provoked to complain about the politicization of the bureaucracy by the Bush Administration, than any other in history.
According to his new boss...
"Bonicelli's office will focus on four primary goals of strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights; promoting more genuine and competitive elections and political processes; increasing development of a politically active civil society; and implementing a more transparent and accountable governance. Progress in all four areas is necessary to achieve sustainable democracy.
Setting aside the question of whether his training and professional education qualify him for such a position, let's take a look at the environment he has just been operating within:
"Students must obey a curfew, wear their hair neatly and dress 'modestly.'If they wish to hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, they must do so while walking: standing while holding hands is not permitted. And students must sign an honor pledge that bans them from drinking alcohol unless under parental supervision." In addition, "The MTV and VH1 pop-culture channels are blocked from campus televisions because their contents are considered inappropriate [and] the students' computers are set up with a program called Covenant Eyes, which monitors the websites they visit."
You gotta wonder whether or not the human rights of queer people, or, hell, anyone whose interest in sex extends beyond procreation, to, say, artistic expression of one sort or another, are going to have much of a priority for this guy.
This is the image we want to present to the world? That of crazed Protestant Christian fundamentalists... the type of folks who ally themselves with crazed Muslim fundamentalists and crazed Catholic fundamentalists to block reforms that promote women's rights, queer people's rights, and access to birth control, reproductive information in general, sex education, and abortion (as Berkowitz mentions in his article)?
December 17, 2005
I guess the testimony went the way Bush wanted. No? How blatant can it get?
December 15, 2005
Blatant jury tampering from Mr. "No comment on ongoing investigations." Go read firedoglake.
December 10, 2005
Here's how it works. Set up phony front-companies and call them "defense contractors." Republicans in Congress "earmark" hundreds of millions in contracts for these companies into budget bills. The companies are really just fronts that shuttle the money to The Party and its infrastructure organizations, which use the money on campaign ads, etc. for Republicans.
Sound illegal? So what? Who is going to investigate? The Republican Justice Department? The Republican Congress? News organizations owned by defense contractors like GE? Fat chance.
December 9, 2005
December 7, 2005
The Left Coaster: Profiting From Katrina - It's All In The Family links to yet another example.
Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party.
She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.How much of the money gets shuttled to over The Party as kickbacks? As Bush says, IT'S YOUR MONEY!
... But the $6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism.
Federal records show that the company has won at least 10 separate contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the General Services Administration to install and maintain showers for relief workers and evacuees, to deliver tents, and to provide laundry equipment. The most valuable were awarded in September and October without competitive bidding, the records show.
According to a review of federal contracts awarded since Hurricane Katrina, her company ranks seventh in total contracts out of 88 Mississippi-based concerns that have received deals worth $100,000 or more.
P.S. Barbour also used to be Chair of the Republican Party.
November 25, 2005
At The All Spin Zone, Culture of Corruption: Scope of Abramoff Probe Becoming Clearer,
Most people won't be paying attention today (does anyone actually read the newspaper on Saturday?), but the Washington Post delves into the depths of casinogate, and the impact that's sure to come. Apparently, the investigation of former DeLay minion Jack Abramoff is expanding, and very, very active. A wide net is being tossed, and a lot of fish are about to be caught:But you gotta go to All Spin Zone for the rest.
November 23, 2005
Bad news for Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney, at The Stakeholder
November 19, 2005
While Kicking Democrats Out Of Needed Motel Rooms, FEMA Money To Republican Cities Not Hit By Hurricane
Thousands of evacuees from the Gulf Coast are staying in hotel rooms in Georgia and Texas, but they will have to find other accommodations in about two weeks.
At the federal Housing and Urban Development office in DeKalb County, several evacuees sought help Thursday at the agency, but were given little assistance.
"It's stressful," said evacuee Crystal Stanton. "It's cold out here and we have until the 31st, and FEMA is going to put us out on the street."
The only damage sustained by most of the nearly 30,000 households receiving aid was spoiled food in the freezer.
[. . .] What happened in Jackson and its suburbs - in Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties - might not be unique. Emergency officials elsewhere in Mississippi and in parts of Louisiana have also questioned how so much federal aid could have been authorized, given the limited damage they documented.
[. . .] The disaster area in Mississippi - which is led by Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican ally of President Bush's - extends 200 miles farther north than that in Louisiana, which is led by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat who at times criticized the federal storm response.
November 15, 2005
Thirty Democratic Senators voted to restrict Habeus Corpus for enemy combatants, proving that fascism has bi-partisan appeal. Up next, *The Streamlined Procedures Act*, which restricts Habeus Corpus rights for the rest of us.
From Talk Left, No Habeas for Them, No Habeas for Us:
Tinkering with habeas corpus is a dangerous thing. Today, Sen. Lindsay Graham and his fellow Senators told you they are only restricting habeas rights of enemy combatants, i.e., foreigners. But on November 16, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a second hearing on S. 1088 (pdf), a bill that would gut habeas corpus rights for Americans.
As Digby noted yesterday, fascism is not an irresistable revolutionary movement, it creeps in through the back door:
"Hitler came to office in 1933 as the result, not of any irresistible revolutionary or national movement sweeping him into power, nor even of a popular victory at the polls, but as part of a shoddy political deal with the 'Old Gang' whom he had been attacking for months… Hitler did not seize power; he was jobbed into office by a backstairs intrigue."
The Streamlined Procedures Act increases the threat of wrongful conviction:
The legislation, known as the Streamlined Procedures Act, would effectively kill the writ of habeas corpus by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction to consider cases in which a prisoner's constitutional rights may have been violated. The legislation would apply to all criminal cases, including capital cases. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in the Senate and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) in the House.
The impact is broad and pernicious:
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its second hearing on the bill for Wednesday, November 16th, at 9:30am. A contentious hearing on the legislation took place on July 13 featuring witnesses including former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman, innocence expert Barry Scheck and death penalty attorney and law professor Bryan A. Stevenson arguing that the bill would increase the likelihood of innocent people being executed. The witnesses also noted how the legislation undermines recent bipartisan action by Congress to address inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, through the Innocence Protection Act, and conflicts with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
The anticipated Democratic response: No habeus for them, no habeus for us, no problem.
November 3, 2005
Meanwhile the Abramoff scandal investigation rolls along. Salon has a good piece on it today: Abramoff-Scanlon School of Sleaze,
In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.If you know about the Abramoff-Norquist-Reed-DeLay-Rove connections it is revealing that the Christians are referred to as "whackos." It's what so many of us have said all along, the "conservative movement" isn't ideology at all, it's just a big con-man scam. The Republican leadership is simply saying wht they need to say to the Christians to get their votes, making fools of them, and when they get into office they hand over the Treasury to each other.
