Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Were You Looking For Florida GOP Primary Results?


Before the final votes were counted tonight, Santorum was already running (at least online) a new ad for Nevada (above). Yep, here we go again.

You know, I ran across this cool interactive-ish graphic and I couldn't resist running it instead of a full-blown post on the Florida election returns. I hope no one minds. I do want to sum that Florida thing up with something that came out in one of the exit polls, though: 57% of Republican primary voters want someone else to jump into the race-- and a plurality of them are Romney voters. And don't listen to the conventional wisdom that all the Santorum voters would vote for Newt if only. Exit polls showed that 63% of Santorum voters today feel favorable toward Romney, and only 49% feel favorable toward the Newtster. In the end Willard took Florida with 46.4%-- so less than the combined strength of the odd collection of the 3 conservatives-- and Newt came in with 31.9%, Santorum with 13.4% and Ron Paul with 7%.

Newt swept the whole panhandle, except for Leon, Okaloosa and Bay counties. Generally speaking, Newt took all the really backward places up near the Georgia and Alabama borders and a few teabagger redoubts in south central Florida like Hardee and DeSoto counties. But the counties where people read and write and still have their front teeth when they turn 21... Romney won them all. Newt's biggest wins were in the aptly named Dixie County (54.9%- 26.6%) and Hamilton (practically part of Georgia-- 56.4%- 21.5%). Romney's support from Cuban right-wingers won him a 60.9% share of Miami-Dade and that made him, basically, unbeatable.

But I do have some Florida stats for you. 92% of the Republican primary ads were negative. This morning, the radio trade site, Radio-Info.com asked the question, Which candidates were spending money in Florida? And they answered it as well:
Mitt Romney (a lot), New Gingrich (about one-quarter as much as Romney) and Rich Santorum and Ron Paul-– not at all. Media Monitors tracked the multiple media markets of the Sunshine State for the month of January, and found this-– 2,196 campaign-run spots for Mitt Romney. 492 for Newt Gingrich. None for the rest of the field. Those were spots run and “authorized by” the candidate himself. How about the Super PACS? Many fewer spots. The pro-Romney “Restore Our Future” bought 234 radio ads that “attempted to denigrate New Gingrich”, says Media Monitors. The Gingrich-leaning “Winning Our Future” was on the air, bigtime-– 1,537 pro-Newt ads and 1,796 negative ads about Romney. The Service Employees International Union bought 247 anti-Romney ads. The American Family Association was on Newt’s side, with 438 ads. Ron Paul basically skipped Florida and Rick Santorum didn't have the warchest of Romney and Gingrich. One thing's for sure-- the ads are welcome at most radio stations, and the longer the GOP nominating process stretches out, the more money will be spent on media.

As for the TV ads, 68% were anti-Gingrich, 23% anti-Romney, 9% pro-Gingrich, and just 0.1% pro-Romney. I mean, let's face it, even his own SuperPAC can't come up with anything to say positive about him that won't make people switch the channel in disgust. While President Obama is on the same page with the radio industry on that one, I'm not sure how El Presidente feels about his old kissin' cousin, Charlie Crist, once the Republican governor of the Sunshine State laying the groundwork for the big party switch. After a couple weeks of seeing all the GOP right-wing madness playing out in his state, he told Chuck Todd he's considering voting for President Obama in November.
“Consider? Sure, I would consider that,” said Crist. “I really think he’s sincere and genuine. I think we have a lot time, a lot of issues to talk about, but I think, in his heart, he’s trying to do what’s right for the country overall.”

Now a registered independent, Crist said he also wouldn't rule out running for office as a Democrat himself in the future.

“I wouldn’t definitively rule out anything,” the former governor said.

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Primary-night special: Ex-"Gentleman from Maryland" (now Floridian) Bob Bauman reveals that he voted for Ron Paul


Here's our Bob with, uh, some other guy, back in the day.

“I think both parties are miserable. I don’t know what they stand for anymore.”
-- former MD Rep. Bob Bauman, in an interview
with the Washington Blade's Lou Chibarro Jr.

by Ken

Howie has written a number of times, most prominently in an August 2007 post titled "Larry Craig And Other Republican Closet Cases Should Learn a Lesson From Former GOP Congressman Bob Bauman," about the case of the arch-conservative Maryland congressman who saw his political career go up in smoke in 1980 when, in the midst of his reelection campaign, he was unceremoniously outed following his arrest and negotiated "no contest" misdemeanor plea for soliciting a teenage male prostitute. (He notes in the Washington Blade interview with Lou Chibarro Jr. that he was represented in court by Tom O'Malley, the father of current Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.)

It was a swift and sudden end to a career that until then had seemed headed meteorically upward. Bauman had parlayed an attack-dog political style and especially a hard-won mastery of legislative procedure, with which he succeeded in driving the Democratic leadership batty, into a position of prominence in a mere three and a half terms in the House. What makes his case of such enduring interest is that after slinking out of office in 1981, and then being humiliated when he tried to slide back in the following year, in 1986 he published his fascinating book The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative.

Bauman, now living in the gay-friendly little city of Wilton Manors, near Fort Lauderdale, accepted an offer from Lou Chibarro Jr. of the Washington Blade to share some of his current political thoughts.
In an interview with the Washington Blade on the eve of Florida’s Republican presidential primary, Bauman said he remains committed to conservative and libertarian principles but has shunned politics since 1982.

“I think both parties are miserable,” he said. “I don’t know what they stand for anymore.”

Bauman added, “I think they mirror each other. I think they are both completely enthralled to Wall Street and the banks. I think they are controlled by the people that contribute money to them. And that goes for Obama and it goes for Gingrich.”

“The only thing you can say for Romney is that he’s rich enough that maybe he won’t be influenced by that,” said Bauman. “I hate to say it, but I think he’s probably the least influenced by them because of his religion.”

Bauman said he considers Rick Santorum "no better or worse" than Romney or Gingrich, and he didn't vote for any of the three.
[He] said he voted earlier this month for GOP presidential contender Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, as a “protest vote.” He said Paul’s outspoken call for reforming the nation’s politics and economic policies represents a refreshing alternative to the other candidates, even though Bauman acknowledges some of Paul’s proposals are unrealistic.

Bob apparently understands why so many Americans are turned off by present-day politics, but refuses to surrender to despair.
Bauman noted that some people he knows who share his disappointment over the current state of U.S. politics no longer vote because they believe it “lends credence” to a lousy system.

“I don’t feel that way. I’ll keep fighting until I go,” he said.

In case you were wondering what our Bob has been doing since his forced withdrawal from public life, after some bouncing around, he hooked up with "a libertarian-oriented publishing company called Agora Publications," and in 1998 --
helped to found a subsidiary to the company called the Sovereign Society, which publishes email newsletters and books specializing in legal tax avoidance through the use of offshore investing.

“I write for them on a regular basis for their daily e-newsletter that goes out to more than 335,000 people,” he said. “And I write books. I’ve written five or six or more books on offshore financing and on places to invest off shore -- asset protect -- all of the things that Newt Gingrich has been railing against for the last few days,” he said.

Apparently his heroic work in spreading the gospel of tax avoidance is what Bob has in mind by "fighting until I go." It's inspiring to know that he hasn't let our lousy political system take all the fight out of him.

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Two Sheldons-- A Good One And A Really, Really Bad One


Bad Sheldon's on the right.

There couldn't be an uglier face for Big Money taking over our country and destroying our democracy than organized-crime gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. We've been following the Adelson story at DWT for years, and his blatant move to acquire the White House is finally getting out to the public a little. Rachel Maddow has done yeoman's work on the subject, but it's become so blatant that even the mainstream media is starting to take note. Last week Mike McIntyre and Michael Luo introduced the problem to NY Times readers, although to them, of course, it was all about Newt Gingrich's campaign rather than about a fundamental undermining of democracy itself. Rich people buying elections is more important than Sheldon Adelson giving a candidate $11 million for a couple of primaries (and $17 million over all).
The question of what motivates Mr. Adelson’s singular generosity toward the former House speaker has emerged front and center in the campaign. People who know him say his affinity for Mr. Gingrich stems from a devotion to Israel as well as loyalty to a friend. A fervent Zionist who opposes any territorial compromise to make way for a Palestinian state, Mr. Adelson has long been enamored of Mr. Gingrich’s full-throated defense of Israel.

