Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Honesty and the CIA

May 19th, 2009 Comments off

When Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of fibbing on what they said to her about waterboarding, Republicans reacted with outrage. The CIA, lie? Preposterous!

“I think her accusations against our terror-fighters are irresponsible and, according to the CIA’s record, Speaker Pelosi was briefed on what had been done,” said Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It’s outrageous that a member of Congress would call our terror-fighters liars.”

Of course, there is evidence that the CIA’s claims were less than accurate. For example, they also claimed to have briefed former Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida on three occasions; Graham, who takes careful notes and keeps his calendars and schedules, proved that he could not have attended briefings on those dates; the CIA relented and admitted the data was in error. Graham also insists that, according to his notes, he was also never briefed on waterboarding, despite the CIA claiming he was.

But what about Bond’s indignant protest that we not dare question the truthfulness of the CIA? Fact is, the CIA’s reputation has been pretty much torn down all on its own in the past years; the Bush administration pretty much decimated that. Sandy Goodman at HuffPo lists several prominent examples of the CIA misleading pretty much everyone–the U.N., the 9/11 Commission, reporters, Congress, you name it. And from a blog post I wrote exactly three years ago, here’s a quote from Harper’s on how the CIA presented information on Iraq:

A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration’s war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA’s ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can’t write anything honest, only fairy tales.”

The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq—assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as “Aardwolfs,” were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author—who I’m told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer—was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. “He was a good guy,” one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.”

In 2004 Meyer was replaced with a new CIA station chief in Baghdad, who that year filed six Aardwolfs, which, sources told me, were collectively as pessimistic about the situation in Iraq as the ones sent by his predecessor. The station chief finished his assignment in December 2004; he was not fired, but according to one source is now “a pariah within the system.” Three other former intelligence officials gave me virtually identical accounts, with one saying the ex–station chief was “treated like shit” and “farmed out.” …

“The CIA’s ability to speak honestly is gone,” concluded the official, “which is extraordinarily dangerous to our country.”

So it is not exactly unreasonable to suggest that the CIA might be inaccurate.

Certainly it is no coincidence that the CIA released this information as Pelosi was calling for a truth commission that could potentially make the CIA look very bad–and that the Pelosi story has rocketed in the media despite its relative insignificance relative to other stories on the same topic. This is a chilling warning shot to those who would try to get the real truth out there: we will take you down with us.

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Republicans Love Getting off on Technicalities

April 3rd, 2009 Comments off

When a thief, mugger, rapist, or murderer gets off on a technicality, right-wingers rail against the weak-kneed, pansy-ass liberal justice system that lets criminals back on the street just because police or prosecutors made mistakes. They loathe that particular adherence to principle, and cannot understand why it has to lead to the release of the criminal instead of just a slap on the wrist of the police or prosecutors, and they blame bleeding-heart liberals for allowing dangerous, hard-core criminals to roam free.

Except when the criminal is a Republican. In which case, the technicality, no matter how unrelated to the actual crime committed, completely and utterly clears them of even the barest hint of wrongdoing, and makes them into victims of what surely must have been a politically-motivated left-wing witch hunt. Just like Oliver North, or now Ted Stevens, who Republicans now claim is a victim. They even want Mark Begich, who beat Stevens in the election, to step down so Stevens can return.

I wonder, if prosecutors in the Blagojevich case turn out to have withheld any evidence, no matter how incriminating the whole case against him may be, will the GOP suddenly hail Blago as a patriotic victim and demand his return to office? Somehow I don’t think so.

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And the Republican Attack Campaign Digs In

January 18th, 2009 Comments off

Scott Horton (via PA) reports that at least two US Attorneys (USAs), as part of the loyal Bushies’ “burrowing in” program, are planning not to leave their jobs quietly as all USAs in years past have done. No, they’re going for the grand slam: try to smear Obama, apologize for Bush, push a partisan agenda, and attack and even try to convict Democrats out of partisan political motives.

As you recall, Bush was rightly criticized for firing USAs because they refused to abuse their power to carry out political agendas. When it came out that Bush was committing a highly unethical and possibly illegal act in doing so, a lame but just-plausible-enough defense was crafted: presidents always fire USAs! Of course, this only happens when a new president takes office, and is done in the same manner in which the president appoints a new cabinet and staff. It does not happen in mid-term, or to a limited number of attorneys, or as a way of punishing them for not abusing power. But the defense sounds good enough and takes a lot longer to debunk, so they ran with it.

By refusing to leave quietly, these loyal-Bushie USAs hope to smear Obama–look, he’s firing us! That would both make Obama look bad, and would make it seem like what Bush did was not unusual or wrong. These effects are purely superficial and go contrary to reason and logic, but political smears are not based upon truth. As is the case with most Republican smears, they seem plausible enough for a lot of people to believe in them, while the explanation of why they are completely and utterly bogus takes long enough so that most people will not be interested in hearing it.