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.
October 21, 2005
Beyond Clueless: Michael Brown's Dinner Arrangements A High Priority During Unfolding Katrina Disaster
Lauren Weinstein has just posted a link to some of the emails circulating within FEMA during the Katrina crisis, apparently there are a number of stunners there, including an email from Sharon Worthy, Brown's press secretary, on the topic of ensuring that enough time was arranged for Michael Brown to have a nice leisurely dinner at a Baton Rouge area restaurant - a priority less than appreciated by other FEMA workers busy eating MREs, crapping in the hallways of the Superdome, and attempting to sleep on concrete floors. Not to mention trying to help people dying in the streets.
Bush style "crisis" leadership. I thank the deity every day that our worst "enemy" is a rag tag band of terrorists hiding out in the mountains of Pakistan, who feel more threatened by the Pakistani Army than the entire might of our "Global War On Terrorism" (c.f. the recent letter from Ayman al-Zawahri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi).
Go see TV Ad: "Laundromat" at Clean Up Congress.
Give them money to run the ad.
October 13, 2005
[Imperial Rome had nothing on America under Bush. -Thomas]
TCNs frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100 degree plus heat to eat "slop." Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labor seven days a week, 10 hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. Few receive proper workplace safety equipment or adequate protection from incoming mortars and rockets.
Blood, Sweat & Tears:
Asia's Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq
by David Phinney, Special to CorpWatch
October 3rd, 2005
Called "third country nationals" (TCN) in contractor's parlance, they hail
largely from impoverished Asian countries such as the Philippines, India,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan, as well as from Turkey and
countries in the Middle East. Once in Iraq, TCNs earn monthly salaries
between $200 to $1,000 as truck drivers, construction workers, carpenters,
warehousemen, laundry workers, cooks, accountants, beauticians, and similar
Invisible Army of Cheap Labor
Tens of thousands of such TNC laborers have helped set new records for the
largest civilian workforce ever hired in support of a U.S. war. They are
employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of
the pyramid-shaped system is the U.S. government which assigned over $24
billion in contracts over the last two years. Just below that layer are the
prime contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. Below them are dozens of
smaller subcontracting companies-- largely based in the Middle
East --including PPI, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting and Alargan
Trading of Kuwait, Gulf Catering, Saudi Trading & Construction Company of
Saudi Arabia. Such companies, which recruit and employ the bulk of the
foreign workers in Iraq, have experienced explosive growth since the
invasion of Iraq by providing labor and services to the more high-profile
This layered system not only cuts costs for the prime contractors, but also
creates an untraceable trail of contracts that clouds the liability of
companies and hinders comprehensive oversight by U.S. contract auditors. In
April, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of the
U.S. Congress concluded that it is impossible to accurately estimate the
total number of U.S. or foreign nationals working in Iraq.
[read more at the link above]
[Bush's vision for America: Blackwater mercenaries patrolling the streets, no-bid contracts to favored corporations, the military running everything under Karl Rove's supervision, etc. etc. etc. -Thomas]
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders urged Congress and all Americans to reject the White House's intention to turn New Orleans and all disaster areas into zones of military control, weakened human rights protections and oversight of federal agencies, and corporate profiteering similar to occupied Iraq.
"The treatment of New Orleans' poorest, especially African Americans, has already been widely reported and is now a national shame, as is the ineptitude of Mayor Nagin's office, FEMA, and other government bodies whose poor preparation and delayed response helped turn the city into a ruin," said Romi Elnagar, Acting Secretary of the Green Part of Louisiana. "But we've also witnessed a new pattern, of policies and actions that have turned New Orleans into a war zone all too similar to occupied Iraq."
October 8, 2005
According to the L.A. Weekly, ChevronTexaco has lavished $1.6 million on "state-level politicians and party committees since 2000" ... including donating $25,000 to Treasurer Phil Angelides (now a leading candidate for governor in 2006, and a self-declared "progressive").
This a minor data point buried in a long and very detailed and interesting article about how a small group of "moderate" Democrats continually frustrate efforts to clean up California's polluted air (which apparently costs the state approximately $10 billion in public health costs a year)... but it is symbolic of the level of influence these large corporate polluters have (and shouldn't). It would be a very powerful statement on Phil Angelides' part to formally and emphatically declare himself free of influence from one of the top corporate polluters in state by returning the $25,000 donated to him by ChevronTexaco.
I'd even be willing to help compensate for the loss, by donating $25 on the condition that he take this action... are there a thousand other Californians who would do the same? Maybe a more prominent (and organized and connected) blogger could take up this cause? I think I'm going to write speakoutca.org and point them to this article.
Comments? Thoughts? Reactions?
October 6, 2005
I came across Find the Brownie:
The objective of this blog is to find an important government job occupied by a person with no apparent qualifications other than strong personal, political, or business ties to a member of the administration.
October 4, 2005
This is a follow up to the "Follow the money... in Ohio" posting.
President Scott Syphax: $574,535
Founder Don F. Harris: $185,000 (for 15 hours a week!)
Other officers (may include Harris) earning six-figure salaries: 9
Pretty nice, eh? How many folks do you know in the non-profit world that earn this type of money?
Dominion Homes appears to be embarassed by the attention paid to this program - they've dropped it from their web site.
The Nehemiah Program: Dominion Homes is proud to be a participant in the Nehemiah Home Ownership Program. This program revolves around the donation or gift of funds to Homebuyers from a not-for-profit organization called the Nehemiah Corporation. You can get more information on the Nehemiah program by clicking here or by visiting their website at www.getdownpayment.com.
They've also dropped the $0 Down Option ALT tag for the graphic on the page, dropped a paragraph about Balloon Mortgages, and dropped a paragraph about "Other Non-Traditional Programs" and seeing a "Dominion Homes sales representative or Dominion Homes Financial Services® loan counselor for details." ... generally shortening the page and dropping references to higher risk programs.
P.S. Here's a 2002 article from BankRate.com that describes the issues in more detail.
[UPDATE: See entry above on the scandalously high salaries ($185,000 for 15 hours a week?!?) that Nememiah Corp. of America pays it's executives. -Thomas]
"Homebuilders across the country, including Dominion Homes, have found a way around a Federal law barring sellers from giving money directly to buyers for a down payment. They route the money through charities such as the Nehemiah Corp. of America, a faith-based group in California. Nehemiah provides down payments for both existing and new homes, and its relationship with Dominion is the largest of its kind in central Ohio between a builder and charity.