...Through interviews and a review of Mr. Adelson’s testimony in legal disputes with former associates, a portrait emerges of a formidable and determined striver who lifted himself out of childhood penury in working-class Boston. He has a sentimental streak-- on one of his first trips to Israel, he wore the shoes of his late father, a cabdriver from Lithuania who was never able to visit there-- and he has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Jewish causes, medical research and injured veterans.

But his rise has not been without controversy. The Justice Department is investigating accusations by a former casino executive that Mr. Adelson’s operations in Macao may have violated federal laws banning corrupt payments to foreign officials. Also, a Chinese businessman accused Mr. Adelson of reneging on an agreement to share profits from the Macao project.

Mr. Adelson also has a reputation for irascibility and has left a trail of angry former business associates. Even his two sons sued him at one point, accusing him of cheating them, though they lost. He filed a libel suit against a Las Vegas newspaper columnist, John L. Smith, who eventually had to declare bankruptcy, and he waged a bitter court battle with a former employee whom he accused of spreading lies about him.

...Beyond Israel, the [Adelson and Gingrich] shared a conservative philosophy on matters important to Mr. Adelson’s businesses, including limiting the ability of labor unions to deduct money from members’ paychecks for political activities.

Mr. Gingrich also backed legislation sought by casino owners in 1998 to preserve tax deductions beneficial to the industry. That same year, Mr. Adelson hosted a Republican fund-raiser at one of his Las Vegas venues, headlined by Mr. Gingrich, and donated $300,000 to the party for the midterm elections.

In 2006, when Mr. Gingrich began laying the groundwork for a possible run for the presidency, Mr. Adelson provided $1 million in seed money for his political committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future. Mr. Adelson donated an additional $2 million the next year; his contributions to the group have totaled more than $7 million.

During the 2008 election cycle, Mr. Adelson became recognized as a top-tier donor to the right and a moneyed villain to the left. He was the primary financier of a conservative nonprofit group, Freedom’s Watch, which trumpeted plans to spend as much as $200 million on the presidential election. Those plans, however, fizzled as internal problems paralyzed the organization, with Mr. Adelson micromanaging the group’s efforts, Republican operatives familiar with the organization said at the time. The group still spent about $30 million through early 2008, almost all of which came from Mr. Adelson, according to the operatives.

Today, the Venetian and the adjoining Sands Convention Center have become default destinations for Republican events in Las Vegas.

“I call it the Republican headquarters on the Strip,” said Jon Ralston, the political columnist for the Las Vegas Sun.

The other Sheldon, the good one, is Sheldon Whitehouse, the former attorney general of Rhode Island who was elected to the Senate five years ago, and is not a favorite of plutocrats and oligarchs like Adelson-- not at all. He thinks all Americans, even billionaires like Adelson, should pay their fair share, and this week he's introducing legislation to make that a reality: the Pay a Fair Share Act. He thinks the wealthy should be paying at least a 30% tax rate, just like normal people. (I think that's still way too low... laughably low, but it's a start.) In fact, as Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post yesterday,
The proposal will not tamper with existing tax rates. Instead, under the proposal, those making more than $1 million a year would be required to calculate their overall tax rate, taking into account all their income and the full sum of what they pay in taxes. If that amount adds up to less than 30 percent, they would be required to make up the difference.
Whitehouse boiled down the proposal into one line: “If your income is over 1 million, multiply it by 0.3, and if that number is bigger than you’d otherwise be paying, pay that.”

Interestingly, Whitehouse confirmed that the White House had been notified about what he’s up to, which suggests Obama advisers are happy to see this proposal proceeding, at a minimum for the purposes of discussion.

“We’ve reached out to the White House to let them know that we’re doing this,” Whitehouse said.

In his state of the union speech, Obama called for millionaires to be required to pay a tax rate of 30 percent, without offering specifics. Whitehouse’s proposal offers a specific way to make this happen, so it’ll be very interesting to see how it’s received by Obama, the Dem leadership in the Senate, and of course, Congressional Republicans.

Whitehouse said he’d already attracted two cosponsors for the bill and that more would be rolled out in coming days, so keep an eye on what kind of momentum builds behind it and what Senate Dem leaders say about it.

“People believe that the American tax system is not fair, and that the more lobbyists and the more wealth you have, the more goodies you get out of the tax system,” Whitehouse said. “This is a welcome proposal and I hope this will be supported across the board.”

Of course, it won’t be supported across the board; Senate Republicans are all but certain to oppose it. If Dems play their political cards right, they could force a high-profile vote on this proposal-- one that Republicans will vote down en masse-- even as the GOP appears set to pick a nominee who is worth $250 million and is personally benefitting to an enormous degree from the loophoples the proposal is designed to fix, on behalf of the middle class.

And Senate Republicans will have lots of help-- from billionaires like Sheldon Adelson.

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Republicans For Illegal Immigrants


Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach & Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman

When Roland first fell off the turnip truck that brought him from Maine to Los Angeles, we used to argue a lot about "illegal" immigrants. He had never been exposed to reality, and his view, like so many Americans', was that the Democrats want illegal immigrants while the Republicans want to protect America from them. He understands much better now how the corporatists behind the GOP establishment want cheap labor and-- slavery per se being now outlawed-- they thrive on foreign low-wage workers with no rights and no legal recourse.

Last week the Topeka Capital-Journal, hardly a bastion of left-wing propaganda, delved into the strangeness that is American immigration policy as it relates specifically to cheap manual labor. Kansas needs farmhands who will work hard for far less than the cost of living. Although the Republican "solution" is to create two societies, a high standard of living one for the one percent and a brutish low standard of living one for the 99%, it's taking too long, even for fanatic right-wing extremists and racists in Kansas, who after all have a harvest to get in now.
Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman gets an earful from farmers and ranchers struggling to fill job vacancies.

It is an economic calling, he said, worthy of thinking outside of the box. The cry of desperation from large dairies and feedlots is that loud.

"You've got to listen to your customers," said Rodman, a veteran corporate agriculture executive comfortable wearing a cowboy hat in the Statehouse.

He has traveled as secretary to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in an attempt to recruit people interested in agriculture careers in Kansas. That shows promise, but the payoff would be slow.

He also has looked to Washington, D.C. There is little optimism Congress will sort out the politics of immigration anytime soon, but Rodman met several times with officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about launching a pilot program in Kansas. The idea is to place employers and undocumented immigrants in a special network organized by the state. It would give rise to a legal, straightforward manner of organizing existing immigrant labor.

It won't happen, of course, without a nod from the federal government.

"I need a waiver," Rodman said. "It would be good for Kansas agriculture."

So far, Homeland Security hasn't signaled approval. Those officials haven't closed the door either.

As it turns out, Rodman isn't working solo on this front. A powerful coalition of business interests is preparing to tackle the issue in Topeka.

Details are expected to emerge this week about a bill establishing the outline of a state-managed worker program, in cooperation with the federal government, linking sponsor companies with illegal immigrants who have been in Kansas a minimum of five years.

Fees would be paid by these employees, as well as the employers, to make certain the state incurred no oversight cost. The plan is to reach out to experienced, committed workers with no criminal background. A likely candidate would be a person who entered Kansas on a visa that expired years ago.

Mike Beam, senior vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said the objective was to secure a reliable, regulated labor pool to the state's businesses. Despite the recession, there are counties in rural Kansas with unemployment rates half the state average.

"This will be very limited," Beam said. "It would be an agreement between the state of Kansas and Homeland Security."

Without a doubt, raising a certification program will trigger a boisterous debate on immigration policy. This topic is frequently driven by lawmakers intent on running illegal immigrants out of Kansas.

Working to sell lawmakers on reform bills in the House and Senate will be the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and local chamber affiliates, the Kansas Farm Bureau, building industry organizations, KLA and others.

This is the same coalition that contributed in the 2011 session to blocking a version of the controversial Arizona immigration measure compelling police officers to detain individuals they think might be undocumented. The coalition hopes to avoid the experience of Arizona and Alabama-- states that suffered economically following passage of tough laws targeting undocumented workers. Both states' laws invited litigation challenging the statutes.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach helped craft the immigration laws in both states. He has vowed to work in the 2012 session to obtain passage of a Kansas law requiring employers to deploy the federal E-Verify system to establish the credentials of new hires.

