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Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Obama Lets Corporate Predators Buy His “Trade Policy”

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Barack Obama’s support for corporate trade goals, no matter how unethical and/or borderline illegal, is nothing new. His early and lasting backing of the Panama trade deal – a stellar performance wherein he convinced Democrats to vote for a bill which made it legal for US corporations to violate US law – was a brilliant part of his strategy to move the Democrat party onto Wall Street.

So it was no surprise to anyone familiar with his history that he has been appointing hired Wall Street guns – or goons – to write his TransPacific Trade Policy. Nor is it surprising that he has had nothing to say against their “former” companies paying them for writing and negotiating the deal.

Stefan Selig

Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.

Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman's] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”

Do I have to explain what this means? How their companies are basically paying these guys in advance to continue promoting their interests even as they pretend to work for the govt? Or that Obama just about had to be working hand-in-glove with these corporations to come up with these guys’ names in the first place? Or that these payments are a measure of how deeply corrupt our system is now?

That’s what I thought.

Written by Mick

April 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Privatizing the PO

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Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) is trying to turn the Post Office over to Staples.

While slamming Democrats, [American Postal Workers Union president Mark] Dimondstein reserved special condemnation for Issa, the Republicans’ leading voice on postal reform. Noting that Issa had proposed eliminating Saturday postal service as part of a bill undoing veterans’ pension cuts, the union president called the congressman “a pure enemy of the Postal Service…”

This is, of course, a half-truth. In fact, Issa has shown himself to be an enemy of all public services, including free parks and libraries. He has consistently advocated the privatization of all govt functions, proposing that even police and military be replaced by private security firms and fire depts be paid for by subscription. So it really isn’t fair for the postal workers’ union to single him out. Still, it’s typical of the Issa wing of the party (the wing which is, after all, in control of the party) to attach an attack on a public union to a bill cutting veterans’ benefits. Sort of a Pub’s Dream Two-fer.

An Issa “spokesperson” (you can never get these guys to reply personally to any communication from the hoi-polloi) replied to the union’s criticism this way:

This false claim about privatization is being pushed by entrenched special interests who oppose common sense and bipartisan reforms in both House and Senate postal modernization bills.

“Special interests” may be accurately considered as a reference to unions since Issa defines “public interest” as anything a corporation wants, but the interesting word here is “false”. Whenever Issa and his people have claimed that some unpleasant fact reported about this peppy little stooge of the powerful was “false”, all the evidence proved it was true, which in turns mean this flat denial likely proves it’s exactly what this is all about.

The most obvious question here is: did Staples contribute to Issa’s campaign and if so how much? But Salon’s reporter, Josh Eidelson never asks – let alone answers – that question. Instead he delves deeply into Dianne Feinstein’s husband’s connections to Staples (to no very great effect) because he’s suspicious of La F’s refusal to support the union’s preferred bill (offered by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders), a bill he doesn’t bother to explain.

It seems that even “progressives” can’t bring themselves to directly attack extreme corporate puppets like Issa, who has never had a thought a corporation didn’t put in his head.

PS I don’t have to explain why privatizing the Post Office is a really bad idea, do I?

Dump the Dems 10: ConservaDems Help Republicans Take Over NY State Senate

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OK, so you can’t generalize too much nationally from the fucked up politics of NY state but otoh this is such a shining example of the state of the Democratic party that it’s howling for attention. Two NY Blue Dog Dems just voted with their GOP colleagues to turn the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Senate over to the Pubs. To quote Rosalind Russell, “Ain’t it perfect?”

Republicans regained control of the New York State Senate on Monday afternoon, winning support from two dissident Democrats in a surprise power-sharing deal. The sudden coup effectively ended Democratic control of Albany after five months and allowed Dean G. Skelos of Long Island to reclaim the title of majority leader, replacing Malcolm A. Smith of Queens.

***

The raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Mr. Espada and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a series of parliamentary maneuvers. Democrats tried to stall, storming from the chamber and even turning off the lights, but Republicans continued the session and elected new leadership.

Both Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate said they still considered themselves Democrats.

“Why?” is the question. Not “Why did they do it?” That question is easily answered, at least in the case of Mr Espada.

The shakeup also left Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat, as president of the Senate….

Tom Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who recently announced he was moving to Florida because of New York’s high taxes, played a major role in brokering the deal.

Nothing like a little bribery to liven up your day. Or some pressure from a pissed off billionaire who thinks his taxes are too high. Never mind that he thinks the fact that he has to pay any taxes at all is a shame and a disgrace because he’s so special.

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Written by Mick

June 8, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Bush Lobbyist Caught Selling Access to VP Cheney in Return for Donations to Bush Library/Propaganda Center (Updated)

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Well, I’m not surprised.

The Sunday London Times is reporting that big-time Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne is busy these days selling access to Dick Cheney in return for (sizable) donations to the Bush Library and Propaganda Center.

The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.

One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.