"Nehemiah uses a loophole in federal regulations that allows charities to provide the 3% down payment required to qualify for Federal Housing Administration mortgages. An uncounted number of copycats have followed, leading to an explosion of 'zero-down' loans. Federal authorities do not regulate or track such organizations."
Now if you're like me, your first reaction to the above statement was something along the lines of "That's outrageous! How can that be legal? Can you really (ab)use a non-profit chairity for private gain like this?"
The answer is, I don't know - and I hope someone more capable than me actually takes a hard look at that question. However, Dave taught that one of the most important things you can do when trying to understand something political is to follow the money. As a result, here's what I do know, courtesy of a few minutes research at the PoliticalMoneyLine web site (there's probably a non-commercial alternative, but this is good enough for me):
A heck of a lot of money has been slathered on politicians in Ohio from individuals associated with Dominion Homes (primarily the Borror family, which runs the company). Well over $100,000 since 2002, and even more since 1998 (going all the way back to 1984),
Here's what I searched for:
a) Dominion Homes as an employer
b) Borror (last name of their Chairman and CEO, Doug Borror) as an individual donor
c) Borror as an employer (Borror Corporation appears to have been a company run by the Borror family)
Lots of results.
I haven't totalled it up exactly (since I'm not a muckracking journalist), but just over the last three election cycles, a rough estimate says that between $90,000 and $100,000 has been donated by the Borror family alone. On top of that, $20,000 was donated to the National Republican Governors Association during that period by Dominion Homes. And even more by employees (~ $2000 for the 2006 election cycle, ~$30,000 for the 2004 cycle, ~$4000 for the 2002 cycle, exclusive of the Borror family). Pretty widely spread too.
That kind of money buys a lot of access. A lot of opportunities to plead your case, and point out what a good citizen you and your corporation have been. A lot of reasons for the people in power to not look too closely at the ethics of whatever is happening with that apparently captive non-profit organization.
Anyone in Ohio care to ask your local politicians how they feel about taking money from these folks? Willing to look into whether anything else interesting emerges from a close look at the numbers and donor lists by someone who knows more than I do?
(See the follow-up post: $185,000 for 15 hours a week?)
October 3, 2005
So have you heard of Miers before this? Has anyone? No, she is Bush's personal lawyer. That, and only that, is why she was nominated.
I don't have anything bad to say about Meirs, and have actually heard good things. She might be a good pick, and she probably isn't one of the dangerous right-wingnut candidates -- but who knows?
I was imagining what it must be like to be a distinguished law professor or judge (even a far-right wingnut professor or judge), with an impeccable career behind me and every reason to think I might be nominated -- and then to hear about this choice. All that study, all that work, all that effort, all that dedication... for what? What happens inside of such a person at a time like this?
FEMA and Katrina and the thousands of people left without food or water or medical help showed us a dangerous side of cronyism - the elevation of the corrupt and the purging of the competent. This is another side of cronyism: the denegration of effort.
September 26, 2005
Josh Marshall neatlysums up what my own research has been pointing to.
The Republican machine built by DeLay, Norquist, Abramoff, et al. and pulled into high gear after 2001, is a pay-for-play political machine. This is just another part of the operation, like the diktat for trade associations to hire only Republicans. Big political machines need their soldiers taken care of -- jobs on K Street which also discipline the trade associations under Hill leadership. Just so, they need big sums of money to move around off the books. How does Rove keep the millions moving to Norquist? To Reed? To all the other operatives whose names you don't know about?The Republican Party has become an extortion racket. If you pay in you get lots back - from the taxpayers. If you don't they crush you. Government and policy and things like that are not part of the equation. Ideology is only a cover for looting the treasury. It's a cirrupt corporate takeover play, nothing more.
September 23, 2005
FEMA had contracted out the job of arranging transportation for the evacuation of New Orleans to a Republican Party-connected outfit. That company completely flubbed the job. So they get new, huge contracts following Katrina.
Through Atrios, Chicago Tribune | Offer of buses fell between the cracks. From the story:
...eventually learned that the job of extracting tens of thousands of residents from flooded New Orleans wasn't being handled by FEMA at all.So it's not just that The Party purged FEMA of competent professionals and replaced them with Party hacks; they turned the agency's money over to the Party as well as the jobs.
Instead the agency had farmed the work out to a trucking logistics firm, Landstar Express America, which in turn hired a limousine company, which in turn engaged a travel management company.
[. . .]In a regulatory filing last week, Landstar Express said it has received government orders worth at least $125 million for Katrina-related work. It's not known how much of that total pertains to the bus evacuation.
Landstar Express is a subsidiary of Landstar System, a $2 billion company whose board chairman, Jeff Crowe, also was chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the nation's premier business lobbies, from June 2003 until May 2004.
[. . .] Whatever happens likely will be good for Landstar's bottom line. Landstar's regulatory filing also said that because of Hurricane Katrina, the maximum annual value of its government contract for disaster relief services has been increased to $400 million.
Here's the question: How much of our government has been turned over to Republican Party cronies? How much of our taxpayer money is being fed into this circle of corruption/camaign contributions?
September 22, 2005
Some background on the lobbying scheme, in Welcome to the Machine.
And, as you follow this, remember that it even involves a murder. (Remember how the Republicans liked to accuse Clinton of murder? and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, etc.)
September 12, 2005
August 26, 2005
It's just the headline. Fits so well with the Bush era...
August 19, 2005
August 17, 2005
Talking Points Memo has been writing about defense contract scandals involving Congressman "Duke" Cunningham apparently receiving big-money-equivalent favors in exchange for no-bid big-money defense contracts. TPM writes,
"This isn't just a Duke Cunningham scandal. It's a serious defense contracting scandal."Perhaps Bush's appoinment of L. Jean Lewis as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department’s inspector general office has something to do with this. Yep, a "conservative movement" operative in charge of oversight of defense contracts.
And here we are with defense contract corruption everywhere you look.
August 15, 2005
Kos writes that Corruption isn't a partisan issue,
The moral imperative behind a "clean government" crusade is self-evident. But there's also a practical reason to oppose corruption even amongst Democrats -- it's a sure-fire way to lose elections. Rampant Democratic corruption cost us Congress in 1994, and we've yet to recover. And continued Democratic corruption has made House Dems wary of charging ahead with the "corruption" theme to hard, lest some of the current members get snared in the web.Well, we currently have one of the most corrupt Congresses in our history, and it is not costing them much with the electorate. But that's because the power brings them the power to cover up.