"If there were fewer jobs illegal aliens could obtain unlawfully and get away with it, fewer illegal aliens would come to Kansas," he said.

The outcome of the coalition's bill formalizing business relationships with illegal immigrants in Kansas is difficult to predict in an election year.

Chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees say they understand the economics of immigrant labor in rural Kansas.

Mud-covered boots of many workers in agriculture are worn by undocumented workers, said Rep. Larry Powell, a Garden City Republican and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

He said blanket removal of illegal immigrants from Kansas would undercut the state. That isn’t a secret to anyone keeping a finger on the state's economic pulse, he said. The cadre of workers is mostly Hispanic, but it includes a surprising number of German heritage.

"Most have been there more than 10 years,” Powell said. “It would be devastating to the Kansas economy to send them all home."

Sen. Mark Taddiken, a Clifton Republican and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the state's labor force needed to be solid to allow agriculture production to expand.

"They're having trouble finding people," Taddiken said. "The agricultural sector is looking for reliability."

Rodman is the appointee of spectacularly unpopular right-wing Gov. Sam Brownback.

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Do You Sometimes Feel That Democrats Are No Better Than Republicans? Meet David Gill (D-IL)


Although the DCCC either tries to sabotage them or ignores them, there are progressive candidates, sometimes a very different thing from "Democratic Party candidates," running for Congress across the country. The DCCC/DC Establishment routinely recruits corrupt conservatives-- mirrors of themselves-- to run against progressives in primaries. This cycle the DCCC has done this in trying to stop Darcy Burner (WA), Ilya Sheyman (IL), Franke Wilmer (MT), Eric Griego (NM) and dozens of others. The above video, an interview with Dr. David Gill, encapsulates the problem directly and comprehensively.

We've discussed Dr. Gill in the past. He's a candidate in central Illinois almost too good to be true. So very different from the hacks, zombies, careerists and charlatans Steve Israel is trying to populate the Democratic congressional caucus with. In 2009 I asked Dr. Gill to give me his perspective on Obama's State of the Union speech the night before-- the SOTU where South Carolina fascist Joe Wilson started screaming.
As a practicing physician for the past 21 years, I’m well aware of the problems with the financing and delivery of American health care. As a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, I look forward to working to provide solutions to these problems.

The health care issue, which has been the subject of so much discussion and heated debate over the last several weeks, has been at the forefront of each of my three Congressional campaigns. I bear witness on a daily basis to the multiple problems inherent in our current system; these problems impact all Americans, regardless of race, age or income level. Virtually every American would be far better served with a reformed system.

As a full-time Emergency Room doctor, my work brings me into contact with far too many stories which demonstrate the failure of our current “system.” Not long ago, I watched a 39-year old man die of a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and two young children. He worked as a full-time house-husband and father, while his wife worked full-time outside their household. He had experienced mild, intermittent chest pain for one week, but because he was unable to afford health insurance he ignored his wife’s pleas to have his chest pain evaluated. And as so often happens over and over again, he arrived at my Emergency Department too late. His children will now grow up without their father, leaving them with broken hearts and putting them at increased risk for a host of negative social consequences.

Many view the health care issue as a matter of great moral importance. However, the reforming of our health care system is far more than just a moral issue-- it bears tremendous importance with regards to our economic well-being as a nation. The time is long past due for us to stop permitting large insurance and pharmaceutical companies to run roughshod over all other American businesses and citizens. When we finally put in place a program which extends Medicare services to all American citizens, regardless of age, the boon to our economy will be like none ever seen before. For far too long, we have permitted 25 to 30 cents of each of our hard-earned health care dollars to be wasted on items which have nothing to do with heath care. When we enact “Medicare for All” legislation, 25 to 30 percent of our health care budget will be put back into the pocketbooks of American businesses and taxpaying citizens; in addition to providing this broad economic stimulus, the health care of American citizens will be vastly better served under such a system. No longer will the well-being of American citizens be sacrificed to maximize the outrageous profits of a small number of large corporations. No longer will young adults suffering with a week’s worth of chest pain be forced to ignore their symptoms, while CEOs such as William McGuire of United Healthcare receive retirement packages of 1,600,000,000 dollars.

I’ve known President Obama for many years, and I know that he fully understands the need to extend Medicare to all American citizens. I have little doubt that he wishes to see this type of boost to the American economy, along with the dramatic improvement in the health care of all Americans that such a change would bring. But President Obama needs more strong leaders in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate; many of the lawyers and CEO’s in Congress do not truly understand health care. As an Emergency Room physician who has long served as the last line of defense for patients jeopardized by our failed system, I am well-prepared to serve as a strong leader in the House. All Americans will benefit from having a physician who deals with the healthcare crisis on a daily basis as an active member of Congress.

Matt Goetten is basically just a rubber-stamp Democrat, with nothing much to say about anything. He'd like a new job in DC, and Steve Israel would like to help him get one. David Gill is a very different kind of candidate. I hope you've watched the video. And I hope you'll contribute to Dr. Gill's campaign here on our ActBlue page.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Are The New Dems?


Suppose you're basically pretty conservative, especially on economic and fiscal matters, but early in life picked the blue team instead of the red team. And you're looking for a career in politics. What to do? Well you could switch parties and become a Republican, but as Parker Griffith (D>R-AL) discovered, that sometimes works out badly; he lost the GOP primary in 2010 and will lose it again in 2012. The next best thing is to become a Blue Dog. They're pretty much Republicans with blue T-shirts. Problem there, of course, is all the anti-Choice, anti-gay and... well, the Blue Dog caucus is really extreme and barely even part of the Democratic Party at all. That leaves... a group that's kind of like the Blue Dogs but without the white sheets and hoods: the New Democratic Coalition.

The New Dems was founded in 1997 as the House affiliate of the corporatist shills at Joe Lieberman's DLC. It is financed by Big Business and corrupt K Street lobbyists with an anti-worker/anti-consumer agenda. It specializes in "free trade" policies. Most of the leadership has been made up of conservative Democrats with a nose for big money, like Rahm Emanuel, Chamber of Commerce ex-Rep. Melissa Bean, and corporatists Joe Crowley, Ron Kind, Ellen Tauscher, Harold Ford and Allyson Schwartz.

Some conservative Democrats, like Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, seeking to hide their true colors have officially dropped out of the New Dem Coalition in the hope of winning wider leadership positions in the whole party. A number of Blue Dogs-- Adam Schiff (CA), Loretta Sanchez (CA), John Barrow (GA), David Scott (GA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Kurt Schrader (OR) and Jason Altmire (PA)-- are members of both right-wing groups.

Joe Crowley, the slimy boss of the Queens Democratic Party machine, and widely considered one of the most corrupt Members of Congress (an Ethics Committee investigation is still pending which should, but won't, lead to his expulsion), is the current head of the New Dems. His website includes the whole list of current New Dem members.

Watch Ron Kind, Wisconsin corporate whore, lie about the murderous Colombian anti-labor regime:

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We can't expect our mighty military machine to keep track every last couple of billion dollars, can we?


Probably there isn't even any missing money, just missing records. "The audit says it believes records management is to blame, and 'has been an ongoing problem for DoD in Iraq. By all accounts, DoD established good internal processes and controls to account for and report on' the funds it was given after the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved."

by Ken

You know what's so great about war? Well, sure, it's great for hornswoggling large numbers of people indoctrinated with phony-baloney mock-patriotism to be led around by their thumbs and let you introduce every revolutionary fascist innovation you want. But that's not what I was thinking of. You say that on the principle of "military Keynsian" economics it pumps gazilions of dollars into the economy, without much risk of any of that spending producing any other socially useful benefit -- and at the mere cost of a massive run-up of public debt, which is actually a good thing, because it provides a great excuse for eliminating as much other spending as possible which might produce some socially useful benefit.

Yes, that's closer to what I had in mind. I'm thinking of all those kajillions of dollars floating around available for snatching by the biggest and stickiest hands. And the cool thing is that a lot of that much of that money can, in the grand old tradition of patriotic war profiteering, be glommed legally, as long as you manage to supply products or services that are genuinely called for, more or less, by the war effort. You know, like the way the armor-makers stepped up to the plate to protect our fighting men and women in Iraq. Oh wait, bad example.

