By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post
Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.
HumansForPeace.org -- AfterDowningStreet.org
You are hereCorruption
by Linda Milazzo
Our great buddy Mike is angry. For the past twenty years, Michael Moore, our everyday hero, has worked hard for us. He's documented sadistic acts against us by industry and government. He's exposed case after case of devious schemes that robbed us of our homes and our jobs, sent our children to war, and sacrificed our health. He's given us irrefutable proof that our leaders lied us to war, our insurers denied us care, and our lenders deceived us into hopelessness and destitution.
Mike's been our teacher, our ally and our devoted friend. Few people in recent memory have worked harder to inform us - ALL OF US - of the inhumanity and greed that are decaying our nation, which we perpetuate through apathy and inertia.
FRONT: See a PENNY, pick it up and...That's YOUR GOV'T Bail Out!
BACK: As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Purportedly in a letter to Colonel William F. Elkins (21 November 1864)
The Senate last night passed an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would require the Department of Defense to calculate how much the Pentagon pays companies that committed fraud.
The measure, added to a defense appropriations bill, also would make the Pentagon recommend how to penalize contractors that repeatedly cheated the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars....According to the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, the three largest government contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman – all have a history riddled with fraud and other illegal behavior. Altogether, the three companies engaged in 109 instances of misconduct since 1995, and were fined $2.9 billion. How were they punished? In one year alone, the big-three pocketed $77 billion in government contracts in 2007. Read more.
WASHINGTON, October 2 – The Senate last night passed an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would require the Department of Defense to calculate how much the Pentagon pays companies that committed fraud.
The measure, added to a defense appropriations bill, also would make the Pentagon recommend how to penalize contractors that repeatedly cheated the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sanders contrasted the sweeping scope of defense contractor fraud to misdeeds by a few employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The ACORN workers were fired for what Sanders called “an outrageous and absurd discussion with actors.” The sledge-hammer response in the House of Representatives and the Senate was to cut off federal funds for ACORN.
By Dave Lindorff
Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities. I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall. The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels. The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.
Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul and others keep hammering away at this whole Fed-secrecy issue, and every now and then we get some pretty interesting exchanges. Zero Hedge relates this one between Grayson and Fed counsel Scott Alvarez. It’s becoming abundantly clear that at some point we’re going to start to hear details about monstrous front-running operations involving the major banks on Wall Street. Read more.
Yet, while bending to Republican demands to speak out against a poor people’s group, Obama continued to resist the notion that powerful Republicans from the Bush administration deserved to be investigated for authorizing the use of torture against prisoners in the “war on terror.”
In recent days, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major news outlets have recounted the “troubled” history of the poor people’s advocacy group ACORN, but left out the five-year anti-ACORN campaign led by White House adviser Karl Rove and other Republican operatives.
Dropped down the memory hole is the fact that ACORN was at the center of the so-called “prosecutor-gate” scandal, when the Bush administration pressured U.S. Attorneys to bring indictments over the grassroots group’s voter-registration drives and then fired some prosecutors who resisted what they viewed as a partisan strategy not supported by solid evidence.
The latest furor over ACORN was touched off by conservative filmmaker James E. O’Keefe III and a right-wing columnist who posed as a couple planning to buy a house for use as a brothel and getting advice from a few ACORN employees, rather than being turned away.
The pair filmed their meetings at ACORN offices with a hidden-camera, producing a video that brought to a fever pitch the long-simmering Republican war against ACORN. The video was trumpeted by Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, starting a stampede in the mainstream press and in Congress, where a majority of panicked Democrats joined the herd in approving legislation to strip ACORN of federal funds. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
When the White House or Democrats in Congress talk about health care reform, and about wanting to preserve the central role of the private insurance industry in health care, it pays to look at just what it is that they they’re so anxious to preserve.
Facing a sentence of 20 additional years in prison recommended by Bush Justice Department holdovers, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman finally took off the gloves Sept. 21 against his prosecutors and the judge -- and, for once, skipped any mention of Karl Rove.
