Category Archives: corruption

As watertiger put it, grifters gotta grift

Here again cometh Christian pin-up Ralph Reed and this time with More-Deity-For-Your-Dollars! He had to shut down that Indian Tribe swindle he had going – and damn but that was good money! Former partner Jack Abramoff went and changed careers after getting himself convicted and sent to jail. Jack’s into redemption now, so Ralph is back to plain old huckstering, an ancient, if dishonorable, profession. (See those annoying little points on the pocket handkerchief? There’s yer proof that Ralph’s the too too smooth sort.)

Does make me wonder where is Tom DeLay these days?

Now this IS big news

pope%20francis%20laughingPope Francis has formed a commission to investigate the Vatican Bank. What makes this move very important is that the commission is to report to him directly, and bypass the Vatican bureaucracy.

Pope John Paul I a man with a very kind face

John Paul I (he had such a kind face)

 

 

 

A number of books have been written about the corruption – and sometimes criminality – emanating from that bank.

It’s long been rumored that Pope John Paul I was murdered (in 1978) because he was about to focus attention on the bank. He was a humble man, perhaps in the style of Francis –  the first pope to forego a ‘coronation’. John Paul I lasted 33 days. He was 55 when he was found dead in his bed. (Some of the theories about his death are here.)

So this is a big deal.

But I can never forgive him for ‘Freedom Fries’

A few years ago, I found myself in a dialogue here with disgraced former Congressman Bob Ney, who had been part of the DeLay-Abramoff axis. He went to jail. Abramoff went to jail. DeLay went on Dancing with the Stars.

But so it goes. That conversation was a few years back and now I can’t find it  . . . brief as it was, I found the man the very definition of repentant and reformed. He didn’t only change his ethical standards  – acknowledging his alcoholism, he also undertook to reform his eating and exercise habits. The result:

Back in the day

Back in the day

A new man

A new man

Ney is out and about again with a new book,  Sideswiped: Lessons Learned
Courtesy of the HIt Men of Capitol Hill (here). Since he’s my old BFF, I’ll read it.

The particular round of  corruption he got entangled in has always fascinated me. It was so blatant and so very very venal. It was almost out in the open and went on for years. (Christian pin-up Ralph Reed was involved; just the epic of he and Abramoff team-tagging some Indian tribes is screenplay worthy all on its own.)

Since Ney is doing the teevee book tour, I am reminded of all this. I wish the man well.

At last, at long last

You may recall that the world-wide financial collapse four years ago was entirely the fault of irresponsible mortgage seekers who demanded houses they couldn’t afford. In other words, the little people did it. Remember that?

Since then – and while a whole passel of criminals who posed as investment bankers, ripped off their investors and made themselves obscenely rich, continued to enjoy their summers in The Hamptons – our Justice Department has been distressingly silent.

But lo, at last.

Federal prosecutors hit Bank of America with a $1 billion-plus civil mortgage fraud lawsuit Wednesday, accusing the banking giant of engineering a scheme that defrauded federally-backed agencies during the national financial crisis.

The complaint . . .  accuses the bank of using a loan-origination program called the “Hustle” to process mortgage applications at high speed with little financial checking  . . .

The result was defective mortgage loans that defaulted after Bank of America sold them to federal mortgage loan guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, causing more than $1 billion in losses and thousands of foreclosures . . .

“Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara . . . [they]  systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners and concealed the resulting defects,” said Bharara.

Yeah.

They want to rig it, not fix it

Isn’t it a comfort to know that Gov. Voldemort and his paranoid cynical minions in the Florida Republican Patty are moving aggressively, along with other Republican legislatures, to fix a non-problem that they invented out of thin air ? Just like with that earlier threat to the nation, ‘Welfare Queens’, attention must be paid!

Voter registration fraud must be stopped! And dammit, here in Florida, we’re making that happen. Just in my own tri-county area, where we’ve finished running the State lists against our own rolls, of our 100K+ registered voters, two have been proved to be cases of actual voting fraud. Two whole people.

Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars plus thousands of man hours from public employees have been expended. Two cases.

