Feeling like you want to get away out of this world? Here’s a little trip…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Feeling like you want to get away out of this world? Here’s a little trip…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
What better way to end 2009 with a snappy overview of the “top ten” ethics scandals of the year!
Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has put together a review of some of some of the high points, along with CREW’s wishes for the new year.
Of course, there’s the TARP/executive pay bonuses, the SEC’s failure to catch Madoff as he ripped off clients (starting way back in 1992), and a few sex scandals involving the likes of Gov. Mark Sanford and Senator John Ensign. Then there was the political corruption of Reps. Charlie Rangel and John Murtha with transgressions ranging from failing to pay taxes to shady pay-to-play schemes.
But there a few other items that may have slipped under your radar.
Here’s a sampling (the report is in PDF format):
Public Corruption Prosecutions Were So 2009.
In 2009, the Supreme Court accepted three cases challenging honest services law, a provision in the federal mail-fraud statute making it illegal for public or private employees to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” This statute is a critical prosecutorial tool for fighting public corruption, having been used to convict former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) and a large number of those involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal. During oral arguments, the Supreme Court justices focused on all the ways the statute can misapplied, strongly suggesting they plan to limit the statute’s breadth, if not hold it unconstitutional. Already, the prosecutors
handling the case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich have indicated they will re-indict the governor to delete the honest services fraud counts. In addition, Rep. Jefferson plans to ask a court to give him a new trial, though he was convicted of other charges in addition to honest services fraud.
CREW’s holiday wish: For the honest services fraud statute to remain intact so the law can continue to be used to convict the likes of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Jefferson.
Ah, what would the year be like with the Roberts Supreme Court pulling some sort of crap?
And then there’s this:
What, The FEC Is Supposed to Enforce (Not Gut) Campaign Finance Laws?
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is failing in its mandated mission to administer and enforce regulations governing the financing of federal elections. Violations of federal campaign finance law are likely to go unpunished thanks to the partisan deadlock that has rendered the FEC ineffectual. With three Republican and three Democratic appointees, the FEC consistently fails to take action against even the most egregious violations. As The Washington Post said in an op-ed on June 15th: “The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn’t: wouldn’t launch investigations, wouldn’t bring cases, wouldn’t even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated.”
By not taking action against federal candidates who break the rules, the FEC is encouraging unethical campaign tactics that privilege money over principle. The FEC commissioners’ failure to take their oversight mission seriously threatens to undermine campaign finance laws and further flood the electoral process with money. With a lack of campaign finance oversight, political influence on Capitol Hill will be bought by the highest bidder and the common good will be sacrificed to special interests.
CREW’s holiday wish: A restructured FEC with an odd number of commissioners, as opposed to he current even number of six, would go a long way to ending the deadlock and allow the FEC to effectively enforce campaign finance laws.
Gee, where’s all that “bipartisanship” when you need it??
All in all, it was a banner year for scandals, but it looks like the stage is set for some of them to staying around as the “gifts that keep on giving.”
…including one that’s just revving up! Ever hear of the “Caribbean Caucus?” From the Miami Herald:
The ties between indicted banker Allen Stanford and members of Congress — including millions in contributions and weekends in five-star Caribbean resorts — are now the subject of a sweeping federal investigation.
Lots of money floating around over the years to some familiar names: the powerful Republican Pete Sessions, John Sweeney, Gregory Meeks, Donald Payne, Phil Crane, the Republican National Committee, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the G.W. Bush inaugural committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and more…
Won’t that make a great start to 2010??
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Allen Sanford's ties to Congress, Bernie Madoff, Charlie John Murtha, Chief Justice John Roberts, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), executive pay bonuses, federal campaign finance law, Federal Election Commission (FEC), federal mail-fraud statute, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Gov. Mark Sanford, honest services law, indicted-banker Allen Sanford, Jack Abramoff scandal, pay-to-play schemes, political influence, political sex scandals, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Rep. William Jefferson, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Senator John Ensigh, special interests, Supreme Court, TARP, unethical campaign tactics | 7 Comments »
Oops. Looks like some more movement in the “let’s-dump-the-dollar” game.
Seems like the oil-producing states of the Middle East have made some moves. According to the Telegraph (U.K.):
“The Gulf monetary union pact has come into effect,” said Kuwait’s finance minister, Mustafa al-Shamali, speaking at a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait.
The move will give the hyper-rich club of oil exporters a petro-currency of their own, greatly increasing their influence in the global exchange and capital markets and potentially displacing the US dollar as the pricing currency for oil contracts. Between them they amount to regional superpower with a GDP of $1.2 trillion (£739bn), some 40pc of the world’s proven oil reserves, and financial clout equal to that of China.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar are to launch the first phase next year, creating a Gulf Monetary Council that will evolve quickly into a full-fledged central bank.
