Internal corruption is what the Border Patrol really needs to crack down on

John Carnett/PopSci

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is vulnerable to “systematic corruption” by drug cartels, smugglers and other criminals, and investigations of its internal abuses are “chronically slow,” according to a Homeland Security Department report that reveals glaring problems in the agencies that police the nation’s borders.

The abuses are so widespread that Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, should add nearly 350 criminal investigators to target internal corruption and the use of excessive and unnecessary force against migrants, the report concludes. That would boost the internal affairs roster by nearly 166%.

Arrests of border agents and customs officers “far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other law enforcement agencies,” the…report notes.

“Until this is reversed, [Customs and Border Protection] remains vulnerable to corruption that threatens its effectiveness and national security,” warns the report, which was requested by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The scathing assessment by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, an independent group that reports to Johnson, also is the latest to slam the Border Patrol for lack of accountability for hundreds of shootings by agents…

In May, the Customs and Border Protection internal affairs office absolved dozens of Border Patrol agents of criminal misconduct in 64 shooting incidents between January 2010 and October 2012, including 19 that resulted in deaths. The Justice Department is still considering charges in three other cases.

Yup. They investigated themselves.

Critics along the Southwest border and in Mexico long have argued that the Border Patrol operates with little transparency or accountability.

Indeed, one of the report’s recommendations is that agents and officers “must wear visible name tags identifying their last name on all uniforms at all times,” a practice that critics say is often ignored. A video posted online of a 21-year-old woman in New York state being Tased at a roadside checkpoint last month shows a Border Patrol supervisor wearing a green tactical vest with no visible name tag…

Vicki B. Gaubeca, co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition…said the report showed how Customs and Border Protection “falls short of law enforcement best practices” and needed to change.

She said the recommendations would help change the Border Patrol “culture of ‘we need to do our job at whatever cost and the only life that seems to be valued is the life of the agent'”…

Understand that this service is probably hiring folks who don’t qualify for TSA. Doesn’t that inspire confidence?

The real owners of “our” government on display at inauguration time

Let’s hear it for Illinois!

Incoming Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner campaigned as a reformer of the state’s often corrupt politics – but, watchdog groups say activities surrounding his inauguration Monday are among the priciest of any incoming governor and take advantage of a loophole in campaign finance that allows wealthy special interests to gain access to those who hold political power…

Rauner, a Republican, is allowing corporate donors to kick in as much as $100,000 for inauguration events, and letting individuals spend up to $25,000.

It’s only about $10 million among friends. Who cares what that money could have meant to schoolkids or the unemployed? Certainly, not the governor or his buddies.

He is hardly alone. Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, will accept up to $50,000 per donor. Corporate sponsorship packages for inaugural events by Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, both Republicans, cost $30,000 and $25,000 respectively…

The price tag for gubernatorial inaugurations is dwarfed by presidential celebrations. President Barack Obama did not allow corporate donors for his first inauguration, though just 211 individuals covered 80 percent of the $35.3 million price tag. For his second inauguration, Obama accepted unlimited corporate donations.

Inauguration events are essentially private parties that are considered non-partisan and are funded by special committees. Under federal and state campaign laws, the inauguration committees are not required to disclose spending or donor names because the inauguration exists outside the election process. All money raised for the events is meant to cover expenses, with surpluses typically given to charity.

In recent years, the events have transformed from honorary banquets to ticketed, star-studded concerts and lavish balls. Donors gain access to events and also can get their names splashed in programs and across other marketing materials.

The process has created the perception that these are veiled opportunities for lobbyists and other corporate interests to curry favor with lawmakers…

What “created the perception” means, of course, is these are public displays of who actually holds the power of the state in their hands.

According to the Illinois Observer, Rauner and his wife are also hosting a private “business roundtable and reception” in Chicago this month that costs $25,000 per couple for both events.

Rauner Spokesman Mike Schrimpf says donors will be disclosed but would not say when. He also would not say where any surplus money would go.

I have occasionally posted, edited and participated in blogs and websites where Class Warfare is acknowledged. I admit, some of the sites that use my work not only deny such an analysis; but, the owners vigorously oppose the concept – and the reality.