More than that, they hope to create the impression that the government is riddled with corrupt Democrats. That’s the reason they’re giving as to why they should be allowed to hold on to their jobs: they need to prosecute all those Democrats who are guilty! This, of course, despite Republicans being the ones who have been breaking the law willy-nilly over the past eight years, but that’s the whole idea of the loyal-Bushie US Attorney scam, that they let Republicans get away with everything and instead try to prosecute as many Democrats as they can. This is the modern mentality of the Republican Party and the right-wing: take no prisoners, grant no mercy, never admit guilt, error, or defeat, and never give an inch of ground.

Then there’s the added bonus of making it look like Obama is firing these USAs in order to protect criminal Democrats from prosecution–ironic, as that’s what these very USAs have been doing for criminal Republicans, and Obama, far from protecting Democrats, seem far too unwilling to prosecute major crimes clearly committed by officials of the Bush administration.

Yep, with these loyal Bushies, it’s nothing but “Country First”! Um, no, wait.

Welcome to the tone-setting for the next four to eight years. It worked so well under Clinton, the Republicans figure it’s worth a try with Obama: do nothing but smear, obstruct, and attack, again and again and again, relentlessly, never giving quarter. And screw the law, the Constitution, and well-being of the country. This is about power.

Categories: Corruption, Political Ranting Tags:

Take the Money and Run

November 10th, 2008 1 comment

This from the WaPo (via Kevin Drum):

The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration’s request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.

But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion.

The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin.

“Did the Treasury Department have the authority to do this? I think almost every tax expert would agree that the answer is no,” said George K. Yin, the former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan congressional authority on taxes. “They basically repealed a 22-year-old law that Congress passed as a backdoor way of providing aid to banks.” …

The change to Section 382 of the tax code — a provision that limited a kind of tax shelter arising in corporate mergers — came after a two-decade effort by conservative economists and Republican administration officials to eliminate or overhaul the law, which is so little-known that even influential tax experts sometimes draw a blank at its mention. Until the financial meltdown, its opponents thought it would be nearly impossible to revamp the section because this would look like a corporate giveaway, according to lobbyists.

Is it just me, or did we get snookered? And I don’t just mean the sudden and probably illegal huge tax break outlined in the article above, but the general bailout situation itself?

Remember, the $700 billion number was more or less pulled out of Henry Paulson’s ass; it did not represent a quantification of any real need, but a number that sounded good enough to calm investors’ fears. And I’m beginning to wonder if all or part of this whole thing has been a scam.

Not that there hasn’t been a financial crisis, but rather that there has been an opportunistic grab for money like there was after 9/11, only this one was far more immediate. Did we really need to give away $700 billion? Just like we were held hostage to our fear after 9/11, so have we been now; instead of fearing the specter of terrorism, we’ve simply been presented with a new boogeyman, and have been told to fork over ridiculous sums of money. And we’d better not complain or talk about not doing it, or else the financial markets will blow our economic brains out.

And yes, I know that Obama was in favor of the bill. I never said he was perfect, nor that I’d agree with him all the time–though his support for it is one of the few things that makes me wonder if I’m just being paranoid.

But even if the bailout is needed, I still am under the impression that we’re getting cleaned out, if not by the primary giveaway, then by the billions that will fall through the cracks, or are simply stolen via corruption in the system.

Either way, it seems like this is little more than a last-minute looting of the treasury by corrupt institutions which have become aware that the gravy train is soon ending. The change in the tax law comes across as a sign of the gates to the treasury being opened for the fatcats to charge in and plunder.

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McCain: Lobbyists So Much More Trustworthy than the Masses

October 20th, 2008 1 comment


McCain also complained that the identities of people who contributed more than $200 million of Obama’s total take have not been reported, although that is allowable under federal law because the individual donations fall under the $200 reporting limit.

“I’m saying it’s laying a predicate for the future that can be very dangerous,” McCain said. “History shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal.”

Ultimately, the only problem with raising such big amounts is that the politician will be beholden to the donors and will feel it necessary to repay them with access and special favors. You know, the kind that McCain is embroiled in up to his neck and higher, as evidenced that his campaign is riddled with lobbyists, his campaign manager being a major lobbyist for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. McCain gets a great deal of support, monetary and otherwise, from these lobbyists and their big-player clients, and, totally by coincidence I am sure, his policies and Senate votes have fallen in line with these players’ interests. Being so close to the corruption, one can perhaps see why McCain is talking about the need for reform so much.

But what McCain is objecting to here is that Obama raised less than $200 apiece from more than a million average Americans; he calls this “dangerous.”

Um, Senator McCain? I think you need to go back and look up what the word “reform” means.

Categories: Corruption, Election 2008 Tags:

The ACORN Fraud Fraud: How to Fake an Issue to Commit a Crime You Are Denouncing

October 17th, 2008 Comments off

The claim is that ACORN is a group with close ties to Barack Obama and is involved in a massive scam to register hordes of fake voters so as to throw the election for Barack Obama. McCain claimed in the debate last night that ACORN is “now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

The truth, of course, is significantly different.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is a voter advocacy group that holds registration drives, focusing on increasing participation among lower- and middle-class citizens. While ACORN often finds itself aligned with Democrats on the issues, it is not affiliated with any political party, and McCain himself was the keynote speaker at an ACORN rally, where he praised ACORN and its workers, saying, “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight.”