The Emirates are staying out for now – irked that the bank will be located in Riyadh at the insistence of Saudi King Abdullah rather than in Abu Dhabi. They are expected join later, along with Oman.
Earlier in the year, we posted about other moves to dump the dollar. See below for some relevant posts.
The Gulf pact faces hurdles internally (Saudia Arabia will dominate and Saudi needs will come first and may leave the other states on the short end) as well as from the outside:
Ben Simpfendorfer, Asia economist for RBS and an expert on the Middle East, told the FIKR conference that the rise of China had paradoxically disrupted the case for pan-Arab economic integration.
There was a natural fit ten years ago between rich oil state and low-wage manufacturers in Egypt and Syria, but cheap exports from China have forced poorer Arab states to retreat behind barriers to shelter their industries. “The rationale for a single currency has become weaker,” he said.
We’ll have to see what transpires. Just wanted to bring you up to date on the latest rumblings.
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Bahrain, Ben Simpendorfer RBS Asica economist, China, Culf Co-operation COuncil (GCC), Egypt Syria, Gulf monetary union pact, Kuwait, Middle East oil reserves, Middle East single currency, Oman, pan-Arab economic integration, petro-currency, pricing oil contracts, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, Telegraph (U.K.), U.S. dollar hegemony, United Arab Emirates | Leave a comment »
As if things couldn’t get even MORE bizarre…
The Guardian/Observer is reporting that the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime suspects that “$352bn in criminal proceeds was effectively laundered by financial institutions” during the 2008 banking crisis:
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.
This will raise questions about crime’s influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. “In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor,” he said.
Some of the evidence put before his office indicated that gang money was used to save some banks from collapse when lending seized up, he said.
Apparently, evidence of the drug money going to banks has come from officials in Britain, Switzerland, Italy and the US.
The British Bankers’ Association wants to see the evidence and maintains that central banks provided the liquidity to keep the system afloat.
It will be interesting to see if Costa’s suspicions get any attention here in the U.S.
Imagine, “money laundering” to save the economic system…
Who pays back THOSE “loans”??
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Antonio Maria Costa, Barack Obama, British Bankers' Association, central banks, crime's influence on the economic system, drug profits, global banking crisis, Gordon Brown, International Monetary Fund (IMF), organized crime, The Guardian/Observer, U.N., UN Office on Drugs and CRime, United Nations | 8 Comments »
Here’s a nugget from The Hill.com:
According to the story,
A contract worth nearly $6 million in stimulus funds was awarded by the Obama adminstration to two firms run by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s pollster in 2008.
Burson-Marsteller won the contract to work on a public-relations campaign to advertise the national switch from analog to digital television. Nearly $2.8 million of the contract was awarded through a subcontract to Penn’s polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, according to federal records.
Federal records also show that a former adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign received nearly $70,000 from that contract to help alert viewers in difficult-to-reach communities that their televisions would soon no longer receive broadcast signals.
Specifically, the Obama adviser worked on the ad messaging aimed at Hispanics, only 39 days before the digital transition on June 10.
Just this past Tuesday, Republicans John McCain and Tom Coburn held a news conference to complain that the advertising campaign was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
McCain and Coburn did not show any indication that they knew two Democratic political strategists received funding through the grant.
Hey, I guess that means that Republicans don’t really read large stimulus bills, either!!
…And, of course, Republicans NEVER waste taxpayer dollars, either!
Sigh. This game is getting so old…
But, the question that lingers about Hillary Clinton and whether we assume that this is part of a deal Hillary Clinton cut with Obama after the 2008 primaries were over. I guess I would lean toward that assumption!
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: 2008 Democratic primaries, 2009 stimulus package, analog to digital television, Barack Obama, Burson-Marsteller, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton's 2008 pollster, Mark Penn, Penn Schoen & Berland, public relations, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Tom Coburn | 2 Comments »
Sarah Palin was in New Mexico a few days ago pushing her book out in Roswell a few days ago. (I have to admit, I find the title “Going Rogue” a bit odd, considering she’s not all that rogue in MY book…shaking off public office to run around the country seems pretty much in vogue…see John Edwards and even Barack Obama, who abandoned the Senate to run for President right quick…and, pols with higher aspirations all write books before their runs these days, don’t they?)
Anyhow, a writer for the Albuquerque Journal came up with a very interesting piece regarding Palin in Saturday’s paper (December 5, 2009). Although it’s behind the subscriber firewall (but try the link below, you might be able to access it) I do want to share some of this, because it really is a serious piece about Palin in that it tries to really figure out WHO she is.