The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.

 Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.

 Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.

Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.

Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.

“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”

“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:

“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.

“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”

(emphasis added) 

Whew! That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we were talking about real money. $200K for a visit with L’il Dick so a deposed dictator could have a sympathetic audience listen to “his side of the story”? Cheap at twice the price. And who knows? L’il Dick can understand the pain of autocrats slung out of their country for torture, theft (isn’t Akayev the one who boiled his political opponents in oil?). He might be looking at something similar himself one of these days. Maybe he’ll invade Kyrgyzstan and give the guy back his country if he promises to join the worldwide WOT and turn Kyrgyzstan’s oil fields over to Halliburton and Chevron for management/sale.

Hey, it’s doable. Disgusting but doable.

I wish I could say this means the Bushies have struck rock bottom but selling access for $$$ is what they do. what they’ve been doing for years. 

The scandal isn’t that a BushBaby is breaking the law. This is minor for these guys. The scandal is that I have to read about it in the foreign press. The reporter was undercover – a concept the US press abandoned after the Food Lion fiasco because it wasn’t fair to corporate pirates and their willingness to poison us for a buck or two – and he recorded the conversation (legal, despite conservative howling to the contrary). Who these days in the US could imagine such a thing happening? Not me.

Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.

Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.

The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.

“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.

Hey! Cheney is an honorable man. If he takes money to fluff a country, bigod, he fluffs that country! No matter what kind of hellish conditions he has to ignore. He lives up to his contracts.

Some of them…

I don’t imagine this is serious enough to get much attention as a scandal. It’s pretty small potatoes for the Bushies. So maybe SMU doesn’t really have to worry very much about the soiling of its reputation that bribery on behalf of the school will inevitably bring about. Maybe they don’t think it’s any big deal considering they’re willing to look past torture. Maybe they think John Wesley would take a laissez-faire approach to White House corruption, spying, theft, and contempt for the law. Maybe that’s all OK with Methodists now.

Apparently it must be, because the Bishops have been perfectly willing to bow to Bush pressure and overlook all of it. What’s one more crime more or less? Bribery? Fagh. Who cares?

Clearly the Methodist bishops don’t.

UPDATE: (7/15/08) Lindsay Beyerstein has dug up a lot more at Majikthese.

Written by Mick

July 14, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Invisible Scandals 2: Alphonso in the Hot Seat

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In a surprise move, the Democratically-controlled Senate decided this week not to ignore HUD Sec Alphonso Jackson’s unethical (if not criminal) behavior in punishing Philly’s housing director because he wouldn’t turn a piece of property over to one of Alphonso’s buds. In a move that was anything but a surprise coming from a Bush appointee, Jackson ducked the Senators’ questions.

Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson twice last week declined to directly answer senators’ questions about allegations that he and his agency sought to punish a housing authority for refusing to help one of Jackson’s friends.

Senators were focused on a January 2007 e-mail exchange, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, in which two of Jackson’s assistant secretaries discussed how they could make the Philadelphia Housing Authority director’s life “less happy” by taking away the authority’s federal funds.In a recent lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, authority director Carl R. Greene accused the agency of moving to strip his office of about $50 million based on exaggerated claims that the authority was not providing enough accessible housing. He asserts that it was retaliation for rebuffing Jackson’s earlier demands that Greene give a $2 million vacant authority property to developer Kenny Gamble, a friend of Jackson’s.Jackson, when asked about retaliation accusations by Senate banking committee members Wednesday, said he could not discuss the matter because it is the subject of a lawsuit against his agency. He said a gag order prevented him from commenting.

But when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had learned that the judge’s gag order did not prohibit Jackson from answering senators’ questions, Jackson acknowledged Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that he had learned he could discuss the matter. Reading from a written statement, however, Jackson said he did not have any firsthand information about the e-mails and learned of them the day before they were published. He later sidestepped several questions about any personal role he played in the dispute with the Philadelphia agency.

Does this guy fit right in, or what?

Written by Mick

March 16, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Corruption, HUD

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Invisible Scandals: Spitzer Replaces Gibbons and Cabrera

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In the wake of a sex scandal that, for once, features a Democrat (we thought the GOP had a trademark on those for awhile), the bruhaha over what Eliot Spitzer does in his off-hours and the predictable outrage over his hypocrisy (a facility Pubs lack when it comes to condemning their own) has acted as an effective blockade to keeping out of the public’s awareness two other GOP scandals that would otherwise be grabbing headlines and blogs everywhere – scandals that are far more important to the safety and welfare of the country than what the NY Gov does with his dick.

The first is brought to us courtesy of Thomas Nephew at newsrack:

There’s a storm brewing out in Nevada that ought to be much bigger than the one surrounding Eliot Spitzer: people’s health and lives are at risk because of shoddy medical practices — and neglectful oversight.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Scott Hensley explains, a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic has been reusing syringes; everyone subsequently tested with reused syringes is potentially exposed to infected equipment (see here for a graphic). Six cases of acute hepatitis C have been traced to the clinic, and as many as 40,000 people are at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV according to the Las Vegas Sun.