Okay, I'm dancing around a little, postponing the moment when I have to own up that I'm making all this to-do over yet another story about unaccounted-for billions from the wars cooked up by those splendid war criminals in the Bush regime. As soon as you hear it's just another unaccounted-for-military-billions story, you'll suddenly remember you have to finish alphabetizing your breakfast-cereal coupons.

I can't even tell you with any assurance that billions of dollars were stolen, because all we know for sure is that the latest batch of unaccounted-for billions is, you know, unaccounted for, and some inspector general somewhere is whining about it. (Don't get me started on those IGs! Most of them know their place, which is to sign off on the forms on the appropriate line. But some of them insist on making a federal case out of every last unaccounted for billion dollars or two.)

The people who are closest to the money, or where the money used to be, or was last heard from, seem to think, or want us to think, that it's just a minor missing-paperwork snafu. It could be like when you finally get ready to do your taxes and can't find the damned shoebox you stuffed your receipts and stuff in all year. For all we know, the missing paperwork could turn up any moment in a shoebox found on the top shelf of some Baghdadi closet.

Anyway, here's Josh Levs's CNN report. You know, if you look at it the right way, it's almost kind of funny.
U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq, audit finds

By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EST, Mon January 30, 2012

(CNN) -- The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits.

The reports come from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says in an audit published Friday.

Although the Department of Defense (DoD) had "internal processes and controls" to track payments, the "bulk of the records are missing," the report says, adding that the department is searching for them.

Other documents are missing as well, including monthly reports documenting expenses, the audit says.

"From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports."

A letter accompanying the report is signed by Stuart Bowen, the inspector general. The audit was overseen by Glenn Furbish, assistant inspector general for audits.

In a response letter also contained in the report, Defense Under Secretary Mark Easton acknowledges "a records management issue."

The audit says it believes records management is to blame, and "has been an ongoing problem for DoD in Iraq. By all accounts, DoD established good internal processes and controls to account for and report on" the funds it was given after the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved.

Where the records did exist, they matched other records and contained "good financial documentation supporting individual payments." Also, there is "sufficient evidence" that required monthly reports were sent to the government of Iraq, even though they can't be found, the audit said.

The audit deals with a time when Iraq's government was undergoing a transition. The Coalition Provisional Authority ran the country for 14 months from 2003 to 2004. During that time, the authority awarded numerous contracts. When it dissolved in 2004, the Iraqi government gave the U.S. Defense Department access to the $3 billion to pay bills for contracts the provisional authority had awarded.

The Defense Department letter from Easton -- the department's deputy chief financial officer -- thanks the inspector general's office for "the collaborative effort and professional courtesy" in a series of audits.

Separately, the inspector general's office sent a letter Sunday to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq complaining that the U.S. government is not providing Iraq with a complete list of reconstruction projects.

The U.S. criteria for selecting which projects to report to Iraq -- which include only those valued at $250,000 or more -- is a central part of the problem, the letter says.

The U.S. Embassy says the system is designed to help Iraq "focus its limited resources on sustainment of infrastructure and other large capital projects done through U.S. reconstruction efforts," the report notes.

The inspector general's office argues that the limited list -- which is also "hampered by unreliable data and other data entry problems" -- does not allow Iraq to decide where to focus its resources, and notes that the country might consider some smaller projects more important than those that are reported.

"Without more comprehensive knowledge about reconstruction projects the (Iraqi government) will not be in a position to maximize the use of its resources," the report says.

Billions of dollars in spending are not reported to Iraq under the current system, the report says.

In a response letter, Peter Bodde, assistant chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, says that while the current system is incomplete, "it does capture the vast majority of reconstruction projects and there is no other alternative that captures more."

He also notes that the Iraq reconstruction effort "is now in its very last stages, and all remaining capital projects will be reported through the asset transfer process."

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was created in 2004 to continue oversight of Iraq reconstruction programs.

Blind Trust


So much disunity and fractiousness inside the GOP these days! I think people are turned off by it. But in an interview with the National Journal, anti-tax/anti-government fanatic-- and self-loathing, demented closet queen-- Grover Norquist had just the thing to unite all factions of the Republican Party: impeaching President Obama if he doesn't extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, something polls consistently show the public opposes by wide margins. But the hell with the public, Norquist thinks he can force delusional Republicans in Congress to get back into the impeachment thing that went over so well last time they tried it.
Norquist has long held a tight grip on the marionette strings of the GOP. Wielding undue influence as the head of the Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist ensures that Republican lawmakers sign his anti-tax pledge and threatens them with electoral defeat should they even think of deviating from it. Norquist has marked a successful few years, killing the deficit super committee agreement, batting down a tax increase on millionaires, and, of course, ensuring the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Pleased with his headway, Norquist is now mapping out how he can ensure further anti-tax victories by securing Republican majorities. In an interview with the National Journal, he mused that a GOP mandate would obviously enact an extension of the Bush tax cuts, work to maintain a repatriation holiday for corporate profits, and even pass House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan that jeopardizes Medicare. But when asked what Republicans should do if faced with a Democratic majority that won’t keep the tax cuts, Norquist had a simple answer: “impeach” Obama.
NJ: What if the Democrats still have control? What’s your scenario then?
NORQUIST: Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach. The last year, he’s gone into this huddle where he does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress.

[Confidential to Grover N: The Senate doesn't impeach; the House impeaches. If it does, an impeachment trial is then held in the Senate. Sometimes it's handy to know these things. -- Ed.]

Wow! It's like the whole GOP has become unhinged and disconnected from the real world Americans are facing every day. Yesterday you may have missed the Newtster chitchatting on ABC with Jake Tapper, who was sitting in for George Stephanopoulos on This Week. Here's Gingrich's best shot at Republican unity, the kind of unity it will take for these kooks to impeach President Obama.
I think clearly the conservatives and the grassroots are increasingly angry about the way in which the Washington establishment has rallied in many ways with complete dishonesty, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out the other day. Some of the articles, some of the attacks on me have been breathtakingly dishonest. And I think as that deepens, the conservatives are going to come together and decide they do not want a Massachusetts liberal to be the Republican nominee.

...I'm standing next to a guy who is the most blatantly dishonest answers I can remember in any presidential race in-- in my lifetime. And I've seen, I think, every presidential debate-- presidential campaign debate or virtually every one. And, you know, he would say things that were just plain not true.

Look, it's a little bit like yesterday's L.A. Times report. I mean, now it found 23 foreign accounts he never reported until he released his taxes. He would say-- he would say thing after thing after thing that just plain wasn't true.

And I had-- I don't know how you debate a person with civility if they're prepared to say things that are just plain factually false. And that's going to become a key part of this. I think the Republican establishment believes it's OK to say and do virtually anything to stop a genuine insurgency from winning because they are very afraid of losing control of the old order.

We tried a moderate in 1996 for president. He lost. We tried a moderate in 2008 for president. He lost. It's very hard to take Romneycare and Obamacare and have a debate and have the Republican win that debate... [Romney's] supposedly a great manager, yet he can't explain 23 different foreign accounts that weren't reported. He's a great manager. He can't explain being on the board of directors of the company which got the largest Medicare fine in history for fraud?

...[W]hen you get outside the zone where Romney carpet-bombs with Wall Street money, and you look at what's happening in the rest of the country, I'm ahead in all three national polls that were released this week. I'm ahead by a big margin, because when you come to positive ideas, I represent real change in Washington, I represent unleashing the spirit of the American people to get us back as a country, rebuilding the country we love. And when we get to a positive idea campaign, I consistently win.

It's only when he can mass money to focus on carpet-bombing with negative ads that he gains any traction at all. ...He is a manager who will manage the decay. I am a leader who has a vision of a bold, exciting American future where we change Washington decisively. And there's a good reason the Washington establishment is afraid of me. I will, in fact, lead the American people to change Washington. Romney will, in fact, hang out with his establishment friends, managing the decay, and explaining to the rest of us why that's the best hope we have.

God must love Barack Obama.

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Buck McKeon Scandal About To Blow Sky High?


Boehner consorting with the McKeon criminals

Even a casual reader of DWT is aware that California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R) has been writing himself a record of corruption noteworthy even by Inside the Beltway standards. A Mormon, McKeon doesn't drink alcohol or even coffee... he takes bribes. "Oh but everyone in Washington takes bribes," you might say, shrugging it off. And you'd be half right. Lots of-- most of?-- our political elite is involved in a system that encourages bribery. But there are rules that aren't supposed to be broken, and that's when they call it bribery. McKeon has crossed the boundary.