Citing new evidence since his 2006 convictions, Siegelman's nine-page filing called for a hearing with cross-examination, plus a new trial and new judge.
The arguments responded to a government filing on Aug. 28 that no new evidence has arisen since Siegelman's 2006 corruption convictions to justify a hearing or other relief.
More generally, Siegelman's prosecution remains the dramatic centerpiece of still-unsolved allegations that the Bush administration mounted a nationwide effort to change the country's political leadership by hundreds of disputed prosecutions of Democratic office-holders, candidates and contributors. Siegelman's case is key because no other has produced so many whistleblowers and investigative reporters alleging scandals. But so far no watchdog institutions have put any of the alleged miscreants under oath for public cross-examination. Read more.
Sibel Edmonds has a story to tell. She went to work as a Turkish and Farsi translator for the FBI five days after 9/11. Part of her job was to translate and transcribe recordings of conversations between suspected Turkish intelligence agents and their American contacts. She was fired from the FBI in April 2002 after she raised concerns that one of the translators in her section was a member of a Turkish organization that was under investigation for bribing senior government officials and members of Congress, drug trafficking, illegal weapons sales, money laundering, and nuclear proliferation. She appealed her termination, but was more alarmed that no effort was being made to address the corruption that she had been monitoring.
A Department of Justice inspector general’s report called Edmonds’s allegations “credible,” “serious,” and “warrant[ing] a thorough and careful review by the FBI.” Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee members Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have backed her publicly. “60 Minutes” launched an investigation of her claims and found them believable. No one has ever disproved any of Edmonds’s revelations, which she says can be verified by FBI investigative files.
John Ashcroft’s Justice Department confirmed Edmonds’s veracity in a backhanded way by twice invoking the dubious State Secrets Privilege so she could not tell what she knows. The ACLU has called her “the most gagged person in the history of the United States of America.”
But on Aug. 8, she was finally able to testify under oath in a court case filed in Ohio and agreed to an interview with The American Conservative based on that testimony. What follows is her own account of what some consider the most incredible tale of corruption and influence peddling in recent times. As Sibel herself puts it, “If this were written up as a novel, no one would believe it.” Read more.
By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post
Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.
By Dana Jill Simpson
Holder asked for a conflict waiver on September 4, 2009, from President Obama to allow Holder to stay in the Ted Stevens case. It seems his old firm now represents William Welch in that case.
Obama granted this ethics waiver and allowed Holder to stay in a case where he thought he had a conflict.
I wonder what Holder will do now that Don Siegelman has made William Welch part of his case, as many have encouraged him to do for months?
I do not believe Siegelman knew at the time he filed this last paperwork that Covington and Burling was representing William Welch. It has been a secret in Washington and quietly handled behind the scenes but I suspect firecrackers will go off about this in all the cases in the South where Welch is accused of wrongdoing and helping hide facts that needed to be turned over to defendants, just like in the Stevens and Siegelman cases.
Justice Dept. Investigates Ex-Official’s Ties to Shell
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times
The Justice Department is investigating whether a former secretary of the interior, Gale A. Norton, violated the law by granting valuable leases to Royal Dutch Shell around the time she was considering going to work for the company after she left office, officials said Thursday.
The officials said investigators had recently turned up information suggesting that Ms. Norton had had discussions while in office with Royal Dutch Shell about future career opportunities. In early 2006, Ms. Norton’s department awarded three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration. In December 2006, she joined Shell as the company’s general counsel in the United States for unconventional oils, a company spokeswoman said.
The existence of a federal criminal investigation was first reported Thursday by The Los Angeles Times. Read more.
Numerous media outlets have reported in recent years on the coarsening of our culture. A country that once seemed to exhibit a sense of grace and humility now seems awash in people who are rude, arrogant, selfish, and dishonest.
If our overall culture has one leg in the sewer, what about our political culture? It seems to be covered in slime from head to toe, with no better example than the bogus prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Andrew Kreig, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and journalist, shows in a recent piece at Huffington Post how the Siegelman prosecution showcases a political culture that is covered with muck.