What does this have to do with Nevada’s GOP Gov Jim Gibbons? Well, he cut 10 inspectors from his budget and threatened to veto any bill that funded them. Plus:

[T]he doctor involved is close enough with Governor Gibbons to have been on his health care working group transition team — and was the head of the state board of medical examiners until 2003.

It’s all too familiar: a conservative ideologue hires one of his buddies to protect corporate interests rather than ours. It’s an old familiar story.

We’ve seen this before, of course: a pattern of deliberate neglect of safety, levees, infrastructure, or anything else that might be worthwhile government functions by ideologues more interested in cutting government than in protecting the public welfare. Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls “E. coli conservatism” ever since the incidents of tainted spinach and other produce of last year.

The other comes via a WaPo report detailing how upper level management at Alphonso Jackson’s HUD deliberately targeted Philadelphia Housing Director Carl Greene after he refused to do a very suspicious and most likely unethical (if not outright illegal) favor for one of Jackson’s buds.

After Philadelphia‘s housing director refused a demand by President Bush‘s housing secretary to transfer a piece of city property to a business friend, two top political appointees at the department exchanged e-mails discussing the pain they could cause the Philadelphia director.

“Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?” Orlando J. Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote about Philadelphia housing director Carl R. Greene.”Take away all of his Federal dollars?” responded Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing. She typed symbols for a smiley-face, “:-D,” at the end of her January 2007 note.

Cabrera wrote back a few minutes later: “Let me look into that possibility.”

The e-mails, obtained by The Washington Post, came to light as a result of a lawsuit provoked by HUD’s decision last September to strip the Philadelphia Housing Authority of as much as $50 million in federal funds. In December, it declared the agency in violation of rules that underpin its ability to decide precisely how it will spend federal housing funds. Kendrick was the official who formally notified the authority that she had found it in violation.

Alphonso is the guy who has held up Katrina Relief funds for 3 years on Bush’s orders and refused to allow former New Orleans residents to return to their homes even though those homes were not damaged by the storm and are perfectly livable. A real sweetheart, that boy. Apparently his closest aides share his questionable values – and tactics.

But don’t expect either Gibbons or Cabrera to pop up on your favorite news show. After all, NY’s Democratic Gov fucked a woman he wasn’t married to, and in the GOP-controlled conservative media, that’s a BIG story. Gibbons’ exposing Nevadans to potential death to save a few bucks? Ho hum. The Asst Sec of HUD taking housing away from thousands in Philly because the director wouldn’t play ball with the Bush Admin’s rampant corruption regimen? *YAWN*

It’s life as usual in the GOP Monkey House, and neither Roger Ailes nor Matt Drudge is interested. Ergo, no scandal, no reports, no story.

Written by Mick

March 12, 2008 at 3:21 pm

The Bush Library 6: Corruption at SMU

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Last month, the Rev Andrew Weaver, one of the leaders of the opposition to the Bush propaganda center masquerading as a presidential “library” that’s proposed for the campus of Southern Methodist University, sent me a link to an article he’d written for Media Transparency. It’s an astounding piece detailing conflicts of interest on the part of the SMU Board so serious that they approach corruption. Rev Weaver begins by noting that the campaign to site the library at SMU has been years in the making.

To convince the United Methodist Church (UMC) to stain its good name and a major university to give away its academic respectability by linking itself with a president that much of the world views as an authoritarian bully (Public Diplomacy, 2005; World Public Opinion, 2007) who has authorized and advocated for torture and international kidnapping is one nifty trick (Miles, 2006; Grey, 2006). Such an endeavor required skilled operators and years of stealth planning (Schutze, 2006), which according to SMU President R. Gerald Turner began in 2001, shortly after Bush became president. It required that the SMU administration hide its intentions from its faculty and from church leaders who would understand that a partisan institute lacking standard academic controls, whose mission undoubtedly will include justifying crimes against humanity, would be a bad idea (Weaver and Crawford, 2007). To achieve these goals Bush needs powerful friends in high places and he has them in the SMU Trustees.

He sure does. The Board is packed with family friends.

At least 25 of the 41 trustees (61 percent) have personal, financial, and/or political relationships with Bush, and many have been major fundraisers and contributors to his political campaigns. Furthermore, one of the three United Methodist bishops who serve as SMU trustees, Scott Jones, publicly endorsed the Bush project months before a formal proposal was even presented to the Board (Tooley, 2007).

Twenty-two of the trustees have donated to one or more of the Bush political campaigns and/or the Republican National Committee in support of Bush….

Whoosh. So a comfortable majority of the Board are Bush Babies and the vast majority of them are actual Bush donors. “Conflict of interest” is putting it mildly.

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Written by Mick

July 9, 2007 at 3:11 pm

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