Local newspapers in his Southern California district have gone beyond hinting that a bigger story is about to break, and break nationally. And this isn't just the still unwinding Countrywide scandal, which saw him taking massive bribes from Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo to stave off personal bankruptcy. No, no, there's a lot more to the breakdown of Buck McKeon's personal ethics than just a bribe here or there from a financial fat cat.
Why are venerable media outlets like the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico apparently looking into the campaign finances of 38th Assembly District candidate Patricia McKeon? Well, it’s certainly not to do a fluff piece on the State Assembly candidate and wife of Congressman Buck McKeon!

Our sources are chattering about the fund raising activities of Mrs. McKeon going back to a Capitol Hill fund raiser held last October in Washington D.C. Wait, raising money for a California Assembly seat race in D.C.? Yep, allegedly there was some political arm-twisting going on in October to raise money for Patricia’s run for California State Assembly.

Hmmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with her husband being Chairman of the Armed Services Committee!? Of course it did and that may be the smoking gun for a whole lot of issues.

The National Journal also smells a rat in the dispute between the McKeons and his ex-top staffer Scott Wilk, currently being challenged in his Assembly run by Patricia McKeon, who's been using all of Buck's connections-- some blatantly illegally-- to advance her campaign. Until now Patricia McKeon has been used basically a bagman for Buck's operation, much the same way John Doolittle used to use his wife (another money-mad Mormon couple, by the way). When Wilk heard that his former boss was running his wife for the open Assembly seat, he says, “I started laughing, because honestly that’s a scenario that never crossed my mind. Her political acumen stops at seating charts.”
Wilk, 52, is a longtime political staffer who serves on his local community college board, has been chief of staff to two state legislators, and made an aborted run for the Assembly in the mid-1990s. Patricia McKeon, 69, has been a “full-time mother” (of six), president of a local PTA, and a community volunteer, according to a letter she sent to supporters. She’s been married to Buck McKeon for 49 years.

Rep. McKeon has already thrown his considerable weight behind his wife’s run. He hosted a fundraiser for her last fall in Washington, blocks from the Capitol.

“His main role has been that of a supportive husband,” said Alissa McCurley, the congressman’s spokeswoman. Patricia McKeon and her campaign declined to comment for this story. Wilk said they are running a purposefully stealthy campaign.

“The congressman has told people in the district that he plans to lock her in the room, raise all of her money, and win it on her name ID,” Wilk said.

Neither Wilk nor McKeon has filed a fundraising report yet, though McKeon has seeded her campaign with $40,000 of her own money, state records show.

The stature of McKeon’s husband is already a factor in the race. One of Wilk’s early backers reneged out of fear of offending the congressman. State Sen. Tony Strickland said he withdrew his endorsement after launching his own bid for Congress to replace retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.

“A lot of folks in the delegation feel uncomfortable going all-out to help me when I’m going against Buck’s wife,” Strickland said.

“You take your wife’s races a little more personal than even your own,” added Strickland, speaking from experience as his wife followed him into the state Legislature. Strickland said Wilk, whom he described as an “old friend,” was “very understanding.”

Wilk still has backing from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a former boss who is something of a kingmaker in California’s conservative circles. “He impresses the hell out of me and that was one of the easiest endorsements I’ve made in my whole career,” McClintock said of his former chief of staff. McClintock said he hasn’t spoken about the primary with McKeon.

The race marks Patricia McKeon’s first bid for office. In the letter to supporters, she said her decision to run for state office came when she was forced to pay 10 cents for a paper grocery bag. “I reached my tipping point,” she wrote. (The bag fee was a local levy, however, not the result of a state law.)

McKeon wrote that she overcame any “sensitivities to voters seeing two McKeons on the ballot” by realizing “we are two separate people-- with different perspectives and strengths.”

McKeon has spent a decade serving as her husband’s campaign treasurer. She was paid nearly $47,000 in the first nine months of 2011. From 2001 to 2006, she received more money from her husband’s treasury-- a total of $263,168-- than any other congressional relative, according to a 2007 study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly unethical,” Wilk opined.

McCurley, the congressman’s spokeswoman, said he has “taken great comfort in that he never has to worry about the money” with his wife controlling the account. “He was able to completely trust her,” she said.

Buck McKeon has a different ethical issue brewing. It recently became public that he allegedly received a discounted mortgage from the former Countrywide Financial. The congressman “appears to have obtained a significant discount on his VIP loan as a direct result of personal intervention by [then-] Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House oversight panel, wrote in a letter released this month. The case was referred to the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether the loan amounted to an improper gift.

The new Buck McKeon district (25th CD) is a classic swing district. Within the new lines, Obama beat McCain in 2008, but Meg Whitman bested Jerry Brown for governor two years later. Clueless DC pundits rate it as "safely Republican," but of course they're wrong. Even before McKeon's reputation began crumbling, this more and more Hispanic district was becoming ripe for the taking. The DCCC, however, is ignoring it completely-- even with McKeon's obvious problems.

Fortunately, the California Democratic Party is ignoring the DCCC and coalescing strongly behind the progressive doctor, Lee Rogers, who's giving McKeon a run for his money. As we mentioned when first introducing Dr. Rogers, McKeon has been the most vocal and persistent defenders of aggressive war and aggressive policies towards funding war of any Member of Congress. His newly drawn district isn't necessarily one that will support that attitude, especially not with a well-financed opponent, Dr. Lee Rogers, eager to talk about McKeon's slavish acquiescence to the military-industrial complex front and center for the campaign. If you'd like to help replace McKeon with Lee Rogers, we just added him to our ActBlue page.

This Santa Clara Valley Signal poll (click to enlarge) seems to have been too embarrassing for the cause of Buck McKeon's reelection-- it was "disappeared." See the postscript below (with a screen shot of the final version of the poll).

POSTSCRIPT: With Friends Like These...

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal has taken down the above poll, which was showing that most voters in CA-25 think it's time for McKeon to go. In addition, yesterday the paper published an op-ed extolling, or meaning to extol, the crooked congressman's virtues. Tim Myers identified himself as a longtime McKeon supporter who plans to vote for him in November (assuming McKeon doesn't retire under pressure before then). However, to a normal person it reads like a chilling indictment of McKeon, which would make the person search out an alternative-- any alternative.
Say what you will concerning McKeon, and many, now mostly Republicans, do-- unlike Romney, his personal experience most closely mirrors the experience of his constituency.

First of all, he made his living (like many in the SCV) from a family business that eventually collapsed when it could no longer support the hoped-for lifestyles of the extensive clan. Like many, particularly recently, McKeon personally guaranteed certain debts of the family business while it swirled under; debts that he honorably repaid and did not discharge through a personal bankruptcy.

Second, in 1998, after the failure of the business and the necessity and expense of maintaining two residences in the D.C. area and Santa Clarita, McKeon did what any normal SCV resident would do to enhance cash flow. He got a good deal on a mortgage, and put his wife, Patricia, on his campaign’s payroll to channel some of that money from campaign to personal funds.

With respect to his supposedly discounted Countrywide mortgage deal reported recently: Any critic who states that the congressman “should have known” he got a sweet deal must admit that if they do not themselves work in the finance industry or in a financial position, they vet the loan solely by determining the affordability of the monthly payment.

Third, like any in the SCV, my Nebraska bride and myself included, he needed to help his children with their emerging adulthood with additional cash from time to time, hiring them to perform services for the campaign, once again channeling money to personal use and instilling the Republican value of hard, though nepotistic, work.

Fourth, he bought a residence near the peak of the market in Westridge, which probably now stands completely underwater with the mortgage well exceeding the value like 70 to 90 percent of his neighbors.

Fifth, also like many SCV residents, he will utilize personal connections and heft to get another job for a spouse or child, this time plumping for his Patricia McKeon to take the California Assembly seat vacated by Cameron Smyth.

And while many Republicans rail against these actions, I strongly believe that they would avail themselves of these perks personally if they only could.

But, seriously, I have and always will vote for McKeon for nothing else other than his courage in voting for the TARP bill in September 2008, when the global banking system spun toward default and the country (and world) needed fast action to keep the globe from slipping back into a barter economy and travelling back in time to Europe in the Middle Ages.