Last year I was dazzled by Palin and didn’t enjoy seeing her trashed anymore than I liked seeing Hillary Clinton trashed. However, I’ve been off the Palin bandwagon for quite awhile now. While I admired her spunk, I always felt a bit uncomfortable with her politics. I really left the train when she quite her job as governor of Alaska. Frankly, that’s when I saw the “quite and run” thing kicking in, which leaves a sour taste my mouth these days. She doesn’t seem much different than Edwards or Obama on that score.
But this piece by Thomas J. Cole, entitled “The Constrained Vision, Palin-Style” is quite thought provoking. Cole didn’t attend the book signing Roswell, but he did buy the book and read it…and thought about it. As he opens his piece, ” I went in search of Sarah Palin this week.” (I’m guessing the “unleashed” Sarah Palin…)
Cole says he wanted to gain a deeper insight into Palin’s views and found it on page 385:
I wanted to know what informs her positions, the ideas that are the building blocks of her politics, the philosophies that would guide her in making the serious decisions required of these serious times.
I found what I was looking for on Page 385.
Palin wrote: “I do believe in a few timeless and unchanging truths, and chief among those is that man is fallen. This world is not perfect, and politicians will never make it so. This, above all, is what informs my pragmatic approach to politics.”
She then hitches her wagon to the “constrained” political vision as explained by economist and commentator Thomas Sowell in his book “A Conflict of Visions,” first published in 1987.
Politicians with the constrained vision believe that human nature is flawed, that war, poverty and crime, for example, are inevitable and that our flaws cannot be fixed.
Those politicians believe in building institutions that constrain the flaws of human nature and in leaving it to the public to express their interests in free markets.
On the other hand, as Sowell tells it, politicians with the “unconstrained” vision seek to explain our flaws and believe that institutions can cause them. They believe that government can decide what it is in the public’s interest.
“Commonsense Conservatives (that’s what Palin calls herself) deal with human nature as it is with its unavoidable weaknesses and its potential for goodness,” she wrote.
“We don’t trust utopian promises from politicians. The role of government is not to perfect us but to protect us — to protect our inalienable rights.”
MMM…so, we’re all “fallen.” This “constrained” viewpoint makes me shudder. “Constraining the flaws of human nature” makes me think of a lot harsh things…including the Republican Party, which is back to their “purity” testing again these days…Sounds pretty “perfecting” to me. The language, the word “fallen” makes my mind immediately wander into religious territory, a la Adam and Eve. Sort of give me the creeps, but maybe that’s just my own bias?
Cole then muses on how this sort of thinking would apply to current issues:
Let’s take the health care debate.
Politicians with the constrained vision believe that if Americans wanted more affordable health care, they would get it by expressing that interest in the marketplace.
Politicians with the unconstrained vision believe the public interest lies in reducing health care costs, having more Americans covered and not forcing people into bankruptcy because of medical bills.
On the issue of the economy, there would be no more Chrysler or General Motors under the constrained political vision. Through the marketplace, the public had decided it wasn’t in its interest to save the companies and their tens of thousands of jobs.
Politicians with the constrained vision don’t believe in addressing the abuses on Wall Street that led to our financial crisis or in stemming the tide of home foreclosures.
On the evening of Palin’s book signing in Roswell, President Obama addressed the nation on his plan for Afghanistan.
Palin wrote on her Facebook page that evening that she supported Obama’s action, although she wanted him to commit more troops.
Her position wasn’t surprising, given that politicians with the constrained vision believe making war is unavoidable and rational because that’s just what countries do.
This article is an interesting jumping off point from which to examine Palin’s views. For liberals who seem to have jumped on her bandwagon, it should give pause.
Beyond the folksy demeanor and “common sense” image, there ARE ideas. And these ideas must be scrutinized just like those of any politician. It’s a mixed bag, of course.
I probably agree with about 10% of the “constrained” views discussed in the above quote. But most of it…the blind faith to “the marketplace” (abuses and all) and the “war thing”–well, that just seems to be the same old Republican bit that I really can’t stomach.
So, “Going Rogue” sounds catchy, but it rings as false as “Hope and Change” to me…Lots of things to think about…
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: "A Conflict of Visions", "Commonsense Conservatives", "Going Rogue", Adam and Eve, Barack Obama, constrained vision politicians, flawed human nature, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, pragmatic approach to politics, Republican Party purity test, Sarah Palin, the Albuquerque Journal, Thomas J. Cole, Thomas Sowell | 23 Comments »
Time for a break from the usual dreary news. Over at our sister site Open Range Ramblings, there’s a new post (finally) with a pictorial tracking of our very first snow of the season…early, too!
P.S.–An adorable dog pic (Slick in his sweater) is also among the pics posted for your viewing pleasure!