ACORN is not involved in any vote fraud. The focus of the recent storm is something which has always plagued all registration drives by all such organizations of any size: workers scamming their employers for a little extra cash. ACORN, and many organizations like it, hire people to register citizens to vote. You’ve probably seen this many times, where a card table is set up somewhere in public with forms, and a few people are approaching passers-by and urging them to register. The people who work these tables are hired just like with any organization or company. They are paid to register people. And whenever you hire lots of people, some will be dishonest. In this case, some decide that it’s easier to simply fake registrations instead of signing up real people, which is how you get registrations for Mickey Mouse and Tony Romo.

This is not directed by or encouraged by ACORN, Barack Obama, or John McCain, it is not the fault of anyone except a few dishonest people for hire. ACORN, the actual victims of fraud here, do their best to flag such fraudulent registrations, but are not allowed to throw out even the most egregious fakes–all must be submitted. But this does not mean that this will result in any fake votes. This is a few people trying to get a few extra bucks by submitting forms with fake names and information.

There is no evidence–zero, zilch, none, not a scrap–that this is anything but what I have described above. So why is it such a big story? The answer is an old one: because it is a helpful red herring for right-wing efforts to commit real election fraud.

There is a real and penetrating effort by conservative groups to suppress the poor and minority votes, primarily due to the fact that these groups vote strongly Democratic. There are several ways to do this. One is to introduce new laws which challenge and restrict registration and voting by these groups, such as Voter ID laws, which discourage poor voters by throwing more obstacles in their path. Another way is to fight against laws which make it easier for these people to register, such as Motor-Voter laws, which conservatives have always fought against. Another way is to disenfranchise large numbers through a variety of dodgy, dishonest, and often contemptible means, such as voter caging; the most recent iteration of this is to challenge the registration of voters whose homes have been foreclosed.

How are these efforts helped by false claims of fraud by groups like ACORN? In truth, there is very little actual voter fraud amongst these groups; in light of that truth, there is little justification for the conservative efforts to suppress the vote. But by claiming massive voter fraud where there is none, such efforts are given a false veneer of legitimacy. Without any voter fraud happening, Voter ID laws don’t make much sense; by claiming voter fraud is rampant, you gain support.

In McCain’s case, the reason is more immediate: to not only sully his opponent and energize the base, but also to begin construction of a false narrative as to why the election will go the way it will go.

This whole situation is made much worse by the recently leaked news that the FBI is now launching an official probe into ACORN. Coming just a day after McCain made his big ACORN smear campaign official, the news smacks of dirty tricks, giving just such false legitimacy to the claims of vote theft. The real question here is why ACORN is being investigated while blatant efforts of real election fraud go uninvestigated and unpunished, from Katherine Harris’ 2000 fraud where she knowingly disenfranchised tens of thousands of Democratic voters in Florida under an intentionally-botched purge of felons from voter lists, to more recent caging efforts that target college students who are required to leave their dormitories during summer break, or even soldiers who are serving overseas.

These efforts result in the actual loss of voting rights by tens of thousands of real American citizens at the polls, as compared to the claimed ACORN fraud, which has very little if any impact at all on actual votes cast in any election.

But those real and significant cases of election fraud benefit conservative politicians–draw your own conclusions as to why they go uninvestigated.

Disenfranchising the Foreclosed

September 19th, 2008 1 comment

Story out of Michigan: a left-leaning web site reported that the Macomb County, Michigan Republican Party Chairman James Carabelli stated that he plans to use lists of families with foreclosed homes as a target for challenging their voter eligibility. In just the second quarter of this year, about 63,000 homes were foreclosed in Michigan alone, and reportedly more than half of the foreclosures in Michigan are on homes owned by African-Americans–likely Democratic voters, as are the others who lost their homes. As the saying goes, a Democrat is a Republican who lost his job, or in this case, his home.

While it is true that the report came from a left-leaning web site and that the source denies the story, it fits in very closely with Republican voter-suppression tactics of the past. In 2004, Michigan Republican state senator John Pappageorge said, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.” Publicly. Also in 2004, the GOP played a dirty trick by sending mass mailings to black college students during the summer break when they were inevitably not at their college addresses; when the letters, marked “do not forward,” were of course returned, they were used to challenge these strongly Democratic-leaning voters their right to vote in that election. So going after people, mostly black, who had their homes foreclosed–most likely strongly Democratic–fits in perfectly with documented past Republican efforts.

The Republicans who are denying this story claim that it can’t be true because “the lists don’t give them information on where a voter lives.” However, this is not a deterrent for the GOP voter caging program–in fact, it’s a perk for them. Remember, in the 2000 election, they successfully disenfranchised tens of thousands of African-American Florida voters, overwhelmingly Democratic, simply because they had names resembling those of convicted felons. Here again, they have a list which is mostly black and Democratic, and would likely use the same tactic of overreaching to try to disenfranchise everyone in the state with names matching those on the lists. As stated, it fits in with past documented Republican disenfranchisement efforts.