Kreig focuses on a recent Justice Department filing that argues that Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy have presented "no evidence" since their 2006 bribery convictions that justifies a hearing or new trial. You can almost hear Kreig's jaw hitting the floor as he writes that:
No evidence? Read more.
Corporations have no more place in a democracy than carpenter ants or mold have in the beams of an old barn
By Dave Lindorff
For the last two weeks, I’ve been contemplating the mysteries of a post-and-beam barn, trying to work out how to rescue the long-ignored structure from the fate of many barns of its vintage (probably about 150 years old), which is total collapse.
"Their goal was to do everything they could do to prevent the State Department from discovering their multiple contract violations and operational shortcomings. Their goal was to maximize their profits, provide a fig leaf of security at the embassy and pray to God that nobody got killed," Gordon told reporters in Washington.
A week after photographs emerged of U.S. Embassy guards in Afghanistan taking part in raucous, drunken parties, there is a new allegation that some may have been involved in sex trafficking.
James Gordon, who formerly worked with the private security company ArmorGroup North America, raised that prospect in a lawsuit against the company, which guards the embassy in Kabul.
Gordon's whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit says he was forced out of the company in February 2008 after he attempted to raise the issues within the firm and to the State Department.
Gordon, a retired army captain from New Zealand, says the road to the courthouse wasn't an easy one for him. Before filing suit Thursday, he says he tried repeatedly to raise red flags with ArmorGroup North America, its parent company, Wackenhut Services Inc., and the State Department to talk about the need for a more professional guard force at the embassy.
A former director of operations for ArmorGroup, Gordon alleges that the company lowballed its bid for the contract and then understaffed its guard corps. ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million embassy security contract in 2007. Read more.
A bipartisan group of 91 former state attorneys general are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
The former Democratic governor is appealing his federal bribery conviction. The former attorneys general, in a brief filed Thursday, said the case raises important free speech issues.
In court papers, the former attorneys general said it was not against the law for Siegelman to appoint former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board after Scrushy arranged for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.
They said there was no agreement between the governor and Scrushy concerning the appointment.
"This case concerns the criminalization of conduct protected by the First Amendment - the giving and receiving of campaign contributions," the group's amicus brief said. Read more.
Whistleblowers Unveil More Armor Group Allegations
Former Company Officials Say State Department Contractor Involved in Myriad Fraudulent Schemes
By Spencer Ackerman | Washington Independent
Former employees of ArmorGroup, the private security company that holds a State Department contract to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, unveiled new allegations against the besieged contractor a week after photographic evidence emerged of its guards engaged in physical and sexual harassment. In a press conference revolving around an unlawful-termination lawsuit filed against ArmorGroup, former senior company officials said ArmorGroup was aware of widespread fraud; intentional use of non-English speaking guards to save money at the expense of embassy security; operations of a shell corporation in order to win contracts intended only for American companies; and even involvement in prostitution — and that the State Department knew about at least some of the company’s illicit practices.
The allegations came from John Gorman, a former manager of ArmorGroup’s Kabul contract, and James Gordon, the former director of operation’s at ArmorGroup’s North American branch, headquartered in McLean, Va. Gordon, who yesterday sued the company for wrongful firing in federal court, spoke by teleconference from Kabul, where he said he was employed by an unspecified security company. Gorman and Gordon’s revelations come after the Project on Government Oversight wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week detailing accusations of fraud in ArmorGroup’s $189 million contract; and a year after their former colleagues and fellow whistleblowers, James Sauer and Peter Martino, filed a similar lawsuit.
Both Gorman and Gordon said ArmorGroup intentionally misrepresented its cost requirements to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security in order to win the contract to protect the embassy when it was initially put up for bid in 2006. Gordon’s lawsuit alleges that Michael O’Connell, ArmorGroup North America’s vice president of operations, emailed Sauer on March 11, 2007, “AGNA bid this at a very low price and a very low margin,” adding the next day that the timelines and resources given to State in its proposal “don’t match up,” but it wasn’t “a big deal unless” the State Department contracting officer’s representative “calls us on it.”