McKeon did this despite the fact that it went against every bone in his body, but he still cast that necessary vote, even though some fellow Republicans and populist Democrats rolled the dice with their no votes and put the world economy on edge. McKeon did not, and thus he earned my vote forever, and ever and ever.

Finally, here is that screen shot of the final version of the Signal poll before the paper made it disappear without a trace:

UPDATE: Neither McKeon Has Been Arrested Yet

Just moments ago California's top investigative journalist, Lee Fang, published the results of his own on-going investigation into the McKeon's disregard for campaign finance regulations and probable criminal activities.
Recent disclosures reveal that a federal lobbyist with ties to Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), the senior member of the committee overseeing the Pentagon, provided financial support to McKeon’s wife, who is seeking a seat in the California State Assembly this year. As defense industry lobbyists scramble to head off looming cuts in the Pentagon budget, they are looking for new ways to ingratiate themselves themselves with McKeon.

...Patricia McKeon, Buck’s wife, surprised many when she announced her intention last September to run for an open seat that largely overlaps her husband’s district. One of the first reported contributions to her campaign came  a political committee called the Fund for American Opportunity, registered to a Post Office box in Washington DC, donated $1,000. The Fund, which is financed by a number of corporations including the drug industry trade association PhRMA, is owned and operated by Mark Valente, a Beltway lobbyist.

The contribution, reported here for the first time, appears to be an effort to circumvent federal campaign limits. Federal campaign disclosures show that Valente has already maxed out in donations to Congressman McKeon this cycle giving $2,5000  to his campaign for Congress. And the contribution came within a day of Valante’s donation to Patricia’s campaign for the California Assembly.

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Byron Dorgan On The Beltway Establishment: "A Bunch Of Hogs At A Slop Pail"


God is great! Bill Moyers is back on PBS. The above clip features an interview with Byron Dorgan, the North Dakota populist who warned most strenuously about the sleazy corporatists-- of both parties-- repealing Glass-Steagall. That repeal is, undoubtedly, the most corrupt moment in American public life... at least since the 1920s. This was the one percent's bloodless coup against America. On May 6, 1999, every single Republican in the Senate (plus one conservative Democrat, Ernest Hollings) voted to give the country away to their corporate masters. It was signed by one of the worst corporatists American voters were ever bamboozled into elevating to the White House, multimillionaire-to-be Bill Clinton. It had passed the House July 1, 343-86, opposed by a tiny handful of nervous Republicans, like Ron Paul and Ray LaHood, plus 70 Democrats, mostly progressives like Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Mike Capuano (MA), John Conyers (MI), Barney Frank (MA), Jesse Jackson, Jr (IL), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Barbara Lee (CA), Jerry Nadler (NY), Bernie Sanders (VT), Maxine Waters (CA), Henry Waxman (CA)...

Among those voting for it were many of today's worst corporate whores, from Jim DeMint (R-SC), Harold Ford (D-TN), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Tim Holden (D-PA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Buck McKeon (R-CA) to the leaders of the current GOP Inc., John Boehner (R-OH), Paul Ryan (R-WI), John Kasich (R-OH), David Vitter (R-LA) and Fred Upton (R-MI). It was the worst moment in contemporary American history-- far more deadly to the nation than 9-11-- and all of these people profited enormously from their vote.

The other night I had dinner with the chief of staff of one of the most powerful members of Congress. This staffer has been working in DC for almost two decades and was absolutely positive that things are unredeemably corrupt now, worse than it's ever been, and that the Democrats are not one iota better than the Republicans when it comes to corruption. That's how filthy Washington is now. And getting worse by the hour. Listen to Dorgan's answers to Moyers' questions carefully. I listened twice, and it was more horrific the second time. It brought to mind a paragraph from David Korten's book Agenda For A New Economy:
Capitalism is the institutional embodiment of greed, and Wall Street is its contemporary institutional manifestation. It operates by the moral code of an organized crime syndicate and subverts the values and institutions of both markets and democracy. Far from being ashamed of its ways, it champions them as virtues. What Wall Street considers virtues are actually the seven deadly sins identified by Christian tradition

It gets worse. The other day I tried introducing you to Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire low-life gangster currently brazenly trying to buy the presidency for a notorious Washington whore. Friday, Brian Ross revealed even more about Adelson than I had been able to dig up. He'll probably be killed, or at minimum sued.
The casino company run by the principal financial backer of Newt Gingrich's presidential bid, Sheldon Adelson, has been under criminal investigation for the last year by the Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission for alleged bribery of foreign officials, according to corporate documents.

In a separate civil lawsuit, a former executive of the company has alleged that Adelson ordered him to keep quiet about sensitive issues at the Sands casinos on the Chinese island of Macau, including the casinos' alleged "involvement with Chinese organized crime groups, known as Triads, connected to the junket business." The triads-- Chinese organized crime syndicates-- are allegedly involved in organizing high stakes gambling junkets for wealthy Chinese travelers.

In its filings with the SEC, Adelson's company says it became aware of the investigation in February 2011 when it received a subpoena from the SEC requesting "documents relating to its compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." The company said it "intends to cooperate with the investigation," which it said may have been triggered by the allegations in the lawsuit by Steven C. Jacobs, a former Sands executive who says he helped run the Macau operation. The federal investigation was first reported last year by Las Vegas newspapers and the financial press.

...Adelson has become a symbol of the new, no-holds-barred environment for campaign money, with recent Supreme Court rulings opening the door for one wealthy individual to single-handedly bankroll one of the costliest aspects of a political campaign: television advertising. Adelson, who is one of America's richest people, has the means to do so. The billionaire owns 49 percent of the Sands casino company and as chairman, is directly involved in its operations. Its operations in Macau have made the Sands the world's leading gambling operation.

But the company operates where corruption is described as "a major and growing problem," according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

"The growth of gambling in Macau, fueled by money from mainland Chinese gamblers and the growth of U.S.-owned casinos, has been accompanied by widespread corruption, organized crime and money laundering," the commission found.

The Venetian-Macao, a casino owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, was also the subject of a reported "sex-trade crackdown" that occurred in 2010 on the same day Adelson arrived on the island for meetings with government leaders in Macau, according to published accounts in 2010. Chinese press reported that authorities found more than 100 prostitutes inside the casino.

Jacobs alleges in his lawsuit that Adelson demanded that Jacobs refrain from telling the corporate board of Sands China about issues including "junkets and triads." He also alleges that Adelson wanted to investigate high-ranking Macau officials to provide him "leverage" to thwart any initiatives that would hurt the company.

"The triads are making a ton of money off the gambling industry," said Ko-lin Chin, a Rutgers University criminal justice professor who is one of the leading experts on Chinese organized crime. "They are still there, they are still very active."

Sands corporate spokesman Ron Reese told ABC News he did not wish to comment, instead pointing to earlier statements that Adelson has made about the case.

Adelson said at the gaming forum last year the lawsuit "is pure threatening, blackmailing and extortion" and said the case created a "foundation of lies" upon which the subsequent investigations have been based. He told the Wall Street Journal in October "we have a substantial list of reasons why Steve Jacobs was fired for cause and interestingly he has not refuted a single one of them. Instead, he has attempted to explain his termination by using outright lies and fabrications which seem to have their origins in delusion."

Last year, a judge rejected a motion by Las Vegas Sands to dismiss the case.

What's happened to our country?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Grimm Tale Of Selling Out Our Country... To Foreign Interests Or Crooked Interests?


Now, what could these two pious baloneys
have in common, other than corruption?

This weekend shady Staten Island Republican Michael Grimm was in Florida shilling for Mitt Romney's rough-and-tumble campaign against Newt Gingrich. Back home in New York, his claustrophobic little world was collapsing under the weight of revelations, long suspected, that he has been involved with illegal fundraising-- and for high stakes.

Israelis eager to gain more control over the U.S. government haven't only been financing Newt Gingrich. Turns out Grimm is another one, although as much as his half million or so dollars was illegally obtained from a "mystic" rabbi/real-estate swindler and his followers. Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto has been close with Anthony Weiner and Eric Cantor but was apparently looking for another congressman he could control. Grimm, of course, is denying any and all wrongdoing. But so did Al Capone.
Mr. Grimm, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Roman Catholic who regularly attends Sunday Mass, traveled around the New York region with one of the rabbi’s top aides, Ofer Biton, to raise campaign money from the rabbi’s followers. In all, the Grimm campaign collected more than $500,000 from the followers, according to numerous interviews and an analysis of Mr. Grimm’s campaign records.