I have a modest proposal that might help in the future, helping expose Congressional corruption but especially with administration corruption: give subpoena power to the minority party a well as the majority party. Currently Democrats in the House and Senate have no power to do anything about the obvious, blatant corruption that is draining our treasury and our pockets. The Republican majority not only refuses to do anything about the corruption, the block all efforts by the Democrats to do something about it. With the power to compel witnesses to testify they could provide a degree of oversight.
Of course there need to be limits to prevent witch-hunts like we saw in the Clinton years, using subpoena power to harrass and destroy people.
August 13, 2005
In a very interesting post, The Stakeholder asks,
Does Tom DeLay believe Abramoff was involved in the murder [of SunCruz casino-boat founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis]?
August 7, 2005
A U.S. grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor and the inquiry ended soon after.
The previously undisclosed Guam inquiry is separate from a federal grand jury in Washington that is investigating allegations that Abramoff bilked Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.
August 3, 2005
I have been meaning to write something about the Supreme Court's "property rights" decision, Kelo v. New London, in which the court ruled that local governments can seize private property for use in private development. I agree with the basis of the decision, that the needs of communities are important considerations, and sometimes those needs override individual rights. But I think the way it will be applied under our current corrupt system opens the door to serious abuse. In some ways it's the ultimate demonstration of the Right's real agenda: total corporate domination of the people.
But that's not what I wanted to write about. All over the right-wing radio and blogosphere conservatives are up in arms over this decision. They say this is about "big government liberals" taking property away from hard-working homeowners. For a typical example, look at the first comment to this Kevin Drum post on the subject:
Kelo is the ultimate Democrat decision. It allows the government to steal individual's property in order to increase the governments own wealth. It has transformed the vestiges of American Democracy into what the liberals have always wanted: a communist state.Heh.
I want to remind everyone just who the most famous abuser of property seizures happens to be.
From Bush and the Texas Land Grab by Nicholas Kristof, July 16, 2002:
"A copy of the secret agreement among Mr. Bush and the other Rangers owners shows that they intended to make money not just by running a baseball club but also by land speculation.From Notes On A Native Son, Joe Conason, Harpers, Feb., 2002 (oh please, read the whole thing):
For example, one owner found a nice chunk of land and sent a memo suggesting that it "sounds like another condemnation candidate if you want to work the site into your master plan," according to the court documents. Another of the owners' internal memos casts a proprietary gaze on a property and declares: "We plan to condemn this land."
For a group of financiers to go around town admiring properties and deciding which to seize through the government power of condemnation so that they can acquire free land and speculate on it is appalling."
Never before had a municipal authority in Texas been given license to seize the property of a private citizen for the benefit of other private citizens. That is exactly what happened to a recalcitrant Arlington family that refused to sell a 13-acre parcel near the stadium site for half its appraised value. Their land was condemned and handed over to the Rangers.Yes, that's right. Bush got rich through a corrupt arrangement with a city government to seize property and hand it over to the the baseball team he owned - the Texas Rangers.
So when you hear a right-winger complain about Kelo, and government seizures of property, let them know who the worst offender is, and point them to this info.
August 2, 2005
Don't ask me why Tom Noe's wife is referred to as Ms. Noe, but apparently Rep. Conyers is going to ask the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel today.
"The facts that have come out indicate a culture of corruption in the Ohio Republican Party," Conyers in a statement to RAW STORY. "An investigation such as this, which is rife with conflicts of interest, begs for the appointment of an independent prosecutor who would be immune from the partisan gamesmanship we have seen so far."
Apparently Ms. Noe has been knee deep in Republican corruption in Ohio right along with Tom "Coingate" Noe:
Bernadette Noe, who served dual roles as chairman for the Lucas County Republican Party and the Lucas County Board of Elections, sent twelve “partisans” into a warehouse on Election Day, according a memo authored by Ohio’s Director of Campaign Finance Richard Weghorst who was present at the time.
The assertion is part of a comprehensive investigation prepared for Ohio Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell regarding reports of irregularities in Lucas County. The report found gross failures on the part of Ms. Noe’s board in preparation for and administration of November’s election.
Isn't that interesting. A Republican investigation turned up voting irregularities. Is it too early to start talking about the Ohio Republican Crime Family?
But perhaps the most striking event directly linked to Ms. Noe was what Weghorst described as “a note-worthy incident relating to security” on the evening of the election.
Weghorst, who was present at a local warehouse where ballots were being tabulated, says in his report that “two groups of partisan volunteers totaling approximately twelve people" arrived, whose "purpose for being there was not immediately known nor requested."
When the volunteers refused to leave the premises, Weghorst called the police, who then escorted the group away from the warehouse. It later emerged they had come at Ms. Noe's request.
A Diebold employee, Robert Diekmann, was also present at the warehouse that night.
There are additional details of Ms. Noe's role in a no-bid contract for Diebold and other shenanigans. On top of everything else, Ms. Noe is quite accomplished a skimming a little vigorish from the Republican party coffers:
In April, the Toledo Blade reported Ms. Noe acted improperly as chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party in accepting $65,000 in loans for the party from her husband. She is also involved in a scandal surrounding an aide to Ohio governor Bob Taft (R) staying for a reduced rate at her vacation home.
The family values party sure is fond of criminal enterprises. Of course with the Bush Crime Family in the White House, they are just following the example being set by the leader of their party.
August 1, 2005
Hat tip to KPFK and Pacifica Radio for interviewing former NSC staffer Roger Morris. The jist of the Morris interview is that there is a high degree of probability that The Source Beyond Rove is none other than Condelizza Rice:
"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Rice's demagogic scare tactic was also very much part of the tangled history of alleged Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger, the fabrication leading to ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson's now famous exposé of the fraud, the administration's immediate retaliatory "outing" of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, and now the revelation that the President's supreme political strategist Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby were involved in that potentially criminal leak-altogether the most serious political crisis Bush has faced. In fact, though her pivotal role has been missed entirely or deliberately ignored-in both the media feeding frenzy and the rising political clamor, Condoleezza Rice was also deeply embroiled in the Niger uranium-Plame scandal, arguably as much as or more so than either Rove or Libby.
Well isn't that interesting.
