Here’s what corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill

A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the cash spigot in the hopes of getting it passed…

That vote, to give Barack Obama the authority to speed the bill through Congress, comes as the president’s own supporters, senior economists and a host of activists have lobbied against a pact they argue will favor big business but harm US jobs, fail to secure better conditions for workers overseas and undermine free speech online…

Fast-tracking the TPP, meaning its passage through Congress without having its contents available for debate or amendments, was only possible after lots of corporate money exchanged hands with senators. The US Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – the fast-tracking bill – by a 65-33 margin on 14 May. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62-38 to bring the debate on TPA to a close.

Those impressive majorities follow months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by the world’s most well-heeled multinational corporations with just a handful of holdouts…

Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 “yea” votes.

The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.

The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.

The amounts given rise dramatically when looking at how much each senator running for re-election received.

Two days before the fast-track vote, Obama was a few votes shy of having the filibuster-proof majority he needed. Ron Wyden and seven other Senate Democrats announced they were on the fence on 12 May, distinguishing themselves from the Senate’s 54 Republicans and handful of Democrats as the votes to sway.

In just 24 hours, Wyden and five of those Democratic holdouts – Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, and Bill Nelson of Florida – caved and voted for fast-track.

Bennet, Murray, and Wyden – all running for re-election in 2016 – received $105,900 between the three of them. Bennet, who comes from the more purple state of Colorado, got $53,700 in corporate campaign donations between January and March 2015, according to Taylor Channing’s research.

RTFA if you need the details on Republican payoffs. Since only 2 Republican votes were in doubt you can be certain that everyone up to and including former presidential candidate, John McCain, received an appropriate chunk of silver dollars.

Dumb cop crook of the day

What are the chances of two men who say they were carrying a large amount of cash and transporting marijuana being pulled over twice by police on the same day on interstate highways in New Mexico…?

At the I-40 stop by a State Police officer, the men in the green 1995 Nissan sedan with Arizona plates claimed have to been hauling marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. They said they’d already been stopped a few hours earlier by another officer, hundreds of miles northeast, on Interstate 25 near the New Mexico/Colorado border.

That officer, they said, confiscated their marijuana and seized more than $10,000 from them without giving them a receipt or issuing a citation. But he did give them “$600 back in order to pay for their travel expenses on their way back to Arizona,” says an FBI statement filed in federal court.

The two men described the officer who took their pot and money as driving a “new, white Ford Explorer with blue writing on the side” and that the officer “had mentioned something about a DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Administration) investigation…”

After that, the FBI and State Police started an undercover investigation…Vidal Sandoval, of Cimarron, was arrested without incident on March 13 at the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office in Raton by FBI agents and State Police officers. His charge, previously reported as aiding and abetting a drug trafficking crime, is actually attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, online court records show…

On Dec. 15, two undercover agents from the FBI and State Police, respectively, drove around Cimarron where Sandoval was known to patrol. Their undercover vehicle contained “a hidden compartment in the rear of the vehicle under carpeting and outfitted with several air fresheners, which are commonly used to mask the smell of narcotics, and a digital scale of the type often used to weigh narcotics.”

The agents had $8,000 cash with them and, at about 4:40 p.m., Sandoval pulled the agents over for speeding on N.M. 64. The threesome conversed mainly in Spanish, and Sandoval searched the car and found the hidden compartment. One of the agents was placed in the back seat of Sandoval’s patrol car while Sandoval made a phone call.

During the call, Sandoval told the other party that county dispatch did not know that he was out on a traffic stop, according to the FBI’s affidavit, and then asked the other party to pretend that he was a DEA agent.

Sandoval handed the phone to the undercover agent who, via the phone’s caller ID function, identified the caller as a former police chief in northeast New Mexico, named in the court documents but whom the Albuquerque Journal is not identifying in this article because the ex-chief has not been charged…That person told the undercover officer on the cell phone he was with the DEA.

Sandoval made another call to the same person and again handed the phone to the undercover agent, who was told by the “DEA agent” that cash found by Sandoval would be seized.

Sandoval then turned off his in-car and lapel recorders, and said “he wanted to be part of the criminal narcotics activity (the agent) was involved in and would let him pass through the area undisturbed with money and/or drugs in the future if they provided him with a portion of the profits,” the investigators’ affidavit says. Sandoval returned $500 to the agent and kept $7,500, and the agents left.

Three more of these sham drug deals and guarantees of safe passage for a cut of the cash – Sandoval was busted.

Sandoval was an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff last year. In a campaign statement to a weekly newspaper, he said, “I want to modernize the report taking and record keeping as well as the chain of custody and security of evidence.”

Sandoval pleaded not guilty…

Protect and serve…drug dealers passing through New Mexico.