So, while there is a possibility that this story is not true, the Obama campaign is quite wise to file in court for an injunction to prevent Republicans from doing this. Because despite their current spate of denials, Republicans also have a past record of not only denying stuff they’re doing, but also of doing reprehensible acts and then defending it with thinly-veiled arguments to make it sound like it was somehow necessary, justified, or even patriotic. After all, the whole voter caging and disenfranchisement effort is based upon accusing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of honest American citizens of being vote-stealing criminals. Which also fits this story.

Now, THIS Is Swift-Boating

August 16th, 2008 1 comment

When Bob Schieffer hailed John McCain as a man of character because he was shot down over Vietnam, Wesley Clark (after having spent a few minutes praising McCain as a “hero”) said that that did not qualify McCain for president; that was without a doubt not swift-boating, no matter what the wingnuts want to claim.

The latest book by noted sleaze merchant James Corsi, however, is the epitome of swift-boating–not because it was by a former associate of Obama’s who claimed to know him. a usual key ingredient in the definition. It is swift-boating because the author of the book is the original swift-boater himself, and the book carries the signature quality of being jam-packed with errors, innuendo, and mostly bald-faced lies. This time, not even the media will give this book any credibility, but that won’t stop the Republicans from trying to float a “popular” campaign based on it.

The book will premier as #1 on the New York Times best-seller list (one can only assume the editors had to swallow hard when labeling it as “non-fiction”), but not because people are buying it–rather because right-wing organizations are buying it in bulk quantities likely for no better reason than to artificially put it on the “best-seller” list and so inflate the book’s cache with the mindlessly-inclined. McCain’s quip on the book: “You gotta keep your sense of humor.” Yeah, right–like he’d react better if a book of the same caliber on him came out. Maybe he’d like to comment on this YouTube commercial–slimy, even though factually accurate.

This is the essence of the conservative run for the presidency: don’t just lie, but lie about the lies. Yet another reason not to vote Republican–unless you would like this kind of thing to define your personal politics.

What’s Important

August 1st, 2008 Comments off

Seymour Hersh in an interview with Think Progress, about how Cheney and his staff were trying to think up ways to start a war with Iran:

There was a meeting. Among the items considered and rejected — which is why the New Yorker did not publish it, on grounds that it wasn’t accepted — one of the items was why not…

There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.

So, the New Yorker editors thought that it wasn’t news because during a meeting in which the Vice President was conspiring with administration officials to come up with a way to falsely manufacture a war with a foreign nation, a method that could easily be described as treasonous and at the most charitable, highly illegal, was rejected.

These are the standards we’ve fallen to. We become aware that the Vice President of the United States of America is trying to manufacture a false pretense for going to war, and it’s not considered news. When, of course, the fact that it was rejected is only partly exculpatory; the fact that the intent to commit illegal acts was there should have been a huge news story. But they passed on it as if it wasn’t anything extraordinary.

I have to admit, that was my personal reaction as well–that this just confirms something that I was pretty certain of for some time anyway. That’s the problem with assuming the worst of this gang in the White House: when you find that your assumption of their criminality and foulness is confirmed to be true, you can’t react with surprised outrage. It seems the media feels the same way: “Oh, the Vice President is conspiring to commit illegal acts? Well, we know he’s a scumwad who does stuff like this, so as long as he didn’t actually follow through, I guess we have nothing.”

I am so glad that Bush and Cheney brought honor and dignity back to the White House.

Categories: Corruption, Political Ranting Tags:

A System Worthy of Contempt

June 23rd, 2008 4 comments

I had to stop listening to the podcast for Meet the Press just now. Yes, some time ago, Barack Obama said that he would “aggressively pursue” talks with McCain to work out a system that was free of big money; the worst you could say is that he didn’t pursue it as aggressively as he suggested. That’s the worst you can honestly say about what he did. But his campaign financing is cleaner than McCain’s. Obama’s campaign is not riddled with lobbyists like McCain’s is. Obama has shut down federal lobbyists, PACs, and 527’s not only for his campaign but for his party as well, in a way that John McCain refuses to do. While he may have violated the letter of his pledge, he has more than upheld its spirit, and he has done nothing even remotely illegal–not even remotely reminiscent of corrupt.

On the other hand, as a matter of legal fact, John McCain is in direct violation of campaign finance law, on two counts. He took out a loan with public financing as collateral and then unilaterally pulled out of the system–both illegal acts. He. Broke. The. LAW. And with every dollar he spends, he continues to break the law.

And yet these yapping heads continue to rave on about how Obama is disgracing himself, and are not uttering a word about McCain’s continuing violation of the law. Instead they whine about how Obama is breaking an otherwise great system. A system that allows for millions in corporate, lobbyist, and special interest money to be spent on behalf of a candidate who is then beholden to them, spent in a way that allows them to do it anonymously and without accountability.