Today, The NY Times (sorry, no linkee) reports that in 2005, the election reform bipartisan ‘commision of  that day, led by former Sect’y of State James Baker and former Prez Jimmy Carter, found  that 140,000 Florida voters were registered for absentee ballots in four other states – 46,000 in New York City alone. Another 60,000 were also registered  simultaneously in North or South Carolina. When a few thousand of those registered for absentee ballots in Florida, their second state, there was no investigation. Repeat, there was no investigation.

In a comment thread over at MashedPotatoBulletin about the voter ID push, I said:

I don’t think many people would object if the process were announced and then implemented over a period of years allowing sufficient time for everyone to get the ID. Once we’ve all got one, it’ll be easy to put a process in place to plug in new voters as they qualify. In fact, I think every citizen should be issued a voter ID card whether they register or not. Just get it done and cut out that silly middle step.. It could be Federal and make it acceptable for all States.

If it were done that way, I’d be fine with it. But of course that’s not how it’s being done because ID itself is not the point. Suppression is the point.

Onward Christian soldiers. March as to war; it’s the Republican way.

Say hello to America’s debtors’ prisons. The 19th century is all the fashion, bitches!

Did you know about this? I didn’t. (Charles Dickens however was very familiar with this particular script.)

Here’s the story at Naked Capitalism from 2010. It’s not only still going on, it’s far worse today. And in the new American way, we’ve invited private companies to handle the matter, with enough profits to – ahem – make a few campaign contributions to their favorite pols. It’s a whole new growth industry. (Because Elvis-forbid that States should add public sector jobs! If it’s jobbed out, and thus off the State payroll, and even though it’s more costly (in more ways than one), our elected officials then can’t be accused of adding government jobs when they run for re-election. Sweet.

The practice is spreading because it’s such a good economic model – spend State money to imprison debtors, then close them off from any avenue by which they could repay that debt. And in most cases, add a few fees and let them compound. Brilliant, yes?  And it’s so rightous. And godly.

Here’s a  CBS News story from April of this year: 

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

I especially liked this part:

Some states also apply “poverty penalties,” including late fees, payment plan fees, and interest when people are unable to pay all their debts at once, according to a report by the New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance, while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a public defender.

Governor Voldemort has a better idea because he knows all about health care.

My Gov don’t like him none of that Muslim-Keynan Obamacare stuff. He’s no fan of Medicare/Medicaid either (even though his criminal abuse of both made him and his co-conspirators millions). Nevertheless, we the people chose him to run things here in Florida, trusting, I assume, that he’d gotten ethically born-again.

He knows – made it clear on Day One – that Obamacare is not for Florida and so has refused to institute any of the legally mandated reforms. He has a better idea. States, he says:

. . . can do a better job . . . we should have 50 laboratories to see which is the best approach.

Yeah, that’ll work.

Here’s a little summary of his earlier career as head of Columbia/HCA (that’s Health Corporation of America):

On March 19, 1997, investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services served search warrants at Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso and on dozens of doctors with suspected ties to the company.[21] The Columbia/HCA board of directors pressured Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO following the inquiry.[22]He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.[23][24][25] In 1999, Columbia/HCA changed its name back to HCA, Inc.

I always like that getting rewarded with $10million dollars for screwing up your company part. It’s the new American way you know. Also, job creators.

In the settlements,  Columbia/HCA pled guilty and agreed to a $600+ million fine in the largest fraud settlement in US history. They admitted systematically overcharging the government . . . They also admitted fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and to giving doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare . . .  In addition, they gave doctors “loans” never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

That ‘overcharging the government’ part? That’s us, that’s taxpayer money he stole.

In late 2002, HCA agreed to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims.[26]In all, civil law suits cost HCA more than $2 billion to settle, by far the largest fraud settlement in US history.[27]

 

J’accuse! Whatever.

Mitt Romney said this yesterday, apparently about Solyndra:

“an independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors.”

Here’s what the Deptartment of  Energy’s independent inspector general, Gregory Friedman actually said:

“We currently have 64 open investigations associated with the Recovery Act, nearly 25 percent of our current case load. Schemes under investigation include the submission of false information in applications for funding, fraudulent claims for rebates, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, the directing of contracts and grants to friends and family, weatherization fraud to include mischarging, and other attempts to fraudulently obtain Recovery Act funds.”