New James Bond flick gets “tax breaks” instead of bribes to film in Mexico City

Spectre-clapper-board

Mexican officials have reportedly offered millions in tax incentives for Sony and MGM to shoot the next James Bond installment in Mexico.

A report posted on the American website Tax Analysts, shows emails of Mexico offering up to $20 million in tax incentives for filmmakers to change their script, cast “a known Mexican actress” and shoot Mexico in a positive light to combat the country’s negative image…

The original script included an assassin named Sciarra, who had his sights on the mayor of Mexico City, however, Mexican officials insisted that the villain “cannot be Mexican” and requested his target be changed to an international leader instead.

In exchange for their financial incentives, Mexican officials also reportedly demanded that Stephanie Sigman be given a Bond role, which seems to have been secured with the announcement last week. Sigman will be playing the character of Estrella.

The studio admits Mexico’s changes to the script went beyond what governments typically allow in film deals, however, they apparently allowed Mexico to “make casting decisions, dictate characters’ ethnicities, and even change the occupation of an unnamed character that never appears on-screen or figures into the story outside of the opening scene.”

I’m not certain how lasting the script changes will be in pop culture. The fact remains that most of the news finding its way out of Mexico remains couched in terms of which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs, which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs in cahoots with local police – or which drug gangs were killing each other while the police stood by waiting to see who was left alive to pick up the tab for their cooperation in killing innocent citizens.

Inequality is not inevitable

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

One stream of the extraordinary discussion set in motion by Thomas Piketty’s timely, important book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” has settled on the idea that violent extremes of wealth and income are inherent to capitalism. In this scheme, we should view the decades after World War II — a period of rapidly falling inequality — as an aberration.

This is actually a superficial reading of Mr. Piketty’s work, which provides an institutional context for understanding the deepening of inequality over time. Unfortunately, that part of his analysis received somewhat less attention than the more fatalistic-seeming aspects…

…The dynamics of the imperial capitalism of the 19th century needn’t apply in the democracies of the 21st. We don’t need to have this much inequality in America.

Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism. For proof of this go back to our response to the Great Recession, where we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains. Perfect competition should drive profits to zero, at least theoretically, but we have monopolies and oligopolies making persistently high profits. C.E.O.s enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past, without any evidence of a proportionate increase in productivity.

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? The straightforward answer: our policies and our politics. People get tired of hearing about Scandinavian success stories, but the fact of the matter is that Sweden, Finland and Norway have all succeeded in having about as much or faster growth in per capita incomes than the United States and with far greater equality…

Ideology and interests combined nefariously…Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation…

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game to ensure this outcome; that is, through politics…

We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy. It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation. Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.

Our corrupt Congress hasn’t happened by accident, you know. The design is neither new nor patented. But, the only correction – the historic cure remains unchanged. Throw the bums out of office.

That doesn’t mean replacing them with a new crop of self-seeking liars – whether they call themselves neo-conservatives, libertarians or tea party patriots. People who care not for the welfare of individuals care equally less for the welfare of this whole nation. The canary in the coal mine is still bigotry and hatred. If politicians can’t be brought to care for the civil rights of all Americans then they don’t deserve to represent any Americans.

How many NRA dollar$ promised to Missouri politicians for their latest stupidity?


How many Missouri Republicans sat home that day waiting for the rapture?

The Republican-controlled Missouri state legislature is expected next month to override a veto from the governor to pass the most far-reaching state law defying federal power — known as a “nullification” — as more states’ rights proponents seek independence from federal authority.

The Missouri bill would nullify existing federal gun laws in the state, and make it a crime for federal authorities to enforce them. Further, any Missourian arrested under federal gun statutes would be allowed to sue the arresting officer.

Though the bill was vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, the legislature is aiming to override his veto when they reconvene September 11.

In explanation of his veto, Nixon said federal supremacy over states is “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.”

He also said the bill’s provision making it a crime to publish the name of any gun owner would violate the First Amendment rights of newspapers, which have a longstanding custom of publishing “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer…”

All but one of 109 House Republicans voted for the bill, joined by 11 Democrats. All 24 Senate Republicans supported it, joined by 2 Democrats.

Even with federal acquiescence – like the recent DOJ letter to states with legal marijuana, medical or otherwise – nullification can only be conditional even if the Feds agree. Because we have a federal constitution.

The states’ rights advocates, the dummies in the neo-Confederate movement, care only about how much money they raise from religious fanatics, illiterate gun nuts, and paid lobbyists for the gun manufacturers – like the NRA. They certainly don’t care how much taxpayer money they require the state to waste on defending such foolishness.

The idjot vote is still alive and well in sub-America.

Was your Congress-critter a “Friend of Angelo” at Countrywide?