Welcome to the United States of America at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Sooner or later, I am confident that more and more reality will intrude into the befuddled lives of ordinary Americans. Economic and social practices affecting all of us can’t be denied by beer commercials and glorious patriotic music forever. We are, after all, a species capable of learning from our mistakes.

I just hope it doesn’t take as long as the discovery that the Earth is round.

Supercommittee focuses lobbyists’ clients against one another

It will be a profitable Xmas season

The bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings is leaving Washington lobbying firms in a quandary, seeing their clients pitted against one another in a competition for government cash.

Major defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have a dozen or more lobbying firms working for them, many of whom also represent the health-care industry, another likely target of budget cuts. While firms often deal with conflicts of interest, the supercommittee represents an unusual challenge, said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

“This actually is going to be much more like a zero sum game,” Wilcox said. “If someone wins, someone loses…”

If all else fails, “I suspect that they’ll be rational businesspersons and make a decision based on their long-term financial interest,” Jeffrey Berry said. “They have a bottom line, just like their clients.”

You do recall, I hope, that principles, ethics, the needs of the people are irrelevant?

The 12-member panel, whose work has taken on greater urgency since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating in August, will be the central focus of political and lobbying activity for the next few months…

It’s akin to working with congressional leadership, which we — as most firms — do all the time,” Stewart Verdery [whose clients include clients Boeing, General Dynamics, Eli Lilly & Co. and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] said…

The politicians will have their hands out – and will find them filled.

Brazil arrests 35 – mostly coppers – in raid on Rio corruption

At least 35 people, mostly Rio de Janeiro police officers, were arrested on Friday on suspicion of colluding with drug gangs as the Brazilian city attempts to clean itself up before hosting the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games two years later.

It was one of the biggest operations against police corruption in the city, which is gradually overcoming a reputation for crime and violence. Rio police have long been accused of corruption and of covering up their violent tactics in the city’s hundreds of slum areas that are often controlled by drug traffickers…

Hundreds of officers took part in the operation, code-named “Guillotine,” seeking the arrest of 45 people, including 32 police officers. By Friday evening, 27 police officers had been arrested, investigators said.

The investigation began in 2009 when a planned police operation in a slum had to be aborted after details of the raid were leaked to drug traffickers, officials said.

Police officers targeted in the operation were also suspected of running protection rackets for illegal gambling, leading militia groups and taking bribes from traffickers.

One of the suspected leaders of the scheme, former police commander Carlos de Oliveira, was suspected of charging drug chiefs $60,000 a time in exchange for information about police operations. Oliveira, who turned himself in to investigators, had since left the police to join the city government.

Har! Corruption suspect leaves police force – to join city government. Sounds like a few places I’ve lived in the good old USA.

Lobbyist ends up where he belongs – behind bars!

Paul Magliocchetti, the once-powerful lobbyist whose PMA Group collapsed after being raided by federal agents two years ago, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Friday for his role in one of the largest schemes to evade limits on campaign donations ever uncovered.

A federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, T. S. Ellis III, also sentenced Mr. Magliocchetti to two years of supervised release and fined him $75,000…

Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, vowed to “continue to bring to justice those who hide the source of campaign funds and thus damage the integrity of our election process.”

“Paul Magliocchetti spent half of a decade gaming the system,” Mr. Breuer said. “He concocted a massive scheme to secretly funnel money to political campaigns — all so that he could gain wealth and prestige. As today’s sentence makes clear, he must now pay a price.”

We have a Supreme Court stacked in favor of exactly the same crooked corporations Magliocchettii worked for. It ain’t going to get easier.

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Secretary Gates ratchets up savings drive – Chickenhawks weep!

Soldier who thinks these kids admire something more than his hardware
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Pentagon announced $178 billion in cost savings over five years but softened the blow by recycling much of the money into other programs and helping pay down the budget deficit by trimming its bureaucracy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon would achieve the savings partially by taking the extraordinary step of reducing U.S. troop levels. He also announced cuts or cancellations of poorly performing weapons programs, including a $13-billion Marine Corps landing craft, designed by General Dynamics Corp.

The budget proposal is already raising hackles in some quarters of Congress, which ultimately controls the Defense Department’s budget…

Hackles belonging to members of Congress beholden to the military-industrial complex. Fools whose understanding of economics are grounded in [1] 19th Century imperial economics and politics – and [2] personal gain.