You want corruption? How’s this: The FEC, which is supposed to police campaign finance, has been hobbled because Bush wanted to nominate to the commission an absurdly partisan member, and the Republican Party has filibustered any other nominations until this partisan spoiler was approved; as a result, the FEC, without enough members to act, has been powerless to do anything.

Regardless of this, David Mason, the Republican chairman of the FEC, spoke out earlier this year, challenging McCain about both of his illegal acts–in essence announcing that McCain may not unilaterally withdraw from public financing and that his using public financing as collateral must be reviewed by the FEC. Now, that actually speaks well of the public financing system–that a Republican FEC chair takes his own party’s candidate to task.

However, Mason will never get that chance: Bush has fired him.

Now tell me about how public financing is not corrupt.

Obama is the clean one here. McCain is not only corrupt, he is literally and demonstrably criminal. That is not a partisan rant, not a legal theory–it is fact. So naturally, Obama is eviscerated in the media on campaign financing, while McCain is lauded.

People, I make a lot of satirical references to the “Liberal Media™” in this blog, but I mean this for real: the media is so biased in favor of McCain this election season that it is not even close to being funny. That this can happen–again–and not make a public stir is only evidence of how conventional wisdom is still dependent upon what the media is willing to accept. If the media doesn’t pick up on a story, it dies, and no amount of blogging can give it power.

In the meantime, McCain is pushing for further media consolidation, allowing fewer and fewer people to own more and more of the media–single ownership of television, radio, and newspapers in multiple markets.

Gee, I wonder why.

Lame Plane Claim

June 5th, 2008 1 comment

McCain’s feeble joke within his debate proposal:

McCain also suggested the two candidates fly together to the meetings, joking that that would save energy and money.

“I even suggested we travel to them together on the same plane, probably help out on energy savings,” he said to applause from an audience in Baton Rouge.

No problem, McSame: you can both commute on your wife’s private corporate jet–you know, the one you’ve been monopolizing to get around campaign finance laws, violating even your own self-set policies.

Funny how nobody in the Liberal Media™, which has been giving wide play to McCain’s ‘joke,’ has so much as mentioned the corporate jet, much less gone for this low-hanging fruit of a jab, something the media usually leaps at. Oh, wait–I know why: the media has completely failed to report on stories like McCain’s immersion in lobbyists or the corporate jet story, so no one would get the jibe if they used it.

The Press Still Covering for McCain

May 29th, 2008 Comments off

It’s standard operating procedure, and fully expected by this time, but even so it’s startling, even mind-boggling, how the media continues to so bald-facedly cover for McCain. Even as the media lays focus on Obama for swapping Auschwitz for Buchenwald–once (not three times, like McCain did with Sunni and Shiite)–the same media is paying only 1/4 as much attention (18 stories for the Gramm scandal, 78 for Obama’s statement) to the fact that McCain’s chief economic advisor was a paid lobbyist for a Swiss bank, actively lobbying Congress on subprime mortgage legislation for UBS while advising McCain on subprime mortgage bailout policy. A bank which the advisor still works for, a bank which is advising its banking team not to travel to the U.S. for fear of being indicted. Josh Marshall put it this way:

Many of the lobbying connections the press has dug up on McCain have been embarassing. But I’m not sure any have really had teeth until this one. After all, how much does the average voter care that Charlie Black represented a lot of foreign dictators? A stench, yes? But finding out that McCain had a major subprime lender bank lobbyist whispering in his ear when McCain told the public that it was basically tough luck if they lost their houses?

Few of the stories now out there on McCain and UBS are by any recognizable news outlet–the biggest is MSNBC, which broke the story, while almost all the big media sources cover the Obama story. For the most part, the MSM is simply burying the McCain scandal.

The lobbyist story is way bigger than a one-time slip–so why the heavy disparity in reporting?

GOP Taking Fake Voter Fraud / Disenfranchisement Scam Even Further

May 14th, 2008 Comments off

Maybe now I understand why gun-rights supporters fear gun control laws so much: they believe that gun control advocates will act the same way that right-wingers act, taking a legal victory and using it to try to go to ludicrous extremes. Even I did not see this shameful act of vote-stealing coming, and I have a low opinion of these people:

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.

The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

As if thousands of illegal immigrants have been flooding the polls in Missouri and stealing elections.

I shudder to think of what they’d do next if they actually got away with this. Require genetic scans to prove you are really you? Submit transcripts of your school records from kindergarten to high school? Take a language test?

Don’t laugh–the idea of needing special proof of citizenship at the polls is so ridiculous I don’t think many saw that coming. And lord knows what they’ll require as proof. You can bet it’ll be the thing least likely to be easily available to the elderly and poor.

We have already seen a number of voters-including a dozen or so elderly nuns–denied their right to vote in Indiana because of the Voter ID law that is denied to deny exactly such people their votes, instead of the imaginary voter fraud that is claimed as the “real” threat.

H/t to C&L.