CONCLUDE: To make a final judgment or determination

INVESTIGATE: To observe or inquire into

So there we are. Guilty until proven innocent. The American way. Any questions?

LET ME ADD: The Obama Bain ad was just as bad. But I like Obama, so there!

(h/t The Last of the Millenials)

 

Shit lobbyists say (I know, I’m late to the game)

Lobbyists write legislation, they take your representatives out to lunch (they can pay for it if both diners are standing, not sitting), they throw fundraisers, they abide by absurdly specific rules to avoid appearance of graft and bribery, but nonetheless, Lobbyists influence your government for the benefit of corporate interests.

http://www.unitedrepublic.org

http://www.republicreport.org

http://www.sofapundit.com

May Day 2012: a real Labor Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

ImageSpring is in the air, and you know what that means–that’s right, Occupy Wall Street is back, bigger and better than ever! Although actions have been ongoing for several weeks, the first major action will be the worldwide General Strike called for May 1st. From OccupyWallSt.org:

May 1st, also known as International Workers’ Day, is the annual commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when Chicago police fired on workers during a General Strike for the eight-hour workday. In many countries, May 1st is observed as a holiday. But in the United States, despite the eventual success of the eight-hour-workday campaign, the holiday is not officially recognized.

Now, in response to call-outs from Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland, and other General Assemblies and affinity groups, the Occupy Movement is preparing to mobilize a General Strike this May 1st in solidarity with struggles already underway to defend the rights of workers, immigrants, and other communities who are resisting oppression. Dozens of Occupations in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia have already endorsed May Day.

To quote the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, who recently called for a national General Strike in Spain on March 29th to protest labor reforms:

For the CNT, the strike on March 29 must be only the beginning of a growing and sustained process of mobilization, one which includes the entire working class and the sectors that are most disadvantaged and affected by the capitalist crisis. This mobilization must put the brakes on the dynamic of constant assaults on our rights, while laying the bases for the recovery and conquest of new social rights with the goal of a deep social transformation.

I’ll be at the NYC action; hope to see you there! I’ll post links and updates as they become available.

Why I’m so proud to be a Floridian

They don’t even bother to hide what they’re doing anymore. They’re for sale to whoever comes up with the check. Gimme the money, I’ll pass you a nice new law. More here.

You gets whay you pays for. And climate skeptics pay.

Mouthpieces are a dime a dozen. But they do get busy and quite obedient when the pay is really good. Like $8.6 million. From a single donor. Ever hear of the Heartland Institute? They are a right-wing think tank whose mission is to “cast doubt on climate science”. They’ve been around for a while, doing the dirty, making the world safe for fossil fuels, the ‘free market’ and the extraction industries. But a rash of newly leaked memos and reports – in a world of curtains to hide behind, that’s how we get our information now – gives us a glimpse of what’s behind that curtain . Who funds Heartland?

Most eyes will probably fall first on the “Anonymous Donor” who, the documents show, personally funded Heartland’s “climate change projects” to the tune of $8,602,267 between 2007 and 2011. The largest donation came in 2008 when “he” donated $3.3m – the same year that Heartland began its annual climate change conferences which have attracted just about every prominent climate sceptic since. This mystery donor has apparently pledged a further $1m for “climate change projects” during 2012.

That’s ‘personally funded’. A man. One person. Until now information about their funding had been sparse. The story in The Guardian doesn’t name anyone, but they hint rather nakedly that the wampun comes from  one of those famous American Libertarian brothers, whose ’causes’ usually align well with the growth of their personal wealth. (To be polite, Koch Industries makes some proper token public donations.

Click the chart for a clearer version.

From Greenpeace - IRS data

Of course, they get a little help from their friends.

Many of the Republican Senate candidates are signatories of the Koch Industries’ Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks Contract From America.

Heartland is also committed to creating an alternate science curriculum in K-12 classrooms – which would be cool, eh? Combined with the ‘creationism’ curriculum, we could produce an entire generation scientifically illiterate.  (Now that’s the way for a world power to stay on top!)

So, we have an anonymous millionaire donor – whose agenda and/or vested interest we know not – funding an effort to discredit the teaching of climate science in schools? How can that ever be justified or considered democratic, let alone judged to be in the pupils’ best interests?