That money-- more than half of the total that Mr. Grimm raised from individuals-- proved instrumental in his upset of the Democratic incumbent in November 2010. Since then, Mr. Grimm has established a profile as a rising Republican star.

But now, Mr. Biton, an Israeli citizen, is being investigated by the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn over accusations that he embezzled millions of dollars from the rabbi’s congregation. And an examination by the New York Times has highlighted Mr. Biton’s unusual role in the Grimm campaign-- as well as questionable donations that the rabbi’s followers said Mr. Grimm had accepted.

The examination of Mr. Grimm’s fund-raising was based on more than 15 interviews with followers and associates of the rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who divides his time between Israel and Manhattan, where he has a large congregation.

...Three of the rabbi’s followers said in separate interviews that Mr. Grimm or Mr. Biton told them that the campaign would find a way to accept donations that were over the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards.

Congressional campaigns are not allowed to accept cash donations of more than $100. Foreigners without green cards are barred by law from giving to political campaigns. They are also not allowed to solicit contributions for campaigns.

One follower of the rabbi said in an interview that Mr. Grimm pressed him for $20,000. The follower said Mr. Grimm instructed him to meet him “near the F.B.I. building,” in Lower Manhattan, in summer 2010 to give the money. The follower said he handed over $5,000 in cash in an envelope to Mr. Grimm in Mr. Grimm’s car.

Within a week, the follower said, he gave Mr. Grimm a $5,000 check from a friend. Mr. Grimm then repeatedly called the follower and demanded another $10,000, the follower said.

“Every day, he used to call me, over and over,” the follower said.

The follower said he ignored the calls and did not give again.

A second follower recalled that Mr. Grimm came to his office in Manhattan to solicit a legal contribution. As he was handing over the check, the second follower said, Mr. Grimm confided in him that there were ways of working around the campaign rules.

“Grimm wanted you to supply the money, and if someone wants to give and cannot give, you have to find a friend to give it through,” the second follower recalled. “Let’s say someone is not legal to give because he’s not American. Grimm wants this guy, Joe A, to give the money to Joe B so Joe B can make the contribution to the campaign.”

A third follower said he picked up, at Mr. Biton’s behest, $25,000 for Mr. Grimm’s campaign from a single Israeli.

“I give the checks to Ofer, and he gives them to Michael,” the third follower said.

The third follower said the money donated by the Israeli was falsely listed in Mr. Grimm’s campaign disclosure records as having been given by at least five other people. The practice referred to-- creating so-called straw donors-- is illegal.

...The donors interviewed by the Times said they gave money to the Grimm campaign because Mr. Biton told them that Rabbi Pinto wanted people in his congregation to do so.

The rabbi’s followers said Mr. Biton rounded up campaign money for Mr. Grimm in hopes that if Mr. Grimm won, he would help Mr. Biton obtain a green card.

It's unclear at this point if Grimm helped Biton get the green card or how much of a kickback Grimm gave Biton, an embezzler, for his help in raising the illegal contributions from the rabbi's flock. But reports of envelopes filled with cash were all over New York this weekend. There had been a minor tiff over this in 2010 when Rep. Mike McMahon first got wind of the fact that Grimm was getting large amounts of weird money from people who had never donated to a political campaign before. His campaign never fully threaded the needle, and the story went nowhere-- until this week.

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Congresscrooks this blatant about their plundering are a disgrace even to THEIR profession (which is saying a lot)


Then-Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) in 2009, doing the people's business -- and, apparently, a certain amount of "sideline" business of his own

"Experts on Congressional earmarks said they could think of no previous case in which a former congressman stood to profit so directly from money that he personally allocated while in Congress."
-- from "Ex-Congressman Retreats on Energy
" by the NYT's Eric Lichtblau

by Ken

The words that pop out for me here are "stood to profit so directly." Puts me in mind of former CA Congressfelon Duke Cunningham, who was so brazen about his congressional influence peddling that he actually had a printed rate card for his "services." C'mon, guys, can't we at least expect a reasonable amount of discretion from our civic plunderers?
WASHINGTON -- A former congressman who became a lobbyist has abandoned his plans to collect $90,000 from working on an energy project that he helped finance through Congress.

The former congressman, Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, told officials in Hull, Mass., this week that he would do the consulting work at no charge rather than collect $15,000 a month as planned. The decision was first reported in The Boston Globe.

An apologetic Mr. Delahunt told town officials he wanted to eliminate the “black mark” created by questions of a possible financial conflict, Patrick Cannon, chairman of the Hull Light Board, said on Saturday.

“This was a great decision for the town, because it saves us a lot of money,” Mr. Cannon said.

Mr. Delahunt, a Democrat who retired from Congress last year, had faced criticism for the last week from legal and ethics specialists over the unusual lobbying arrangement he had struck with the town, which is seeking federal help to build an offshore wind energy plant at a cost of more than $60 million.

While in Congress, Mr. Delahunt earmarked $1.7 million for the same project, and he was to be paid 80 percent of his monthly consulting fees out of that same pot of money.

Experts on Congressional earmarks said they could think of no previous case in which a former congressman stood to profit so directly from money that he personally allocated while in Congress.

Both Mr. Delahunt’s lobbying organization, the Delahunt Group, and the Town of Hull had defended the planned contract, saying that Mr. Delahunt brought an expertise and familiarity with the wind energy project that could help move it along.

Mr. Delahunt and executives at his firm did not respond to e-mails Saturday seeking further comment on the decision.

The Energy Department, which provided the original $1.7 million in seed money through Mr. Delahunt’s earmarks, said this week that its contracting officials were reviewing his role in the wind project.

The general counsel’s office, which normally reviews ethical and legal questions in contracting work, is not involved in that review, said Bill Gibbons, an Energy Department spokesman.

It is not clear how Mr. Delahunt’s decision to provide his consulting services on a pro bono basis will affect the Energy Department’s review. A department spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.

In Duke Cunningham's case, apart from the guy just not being terribly bright, it appeared that the Culture of Corruption in the Republican-controlled Congress had grown so pervasive that its most mindlessly greedy practitioners didn't even stop to think that they could get caught. In this schlepp Delahunt's case, I get the feeling that he was a low-enough-level bribe extractor that he just thought it was business-as-usual to engineer his own little pension-bonus scheme scam.

Note that in the earlier report to which Eric Lichtblau links in the above piece, "Lobbyist Helps a Project He Financed in Congress," he had written that Delahunt "retired last year as one of the leading liberals in Congress." Maybe he thought this particular, er, arrangement was OK(-ish) because his cut wasn't carved out of federal funds but out of the hide of the folks back home. Or possibly he actually thought he'd earned his cut (as I suppose he had), and no harm, no foul. Maybe especially compared with the shakedowns many of his colleagues were running.

Now, does anyone really believe that clamping down on earmarks has stopped this sort of thing from going on? If our boys and girls in Congress can't figure out other ways to lay their mitts on public moneys, they're a disgrace to their profession. Which is saying a lot.

Note that nobody seems to be talking about the former congressman paying any price for this episode except the abandonment of his "consulting" plunder.

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Super PAC Alert-- A Guest Post By Carol Shea-Porter


If you live in America, you cannot escape the result of the Supreme Court decision in 2010 that changed political campaigns. Known as Citizens United, this decision allowed those with big checkbooks to contribute unlimited amounts of money for a politician, as long as they do not give directly to the politician’s campaign.

That is why we now have Super PACs-- they are used as the vehicle to transfer money. If an individual wants to give directly to a campaign, he or she can only give $2,500 per election, and a political action committee can only give $5,000, but if you are really rich or you are a corporation, and you want really heavy influence, you can now just give to the Super PAC who backs your candidate, and then sit back and enjoy the air war on TV that you paid for. And as a bonus, voters in each state won’t even know you and your partners were the ones who brought ugly ads to them until after they have voted, so they won’t know that you had a particular agenda.

For example, Mitt Romney’s group, “Restore Our Future” (never mind that you cannot restore something that has not existed yet), will not file until January 31st, well after New Hampshire and South Carolina, and on the day Florida goes to vote after seeing thousands of ads attacking other Republicans from Romney’s people. Governor Romney said he cannot talk to “Restore Our Future,” but that Super PAC is full of his former top campaign aides who know Romney intimately, so it is a pretty thin wall.

