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]