But the dropping of jaws doesn’t end there. Next up, we learn that Heartland paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to write a series of reports “to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports”. Not critique, challenge, or analyse the IPCC’s reports, but “to undermine” them. The agenda and pre-ordained outcome is clear and there for all to see.

The leaked documents are here.

Something I never ever thought I’d see

An incoming email: 

From Josh Silver, United Republic   Maureen – Jack Abramoff needs you

“Find on this page” doesn’t bring up ‘historian’. Must be something wrong with my computer.

Following up on the earlier post – when you’re hired as a strategist for a company’s top lobbyist, this is the job description.

Consultant will provide consulting and related services as requested by Freddie Mac’s Director, Public Policy in exchange for which Freddie Mac will pay Consultant $25,000 per each full calendar month during which Consultant provides Services.

Kos had a comment,

. . . there you go. That’s the whole thing. When you cut out the 14 other pages of boilerplate terms and conditions, generic stuff that is copy and pasted into every contract, that’s the actual meat of it. Wow. A whole sentence—I think I even see a comma in there.

Well, that’s okay then

Newt’s 1999 contract with Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist (the $25,000 a month contract) says:

“nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities.”

Crisp and clear, that – and not to be ‘construed’ as other than the absolute utter truth. One does wonder why they felt it necessary to includeg that phrase when contracting with a ‘historian’ or ‘strategist’?

The brief story in my paper this morning did not tell me what the contract does include. I shall go a-googling.

If you can win Jeopardy, I’m aboard with ya’

Elizabeth Warren and Richard Cordray

Wow. Here‘s a story from Business Insider, via Raw Story about that devil Obama appointed to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Until I read this, about the only thing I knew about Richard Cordray was that he was not Elizabeth Warren.

So who is he?

We’ve written a lot about him at Business Insider. Partly because, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, there’s no denying he’s incredibly impressive. Cordray is an undefeated, five-time Jeopardy! champion (he won $45,303), has a masters in economics from Oxford University, and was also editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review.

After law school he clerked for Supreme Court for a Reagan appointee, and represented the U.S. government before the Supreme Court there three times — once for George H.W. Bush and twice for Bill Clinton. That was all before running for AG of Ohio (a swing state) as a Democrat.

So what’s the problem with Cordray? There are two, one is an old Washington problem, and the other is purely Wall Street’s:

  1. Republicans said they would never support anyone to head the CFPB — Period —that is, unless the White House made serious changes to the agency. (Politico)
  2. He doesn’t just go after Wall Street Institutions. He goes after individual executives as well.

So he makes it personal – something we’ve all been yearning for:

Knock ‘em dead Richard. Go in there and stand up for us! And Godspeed.

Newt keeps a straight face. Lessons from Mrs. G the Third?

Gingrich’s characterization of his activities at his own lobbying firm is simply breathtaking. The media should be on the floor and laughing out loud at this one.

Just saw this at The Washington Examiner (new conservative paper in DC, headed by Micahel Barone and Byron York). Good for them. They took a look, stepped back and took another look, and then headlined their story:

Newt Gingrich was a lobbyist, plain and simple.

. . . we know he was paid consultant for drug makers. That’s the first criterion for being a drug lobbyist.

Here’s the second criterion: While some consultants simply provide strategy or advice, Gingrich directly contacted lawmakers in an effort to win their votes.

Three former Republican congressional staffers told me that Gingrich was calling around Capitol Hill and visiting Republican congressmen in 2003 in an effort to convince conservatives to support a bill expanding Medicare to include prescription-drug subsidies. Conservatives were understandably wary about expanding a Lyndon Johnson-created entitlement that had historically blown way past official budget estimates. Drug makers, on the other hand, were positively giddy about securing a new pipeline of government cash to pad their already breathtaking profit margins.

One former House staffer told me of a 2003 meeting Continue reading

“$$$$$$$$” they said. And that was that.

There’s an interesting comment thread going on at The Erstwhile Conservative that has moved into a discussion of how tribal we are and what are the possibilities for electoral reform to fix our broken government.