The evidence of Rice's complicity is increasingly damning as it gathers over a six-year twisting chronology of the Nigerien uranium-Wilson-Plame affair, particularly when set beside what we also know very well about the inside operations of the NSC and Rice's unique closeness to Bush, her tight grip on her staff, and the power and reach that went with it all. What follows isn't simple. These machinations in government never are, especially in foreign policy. But follow the bouncing ball of Rice's deceptions, folly, fraud and culpability. Slowly, relentlessly, despite the evidence, the hoax of the Iraq-Niger uranium emerges as a central thread in the fabricated justification for war, and thus in the President's, Rice's, and the regime's inseparable credibility. The discrediting of Wilson, in which the outing his CIA wife is irresistible, becomes as imperative for Rice as for Rove and Libby, Bush and Cheney. And when that moment comes, she has the unique authority, and is in a position, to do the deed. Motive, means, opportunity-in the classic terms of prosecution, Rice had them all.
What follows is an incredibly detailed time line of the whole sorry Iraq debacle. What Morris made very clear during his KPFK interview and in the article is that Condi is an intellectual, foreign policy and political lightweight that failed her duty as NSC Director to protect the office of the Presidency as well as the President from being manipulated for political purposes.
Morris highlighted this item in his KPFK interview. The memo that was handed to Powell as he boarded the airplane was the first known reference to Valerie by her maiden name. Previous documented references had referred to her as Valerie Wilson.
Later in the day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage calls INR Assistant Secretary Carl W. Ford at home, and asks him to send a briefing memo to Powell about the Niger uranium issue. Ford simply pulls out the previous June 10 memo with its reference to Wilson's wife (her name now corrected from Wilson to Plame), addresses it to Powell, and forwards the memo to Rice to be passed on to Powell, who is due to leave the next day with the Presidential party on a trip to Africa.
Up to this point in time any and all WH administration officials who could have been the source of the leak would have referred to Joe Wilson's wife as Valerie Wilson. Unless we are to assume that Novak and Judy Miller had more accurate sources than the folks that prepared the memo handed to Powell, they would also have identified her as Valerie Wilson.
This is interesting. I don't recall reading about this littel tidbit and off the top of my head the only involved reporters I can name are are Novak, Miller and Cooper. Does anyone know the other three?
September 2003: An unidentified "White House official" tells the Washington Post that "at least six reporters" had been told about Plame before Novak's column appeared. The disclosures, the source says, were "purely and simply out of revenge."
Morris covers a whole lot of ground, but I'll close with his credentials:
(This article owes a primary debt to the ground-breaking research of Professor Gary Leupp of Tufts University in his "Faith-Based Intelligence," CounterPunch.org, July 26, 2003.)
Roger Morris was Senior Staff on the National Security Council under both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, until resigning over the invasion of Cambodia. Morris is the author of Partners in Power: the Clintons and Their America and with Sally Denton The Money and the Power: the Making of Las Vegas. He is completing Shadows of the Eagle, a history of US policy and covert interventions in the Middle East and South Asia over the past half-century, forthcoming from Alfred Knopf.
July 31, 2005
"Are the police being used for political purposes?" . . . "They arrest people and hold them in custody, even though the courts order them released. Meanwhile, the police rarely detain anyone who belongs to a Shiite religious party."OK, it's Iraq. Had the article said "The Party" instead of "Shiite religious party" it would have been the United States. Same difference at this point - Republicans and their contributors can get away with anything.
In Tuesday's special Ohio Congressional election there is some breaking news. Republican Jean Schmidt claimed on TV that she had never met Tom Noe - the perpetrator of Ohio's "Coingate" scandal in which Republicans handed over state funds to a campaign contributor who "invested" the funds in coins (and stole much of the money.)
Turns out Schmidt was lying, and got caught.
Read about it at Swing State Project: OH-02: Come Clean Jean!
July 29, 2005
Stop by The Whiskey Bar for a tall, cool drink of consummate smackdown:
Descriptions of one long orgy? Well, you can't take the U.S. Capitol to Texas -- although God knows I expect the gang to try one of these days. But you can bring Texas to the Capitol, and that's exactly what the Dixiepublicans have done. I guess it serves us Yankees right for losing the Civil War.
How low can they go? Well they've got the limbo stick about six inches off the ground as it is -- but I'll give you good odds that DeLay and his White House cronies are flexible enough to slide under it. Witness Snapper Tom's $1.5 billion bite out of the energy bill (the second installment of this week's GOP pork-a-thon, with the highway bill still to come.)
Order an Autstin City Limits chaser.
Is a complete lack of ethics a requirement to be a Bush appointee or does it just give you an edge over other candidates? Nominee Is Linked to Controversy: Bush's choice for deputy attorney general worked with a lobbyist, now being investigated, in an effort to shield offshore firms from U.S. taxes.
The Bush administration's pick for deputy U.S. attorney general supervised a lobbying campaign two years ago by controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff to block legislation aimed at offshore companies escaping American taxes, records and interviews show.
Timothy E. Flanigan, 52, chief counsel of Tyco International Ltd. since 2002, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and acknowledged supervising Abramoff's work for the Bermuda-based firm. However, he declined to answer questions describing what the lobbyist did for the company.
Well, as long as he hasn't actually been convicted of anything he probably deserves an up or down vote. After all, he probably mows his own lawn, which is a key WH talking point for Roberts.
July 26, 2005
Summary: The Republican Senate is putting off the Defense Authorization Bill at the NRA's request to have time for a vote on a bill forbidding lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
July 21, 2005
That sounds about right. What else would you call a lawyer for the Bush Crime Family? Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Valerie Plame's identity was a secret. Or as eriposte puts it Treasongate: For the Nth time, She Was Covert:
Now, thanks to a heads-up from Ga6thDem, we have another confirming report from the great Walter Pincus (joined by Jim VanDeHei) in the Washington Post. I am also happy to see that the article (at least for now) is a front pager.
I wonder if Peter King has the WSJ reporter who wrote this story on his hit list of reporters, along with Chris Matthews and Tim Russert, who should be shot?
[Update: 7/21 6:30 a.m. PST] The word "Dentists" in my title was originally "Sources." I think the opinions of Dentists have far more credibility than the opinions of "Sources."
Both the WSJ and Washington Post printed this account of the memo that was circulated aboard Air Force One by Ari Fleischer. As eriposte puts it:
Another moment of Zen it is:A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.
...The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.
hmmmm. I wonder if Ken Mehlman or Peter King is going to be on one of the Sunday Funny Shows explaining how it is still a mystery whether or not Valerie Plame was really an undercover CIA operative?
I know. I know. It's naive of me to continue believing that at some point reality will penetrate the cable television and talk radio universe, but I continue to cling to the notion that even the most brazen White House sockpuppets will eventually conclude that Karl Rove is not worth sacrificing their last miniscule shred of human dignity. At some point the shame of defending treason will compel Sen. McCain or Sen. Voinivic or perhaps Sen. Hagel to break the Republican death pact and say enough is enough. Karl Rove must go.