One immediate consequence of the emphasis on hiding fraud, Gordon said, was hiring Nepalese guards, known as Gurkhas, who did not speak adequate English to guard the embassy. “It was impossible to safeguard the embassy with a guard force that couldn’t communicate with one another,” he said. “I was told that no language test had ever been given. I immediately reported this violation to the Department of State. To this day, AGNA has not corrected the problem.” Read more.
A U.N.-backed commission found "convincing evidence" of fraud Tuesday in Afghanistan's presidential election and ordered a recount of suspect ballots in at least three provinces, a process that could take months.
At the same time, Afghan officials released new returns that give President Hamid Karzai 54 percent of the vote with nearly all ballots tallied, enough to avoid a run-off unless large numbers of tainted ballots are ultimately thrown out.
The separate announcements from the complaints commission, which is dominated by U.N.-appointed Westerners, and the election commission, which is filled with Karzai appointees, could set the stage for a showdown.
The image of a crooked Afghan president rigging the vote threatens to discredit the entire U.S.-led mission here at a time when NATO casualties are mounting and American, European and Canadian voters are fatigued and disenchanted with the war. Read more.
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Let me express my awe. The Tuesday before Labor Day weekend, I posted a striking piece by organizer and activist David Swanson, "Bush's Third Term, You're Living It." It was the day his new book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, was published. Somehow, he organized websites, blogs, admirers, and friends into a campaign to buy the book at Amazon on that day and it soared to the #1 spot in nonfiction, knocking Glenn Beck's bestseller briefly off its perch. Now, that's organizing for you!
Also a reminder: If you click on any book link (or book-cover image) at TomDispatch and then buy anything at Amazon, TD takes home a tiny percentage of the purchase. So, if you're going to buy there anyway, consider doing it through this website. Also many thanks to those readers who have continued to contribute directly to TomDispatch, some of you, amazingly enough, via recurring donations. You're helping us upgrade the site, get a little extra help, pay a little more to young writers, and generally get by. Many thanks! Tom]
Here may be the single strangest fact of our American world: that at least three administrations -- Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and now Barack Obama's -- drew the U.S. "defense" perimeter at the Hindu Kush; that is, in the rugged, mountainous lands of Afghanistan. Put another way, while Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.
Imagine for a moment, as you read this post, what might have happened if Americans had decided to sink the same sort of money -- $228 billion and rising fast -- the same "civilian surges," the same planning, thought, and effort (but not the same staggering ineffectiveness) into reclaiming New Orleans or Detroit, or into planning an American future here at home. Imagine, for a moment, when you read about the multi-millions going into further construction at Bagram Air Base, or to the mercenary company that provides "Lord of the Flies" hire-a-gun guards for American diplomats in massive super-embassies, or about the half-a-billion dollars sunk into a corrupt and fraudulent Afghan election, what a similar investment in our own country might have meant. Read more.
Even the least of us deserves justice and accountability starts with you. So why don't you send out a reminder. Even Cheney deserves all the justice he can get and we should ensure he gets his day in court.
Use these images as a 4 PAK and send 4 different cards to the same person; or, choose your favorite and send the same postcard to 4 different persons.
It's easy. Each individual postcard is formatted to the dimensions of 4.25"x5.5". Quarter a sheet of paper and combine the cards as you like. Don't forget to print the other side. Remember the postage stamps. Then mail one to your best beloved, your friends and neighbors, some acquaintance--your politicians and their parties. Show someone you care about them and about justice.
Eight security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan were fired and two resigned following allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct at their living quarters.
The Kabul senior management team of ArmorGroup North America, the private contractor that provides guards for the State Department, was also "being replaced immediately," an embassy statement said Friday.
The terminated guards, who left Afghanistan on Friday, all appeared in photographs depicting guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol, the embassy said. Their names and nationalities were not released.