Lobbyist Heaven

May 12th, 2008 Comments off

Another tack Obama should take: deconstructing McCain’s image as a campaign finance reform champion. With all the campaign finance laws and rules McCain has twisted and broken (not to mention breaking many of his own policies), from using his wife’s corporate jet while she steadfastly refuses to make her tax returns public, to violating federal law on withdrawing from public financing without FEC approval and after having used public financing as collateral on a loan and Bush’s attempt to re-staff the FEC to ignore McCain’s violations, Obama could have a field day with McCain on what is supposed to be one of McCain’s strongest issues.

And that’s before we even get to the fact that McCain has surrounded himself with lobbyists. Consider today’s news: a second McCain aide had to resign because he’s a lobbyist for the brutal regime in Myanmar. Think about that: McCain had not one, but two campaign aides who were paid lobbyists for the same small foreign power. McCain has so many lobbyists working for him that two are significantly connected with a relatively unknown southeast Asian ruling junta. You could probably throw a dart at the issues board and be assured of hitting something connected to more than one lobbyist working for McCain these days. After getting all that laid out in public view, we can move on to the many instances of McCain exerting his official influence to pay back lobbyists who have him in their pocket.

Of course, with this issue and the issue of McBush/McSame, the problem lies in getting the media to recognize it. But there should be an easy way: somebody at SNL should write a skit where the media is ignoring every single McCain misstep while jumping down Obama’s throat on the irrelevant stuff. It’d be a funny skit, and if the media responds to it like they did to the skit which had them loving Obama, then there should be an immediate dumping on John McCain like never before.

Republicans Reinforce Job Discrimination

April 24th, 2008 3 comments

Wow, the right-wingers are really showing their true colors as bigots. They just filibustered (what, the 5,349,816th time this session?) a bill that would make it possible for workers to sue for pay discrimination, essentially killing it. Obama and Clinton returned to D.C. to vote for it, and McCain stayed away, signaling that he would have voted to kill it anyway.

Let’s rehash: this is based upon a scummy re-interpretation of law by the Bush administration. The original law was intended to make it so that if you found out your employer was paying you less than another worker for the same job because you were the wrong gender or race, you could sue them, so long as you filed suit 180 days after the last occurrence of the discriminatory pay. That was obviously meant to be structured so that the 180 day deadline happened after the last disparate paycheck was issued.

In a suit based upon this law, an employer tried to claim that the 180-day deadline started when the initial decision was made to issue unequal pay, taking advantage of wording that was just nebulous enough to allow for that interpretation (if you’re a complete idiot). Co-workers don’t immediately disseminate how much money they make to all coworkers, and employers often strongly discourage (or even try to prohibit) such sharing in any case. Finding such disparity within 6 months of the initial pay difference is so rare to discover that the law would essentially be meaningless under the new interpretation. It’s about as obvious as it can get that this was not the way the law was supposed to work.

The plaintiff, Ms. Lilly Ledbetter, won her case, and all the appeals until it reached the conservative-stacked 11th circuit (a spin-off of the 5th circuit, the most conservative in the country)–whereupon the law suddenly changed to support discrimination. Then the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and naturally, the Bush administration jumped on the company’s side, filing a brief in support of the bigotry, in opposition to the EEOC’s rational application of the law in accordance with decades of precedence. And the 5-member Republican majority on the Supreme Court voted along straight party lines to uphold the ludicrous reinterpretation that essentially gutted the law. (Message: if you’re a corrupt, lawbreaking corporation, now is the time to get your suits before the high court! Get the payoffs while they last!)

Some right-wingers used the “it’s the law’s fault” defense, saying that they’d like to fight against discrimination, but darn it, the law is just so clearly written to be stupid, we have no choice but to follow it and be stupid ourselves. The Bush administration made no such dodges; they simply claimed [PDF] that once a decision was made to discriminate, a corporation could not be expected to remember that it had initiated such discrimination beyond 6 months, and it would be a travesty if people were allowed to sue after discrimination had continued for years and years. (They even made the deranged argument that the Ledbetter law would discourage allegations of discrimination from being “expeditiously resolved.”)

So if a corporation got away with discrimination for 180 days, then they were home free–untouchable from that point on. As I pointed out before, this asinine view of the law just begs for abuse, and is even institutionalized in posterity if pay increases are decided as a percentage of initial pay levels.

Well, no problem–just re-word the law so that it clearly states the obvious intent. But there’s a big problem–no, two big problems: one, the president–who vowed to veto the reworded bill, and now the Senate Republicans, who just filibustered it to death before it could even get to the president’s desk.

So the conservative wingnuts in all three branches of government have not voiced their intent to let bigotry reign.

Ready to vote yet?

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the insidious Liberal Media™ continues to call Republican obstruction “blocking” or “denying” in their headlines, even eschewing the correct term “filibuster” in the full text of most of the articles covering this story (the few that there are, that is). They showed no such reluctance to use the word “filibuster” almost endlessly in the far more rare cases when Democrats blocked a handful of the most extremist right-wing judicial nominees.