July 20, 2005
During the hubub over Bush's reactionary activist nominee to the Supreme Court, we shouldn't forget about America's favorite traitor. Hat tip to Stubborn Liberal for the best title du jour and a fine collection of turd blossom droppings.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the CIA referred a criminal complaint to the Justice Department because one of their NOC agents had been ratted out. No matter how much the Turd Blossom Dittoheads complain, treason is the only explanation for Fitzgerald's investigation.
The only question is how many and who.
July 19, 2005
California Dems keep the pressure cooker going for The Porkinator, Governor Is Focus of Ethics Complaint:
Top Democrats say that Schwarzenegger's lucrative contract with a publisher violated state laws over political gifts.
The manly Porkinator hides behind his wife's petticoats:
"It's the way it is in life — you encounter problems and you try to eliminate them as quickly as possible and then move on," Schwarzenegger said, according to Associated Press. He quipped that his wife, Maria Shriver, might be more upset than he was to relinquish millions of dollars.
"I have no problem about the money, but my wife has a little problem with that. She thinks it means less diamonds or something like that," Schwarzenegger said.
I have never gotten the impression that Maria Shriver was a material girl airhead. Is it possible The Porkinator is facing some couch time?
July 18, 2005
It's the Republican Culture of Corruption.
July 14, 2005
California Governor Schwarzenegger was, by all appearances, paid at least $5 million, possibly much more, to veto food supplement regulation, specifically a bill to restrict the use of performance-enhancing supplements by high school athletes.
Schwarzenegger was paid to be a "consultant" to American Media, a company that publishes, among others, Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers and Flex -- magazines that receive the bulk of their revenue from ads for "performance-enhancing supplements." Schwarzenegger receives a percentage of that revenue, and vetoed the bill to regulate these drugs. But his consulting duties are not clear, except that the job "takes up little time."
Mr. Schwarzenegger entered the arrangement with American Media in November 2003, a few weeks after being elected and two days before being sworn into office.$Moolah from companies that get their revenue advertising "performance enhancing" supplements. The more ads they get, the more moolah he gets. He vetoes the bill restricting these drugs. Do you think there might be a connection?
[. . .] Under the five-year contract, Oak Productions, Mr. Schwarzenegger's company, is to receive 1 percent of the net print advertising revenues of Weider Publications. But the payment must be at least $1 million a year.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has also been granted "phantom equity," a way of sharing in the growth of the value of the company. The equity could become worth 1 percent of the company's value, which was stated at the time of the contract as $520 million.
Update - It's the Republican Culture of Corruption.
July 6, 2005
Hat tip to PacCollegeDem at MyDD, Rove to be indicted "this week or early next".
The original story is by Joshua Frank at Dissident Voice:
Occasionally I get emails from Washington folks who work on the Hill claiming to possess juicy insider digs on our public servants and their corporate paymasters. I usually delete said emails, as I don't want to be responsible for propagating dirty rumors or false information that can't be corroborated. I'd rather let Judith Miller and the New York Times do that. Nonetheless, in the past 24 hours I have been contacted by three separate congressional Democrats in Washington, by email and later phone, who all say the same thing: Karl Rove is about to be indicted.
A Red State comment has been making the rounds, and treated with skepticism by those of us in the reality based community:
Apparently, I'm not the only one who has been leaked this information either. Over at Redstate, a right-wing Internet blog, one member who calls himself "Ohsure", also claims that "[four] Great sources confirmed" the matter, and later added: "I not only don't do this, I have never done this. But here it is; `Karl Rove will be indicted late this, or early next week.' I'm trusting a source. So either I am made a [sic] into an overzealous horses a**, or..., I have good sources and may be more trusted to get these things right."
Another hat tip to a community of Texas bloggers Come and Take It for a link to two articles that support the story at Prarie Weather. One over at Find Law by John Dean and one at Raw Story that both discuss the White House hiring private outside counsel.
This is a great month to be a Democrat.
Stephanie Miller was talking about this on Air America yesterday morning, Jeb Bush...Shocking 'Coin Gate' Crimes and Murder:
The reason for the cover-up of Lemme's reported "suicide" is simple. Investigators have now discovered that foreign cash, including Chinese, Saudi, and Nigerian money, was laundered via the biggest state-run cash cow in Florida -- the Florida Turnpike system. Because most of the transactions involving Florida's toll roads involve cash and huge amounts of it, it was easy for foreign and other questionable money to be laundered via FDOT. Lemme had reportedly become aware of the use of FDOT to commit criminal acts. Valdosta, where Lemme went to meet a still unknown source, is a key center for international organized criminal activity, including illegal foreign worker smuggling, involving close political allies of George W. and Jeb Bush
June 16, 2005
This is about the few remaining old-growth redwoods, absolute corporate corruption and the Republicans who encourage it.
Pacific Lumber was a family company that went through a hostile takeover in the mid-80's by Maxxam Corp., a Texas firm controlled by S&L looter Charles Hurwitz. The money to buy Pacific Lumber came from illegally looting (with "Junk Bond King" Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky) United Savings Association of Texas, "the largest S&L failure in Texas and the fifth largest in the country." Maxxam immediately looted Pacific Lumber's pension fund, and to this day continues to loot the company. (For even more about the kind of people I'm talking about, see MAXXAM's Kaiser Aluminum cancels pensions & benefits.)
The Bush administration let Maxxam off the hook for that, in a deal allowing Hurwitz to then sue the government for millions.
In October 2002, after seven years of litigation brought by two arms of the U.S. Treasury Dept, Hurwitz settled separate lawsuits alleging misconduct and fraudulent activities. The Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation initially filed $820 million in claims against Hurwitz, Maxxam, and other corporate executives, over the 1988 collapse and subsequent $1.6 billion taxpayer bail out of United Savings Assoc. of Texas. Maxxam acquired the Texas S&L through junk bond financing. The agencies charged Hurwitz and Maxxam with reckless disregard for the law, self-enrichment, making false and misleading statements, and making unsafe investments. In a major travesty of justice (aka, rip off of the American taxpayers) Hurwitz was fined a mere $206,000 in restitution.Of course Tom Delay is involved in this.
After taking over Pacific Lumber Maxxam massively accelerated the cutting of old-growth redwoods. For example:
From 1974 to 1987, the company logged an average of seventy-two acres per year of the 14,000-acre North Fork Elk River watershed, located a few miles southeast of the town of Eureka, the seat of Humboldt County. Over the next ten years, from 1987 to 1997, the rate of logging jumped sevenfold—to 504 acres per year.Some more background on Pacific Lumber's activities since the takeover is available here.