I can get deals on tanning beds for members of Congress, too

The former Countrywide Financial Corp., whose subprime loans helped start the nation’s foreclosure crisis, made hundreds of discount loans to buy influence with members of Congress, congressional staff, top government officials and executives of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, according to a House report.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the discounts — from January 1996 to June 2008 — were not only aimed at gaining influence for the company but to help mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Countrywide’s business depended largely on Fannie, which at the time was trying to fend off more government regulation but eventually had to come under government control.

Fannie Mae was responsible for purchasing a large volume of Countrywide’s subprime mortgages. Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America in January 2008, relieving the financial services industry and regulators from the messy task of cleaning up the bankruptcy of a company that was servicing 9 million U.S. home loans worth $1.5 trillion at a time when the nation faced a widening credit crisis, massive foreclosures and an economic downturn.

“Documents and testimony obtained by the committee show the VIP loan program was a tool used by Countrywide to build goodwill with lawmakers and other individuals positioned to benefit the company,” the report said…That’s Congresstalk for BRIBES!

Some of the discounts were ordered personally by former Countrywide chief executive Angelo Mozilo. Those recipients were known as “Friends of Angelo…”

Among those who received loan discounts from Countrywide, the report said, were:

—Former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

—Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

—Mary Jane Collipriest, who was communications director for former Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah…

—Former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif…

The report said those who received the discounts knew the loans were handled by a special VIP unit.

IMHO this still all rolls back to 1994 and Newt Gingrich’s contract on America. Since that grand election of good ol’ boys from the GOP, the value of loot floated through Congress by lobbyists and the corporate bosses they front for has increased 1000%. Republicans changed the rules. Both Republicans and Democrats hopped on the gravy train.

There’s a straight line that can be drawn from Newt’s “reforms” and Fannie Mae as an example of the corruption that spills from the garbage can labeled CONGRESS.

Which is it, Gingrich? Hypocrite, liar or both?


Even pigs wear boots to a Gingrich press conference

Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.

Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006…the former speaker lied and said he offered lessons from history.

Gingrich said this morning that the payments were for “strategic advice over a long period of time.” His fees were sent to his consulting firm, The Gingrich Group, not to him personally…well, that’s a big difference, eh?

Gingrich’s first contract with the mortgage lender was in 1999, five months after he resigned from Congress and as House speaker…His primary contact inside the organization was Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, and he was paid a self- renewing, monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 between May 1999 until 2002, according to three people familiar with aspects of the business agreement.

During that period, Gingrich consulted with Freddie Mac executives on a program to expand home ownership, an idea Delk said he pitched to President George W. Bush’s White House.

“I spent about three hours with him talking about the substance of the issues and the politics of the issues, and he really got it,” said Delk, adding that the two discussed “what the benefits are to communities, what the benefits could be for Republicans and particularly their relationship with Hispanics…”

While campaigning in Iowa this week, Gingrich, 68, was asked about his relationship with Freddie Mac. He said he did no lobbying “of any kind…”

RTFA if you can stand the stink of Gingrich’s lies. I’d recommend wearing rubber boots, as well.

There’s a good deal of sound journalist research and statements from Freddie Mac officials and employees trying to tightrope it between saying what really happened and keeping their jobs while facing a Republican House.

More Gingrich lies, of course. As more comes out into the light of day, Newt has to rearrange his lies to suit the occasion. A reflection of the cesspool that is Congressional ethics.

Here’s a shock – Doctors paid for cardiac tests order more of them

Doctors who earn money for cardiac stress testing are much more likely to prescribe the tests than those who don’t, a new study has found.

Researchers at Duke University studied data on 17,847 patients nationwide who had cardiac bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty, checking to see how often doctors prescribed nuclear stress tests and echocardiograms later than 90 days after discharge…

Among doctors who billed for administering and interpreting a stress test, 12.6 percent prescribed the test, compared with 5 percent of those who were not paid for testing. Results for echocardiograms were similar: 2.8 percent of patients were tested by doctors who billed for both test and interpretation, and 0.4 percent by those who were paid for neither.

After controlling for the patient’s age and disease characteristics, the doctor’s specialty and other factors, researchers found that a patient of a doctor earning money from testing was more than twice as likely to be tested as a patient of a doctor without financial interest in the tests.

“If you’re having symptoms or a change in health status, testing is appropriate,” said Dr. Bimal R. Shah, the lead author of the analysis and a fellow in cardiology at Duke. “But in situations where there aren’t any clinical indications for tests, these reimbursement structures seem to be associated with increased testing use.”

Do you think so? Cripes.

I had one doctor who sent me for a battery of tests at an eye clinic that cost Medicare a bundle – when the headaches I was experiencing actually meant that New Mexico’s hardy and aggressive range of pollen had finally caught up with me and I had developed hayfever.

Yes, I found that he got a spif for the referral – and, no, I never went to him, again.