Jim Wheeler and I were chatting about things like redistricting . I’d just said that I was not hopeful we’d ever be able to repair what’s broken in our government. And this came out:

Ironically though, I think it’s the venerable First Amendment that will ultimately stand in the way, and render us helpless against the poisonous effect of corporate money and obscene levels of lobbying. That’s one of the reasons I’m not hopeful.

I think that’s true – that sacred instrument that has protected our speech for nearly 250 years is finally the weapon being used to destroy our institutions and ultimately our government. Whatever is left once they finish the dirty job, it’s not likely to include a right to free speech.

Say it ain’t so Newt

I know it’s hard to believe, but The Newtster is a hypocrite.

Newt Gingrich slammed Democrats in 2008 as wholly owned subsidiaries of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Guess it takes one to know one.

As Republicans presidential nominee John McCain struggled to match his opponent in the polls, Newt Gingrich urged the Senator to reboot his campaign by relentlessly attacking Democrats for being too close to housing giant Freddie Mac.

That would be the same Newt Gingrich who took a reported $1.6 million in “consulting fees” from Freddie Mac during an eight-year relationship that had ended only months earlier.

He says today he was a consultant to Freddie Mac/Mae. I think last week he thought he’d been engaged as an historian.

Speaking of Glenn Beck

. . . which I was, if you count saying (two posts below) that he doesn’t matter anymore. Anyway, speaking of Glenn . . .

// Goldline, a company that used endorsements from Glenn Beck and other conservative icons to sell hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers, has been charged with theft and fraud in a 19-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday by local officials in California.

. . . marks the latest in a series of allegations leveled against the gold dealer, which pioneered the practice of weaving its sales pitches into broadcasts by popular conservative political personalities — including two former presidential candidates — to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold every year.

The complaint alleges that Goldline “runs a bait and switch operation in which customers, seeking to invest in gold bullion, are switched to highly overpriced coins by using false and misleading claims,” according to a statement released by the consumer affairs division of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office.

I grabbed this little something from Goldline’s website; I’m sure Beck’s lawyers are screeching their outrage even now, insisting it be taken down – even though I thought I once heard Glenn say that Jesus wanted us to buy from Goldline.

They haz met the enemy, and they iz them

Lookee here.

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, according to a Roll Call analysis of Members’ financial disclosure forms

Memories. Remember this guy?

Jeff Gannon! Aka James Guckert! Aka Johnny Goesch! Bush-era   uncredentialed White House reporter. Frequent White House visitor. Male prostitute whose web presence solicited ‘ratings’ from customers. Loudly defended by Sean Hannity*.  There are a million theories about how the fellow gained the kind of access he did – in ’05 the Secret Service became very interested in answering the ‘how’.

Guckert [Gannon] made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.

White House records showed frequent visits by Gannon to the White House when there were no press conference, sometimes checking out but not checking in and sometimes checking in but not out.

Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance [at press conferences] however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits. Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings.

Such good times.

*HANNITY: Now, Jeff Gannon, who is a terrific Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for Talon News, actually shot me an e-mail today, and he’s about to break a story in an exclusive about these CBS documents. [The Sean Hannity Show, 9/10/04]

Why Occupy Wall Street? Here’s why.

The surprise $5.00 debit card fee banks recently imposed on their customers is going away.  Bank of American, Sun Trust, JP Morgan Chase and others are now trying to tiptoe off the front pages.

We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” David Darnell, the bank’s co-chief operating officer, said in a statement.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co last week decided to cancel test programs, while SunTrust Banks Inc and Regions Financial Corp said on Monday they would end monthly charges and reimburse customers.

For most Americans, the fee was a step too far from those ‘job creators’ who earlier wallowed in ugly, amoral behaviors screwing not just us but each other, and sent us into a four year trailspin of a recession that could take as long as a decade to repair.

This time, I think those ‘bankers’ peeked out their windows and were a bit frightened by what they saw.  So I’ll call this a victory for Occupy Wall Streeters around the nation and around the world.

Thomas Friedman (forever the inspiration for the wartime Friedman Unit, or the F.U. for short), reminds us this week about one Citigroup transgression for which they’ve just been fined $285million (chump change these days), a transgression emblematic of the duplicitous and amoral behavior that hurt us all so badly.

. . .  with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.     