In an effort to save some of the few remaining old-growth redwoods the government negotiated a $400 million purchase of the Headwaters grove. (Slide show here.) But, having collected the money, the company immediately began to violate the terms of the deal, logging the redwoods anyway and doing it in a way that caused landslides.
The ruling is the latest chapter in a dispute that has lasted for more than a decade over how much logging Pacific Lumber is entitled to do on its own land, thousands of acres of north coast forest that hold many of the last ancient redwood trees still in private hands.Adding insult to injury,
[. . .] The lawsuit accused the company of lying to state regulators during the historic 1999 deal that created the Headwaters Forest Preserve. As part of the more than $400-million transaction, Pacific Lumber transferred 7,000 acres of virgin timber to the federal and state governments and agreed to logging restrictions on its remaining 200,000 acres to protect wildlife habitat.
The suit contended that Pacific gave state agencies false information and data understating the landslide risks of its future logging plans — then delayed the submission of correct information. The alleged fraud, the lawsuit said, resulted in extensive logging of many thousands of trees on unstable slopes, with damage to streams and watersheds.
[. . .] Freeborn [the judge] sided with its contention that, even if it had made misrepresentations to get logging plan approvals, the firm was protected from civil liability.
The judge ... declared that the company's lobbying of state regulators [the lies] to be free speech protected by the 1st Amendment. [emphasis added]
Freeborn invited the company to submit a judgment for him to sign and said the county would be compelled to pay the company's legal costs. [. . .] The company has threatened to lay off employees and file for bankruptcy if it does not get permission to log the watersheds, which residents say have filled with silt from logging operations.I usually issue a call-to-action, offering something to do about things like this. But today I am in despair, and all I can say is watch your backs.
June 12, 2005
With the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in serious trouble, a prominent business leader recently laid it on the line: Business groups are prepared to cut off campaign contributions to House members who oppose the pact.It is a crime to offer campaign contributions linked directly to specific legislation on a quid pro quo basis. It is against the law. This person should be put in jail and made an example of.
"If you [lawmakers] are going to vote against it, it's going to cost you," Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned recently during a meeting on Capitol Hill of leaders of a 500-plus business-trade association coalition with more than 500 members.
I'm serious. During the Medicare "reform" vote Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan was told that campaign funds for his son's campaign would be withheld if he did not support the bill. This was a crime and was investigated as a crime. From the Slate story:
United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, "Bribery of public officials and witnesses," states that under federal law, a person commits bribery if he(b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent—
(A) to influence any official act;
June 10, 2005
The news that top Ohio Republicans turned over the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation fund to Republican Party donors shouldn't be a surprise. There are accusations that both George and Jeb Bush did the same thing in their own states.
In Texas, Governor George Bush was accused of turning over $9 billion of University of Texas assets to campaign donors. Paul Krugman wrote about this in George W. Bush's steps to wealth,
The University of Texas, though a state institution, has a large endowment. As governor, Mr. Bush changed the rules governing that endowment, eliminating the requirements to disclose "all details concerning the investments made and income realized," and to have "a well-recognized performance measurement service" assess investment results. That is, government officials no longer had to tell the public what they were doing with public money, or allow an independent performance assessment. Then Mr. Bush "privatized" (his term) $9 billion in university assets, transferring them to a nonprofit corporation known as UTIMCO that could make investment decisions behind closed doors.More on this from Joe Conason and here.
In effect, the money was put under the control of Utimco's chairman: Tom Hicks. Under his direction, at least $450 million was invested in private funds managed by Mr. Hicks's business associates and major Republican Party donors. The managers of such funds earn big fees. Due to Mr. Bush's change in the rules, these investments were hidden from public view; an employee of Utimco who alerted university auditors was summarily fired. Even now, it's hard to find out how these investments turned out, though they seem to have done quite badly.
In Florida the accusation is that Governor Jeb Bush tried to shore up Enron's plummeting stock with millions from the state's pension system. See AFSCME Investigation Reveals Mismanagement by Florida Trustees Led to State Pension System's $335 Million Loss on Enron, Florida's Last-Minute Enron Stock Buys Probed and Public Citizen -- Letter to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. More here.
If you live in a state where Republicans run things, this might be a good time to see if the money is still there.
May 13, 2005
I want to let everybody know about the danger of using AOL: You can't start an account without giving them a credit card number, it is nearly impossible to cancel, and if you cancel they continue to charge your account anyway and won't refund your money.
I had the misfortune of trying a trial account in November for reasons I don't want to get into. I didn't like it, and tried to cancel. You can't cancel online. I called, did the whole half-hour's worth of nonsense they put me through, and finally cancelled. That was in November. Guess what?
I noticed today that they are still charging my account $25 per month. (Remember I just moved, so I hadn't been checking the charges on my account for the last couple months. The charges started in March.) I called. Several times I was told to call different numbers or was transferred to incorrect departments. I encountered severely hostile people. I encountered people who reminded me of timeshare-condo sales in Mexico, trying to talk me out of cancelling.
In the end I (think I) was able to cancel again and got a promise that SOME of the charges will be reversed - in 3 to 5 days - but then they told me that I have to write to a special address to get the rest of my money back! Is this fraud, or what?
AOL is the most fraudulent company I have encountered, next to MCI. MCI used to regularly somehow switch my long distance away from the carrier I had signed up with over to them, and in the process would charge me more than triple what the other service had been charging. They were just as hostile on the phone and difficult to get my money back. Three times. Let's see how many times I have to repeat this cancellation process with AOL.
I'm writing this because I am pissed off and because I bet AOL didn't think about how blogs can get the word out to lots of people.
May 11, 2005
A letter I received:
There was a story in the LATimes this am that has gotten no blog coverage at all and IMHO it needs some as I feel it is very important - the headline is "Court Lets Cheney Keep Talks Secret".Yep, that is exactly what the battle over judges is about.
The key paragraph (to me) is down near the end -"During the Clinton administration, the same appeals court gave the 1972 law a broader scope, saying it applied to the health policy task force led by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then, the court said outside participants in a White House advisory group were "de facto members" of the group, and therefore the public had a right to know about the meetings."What I read from this is that IOKIYAR is now OFFICIAL POLICY. Laws will OFFICIALY be interpreted one way for dems & another way for rethugs. If you read this the same way I implore you to please comment!!!!