Oh, and here’s a bonus bit of Republican hypocrisy:

Republicans said Democrats were playing politics, by timing the vote to give the Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, time to return to the Capitol from the campaign trail. Both senators spoke in support of the bill before the vote.

Yes, how terrible that they allowed senators time to vote on legislation. As opposed to four years ago, when Kerry returned to D.C. to vote for a veteran’s health care vote… and the Republican leadership delayed the vote so Kerry couldn’t vote on it. Those Republicans are just pips, aren’t they?

Email and BS

March 30th, 2008 Comments off

Remember those millions of White House emails that happened to get lost? And the backups were lost too? And then the hard disk drives these were all stored on accidentally destroyed? And the emails from the alternate email system many used were also lost, along with their backups if there ever were any? And that the lost emails just happened to cover periods of time that happened to coincide with likely periods of White House lawbreaking?

I suspect that even anyone unfamiliar with technology would find this all unlikely, unless you were so biased in favor of the Bush administration that you would believe excuses involving the Easter Bunny. But to those who have even a rudimentary understanding of how computers work, this all comes across as such a stupid, blatant load of BS that it is rather unbelievable that criminal prosecutions are not already in progress.

If you would like a more detailed explanation of much of that story with the perspective of experts in such things, then read this post from Daily Kos. If you want the story from a less biased source, I was only able to find this article from the AP; for some strange, unexplained reason, the MSM doesn’t seem to be covering this story much at all. Go figure. A few tech blogs have covered some aspects of it, however.

Media Silence on McCain Violating Federal Law

March 6th, 2008 2 comments

Do a Google News search on “McCain FEC” and look at the results. In the past two days, there has not been even one story from a non-biased U.S. media source about McCain and the fact that he is now in clear violation of federal election laws. Not one. You have to go back to March 3rd to find one, and that’s an LA Times piece that calls the story “a debate that only law students could enjoy.” Excuse me? The Republican nominee for president violating a law that could net him five years in federal prison?

McCain is Mr. Campaign Finance Reform, Mr. I’m Squeaky Clean, Mr. Anti-Corruption; and yet here he sits, surrounded by lobbyists, with a string of hard evidence showing that he has interceded on their behalf in governmental affairs on multiple occasions, and now he’s flipping off the FEC and saying that he can do whatever the hell he wants. McCain doesn’t like the restrictions imposed by the FEC, and the FEC chairman says he can’t withdraw? No problem: I’ll wave my magic wand–poof! I’m no longer bound by FEC rules!

Meanwhile, Obama gets steamrolled by the press on the NAFTA thing because–supposedly–it shows that his actions don’t live up to his words. Come again?

Instead, all we get is feel-good stories about McCain. The Liberal Media™ rides again!

Open Bribery

February 29th, 2008 1 comment

Sometimes it is rather amazing how openly politicians go about not only accepting bribes, but demanding them. As I understand it, the laws they have drafted to police themselves essentially require a signed confession before bribery can be called bribery.

And still, we have quotes like this:

“It’s quite discouraging,” said one GOP leadership aide, referring to the disparity in giving from the telecommunications industry in light of the FISA debate, but also the broader lack of support for Republicans from the business community in general.

“These companies just won’t do anything,” the aide said. “Even when you have the Democrats working against their bottom line.”…

In short: Republicans are complaining that they are not getting more money from the Telecoms after all that work they have done to try to give the Telecoms immunity from billions of dollars in lawsuits for violating people’s privacy. I would also presume that the Republicans want more money for their attempts to cut down Network Neutrality as well. But the point here is that these Republicans see a definite quid pro quo at work here: we do the Telecoms a huge favor, they owe us money.

It reminds me of the time when Bill Clinton, while president, was assailed by politicians from both parties when he accepted a donation from a black caucus but did not do what they asked him to do. He was castigated for not doing their bidding in exchange for money–the classic definition of a bribe.

So, how overt does a bribe have to be in order for someone to actually act on it? I suppose, with John McCain being surrounded by 30 lobbyists in his campaign and yet the press still lauds him for his campaign finance reform, you have to be pretty damned blatant for anyone to blink an eye.

Categories: Corruption Tags:

Sometimes Dirty Tricks Backfire on Your Ass

February 23rd, 2008 1 comment

Remember back in last year, when the Republicans disabled the FEC in a political power game? Well, it may be coming back to bite them in the ass now.

I blogged on this last October: the Federal Elections Commission is down to just two commissioners, far short of its normal six. Bush and the GOP want to put a political stooge, Hans von Spakovsky, onto the commission. This nominee has been implicated in the US Attorney scandal, is sharply partisan, and so was seen as completely unacceptable by Democrats, led by Barack Obama and Russ Feingold. But Republicans wanted von Spakovsky on the commission badly, so they said that either von Spakovsky gets approved, or nobody gets approved. They refused to consider the other three nominees if their boy was not seated. They probably thought they were being ever so clever: either seat a Bush stooge on the elections commission, or have no commission at all, either way allowing for all sorts of GOP hanky-panky leading up to November.