According to the SEC complaint:

. . . Citigroup exercised “significant influence” over choosing which $500 million of the $1 billion worth of assets in the deal, and the global bank deliberately chose collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s, built from mortgage loans almost sure to fail. According to The Wall Street Journal, the S.E.C. complaint quoted one unnamed C.D.O. trader outside Citigroup as describing the portfolio as resembling something your dog leaves on your neighbor’s lawn. “The deal became largely worthless within months of its creation,” The Journal added. “As a result, about 15 hedge funds, investment managers and other firms that invested in the deal lost hundreds of millions of dollars, while Citigroup made $160 million in fees and trading profits.”

For decades we’ve let them indulge in the worst form of crony capitalism without the rule of law that should govern such institutions. Unbridled greed took hold. And it’s been destroying capitalism. It is anti-capitalist.

Friedman goes on:

. . . .what happened to us? Our financial industry has grown so large and rich it has corrupted our real institutions through political donations. As Senator Richard Durbin. . .  bluntly said in a 2009 radio interview, despite having caused this crisis, these same financial firms “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they, frankly, own the place.”       

Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from Opensecrets.org calculates that the financial services industry spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined.

We can’t afford this any longer.

Indeed we cannot. We now stand witness to the destruction of what it took us 250 years to build.

I don’t see anyone with power stepping up, leaving it up to the people.  And, no matter the tired 1960’s stereotypes the right is so enthralled with, that is why we have Occupy Wall Street.

Actual. Good. News.

One down – far too many to go. Story here.

 

?? This.

THIS, THIS, THIS. (from Dependable Renegade)

A thousand times, this. From The Reformed Broker, a reality-based One Percenter:

In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, their way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it!

At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done.

The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy.

Instead of coming back and working with this economy to get back on its feet, they hired lobbyists by the dozen to fight tooth and nail against any efforts whatsoever to bring common sense regulation to the financial industry. Instead of coming back and working with the people, they hired an army of robosigners to process millions of foreclosures. In many cases, without even having the proper paperwork to evict the homeowners.

. . .  but millions of Americans are in a living hell. This is why they’re enraged, this is why they’re assembling, this is why they hate you. Why for the first time in 50 years, the people are coming out in the streets and saying, “Enough.”

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

The Koch brothers systemic criminality

Bloomberg just published a bombshell story about the Kochs and Koch Industries and how they do business –  apparently, they do it their own way and the law be damned. It’s a lengthy story and it confirms that these enormously rich and very secretive brothers really do see themselves as sovereigns, occupying a higher plane than mere mortals. With all this criminality, I don’t know how they ever found the time to hire Dick Armey so he could create FreedomWorks, the group that stands behind the Tea Party.  (These guys work ‘freedom’ into everything. They need some new writers.)

A Bloomberg Markets investigation has found that Koch Industries — in addition to being involved in improper payments to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East — has sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, a country the U.S. identifies as a sponsor of global terrorism . . . [Moe asks: Remember when Halliburton did that?]

Internal company documents show that the company made those sales through foreign subsidiaries, thwarting a U.S. trade ban. Koch Industries units have also rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada.

. . . . In December 1999, a civil jury found that Koch Industries had taken oil it didn’t pay for from federal land by mis-measuring the amount of crude it was extracting. . .

Phil Dubose, a Koch employee who testified against the company said he and his colleagues were shown by their managers how to steal and cheat — using techniques they called the Koch Method.

Gimme that old time religion, er, I mean protestin’!

This is what Occupy Wall Street is about. And now that major news outlets have deigned to take notice, it’s growing into a movement.  Invitations to local demonstrations are popping up all over Facebook (I’ve had two invitations just this morning) and this has generated an organizing site here. It gets personal at We Are the 99 Percent.  From there:

UPDATE: Here’s the official site for Occupy Wall Street. And I just found another picture I rather fancy.

FL 13 is just bursting with pride

My very own congressman, Vern Buchanan (R), has made yet another ‘most corrupt’ list. And this time he’s Number Two! (Vern is often under investigation right here at home too.)

This from The Street, the investment newsletter:

2011’s Most Corrupt

  • Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.)
  • Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fl.)
  • Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)
  • Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.)
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.)
  • Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Oh.)
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.