BTW, although the article doesn't specify the court I am certain it is the one with Silberman on it. Anyway, RIGHT HERE are the ACTIVIST JUDGES taking a dump on the US Constitution and on "EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW". Please do something with it (or tell me I'm mistaken)
Previously at Seeing the Forest, The Right Will Fight Dirty,
A few years later, after the Iran/Contra arms scandal investigation began, Lawrence Walsh wrote about the nature of The Party apparatus that had infiltrated the government and obstructed his efforts to find out for us what had happened. The following is from The Impeachment Conspiracy by Robert Parry:Unimaginable“The North case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and the Poindexter case followed in 1991. Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a Republican himself, encountered what he termed "a powerful band of Republican appointees [who] waited like the strategic reserves of an embattled army."
Walsh recognized that many of the appeals judges held a "continuing political allegiance" to the conservative Federalist Society, an organization dedicated to purging liberalism from the federal courts.
"It reminded me of the communist front groups of the 1940s and 1950s, whose members were committed to the communist cause and subject to communist direction but were not card-carrying members of the Communist Party," Walsh wrote. [For details, see Walsh's Firewall.]
A leader of this partisan faction was Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a bombastic character known for his decidedly injudicious temperament. Silberman had served as a foreign policy advisor to Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign and had joined in a controversial contact with an emissary from Iran behind President Carter's back. [See Robert Parry's Trick or Treason.]” [emphasis added]
Law itself is under attack. That's what is behind the push to confirm their Federalist Society judges. And to get that done they are working on getting rid of the right to filibuster in the Senate.Bush Appoints Silberman,
He first shows up as one of the people from the Reagan campaign who met with the Iranians in the Iran Hostage Crisis:A Two-Track Justice System
[. . .] Then he's one of the judges who let Ollie North off the hook on a technicality.
Later he shows up as one of the main behind-the-scenes Clinton-haters: ...
... Got that? The people investigated in Iran-Contra - which yielded many convictions, including Ollie North, and many last-minute pardons that avoided sure conviction - are said to be investigated unfairly and reimbursed for their expenses, while those investigated in Whitewater - in which all the charges were found to be completely without merit - are not.Also see Court Denies Clintons' Request for Legal Reimbursement.
Not to mention that this panel of judges has assigned far-right investigators to every case since Iran Contra. These investigators have found no wrongdoing by any Republicans but hounded Democrats.
There is no more law. There is no more justice. There is only Republican corruption. W.A.T.C.H. Y.O.U.R. B.A.C.K.S!
April 30, 2005
Campaign watchdog groups said on Friday that it would be inappropriate for Representative Melissa A. Hart to oversee any potential inquiry of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, because she had received $15,000 from his political action committee and held a fund-raiser at a restaurant owned by a Republican lobbyist at the center of a growing corruption scandal.If you live in Rep. Hart's Pennsylvania district, please call her office and ask her to step aside from this inquiry. If fact, ask her to resign for not stepping aside after taking $15,000 from Delay.
Ms. Hart, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been named by the House ethics committee chairman to look into accusations about Mr. DeLay, who is under scrutiny for overseas trips organized by Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist. Mr. Abramoff's far-reaching political work is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Campaign records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Ms. Hart held a fund-raising event at his restaurant, Signatures, in Washington.
April 27, 2005
The headline says G.O.P. Will Relent on Ethics Rules, House Speaker Says and the story says,
Saying that an ethics impasse needed to be resolved to provide a chance for Representative Tom DeLay to clear his name, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said this morning that Republicans were ready to relent on rules changes that have left the ethics committee unable to do any work.But gosh darn it, it's just another trick. You see, what isn't changing is that the Republicans pick the Ethics Comittee staff now, and it is the staff that conducts the actual investigation. So of course the investigations will clear Republicans while condemning Democrats. Doh!
April 25, 2005
Just after taking office: Bush administration suspends contractor regulation - 03/31/01,
The Bush administration Friday ordered the suspension of a Clinton rule that would have significantly strengthened the government's ability to deny contracts to companies that have violated workplace safety, environmental and other federal laws.Would you call Bush's attitudes and behavoirs a flirtation with corruption, or just corruption?
In a rebuff to organized labor and a nod to business, the Bush administration is moving to rescind the rule -- which took effect the day before President Bill Clinton left office -- that directs federal agencies to assess whether prospective contractors have violated federal laws.
Yes, I'm talking about this guy.
April 20, 2005
By the way, did Bush ever finally order the SEC to release the records of the probe of his insider trading at Harken Oil, which occurred while his father was President? Bush promised he would order these released, but I don't recall them ever actually being released. Didn't a terror threat suddenly distract everyone from the Harken scandal?
April 13, 2005
Rep. John Conyers has a Kos diary up, Daily Kos :: Investigating John Kerry Post-Haste, While Condoleezza Rice Goes to the Back Burner.
Here's a summary. The Office of Special Counsel has purged their career personnel and replaced them with Republican partisans. They refuse to investigate complaints against Republicans, while initiating investigations of Democrats. They won't even respond to letters from Democratic members of Congress asking what is going on.
The Party is using the power of the government itself to perpetuate one-party rule. And who is going to do anything about this? The Congress? The Justice Department? There is no one left in a position to do anything about things like this.
Fundraisers for a political committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay routinely solicited donations by identifying legislative actions that prospective givers wanted, from video gambling to lawsuit limits, memos show.There's more, but you get the picture. We have here a public official calling up big donors and saying "pay me and I'll work to get issue so-and-so passed." That is a bribe. As blatantly as Republicans do this, it is flat-out illegal -- prison-time illegal. These memos are proof that DeLay took bribes.
"What companies that you know of would be interested in tort reform in Texas with asbestos problems that might support TRMPAC?" one DeLay fundraiser wrote in a memo prospecting for donors to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC).
That memo elicited an answer identifying several large companies and interest groups nationwide interested in lawsuit-limiting legislation in Congress and Texas, the documents show.
[. . .] Other TRMPAC fundraising memos mention that Texas racetrack owners needed state permission for video gambling, that banks wanted new Texas home-lending rules and that energy firms wanted less regulation.
Federal law and congressional ethics rules prohibit government officials from connecting political donations to their official actions. DeLay was admonished last year by the House's ethics committee for creating the appearance of connecting energy industry donations with federal legislation.
[. . .] In 2002, a fundraiser's handwritten note appears alongside the name of a Texas racetrack owner who — along with other state track operators — wanted state permission to begin offering video gambling at the tracks.
"Brings $1 billion. Polls 83 percent in favor," the fundraiser's note said.
Weeks after that visit to the company's chief executive, track owner Maxxam Inc. contributed $5,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority. [emphasis added]
(Through the appropriately-named Crooks and Liars)