We could still win our future though, if Newt Gingrich has anything to do with it. The Super PAC that supports him, “Winning our Future,” is running ads about Governor Romney’s business dealings, thanks to one donor who gave a check for $5 million dollars three checks for $11 million dollars [so far] to the PAC to pay for those attacks. If he had given directly to the campaign, he could only have given $2,500 for the primary, but now, the Supreme Court has allowed him to give unlimited money to take Governor Romney down.

Pity the poor voter in South Carolina right now. According to McClatchy newspapers, New Hampshire voters saw 2,800 ads. By the second week in January, the South Carolina voters had seen nearly twice that many, and Super PACs were responsible for 69% of the spending on TV ads.

Does this matter? Does it influence voters? They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. Senator John McCain told CNN, “Now it’s the system under which we operate, which leads to this kind of campaigning and will lead to corruption and scandals. I guarantee it.” CNN reported that McCain said the Supreme Court, “basically unleashed-- without transparency-- and without accountability-- huge amounts of money from those so-called ‘independent campaigns’.”

Right now, the Republicans are shooting at each other, but the general election is right around the corner, and Democrats have now answered with some Super PACs of their own. What we saw in 2010 was just a teaser to what we will endure this year. Super PACs and their very wealthy donors are drowning out the voices of the small-dollar donors. David Woodward, a professor of political science at Clemson University, said in the Kansas City Star, “it goes back to politics before we had campaign finance reform and Watergate. It’s just a complete reversal that has brought us full circle to where it’s rich guys playing politics.” Or, I might add, playing for friendly policies and legislation.

These Super PACs will once again be active in congressional races and Senate races, but in a bigger way than in 2010. Jeff Roe, a Kansas City, Missouri based Republican strategist said, “It will have huge impact.” We all remember the deceptions, the distortions, and the trickery from 2010 and from the 2012 Presidential primary. Is there anything we can do to stop it in the general election this year?

Yes, there is. Educate yourself. We all have a civic responsibility to pay attention and learn. There are so many places to check facts now, like FactCheck.org. Listen to the candidate debates, and watch C-Span programs. Look up voting records. Watch several major news shows. Visit websites like The Sunlight Foundation, and see information on Super PACs. Ask candidates if they will support legislation to take this kind of money out of politics. We are citizens, not merely spectators, and we still have the power to be heard. Speak up!


You can support Carol Shea-Porter's campaign here at our ActBlue page.

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Sunday Classics: With the full symphony orchestra you can create a heckuva storm (aka: Musical storms, part 2)


There are funny storms too! Alexander Prior conducts the deliciously raging thunderstorm in Act II of Rossini's Barber of Seville at the Chuvash National Opera in the Volga River port of Cheboksary, capital of Russia's Chuvash Republic, November 2009. We've got some better performances coming up in the click-through.
As music lovers know, the hint of a distant storm from a few timpani rolls can be as evocative as the crepuscular waves portrayed by Constable. The ability of music both directly to mimic the sounds of the weather and indirectly to imply its subtler moods perhaps gives this medium more scope for dramatic expression than the visual arts and literature, which unavoidably are limited to more literal interpretations.
-- Karen L. Aplin and Paul D. Williams,
in "Meteorological phenomena in Western classical
orchestral music
," in the November issue of Weather

by Ken

Just for the record, the authors of the above-cited monograph hail from the Dept. of Physics, University of Oxford (Aplin), and the Dept. of Meteorology, University of Reading (Williams). If that gives you a gnawing bad feeling, trust it. When I discovered the piece, I thought at first it was a happy coincidence that such a piece had been published just as I was setting out to write about musical storms. Then I started reading the piece. And I was reminded why I rigorously avoided taking any academic classes that impinged on my love of music. If you were thinking there was bound to be some fun in such a piece, so was I. We were all wrong.

Anyway, we began listening to our storms imagined in music a couple of weeks ago, leading off with probably the most celebrated from the concert repertory, the sequence from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony that includes his famous thunderstorm, and surely the most spectacular storm in the operatic repertory, the cataclysm that opens Verdi's Otello -- and nearly rings down the curtain on the opera when Otello's ship is nearly dragged under as it approaches the Cypriot shore. For good measure we threw in a less threatening operatic storm, the beautiful "Royal Hunt and Storm" sequence from Berlioz's epic opera The Trojans.

In Friday's preview we took a step back in time to hear what Vivaldi could do stormwise with just the modest baroque orchestras -- incorporating storm movements in three of the Four Seasons. Today we track what some composers have done with the increasingly resource-rich resources of the modern symphony orchestra.

One perhaps obvious observation is still worth observing: that there's not much point in doing a musical storm if you don't also provide a sort of musical "baseline" -- life as it was being carried on before the storm and as it continues afterward. Beethoven, for example, gave us his countryside peasants dancing merrily before the interruption of the weather event, and then the the merry-making that follows it. The storm itself is brief, but illustrates thrillingly the cleansing, purifying, and exhilarating effect a storm can have. Just to refresh our memory, why don't we listen again to the Klemperer recording with the slow "Peasants' Dance" that producer Walter Legge very likely never did get used to.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral):
iii. Merry gathering of the peasants: Allegro
iv. Thunderstorm: Allegro
v. Shepherd's song; Happy and grateful feelings after the storm: Allegretto

Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, cond. EMI, recorded October 1957

I thought of including the "Scene in the fields" from Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, which we listened to in June 2010), itself a clear hommage to Beethoven's thunderstorm. But the distant thunder near the end seems kind of incidental for our purposes. In that 2010 post you can hear a quite lovely performance of the movement by Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony.

Okay, you talked me into it; here's the Paray "Scene in the fields" again. Just as a reminder: The composer's program for the movement concludes: "The sun retires . . . distant noise of thunder . . . solitude . . . silence . . ."

BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14:
iii. Scène aux champs (Scene in the fields)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray, cond. Mercury, recorded Nov. 28, 1959


Again, we've heard the Grand Canyon Suite in its entirely, in a July 2010 Fourth of July post. At this point in the piece we've witnessed an awesome musical "Sunrise" and the spooky "Painted Desert," ridden our burros "On the Trail," and watched the "Sunset." You never know when you may be caught in a cloudburst.

GROFÉ: Grand Canyon Suite:
v. Cloudburst

Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson, cond. Mercury, recorded May 1958

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded Sept. 30, 1991

RECORDING NOTE: I know there's a resistance among many modern listeners to "old" recordings like these. It still seems to me that the recording art has gone mostly backward, not forward, since, say, the late '60s. If anyone has heard an orchestral recording made in the last 20 years remotely comparable in sonic beauty or believability to the 1958 and 1959 Mercury recordings we've just heard, I'd sure like to know what it is.


(And, oh yes, we've also got a storm-pretender from the Waltz King, Johann Strauss II.)


Preview: Tonight's musical selections should give you a good idea of Sunday's subject (January 13)
The thunderstorm movement from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Otello's "Esultate" from Verdi's Otello
Stormy weather, part 1 (January 15)
Verdi's Otello, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, and Berlioz's Les Troyens, plus Lena Horne singing "Stormy Weather"
Preview: Given the resources at his disposal, Vivaldi's musical storms may be the most remarkable of all (January 27)
The three storm movements from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
With the full symphony orchestra you can create a heckuva storm (aka: Musical storms, part 2) (January 29)
Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (again), Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite, Johann Strauss II's Amid Thunder and Lightning polka, Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony, Grieg's Peer Gynt incidental music, Britten's Peter Grimes, and Rossini's Barber of Seville
Preview: En route to more of our musical storms, we encounter perhaps the most eerily wonderful music I know (February 3)
The Preludes to Acts I and II of Wagner's Siegfried
Storms that set three great operatic scenes in motion (aka: Musical storms, part 3) (February 5)
The openings of Wagner's Die Walküre Act I and Siegfried Act III and of Act III of Puccini's La Bohème
Preview: En route to our final operatic storms, we hear two famous tenor tunes sung by a very famous tenor (February 24)
"La donna è mobile," the Quartet, and the Storm Scene from Act III of Rigoletto
Musical storms, part 4: We come to our raging storms from Janáček's Kátya Kabanová and Verdi's Rigoletto (February 26)
The storms from Act III of both operas, with a close-up look at how Verdi created the Rigoletto one -- plus the whole of Act III

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