Labour MP tells “lobbyist” – “I’m like a cab for hire!”

Three former Cabinet ministers, Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over allegations they tried to sway policy decisions by lobbying the Government.

The allegations came after the three MPs were caught in an undercover sting by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme boasting that they had changed government policy and secured preferential access to ministers for private companies.

Recordings showing MPs in a series of meetings with bogus lobbyists were broadcast by the programme. The MPs offered their services for up to £5,000 a day.

The decision to suspend the three was said to have been taken by Chief Whip Nick Brown and General Secretary Ray Collins following the screening of tonight’s Channel 4 Dispatches documentary.

The three were secretly filmed by an undercover reporter discussing the possibility of working for what they thought was an American lobby company.

Wow! This is a very big deal in the UK.

Looking out across the pond from the U.S., I guess I’m a little bit extra embarrassed because this is close to “ordinary” behavior here.

Public support for nuclear power continues to grow

The majority of Americans who favor nuclear-generated electricity hit a new high this year, according to a poll that now suggests growing support for President Barack Obama’s aid to the nuclear industry.

Sixty-two percent of 1,014 U.S. adults, who were surveyed March 4-7 by Gallup, said they favored nuclear energy as one way to meet national electricity needs.

Though a majority of Americans has long supported nuclear power, Gallup said the latest rating is the highest since it began polling on the issue in 1994.

Hoping to advance climate legislation in Congress, Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for new plant construction in February. The guarantees will help build the first new U.S. nuclear power facilities in nearly three decades.

Gallup’s latest findings show Republican support for nuclear power a new high of 74 percent this year, up from 71 percent a year ago.

Democratic support stands at a bare majority of 51 percent, down slightly from 52 percent in 2009, the poll showed.

Let me give you my cynical analysis of this breakout.

The Dem wobbles are about right for a party with little core recognition for Green issues. Even Al Gore steps outside the Democrat Party’s purview for most of his politicizing. Green voters – like me – often reject the boring, tedious, cowardly pace of traditional party politics.

Republicans mostly add support because [a] corporate barons will profit instead of Green start-ups – and Republicans will kiss corporate butt even when they’re nothing more than water-carriers; and [b] it’s an alternative to the capital-A Alternatives favored by liberals and progressives, Green activists. Response rules rather than being a proponent.

Who brayed “Babykiller” at Bart Stupak?

Would you be surprised to learn he’s a Texas Birther?

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) acknowledged Monday that he yelled out “baby killer” toward Democrats during debate over a Republican abortion amendment in the final minutes of consideration of health-care legislation.

The backbench Republican from west Texas said he has apologized to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who was urging the House to vote down the amendment when Neugebauer made his outburst.

What was his leading (attempted) accomplishment before last night?

A North Texas congressman is among three Texans cosponsoring the so-called “birther bill” requiring presidential candidates produce a birth certificate to prove they meet constitutional requirements to be president.

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s support for the bill and comments about President Obama’s status as a natural born citizen drew fire from a liberal pundit who pronounced the congressman’s constituents “idiots” for electing him.

Probably get him a guest spot on the Glen Beck Show.

Sarkozy to ‘reshuffle’ after regional polls – One way to put it!

The UMP is cast in the base metal of his own image. Sarkozy has to recognize the French public’s rejection of his policies.

Jean-Paul Huchon and Cecile Duflot from the movements gaining strength
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Following a heavy defeat for his party in regional elections, the president met Prime Minister Francois Fillon the day after the vote to discuss strategy…

The election has left President Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party in control of just one of 22 regions. With almost all votes counted, it had won 36%, while the Socialist-led opposition gained some 54%. Voter turnout was 51%.

The elections are the last major electoral test in France before the presidential election in 2012.

Mr Gueant described the result as “a big wake-up call for quick and effective action” on unemployment and other economic challenges, while Mr Fillon said the vote showed that the centre-right had not been “convincing”.

With unemployment at its highest level in a decade, and with France’s bank books showing screaming red deficits, many here feel Mr Sarkozy’s bold promises were little more than whispered sweet nothings.

The poor results may make Mr Sarkozy far more cautious about pushing through a comprehensive programme of reforms that has already clearly cost him votes…

I presume you already know what “reforms” means from the lips of conservatives. Screw working people a bit more to benefit corporate wealth.

Many people are angry that the president’s election promises – to make ordinary people richer and to make France more competitive – have failed to come good, our correspondent says.

High unemployment and resentment over planned judicial and pension reforms are among the factors seen to have prompted people to use a regional election to punish the central government.

The Left lumped Sarkozy’s crowd 3 to 2 – while Right-Wing Nutballs siphoned away that small portion of the French electorate qualified as the eejit teabagger vote.

Factbox: House healthcare bill

There will declamations of good and evil all day long. Cripes, this will continue right through the November elections – mostly initiated by Republican reactionaries – but, candyass Dems will respond by yodeling about their own willingness to sell out.

The healthcare reform measure passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday delivers some good news for drugmakers, device companies and even health insurers.