Gates said the military services had come up with $100 billion in savings over five years that would be redirected within other military programs. He said an additional $78 billion would go toward deficit reduction, made up primarily of $54 billion in Pentagon-wide savings, changes to economic assumptions, and cutting troop strength beginning in 2015.

The plan calls for cancellation of a ground-launched missile built by Raytheon Co, and the second overhaul in a year of the Pentagon’s largest weapons program: Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Under the proposal, the Pentagon would trim its force levels by up to 47,000 U.S. troops starting in 2015. That is long after U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq at the end of this year. It is also the year when U.S. war planners hope to hand over responsibility for Afghan security to local forces.

Someday – just maybe, someday – we may elect a Congress which will turn the dollars dedicated to death and destruction, imperial power and greed, to ends productive for our whole nation.

Nvidia contractor charged with selling data to hedge funds

U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan filed new charges as part of a national probe of insider trading, accusing a California consultant for an expert-networking firm with selling inside information to two unidentified hedge funds.

Winifred Jiau, arrested in Fremont, was accused of selling data on Nvidia Corp. and Marvell Technology Group Ltd., makers of computer components, through the networking firm, according to a filing today in Manhattan federal court. The hedge funds paid her $200,000 through the firm, prosecutors alleged…

The evidence against Jiau is “strong,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Wilson Leung told the judge, adding that there is a “cooperating witness and audio recordings.” When asked by Vadas if she understood the charges, Jiau said “I not have a chance to know until now.” Barry Portman, her assigned public defender, said the complaint is a “lengthy document.” She didn’t enter a plea to the charges.

Her arrest follows charges earlier this month against three technology company workers who allegedly sold secrets about Apple Inc., Dell Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The men, who worked at AMD, Flextronics International Ltd. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., were arrested on securities fraud and conspiracy charges for a scheme that Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said operated from 2008 to early 2010.

Also arrested at the time was James Fleishman, a sales manager at Primary Global Research LLC, the expert-networking firm where the three worked as consultants. If convicted, all four face as long as 20 years in prison…

Santa Clara, California-based Marvell, which makes chips for the BlackBerry phone, declined to comment. Bob Sherbin, a spokesman for Nvidia, also based in Santa Clara, said Jiau was a contractor who left the company about a year ago…

It grows deeper and deeper.

If this keeps up, we may even experience a shock epidemic of honesty in business.

Financial “reform” debate? Follow the money!

Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress may want to look tough on financial reform in front of voters but that has not stopped them from filling their re-election war chests with plenty of Wall Street cash.

The political action committees of six Wall Street banks spent the first quarter of 2010 giving handsome donations to Republicans and Democrats who are critical to passing legislation that could determine the future of the U.S. financial sector.

The banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — gave about $106,000 to 12 members of the Senate and House of Representatives who sit either in leadership positions or on the committees that forged the measures.

The sum is 40 percent of the $272,000 that the same institutions donated overall to political campaigns and committees between January and March.

But it is only a tiny fraction of the more than $30 million that has flowed into campaign coffers from the PACs and employees of banks, securities firms and finance companies since the 2010 election cycle began on January 1, 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the non-partisan watchdog that tracks the role of money in U.S. politics…

Wall Street has maintained a long and robust relationship with Washington decision-makers over the years, providing nearly $1 billion in campaign funds since 1990 and millions of dollars more on behind-the-scenes lobbying.

Analysts say big spending in Washington helps explain the evolution of the financial regulatory reform debate in the Senate, from harder-edged Democratic proposals last year to modifications that seem headed for a bipartisan deal with Republicans…

The biggest financial sector beneficiary in the current election cycle is Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who has received $1.6 million from securities firms and commercial banks, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Close behind are Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with $1.5 million and fellow Republican Senator Bob Corker, who broke party ranks to open reform talks with the Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Christopher Dodd. Corker raised $1.4 million from financial sources.

“Follow the money” never meant as much as it does in American politics. Whether it’s a weekly pay-off to a hometown police chief or six-figure political contributions to world-class congressional thugs, gold always settles to the bottom of the cesspool.