The scandal surfaced this week when an independent watchdog said the embassy guards were subjected to abuse and hazing by supervisors. The Project on Government Oversight contended the situation had led to a breakdown in morale and leadership that compromised security at the embassy in Kabul, where nearly 1,000 U.S. diplomats, staff and Afghan nationals work. Read more.
It has now been over a week since the video tape and transcript from the remarkable 8/8/09 deposition of former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was publicly released. Previously, the Bush Administration invoked the so-called "state secrets privilege" in order to gag Edmonds, in attempting to keep such information from becoming public.
The under-oath, detailed allegations include bribery, blackmail, espionage and infiltration of the U.S. government of, and by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials and agents of the government of Turkey. The broad criminal conspiracy is said to have resulted in, among other things, the sale of nuclear weapons technology to black market interests including Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Libya and others.
Even as many of these allegations had been previously corroborated to varying extents, by a number of official government reports, documents and independent media outlets (largely overseas), not a single major mainstream media outlet in the U.S. has picked up on Edmonds' startling claims since her deposition has been made fully available.
Granted, last week was a busy news week, with the death of Ted Kennedy, the release of the CIA Inspector General's report on torture, and the announcement that Michael Jackson's death was ruled a homicide. And, it's true, a 4-hour deposition and/or 241-page transcript [PDF] is a lot of material to review, particularly given the wide scope of the charges being made here. Read more.
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to change White House policy by releasing the names of thousands of visitors whose comings and goings traditionally are kept secret by presidents.
President Obama said Friday the change follows a lengthy legal review. The policy change resolves four lawsuits filed by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), against the Obama and Bush administrations seeking details on White House meetings.
Until now, Obama had followed the Bush policy of keeping visitor logs secret. News organizations and watchdog groups had sought to make the records public to show who was influencing administration policy on health care, financial rules and other issues.
Pfizer to Pay Record $2.3B Penalty for Drug Promos
Repeat offender Pfizer paying record $2.3B settlement for illegal drug promotions
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press | ABC News.com
As part of its illegal marketing, Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks, prosecutors said. "They were entertained with golf, massages, and other activities," said Mike Loucks, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts....Under terms of the settlement, Pfizer must pay $1 billion to compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal health care programs.
Federal prosecutors hit Pfizer Inc. with a record-breaking $2.3 billion in fines Wednesday and called the world's largest drugmaker a repeating corporate cheat for illegal drug promotions that plied doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.
Announcing the penalty as a warning to all drug manufacturers, Justice Department officials said the overall settlement is the largest ever paid by a drug company for alleged violations of federal drug rules, and the $1.2 billion criminal fine is the largest ever in any U.S. criminal case. The total includes $1 billion in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture.
Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the company's fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade. The allegations surround the marketing of 13 different drugs, including big sellers such as Viagra, Zoloft, and Lipitor. Read more.
The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We just don't know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are staggering sums of money to waste, and the task of controlling and reducing these losses warrants a great deal of serious attention.
In the early 1990s, the Congressional Government Accounting Office estimated that billing fraud accounts for 10% of health care spending annually. That would be about $250 billion this year. In 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno declared that health care fraud was the number two crime problem, after violent crime in the country.
After several weeks of protests at Senate hearings and health care events by single payer advocates (visit Single Payer Action.org), six physicians from Oregon, with 191 years of combined real-world medical experience, are crossing the country in a 27-foot Winnebago making stops in nearly 30 cities, to debate, educate and advance full medicare for all. Everybody in, nobody out.
Calling themselves "Mad as Hell Doctors," these physicians are already drawing crowds and expect thousands to turn out at each city that they visit, culminating in a large arrival demonstration in front of the White House around October 1. (Visit Mad As Hell.com).
They have written President Obama asking for a meeting "to discuss the future of health care as well as the moral, social, and fiscal imperative of enacting a single-payer system for America at this moment in our history."
The White House turned them down flat, not even leaving the door open for reconsideration. Mr. Obama has met countless times with the CEOs of large corporations, whose greed and callousness causes so much of this crisis. Though he believes in single payer "if we started from scratch," he has yet to meet with any single payer delegation. Read more.