Among the changes in the legislation was a provision delaying hefty taxes on those three industries by at least a year…

* The pharmaceutical industry keeps its $80 billion agreement to provide savings and rebates. Its fees, to be divided among companies such as Pfizer and Merck & Co, would be delayed from 2010 to 2011, increasing from the initial $2.3 billion a year to $2.7 billion.

* Overall, wider insurance coverage could help offset the costs by providing more potential customers.

* Drugmakers warded off deeper price cuts in the Medicare program for the elderly. The House had sought to fully close the so-called “doughnut hole” where coverage drops temporarily after reaching a certain limit, but the bill maintains the industry’s 50-percent discount. The government will pay for another 25-percent discount…

* Hospitals, which include companies such as Universal Health Services and Tenet Healthcare, say they kept a $155 billion, 10-year deal to accept lower government payments from Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for an expected boost in insured customers…

* Private Medicare plans called Medicare Advantage would see their payments frozen in 2011, then lowered in 2012. The plans, which can offer more benefits than traditional Medicare coverage, would also have to spend at least 85 cents out of every dollar on medical costs — leaving 15 cents toward overhead and salaries, among other things.

* Consumer protection rules would change the way companies do business, banning denial of coverage for preexisting medical conditions and ending lifetime coverage limits. Some curbs would be expanded to all health insurance plans six months after the bill passes, while others take effect in 2014…

* Lawmakers have said roughly 30 million more Americans could have insurance with the reform

* Overall, companies that make generic versions of brand-name drugs see little direct help, although increasing insurance access may help more people buy medicine.

The United States is so insular, trapped inside the politics and mores of isolation, religion and 19th Century ideology that it makes me nauseous.

The first serious, educated discussion I had about comparative health care systems was with an upper-middle-class manufacturers rep living in a stodgy conservative middle-European country – who gave me a ride while hitch-hiking across Switzerland in 1971. He felt the United States was backwards, run by ill-educated pimps and hustlers in Congress.

His daughter had a congenital ailment which he had treated at the best possible clinic – across the border in Germany. His national insurance picked up the tab, regardless. The sort of coverage he had then – almost 40 years ago – was better than anything proposed by the Democratic Party, today.

Journalists – or opportunists – covered which demonstration?

What was the really big demonstration in Washington DC over this weekend? Was it the teabaggers bringing their bigot baggage to town? Or my peacenik brothers and sisters still pissed because Obama and the Obamacrats have decided they can do military imperialism more successfully than the Republicans?

Sorry, folks. In fact, it was a rally for undocumentados.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the U.S. capital on Sunday to demand immigration reform that defends the rights of foreign workers, but their voices may have been muted by Democrats’ push for a historic vote on healthcare.

Carrying signs that said “Justice and Dignity for All U.S. Immigrants” and “We just want to work,” the immigration activists filled five blocks of the National Mall. Some protesters wore T-shirts that read, “Our journey as immigrants is a journey for human rights.”

New York Democratic Representative Nydia Velazquez said: “Every day without reform is a day that 12 million hard-working immigrants must live in the shadow of fear, and … a day that a family is torn apart. That is wrong and it is unAmerican…”

President Barack Obama benefited in 2008 from a huge Hispanic turnout, drawn by his promise to deliver immigration reform allowing millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Frustrated that Obama has yet to fulfill a pledge to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, immigration supporters have warned him to deliver this year or face the consequences in congressional elections in November…

While Hispanics are seen as unlikely to switch support to Republicans, who have fought immigration reform without a clampdown on illegal immigrants, they could hurt Democrats by failing to turn out at the polls.

Which is a funny way to put it. Republicans have traditionally opposed anyone being able to immigrate here unless they had education and skills and could pass for white.

So, which is it? Americans have the attention span of a cricket? Americans multi-tasking is watching TV and drinking a beer at the same time? Or must we always rely on the entertainment mavens who control what passes for news drooling from the lips of well-sculpted talking heads?

Felons given access to donors’ information for fundraising!

Fundraising made easy!

Addresses, phone and credit card numbers of donors have been exposed to convicted felons working in call centers in violation of Pennsylvania law, records show.

Outreach Associates Inc., which allegedly hires phone solicitors with criminal backgrounds to raise money for popular organizations, violates Pennsylvania’s 1990 Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday.

“This shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong. The statute was out there although Outreach operated apparently for decades without anybody saying anything. Ignorance is no excuse,” said company president Dennis McCarthy.

McCarthy, who has been with Outreach for 11 months, said he was “erroneously advised” by the company’s previous legal team that people found to have committed offenses more than seven years earlier, or committed crimes that were not work-related, could be hired, the Post-Gazette said.

At least 22 fundraisers who have worked with Outreach Associates since 2006 are former felons with convictions for drug offenses, sexual assaults, conspiracy, arson, burglary, gun possession, and retail theft.

Boy, that inspires an extra bit of trust in folks calling you on the telephone for donations, eh?