And so there was no confirmation, and the FEC remained understaffed, with only two commissioners; as a result, the quorum of four cannot be made and the commission cannot function.

That doesn’t mean the commission can’t be inconvenient, however. The way Republicans have set things up, they may wind up completely disabling the McCain campaign for the next six months:

The nation’s top federal election official told Sen. John McCain yesterday that he cannot immediately withdraw from the presidential public financing system as he had requested, a decision that threatens to dramatically restrict his spending until the general election campaign begins in the fall.

You see, McCain opted into the program for the primaries, but did not yet take federal funding that would lock him into it. And now that he’s all but won the nomination, he wants to opt out, as he’s reached the top spending limit for anyone in the program.

Here’s where the irony comes in. If you’ve opted in to public funding, you can only withdraw if the FEC votes to let you leave. But since Republicans have left the FEC with only two commissioners, they can’t do that. Like I said, sometimes dirty tricks can come back to bite you in the ass.

But even if the FEC were to be re-enabled, McCain still might not be able to leave. Why not? Because of McCain’s sweetheart deal to get a $1 million loan from a bank in order to keep his struggling campaign afloat before the New Hampshire primary. In getting the loan, McCain had to promise the bank that were his campaign to flounder, he would opt for public financing to pay back the loan. In short, he used public money as collateral for the loan. And that, according to FEC rules, is the same as accepting federal money, and locks you into the system.

So McCain might be locked into public financing from two different directions, which means that he is not allowed to spend more than $54 million until September, when the primary season ends and the Republican convention is held. But McCain already spent $49 million by the end of January–which leaves him a paltry $5 million to spend over the next six months, money he may have already spent in February.

McCain’s solution seems to be to take the Bush route: break the law and then insist you didn’t break it. McCain’s lawyer is already claiming that McCain is somehow magically no longer tied to public financing. Now, he may be able to get away with this, but even if he does, it’ll be a big blow against him politically. He has been running as Mr. Clean, using that image to bash Obama for even considering to reneg on an oral pledge, not even legally binding, to use public financing for the general election later this year. But now that McCain is probably going to knowingly violate campaign finance laws himself, it would appear as extremely hypocritical for him to go after Obama on this.

In fact, Obama could use McCain’s actions to get him out of his pledge. Obama never made a statement that he would break his pledge, and his pledge was not to use public financing, but to “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” But if McCain breaks the law on public financing, Obama could say, “I can’t trust any deal with someone who so cavalierly violates campaign financing laws,” thus dealing McCain a double blow–Obama gets to raise huge amounts of money in the general election, and paints McCain as a hypocritical scofflaw on campaign finance at the same time.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the press over the next few weeks, especially after McCain’s trouble with the lobbyist connection. All in all, not a good week for the Republican nominee apparent.

Addenda: The McCain-lobbyist story is now morphing from a sex scandal into a lobbyist scandal, and rightly so. As a sex scandal, it’s more juicy for the press, but McCain could deny it more easily. But as a lobbyist scandal, he’s in real trouble. First, John “Mr. Campaign Finance Reform” McCain has admitted that his campaign staff is riddled with lobbyists, and second, McCain has been caught in a lie concerning his involvement in the Iseman/Paxson favoritism scandal.

CNN Puff Piece Appears to Challenge, But Really Covers Up for McCain

February 22nd, 2008 2 comments

CNN just ran a piece that on the surface seemed to go after McCain for the recent lobbyist story, but wound up being a puff piece that seemed almost eager to clear his name. After first going over the charges, they repeated again and again how he denied, denied, and denied the charges. Played video of him denying the charges. Then emphasized how he denied the charges, repeating how he said they just weren’t true.

But no mention was made about the documented facts that the lobbyist had urged McCain to send a letter to the FCC to press them to quickly approve a TV deal for the lobbyist’s clients–and McCain fired off two letters quickly thereafter doing exactly what the lobbyist asked for, letters which were so ethically questionable that they drew a rebuke from the FCC chairman.

Then CNN did a bit on McCain’s history as a reformer, going over bills he passed that were supposed to clean up campaign finance. Why they did this was unclear to me, but they gave the impression that McCain was above reproach on this issue.

What they did not mention was that McCain became a ‘reformer’ only after being implicated in a campaign finance scandal, where he became known as one of the “Keating Five,” for being a paid stooge of a man whose S&L was one of the biggest to fail in the collapse of that industry in the 80’s. Nor did CNN report on the many ties McCain has had with lobbyists or the times he hedged on or even broke with the campaign finance reform he is the poster boy for.

If CNN keeps going this way, they might find themselves being “fair and balanced” some day.

By the way, McCain announced:

At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust.

Apparently, in McCain’s world, the Keating scandal never took place. Or, in his eyes, did not constitute a betrayal of the public trust.

Update: Okay, CNN apparently just remembered the Keating Scandal–they mentioned it briefly before again lauding McCain’s “reformer” persona. Still no mention of all the other questionables aside from simply airing McCain’s press conference.

Categories: Corruption, GOP & The Election Tags: